Mind Manipulation

Hoping to find a cure for depression many years ago doctors cut the connecting tissue in patients, that joined the two hemispheres of the brain. Subsequently patients found themselves doing the same thing twice without realising – such as putting on two sets of clothes – because the hemisphere they had rarely used thought the other side was dead and started to take over functions. Recently to find cures for mood swings they have isolated the parts of the brain that control moods and can manipulate it with artificial stimuli. So accurately that they can make people ‘happy’ or even ‘sad’ within moments.

The upshot of these experiments is not so much the finding of cures for ailments bu the realisation that the brain is awash with chemicals that ‘make us what we are.’ That we can be manipulated and what we think of as ‘us’ is actually a series of functions reacting to external stimuli. This makes a lot of people deeply uncomfortable but gives us a whole new series of reasons for the religious experiments that try to disassociate our brains from such ‘desires’, and concentrate on simply thinking.

As long as we find out thinking is simple and not some drug induced state of mind.


When I visited Jerusalem in 2008 and absent-mindedly told a religious lady I did not believe in god, besides her visible shock, she asked me who I looked to for authority. I have to admit the question took me off guard because I come from a tradition that views all religious texts as written by human beings so the ‘rules’ one finds there make perfect sense given the milieu in which they were written. I had recent dealing with the British police and have visited British courts assessing a trial and the whole idea of authority is obviously one that possesses the imagination of human beings to a great degree.

I wonder if this is natural of the outcome of societies being based on who the strongest are?

It seems to me that despite appearances the actually idea of addressing an authority outside of oneself is not in keeping with the democratic spirit, which much like the religious monks of old, appeal to the individual to be self-ruled. I know people tend to think this means there would be many different value systems, and in the main there would be but then there are now. But the fact is that we know the value systems that we all agree upon and have agreed upon for millenniums, for the idea of not killing or stealing from each other never came from a god but from people trying to live with each other without dissension.

We actually all know how best to live with each other, we just wait for others to tell us what to do because until they do we can get away with not listening to ourselves.

Atom to Atom

I was listening about the concepts derived from Quantum mathematics and the Pauli constant. Basically the Pauli constant states that no two elections can occupy the same energy level and this is why as we progress through the pH Table we get to elements that add more and more electrons and these orbit the nuclei on different orbits. The physicist then went on to state that is we excite electrons they move to other energy levels and therefore move the electrons already there and by extrapolation every electron in the universe is moved to a  different energy level.

This is an amazing idea for in effect it says that every possible energy level in the entire universe is occupied by an electron. If this is true then however this universe was created or started, there are exactly the right number of electrons in it and since there could be no more, and there are no fewer, we may suppose a profound relationship exists between the number of electrons and the matter and make-up of our universe.

I cannot be alone to feel how immensely profound this is to live in a  time when we have a suggestion of one of the defining characteristics of our universe.

A Joke To End 2011

So you think someone is in charge of the universe?




Saul is working in his store when he hears a booming voice from above:

“Saul, sell your business.” He ignores it. It goes on for days. “Saul, sell your business for $3 million.”

After weeks of this, he relents, sells his store. The voice says “Saul, go to Las Vegas.” He asks


“Saul, just take the $3 million to Las Vegas.” He obeys, goes to a casino. Voice says,

“Saul , go to the blackjack table and put it down all on one hand.” He hesitates but knows he must. He’s dealt an 18. The dealer has a six showing.

“Saul, take a card.”

What? The dealer has me beat!”

“Take a card!” He tells the dealer to hit him. Saul gets an ace. Nineteen. He breathes easy.

“Saul, take another card.”


“TAKE ANOTHER CARD!” He asks for another card. It’s another ace. He has twenty.

“Saul, take another card,” the voice commands.

“I have twenty!” Saul shouts.

“TAKE ANOTHER CARD!” booms the voice. Hit me,Saul says. He gets another ace. Twenty one. The booming voice goes,


George Orwell

Not widely known for writing poems, his work is thoughtful.


The lesser evil

Empty as death and slow as pain
The days went by on leaden feet;
And parson’s week had come again
As I walked down the little street.

Without, the weary doves were calling,
The sun burned on the banks of mud;
Within, old maids were caterwauling
A dismal tale of thorns and blood.

I thought of all the church bells ringing
In towns that Christian folks were in;
I heard the godly maidens singing;
I turned into the house of sin.

The house of sin was dark and mean,
With dying flowers round the doors;
They spat the betel juice between
The rotten bamboo of the floors.

Why did I come, the woman cried
So seldom to her bed of ease?
When I was not, her spirit died
And would I give her ten rupees.

The weeks went by, and many a day
That black-haired woman did implore
Me as I hurried on my way
To come more often than before.

The days went by like dead leaves falling,
And parson’s week came round again.
Once more devout old maids were bawling
Their ugly rhymes of death and pain.

The woman waited for me there
As down the little street I trod,
And musing on her oily hair,
I turned into the house of God.


Religions have a lifetime. People don’t really like to think about this because we are always looking for certainty and religions have often offered us some measure of security in our certainty, and the idea that they necessarily grow and fall is not sympathetic to the mind.

But actually as we change so do they. From the advent of paintings that enabled cavemen and women to paint on walls the world around as they saw it, and apparently that world was all about animals and hunters,  to the change from story-telling to written books and from written books to film. Each change, changes the religion because religions being created by the imagination are constantly worked upon by that imagination.

Religions always change as social structures change. Look at how Christmas has become embroiled with leaders showing their religious affiliation, people engaging in fiscal activity in the name of one of the poorest men who ever lived, the increased slaughter of animals (that hasn’t changed much) and the showering of affection upon close friends and family.

In fact as they change religions leave behind their creators,  they become what we already are and fix themselves into our imaged ideas of what society is and how society functions. They say it is impossible to prove life is not a dream but that can only be because the dream is one we are making and we refuse to understand ourselves as different from how we imagine ourselves to be.

When It’s All A Game

I know we all like playing games of one sort or another and we are taught that engagement with other people in ‘sports’ is a central part of socializing ourselves to living in communities, but when we tend to make ‘everything’ a  game we lose sight of what is actually important.

In the banking world we have seen something that has always been there – the chasing down of profits. Knowing where the money is and going after it for the bonus until making money becomes a numbers issue – divorced entirely from the reality that money is what makes our lives. And I am aware that the things that make our lives are more important than money but money is what makes everything possible because it is how we interrelate to people we never meet but upon whom we rely.

The law is another realm in which there is too much game play. Where winning becomes the aim and not the outcome of legal argument. Politics is filled to the brim with dirty tricks where upsetting how your opponent looks means more than what they say or could do in office. In fact there is little that has not been reduced to a game – of who you know and how much influence you can bring to bear and who you can sleep with to achieve your aim.

I don’t think nations built upon such extensive game-play can long endure.

Yehudah ha-Levi

Translated from the original of one of the names held in high regard from the Golden Age of Sephardic Jewry.



A Love Song

“Do you see over my shoulders falling,
Snake-like ringlets waving free?
Have no fear, for they are twisted
To allure you unto me.”

Thus she spoke, the gentle dove,
Listen to your plighted love:
“Oh, how long I wait, till my sweetheart comes back,” she said,
“Laying his caressing hand underneath my burning head.”

A Grip Upon Reality

I am rather surprised though I shouldn’t be, at statements about tyrants and leaders generally ‘losing their grip on reality’ when they are faced revolts of any colour and kind. This was said today about Syria and I wonder exactly what it is supposed to mean. I am guessing it means that when a leader’s population want them to go and they don’t they have somehow lost their sense of reality. It is interesting to note how many democratic thinkers think revolution so much closer to reality than tyranny.

Of course the ‘reality’ is that tyrants are living in a very real world just as those revolting against them are, neither has lost anything. If you lined up an army against a tyrant they are never going to walk away but look for their own army; that is after all the human response to all adversity – what can you bring to support and strengthen your own position.

The ‘reality’ behind this sentiment seems to be that the march of democracy is overtaking tyrannies everywhere and the tyrants have not realized that yet, but they have. Very much so. That’s why they tyrannize because they have always known they could not rule in any other way. The weakness of the sentiment is that somehow the writer knows more about the world than the tyrants.

As of course we all do from our comfortable, Christmas laden homes.

Empowerment of the Individual

So much of the history of political and social development has been around the empowerment of the individual we sometimes fail to recognize that leaders are individuals too. We have argued so long trying to understand why a 100,000 men would follow one man into a war we have not looked long enough at one why man would want to lead 100,000 men into war.

The idea that they are all out for personal gain is too pat, too simple and hardly covers all the ways in which men and women have gone to battle. Nor can we say they go to battle to defend as it is painfully obvious many times we start wars without provocation.

Once we see human beings as animals and get rid of the stupidity of religion and superstition, the reasons for people fighting become obvious because although we use our minds in war we lose a major part of them to engage in war. We are working on an instinct so deep we can never change it until our DNA changes because it isn’t about survival, or territory but about who we are and what our standing is in the body politic of the community.

The reason Spartan women gave their shields to their men was simple – emotional blackmail. The same keys that leaders have used for thousands of years. The rights of the individual are a fight for people to think for themselves and not as  a group. It is in fact, a fight for peace.

Walter Raleigh

A Farewell to False Love

Farewell, false love, the oracle of lies,
A mortal foe and enemy to rest,
An envious boy, from whom all cares arise,
A bastard vile, a beast with rage possessed,
A way of error, a temple full of treason,
In all effects contrary unto reason.

A poisoned serpent covered all with flowers,
Mother of sighs, and murderer of repose,
A sea of sorrows whence are drawn such showers
As moisture lend to every grief that grows;
A school of guile, a net of deep deceit,
A gilded hook that holds a poisoned bait.

A fortress foiled, which reason did defend,
A siren song, a fever of the mind,
A maze wherein affection finds no end,
A raging cloud that runs before the wind,
A substance like the shadow of the sun,
A goal of grief for which the wisest run.

A quenchless fire, a nurse of trembling fear,
A path that leads to peril and mishap,
A true retreat of sorrow and despair,
An idle boy that sleeps in pleasure’s lap,
A deep mistrust of that which certain seems,
A hope of that which reason doubtful deems.

Sith then thy trains my younger years betrayed,
And for my faith ingratitude I find;
And sith repentance hath my wrongs bewrayed,
Whose course was ever contrary to kind:
False love, desire, and beauty frail, adieu.
Dead is the root whence all these fancies grew.

Cartoon Magic

I have always enjoyed cartoons from the inception of drawing little figures on book pages and flipping them quickly, to the great works of art like Pinocchio from Disney and The Triplets of Belleville which hearkens right back to Fleischer, Popeye and Betty Boop.

Part of the attraction is the zany world in which anything can happen and no one gets hurt – a little like the Keystone Kops,  and part is the wish fulfillment that some of the world should actually work this way. Partly it was a way and still is of saying things that in other ways would not appear funny, or even are difficult to say in public, taking as their starting point the great cartoonists who worked for newspapers and made social comment with a smile. Of course as we have seen in recent years that can be dangerous when people are not brought up with sense of humour.

In many ways the cartoons without any humour go against the expectations of the viewers and are a little hit and miss because even if humour doesn’t work for adults it generally works for children. The great cartoon films are as attractive to adults as to children.

In other ways there are some stories that are best told as cartoons because their effects – like the religious myths- can never be matched in real life films. But then in all likelihood religions are just intellectual cartoons colouring in with imagination the world as we would like to see it and not as it is.

Heart Or Mind

I saw someone answering a question on a forum suggesting that it will only be when people use their hearts and not their minds that the world will unite. I was instantly sure that this was the wrong way round as the things which cause friction seem to me to be deeply emotional – feelings of nationalism (even patriotism because presumably in a united world there will be no countries) feelings about religious belief, about ties to family and the oldest of them all, chauvinism. The very things that cause us to fight  are in fact not very intellectual although since we have minds we can intellectualize them.

On the other hand the whole idea of a united world is one of rational thought which wants to get out of the chaos of war and enmity. The deep thoughts that have been given by political theorists to social matters, about how countries should treat each other and how people should be pluralistic are all about getting over emotions that divide and instilling emotions that unite.

And that’s the point. Whatever we do we are human, and our feelings will always be involved but feelings can be educated. It is as easy to teach people to feel passionate about being fair, as it is to teach them to be materialist and avaricious.


I have just watched the first two in the new series on BBC4 about Jerusalem and am surprised that it is the same old tired history lesson, albeit  this time being nice to everyone probably because the BBC doesn’t want to inspire any anger. I visited Jerusalem in 2008 during the Jewish New Year and I walked the streets newly paved in the eighties, saw the City of David, watched at the Western wall, walked the Arab and Jewish markets and in fact walked around the entire old city on the outside with the modest new parks.

I crossed over from the Old City to the hillside cemetery and at the top came across the Garden of Gethsemane and saw the Christian pilgrims doing their thing and from this vantage point was able to see the lines of coaches bringing in the faithful and eventually I found myself sitting under an olive tree on what I found out later that day was the Mount of Olives looking at the wall and the road and buildings and what I saw everywhere was the work of human beings.

You only see god in things if you believe in god, I know that sounds banal but I was struck by the thought that if there was a creative influence in the universe, the olive tree was closer to that creator than any walls, or any buildings made by human beings.

In fact I think the BBC should realise that you cannot make a film about religion unless you use an atheist just as you couldn’t make a film about the history of atheism unless you sued a religious host. By using the ‘other’ you make a programme that is objective and immediately shows up prejudices and assumptions.

Defeat Is Not Defeat

At this time of year, and to be honest most other times too, people love to send messages that enthuse and quote anonymous ad nauseam about how to pick yourself up and dust yourself off. Reminding me of the American penchant for ‘life coaches’ from Billy Graham, whom I saw once in Oxford in the early eighties by invitation and could not believe how many people wanted to see him everyday of the three day visit, to the man I once heard telling paying Americans they were all perfect because they were what they were perfectly.

My schooling liked to bring qualities out in the students that met with the teachers’ approval and they were never slow to tell you when you were doing badly or had not reached expectations. As an exercise in character building it had a lot going for it ( even though I agree that the ‘expectations’ of anyone else are irrelevant unless one actually agrees with them) because it teaches one to be aware of limitations.

This is not to say you don’t try to win your dreams but it does induce a little reality into the life plan because we are supposed to be down in the dust and need brushing off, we are supposed to fail and try again, because really, honestly do you want to have a mind like those who succeed young? Who take their egos around the world and tell you the system is brilliant for everyone because it worked for them?

Having a dream is the sign of life, after that you only fail if you stop trying.

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