Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Welcome to the egregore

"AMORC Unmasked" is the sequel to "The Prisoner of San Jose", Pierre Freeman's exposure of the Ancient and Mystical Order Rosae Crucis (AMORC), a group he believes is a dangerous mind control cult.

"AMORC Unmasked" takes the reader on a journey through AMORC's voluminous correspondence courses, offering Freeman's own personal comments along the way.

AMORC turns out to be wackier than I expected. They promise their members supernatural powers of clairvoyance, precognition and telepathy. They even believe that they can somehow mentally influence UN and NATO leaders. One AMORC exercise is about entering meditative communion with...Mars. The order also teaches various hallucinatory techniques which make the members believe that they are having out of body experiences, travelling to other dimensions, etc. More mundane meditation exercises are also taught.

When I read "Prisoner of San Jose", I was somewhat incredulous and wrote a relatively negative review of the book. This book shows more clearly that AMORC are crazy, weird and cultish. In the final analysis, it doesn't really matter whether these people are "mind controlled" or simply delude themselves. Brooding over your own demons cannot be healthy by any standard.

Interestingly, Freeman still has a New Age, spiritual outlook on things. He believes that AMORC follows something he calls the Paradigm of the Magician, while he himself wish to tread the path of true mysticism and merger with the Divine. At times, he seems unsure whether AMORC's supernatural powers are bogus, or whether they actually work, but for evil ends. "AMORC Unmasked" therefore occasionally sounds like an in-house polemic between two different schools of esoteric thought. Freeman does seem reasonably sure, however, that AMORC's ancient credentials are made up.

This book isn't intended for general readers, and can get extremely tedious after a while. However, it might be of interest to cult-watchers and anti-cult groups, due to its detailed and almost encyclopaedic treatment of AMORC's secret teachings.

Surprisingly lucid

This book is a collection of writings and speeches by Carl Gustav Jung, the well known and controversial Swiss psychiatrist, dealing with his views on modern civilization, technology and nature. Although the book to a large extent consists of excerpts rather than whole texts, they are nevertheless quite lucid and even interesting. And no, I don't say I agree with them. In fact, I have more or less the opposite opinions on most issues!

Previous to this book I've only read one of Jung's works, "Psychology and religion", which is more difficult to digest. "The Earth has a soul" could probably be read even by somebody completely new to Jung's ideas, although a working knowledge of his thinking obviously helps. In my opinion, Jung was a philosopher, critic of civilization and perhaps even a kind of spiritual teacher, rather than a psychoanalyst in the strict sense of that term. Many have pointed out the affinity between his ideas and those of the New Age. Some have even accused him of being a closet neo-pagan and Gnostic. To others, that's a commendation!

"The Earth has a soul" speaks for itself, but I will nevertheless mention the contents briefly.

Jung spends considerable time talking about his experiences at Mount Elgon in East Africa, where he socialized with a tribal people he calls the Elgonyi. He also mentions meetings with Pueblo Indians in the United States. Jung defends the "primitive" and "superstitious" worldview of these peoples, arguing that it's rational in its own context. Closer to home, Jung retells various episodes from his childhood showing his close (and sometimes zany) relation to nature. Our author also talks about the stone tower at Bollingen in Switzerland which he built himself and used as a kind of spiritual retreat.

It's not always clear whether Jung really believed in the existence of spirits "out there". He sometimes writes as if he did. Apparently, the spirits were present in the kitchen section at Bollingen! At other times, he says that spirits and gods are "in here", a kind of psychological phenomena who are projected onto the outside world. To Jung, this projection isn't negative. Quite the contrary: modern man, by pretending that gods and spirits don't exist, have actually made them a hidden part of his psyche, leading to all kinds of irrationalism and madness, including the madness of Nazism and the Holocaust.

Jung criticizes our disconnectedness from nature, our dependence on modern technology, the stress and consumerism of our civilization. Occasionally, he waxes apocalyptic, saying that the greatest danger to man is man himself, that an overpopulation crisis might destroy the world, etc. Jung has no collective solutions to offer, however. The solutions are strictly individual. Each individual must face his own self and experience an inner transformation. Jung feared what he considered to be authoritarian and collectivist tendencies of the modern age. The exact character of the spiritual transformation is less clear to me, but Jung does mention the ancient mystery religions as offering a kind of synthesis between the human spirit and Nature.

Since "The Earth has a soul" consists to a large extent of excerpts from longer articles, Jung sounds contradictory at times. But then, who knows, maybe he was contradictory? There seems to be a tension in his writings between individualism/anti-collectivism and communitarianism. There is also a tension between statements which sound "pro-animal" and other statements, where humans are considered to be the conscious expression of the universe. At bottom, Jung seems to regard man as a contradictory or paradoxical being, both god and devil simultaneously.

"The Earth has a soul" doesn't untie all the knots of the Jung complex, but it could be a place to start for those interested in this lone philosopher of Switzerland...

The unknown socialist

Marx and Engels published "The Communist Manifesto" in 1848. Unbeknown to both them and many others, a de facto socialist state had already been created...in the small and isolated Latin American nation of Paraguay.

The curious regime of Dr. José Gaspar Rodriguez de Francia lasted from 1814 to 1840. Francia called himself El Dictador (The Dictator) and was president for life. His detractors have accused his regime of terror, and the man himself of being literally insane. Richard Alan White's book "Paraguay's Autonomous Revolution 1810-1840" is an attempt to defend Francia's politics from a Third Worldist and neo-Marxist perspective. Remarkably, the book is published by the University of New Mexico Press.

White believes that Francia had strong popular support in Paraguay. He describes the politics of El Dictador in some detail. Paraguay had a virtual planned economy with a state monopoly on foreign trade. Import and export prices were set by the government. A radical land reform was carried out, and large tracts of land were taken over by the state. The power of the traditional Spanish and creole elites was broken by confiscating most of their property. The Catholic Church was closely supervised by the government, and most of its lands confiscated. Interestingly, Paraguay managed to break its neo-colonial dependence on a few cash crops (yerba and tobacco), creating a diversified and self-sufficient economy, even growing enough food to sustain its population. A program of public works was instituted, which abolished begging and vagrancy. White claims that taxes were lowered, the budgets balanced and sustainable development promoted. Francia also gave asylum to fugitive slaves from other nations and deserters from the various civil wars in Argentina.

What White never really explains, is how this socialistic regime could possibly have been set up in a backwater like Paraguay 200 years ago. He does hint at some explanations, however. The main one is precisely the isolation of the country. The ruling elites were weak and faction-ridden. This presumably made it easier for Francia to take power. Also, the constant blockades of Paraguay by neighbouring Argentina (who resented Paraguay's neutrality during the various wars of the period) made it necessary to create a self-sufficient, near-autarkic economy. However, the author never analyzes this question in depth. He also claims that the autonomous revolution didn't end until the death of president Francisco Solano Lopez in 1870, but never backs up the statement. Nor does he discuss the tricky consequences for Marxist theory which surely must strike everyone reading about Paraguay. How can socialism (or something closely resembling it) be set up in a Third World nation without an industrial proletariat? Doesn't this disprove the Communist Manifesto?

As already mentioned, most other treatments of Dr. Francia's reign are very negative. I've previously reviewed a book by Rengger and Longchamps originally published in 1827, which gives a very different view of the period. From this book, I got the impression that Francia's regime was based on creole plebeians, but not on Indians and Blacks, who continued to be discriminated in various ways. White at least implies that the regime was really based on the Indians (and presumably poor creoles). As for the Blacks, White admits that Francia never abolished slavery, although he reports that Francia eventually manumitted his own slaves (both of them). The decision not to abolish slavery is curious, considering that only 2% of the population were slaves.

In contrast to many other sources discussing Francia, White says very little about the supreme leader's personal character or background, although he admits that Francia made himself into a dictator, and that virtually all decisions in the country were made by or scrutinized by him. He also mentions Francia's harsh measures against political opponents, connected to the former elites or foreign intelligence operations. The various rumours about Francia's erratic temperament and bizarre actions are hardly discussed at all, probably quite rightly. It's not very likely that somebody who almost single-handedly ruled an entire nation for 26 years would have been clinical!

Where did the president for life get his revolutionary ideas from? This seems to be unclear. Rengger reports that Dr. Francia was fluent in French, claimed to be part-French (hence his name) and admired Napoleon. He knew about Rousseau and Voltaire. White points out that Francia studied in Spain and was influenced by the Enlightenment, but is less sure of the concrete influences. He sees parallels with Rousseau, Volney and Babeuf, but also mentions Saint-Simon, a contemporary. Ironically, Francia's doctorate seems to have been in...theology!

Regardless of what one may think of Dr. José Gaspar Rodriguez de Francia, "Paraguay's autonomous revolution" is indispensable reading for those interested in this particular part of world history.

A happy community

This is a very obscure publication. It's a reprint of all issues of "The American Co-Mason" from the year 1929. I have no idea why Kessinger Publishing chose to reprint these particular issues. Why not 1928? Or 1930? Nor are the reprints particularly interesting. I leafed through these old issues of "The American Co-Mason" as I sat on the metro.

Co-Masonry is a special kind of Masonry that permits both men and women to become members. Regular Masonic fraternities are all-male. Co-Masonry is not recognized by the "real" Freemasons, apparently neither by the conservative Anglo-American version, nor the radical French version. "The American Federation of Human Rights" was the American branch of French Co-Masonry, known as Le Droit Humain.

"The American Co-Mason" contains articles about Egyptian religion, sacred geometry, and various intrigues between Masonic lodges. The magazine supported prohibition, at one point sarcastically remarking that the states which prohibit whiskey even for medical purposes, seems to have the best health! "The American Co-Mason" also reprints an article by Herbert Hoover, who was president of the United States at this time. There are articles supporting the anti-Catholic stance of the Mexican government, and a curious claim that the president of Costa Rica was a Co-Mason. The Co-Masons also demanded the repeal of monkey laws (laws prohibiting the teaching of evolution). Overall, however, the magazine gives a very non-political impression. But yes, they were "progressive" in orientation.

Judging by some other articles, there must have been a connection between the Co-Masons and the Theosophists. Annie Besant is frequently mentioned, and actually addressed as "The Very Illustrious Brother"! A long speech by Besant at a convention in Chicago is reprinted. The entire issue of Krishnamurti is sidestepped, and "The American Co-Mason" is surprisingly muted in its criticism of him.

Christian fundamentalism is occasionally attacked, quite sarcastically. A court case in Texas, during which White Freemasons lost a frivolous lawsuit against an African-American Masonic lodge, is gleefully reported, the reason probably being both anti-racism and hostility to regular, conservative Masonry. Finally, I noticed a strange report from Sweden, about the small island of Runoe (actually part of Estonia), where the local farmers are said to practice communism!

I can't say "American Co-Mason Official Bulletin of the American Federation of Human Rights 1929" really thrilled me. But if you happen to be a Co-Mason, you might perhaps found it interesting.

I will end with some humorous quotes from the book. I believe in the happy community. Fundamentalism, sad to say, is still with us!

>>>>DISCARDING SUPERSTITIOUS BELIEFS. Our Fundamentalists need to do something more effective than offering a thousand dollars for proof that Adam was not fooled by an apple - a crab apple, when really he wanted a peach, if they wish to hold their own against progressive views. It appears that of 500 Protestant Ministers officially questioned, 47 per cent did not believe in hell; 60 per cent did think there was a devil, but did not believe he lived in a burning pit, having for only pastime the exciting pleasure of roasting human beings. This is bad enough, but what is much worse is the fact that the next generation of preachers will be still much further away from the dear Fundamentalists who would enjoy the devil's interesting job especially if given charge of all evolutionists. Recently, of 200 divinity students questioned on the subject, 12 only denied the theory of evolution. In an honest tilt between science and fundamentalism, the later is bound to take more and more a back seat.

>>>>>THE FLOOD. Archaeologists have discovered traces of the flood - a deep bed of sand and silt, with remnants of an ancient civilization under it. And this in the Euphrates valley. The happiness of the Fundamentalists over this discovery is somewhat marred by the fact that the same archaeologists found a number of Sumerian tablets written long before Genesis describing the flood in almost identical terms of the later Biblical accounts. Archaeologists have also dug up the ancient site of Hazor which Joshua conquered. However, they failed to find anything to prove that Joshua has made the sun stand still. Recently a number of learned and devout scholars of the Church of England have published a "New Commentary" on the Holy Scriptures in which they dismiss the story of Jonah and the whale, of Noah's ark, of Belthazar's feast and of the Tower of Babel as myths, without historical foundation and impossible to believe. They also said that Moses did not write the Pentateuch and that Methuselah was not as old as he claimed. These learned and devout scholars are lucky to be living in the twentieth century. The roasting they are in for will be a verbal one.

>>>>>A HAPPY COMMUNITY. A press dispatch from Stockholm states that on the small island of Runoe, in the Bay of Riga, the population, reaching about 300 people, has been practicing communism for the last ten centuries. Fishing and seal hunting are the chief sources of income. The proceeds from this industry are divided equally among the inhabitants of the Island, including the children. Forest and pasture are common property. A farmer who has additional work to do on his farm calls on his neighbours who help to do the work and receive free meals until the work is done. Farmers do not own the land and cannot sell it. It belongs to the community. There are no servants. Crime is unknown on the Island and there is no need for police. There is no doubt that these people are the most happy, even if they live in a primitive way. They co-operate and help each other - a lesson which we, who call ourselves civilized could learn from to great advantage.

Moses Hess strikes again

"Marx and Satan" is a remarkably silly book, arguing that Karl Marx and other prominent Communists were actually Satanists. Not only that, they *literally* had a direct connection to the Devil. The author, Richard Wurmbrand, is an evangelical preacher from Romania, who at one time was imprisoned by the Communist regime for his religious convictions. His book is relatively well known (I heard about Wurmbrand already 25 years ago). If millions of people can believe in Hal Lindsey or "Left Behind", why not claim that Marx was literally in league with Satan? Christian fundamentalists believe in even stranger things than this!

Wurmbrand tries to make as much as possible out of Marx' youthful poetry, written long before Marx became a Marxist. Apparently, young Karl wanted to write a drama similar to Goethe's "Faust". Faust, of course, sells his soul to Mephistopheles or Satan. Hence, there is a "Satanic" streak in Marx' poetry. Since Marx had just become an atheist, he also makes a provocative connection between his unbelief and the "Satanism" of Oulanem, the main character of the intended drama.

And this proves...what? Not much, expect that Marx' poetry is quite good! "Oulanem" could have become interesting, LOL.

At several points, Wurmbrand distorts the history of the Marxist movement to prove his point. Thus, he quotes Bakunin as proof of the Satanic nature of Marxism. But Bakunin was an anarchist. Both he and his followers were eventually expelled from the First International by Marx! This is common knowledge, but perhaps not to Christian fundamentalists? At another point, Wurmbrand claims that Marx really supported slavery in the United States! In reality, Marx supported the Union during the Civil War. The Marx quote is either bogus or taken out of context.

This brings me to the next problem with "Marx and Satan": its strange sources. Very often, the author makes sensational claims without backing them up. Thus, he claims that Stalin originally called himself "Satanashvili" in honour of the Devil. Source? None. At another point, Wurmbrand claims that the Communist leaders in Moscow carry out rituals at Satanic altars. This truly remarkable statement is taken from...a Russian Orthodox émigré magazine in San Fransisco! The poetry of young Marx is at least authentic. It goes downhill from there, a real descensus.

Even more disturbingly, Wurmbrand (who seems to be pro-Israeli) naively retells what seems to be anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. A rumour that Marx was a pious Jew praying in secret with phylacteries, is transformed into the claim that he was actually worshipping Satan. Good old Moses Hess is depicted as the real inspiration behind Marx' and Engels' Communism and break with Christianity. Moses Hess was both a Communist, a Zionist Jew, and a Freemason. (Yes, really!) Small wonder anti-Semites gleefully point out that Hess co-operated with Marx and Engels in the First International... The entire idea that Communism is Satanic and has something in common with Jews is common in Eastern Europe and Russia. Since Wurmbrand was a Romanian of Jewish descent, one wonders why he didn't recognize the "code words"?

In sum, "Marx and Satan" is an unreliable piece of conspiracy literature. It does have that typical "East European feel" of bizarre folk superstition, but it also squares rather well with the fundamentalist milieu in the United States. Of course, I didn't expect anything else. I bought this book just for the fun of it, to peek into the mind of the most philistine of anti-Communists. And no, I'm not a Communist. Besides, if the Devil really exists, a much safer bet would be to work through "Christian" fundamentalism... I mean, who would spot the difference?

No deal, Garrett

This is the first and only book I've read by the notorious Garrett Hardin. I must say that I wasn't disappointed: the man's reputation is well deserved. The book is called "Living within limits" and argues that overpopulation is a problem. Maybe, maybe not. But why is overpopulation a problem? And who should be living within limits?

If read carefully, Hardin wants to limit the population of the Third World. He does *not* question the high rate of consumption in the United States, since he explicitly opposes the notion that Americans should tighten their belts. In other words, Hardin wants to limit the population of the Third World, so that America can exploit more of the Third World's resources! True, he doesn't say this writ large, but the conclusion is obvious, if the book is read carefully.

Hardin also supports modern, "free market" capitalism, the very system which destroys the environment in the first place. He believes that a free market would discipline the owners to...well, live within limits. Since capitalism is based on accumulation, competition and always tends to corrupt the state apparatus, this is difficult to take seriously. While saying his prayers to the global market, Hardin nevertheless wants to curb immigration. Presumably, then, the remaining Third World population should work in sweat-shops south of the Rio Grande, rather than claiming a share of the pie when its brought up north.

This is a rapacious, Social Darwinist screed, written by a man who wants all the world's resources for himself. Essentially, the author calls for resource war. In Hardin's ideal world, he would eat, and we would be living within limits.

Deal's off.

Even stranger than the actual UFOs

"Flying Saucers" is controversial psychoanalyst C.G. Jung's attempt to tackle the UFO phenomenon. The first English edition was published in 1959. In many ways, Jung's explanation is weirder than the actual phenomenon being explained!

Jung believes that the UFO's are a projection of our collective unconscious. Secularized Western man has lost his belief in the God of Christianity. However, the human psyche has a religious, myth-making function which simply cannot be turned off. At bottom, even "rational" and modern men have a religious longing. Since the conscious mind has rejected God, the collective unconscious compensates for this by projecting UFOs. The UFOs become a psychological substitute for God. Jung connects the UFO phenomenon with the universal anxieties created by World War II and the Cold War. Somehow, human fears are transformed (and lessened?) into projections of flying saucers, "a modern myth of things seen in the sky".

Had Jung meant all this figuratively, he would obviously have been on to something. While most UFO observations are non-religious in character, the "spiritual" or quasi-religious dimension has been part of the phenomenon from the start, as can be seen in the phenomenon of "contactees", purported prophets who bring messages of occult truth and salvation from the aliens, who in effect become like gods. There is an obvious connection between the ideas of many "contactees" and those of Theosophy and its off-shoots. Today, there is also a connection between "abductees" and ancient notions such as shamanism, demon possession, etc.

However, Jung goes much further, connecting the UFOs to his (contentious, to say the least) ideas about a (literal) collective unconscious, its "projections" and its "archetypes". Apparently, the flying saucer is also an archetype. Jung compares it to the mandala, and claims that its round shape is a universal symbol of wholeness, etc. As usual in the case of Jung, it's also unclear whether he regards the psychic projections as in some sense real, or whether they are sheer illusions. Are UFOs simply hallucinations, or do they in some sense exist as physical entities? I always get the impression when reading Jung that he really did believe in the supernatural in the literal sense, but never said so explicitly, due to his "scientific" pretensions. I think Carl himself was at bottom a prophet of occult salvation!

The rest of the book is even more far-fetched, containing Jung's highly subjective and idiosyncratic analysis of a number of dreams and paintings. Some of the dreams are rather trivial and do indeed deal with UFOs. Jung manages to squeeze all kinds of "mythological" symbolism out of them, nevertheless. The paintings don't seem to depict UFOs at all, and it's unclear why they've been included. Jung also reviews the quasi-religious musings of a contactee named Orfeo Angelucci, a person he constantly calls "naïve". The similarities between the messages received by Orfeo from the aliens, and certain religious notions, are indeed striking. The collective unconscious? Perhaps a more trivial explanation is that "naïve" Orfeo had been reading Theosophical literature...

I'm not sure how to rate "Flying Saucers". I can't say I was convinced by the contents. But then, works by Jung are Jungian as a matter of course, so a low rating seems somewhat unfair. "Flying Saucers" does give a good glimpse of how Jung approached paranormal and quasi-religious phenomena, warts and all.
In the end, I'll give it three stars.

A challenge to the New Age

Seraphim Rose (born Eugene Rose) was an American who converted to Eastern Orthodoxy. He authored a number of books on Orthodox faith, some of them controversial even among Orthodox believers. "The soul after death" is his most popular book, and has been translated to several foreign languages. The book, while being very "hard line" and "fundamentalist", nevertheless raises some relevant questions concerning near-death experiences (NDEs).

Near-death experiences, if you accept them as real, "prove" that humans have a soul, that the soul can leave the physical body, and that there are higher, spiritual realms to which the soul travels after the death of the body. Yet, traditional religion seems uneasy about NDEs. The near-death experiences seem to disprove the dogmas of all (or at least many) religions. There is no apparent hell, no wrathful or judgmental deity, and each believer seem to meet the deity, prophet or teacher of his own particular creed. Thus, Christians meet Christ, Buddhists encounter the Buddha, etc. Even atheists have positive NDEs, and might encounter their dead relatives or simply "see the light". Some people have met Elvis Presley! This strongly subjective element, combined with a kind of all-loving embrace, is compatible with modern New Age thinking, but not with traditional Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, etc. (There are spiritual seekers who believe that NDEs can be both positive and negative, but Rose is mostly concerned with the popular picture of this phenomenon, heavily dependent on Raymond Moody's book "Life after life". In this discourse, NDEs are virtually always positive. Indeed, the suggestion that they could in fact be negative is met with strong resistance in some quarters. See the critical reviews of P.M.H. Atwater's "Beyond the Light" for one example.)

Small wonder, then, that some Christians reject all NDEs or accept only the most "Biblical" ones. The Tibetan Buddhist Sogyal Rinpoche also offers some criticisms in his best selling "The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying", explaining the discrepancy between modern NDEs and traditional Tibetan accounts as caused by the soul haphazardly visiting various levels of spiritual reality before returning to the body, not knowing the full picture.

Seraphim Rose's rejection of near-death experiences is even more radical. Essentially, he claims that the experiences are demonic or Satanic in character. They are caused by fallen spirits inhabiting a sphere between the material world and Heaven. These spirits or demons attempt to seduce the soul with various illusions, and if the soul accepts them at face value, it will eventually end up in Hell, together with the demons themselves. Rose also points out the trivial but often overlooked fact, that the people having these experiences aren't really dead. How, then, can we know for sure that they depict the afterlife correctly? NDEs are similar in character to OBEs (Out-of-Body Experiences), but OBEs can be induced even while the person is alive and well.

The most obvious counter-argument from a New Age believer, would be that the NDEs lead to positive changes in the individuals who have them, making them more spiritual, loving and caring after their "return" to the physical body.

On one level, Seraphim Rose is just a dogmatic defending turf. And yet, he does raise some important questions, at least for those who *do* believe in the reality of these phenomena. If NDEs are real, then we should logically accept Christian revelations about the afterlife as well. They are just as supernatural. But as Rose points out, traditional Christian visions of the afterlife are very different from modern NDEs. They confirm traditional Christian truths, and might even be "negative", in the sense of giving the soul glimpses of Hell or Purgatory. Also, most such visions only come to saints or monks, who have prepared themselves spiritually for years before receiving them. (One of Rose's main sources is the book "Eternal Mysteries Beyond the Grave", also available from Amazon.com.)

If all after-life experiences are in some sense "true", New Age believers cannot really deny the Christian accounts, but how can they be reconciled with the syncretistic and positive visions? If they do deny the Christian visions, how do they know that these particular accounts (but none other) are false? Essentially, Rose demands from the modern believers in NDEs some kind of objective criterion by which these experiences or visions can be judged. Otherwise, we are left with an impenetrable morass of purely subjective experiences. Naturally, Rose's objective criterion is the Bible as interpreted by the Orthodox Church, including supernatural experiences by recognized saints.

Rose also challenges the idea that NDEs are always positive and life-transforming. He quotes reports about NDEs in which the famous Being of Light acted in an humorous or frivolous manner when showing the soul its past sins. He also dwells at length on Robert Monroe's "Journeys out of the body", a book on OBEs, emphasizing the negative and Satanic streaks in the supreme being encountered by Monroe during his astral travels. Monroe accepted the entity as God. Rose thinks otherwise. The "being" encountered by Monroe didn't behave as a benign god, something admitted even by Monroe himself. One fact not mentioned by Rose, is that NDEs are interpreted negatively in Africa, where people tend to see them as the result of witchcraft, despite the phenomenon as such being identical to the NDEs experienced by Westerners. Obviously, this means that Africans aren't spiritually transformed by the experiences.

Rose may be a dogmatic and doctrinaire thinker, but he has nevertheless presented the more eclectic believers in purely benign near-death experiences with a competent challenge. On the other hand, spiritual seekers who do acknowledge the existence of negative supernatural occurences, won't be as shaken by this book. Rather, they will explain the Christian visions of Hell or Purgatory as true, while nevertheless denying the Orthodox interpretation of them. Theosophists, for instance, believe that Hell is only temporary, that souls eventually reincarnate, etc.

Finally, some comments on the controversies surrounding another aspect of this book. "The soul after death" is controversial even among Orthodox believers due to its teaching about "toll-houses", a kind of intermediary stations which the soul must pass on its journey to Heaven. The "toll-houses" are manned by demons who will claim the souls of sinners, and take them straight to Hell. The critics of this concept call it Gnostic and heretical, and it's clearly inspired by ancient Egyptian religion. However, I suspect that the real reason for the uneasiness surrounding the "toll-houses" isn't the purported Gnosticism, but rather the fact that the teaching sounds bizarre to a modern audience. It's easy even for a modern believer to accept that the soul might be immortal, but the idea of "toll-houses" in the air manned by demons is simply too weird. Rose at one point makes a retreat, claiming that the "toll-houses" should be interpreted in a "spiritual" way, presumably allegorically, but that's not how his opponents view them. Besides, Rose *does* literally believe in the Book of Genesis and even a story about a monk who was taken to the Garden of Eden and took back some fruit to show and feed his fellow monks! (This is from Rose's creationist book "Genesis, Creation and Early Man".) Somehow, I suspect that main line Orthodox Christians looked upon Rose as an acute embarrassment...

Be that as it may, everyone who for one reason or another believes in near-death experiences, should read and somehow come to terms with "The soul after death". Who knows, maybe the fate of your immortal soul might depend on it? 

Astral manual

The controversial C.W. Leadbeater (1854-1934) was one of the leaders of the Theosophical Society Adyar, a new religious movement often regarded as the forerunner of current New Age thinking. He seems to have been number two within the society, immediately below the supreme leader Annie Besant. Leadbeater was also a bishop of the Liberal Catholic Church (LCC), essentially a front group for the Theosophists. Otherwise, Leadbeater is mostly known for having discovered Jiddu Krishnamurti. Both the Adyar society and the LCC still exist. (I attended one of the LCC's masses some years ago, and almost collided with the poor priest!)

"The Astral Plane", also known as "Manual No. 5", is Leadbeater's description of the astral world, a spirit-world the Theosophists believe is situated immediately above the material world. However, the astral world is nevertheless lower than the mental world or Heaven. It corresponds most closely to what Christians would call purgatory, and all souls of dead humans must pass through it on their way to the real heavenly world. (The words "above" and "below" are, of course, figurative.)

According to Leadbeater, the astral plane is experienced in many different ways by the souls passing through it. Evil souls are stuck on its lowest rung and experience something similar to Hell. To others, it looks like Heaven. It seems everyone at this plane reaps what he has sown. Sooner or later, all souls leave the astral plane, shed their astral bodies, and move on to the mental, devachanic or heavenly realms. In this sense, Leadbeater was a "universalist". Of course, most souls eventually reincarnate, but the book says little about this. Parts of the book are critical of Spiritualism, claiming that most spirits talking through mediums are impostors.

I was struck by two things while reading this book. One is the non-sensationalist tone of the author, very different from current New Age writings on the subject. "The Astral Plane" could actually be described as boring! Various evil entities such as warewolves and vampires are mentioned, but they (and the hellish realms) nevertheless play a relatively minor role. The other thing I found striking is the complex nature of Leadbeater's descriptions. There seems to be innumerable kinds of souls, spirits, elementals and even artificial thought forms at the astral plane. Frankly, the author has some problems sorting them all out.

Those interested in what (supposedly) awaits us at the other side, should presumably continue with "Manual No. 6", or "The Devachanic Plane or the Heaven World". I haven't read it yet, but please stay tuned for any further developments...

We are not amused

Christina was the ruling queen of Sweden from 1644 to 1654. She was the daughter of the Lutheran warrior-king Gustavus Adolphus. It therefore created a major sensation when Christina resigned her position, left Sweden and converted to Catholicism! She is buried in Rome, in St. Peter's Basilica.

Since Christina was a well-educated person who founded several academies, reading her "Maxims" was a real disappointment. Most of the maxims are bland common-places. "We should always be on the side of truth and justice", "we should pay evil with good but without wronging justice" and "war makes all nations warlike" are but three examples. There is an undertone of Stoic resignation in many of the maxims, but never to the point of denying rulers their royal prerogatives. At one point, Christina even exclaims that the patience of Epictetus is equally unsupportable as the brutality of his master. The former queen also had an obvious admiration for Julius Caesar, Scipio Africanus and Alexander the Great. Hardly Stoics!

Occasionally, Christina does manage to say something interesting, as when she praises the Turks for abstaining from alcohol or permitting freedom of worship, or when she expresses sympathy for animals. She also points out: "All religions would be holy, if those that were dissatisfied with them were at liberty to leave them. No doubt few would remain, but these few would be holy according to their own rules". There are also maxims attacking hypocritical priests. However, the text also contains fanaticized and almost irrational panegyrics to the Catholic Church, so much that the Protestant editor of this particular edition suspected a forgery of some kind!

The other text by Christina included in this book, "Reflections on the life and actions of Alexander the Great", is an unfinished piece of praise to a person who was obviously one of the queen's personal heroes. This text, too, is quite uninteresting.

This particular edition is a reprint of a 1753 British translation of the French original. It's quite hard to read, due to the unusual fonts. The letter "s" looks like "f", so brace yourself for sentences such as this: "Human frailty is unable to fupport fuch a ftate, we return to our miferies and fuffer them, for fo God willeth". Another problem is that the book lacks a modern introduction. It would be good to know what exactly Christina meant by "merit" and "fortune", two notions central to many of her maxims, or what she meant by "bigots".

Queen Christina may have been a fascinating person, but at least these texts don't show her from her best side...

Goethe´s unholy alliance

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe is widely considered to be one of the greatest writers ever. Apart from being a poet, play write and novelist, he also studied the natural sciences and served as privy councillor to duke Karl August of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach. Politically, Goethe was arch-conservative, opposed the French revolution and supported the Holy Alliance.

And then, there's the other Goethe...

The other Goethe, the Goethe with an uneducated mistress, the Goethe who spend years at a "sex clinic" in Rome, the Goethe who some people suspect was bisexual. And, of course, the Goethe who wrote pornographic poetry!

"Erotic Poems" is a translation of Goethe's sexually laden poetry, some of which was censored for almost a century after the great man's death. Reading it, I can see why. The selections from the "Venetian Epigrams" are particularly shocking, considering the fact that this man was a Paleo-Con pillar of Throne and Alter. Was Goethe an early Alan Bloom, I wonder, who preached conservatism outwardly, while following quite another law in private?


Still, the fact that Goethe's pornographic and blasphemous statements might offend some prudish little conservative somewhere, does make me smile. The epigrams leave little to the imagination, and Amazon's filters would stop any attempt from my part to quote the most explicit contents. So I must rest contented with quoting the blasphemy: "I'm not surprised that our Lord Jesus Christ liked consorting with sinners and with whores, after all, that's just what I fancy too.".

Or what about the following: "'Show us the parts of the Lord!' shrieked, blind with hysterical frenzy, an unfortunate girl: `Show us the parts of our god!'. It was the evening of Holy Thursday, a priest was displaying (so the old charlatan claimed) relics of Christ in St. Mark's. Poor soul! Why do you cry out like this for the crucified god's parts? Cry for Priapus! That god's parts are the medicine you need."

In case you really don't know, Priapus was a Roman phallic god. What parts the old heathen is talking about, you might as well imagine.

I must say that reading Goethe's unholy alliance, was quite entertaining.


The book also contains a serious, scholarly introduction. Enjoy!

Europe is wild

"Wild wonders of Europe" is a sensational, stunning and indeed jaw-dropping coffee table book. I'm surprised it's not more widely known!

It contains superb colour photos of both wilderness areas, wildlife and plants, all made in Europe. Frankly, it covers pretty much everything, from shorebirds to whales, from dragonflies to moose, from orchids to flamingos... You get the picture. The photos of wilderness landscapes are particularly excellent, and feel even better than the photos of animals.

My only problem with this book is that the text pages opposite the photo pages very often deal with something completely else! There seems to be a total disconnect between the illustrations and the actual text.

I lived in Europe all of my life, and I had no idea there were still so many relatively pristine wilderness areas on "our" continent. I'd imagine "civilization" had taken over pretty much everything by know, complete with the obligatory crows and house sparrows. It seems at least part of Europe still rocks!

"Wild wonders of Europe" would make a perfect birthday or Christmas gift (I bought it for my parents this Christmas), but it might also be a good gift to yourself, especially if you think all of Europe looks like the Ruhr area or Chernobyl.

Ten stars.

Get a grip, Rudolf

"Spiritualism, Madame Blavatsky and Theosophy" is a collection of lectures and articles by Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Anthroposophy. The volume is subtitled "An Eyewitness View of Occult History" but is nothing of the sort. It's rather a general criticism of Blavatsky and Theosophy, the religious movement founded by her. Steiner himself belonged to the Theosophical Society before breaking away to create his own pet religion.

Frankly, the anthology is extremely bland, boring and uninteresting. Steiner's speculations about this or that are as weird as usual, but his way of putting them forward is just enough to put the reader to sleep. The only interesting piece of information is the claim that top Theosophist Annie Besant offered Steiner to play the role of the re-incarnated John the Evangelist (!) to prop up the Krishnamurti project. Steiner wasn't interested. (Krishnamurti was an Indian boy the Theosophists promoted as a kind of new Messiah.)

Steiner also criticizes the Theosophical Society for its political entanglements. Annie Besant supported India's independence from Britain, something Steiner sarcastically writes off as "On the one side you have the Berlin-Baghdad Railway and on the other side Anthroposophy". He also claims that the Theosophists changed their position during World War I, supporting Britain.

Otherwise, I fear that this tome is only of interest to Rudolf Steiner aficionados or very specialized students of occult history...

Jacques Camatte has left the building

Jacques Camatte is known only among the absolute connoisseurs among left-watchers and self-proclaimed experts on alternative politics. This elusive Frenchman originally belonged to Amadeo Bordiga's Italian-based "International Communist Party", one of the more dogmatic Communist groups. Lenin himself criticized Bordiga for sectarianism, and Stalin had him expelled from the Communist movement.

Camatte broke with the Partito Communista Internazionale already during Bordiga's lifetime, and for a while seems to have been "more Bordigist than Bordiga". His group was known as Invariance. Around 1970, however, Camatte and his small group broke with Bordigism and indeed Marxism, and developed in a somewhat unexpected direction (see below).

According to the ICC (a competing group), Camatte eventually gave up political activity altogether, and joined a survivalist commune in the Cévennes. However, he seems to be back in town these days, even having a website of his own. Or are the Cévennes hill tracts on-line?

The anthology "This world we must leave and other essays" contains the following essays by our survivalist friend: On Organization (1972), The Wandering of Humanity (1973), Against Domestication (1973), This World We Must Leave (1976), and Echoes of the Past (1980). Except for the latter, they are all available free on-line as well. Several have also been printed as separate pamphlets.

Camatte's texts are written in a convoluted, pseudo-intellectual style and are often hard to follow, even in English translation. However, the main lines of thought are discernible, and the ideas are remarkably similar to the current of thought known as primitivism or anarcho-primitivism. The source of Camatte's ideas are obscure, however, and they are still couched in a heavy dose of Marxist language.

Camatte believes that capital had succeeded in integrating the working class into the system, and "domesticating" all of humanity. Capital has become independent of humans, including the capitalists themselves, and has created a "material community" in its own image. Since pretty much everything is under the domination of capital, all of society must be overturned, not just the ownership of the means of production. Camatte longs for a return to pre-capitalist forms of authentic community. He has a soft spot for religion, which he believes has retained a memory of a community long lost. He also attacks technology, modern science, overpopulation and the destruction of the environment.

But how should the new state of affairs be brought about? This is less clear. In some texts, Camatte talks about a general revolution of humanity against capital. He looks upon the Green movement, feminists, organic farming, hippies and marginals as new revolutionary forces. However, in one text (not included in this volume), titled "The last train has left the station", he claims that nothing (!) can be done. Perhaps he was just being sarcastic, but there is a certain logic in his position, pointing in a pessimistic direction. What if the slaves of capital doesn't want to rebel? What then? Leave this world, or what?

The present collection also includes Camatte's text on organization, in which he rejects all traditional organizations as inherently capitalist, including those of the workers' movement and the traditional left. This text is rather brief, and quite bad, certainly compared to OJTR's classical attack on left-wing groups, "Militancy - the highest stage of alienation".

Finally, a small word of warning. I ordered this book from a third party seller, but instead received a small pamphlet only containing the title essay "This world we must leave"...for the extortionate price of $30. My advice is to buy this book either from the publisher (Autonomedia) or access the articles free of charge on the web.

Lost in the teachings of the Prophets

"The lost teachings of Jesus: Keys to Self-Transcendence" is the third volume in a series of four books attributed to Elizabeth Clare Prophet but probably written by Mark L. Prophet, her husband. Mark founded a religious group known as Summit Lighthouse, and after his death, Elizabeth assumed the leadership until her own death a few years ago. The group has also operated under the designation Church Universal and Triumphant. American media know them as "the Montana doomsday cult", after a rather curious incident involving the stashing of firearms and the building of deep air raid shelters at the group's property in Montana.

The message of Summit Lighthouse is a bewildering blend of...well, almost everything. I never came across a religious group this wildly eclectic! The "lost teachings of Jesus" (really the teachings of Mr. and Mrs. Prophet) turn out to be a combination of Christianity, Gnosticism, the New Age, Hinduism, Buddhism, Christian Science, American patriotism, Theosophy, belief in space aliens and...(surprise) one Guy Ballard. Will the real I AM please stand up?

I can't say this is a good book. It sounds like an interminable, rambling sermon. Still, if you manage to get through it (I barely did), you might learn some interesting details about the worldview of this particular group. Mark L. Prophet claims to be a re-incarnation of John Mark, the purported author of the Gospel of Mark. He was Origen and Bonaventure in somewhat later incarnations. Mark also claims that Elizabeth Clare Prophet is a re-incarnation of Martha. The Prophets are on a first name basis with a number of Ascended Masters, including Koot Hoomi (who was St. Francis in a previous life) and St. Hilarion, better known as the apostle Paul (also in a previous life). Another Master, known as Paul the Venetian, turns out to be the Italian Renaissance painter Paolo Veronese! Other historical figures claimed by the Prophets include the Mogul emperor Akbar the Great, Egyptian pharaoh Amenhotep III and the Neo-Platonist philosopher Proclus.

But the Ascended Master above everyone else is, of course, St. Germain. He used to be a ruler of a mighty kingdom in the Sahara, a kingdom incidentally unknown to modern historians. He also re-incarnated as Merlin - the Prophets take the legend of king Arthur quite literally. St. Germain is the true founder of the United States, since he was Columbus, Francis Bacon and a close advisor to George Washington. Indeed, he "anointed" Washington the first president. Come again? As Francis Bacon, St. Germain founded modern science, wrote the plays of Shakespeare and created Freemasonry. What I found particularly fascinating about all this, is that the Prophets give a positive spin to events and persons regarded as negative by most conspiracy theorists! Apart from their positive view of Bacon and the Freemasons (they admit that many early American leaders were Masons), they also believe that St. Germain wanted to create a united Europe. Shades of world government?

Once again, this is not a good book. The other volumes in this series seem to be even worse. However, if you want to get lost in the teachings of Mark and Elizabeth Prophet, this is a good place to start as any...

They sure lost it

"The lost teachings of Jesus" is a series of four books attributed to Elizabeth Clare Prophet. However, it seems that most of the material consists of sermons or speeches by her husband, Mark L. Prophet. The Prophets were the leaders of Summit Lighthouse, a controversial new religious movement. Both are now deceased. Their group has also called itself Church Universal and Triumphant. The message of Summit Lighthouse is highly eclectic, and sounds like a free-wheeling combination of traditional Christianity and New Age teachings. Theosophy and Alice Bailey are other sources of inspiration. The most direct ancestor of Summit Lighthouse, however, is the I AM Activity of Guy and Edna Ballard. The group is also notorious for its anti-Communism and generally right-wing political stances. Some detractors refer to them as "the Montana doomsday cult".

Elizabeth Clare Prophet's most interesting book, "The lost years of Jesus" is reviewed by me elsewhere. The four volumes of "The lost teachings of Jesus" are marketed as sequels to that book. Unfortunately, they are nothing of the sort. The series is mostly a collection of incoherent and rambling sermons. Even the message of Summit Lighthouse gets lost somehow. This fourth volume is particularly bad. It does contain the bizarre conspiracy theories of this particular group, however.

Apparently, the Prophets believed that many humans are really counterfeit creations, a kind of humanoid robots controlled from within by the fallen angels mentioned in the apocryphal Book of Enoch. These fallen angels in human disguise have wormed themselves into positions of power, and are behind the economic crises, wars, population control and even price manipulations of wheat! (Is this where David Icke got his ideas from?) The book contains some mantras or "decrees" which can be used to protect you and yours from the influence of these "mechanized men" by invoking the "Electronic Presence of Jesus Christ".

Talk about loosing it. I'm afraid I have to give this book two stars...

Off with their heads

"World Royal Families" is excellent as a coffee table book, since it has a lot of large colour photos of kings, queens and other royalty from all around the world. Some royal palaces are showed as well.

However, the text is very brief and definitely not "detailed research", as claimed by the promotion material. You can probably learn more about these monarchs from Wikipedia! According to another reviewer, Neville, the book also contains factual errors.

Curiously, various pretenders to thrones long abolished have been included, while others are not mentioned at all. Both the Vatican and Andorra are featured, although their status as "monarchies" is somewhat flimsy. Who is monarch of Andorra? The bishop of Urgel?

Overall, the European royalty look more laid back than the Asian and African kings with their stiff and formal poses. Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles and other members of the British royal family show up in many of the photos from far-away nations, presumably because the book was produced in Britain. The most entertaining photo shows Charles Napoleon and his children. They look like a regular middle-class family, complete with the impossible teens! Apparently, Charles is a republican, and the title Prince Napoleon has therefore been transferred to his teenage son, who looks like a nerd... Obviously, the Napoleons have little chance ever getting back to power in their native France.

I give the book four stars because of the photos. This is an excellent coffee table book, I admit that much. But otherwise, you should probably take the information in this volume with a certain grain of salt, and do your own research on the monarchs included.

Personally, I'm a republican. Like Charles Napoleon, apparently.

The mythology of Maoism-Ultraleftism

J. Sakai is a Japanese-American Maoist activist whose main claim to fame is this book, "Settlers: The Mythology of the White Proletariat". The book is something of an underground classic among the more peculiar Maoist groups in North America. Sorry, I mean Amerika! It's also available free on-line.

Sakai argues that the entire White working class in the United States is reactionary rather than revolutionary, and that this has always been the case. Working-class unity between Whites, Blacks, Hispanics and Asians is therefore impossible. Instead, Sakai calls for a kind of nationalist separatism, with each non-White ethnic group creating its own independent organizations. But how should these movements take power in an overwhelmingly White nation? I have "only" read two thirds of this book, but at least in those sections, Sakai never really gives an answer.

Sakai rejects virtually every event or movement considered progressive by the traditional left: the American Revolution, Radical Reconstruction, the Populist movement, the IWW, the CIO, and in practice even the Allied war effort against the Nazis. He wavers a bit on *that* issue, however, since his political heroes Stalin and Mao fought on the Allied side. To the author, all these movements were doomed to defeat from the start, due to the complete impossibility of creating workers' or peoples' unity in the settler nation of "Amerika". While he's at it, he also attacks the Irish and the Boer, two important enemies of the British Empire usually supported by socialists and some liberals during the period in question. The author's positions are so far out, that they are frankly difficult to take seriously. It's also unclear why he *supports* the Union in the Civil War. Logically, he should oppose both the Union and the Confederacy, especially since he views Reconstruction as "neo-colonialist", considers the Republicans racist, etc.

Sakai's ultraleft Maoism is, in effect, a form of despair. I'm not a Maoist, but Chairman Mao could certainly teach this Japanese-American admirer a thing or two about "striking the main enemy first", "win over the centre to isolate the right", analyzing the "main contradiction" etc. I wonder what Sakai thinks of Mao's on-off alliances with Chiang Kai-Shek or the anti-fascist popular fronts?

Another annoying trait of "Settlers" is the strange spelling and terminology: "Amerika" instead of "America", "Afrikans" instead of "Black Americans", etc. It's unclear why the letter "k" is used in both "Amerikan" and "Afrikan". In the first instance, the "k" presumably stands for the KKK. But what does it stand for in "Afrikan"? No idea.

I'm not saying "Settlers" is uninteresting. It belongs to the same genre as Ignatiev's and Garvey's "Race Traitor". In fact, it's more extreme! It could be read as a kind of extended, alternative history of the United States. Even I got a few interesting ideas from this book. It's overall perspective, however, is deeply flawed and it probably won't convince anyone outside a very narrow circle of neo-Maoists and ethnic nationalists.

Beloved, at least it was action

"Lords of the Seven Rays" is one of innumerable books published by The Summit Lighthouse, also known as Summit University, Keepers of the Flame or Church Universal and Triumphant. (American media used to call them The Montana Doomsday Cult, for short!) This particular book is better edited and more readable than the 4-volume series "The lost teachings of Jesus". It's attributed to both Mark L. Prophet and Elizabeth Clare Prophet, the long time leaders of this particular religious group. (Both are now deceased).

The Summit Lighthouse is a very eclectic new religious group, mixing traits from at least a dozen religious traditions in a somewhat bewildering way. The main source of inspiration seems to be Guy Ballard's controversial "I AM Activity". I haven't read the Ballard material, so it's not clear to me whether the eclectic hodgepodge was his invention, or whether it's a later innovation by The Summit Lighthouse themselves. Theosophy is another strong influence, perhaps through said Ballard? The group is also heavily pro-American and anti-Communist, and sounds more conservative than the New Age milieu from which it presumably recruits. For instance, The Summit Lighthouse opposes abortion and population control.

The group believes that the destiny of man is guided by Ascended Masters, heavenly beings who used to live on Earth as humans, but who rose to a more lofty status through a succession of re-incarnations. There is a bewildering number of these Masters, but the most important ones seem to be Saint Germain and Jesus Christ. In this book, we also meet Paul the Venetian, El Morya, Lord Lanto, Serapis Bay, Hilarion, Nada and the Maha Chohan. The first part of "Lords of the Seven Rays" contains the (fictitious) biographies of these Ascended Masters. The Prophets use these biographies to claim a long list of important historical characters. Thus, El Morya is said to have incarnated as Mogul emperor Akbar the Great, Thomas Beckett and Thomas More. Paul the Venetian is actually Renaissance painter Paolo Veronese. Saint Germain was Roger Bacon, Christopher Columbus and Francis Bacon. He also inspired the American Revolution and anointed (sic) George Washington president of the United States. In this way, The Summit Lighthouse (a small sectarian group founded in 1958) can claim a venerable tradition going back thousands of years. The whole thing is put forward with a completely straight face, and almost give an impression of naïve, childlike faith.

Occasionally, the claims of the Prophets are almost comic, as when they suggest that the Statue of Liberty in New York City is ensouled by an actual spiritual being, known as Mother or The Goddess of Liberty. The goddess has an invisible temple suspended in mid air right above Manhattan, which can be reached by spiritual means. Pilgrimages to the Statue of Liberty are recommended. Another invisible temple, El Morya's retreat in Sikkim, can be reached by concentrating on the tune of "Land of hope and glory"! A piece of information that might rub evangelical heresy-hunters the wrong way is that Jesus Christ himself re-incarnated. He was the Patriarch Joseph, Joshua and Elisha (that's why he recognized John the Baptist as the re-incarnated Elijah).

Unfortunately, this seemingly harmless little group has often been accused of being weird, nasty and cultic. Their habit of stashing fire arms and building air raid shelters in Montana, militia style, didn't exactly improve their reputation.

The second part of the book is made up of channelled messages from the Ascended Masters. My personal favourite is Paul the Venetian, actually Paolo Veronese, who attacks modern art! The idea of a Renaissance painter attacking contemporary art through a spiritualist medium is, admittedly, appealing. I mean, it almost makes sense, doesn't it? Occasionally, the book also contains some unexpected humour, as when Thomas Beckett (a.k.a. El Morya) says in a channelled message concerning his murder in 1170: "Beloved, at least it was action. After all, I had wasted away in France for a number of years". Call me prejudiced, but every time I see humour in a religious text, I suspect fraud...

I don't know about you, but I think Mark L. Prophet and Elizabeth Clare Prophet made it all up!


Read "Lords of the Seven Rays" and find out the truth for yourself...

Marxism-Leninism is boring

"The Communist" was the theoretical journal of the Central Committee of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. In other words, an insignificant (but surprisingly well known) Maoist group. This is the first issue of the journal, published in October 1976 and dedicated to Mao Zedong, who had died a month earlier.

It seems that the RCP were still in their orthodox Marxist-Leninist-Maoist phase when this magazine was published. Later, they would develop somewhat stranger views, including a hilarious (if you have humour) personality cult of their leader, Bob Avakian, spouting the beard of a sixties radical and the cap of a Maoist red guard. Today, the RCP are probably more Avakianist than Maoist, their Avakianism being a warmed over version of new leftish neo-Marxism.

But back in 1976, the RCP still chewed the incredibly boring and ultimately meaningless dogmatics of Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought. I cannot recommend this publication. The titles of the articles says it all: "Commodities, capitalism, class divisions - and their abolition with the achievement of Communism", "Bourgeois democracy and the US working class", "Bourgeois right, economism, and the goal of the working class struggle". I had expected some sneaky preview of the RCP's later ultraleft line in the article "On the character of World War 2", but even that turned out to be standard Stalinist fare. Finally, the journal contains a polemic against the October League (the official Pekingese franchise in the United States) concerning the purported restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union.

I've reviewed a later issue of this bulletin, which contained more interesting (!) articles on Albania, Bettelheim and Plato.

This issue, however, is nothing to write home about. It reads like the stale stuff they intellectually tortured people with in the Eastern bloc. Frankly, was the Jarvis-Bergman clique behind this one? ;-)

The last episode of "Lost" was more interesting

"The lost teachings of Jesus" is a four-volume work by Mark L. Prophet and Elizabeth Clare Prophet. The Prophets were the leaders of a new religious movement known as The Summit Lighthouse. It has also used other designations, including Church Universal and Triumphant and Summit University.

This is the first volume of the series. Unfortunately, I cannot recommend it, not even as an introduction to the teachings of this particular religious sect.

The section on "Missing Texts" is readable, but quite short. The rest of the book contains rambling, incoherent and frankly uninteresting sermons by Mark L. Prophet. I've looked through volumes 3 and 4 as well, and they are not much better. I get the impression that the material was impossible to sell...except if marketed as lost teachings of Jesus. "Mark L. Prophet loosing the red thread" would be a better title. The Prophets claimed to channel messages from Jesus Christ, but very little actual material of that sort is included. These books are a real let down! The lost messages are still lost, it seems.

The Summit Lighthouse has published lots of material over the years, and it's probably inevitable that it will be of varied quality. Their best book is undoubtedly "The lost years of Jesus" by Elizabeth Clare Prophet (not to be confused with this series). Another good introduction to the frequently strange beliefs of this group is the book "Lords of the Seven Rays". I've ordered some more material by the same authors, so stay tuned!

However, if you can, avoid the series "The lost teachings of Jesus". You won't regret it. And now, I'm off to see Jacob...

A study in disappointment

"Sherlock" is a BBC mini-series in three episodes. The concept is simple but interesting. What would happen if Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson had lived today, in 21st century London? This modern version of Arthur Conan Doyle's novels was the most popular TV series in Britain last year. Since it ends with a cliff-hanger, I assume new episodes will be produced eventually.

Personally, I was somewhat disappointed by the series. The first episode, "A study in pink" is excellent, but the two remaining episodes didn't live up to my high expectations. I would give "A study in pink" five stars, and the two other episodes three stars at best. And yes, this seems to be a minority opinion. Everyone else loves the entire series...

In "Sherlock", Dr. Watson is a war veteran from Afghanistan, while Holmes is a real freak. The master detective comes across as a hyperactive, histrionic teenager spouting a Dr. Who hairdo. He has some disturbing sociopathic tendencies as well. Frankly, he's crazier than Jeremy Brett's interpretation of Sherlock Holmes in the classical Granada TV series! Both Holmes and Watson look strangely out of place in 21st century London, giving the series a somewhat unnatural feel. It feels more like science fiction than realism. "Sherlock" also pokes fun at various Sherlock Holmes stereotypes, as when Holmes (an cocaine addict in the original novels) uses nicotine patches to stimulate his thinking, or when people assume that Dr. Watson and Holmes must be gay, since they share a flat together at Baker Street.

Don't get me wrong. These are the things I *liked* about the series. My real problem is the plot development...

In the first episode (the good one), Holmes and Watson chases a serial killer who makes John Doe from "Seven" look like an amateur. The episode contains a number of unexpected twists. This is also the episode which introduces the various characters in their modern settings. In the second episode, the suspected criminals are a group of Chinese, who look and act like 18th century Western stereotypes of Chinese. The whole thing feels contrived and frankly ridiculous. But the real let down is the confusing third episode, which introduces Moriarty. The criminal mastermind looks like a parody of Keyser Söze or something to that effect. *That's* Moriarty? You gotta be kidding, Miss Hudson!

As already mentioned, the whole series ends with a cliff-hanger, but I suppose both Holmes and Watson somehow makes it through, since a new season has been commissioned by the BBC.

Since most people like "Sherlock", chances are you will as well. Personally, however, I was disappointed by the contrast between the excellent pilot and the remaining two episodes.

I'll the series as a whole three stars and await further developments...

This was of course a review of the first season. We all know what happened next, don´t we? Yes, Cumberbatch became so famous that he got a starring role in...Star Trek! :D