Jul 26, 2012

More Fun With Olympics Symbolism

I just set my DVR to record the Olympics Opening Ceremony tomorrow night, even though I haven't watched or cared about the Olympics since I was a kid. But now I need to know if it will be first contact, or the beginning of the alien war, or just a garden variety terrorist attack, or... who knows. Mostly, I want to see for myself the spectacle of symbolic imagery that William Henry and Chad Stuemke have been talking about.

Henry and Stuemke had another chin wag about the upcoming festivities on Revelations and it's a lot of fun. There is no question that the volume and organization of symbolism we've seen during run-up is staggering -- stargate symbolism, alchemical symbolism, pagan symbolism, alien imagery. Someone is having a lot of fun. And as ever, it's hard to say how much is conscious and deliberate and how much is the subconscious, intuitional, creative process.

While this year seems really over the top, in terms of imagery, I have to say that I really hadn't realized how much the Olympics has been playing with some of these themes in past years -- the alien thing in particular. I didn't know, or didn't remember, until I watched the Red Ice Radio video special, that the 1984 Olympics had produced a spaceship and a giant alien. Says Stuemke, of the 7'8" alien, "Out of this world. Didn't make a lot of sense. But people loved it."

That's the thing. It doesn't seem to make any sense as anything other than cheesy spectacle. The spaceship is kind of cool but the alien made me think of nothing so much as Waiting for Guffman. "Boring, boring, boring, boring, boring..."

But now that the alien theme has evolved into Wenlock and Mandeville, I have to consider the possibility that the Olympic committee is, and has been, trying to say something. My favored possibility there is that it's part of a kind of spiritual evolution zeitgeist and that we are at long last becoming "galactic humans." And I think Henry and Stuemke have really tapped the vein on a very powerful archetypal narrative that points in that direction. But if it turns out that it's really about the royal family orchestrating our total takeover by the reptilian overlords, all I can say at this point is God Save the Queen.

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Jul 25, 2012

Following Orders: Monsignor Lynn Gets 3 to 6 Years

Monsignor William Lynn was sentenced this week to just shy of the maximum sentence. He will serve a minimum of three years in prison for failing to protect children from known pedophile priests. There is no question that the harsh sentence is meant to send a message to any church officials who would participate in the cover-up of sexual abuse.

There seems to be something of a sea change in terms of how we deal with the crime of sexual abuse. Sweeping it under the carpet has, at long last, become unacceptable. Monsignor Lynn's sentence is intriguingly synchronous with the NCAA's smack-down of Penn State in light of the Freeh Report.

Prosecutors challenged, not only the cover-up mentality, but the culture of blind obedience to authority on which the Catholic Church relies.

Ann Casey, who attended the sentencing and said she had been a friend of Monsignor Lynn for 36 years, said she believed that he was a scapegoat and a victim of his intense faith in the leaders of the archdiocese. "It was his vow of obedience to the church that landed him this morning in jail," she said.

During the trial, Monsignor Lynn's lawyers argued that he had tried to protect children, but that his powers were limited and that he had followed the instructions of the cardinal at the time, Anthony J. Bevilacqua. But prosecutors argued that Monsignor Lynn played a central role in deciding how to handle complaints against priests and that "following orders" was no defense.

We have got to stop thinking of obedience as a universal good. It can lead to disaster. As I wrote here, that emphasis on obedience leads inevitably to abuses of power. From Monsignor Lynn, who never dared question the late Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, to the child who is terrified to disobey both priest and God by refusing sexual acts. The poor little boy in the central case of the Lynn trial, for instance:

Monsignor Lynn's conviction was for lax oversight of one former priest who had a known history of abuse, but was allowed to continue in ministry. The former priest, Edward V. Avery, now 69, spent six months in a church psychiatric center in 1993 after an abuse episode, and doctors said he should be kept away from children. But Monsignor Lynn, though aware of this history, sent him to live in a parish rectory and did not warn parish officials.

In 1999, Mr. Avery undressed with a 10-year-old altar boy, told him that God loved him and had him engage in oral sex. Mr. Avery pleaded guilty to the assault just before Monsignor Lynn's trial began and was sentenced to two and a half to five years in prison.

Meanwhile, am I the only one who sees some horrible irony in the abusing priest receiving a lighter sentence that Monsignor Lynn? Two and a half to five years for molesting a ten year old? Seriously? Two and a half to five?!

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Jul 21, 2012

Tony Robbins's Firewalk Goes Awry

Oh boy. Here we go again. Tony Robbins, the man James Ray wants so desperately to be, has landed himself in a little hot water of his own. At least 21 people suffered bad burns while attempting one of his firewalks at a seminar in San Jose, California. Most had second and third degree burns. Three went to hospital. The screams of "agony" were described as sounding like people were being "tortured." So, pretty horrible.

To his credit, unlike Ray, Robbins had medical staff on hand in case of emergency. There was also a fire inspector on scene and the proper permitting had been done. And when the medical staff became overwhelmed, the fire inspector was able to call in the fire department for additional support. So no one died. People were treated promptly. No one, to my knowledge, was told it was all "mind over matter," that they were "better than that," or that they were just having a "breakthrough," as the blisters formed on their feet. It was treated like the medical emergency that it was. Robbins has been doing these things for thirty years without major incident. So that's all good.

Also, to be fair, Robbins Research International claims that 6,000 people walked the coals Thursday evening. Twenty-one out of 6,000 is practically decimal dust. But I still have to wonder what the point of this little exercise is.

Walking across hot coals on lanes measuring 10 feet long and heated to between 1,200 to 2,000 degrees provides attendees an opportunity to "understand that there is absolutely nothing you can't overcome," according to the motivational speaker's website.

What's the message, then, when you end up in hospital with third degree burns? That you're not so good at overcoming things?

Henry Guasch, who got burned at another event, blames his state of mind.

"Overcoming something like that, it's a breakthrough," he said, adding that he did slow his pace in the middle of the field and got a minor burn.

Guasch and Andrew Brenner, another fire walker, both said that the keys to not getting singed are faith and concentration.

"I did it before, didn't get into the right state and got burned," Brenner said. "I knew I wasn't at my peak state. I didn't take it as serious."

But the success or failure of a firework really comes down to simple physics.

David Willey, a physics instructor at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown in Pennsylvania, has published a text and video on the physics of firewalking and stated that it "does not need a particular state of mind."

"Rather, it is the short time of contact and the low thermal capacity and conductivity of the coals that is important," he wrote. He added that ash that builds up on coals can provide further insulation.

Guash slowed down. He got burned. It's really that simple. Robbins could just as easily tell people that wood is a bad conductor and that if they walk quickly, they'll be fine. But I don't think he could charge as much money or call it a personal empowerment exercise if he did.

In most cases, firewalks are safe, and Robbins took the appropriate precautions to deal with the outliers. But he's selling a placebo as if it were a real drug.

San Jose Fire Department Capt. Reggie Williams, who oversaw much of the emergency response, was reported as saying that they do not recommend firewalks.

"We discourage people from walking over hot coals," Williams said.

That's probably sound.

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Red Ice Radio: Olympic-Size Strange Special

A while ago I posted a William Henry interview on the strange happenings and symbolism associated with the Summer Olympics in London. Red Ice Radio interviewed both Henry and his guest from that show Chad Stuemke, in a special broadcast on the topic. They also brought together a sampling of other perspectives on just what is going on with the Olympics Planning Committee.

It's quite a compendium. In addition to Henry and Stuemke, there are interviews and excerpts of interviews with David Icke, Stewart Swerdlow, Bob Schlenker, Ian Crane, and the late Rik Clay. The commentary ranges from the insightful to the paranoid to the deeply paranoid to the unintentionally hilarious.

Of course much of it revolves around the conspiracy theory du jour, which is to say that the Illuminati is preparing us for a false flag event and/or alien invasion so that our reptilian overlords will be better able to enslave us or kill and eat us... or... it's not entirely clear. Where that argument is the strongest lies in the draconian security measures. London is being fully militarized for this event. But then, Great Britain has been morphing into a police state for a while now -- more than the US, even.

William Henry sees a kinder, gentler mega-ritual. He slices right through those convolutions to the underlying symbolism and associates it more with expanding human consciousness than a diabolical scheme to keep us as a slave race. The cardinal symbols he references: the tree, the serpent, the rainbow, and the wormhole. Well, the tree and the serpent are two of my favorites but that's hardly news. But in a striking synchronicity -- one that I'm not at liberty to discuss -- Henry also mentions Glastonbury Tor which they are also apparently working into this year's Olympic motif. This got me to thinking. Something I have never really contemplated is the possible connection between Glastonbury Tor -- and tors more generally -- with the mythical "primordial mound." So I did a bit of googling and found that, yes, this is so. I found the following in a book called The Shining Ones

The name 'Glastonbury' translates as 'glass borough'. It was known as 'the Isle of Glass' due to the calm, still, glass-like appearance of the waters or lake which once surrounded the town and its central mound, the Tor. The deeper significance of Glastonbury and its Tor also stems from two unusual springs, which are said to have emerged from a cave entrance under the Tor. One of these springs is known as the White Spring, as it contains mineral deposits which give it a milky-white appearance, and the other is known as the Red Spring is said to have a regenerative properties. Here we have yet another reference to the familiar theme of the red and white, but this time we see it in the real phenomena surrounding Glastonbury Tor -- which is said to have been a place of initiation for the pagans and Druids of the region in Celtic times.

In Glastonbury Tor, we have a 'primordial mound' surrounded by seven concentric rings or levels, which was once surrounded by water, and and upwelling vortex, along with two energy springs like the pingala and ida 'serpents' or nerve channels.

So, asked and answered. Here I'm talking about those basic geographical features more than Philip Gardiner's scholarship which I can't speak to. The form speaks for itself. And it's really interesting because it reflects so clearly this image I had in my head earlier of the primordial mound surrounded by concentric rings and a serpent. Again, the reason isn't important. But this, for the umpteenth time, is why I love William Henry. He keeps pointing to the things I see in my head and helping me contextualize them. His work is just very synchronous for me.

Another thing Henry mentions in this interview is the tower that Anish Kapoor designed for the games and its serpentine appearance. From Henry we learn that Kapoor compared it to, of all things, the Tower of Babel. Very exciting.

But when I googled up an image of this thing, it put me in mind of something else.

Yes, I recently saw The Avengers and Anish Kapoor's tower has that same platform thing jutting out of the front as Stark Tower. The angle is also similar. And seriously, can we talk about The Avengers?! That platform on the front of Stark Tower plays host to a tesseract which opens an interdimensional wormhole. Subtle. Seriously. You could have knocked me over with a feather.

William Henry and Chad Stuemke also present a lot of information on the symbolism. Both consider the possibility that there is malicious intent behind the use of these powerful archetypes to manipulate us all. But they are more inclined to the idea that the planners, artists, and architects are both consciously and unconsciously assembling the keys to ascension and presenting them to the public. And that's pretty much how I see it.

On the other hand, there's the perspective of Stewart Swerdlow and others that it's all part of a master plan make us bow to a false, probably reptilian, god. And I'm not saying that there isn't a cogent narrative to be assembled from the available facts that supports that, but as with so many conspiracy theories, it ascribes a level of coordinated genius that I have trouble imagining. Worse, it completely inverts the meaning of a lot of very powerful and beautiful symbolism. But mostly, it infers conscious, malicious intent from some very innocuous material. For instance, this is Swerdlow on astronomy:

In the last several months, almost every other day, there's been some kind of story on the news about outer space. For example they said that in our galaxy alone, there were three hundred to four hundred million earth-like planets. And they even said by 2014 we will discover a planet with life on it. So how would they present those figures unless they knew for sure?

Ummm… Because they estimate from the data they have? Something scientists do all the time? There's also a lot of wiggle room between three and four hundred million. Those are hardly precise figures. And Mr. Swerdlow clearly never got the memo on how press releases from the science industries work. All these agencies need to fight for funding, now more than ever, and making grandiose promises in sound-bite form is a big part of that process. And then the figures get revised as new data comes in and it either disappoints or exceeds expectations. That's how it works. What almost never happens is that a research body presents an estimate of time or quantity and hits it squarely on the head. "Sure" really doesn't enter into it. I can understand why Mr. Swerdlow would have the notion that scientific bodies speak in exact and irrefutable terms. We have a lot invested in thinking everything that comes out of the sciences is holy writ but it's a comfortable lie.

Swerdlow also ascribes a lot of significance to scientific speculation that life forms on other planets would likely be reptilian. What he doesn't seem to want to consider is that we're reptilian. We evolved from early reptiles and our first brain is the reptilian brain. Then comes the limbic or mamalian brain. And then comes the neo-cortex. Whether we call this the triune brain or ascribe to it some other, more fine-tuned theoretical construct, those three, fundamental components are most definitely in our skulls. These are the simple facts that even David Icke acknowledges. Icke also never said that all reptilians are evil -- only that there is a particular reptilian race that is responsible for interfering with human consciousness. So if you're going to be paranoid about reptilians, at least narrow it down to the right ones.

And then there's this nonsensical bit of dialog between Red Ice host Henrik Palmgren and Swerdlow regarding an "insider" Palmgren had hoped to get on the show.

Palmgren: He definitely mentioned again that the G4S, or the G-Force as I call them, who are behind the security of the Olympics are purposely looking for incompetent people and also the fact that he was told in some way that you as a worker in here or a security agent are going to be responsible for the evacuation of London or the biggest historical event in the history of London which is just an interesting little tidbit that I haven't heard him really expand more on that yet. But do you think they would tell actually the people involved in this in a subtle way like this if it really was true that they were planning something?

Swerdlow: Yeah, they have to because they have to -- the staff must be aware or expect something without maybe knowing exactly what it is. Because they need certain programmed responses from that staff that will enhance the entire event and make it look as if it's a natural event or something that happens suddenly and they didn't expect. Yes, the staff would have to be advised that some thing will happen.

So they have to be prepared to look surprised? Oh, but they can't really know that they've been prepared to look surprised. That'll really make'em look suprised! Ummm...

Everything Palmgren is describing is standard operational planning. You always have to plan as if the worst catastrophe possible will occur so that you're prepared to deal with it if the worst happens. Why would an employee be told he'd be responsible for the largest evacuation in London's history? Um, because people from all over the world will be crammed into a not very large city in an age when we're all deeply paranoid about terrorism? This is the same kind of logic that says, if they're not planning war with such and such country, why are there battle plans made up? Because there are battle plans made up and ready for every conceivable contingency! It's called military preparedness. There are battle plans being made up and revised constantly for countries most of us have never even heard and will probably never in a million years go to war with. To paraphrase Stephen Colbert, battle plans cause wars the same way fire extinguishers cause fires. And the same goes for evacuation plans. What really would be concerning is if they didn't have security preparing fully for a massive evacuation and "acting as if." The alternative is too horrible to contemplate.

So there are real leaps in logic and things that border on paranoid delusion in this show. There are also some genuinely concerning things -- the kind that make you go, whaaa? But mostly there's William Henry and Chad Stuemke separating the wheat from the chaff and explaining some very exciting, symbolic imagery.

I guess it's all in how you look at it. For instance, when I read the William Blake poem alluded to in the opening ceremony, I see a brilliant piece of esoteric literature hinting at ascension. And consciously or unconsciously those very alchemical themes are woven seamlessly into the thematic language of the event. For example, here's an analysis of one part of the poem:

The poem Jerusalem (1804), by William Blake, is actually an excerpt from the preface to one of his “prophetic books", Milton.

Jerusalem is here the symbolic residence of a humanity freed of the inter-related chains of commerce, British imperialism, and war. Blake's "mental fight" is directed against these chains. In his Blake: Prophet Against Empire, David Erdman tells us that Blake’s "dark, Satanic Mills" are "mills that produce dark metal, iron and steel, for diabolic purposes . . . . London . . . was a war arsenal and the hub of the machinery of war, and Blake uses the symbol in that sense.”

As I pointed out here, there is a sequence in one of the promos of golden, molten metal being poured to make drab steel which is then transformed by the rainbow into living, golden beings. Pure alchemy.

Others see reference to that poem as a clue to an evil "zionist" conspiracy to take over the world. Eh. You say tomato...

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England's mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England's pleasant pastures seen?

And did the Countenance Divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold!
Bring me my charriot of fire!

I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land.

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Jul 19, 2012

The James Ray Appeal

Well, I felt this coming for the past two days. So, I'm not even a little surprised we're here. I guess it's nice that they're filing the appeal before Ray's released from his teeny-tiny sentence. I just have one question. Who is Daniel Collins, Esquire? Where's Luis Li? Where's Tom Kelly? Where's that valley girl... oh, what's her name... Truc Do? I'm guessing it's this Daniel Collins from Phoenix who spends 70% of his billable hours on bankruptcy and other credit related cases. Hmmm...

Writing in the brief, attorney Daniel Collins said, "Ray is entitled to a new trial because the trial court erroneously instructed the jury on omissions, and then compounded that error by defining 'duty' in a manner squarely prohibited by settled Arizona case law."

. . .

Collins argued that, if there was a duty at all, it would have been with James Ray International Inc., which failed to have enough medical personnel at the scene, didn't have a defibrillator, inadequate training, and failed to require medical exams for the participants.

Oh, right: JRI. The company in which every corporate office was held by James Ray. (Those meetings must have been fun: Malcovich. Malcovich. Malcovich. Malcovich.) Now where's Tom Kelly's giant company chart?

Here's the nuts and bolts:

• A secret meeting was held between the prosecution and medical examiners to convince them that the victims died of heatstroke instead of toxins released inside the steamy sweat lodge;

• A doctor who had no qualifications to determine the cause of death of the victims - he is an osteopath, not a medical doctor - testified, based on research he had done on websites Wikipedia and eMedicine, that toxins could not have been the cause;

• A prosecution witness who, it turned out, would have said the design of the sweat lodge itself was at fault was dropped. The defense was told he had not prepared a report to that effect, when he had;

• The state failed to disclose to the defense its "theory of the crime," a constitutional right, in a timely fashion.

Here's the thing. Osteopaths may not be MDs but they are medical doctors and they are licensed in every state to do what MDs do. In fact, any distinction at all is disappearing.

Osteopathic medicine is a branch of the medical profession in the United States. Osteopathic physicians are licensed to practice medicine and surgery in all 50 states and are recognized in fifty-five other countries, including all Canadian provinces.

. . .

In the 21st century, the training of osteopathic physicians in the United States is very similar to that of their M.D. counterparts.[2] Osteopathic physicians attend four years of medical school followed by at least three years of residency. They use all conventional methods of diagnosis and treatment. Though still trained in Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine (OMM),[3] the modern derivative of Still's techniques,[4][5] a minority of osteopathic physicians use it in actual practice.[6][7]

I don't know. Maybe Truc Do dropped in just long enough to butcher the medical stuff again. And to try to get even with her arch-nemesis, Dr. Dickson after he so thoroughly humiliated her. What a prick that guy is, what with all his knowing stuff. How dare a lowly D.O. be so much smarter than Do?

So funny. Just this morning I was sitting and sweating by the pool, waiting for my daughter to finish her lesson. And I couldn't stop thinking about the time I got stuck in the traffic  jam from hell in Phoenix for five hours and had to pick an extra night of hotel... in Yuma. I was thinking about how that was the home of Dr. Dickson and a whole lot of heatstroke. Synchronicities abound.

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Excellent Drunvalo Interview on Red Ice Radio

I had noticed a couple of news items earlier this week regarding planetary magnetics that I wanted to put into some context. I was trying to remember which of Drunvalo's lectures addressed some of the theories regarding potential pole shift but I didn't have time to dig through it. As luck would have it, this freshly minted interview he did with Red Ice Radio pulls a lot of threads together that I had hoped to. The first hour of this interview is a particularly good overview of things Dru has been teaching for years with a level of clarity I've never heard before. The second hour is a bit more... conceptual. But it's all very enjoyable.

The first article I stumbled on is on a new theory that suggests a possible reason for the magnetic reversal of the Earth's poles that occurs periodically. And there is some indication that the next one may already be in process.

Lopsided growth of the Earth's core could explain why its magnetic field reverses direction every few thousand years. If it happened now, we would be exposed to solar winds capable of knocking out global communications and power grids.

One side of Earth's solid inner core grows slightly while the other half melts. Peter Olson and Renaud Deguen of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, used numerical modelling to establish that the axis of Earth's magnetic field lies in the growing hemisphere – a finding that suggests shifts in the field are connected to growth of the inner core.

There are signs that the next switch may be under way: rapid movements of the field's axis to the east in the last few hundred years may be a precursor to the north and south poles trading places, the researchers speculate.

This is not say that we would have crustal displacement. Although, there is some indication that this or something like it has occurred in the past, as in Charles Hapgood's hotly contested theory. Edgar Cayce also spoke a good deal about pole shift, predicting that it would start around the year 2000.

In the late 1920's and early 1930's, Cayce was the first to describe the concept of the shifting of the pole as a result of the crust of the Earth moving independently from the core of the Earth to bring different a surface area over the spin axis. During the past 30 years, this concept has received more and more attention by geophysicists, some of whom now seriously argue that the crust does move independently. Some geophysicists now also argue that the best way to explain a variety of paleo sea-level and other data is that it moves and shifts fairly frequently and more rapidly than previously imagined.

Cayce predicted changes to the Earth surface to begin some time between 1958 and 1998. The cause of these dramatic Earth changes will be the shift in the world's magnetic poles around the year 2000. Cayce predicted that when this pole shift occurs it would begin reversals in the world's climate so that:

"..where there has been a frigid or semi-tropical climate, there will be a more tropical one, and moss and fern will grow."

Cayce's prediction of a pole shift occurred in 1998. According to NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, in 1998 something changed the Earth's gravitational field which moved the magnetic poles closer together. The NASA article explained that as the ice on the poles melted, ocean currents moved water toward the equator, which factors researchers believe to be partly responsible, in conjunction with shifts in atmospheric patterns, for this ongoing shift in the Earth's magnetic field. This NASA finding affirms Cayce's prediction of a pole shift.

Cayce also predicted it would mark an evolution in consciousness, restoring us to our antediluvian state.

That there are some rather wild magnetic shifts occurring seems hard to dispute. I'm one of the people who thought the massive bird and fish die offs in early 2011 might be connected the abrupt changes that were causing everything from GPS systems to air strips to be rapidly reconfigured at the time. The thousand birds all suddenly flew into something -- who can say what -- because they were so upset by fireworks explanation just didn't cut it for me.

The other article I noticed this week lends some fresh insight into how birds and fish navigate based on magnetics.

Trout have cells in their noses that act like miniature compasses to help them navigate, a study has shown.

The cells, which are believed to exist in other animals, contain iron-rich deposits of a magnetic material called magnetite.

. . .

Tests suggested the cells were capable of detecting magnetic north as well as small changes in magnetic fields.

They were about 100 times more sensitive to magnetic fields than had been expected.

On a different subject, but also worthy of particular note, Dru claims in this interview that the Vatican blocked the Maya from reserving sacred sites like Chichen Itza for ritual use on December 21, 2012. It put me in mind of another bit of bizarreness that I only first learned about not long ago. The Egyptian government stopped a planned event to replace the missing capstone on the Great Pyramid with a solid gold one on the "millennium." They bought into the fear that it was a Zionist/Masonic conspiracy. These governments must really think these rituals are powerful.

Oh, and circumpunct.

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Jul 18, 2012

Mr. Deity and Christopher Hitchens

Hilarity ensues when the noted atheist reaches the pearly gates. This does some really funny homage to the man's irascible personality. And the punchline: Now that's a shot.

There's much I disagreed with Chris Hitchens about, from a good many of his opinions on religion -- although he did make some very good, very fair points on occasion -- to many of his political views. Some of those, like his support for the war in Iraq, I found incomprehensible. But at the end of the day, I have to admire the man's brilliance. Even three sheets to the wind, which he often was, he was pretty much always the smartest man in the room. Yes, you can be both smart and wrong-headed.

Anyway, this one's a hoot. I particularly enjoyed the fundraising ad the end. It's a flawless satire of one of those Christian network promos, right down to the DBN logo. Hilarious.

I've also added to the player a spot from Brian Dalton with some driving tips that everyone should really take in. Also one of my husband's pet peeves. Let me tell ya.

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Jul 16, 2012

Full Circle

I've written before about my near obsession with this basic form. First it possessed my inner vision, so that I seriously considered doing a giant, and I mean giant, canvas... except that I don't paint. Then I began to recognize it in a variety of contexts, penultimately in the giant obsessional painting of Battlestar Galactica character Kara Thrace. And it slowly dawned on me that it appears in a great deal of spiritual iconography. Now it's taken to stalking me.

Rightly or wrongly, Dan Brown calls the stripped down version of this symbol a circumpunct.

Brown has this to say in his novel [The Lost Symbol]: "In the idiom of symbology, there was one symbol that reigned supreme above all others. The oldest and most universal, this symbol fused all the ancient traditions in a single solitary image that represented the illumination of the Egyptian sun god, the triumph of alchemical gold, the wisdom of the Philosopher's Stone, the purity of the Rosicrucian Rose, the moment of Creation, the All, the dominance of the astrological sun, and even the ominscient all-seeing eye that hovered atop the unfinished pyramid. The circumpunct. The symbol of the Source. The origin of all things."

. . .

It is true that the circumpunct symbol has been around for millennia, albeit more often known as "the circle with the dot in the middle". It can symbolise everything from gold in alchemy to a European road sign for city centre. It is commonly used as a solar symbol and reputable sources date this to ancient Egypt, where the symbol has its origins in Ra (or Re), god of the midday sun. In fact, the circle with a midpoint, plus a vertical line is the hieroglyph meaning "sun".

So how did an Egyptian symbol rise to shine again as a token of the ancient mysteries among 21st-century Freemasons in Brown's novel? Langdon's exposition is as follows: "The pyramid builders of Egypt are the forerunners of the modern stonemasons, and the pyramid, along with Egyptian themes, is very common in Masonic symbolism." Very neat. Well done, Brown.

Brown is frustrating to read. I keep expecting there to be more of the depth hinted at by the subject matter but it's never forthcoming. And even in this case, the assigning of lineage and intrigue does nothing to address the pull this symbol has on the imagination or its underpinnings in sacred geometry. But it does flesh out a little context.

The symbol is also immediately recognizable as a human eye... or the Eye of Jupiter if you're a Battlestar Galactica fan. I was reminded the other day of that solid bit of conventional wisdom: The eyes are the windows of the soul. Eyes tell you everything you really need to know about a person. They are what many people report recognizing during past life regressions as belonging to people they currently know. Creepy eyes warn of malice and even psycopathy. I've learned through hard experience that if I don't like someone's eyes, I don't like them. Note that both Robert D. Hare's Without Conscious and Martha Stout's Sociopath Next Door feature eyes on the front cover.

Eyes are made up of vesicae piscis and circles. And that geometrical interplay between the sphere and the vesica piscis is, as I said here, the gateway in and out of manifestation. So it stands to reason that it is associated with the soul's migration. But it also seems to represent various levels of spiritual expansion and possibly even ascension.

My point is this. We are not drawn to that form because it looks like an eye, as when Eye of God mania swept the web. The eye is shaped like that because the eye is a significant portal in the body and one associated directly with light.

"In our circles, in our circles, in our circles, in our circles..." ~ Madeline Kahn, The Carol Burnett Show

For over a week, I've been awash in synchronicity, and much of it has revolved around this repeated geometry. I've been reading William Henry's Secret of Sion and it's just brought one epiphany after another. Like much of his work, it has me pulling out journals that date back over a decade, because it clarifies and validates things I've been seeing in my head for years. Henry, of course, associates various iterations of concentric circles with the opening of stargates. And I realized at a certain point that as I moved through the concluding chapters of the book, I began seeing the symbol everywhere.

The issue moved into sharp relief on Thursday when I noticed this amusing juxtaposition on my Facebook homepage. The photo is by my old friend Andy Cohen who is a simply exquisite photographer. The geometrical synchronicity is by universe.

It does not escape my notice that the photo is of a sunflower and the circumpunct is, among other things, the symbol for the sun... and gold.

Later that day, I went to Target. Nothing to do with the power of suggestion. My daughter needed something and it's close. But having discovered the night before, while sitting by the pool, that it was definitely time to retire my very old iPod nano, I did something a little impulsive. I bought myself a new iPod. It's a purchase I've been planning but I could have gotten it a little cheaper elsewhere. It was, to put it oh so gently, not a good day, so I went straight for the instant gratification. I don't regret it... at all. And it was only later that I realized how truly flawless the timing was.

And, of course it came home in a Target bag because I bought it at Target.

Much later in the evening, I kept finding myself brought up short by my husband's viewing choices. I'd glance up at the TV just in time to see things like Alton Brown on the Food Network talking about the perfect form of the donut.

And then by these electric blue crested worm-things that were supposed to represent yeast... or something.

A little later, I noticed he was watching the Keanu Reeves remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still. I looked up just in time to see this stellar scene.

And, of course, the reticulated python moving towards the sphere.

Sitting by the pool Friday night, listening to Hildegard von Bingen on my new iPod, I finished reading Secret of Sion. The concluding chapters of this book contain too many ah-ha moments to recount. But you really could have knocked me over with a feather when I saw his concluding image. The White Rose by Gustave Doré is a plate from Dante's Divine Comedy: Paradiso.

"In fashion then as of a snow-white rose displayed itself to me the saintly host..."

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Jul 14, 2012

Episcopalians Down the Beliefnet Memory Hole

The other day I posted the exciting news that the Episcopal Church has green-lighted the ordination of transgendered people and taken a step toward gay marriages. This news was less well received by Rob Kerby who quickly pronounced the Church dead... and then he proceeded to dance on its grave. The insufferable post can be found here. The church founded by that wife-killer Henry VIII is on the brink of financial ruin because it's driven all the real Christians away with its liberal agenda... blah, blah, blah... Whatever. Talk to the hand.

True to form Kerby has also been busily blocking and deleting any dissent. Yes, it's not only Pagans and the gay-positive who get chucked down the memory hole on the new Beliefnet. Episcopalian? Gone.

I posted a comment and learned, for sure, that I'm being blocked. My comment was sent straight into moderation. It was deleted without ever seeing the light of day. As you can see, there were only two comments showing, but four comments in the counter, so I'm clearly not the only one who's been marked for moderation.

Someone named Mike slipped under their radar and got a not terribly favorable comment up.

It was later deleted.

So, some comments have come and gone. As of this writing there are four comments showing out of nine. The other five are presumably languishing in moderation.

A particularly special comment from one Robbins Mitchell refers to the Church's first gay archbishop as Archfaggot Gene Robinson. So, that's nice. I doubt it will be deleted. I've seen worse anti-gay slurs left in place as the mildest of questions about the news section's direction are deleted. Hatin' on gay people is perfectly cool on the new Beliefnet. Because, you know, they're Christians and we'll know them by their love.

You know, I really have no problem with moderators deleting rude, offensive comments. And, in principle, I have no problem with Kerby hating gay people in the name of Christ. He has the right to cherry-pick the Bible and juggle contradictions the size of watermelons. The problem, as I've said before, is that he is representing a site that is still pretending to be an ecumenical, interfaith destination. And not only is he spouting bigoted and blinkered nonsense, he's enforcing an environment of group-think. The mildest disagreement is silenced and swept from Beliefnet's page.

Kerby, for his part, is unrepentant, and has been dishing on Episcopalians on his Facebook page. There we learn that he's offended 2.3 million Episcopalians. "Ah, well." And he was called for an interview with Australia's ABC Radio to discuss "the collapsing US Episcopal church." But it didn't go so well.

I learned what little I know about dealing with the broadcast media from the legendary Ed Wheeler of the Oklahoma Natural Gas Co.'s PR department. He said "Give 'em a six-second sound bite, then shut up and refuse to utter another word." Tonight, I stupidly talked with a reporter in Australia for 15 minutes. I was over my head on a subject I know little about. If I came across as an idiot, at least (hopefully) nobody in this hemisphere will hear it!

Yet he knew enough to pronounce the Church "near collapse!" Perhaps he spoke to a reporter who actually knew a little something about the history of the Anglican Church... or history, period... or a little about critical thinking. Any of the above and he'd be sunk.

One of the things I noticed in looking at this particular "news" post is that Beliefnet has added a Facebook commenting feature. I don't know that he can delete those. I say that because my comments in that thread and other somewhat critical ones are there. And the thread makes for some interesting reading. Commenters also noticed that Kerby was in over his head when it came to, um, facts. I, personally, didn't spend a lot of time parsing his drivel but this made me chuckle.

This is no longer George Washington’s Episcopal Church – in 1776 the largest denomination in the rebellious British colonies. Membership has dropped so dramatically that today there are 20 times more Baptists than Episcopalians.

You mean the George Washington who almost never went to church? The one who refused to take communion and left early on those rare occasions when he did go so that his carriage had to make a second trip to pick up his church-going wife? The one who preferred to spend his Sundays drinking wine and smoking cigars? That George Washington? Maybe it would be fairer to say Martha Washington's Episcopal Church?

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Jul 12, 2012

Religious Abuse: Animal Cruelty Edition

The Banality of Evil

Nearly a year ago, after Warren Jeffs was sentenced to life in prison, I wrote something about the phenomenon of religious abuse and speculated that Jeffs's incarceration would not stop the cycle of abuse. Obviously, I was proved right. News of Jeffs's continuing influence keeps trickling out. But I really wasn't prepared for some of the horrors that are occurring under the control of this megalomaniacal pederast. Colorado City and other FLDS communities remain as Jeffs's fiefdoms, with a substantial membership acting as brutal enforcers. The latest casualty? A kitten. Yes, that's right. Some follower -- or followers -- of Jeffs tortured a kitten to death simply to send a message. (This link contains graphic images. Click with care.)

Controversial Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Days Saints (FLDS) leader Warren Jeffs’ polygamous sect is accused of sending a cat buried alive in a bucket of concrete to a former church member as a threat. Jeffs was convicted last year on felony charges related to sexual relationships with underage girls, according to The Blaze. A dangerous fast landed the FLDS leader in the hospital in critical condition after his incarceration began. The fundamentalist church once again made headlines after a cat in concrete was sent to a man who had “abandoned the radical sect” as a warning.

AZ Family notes that other former FLDS followers claim to have received similar shocking threats. Isaac Wyler was excommunicated in 2004. He recently discovered the kitten buried in a concrete bucket inside a pipe in his yard. Wyler considers the incident a “threatening message” to “encourage” his silence about the FLDS. Since leaving the FLDS, Wyler has been very outspoken in his opposition to the polygamous sect.

Isaac Wyler has been a thorn in Jeffs's side for years and has been on the receiving end of a lot of threats and intimidation by FLDS enforcers. One of the more telling details in this atrocity points to the scope of the problem. (This link contains graphic images and video. Click with care.)

Chatwin, who left the FLDS 13 years ago, believes the cruel act was done by members of his former church. He claims both the threats and the animal killings have been going on for years.

Chatwin also claims that when he reported the cruel act to Colorado City sheriffs, they didn't seem too concerned.

"[The officer] kind of chuckled and laughed a little bit and then he said that if it was up to him, he'd just throw dirt on [the cat]," Chatwin said. "And this is coming from a city marshal who's a member of the FLDS Church."

To be clear, the kitten was not yet dead. It died later under veterinary care. It was suffering, with most of its body stuck in hard cement, and their "solution" was to "throw dirt" on it. This is not the first indication that the police and other civil authorities, in FLDS strongholds like Colorado City, work for Jeffs, not the citizens of those communities. The problem has gotten bad enough to require intervention from the federal government. In June they filed lawsuits against two FLDS dominated towns.

According to the Justice Department sect members in Colorado City, Ariz., and Hill Dale, Utah have been forcing nonbelievers out. The feds call it discrimination and they want it to stop.

They say it's happening because FLDS members control everything that counts in these places from the town hall to the tap water.

. . .

"The police force in Colorado City is, without a doubt, the most crooked police department in the country," said private investigator Sam Brower.

Arizona's legislature had attempted to deal with the problem of Colorado City by passing a bill that would have dissolved any police department that had lost half its membership to legal problems. Six of twelve Colorado City cops were decertified for crimes like bigamy and child abuse. The bill passed the State Senate but died in the House when reps from the area defended the FLDS community. Said reps seem to have no idea what actually goes on in Colorado City and spend their visits there at invisible little league games in a town that has no such thing.

Armed with the Justice Department's legal action, Arizona's Mohave County last week added its own police patrols to Colorado City.

The patrols come after a complaint was filed by the U.S. Department of Justice against the Colorado City government and local marshal’s office alleging civil rights violations.

The complaint, which was announced on June 21, alleges the Colorado City Marshal’s Office “routinely uses its enforcement authority to enforce the edicts and will of the FLDS; fails to protect non-FLDS individuals from victimization by FLDS individuals; refuses to cooperate with other law enforcement agencies’ investigations of FLDS individuals; selectively enforces laws against non-FLDS; and uses its authority to facilitate unlawful evictions of non-FLDS, among other unlawful conduct.”

Apparently, that includes conduct like laughing off the torture of small, defenseless animals.

The involvement of federal authorities puts me in mind of another ongoing dispute I've been watching unfold with no small degree of fascination, in a region not far from where I grew up. The FBI recently became involved in a local fracas within the seemingly quiet Amish community. Federal prosecutors brought hate crime charges against Bishop Samuel Mullet and a group of his enforcers for cutting the hair and beards of Amish citizens in other local communities. Thus far, those charges have stood up to legal challenge.

It's dicey. At what point does this become a church/state issue? This is exactly what the Amish defendants are arguing -- that both the local and federal governments are intervening in religious matters. But the crimes are horrible, even sadistic. Cutting of hair and beards violates Amish religious custom. And there are reports of Bishop Mullet putting his own male parishioners in chicken coops and sleeping with their wives as punishment for various infractions.

We're back to the conundrum that always arises when dealing with mind control cults. Are people exercising freedom of religion when their decisions are manipulated or coerced by a charismatic leader? What legal intervention is fair in those circumstances and how much of the internal process of any religious group is protected under the First Amendment? In both of the above cases, however, the crimes affected people who were not directly under the religious authority of the religious sects involved, which would seem to open up a pretty clear legal path. And other legal interventions have occurred when crimes were committed that are clearly not First Amendment protected. The sexual abuse of minors has been a prominent feature in both instances and landed Warren Jeffs in prison, most likely for the rest of his life. Fairly, I think.

Sex abuse and other thoroughly degrading offenses are at least as typical in cases of religious abuse as in an any top-down, authoritarian, insular, environment. And, of course, the seamy underbelly of the Catholic Church, continues to be exposed in one horrible revelation after another.

One of the biggest embarrassments for the Vatican has been the Legionaries of Christ, whose charismatic leader Marcial Maciel Degollado turned out to be a pedophile and drug addict with multiple mistresses and children under a false identity. He was most likely a psychopath. They can be so charming. But the entire enterprise had to be brought under Vatican control when what was long known by Church insiders became public. Just recently it was learned that their new leader Rev. Thomas Williams had fathered a child. Now come new charges of horrible abuses at a Legionaries facility here in the US.

Dozens of women who attended a high school run by the disgraced Legion of Christ religious order have urged the Vatican to close the program, saying the psychological abuse they endured trying to live like teenage nuns led to multiple cases of anorexia, stress-induced migraines, depression and even suicidal thoughts.

The women sent a letter this weekend to the pope's envoy running the Legion to denounce the manipulation, deception and disrespect they say they suffered at the hands of counselors barely older than themselves at the Rhode Island school. For some, the trauma required years of psychological therapy that cost them tens of thousands of dollars.

The Immaculate Conception Academy in Wakefield, RI, is one of a number of Legionarie feeder schools. It's numbers have now dwindled to the point where it has had to be blended with a sister school in another state. Very few girls had the dubious honor of graduating and moving on to the "consecrated" level. For many who were rejected the shame was intolerable. One shares that for her it was tantamount to rejection by God. But this was after a long process of psychological softening.

A number of the former students have compiled a blog to tell their stories. The most intriguing insight into what happened at the school comes from one of the counselors who tortured these girls.

Those of you who were told you didn’t have a vocation probably did not feel the mold of the perfect 3gf or you weren't easy to brainwash - you thought for yourselves and were not "docile." If any of you had an obvious best friend, we got really scared and concluded you did not have a call. If you had a “particular friendship,” you would be asked to leave, or we would be overly strict with you so you would decide to leave on your own. We all definitely thought we were doing God's will. Sometimes something we said to a PC came directly from a vicedirector or director who asked us to mention it to a certain PC, sometimes we didn´t even know why, but we trusted... No one saw you as an END, only as a MEANS to benefit the Movement and enlarge the numbers for the consecrated life.

. . .

We had very clear guidelines on our role and on how to lead you, but authority was given too much power and too little responsibility. Everyone was taught to treat those in authority like little gods and never to question them, correct them or doubt them. That was unbalanced and made our defects, flaws, mistakes and egotism influence our actions and attitudes. No one consciously thought she was damaging the PCs, but I bet many of us did question if those means were right.

. . .

Once upon a time, a territorial director came to visit. The topic of one of the meetings was that we realized we had divided PCs in 3 groups (accidentally): "future formators" (leaders, good recruiters or very obedient PC's who influenced others), trouble/issue/always sick/reluctant PCs and THE NORMALS!!! hahahahaha We realized we were not dedicating time or attention to the normals because we had our hands full with all the goals they gave us to form the FF and trying to make peace with the trouble PCs. So we had all these resolutions to attend to the "normals". Believe it or not, if you were on the "normals" list, you are probably not hurting much now, did not feel pressure to leave or stay, we did not worry if you never went for dependence and we did not inform much about you. [All Emphases Added]

Identified by the Associated Press as Lourdes Martinez, the former counselor fleshed out the details in a press interview. She is forthright about the wrongs she had committed and how they fit into a pattern of overall abuse. She also drops a bomb about some of the "informing" counselors did. It included giving intel to the priests who heard the girls' confessions and used the confessional as God's own echo chamber.

Often, information from the weekly reports written about each girl's development would be shared with the priests who heard her confession – a striking violation of privacy. The priests could then reinforce the directors' decisions in confession with the girls, she said.

"So she's hearing this from everyone and thinks it's the Holy Spirit talking. And we would say `Yes, of course,'" Martinez told the AP in a phone interview from Monterrey, Mexico.

Martinez described an almost "Lord of the Flies"-like situation in which the counselors were barely older than the girls under their care, with no experience in adolescent development. The counselors themselves lived with the fear that they must obey the rules and their superiors or risk violating God's will.

And that last is what makes Martinez's honest recounting so fascinating. She seems like a well-meaning sort but she participated in horrible abuses that she and others knew weren't appropriate when they were doing them. And this is how abuse, including religious abuse, becomes institutionalized and becomes part of a self-sustaining system that subsumes identity and diffuses individual responsibility. It's the bulwark for the banality of evil.

Banality of evil is a phrase coined by Hannah Arendt in the title of her 1963 work Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil.[1] Her thesis is that the great evils in history generally, and the Holocaust in particular, were not executed by fanatics or sociopaths, but by ordinary people who accepted the premises of their state and therefore participated with the view that their actions were normal.

Explaining this phenomenon, Edward S. Herman has emphasized the importance of "normalizing the unthinkable." According to him, "doing terrible things in an organized and systematic way rests on 'normalization.' This is the process whereby ugly, degrading, murderous, and unspeakable acts become routine and are accepted as 'the way things are done.'"[2]

Marcial Maciel didn't need to be in Rhode Island and Warren Jeffs can cause a kitten to die even as he's babbles incoherently away in a prison cell. Once these systems are in place, the tyranny pretty much runs itself. This is because a) the fish rots from the head down, and b) any hierarchical system can become an abuse factory. Let me repeat that: Any hierarchical system can become an abuse factory.

The fact that anyone can devolve into an abuser is the reason that Phillip Zimbardo had to abort the Stanford Prison Experiment. He, himself, began to act in an aberrant manner, despite the fact that he was a brilliant educator and researcher who knew the objectives of his own study. He was seduced by adulation. He fell into the trap of power. Very fine people can and do become abusers when they receive enough encouragement to do so. What both Stan Milgram and Phil Zimbardo have demonstrated clearly with their work is that human beings have some pretty dark impulses and when the power of a system absorbs the responsibility and gives us permission, we tend to play them out. And when you have a charismatic leader sitting at the top, setting the tone for sadistic behavior, all bets are off.

As an experiment, try reading Martinez's post in full and then watch the video I've posted below, which contains footage from the study and Zimbardo's commentary. (Warning: It's graphic and disturbing. I've seen the documentary. I don't want to watch it again. Chilling.) The parallels are hard to miss. For instance, near the end of the video, Zimbardo explains how when a new participant was brought in midway, who hadn't been conditioned the way the others had and displayed resistance, it became the singular objective of the "guards" to break down that "prisoner." As Zimbardo says, "He should have been the hero." It is exactly what Martinez describes in her blog post -- the students who weren't "docile" were targeted. In any hierarchy conformity and submissiveness to leadership are the goal. It's only a matter of degrees.

It is easy to blame the people who carry water for dangerous, charismatic leaders. They're responsible for their actions, for sure. And when they have integrity, they come forward and make amends, as Lourdes Martinez has done. But we're kidding ourselves if we think we'd do better. Except that I know, that I know, that I know, that I would never pack a live kitten in cement. That's unbelievable. Just unbelievable.

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Jul 10, 2012

Episcopal Church to Ordain the Transgendered

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One of my earliest career goals was Episcopal priest. I was a very young, very idealistic gal watching the epic battle over women's ordination from the sidelines. I resolved, in a way that only a young idealist can, that if my Church decided the right way, I would one day join the growing ranks of female priests. Obviously, I went another way, but it was something that was still very much under consideration into my early twenties. My spiritual life took me through many twists and turns that outstripped the confines of Christian dogma -- even the very tolerant, ecumenical beliefs of the Episcopal Church. But I am still constantly surprised and gratified to see the Church growing and evolving in ways I could never have expected all those years ago. Yesterday the Episcopal Church approved a measure that would allow ordination of transgendered people.

At its triennial General Convention in Indianapolis, the church House of Deputies approved a change to the "nondiscrimination canons" to include "gender identity and expression." The move makes it illegal to bar from the priesthood people who were born into one gender and live as another or who do not identify themselves as male or female.

. . .

The vote by the House of Deputies -- which includes lay people and clergy -- followed Saturday's approval of the non-discrimination clause by the church House of Bishops. Both groups have to approve new legislation.

. . .

"It is not just a good day for transgender Episcopalians and their friends, families and allies. It is a good day for all of us who are part of a church willing to the risk to continue to draw the circle wider as we work to live out our call to make God's inclusive love known to the whole human family," the Rev. Susan Russell, a deputy from the Diocese of Los Angeles and an activist who supported the legislation, said in a statement. 

Also approved was a provisional standard liturgy for blessing same-sex couples. It is the first Christian church to do so. It's a step towards what I'm sure will be an approval to perform gay marriages as they become legal around the country.  It's only a matter of time.

I'm sure this will hasten the great bigots exodus from the Church, but as ever I say, go with God.

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Jul 9, 2012

The Vatican: Men Behaving Badly

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The gender war in the Catholic Church appears to be heating up. Major battlefronts have opened up with American nuns -- including one who dared to write about s-e-x -- and the many Catholic women who are tired of being scolded for using birth control. Now one of the Vatican's own journalists has leveled a charge of "misogyny in the Church."

Lucretia Scaraffia edits a new women's supplement for the Vatican's own newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano. It was a risky venture for the paper to add a prominent, female voice, and it would seem that it hasn't exactly gone smoothly. In a recent interview with Agence French Presse (AFP), Scaraffia bemoaned the "indifference" with which her endeavor has been met. And she railed against a male-centric culture that she blames for the scandals that currently imperil the Church.

"The paedophilia scandal was almost exclusively male," she told AFP, at her book-lined apartment in the Parioli quarter of Rome.

"If there had been women in positions of power they would not have allowed those things to happen.

"Women have long been reputed as sexually dangerous. But it's clear that the danger lay with men and children," she said.

When I first read about Scaraffia's public call for women in the Church ranks, I felt a little thrill. Here is a woman who has made real inroads into the Vatican hierarchy, and whose involvement reportedly has the support of Pope Benedict himself, who is publicly naming the sexist elephant in the vestibule. But her argument is simultaneously poignant and wrong-headed.

Scaraffia is not just a feminist. She is one of the founding voices of Italy's feminist movement in the 1960s.

The 66 year-old academic -- a Mason's daughter who became one of Italy's founding feminists in the '60s and described herself as a "heretic" before a conversion experience two decades ago -- marked out an iconoclastic path from her first major column, a September 2008 prod to rethink the church's teaching that brain death does not constitute the end of life.

While the front-page piece promptly spurred a clarification from the Holy See Press Office that its author's views did not reflect any authoritative "position of the Magisterium," Scaraffia's profile has only increased since, perhaps as an echo of the Pope's own 2010 statement that Catholic newspapers should "encourage authentic dialogue between the various members of society" and serve as "training-grounds for comparison and loyal discussion between different opinions."

In a piece that year for the Papal Paper, Scaraffia said that the Vatican's 1994 permission for girls to become altar servers -- still a topic of heated debate in some church circles -- proved a watershed for women as "entering into the area of the altar signified the end of an attribution of impurity to their sex."

I believe Scaraffia is sincere in her feminism. I believe she's working very hard at the Herculean task of bringing gender equality to the Catholic Church. I just think she's walked boldly into a well-laid trap.

Scaraffia is at cross purposes with herself. On the one hand she wants to say that women should stop being blamed for men who are unable to control their own appetites. And on the other, she says that women in more powerful positions would be just the cock-blocker the men of the Church need. It's an internal contradiction that has played out in feminist thought for decades. Women don't want to be blamed for the uncivilized behavior of men. We don't want to have to dress differently so as not to lead men into temptation, or, dear Goddess, be blamed for harassing men with our cleavage. So, no, we don't want be viewed as "sexually dangerous." But we seem loathe to give up our status as exactly the civilizing influence men need.

Scaraffia even goes so far as to claim that a stronger female presence would have prevented the Vatileaks scandal.

"If there were women with authority in the Church, nothing would be leaked," she said. "Women are freer because they do not have such thoughts of power."

It's an idealized view the feminine and one that has trapped women from time immemorial. It runs dangerously close to the "Angel in the House" with which Virginia Woolf fought her life and death struggle. Hell. It puts us on course to be the bloody Giving Tree, again, with all that that entails. But this idea that women embody the better nature of humanity is one that refuses to die -- in part because feminists like Scaraffia are keeping it alive.

It's a seductive idea. On the surface, it's a positive message about the quality of women. And it is usually accepted uncritically by women and men, alike. Indeed, all of the coverage I've read of Scaraffia's comments has focused on what a sharp indictment of the Church hierarchy she has made with statements like this one and seemingly accepted the idea that women with some actual authority would make priests act better.

"It's not possible to go on like this," said Scaraffia. "Women in the Church are angry!"

Near the end of this segment of Real Time on the sex abuse scandal at Penn State, Bill Maher says, "Does it strike anybody that anywhere there are no women present -- football, the Vatican, the Middle East -- things go to shit?... You really do need women around as a moderating influence." It's a point I've heard him make more than once. Maher is a funny guy and an astute political analyst but I don't think anyone could mistake him for a feminist. Which is not say that he's wrong.

That's the worst part of this whole conundrum. I'm not even saying that it isn't true that the presence of women checks the worst excesses of masculine behavior. I'm saying that that's not a good thing. And feminists need to stop encouraging men to depend on women to make them act like grown-ups. It excuses some of the most reprehensible behavior and sends men the message that they don't ever have to take responsibility because we're up for the challenge of acting as their conscience.

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