dog wink

It is a phenomena that most pets owners have observed. Their dog or cat seems to know hen you or another familiy member is coming home. This doesn’t mean that it knows it is 6 pm and that you always come home at that time. It could be that it senses its owner arrival from a random errand. It’s not the sound of your car coming down the street or the sound of you walking up the path to the door. The animal just knows.

This has been called “animal telepathy.” The rather controversial biologist, Rupert Sheldrake, has been studying this for quite some time.

Sheldrake, a biologist and author, is probably better known for his theory of morphic fields and morphic resonance. If animal telepathy sounds like science at the fringe, then morphic resonance is beyond the fringe. It posits a vision of a living, developing universe with its own inherent memory and he gets lots of criticism for his theories that push beyond traditional science.

He worked in developmental biology at Cambridge University and he was Principal Plant Physiologist at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), in India.

In a podcast he says that modern science is mired in various dogmas – boundaries that trap thinking. These boundaries are the lines you’re not supposed to color outside of or cross. Doing so jeopardizes your standing in academia and your field.

Sheldrake does not believe that science is really the realm of free inquiry, or is very open to new ideas. He put forward this idea in his book, Science Set Free.

bookThis post’s title focuses on his followup book, Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home. That book covers his research into the telepathy he proposes existing between humans and animals, particularly dogs.

He believes that this kind of interspecies telepathy is real and that morphic resonance explains why it is possible.

In his 2003 book, The Sense of Being Stared At, he explored telepathy and precognition. In keeping with his view on the practice of science today, he feels that our mechanistic view of the world is a delusion.

He is quite a divergent thinker and has to take his punches for writing about “pseudo-scientific” theories. His distrust of science doesn’t win him many friends in science. His theories on the consciousness of atoms and stars are hard for scientists to accept. What seems to really annoy Sheldrake is that many of them refuse to even listen to his talks or read about his work. It is just dismissed outright.

I am not so much a proponent of his theories as I am a proponent of being open to this kind of very divergent kind of thinking. Morphic resonance means that memory is inherent in nature. That means that an ant colony or pigeons or tomato plants inherit a collective memory from all previous incarnation of their kind. It also posits that they have an interconnectedness. It is call “telepathy” for lack of a better term, but it really needs a better term because to the average person “telepathy” has connotations of mind-readers, ESP and other related-but-not-the-same phenomena.

Does Sheldrake encourage these associations? He does by the connections he makes to paranormal subjects such as remote viewing. His criticisms of traditional science and even his non-traditional explanations of standard subjects like memory and inheritance in biology work against his acceptance by the science ruling class.

And I don’t know if he much cares for their approval any more.

He has found support in the New Age movement with New Age voices (like Deepak Chopra), but those are people who also operate outside of conventional science and receive similar criticisms.

I first came upon his work in an article I read years ago on Carl Jung’s ideas about the collective unconscious. Jung believed that there are collective memories that are shared across individuals. This includes some of our behaviors which we inherit through repetition over generations. Jung called theses archetypes. Sheldrake takes this a step further. Jung assumed these archetypes were transmitted to the next generation through physical and traditional inheritance. Sheldrake attributes it to morphic resonance and rejects the explanation that they are passed on by “mechanistic biology.”

That is quite radical and, for many, dangerous thinking.

That means that your dog is learning from other dogs. And not just from the one next door and the ones at the dog park, but from those living thousands of miles away.

I have owned a number of dogs in my lifetime (none currently) and I know that I would be included in the group that feels they know much more than we do about certain phenomena. My mom  would tell me that my dog, Romper, would get excited five or ten minutes before I came home, and head for the door that I would enter. It wasn’t just the clock time, since that varies. (Though it would be amazing enough if the dog knew it was 6 p.m.)  It was not a crossed signal from a I-want-to-go-out moment she was having. It was something else.

As fringe as Rupert Sheldrake’s ideas may seem, others have suggested even further interconnectedness. I was watching a video on the “interspecies Internet” on a TED talk. Could there be an Internet that connects us with dolphins, apes, elephants and other highly intelligent species? Cognitive psychologist Diana Reiss, musician Peter Gabriel, computer engineer Neil Gershenfeld and Vint Cerf (one of the fathers of the Internet) talk about the idea. Their own interest cross in talking about Reiss’ work with dolphin communication via a keyboard, Gabriel’s casual experiment in playing music with a bonobo (a great ape), Gershenfeld’s work on the internet of things and Cerf’s work on the very earliest guiding principles of the internet.

I always remind my students that there is the Internet and there is the (World Wide) Web. And they are not the same thing.

Rupert Sheldrake’s website is http://www.sheldrake.org

This week is technically the last frost date for Paradelle, but the weather has been rather cold. We had a bit of snow on Monday and below freezing for a few nights.

Nevertheless,  this weekend will be spent in the garden.  I find turning the soil and raking it smooth and even to be very relaxing. One of my sons will be home for Easter and he told me he wants to work in the vegetable garden, as we did when he was a child.

The weekend weather will be dry here and at least 60 degrees, but will drop back down to below 40 at night.

The weather was not kind on this month’s full moon on the 15th. But it was an exciting full moon because we had a lunar eclipse that gave us a Blood Moon.  Colonists in the New World often called the April moon the Planter’s Moon and further south, it is planting time.

Some years, like 2014, we can also call the April moon the Egg Moon. The name came from several places but eggs have long been symbolic of spring, regeneration, rebirth and are associated with some religious holidays of this time, such as Easter.

Domesticated hens do begin laying more eggs with longer days and many wild bird species also lay their eggs now.

Romanian decorated eggs

If you think painting eggs for celebrations is a recent tradition, you are wrong. The ancient Persians painted eggs for Nowrooz, their New Year celebration, which falls on the Spring equinox. Sculptures on the walls of Persepolis show people carrying eggs for Nowrooz to the king.

At the Jewish Passover Seder, a hard-boiled egg dipped in salt water symbolizes the Passover sacrifice offered at the Temple in Jerusalem.

The pre-Christian Saxons had a spring goddess called Eostre, whose feast was held on the Vernal Equinox, around 21 March.

Eostre’s special animal was the spring hare (rabbit), so it is believed that Eostre’s association with eggs and hares, combined with the rebirth of the land in spring was adapted for the Christian holiday of Easter.

The melting snow, spring rains and warmer days, finds many of us preparing for planting, if it’s not warm enough to actually plant.

If you are a follower of farming and moon folklore, then you know that you should plant root crops during the waning moon (after the full moon and until the new moon) and plant your above-ground crops during the waxing moon (as the moon thickens, like the wax drippings of a candle) from the new moon until the next full moon.

This unscientific practice was based on the belief that the moon’s magnetic force pulls everything that contains water.  It pulls the ocean. Some says it tugs at our blood. And the folklore says it pulls at the water in plants and seeds.

Green leafy plants will seek the moon during its waxing phase. Root crops growing below the ground will push their energy down, away from the moon, during its waning phase.

I did no planting so far this month. I will be waiting for the New Moon on the 29th of April and get most of my seeds and plants in by the next Full Moon on the 14th.

college-rosicrucians

Emblematic image of a Rosicrucian College; illustration from Speculum sophicum Rhodo-stauroticum, a 1618 work by Theophilus Schweighardt. Frances Yates identifies this as the “Invisible College of the Rosy Cross”

There is a little history lesson in this post, but the history is what leads me to think that the time is right for a new “Invisible College.”

The original Invisible College was the Rosicrucian College, identified by Frances Yates as the “Invisible College of the Rosy Cross”. It is sometimes described as a precursor group to the Royal Society of London. It consisted of a number of natural philosophers and may have also included some prominent figures who would be later connected with the Royal Society.

This idea of having an “invisible college” can be found in German Rosicrucian pamphlets in the early 17th century and another playwright of Shakespeare’s time, Ben Jonson, referenced it in several plays.

It was a group of scholars meeting to discuss and learn, but without actual courses, degrees or a campus of buildings. Sound like anything you see happening in education today?

In the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, it is noted that a group of natural philosophers meeting in London from 1645 was identified as the “invisible college” by Thomas Birch, writing in the 18th century.

It might remind some readers of other more concepts of “expert communities” such as Epistemic communities or Communities of Practice.

The concept and the term was applied to a global network of scientists by Caroline S. Wagner in her book, The New Invisible College: Science for Development. In the book, Wagner argues that a shift from big science to global networks is creating new opportunities, especially for developing countries, to tap science’s potential. Don’t try to create 20th century scientific establishments and centers of learning, but use global networks of leading scientists to focus on research to address local problems.

My own thought is that some combination of online learning, MOOCs, alternative and personal learning networks – and maybe even “degrees” in some new format – may create a new Invisible College without buildings or a home campus that grows and travels from place to place as it is needed.

The concept is mentioned in Clay Shirky’s book Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age. And it has found its way into fiction like The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown and Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco.  It was the inspiration for the humorous Unseen University in 13 fantasy novels by Terry Pratchett (such as Unseen Academicals).

For now, the Invisible College (which I find preferable to the Invisible University, which smells stronger of degrees) is fiction and fantasy. Of course, both invisiblecollege.com and invisibleuniversity.com are already owned by people who have parked those URLs for the time when… Well, you know. Uh huh.

cross-posted to Serendipity35

The first eclipse of 2014 is a good one for observers throughout the Western Hemisphere and especially for the Americas.

On Tuesday, April 15, there will be a total lunar eclipse that will turn the moon a coppery red, according to NASA. It’s called a blood moon, and it’s one of four total eclipses that will take place in North America within the next 18 months.  Within a year and a half, North America will be able to see a blood moon a total of four times. The moon takes on this color during the eclipse as it passes through the Earth’s shadow, which is the color of a desert sunset.  The four blood moons will occur in roughly six-month intervals on the following dates: April 15, 2014; October 8, 2014; April 4, 2015, and September 28, 2015.

During totality, the spring constellations are well placed for viewing so a number of bright stars can be used for magnitude comparisons. The entire event is visible from both North and South America. Observers in the western Pacific miss the first half of the eclipse because it occurs before moonrise. Likewise most of Europe and Africa experience moonset just as the eclipse begins. None of the eclipse is visible from north/east Europe, eastern Africa, the Middle East or Central Asia.

Lunar eclipses can be penumbral, partial or umbral but don’t occur with any regular schedule like many other astronomical events.  Getting four umbral eclipses in a row is rare and is known as a tetrad. We are lucky in the U.S. that this 2014-2015 tetrad will be visible for all or parts of the country.

In the 21st century, there will be many tetrads, but look back a few centuries, and you’ll find the opposite phenomenon. We had gone through a 300-year period when there were none.  That means that Sir Isaac Newton, Mozart, George Washington, Napoleon, Abraham Lincoln nor their contemporaries ever had a chance to see one.

So, get out there and take a look.  You’ll need to be up at 2 a.m. ET Tuesday to see the moon starts to enter the Earth’s shadow. The “”blood moon” coppery red should occur about an hour later and stay that way for over an hour.

This particular blood moon comes right at the Jewish festival of Passover, which commemorates the ancient Israelites’ exodus from slavery in Egypt. According to the Bible, God cast 10 plagues upon the Egyptians, the final plague being the death of the firstborn. Not that this eclipse has anything to do with the Biblical story, but it is an interesting coincidence that the Israelites painted lamb’s blood on their doorways so that this plague would pass over their homes.

The times of the major eclipse phases:

Penumbral Eclipse Begins: 04:53:37 UT
Partial Eclipse Begins: 05:58:19 UT
Total Eclipse Begins: 07:06:47 UT
Greatest Eclipse: 07:45:40 UT
Total Eclipse Ends: 08:24:35 UT
Partial Eclipse Ends: 09:33:04 UT
Penumbral Eclipse Ends: 10:37:37 UT

 

Pebble meditation is a technique to introduce children to the calming practice of meditation. It was developed by Zen master, best selling author, and peace Nobel Prize nominee Thich Nhat Hanh. In A Handful of Quiet: Happiness in Four Pebbles and A Pebble for Your Pocket, he offers illustrated guides for children and parents.

It can be practiced alone or with a group or family, Pebble meditation can help relieve stress, increase concentration, nourish gratitude, and can help children deal with difficult emotions.

A participant places four pebbles on the ground next to him or her. You invite three sounds of the bell and then each person picks up the first pebble and says, “Breathing in, I see myself as a flower. Breathing out, I feel fresh. Flower, fresh” – breathe together quietly for three in and out breaths.

The next pebble is for “Breathing in I see myself as a mountain, breathing out, I feel solid. Mountain, solid.

Pebble 3: “Breathing in I see myself as still, clear water, breathing out, I reflect things as they really are. Clear water, reflecting.

And the fourth pebble has us saying “Breathing in I see myself as space, breathing out, I feel free. Space, free.

We end with three sounds of the bell.

This technique is not only for children. I would compare my own use of a grief stone to this practice. In some workshops, participants may find pebbles that can represent people in their lives and use that pebble when they breathe in and out and feel connection to that person.

There are pebble meditations using the six paramitas. The six paramitas, or six perfected realizations, are elements that help us cross from suffering to liberation. They are generosity, diligence, mindfulness trainings, inclusiveness, meditation and understanding.

Another pebble mediation uses the three jewels (Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha) or on the Four Immeasurables (loving kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity).

Some people write words on the stones and use them on a regular basis.

What is there about the physicality of the pebble that helps one connect to the connected idea?

 

Here, Thich Nhat Hanh’s meditation is presented by Plum Village brother Thay Phap Huu.
(From the DVD, “Mindful Living Every Day,” an orientation to the Plum Village practice of mindful living, available at Parallax Press

William Blake's  “Ancient of Days”

William Blake’s “Ancient of Days”

Poet Billy Collins has quipped that majoring in English means majoring in death. It is the big theme in literature. I was an English major.

None of us likes death and we don’t like to think about it, but we can’t help but think about it.

I had a course in the Bible as literature in college. The course didn’t convince me that the Bible is literature or convince me about anything religious. I found the book poorly written. It did not hold my interest.

The Bible has a lot about death.  Our beliefs about the dead will have an impact on how we live and how we approach death – with fear or peace.

Type in death and Bible and you’ll get plenty of hits and references to passages from the Bible, views on death and what happens in the end-times.

As a child, I was very curious about what happens when a person dies.

“Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.” Ecclesiastes 12:7.

The body turns to the “dust” it was in the beginning, and the spirit goes back to God. The spirit of every person who dies – righteous or wicked – returns to God at death.

And our body?   “The body without the spirit is dead.” James 2:26.

I was curiously fearful of ghosts and spirits as a child.  I was pretty sure that sometimes that spirit sometimes doesn’t return to God at death – or at least not right away.  The Bible has no mention of that “spirit” having any life, wisdom, or feeling after a person dies.  It doesn’t wander around the Earth.

“And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” Genesis 2:7.

A soul?   A combination of two things: body plus breath. If the body and breath are not combined, no soul.

Can that soul die?   “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” Ezekiel 18:20.  We are souls, and souls die. Man is mortal.

I wanted to believe that good people go to heaven when they die.  Then, some nun or priest told me that we don’t go to heaven or hell when we die.  “All that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth.” John 5:28, 29. We go to graves to await the resurrection day. That made me frightened. And sad.

There would be no purpose in a resurrection if people were taken to heaven at death.

I was also afraid that the dead were watching me. I imagined my grandparents were up there watching me – especially when I was doing something wrong. More fear.

My mother claimed at times in her life to have heard voices of those who had died. But the Bible says that the dead know nothing and they cannot communicate with the living.

“The living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun.” “There is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.” Ecclesiastes 9:5, 6, 10.

So much sadness, so much longing, so much death.

 

 

I know a few people who have tried getting off the Internet for a day or weekend or abandoning technology to purge their minds, bodies and souls of the pollution of information. We are on the overload setting and the idea of being purified does seem tempting.

I have also been reading about sensory deprivation – a topic that I haven’t heard much about in many years.

Of course, it has a new avant garde, this-is-the-coolest-thing spin to it. Apparently “float houses” are opening that allow you to go psychonaut and float into the benefits of depriving your senses of just about everything for a while.

Benefits? Relaxation, heightened senses, pain management and deautomatization.

Skeptical? You probably should be. But what is behind the “science” of this?

Sensory deprivation has some history as a way to brainwash prisoners of war (Korean War) kept in solitary confinement. A kind of psychological torture.

Researchers in the 1950s at McGill University in Canada did not exactly find it to be a blissful weekend getaway. They reported slower cognitive processing, hallucinations, mood swings and anxiety attacks that seemed a pathway to psychosis.

But others say that these deliberately abusive uses have nothing in common with the controlled and positive use of sensory deprivation. (Sensory overload is still a torture and break-the-spirit technique used by many military groups.)

More recent research shows deprivation to be deeply relaxing. There is even a rebranding of the technique. Dr. Roderick Borrie has come to calling it REST – Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy.

At the floathouses, you can REST on a bed in a dark, soundproof room, or float in buoyant liquid in a lightproof and soundproof tank.

Users report visual and auditory hallucinations, but nice ones. Some report a surge of creative thinking. Other studies that have nothing to do with REST report that a resting brain is better set for synthesizing information and doing problem solving.

You probably have had similar experiences while only partially deprived of stimuli – on a walk in the woods, driving alone on the highway and in the shower.

These states – not sleep or meditation – are referred to as “twilight” states. Claims ate that this twilight is easier to achieve without training via flotation REST than with mindfulness training or other techniques. And you know, we do love the easier path…

Researchers are now looking at what effect this might have on patients with stress-related disorders like hypertension, headaches, insomnia, rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia.

There are no floathouses near me that I know of, but there are places in my home and in nature that I can escape to if need be. I know that after a few hours in the woods away from everyday sounds, something changes in me. I know because when I return to the real world I find the sounds to be amplified worse than before. The deprivation works, but the effect is short-lived.

What about you?

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