Sunday, June 23, 2019

Ett UFO blir briefat om UFOn

Donald Trump har blivit briefad om UFOn. Pentagon påstås i tio års tid ha haft ett forskningsprojekt om saken. Och en stridspilot låter sig intervjuas om saken...av Aftonbladet.

Och vi vet ju alla vad detta betyder, eller hur? Jepp, USA:s försvar har utvecklat ett nytt stridsflygplan, fel personer har sett det, och därför spelar man ut UFO-kortet som desinformation.

Men så kan det ju inte vara för det vore ju en KONSPIRATIONSTEORI.

Jaha. Så du menar att aliens finns? 

Donald Trump och UFOn

A Big Bang that did happen

“Big Bang in Tunguska” is a 2008 documentary about the so-called Tunguska event or Tunguska explosion, a mysterious (and very large) explosion that took place in 1908 in a remote part of Siberia in Russia. The Tunguska event is the largest impact event in recorded history, and could have killed hundreds of thousands of people if it had happened in a large city. The official death toll seems to be zero (sic), but an Evenk native interviewed in the documentary claims that many Evenk were indeed killed by the blast. The first scientific exploration of Tunguska Ground Zero was made in 1927.

Fanciful speculations about the explosion are legion, and some of them are (tongue-in-cheek) mentioned in the documentary, such as the claim that Nikola Tesla did it (ha ha) or that an alien space ship collided with a huge comet just outside the Earth´s atmosphere, the alien cosmonauts sacrificing themselves to save humanity (or was it progressive mankind). I read about the Tunguska event already as a child, in a book which promoted the “mini-black hole” theory, also mentioned in the program. Antimatter and the inevitable UFOs are other proposals. And yes, one of the guys interviewed claims it must have been a – wait for it – mosquito explosion! If so, it had no appreciable impact on the local mosquito population, which is so enormous, that it´s downright impossible to visit Tunguska during the summer… Maybe it was a mosquito population explosion, LOL.

The native Evenk people have an original theory all their own. They say that one of their shamans asked the thunder-god to destroy a competing clan. Angry at being used in this base manner, the god responded by punishing the Evenk with the Tunguska explosion. Clearly, we have to be careful what we wish for!

The documentary points out that no impact crater have been found, although it´s possible that one of the lakes in the region could be such. There is definitely an epicenter. Curiously, the trees in the epicenter were left standing after the explosion, while all other trees in the area fell to the ground! The theory which seems to fit all the facts is the idea that the events were caused by a meteorite which exploded in the atmosphere. There are still dissenting voices, though, including those who suspect that the explosion was caused by a hopefully rare form of volcanic activity in the Earth´s mantle. Weird facts that perhaps still need to be explain include magnetic anomalies in the region, and mutations in the local trees (their tree-rings are larger after 1908).

One thing that struck me when watching “Big Bang in Tunguska” is how extremely wild and isolated the area is. Even going there is hell, and staying around is no better. Temperature varies from -40 degrees centigrade in the winter to +35 degrees centigrade in the summer, almost as if Tunguska was another planet. During the summer, the area is turned into a cluster of impenetrable marshlands (mosquitos love it). The documentary reminds us of the fact that humans aren´t really in charge of anything. We can´t subject Siberia to our will, and we´re sitting ducks for meteorite impacts (or comets…or volcanic eruptions…or antimatter…or…). Who the hell put us on this rock, anyway? The Evenk thunder-god?

The documentary is nevertheless recommended.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Glad Midsommar!

Själv "firade" jag midsommar genom att ta en buss som går i typ två timmar genom värsta urskogen, måste vara Stockholms läns knäppaste linje, ha ha. Tyvärr fick jag inga gudomliga uppenbarelser från träden, men kanske nästa gång...?

The trouble with Tasaday

I´ve been fooled twice by the strange and wonderful tale of the Tasaday. As a teenager, I believed that the story was real. And later, I believed (like everyone else) that of course it was a crude hoax. The real story, alas, is much more complicated. But then, that´s to be expected, is it not?

The link above goes to a classical NOVA documentary about the Tasaday aired in 1993. The story, set on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines, started already in 1971, when Philippine government official Manuel Elizalde “discovered” a mysterious tribal people living in the rainforest. Known as the Tasaday, the natives lived on a Stone Age level and were super-primitive, having no tools, virtually no clothing, no knowledge about horticulture or even hunting, no religion and no rituals. They picked frogs and crabs with their bare hands, lived in caves, and had extremely crude stone tools. (They *did* know how to make fire, though.) Above all, they had no contact with the outside world, despite living only a three hour walk from the nearest farming village. The Tasaday became an overnight sensation, being seen as a remnant of humanity´s deep Paleolithic past. Until 1986, when new reports from the area rather indicated that the whole thing was a monumental hoax, orchestrated by Elizalde, and that the “Stone Age natives” were really paid actors from the neighboring farm villages… (Elizalde had fled the Philippines when long-time President Ferdinand Marcos was overthrown by the democratic opposition, thereby making it possible for independent reporters to reach the Tasaday area without being chaperoned.)

There the matter could have ended…except that it didn´t. The NOVA documentary interviews several anthropologists who studied the Tasaday during the 1970´s, and they are unconvinced by the hoax argument. For instance, the Tasaday language is distinct from those of neighboring peoples, and has almost no foreign loan words, nor words relating to agriculture. How likely is it that the Tasaday (including the children) could have systematically excluded all such words from their everyday speech in order to bolster the hoax? They also seemed familiar with the caves (again, including the children), also strange if they were really house-dwellers from a farming community. The documentary reaches the conclusion that the Tasaday, in a sense, were both a hoax and the real thing. Many of the concrete statements about them in the international media were grossly exaggerated. Elizalde probably did use them for PR purposes. For instance, they *did* have hunting technology. On the other hand, the Tasaday really were a separate community, not simply paid actors playing out a part.

It seems that the Tasaday once were farmers, indeed, they may have belonged to the neighboring Manobo people. At some point during the 19th century, the ancestors of the Tasaday took to the rain forest, perhaps in order to escape slave-raiders. Thus, they were not a Paleolithic remnant, but rather fugitives from a very modern calamity. After 200 years as hunters and gatherers, their language had inevitably changed to reflect their social transformation, and their isolation can best be described as a survival strategy. NOVA calls them “secondary primitives”. Their play-acting, but also their later statements that it was all a hoax, are probably also part of the same survival strategy. Today, the Tasaday are learning agriculture from their Manobo neighbors and attend Christian churches, while still feeling comfortable as semi-nude hunters and gatherers. In a sense, I suppose you could say they have retrieved their agency…

Link to an article by Thomas N Headland, also interviewed in the documentary.

Tales of the unknown

“Berättelser om Det Okända” is a book by Clas Svahn, a mostly-skeptical Swedish Fortean, who for some time was the national chair of UFO-Sverige (one of the more skeptical UFO groups). It´s a sequel of sorts to a previous work by the same author, “Det Okända”. Since Svahn isn´t a fanatical true believer, the book might anger those who *really* believe that you can channel Atlantean priestesses, levitate tables or catch an unsuspecting mermaid (or merman) on the high seas. The general reader might find it to his liking, though, at least as light weekend reading…at least if the general reader´s first language is Swedish.

The topics somewhat haphazardly covered by Svahn include sea-serpents, mermaids, time travel, Erich von Däniken, modern prophecy, visions of Jesus, the curse of the mummy, and (not again!) the breatharians who believe you can live on pure air (or was it prana). Svahn has consulted other Forteans and skeptics on various items, and also did some research himself. Somewhat ironically, the Swedish fringe people covered are mostly unknown even in Sweden, while many of the foreign incidents are globally known (such as the sea-serpent observation of “Daedalus” or the stigmata of Padre Pio). I admit I never heard of Erik Jonas Lindberg and his death rays before, nor the (failed) prophecies of Anton Johansson.

The book probably could have needed somewhat better editing, but overall, it gives a good glimpse into the wild world of sometimes-Swedish Forteana. Of course, Atlantis is real, although I doubt you can channel one of their priestesses. But then, you´re not Dion Fortune, are you now? :P

The tragedy of South Vietnam

“South Vietnam. A Political History 1954-1970” is an anonymous book published in 1970 as “Keesing´s Research Report 5”. The book tries to be as objective as possible (must have been difficult during the Vietnam War!), but is probably anti-war and pro-NLF. Somewhat curiously, it mentions the US role in the war mostly in passing, instead concentrating on internal troubles in South Vietnam, including near-esoteric conflicts between different regime factions.

After the overthrow of “emperor” Bao Dai in 1955, power in South Vietnam (the non-Communist zone of Vietnam) ended up in the hands of Ngo Dinh Diem, whose authoritarian Catholic regime alienated the Buddhist majority of the country (and pretty much everyone else, too). There are still strong suspicions that the United States had foreknowledge of, or even approved, the murder of Diem during a military coup in 1963. After the murder of Diem, the new rulers never quite managed to put their act together, the regime splintering into a myriad factions and competing cliques (including supporters of the ousted Diem). The book becomes more difficult to read as the story progresses through the 1960´s.

South Vietnamese elections were never particularly representative, since Communists and “neutralists” (real or perceived pro-Communists) were excluded from the electoral process. Of course, the Communist-dominated National Liberation Front (the “Viet Cong”) weren´t interested in the elections anyway, preferring to take power through armed struggle. The Buddhist opposition was also largely excluded from the political process, and seems to have become increasingly friendly towards the NLF as a result, making the regime even less willing to make concessions. Interestingly, the National Assembly elected under these highly restrictive conditions *also* proved unruly, and sometimes tried to veto decisions taken by the military-controlled government. Under intense pressure, the Assembly always backed down in the end. The book also confirms that the South Vietnamese state entity probably wouldn´t have survived without American aid. Apart from the US military presence, the United States also gave South Vietnam enormous amounts of financial aid, without which basic government functions wouldn´t have worked. The money was also needed to combat inflation, famine, etc.

The strong support of the NLF is, ironically, visible in official South Vietnamese government statements about the number of Communists killed or otherwise incapacitated, the number of villages “pacified”, etc. Those numbers are always very high, and if taken at face value, therefore show that Uncle Charlie was pretty popular outside Saigon. Otherwise, I must say that this Research Report gives a very rosy picture of the NLF, essentially taking its pronouncements about free elections, broad coalition governments, neutrality and gradual (not immediate) reunification with the Communist North Vietnam at face value. In reality, the southern zone was speedily conquered and incorporated by the Hanoi regime after the US withdrew its troops. No surprise there – study Stalin´s and Mao´s strategy and draw your own conclusions…

The book ends with the South Vietnamese House of Representatives (the local constitution was nominally very similar to that of the United States) approving a Land Reform Bill, apparently at the prodding of one Richard Nixon. The interesting thing to note is that the land reform was de facto a massive expropriation of the landlords, since only 20% of the compensation was in cash, the remaining 80% being given in the form of government bonds (which must have been pretty worthless in South Vietnam during the war). The US pledged 10 million dollars in aid to help implement the land reform. I have no idea what happened to this last-minute proposal to let the Vietnamese peasants eat something more than cake, or if anyone else than “Keesing´s Research Reports” ever noticed. The South Vietnamese regime simply couldn´t be saved by 1970. In hindsight, its downfall looks inevitable. (How peasants in North Vietnam were treated, see my review of “From Colonialism to Communism” by Hoang Van Chi. Not a pretty story either.)

With that, I end my review of “South Vietnam. A Political History 1954-1970”.  

Does homeopathy work? A supernatural explanation

A defense of homeopathy from John Michael Greer. Yes, the guy who wrote "The Shoggoth Concerto". I take no responsibility for the state of your cell salts, though. 

John Michael Greer on homeopathy

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Welcome, Madame President

Let´s have some fun. Who will be the next president of the United States? In 2025, presumably! I say it´s Tulsi Gabbard. Let´s synchronize our watches and meet again in 2025... 

Hare Krishna!

Jag fick just ett "allmännyttan moment"

Det som står i den här artikeln är ju inte HELT fel...så när som på en liten detalj. Ni kan säkert räkna ut den. Och om ni inte kan det, så kommer här en ledtråd: stärk allmännytan...stärk allmännyttan...stärk allmännyttan...

Nyheter Idag kritiserar KD:s bostadspolitik

Byzantine studies have never been so boring

”Acta Byzantina Fennica” is the journal of the Finnish Society for Byzantine Studies. It accepts contributions in English, German, French, Italian and Greek but, alas, not Finnish. This is the 4th issue published in 2015. I admit that I found it incredibly boring and dragging. But then, I´m more into Byzantine theology than actual imperial history!

The most useful piece has the title “A Helping Hand from the Divine: The Triumphalist Iconography of the Early Theodosians”. After explaining how pagan Roman emperors used Herakles-Hercules as a potent divine symbol for their rule (and, I suppose, their wars), we learn that the most Christian and Orthodox emperor Theodosius the Great *also* used pagan iconography to justify his, including depictions of the very same Hercules. Theodosius also consciously modeled himself on Trajan, who was (of course) a pagan. It seems that Theodosius wasn´t as strictly Christian in his statecraft as he has often been made out to be by (surprise) Christian sources. This seems logical – after all, pagans existed all over the Roman world (including some pretty high places) long after Theodosius supposedly forced everyone in the Empire to become a Trinitarian or else. Could be of interest for further reviews…

Other pieces in these Acta include a short biography of Constantine Loukites, a court official at 14th century Trebizond (the Trapezuntine “Empire” was a rump Byzantine state established by the Komneni after the Latin capture of Constantinople), a weirdly eclectic article on Dyrrachium dealing with everything from topography to the Venetian salt monopoly, an article on Byzantine campaigns against Latins in the Peloponnese (both sides used Muslim Turkish mercenaries!), and a discussion about the surprisingly positive view of Cleopatra found in the “Epitome” of Ioannes Xiphilinos. His picture of the debauched Egyptian queen might have been tempered by direct experience of an actual female ruler, the Byzantine empress Eudokia Makrembolitissa. I admit I never heard of her until reading this little volume.

Nothing on the Messalians.

Den enda rationella religionen

För övrigt anser jag att buddhismen är den enda något så när rationella religionen. Alla andra är fucking mucho loco. Problemet är bara att buddhismen är så jävla pessimistisk. Vem fan vill nirvanera? Seriöst. 

Trolling the skeptics?

“Fakta eller fantasier. Föreställningar i vetenskapens gränstrakter” is a Swedish book edited by Jesper Jerkert. It´s a sequel to ”Vetenskap eller villfarelse”, which I haven´t read. Both books are written from a skeptical perspective and reprints material from “Folkvett”, the magazine of the Swedish skeptics´ organization VoF. Think “Skeptical Inquirer” and CSICOP and you get at least some of the picture. Since the contributions are written by a diverse bunch of authors and are often quite short, the quality of the material is equally varied. Most of it is tolerable, regardless of whether you are a skeptic or not. For obvious reasons, I found the Atlantis debunking unconvincing, but YMMV. The book was published in 2007 and shows Olof Rudbeck on its front flap! Yes, that would be the 17th century loco who claimed that Sweden was, ahem, Atlantis…

One contribution stands out, and I can´t help thinking that the editor might have been trolling his readers. It´s the Dalkvist-Westerlund article on parapsychology, which actually defends the idea that parapsychology is a legitimate science, and criticizes its skeptical critics in some detail! I will certainly use this piece, fully cross-referenced, in any future confrontation with the Angry Atheist brigade (although I might just as well be sending it telepathically to James Randi). Another intriguing article attacks Sigmund Freud, painting him as a more or less conscious fraud. I noted that the article attacks both his early “seduction theory” and his later idea that all memories of sex abuse in early childhood are purely imaginary – both claims, the author of the article claims, are Freud´s own speculations, since the psychoanalyst´s own case files back up neither. The author sees Freud as a seeker and intellectual explorer who made the mistake of insisting that his wild ideas were scientifically proven. (Velikovsky comes to mind here.)

Yet another interesting piece deals with Environmental Somatization Syndrome (ESS), including oral galvanism, Sick Building Syndrome (SBS), and oversensitivity to electromagnetic fields. The author, a medical doctor, believes that these syndromes are all in the mind, and tend to go away if the authorities simply refuse to listen (and refuse to pay). The fact that each generation, or every country, has its very own “ESS”, often connected to new forms of technology, while the symptoms are identical, is to the author a good indicator that we are dealing with problems that are at bottom psychological. Also, ESS-type symptoms *disappear* if a real toxin is present, to be replaced by the standard symptoms associated with that particular agent.

Lysenko, alternative medicine, humanistic psychology, the new Swedish Bible translation, dowsing, the Intelligent Design movement, the history of conspiracy theory, and the differences between CSICOP and VoF are other topics covered in “Fakta eller fantasier”.

Perhaps not the best book around on the topics under debate, but quite well-crafted for lighter weekend reading. If skepticism is your cup of tea (or homeopathic sugar water), you probably won´t regret reading it.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Waldorf and mistletoe: The theory and practice of Anthroposophy

“Inspirerad av Antroposofi” (Inspired by Anthroposophy) is a Swedish book with somewhat surprising contents. The editors have collected generally pro-Anthroposophy articles from a number of non-Anthroposophists, some of which used to be well known personages in Swedish cultural life. I was surprised to find contributions by Göran Rosenberg, Maria Bergom Larsson, Agneta Pleijel and Annika Åhnberg. Of these, perhaps only journalist, author and editor Göran Rosenberg is known outside Sweden. There is also an article on Rudolf Steiner and his place in intellectual history by Ronny Ambjörnsson. I admit that my own view of Anthroposophy is more negative, and I can´t say this book changed my impression…

The usual entry point into the occult world of Steiner´s Anthroposophy is Waldorf schooling. Many of the contributors placed their children in Waldorf schools. Maria Bergom Larsson was actually a teacher at the Waldorf school at Ytterjärna, where the Anthroposophists have built their Swedish headquarters. Biodynamic farming and, in Rosenberg´s case, the Camphill movement (care of children with learning disabilities), are two other points of entry. The contributors like the “practice” of Anthroposophy, while finding the “theory” (i.e. Steiner´s clairvoyant revelations) hard to believe or even incomprehensible.

Personally, I was apparently very Ahrimanic as a child (as behooves a guy with three planets in Capricorn), since the Waldorf system of pedagogy would probably have driven me nuts: “create your own textbooks”, artistic drawing, fairytales, eurythmy, clothes made of wool, blaaaah. (Not mentioned in this book, the Anthroposophists are also anti-vaxxers.) But sure, I suppose this could work for a certain kind of autistic and special needs children, something also emphasized in the book. Curiously, many Anthroposophists seem to be very left-wing, while the occult philosophy of Steiner is more “conservative” in nature. I suppose the ecological and decentralist angles attract a certain kind of leftists, as does the counter-cultural angle more generally. Maria Bergom Larsson was allowed to be a teacher at the Waldorf school despite not being a true believer in Anthroposophy, which must have been quite the attitude test, since the teachers are supposed to meet every Thursday to study Rudolf Steiner´s lectures – like everything else in this movement, the Waldorf pedagogy (supposedly) comes from the spirit-world as revealed by the sixth sense of Steiner. It was interesting to note that the Waldorf schools have a strong confessional streak, with the children setting up pageants based on the Biblical creation story or Steiner´s speculations about the archangel Michael (who plays a prominent role in his cosmology).  

The most bizarre contribution, perhaps inevitably, is written by an actual Anthroposophist who tries to explain the occult theories behind the movement´s alternative medicine. She seems to be suggesting (it´s not entirely clear) that hay fever isn´t caused by allergens from actual plants, but is a psychological condition! For completely opaque reasons, lemon juice cures hay fever. The author also claims that homeopathic mistletoe can cure cancer – an illegal statement in Sweden, but perhaps only in the context of actual prescriptions? The reasons for why mistletoe has this property is, once again, very opaque. The contributor also expounds at length on what a wonderful learning opportunity many diseases, including potentially fatal ones, can be… Yeah, haven´t we heard that one before!

Ambjörnsson´s article (co-written with Kerstin Thörn) attempts to place Anthroposophy´s founder Rudolf Steiner in a broader perspective. It´s quite interesting. Somewhat surprisingly, given the seemingly original speculations of this man, the Austrian polymath turns out to be very much a child of his time (the early 20th century) – or perhaps just a few decades behind it. Anthroposophy could be regarded as a synthesis of occultism, Romantic philosophy and evolutionary theory. Theosophy, a strong occult movement at the time, gave Steiner the template to work from. Goethe, Schelling and Herder were other influences – as was Hegel, not mentioned in the article. Steiner´s biodynamic farming was inspired by the Romantic-vitalistic humus theory. His pedagogical and aesthetic ideas, while more original, also had affinities with contemporary reform movements. I suppose somebody could argue that the “practice” could be separated from the “theory”, after all.

Above all, I get the impression from “Inspirerad av Antroposofi” that Anthroposophy is at bottom harmless - in the wrong kind of way. These people will never change the world, let alone initiate some kind of revolution. They are simply a spiritual safety valve for the privileged middle classes. After spending some time in Green Anthroposophy land, it´s back to high modernity (and capitalist) main frame. With that comment, I end this week´s Anthroposophy-bashing session. 

Live long and prosper.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

The Thorium Cult

“The Thorium Dream” is a short documentary from Motherboard TV about the Thorium Energy Alliance, a campaign group in the United States trying to convince whoever is interested about the blessings of thorium-based nuclear reactors. 

The documentary isn´t *that* interesting, and says relatively little about the thorium reactors themselves. Instead, we get a series of Messianic sales pitches from the Alliance leaders. The whole thing looks very geeky and even slightly cultish, although the “cultists” are self-ironic, since one of them even talks about thorium energy being “like an Ashram in the sixties”! LOL. 

That being said, I happen to suspect that these guys (or geeks) are on to something. Yes, thorium reactors probably can “save the world”, or at the very least make us less dependent on fossil fuels and uranium-based nuclear energy. The problem is that any large-scale conversion from our present energy system to another one will take a long time and cost a lot of money (and, I suppose, energy). Do we still have the time? Donald Trump is dizzy on fossil and fracking, while Europe is waking up from its “solar and wind” stupor only to embrace that good ol´ uranium that made the world MAD-ly safe during the latest Cold War. “The Thorium Dream” claims that China – as usual – is developing thorium reactors, and in other sources, India is the main suspect. 

While I don´t think anything can play the role of Secular Messiah (for us humans, one day is not like a thousand years), thorium reactors are at the very least worth a try. Unless, of course, you want to move in with the hippies featured in this documentary, and then die of the bubonic plague.

In my hometown

“Ortodoxa och österländska kyrkor i Sverige” by Thomas Arentzen is a book about Orthodox believers in Sweden. It was published in 2016. It´s interesting to note that the work wasn´t published by any Orthodox Church, but by a Swedish government agency, the so-called Committee for Government Grants to Religious Denominations! Thus, we are really dealing with an official attempt to map the Orthodox Churches. The book is probably intended as a guide for bureaucrats handling faith-related issues. That being said, it may be somewhat useful for the general reader, too. The author is an Eastern Orthodox Church historian.

The book covers the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox (“Monophysite”) and “Nestorian” jurisdictions currently found in Sweden. Eastern Catholics are mentioned more in passing. There are currently about 400,000 Orthodox believers in Sweden, according to the author´s rough estimations. The figure seems to include people who are only “culturally” Orthodox, however. The number of officially declared members of such Churches is only about 163,000. Most Orthodox believers are immigrants. The largest Orthodox church body in Sweden is the local jurisdiction of the Serbian Orthodox Church. This surprised me – I always assumed it was the Syriac Orthodox Church. It seems this Church is currently split. If all the Syriac Churches are counted together, they indeed have more members than the Serbian Church in this god-forsaken country. Swedish Orthodox believers are in very short supply. “Svenska Ortodoxa Prosteriet” has only about 2,000 members and are administratively a branch of the Serbian Orthodox Church. The Finnish Orthodox congregation in Sweden (with church services mostly in Swedish) has about 1,500 members and belongs to the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople rather than that of the Orthodox Church in Finland (!). I have to admit that the various bureaucratic struggles so often beloved by the Orthodox make my head spin…

Most of the information in this book deals with Church history, membership figures, and the already mentioned jurisdictional wrangling. The author briefly describes the liturgy of the various groups covered. He also, just as briefly, mentions traditional church holidays, many of an obviously “folkish” (pre-Christian?) character. The notorious revelations of Syriac Orthodox girl Samira Hannoch are mentioned only in passing, perhaps to respect her privacy. After all, this is a book published by a government agency. The author mentions a Syriac Marian apparition in Tensta, an immigrant neighborhood in Stockholm, but also mostly in passing. I admit I had no idea the Virgin Mary appeared in my hometown! Nor did I know that there was an Eastern Orthodox starets living in the forests of Dalarna... 

Thomas Arentzen´s book is somewhat dry, but if you understand Swedish and are interested in Eastern and Oriental Orthodoxy (or Nestorians), I suppose it could be of some interest.

Monty Python meets Ben Hur

“Risen” is a 2016 American Biblical drama, freely based on some of the events in the New Testament. The main character, tribune Clavius, is non-Biblical but probably inspired by Longinus, the Roman soldier who pierced the side of Jesus at the crucifixion and later converted to Christianity. The plot is set at the time of the crucifixion, which Clavius is ordered by Pontius Pilate to supervise. When the body of Jesus (called Yeshua in the film) mysteriously disappears, Pilate commands Clavius to investigate the case and apprehend any suspects. The tribune soon realize that the case is stranger than he expected, and eventually discovers that Jesus is alive and well, that is, resurrected from the dead. The film ends somewhat inconclusively, with the Roman officer apparently converting to Christianity after the Ascension, while the disciples return to Jerusalem to await Pentecost. Clavius, fearing capture by Pilate, wanders into the desert to an uncertain fate…

The film is intriguing on a number of points. For starters, it´s not very “pious”, except at the end. Indeed, many of the characters or situations might have been included in Monty Python´s classical comedy “Life of Brian”! The disciples speak with rustic British accents and come across as a bunch of holy fools. Mary Magdalene (a reformed harlot as usual) speaks in stereotypical riddles. A recurring gag in the film is the line “Pilate summons you”, uttered at least five times. The disciples can´t seem to remember the Lord´s Prayer. Jesus is more serious, but I couldn´t help noticing his “Jewish” nose…and his striking likeness to Swedish New Age pop star Thomas Di Leva! But OK, the latter is presumably a co-incidence.

Another intriguing feature is that the film is very “orthodox” theologically speaking (orthodox with a lower case “o”, that is). Thus, the resurrection is portrayed as physical, not simply spiritual. The origins of the Shroud of Turin are explained – yes, it really was the burial cloth of Jesus. The Ascension is also physical or quasi-physical, with Jesus clearly being lifted *up* into Heaven. On other points, “Risen” emphasizes the Jewish character of early Christianity. Jesus is called Yeshua, God is constantly referred to as Yahweh, and Yeshua is thus the son of Yahweh. His Messiah-ship and kingship are often mentioned as a tie-in to Jewish beliefs. Yet, at the end, Jesus inaugurates the new dispensation by calling on the disciples to convert all the Gentiles...

An interesting scene features Clavius attempting to pray to Yahweh in Roman-polytheistic fashion, promising him “temples and many games” if he gives him a sign relating to the events he is investigating. Another strange fact: when Swedish TV recently showed this film, Clavius was referred to as an “agnostic” in the program presentation, when he is explicitly depicted as a devotee of Mars in the film.

This mixture of Monty Python and “Ben Hur” isn´t the best film ever made, but I admit it wasn´t *that* bad either, if you can stand the somewhat peculiar angle…

None dare call it treason

“1808: Gerillakriget i Finland” is a book by a Swedish author named Anders Persson. The name is extremely common, and I admit that I don´t know exactly who this Anders Persson might be, except that he has written several books on modern European history. His main interest seems to be the fate of small nations squeezed between the great powers: interwar Austria and Czechoslovakia, and Finland pretty much all the time. Persson´s main thesis is that it´s frequently the common people who take up arms to defend their nations (or at least their homesteads) in times of war, while the political and economic elite waffle and even collaborate with the enemy. His book gives a somewhat peculiar impression, “leftist” and yet somehow conservative at the same time.

In 1808, Russia attacked Sweden and eventually occupied Finland, which had been under the Swedish crown for centuries, thereby effectively depriving Sweden of almost half of its territory. The war of 1808-1809 was a national disaster for Sweden, and King Gustav IV Adolf was actually overthrown as a result. Sweden had refused to join Napoleon´s continental blockade against Britain, while Gustav Adolf apparently quite un-ironically believed the French emperor to be the Beast of Revelation mentioned in the Bible. Perhaps not the best grounds for a realistic foreign policy of a small nation during the turbulent Napoleonic Wars! When France and Russia temporarily united against the British, Napoleon gave Czar Alexander the green lights to attack Sweden and dismember it best he could. The Swedish troops at Sveaborg in southern Finland, one of Sweden´s best fortifications, surrendered to the Russians already at an early stage of the war. This was a huge national scandal, and many suspect to this day that the commanders at Sveaborg were conscious traitors.

Indeed, it seems that most “lords” in Finland were more than willing to collaborate with the advancing Russian troops. Landlords, priests and bailiffs remained at their posts and started taking orders from the Czar and the Russian military brass, thereby easing the way for the enemy. In the Lutheran Churches, the priests often preached non-resistance. Of course, this was before the era of nationalism and the modern nation-state, but it´s difficult not to see the actions of the officials in charge as downright treasonous. After all, they were supposed to be loyal to the King in Stockholm! There was also an active Swedish exile milieu in the Russian imperial capital of St Petersburg, which lobbied the Czar with requests to take military action against Sweden. These aristocratic exiles had their roots in the “Anjala League” directed against King Gustav III, Gustav IV Adolf´s father, and his war against Russia in 1788-1790.

When the petty and not-so-petty officials decided to side with the Russians (for “practical” reasons, of course – what else?), the peasants took up the resistance instead, sometimes with the aid of Swedish military, sometimes on their own. A large portion of the book deals with the struggle at Åland, which has a Swedish population. That the peasants at Åland fought back, while the commanders at Sveaborg surrendered, wasn´t lost on the Swedish press. King Gustav IV Adolf eventually awarded the leaders of the Åland guerillas medals of valor at a special ceremony in Stockholm. The book also describes the resistance in Österbotten, Birkaland and Norra Karelen. It was a curious alliance in a way, between the conservative anti-Napoleonic autocrat Gustav IV Adolf and angry armed peasants with little respect for the local officials and priests. Persson compares it to the anti-French resistance in Spain, led by priests and monks, or the ditto peasant war in Tyrol under Andreas Hofer. The author believes that Romanticism rather than Enlightenment thinking heralds nationalism, a phenomenon he seems to regard as historically progressive. Overall, however, the book is descriptive rather than analytical.

Russia´s victory in the War of 1808-1809 was probably a foregone conclusion. Russia had more manpower, while the Finnish population suffered from failed harvests, famine, and pestilence. It´s amazing the peasants managed to resist at all! Clearly, the Swedish military suffered from bad leadership (including from the King´s side), while traitors abound everywhere. Finland was finally declared an autonomous Grand Duchy under the Czar. Persson believes that the popular resistance against the advancing Russian army made the Czar rethink any plans he might have had to make the Finnish peasants serfs. Somehow, I doubt this – my guess would rather be that it would have taken a considerable mobilization of resources to reduce the free Finnish peasantry into serfdom. Rather than undertaking such an operation, the Czar already from the start planned to keep the social relations in Finland pretty much as they were within the context of an autonomous “Grand Duchy”. That, of course, is why the officialdom in Finland (including the Lutheran clergy) so easily made the transition from Swedish to Russian dominion – it wasn´t much of a transition to begin with. The peasants, by contrast, feared enserfement or at the very least large-scale plunder at the hands of “Cossacks and Kalmyks”. Also, their deep-seated class suspicions against the officialdom were amply confirmed when the local “lords” put their own safety above loyalty to king and country (which the peasants supported).

In the end, both camps were vindicated – Finland did enjoy autonomy without serfdom under the Czar for generations…until Russia decided that the time had come to Russify Finland (but still without serfdom, alas), triggering a series of events which eventually led to Finnish independence in 1917.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

No terrorist cells in this one

“Tempel Riddare Orden 100 År i Norden” is a very obscure book, published in 1987. I was somewhat disappointed reading it, I mean, I had hoped that the “Knights Templar Order” described in the book would turn out to be a sinister and shadowy upper class cult of half-crazed terrorist wanna-bees, based in *Sweden* of all places, but naaah… 

The TRO is actually an extremely respectable Christian temperance lodge! Think Good Templars and you get at least part of the drift.

The TRO has its roots in the 19th century American temperance movement. Its US parent society was formed in 1845 and was first called the Temple of Honor. Its members came from a much larger temperance movement, the Sons of Temperance. In 1849, the Temple of Honor broke all relations with the larger body and became fully independent as the Temple of Honor and Temperance. The first Swedish lodge was established in 1887. Interestingly, the Temple of Honor later died out in the United States, and in 1938 the Supreme Council was officially transferred to Sweden. Today (or at least in 1987), Tempel Riddare Orden (Order of the Knights of the Temple) exists in all Nordic countries. This book contains material in both Swedish, Danish and Norwegian.

Membership is limited to Christian males, and absolute abstinence from alcohol and drugs is (of course) a requirement for all members. While the order is non-partisan, it certainly has political connections, since several of its past Swedish Grand Masters have been Members of Parliament for the centrist Liberal Party. The Liberals used to regroup both free-thinking atheists and people with a background in the free churches (Christian denominations outside the Church of Sweden). Another prominent member is Bengt Göransson, a Social Democrat and former minister of culture and education. King Gustav VI Adolf was briefly the “protector” of the order. Many leading members of the TRO are/were also active in the IOGT, a more well-known temperance organization.

So why is the TRO a separate body at all? The main reason seems to be that the “Knights Templar Order” is strongly inspired by Masonry and its esoteric (or perhaps pseudo-esoteric) rituals. During the heyday of fraternal societies and orders back in the 19th century, this probably didn´t look so strange as it does today. After all, even the super-respectable IOGT is named after the crusading medieval knights of the Temple! Are we to believe this book, the Temple of Honor and the TRO were more seriously into Masonic ritualism than many other temperance groups, which gradually abandoned the concept. So did the Temple of Honor eventually, but the ritual work continued unabated in the Nordic offshoots. The rituals of the TRO are secret, but its meeting halls (showed in this volume) certainly remind me of the Freemasons. It seems the order was “outed” by some misguided tabloid reporters in the early 1980´s, and I suppose I could find the details if diligently searching for them, but who cares? Let me guess: you lie down in a coffin, hold a skull, and then experience a resurrection to the tunes of a Mozart composition?

With that jocular comment, I leave you for tonight. ;-)

The Bigfoot Deep Impact connection

Just what we always suspected...

The Bigfoot Deep State conspiracy

Just as we suspected...

The FBI once helped in the Hunt for Bigfoot

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Come at me, Wolodarski

Jag insåg just en sak. DN tog avstånd från både hamnarbetarstrejken och pilotstrejken. Däremot stödjer de klimatstrejkande skolbarn.


Kan det vara så att DN helt kallt antar att Greta Thunberg är harmlös?

Jag har nämligen väldigt svårt att se Wolodarski stödja något *verkligt* radikalt. Och jag tror inte han vill åka kollektivt heller. Han använder nog hellre Uber.

Jävla hycklare. 

Yes, I decided to join the thorium cult

Peak oil be damned. I officially decided to join the thorium reactor cult. Now, build´em or else I nuke you with fissile material! 

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Breaking now: Greta kan visst flyga över Atlanten

Sluta byll-shitta, Greta Thunbergish kan visst flyga över Atlanten utan att öka halten av koldioxiden, yao... 

Thor´s hammer

Can nuclear power based on thorium save the world? That would be...interesting. Especially since thorium is named after a certain giant-slaying Indo-European god known for his huge hammer!

MED till attack mot Virtanen

Jag stödjer ju inte MED, men den här recensionen av Virtanens bok är ändå rätt så intressant...

Vår samtids feghet 

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Lawyering the mistletoe

“Fridlysta växter” is a book in Swedish about plants and somewhat-allied organisms protected by law in Sweden. As usual, illustrator Bo Mossberg´s name is more prominent on the front cover than that of the actual author, one Hans Rydberg. The reason is Mossberg´s local fame in Sweden – I suppose we could call him “the Lars Jonsson of plant and mushroom illustrations”. The book, published in 1995, was a collaboration with the Swedish “Sierra Club”, the Naturskyddsföreningen (NF). It´s both a field guide of sorts and an extended pitch for the specific form of environmentalism represented by the NF. Since the work is in Swedish, it´s of limited use to outsiders, but could perhaps be an interesting collectors´ item if you like plant illustrations. A weird detail is that the list of protected plant species at Swedish Wikipedia is from 1996, suggesting that very few updates have been made since the time this little book was published!

Rydberg argues that the entire system of making specific plant species “protected by law” doesn´t really help much. The right of landowners to exploit their land always takes precedence, and the best way to save threatened plant species isn´t to protect them one by one, but rather to shield entire areas from outside exploitation. After all, plants are part of wider eco-systems while being less mobile than many animals. Also, most of the legal protection is local or regional rather than national. Only the orchid family is protected all over Sweden. Nor is there a correlation between a plant being rare and a plant being legally protected!

That being said, Rydberg is strongly into the myth of “biodiversity”, something Nature is not (despite the romantic conceptions of many Green activists). He admits that floral diversity is often the result of *human* activity, most notably certain old fashioned agricultural practices. Take away these, and Nature suddenly becomes more homogenous (butterflies follow the same patterns). But if so, eco-activists must admit that they are making a human-centered choice between two human-created landscapes, not choosing “natural biodiversity”.

Otherwise, I loved the book for all the weird facts (or factoids?) it contains. Thus, it turns out that a species of bacteria is protected by the Swedish nanny state. Well, almost: Nostoc zederstedtii (the scientific name of this Something) is a blue-green algae and visible to the naked eye, but research suggest that these algae are actually closer to the kingdom of the bacteria, where they form a sub-group all their own known as cyanobacteria. The species in question can´t be plucked (or whatever it is humans do with cyanobacteria) in Lake Vettasjärvi in Lapland. Skipper, you have been warned. The lichen Letharia vulpina is protected, which makes me wonder, since it was used in bygone times to poison wolves – another protected species and apparently a favorite of the Swedish conservationist movement. Could there be a connection, LOL? Many of the protected species grow at the small island of Rörö off the Swedish west coast, including a highly aberrant variety of raspberry, known in proper Latin as “Rubus idaeus f. anomalus”. Hybrids where one of the parent species is legally protected are sometimes also legally protected – and sometimes not. (I suppose we could call this the “one seed rule” or something to that effect.)

There is also an interview with a bureaucrat at the agency responsible for environmental protection. It, too, is fun reading. Thus, you can´t remove orchids – unless you mow the lawn (or, I suppose the golf course) when it (weirdly) suddenly becomes OK to simply move on over the damn things. “Remove” is to be interpreted very broadly in other contexts, though. Thus, you can´t take a legally protected species even if it has been removed by somebody else and then simply left for dead. You can pluck the flowers of a legally protected species at your own backyard, provided *you* planted them there from seeds bought at a respectable vendor, but you can´t remove them from areas outside your private property even if you suspect they are feral descendant of your own legally reared plants. In the county of Västmanland, landowners can remove and sell mistletoe from their trees, but in the rest of the country, they can only fell the trees and destroy the mistletoe, but not sell it…

If you are a Paleo-Pagan Druid living in Sweden, the pro tip would be to buy land in Västmanland...


Wow, do you need to be a lawyer to sort these things out? Gotta love it! OK, I admit. I read books like “Fridlysta växter” mostly for the entertainment factor…

Bogus social workers?

Could there be a natural explanation to this? Please leave your comments below... 

They are all in on it

“Konspirationer” is a Swedish book by Gunnar Wall, a left-wing radical writer who could be seen as a “moderate” conspiracy theorist. I´ve previously reviewed his book “Konspiration Olof Palme” on the 1986 assassination of controversial Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme. He reaches the conclusion that Palme might have been killed by elements from the Stay Behind organization, rogue or otherwise. The Swedish government, police and secret service covered up the whole thing since too many awkward questions about “neutral” Sweden´s role in NATO operations and Palme´s opposition to the same would have been aired had the investigation been conducted on proper lines. I believe Wall might very well be on to something, maybe even the truth. In this case, it´s obvious that *somebody* was conspiring somewhere, since people connected with the government secretly continued to harass the militant Kurdish group PKK (the supposed assassins) even after the prosecutors called off that particular angle of the investigation. (Nobody today believes the PKK did it.)

One of the chapters of “Konspirationer” also deals with the Palme case – I admit I didn´t read it. Instead, I concentrated on some of the other sections, all of which deal with US conspiracies: the JFK assassination, Watergate, and government foreknowledge of 9/11. The two latter are well-argued, while the JFK chapter could perhaps have needed a better editor, with too many facts or factoids presented in random fashion. Also, Wall is unsure whether Lee Harvey Oswald was a genuine leftist critic of the establishment or just an agent provocateur. That being said, few people outside the mandarin conspiracies-never-happen intellectual “elite” would question that of course Oswald didn´t act alone (or at all), JFK probably being killed by Cuban exiles and the mafia. Wall believes the rabbit hole goes deeper: it wasn´t simply revenge for screwing up the Bay of Pigs invasion. Rather, the JFK assassination was part of a broader agenda from the side of the military-industrial complex to get rid of a powerful politician deemed “too soft on Communism”, most notably in Vietnam. (Wall believes that Kennedy wanted to leave Vietnam.) Wall believes Palme and Dag Hammarskjöld were murdered for the same general reasons.

The most shocking chapter in the book deals with 9/11. It seems al-Qaeda´s “unexpected” and “unprecedented” attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001 wasn´t so unexpected and unprecedented after all. Quite the contrary: the US administration had received multiple warnings of various kinds shortly before the event from foreign intelligence services, “war games” featuring hijacked planes and attacks on landmark monuments had been conducted for years by various agencies, and al-Qaeda was publicly acknowledged as one of America´s top enemies. Yet, it´s as if the entire US administration simply looked the other way when the warnings of an impending major attack grew louder and louder. This is in stark contrast to the actions of the Bush-Cheney administration *after* the attack, when they suddenly showed firm resolve to go after al-Qaeda and “the axis of evil”. And even then, the resolve was selective: Afghanistan was attacked, while Saudi Arabia and Pakistan (two major al-Qaeda sponsors) continued being treated with kid gloves as valuable US allies. Iraq was attacked, too, despite having nothing to do with al-Qaeda (nor WMD´s). But they sure as hell had oil… 

Wall doesn´t believe that the 9/11 attacks were “planned” by the US government itself, nor that they had direct foreknowledge of the terrorist plans. Rather, by deliberately lowering America´s guard, the administration made it easier for al-Qaeda to strike, an event which could then be used as an excuse to attack Afghanistan and Iraq, get the “Patriot” Act adopted, strengthen the military-industrial complex and perhaps line the pockets of senior officials with shares in oil companies. It was a kind of false flag operation by default. One reason why al-Qaeda could be used in this manner were the cozy relationships between the United States (including the Bush family) and various Saudi oil interests (including bin-Ladin´s family). Also, the Islamist militants themselves were “assets” of the Agency since at least the 1980´s war against the Soviets in Afghanistan. 

While Wall´s scenario may seem outlandish to some – he implies, after all, that Bush-Cheney didn´t give a damn about 3,000 dead on Manhattan – later events in the Middle East (not mentioned in the book) certainly point in the same direction. In Syria, al-Nusra (really al-Qaeda) controls a buffer zone around the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights. Even establishment media admits that Israel is really collaborating with al-Nusra, and it´s difficult to believe that the United States aren´t aware of the situation. Note also how US ally Saudi Arabia brokered the rise of ISIS and how NATO member Turkey bought oil from their faux caliphate in northern Syria. Some American foreign policy experts have proposed *not* to destroy ISIS, rather using the terror cult as a geopolitical counterweight to Iran. Somehow, all this sounds vaguely familiar… In the murky underworld of the secret services, with all their provocations and counter-provocations, the Islamists (perhaps a bit like Oswald) are both assets and potential patsies at the same time, while the Straussian Princes of Darkness spin their geopolitical (and lucrative) cobwebs. It´s not a pretty picture of the United States of America that emerges out of these pages…

In the case of Watergate, we know pretty much what happened, so here the conspiracy-deniers are on very thin ice. Wall points out that the pundits use a different strategy to minimize the conspiracist impact in this case, essentially trying to portray Watergate as a quixotic burglary attempt somehow connected to Richard Nixon´s election campaign. To Wall, Watergate in this strict sense was simply a smaller part of a paranoid presidency gone completely out of control in a situation in which political and social tensions in the United States had reached a boiling point due to the Vietnam War. Part of that war was in itself a “conspiracy” of sorts, since the bombings of Cambodia and Laos were initially secret!

In an introductory chapter, Wall discusses the notion of conspiracies in general, including a few others which have been revealed and well-documented, such as MK-ULTRA. I use to be a de facto conspiracy denier myself, but I now think it´s obvious how extremely weak this position is (except on the highest level of history – I don´t believe in the Babylonian Brotherhood or David Icke´s reptoids from the 666th dimension). Wall points out the paradox that conspiracy-deniers use “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” as an example that conspiracy theory is fake. Yes, the Protocols were a forgery by the Czarist Russian secret police, the Okhrana. But the success of the Protocols, and the fact that millions around the world believe it to be authentic, is *in itself* a successful conspiracy, precisely the thing deemed impossible by the literati. It struck me when reading the book that another argument often used by conspiracy-deniers is equally paradoxical: the claim that conspiracies, if they do happen, are always exposed in Western liberal democracies. Watergate would be an example of this. But isn´t it strange that the *exposure of actual conspiracies* is used to deny conspiracy theory…? 

As a radical leftist, Wall believes that even Western democracies have powerful elites, often with hidden agendas. These clash with the stated liberal goals of Western political systems, especially when the secret services and various vested economic interests are involved. Indeed, Wall frequently just appeals to our common sense: do we *really* believe that the people in charge have nothing to hide? How naïve and trusting are we, in the god-forsaken year of 2019? (Or 2014, when the book was published.) A funny thing about “Konspirationer” are all the proven conspiracies it doesn´t even mention. Thus, during the 1980´s, people in the Swedish arms industry really did smuggle weapons to nations deemed beyond the pale by the proper authorities (Kuwait and East Germany if memory serves me right). Meanwhile in the US, Oliver North and other elements in the Reagan administration were busy carrying out their end of the Iran-Contragate conspiracy. Perhaps the chapter on Palme mentions all the revelations surrounding Stay Behind?

To crack a joke: Where are all these non-existent conspiracies, anyway?

A sequel to “Konspirationer” would be interesting. Today, even mandarin liberals believe in (or at least pretend to believe in) at least one conspiracy theory. Yes, that would be the Russian collusion narrative according to which Trump stole the presidency with the aid of Vladimir Putin, Julian Assange and a Twitter troll named Natasha Trolska Twitterskaya. And no, this one I don´t believe, but it sure is interesting how *fast* it infected all the conspiracy-denying liberal and Neo-Con circles. It´s almost as if some kind of conspiracy is being hatched here, although not the one we´ve been led to believe… 

It will be interesting to see if a leftist such as Gunnar Wall will tackle this problematique.