Subj: "crap"
Date: 7/30/00 3:44:08 PM Pacific Daylight Time
From: (James Cleland)


I've been procrastinating lately, avoiding my work, and even on this beautiful Sunday I should be doing something productive. So I think I should respond to the nice person who wrote and said that all this stuff is "crap".

First of all, let me say that I know how this person feels. In these times it is easy for anyone who is involved in the effort to disseminate information to start thinking that they are unwittingly involved in "crying wolf". As a doomsayer myself, it is not a pleasant feeling when the impending doom turns out not to be very impending.

But first, let's dissect the concept of impending doom. The starting point is quite simple, either doom is impending, or it's not. If it's not, there is no harm in spending a few minutes a day checking things out on the net, as long as it doesn't become obsessive. Personally, I find the process highly entertaining and educational, and I have learned a lot of neat things about the world in which we live, and especially about human nature. It also allows me to connect with a lot of good and interesting people (even at NASA!) So, if this is all crap, properly kept under control, it is fun and harmless crap.

Now, if doom is, indeed, is probably good to know what the doom will be, and when. I don't know about you, but I am always uncomfortable when I fly. Statisticians will tell you that you have a greater chance of dying from a gigantic meteorite collision, galactic cosmic ray shower, catastrophic climate change, or earthquake, than you have of dying from an airplane crash. Unlike an airplane crash, however, an individual stands a chance of doing something about the other stuff.

One of the tough things about running a site like Orbit is that you are dealing with two disparate fields of human and intuition. As to intuition, one either accepts its validity or one does not. A recent Discovery Channel show which dealt with the recently discovered 5,000-year-old "ice-man", attributed his correctly-placed acupuncture tattoos to an "intuition" on the part of Neolithic man. Think about it. How in the hell does Bronze Age man come up with the idea of sticking pins in his skin to relieve arthritis pain? Prior to 3,000 BC, how long did it take to figure it out by trial and error? 10,000 years? 20,000? A similar question is raised regarding the use of curare by Amazon natives. How do a people who have only been in the area for 10,000 years or so come up with the idea to mix-up such a sophisticated substance. Although the site trashes one of my favorite people, Schwaller de Lubicz, there is an article well worth reading , at (a site I found on Orbit).

This seems to be a good way of looking at intuition:

[regarding] the well-known mysteries of the ancient Egyptians' advanced technical skills - we naturally came to consider the question of where they had acquired such knowledge. Where, or from whom, had they learned such things?

But we also asked another question. These mysteries concern things that happened in the ancient past, and the obvious problem is that we cannot study the past directly. We cannot go back in time and see what happened for ourselves. Therefore we are left with the interpretation of archaeological and textual evidence, which inevitably leads to some degree of speculation. The question we asked was: is there any parallel for the acquisition of inexplicably advanced knowledge that we can study directly - in other words, that is happening in the world today,

We believe that there is.

But first, it is worth considering how we tend to think people learn new skills. We normally think that there are only two ways - whether we're talking about an individual or a civilisation. Either we work it our for ourselves by experimentation or trial and error, or somebody else (who has already worked it out) teaches us.

This is, in a nutshell, the problem of the anomalous sophistication of ancient Egypt (and many other ancient civilisations). There is no archeaological evidence of a process of gradual development of these skills. So logically we have to invoke the second method, and assume that they were taught these things, either by a lost civilisation or by ancient astronauts.

But what if there is a third way to acquire knowledge? On an individual level, we know that there is: inspiration. But can this work for an entire culture, and if so what would be the mechanism behind it? Is there any evidence for such a thing?

There is. And it is something that is happening today.

During our research we came across the ground-breaking work of a Swiss anthroplogist named Jeremy Narby, who in 1995 wrote a book called, in English, The Cosmic Serpent, DNA and the Origins of Knowledge.

About fifteen years ago, Narby was studying the indigenous people of the Peruvian Amazon, and became fascinated by their astounding botanical knwowledge, specifically their use of plants for medical and other purposes. What intrigued him most was how these supposedly primitive people had acquired this knowledge.

Since they have no science in the sense that we understand it, they must have learned how to make their medicines by trial and error. But there are some 80,000 species of plants growing in the Amazon rain forest, so to discover an effective remedy using just two of them would theoretically require the testing of every possible combination - just under four billion. But many of their medicines involve not just two plants, but several. If they had found their recipes by experimentation, it would have taken millions of years to find just a few, and yet they have a vast range of medicines and other useful substances. Added to this, preparation of many of them involve long and complex processes with many stages.

The classic example is curare. This is a powerful poison whose ingredients come from several different plants, and which, Narby points out, fits a very precise set of requirements. The hunters needed something that, when smeared on the tips of blow-pipe darts, would not only kill an animal but also ensure that it does not tighten its death-grip on a branch and die out of reach (as often happens with animals killed by arrows). And the meat would have to be safe to eat. It seems like a very tall order - but curare fits all these requirements perfectly. It is a muscle relaxant, which kills by arresting the respiratory muscles. It is only effective when injected directly into the bloodstream, hence its delivery by blowpipe, and has no effect when taken by mouth.

The most common type of curare requires a complicated method of preparation in which the extracts of several plants are boiled together for three days, during which lethal fumes are given off. And the final result needs a specific piece of technology - the blow-pipe - to deliver it. How was all this discovered?

The problem becomes even more baffling, because no fewer than forty different types of curare are used in the Amazon rain forest. All do the same job but use slightly different ingredients, because the same plants do not grow in every region. Therefore, in effect, curare was invented forty times.

After puzzling about such questions for a long time, Narby realised that the best way to find an answer was to ask the Amazonians themselves. So how do they claim to have discovered curare - and all the other plants-derived substances that they use? In fact, they take no credit for them. They claim that all were given to them by the spirits through their shamans.

Shamans have existed throughout the world, especially in tribal societies. They are what used to be called witch doctors, especially talented and highly trained trance psychics, who use their gifts to heal, locate the best hunting and find water in times of drought. In short, they help to solve the problems of the tribe, and help it survive.

The shaman does this by going into trance, which can be induced in a variety of ways, from whirling, drumming and dancing, to taking psychoactive drugs derived from plants or mushrooms. Those studied by Narby in Peru achieve their trance by ingesting a plant mixture called ayahuasca, which mimics a substance found naturally in the human brain and which, in large doses, is a powerful hallucinogen.

When in trance, the shaman's spirit goes on a journey to another realm, in which he faces horrible dangers. But once he has overcome his adversaries he communicates with superior intelligences, who often appear in the form of animals, who answer his questions.

As in fairy tales, the spirits only answer the questions they are asked - they seldom, if ever, volunteer extra information. So, if the shaman asks them how to cure a little village girl's meningitis, they will give him that information - but they will not also tell him how to cure her mother's cancer unless he specifically asks. And that may involve another trip.

This is what the Amazonians told Jeremy Narby about how they know the properties of plants and how to combine them. But they also claim that this is how they learned of specific techniques, such as woodworking and weaving - in fact, all the arts and crafts necessary for survival.

We must stress that the Amazonians' knowledge of pharmacology (plant-derived drugs and their potential and actual uses) is not just surprising for what are considered primitive peoples, but actually exceeds that of modern Western science. Many modern medicines were taken from those used in the Amazon - curare, for example, is used in heart surgery. Even the giant drug companies do not have the ability to develop products to meet specific requirements as quickly, easily - and naturally - as the Amazonian shamans can.

This is, in fact, an exact analogy for the problem posed by the ancient Egyptians' anomalous knowledge of, for example, highly sophisticated constructon techniques. Although they are two very different fields of knowledge, the basic problem in accounting for the knowledge is exactly the same.

Could it be that the ancient Egyptians acquired the knowledge of how to build pyramids the shaman's way - by asking the great spirits directly?

It might be thought that it is just too big a step from brewing up potions to designing and building one of the world's largest and most enduring buildings, but Jeremy Narby pointed out to us that in some ancient American civilisations both skills existed side by side. The Aztecs, Incas and Maya constructed comparable temples to those of Egypt, and attributed their knowledge of how to build them to their gods. But they also maintained that the gods had also taught them other arts, such as the use of plants for healing, and astronomy.

So there is a direct analogue for the mysterious knowledge of, and evidence of advanced technology in, ancient Egypt - in something that is happening today.

So could the Heliopolitan religion have been based on a form of shamanism? It is instructive to look at the experiences of anthropologist Michael Harner among the Conibo Indians of the Peruvian Amazon in the 1960s. He took the shamans' hallucinogenic drink and later wrote:

'For several hours after drinking the brew I found myself, though awake, in a world literally beyond my wildest dreams. I met bird-headed people, as well as dragon-like creatures who explained that they were the gods of this world.'

Bird-headed people. Doesn't this remind us of the ibis-headed god Thoth and the hawk-headed Horus? The Egyptians had many animal-headed gods, including the fearsome lioness-headed Sekhmet and the jackal-headed Anubis. Do they all live through the stargate of shamanic vision?

In the Pyramid Texts there are many passages that are an exact parallel for the shamanic experience.

In the Pyramid Texts we read how the King, who is identified with Osiris, must face terrifying ordeals, similar to the myth of the god himself, in which he was cut into pieces by the evil god Set, later to be reassembled and brought back to life by his sister-wife Isis. This is virtually identical to the classic shamanic experience in which the shaman is hacked to pieces and magically reassembled before ascending into the spirit world.

Jeremy Narby made a study of shamanism all over the world, and found many common themes in shamanic visions. A major example is that of snakes or serpents being bringers of wisdom. This is found even in cultures living in regions where there are no snakes.

Another common theme is that of the divine twins, also as bringers of wisdom. Narby points out that the Aztec word 'coatl', as in the name Quetzalcoatl, means both 'snake' and 'twin'. This reminds us of the two sets of twins in the Heliopolitan pantheon - Isis and Osiris, and Nephtys and Set.

I believe that our interest in the information published on Orbit is based on this kind of intuition. I also believe that our commonly-shared intuition points toward some kind of valuable goal, like curare or acupuncture. I don't know if the key to the goal is crop-circles, UFO's, comets, or solar activity, but I do know that sites like Orbit allow anyone who shares the intuition to sift through all available information, perhaps to discover their "curare" or "acupuncture". Mine, of course, is rapid global climate change, but it could just as easily be asteroids or military conspiracies.

As to Nostradamus, he intentionally formulated his predictions so as to make them difficult, if not impossible to pin down in advance. Anyone who attempts to do so is involved in a perilous activity indeed. But anyone who doubts that there is a good chance that he was a genuine seer needs to buy a copy of Al Stewart's album "Past, Present, and Future". In Stewart's song "Nostradamus", Nostradamus (through Stewart) predicts the fall of the Berlin Wall shortly after the death of Pope Paul, "six leagues from the gates of Rome". At the time the song was written, there hadn't been a Pope Paul for several hundred years, and the Pope indeed died at the summer palace at Gandalfi, six leagues from the southern gate of Rome. The Berlin Wall fell, unexpectedly, shortly thereafter.

A good scientific review of the process involved in Nostradamus' psyche can be found in Carl Jung's great book "Aion". Although not easily susceptible to scientific study, the activity of the unconscious was well-examined by Jung. Not to put too fine a point on it, if I was living in downtown London in the sixteenth century, I would have liked to have been an assiduous student of Nostradamus, and subscriber to Orbit.

This brings me, finally, and perhaps mercifully, to the science. If there is one thing of importance that I've noticed in my cyberspace wanderings, it is that science is failing the effort when it keeps to its Hermetic tower. To be blunt with scientists everywhere, any scientist who is doing "important" work, especially with my tax dollars, should be forced to regularly share that work with you and me, IN LAYMAN'S TERMS. I was forty-five years old when I learned that science still doesn't even know what causes only has a tentative hypothesis. rarely has the courage to admit its own ignorance. For instance, looking at all the learned papers on the net, and all the math, you would think that science really understands electromagnatism. You have to search far and wide to finally determine that science really doesn't have the foggiest idea of what electromagnetism is, only how it behaves. Yet the scientists who hide behind all the jargon are probably the ones who laugh the loudest at us, and the layman who developed the theory of plate tectonics some several decades before them. Frankly, to paraphrase Jim Morrison."We want the knowledge, and we want it NOW". I want NASA to release its preliminary SAGE III findings NOW. They read "The Coming Global Superstorm" too, and they know that the results are of great importance to you and me. Even if there is only a 1% chance that Bell's conjecture is accurate, that's a 1% chance that this one taxpayer can get out of Dodge. I want NASA to write me back and let me know the final results of their study of the "weird one" GIF, and the ten or so inexplicable solar anomalies. They well know of the interest of your thousands of readers, who are all (I trust) taxpayers. Like you, I want to know why, after it took decades of delay to get one or two decent weather satellites up there to give us a reliable forecast, we have a new geophysical satellite being launched about every 15 minutes or so. Why is all the money being spent now? Until scientists, who have a strong duty to share, in language I can understand, research that I am paying for, decide to fill me in, I must rely on you, and your readers, for the answers.

Kent, if you need to know the value of your work, you need look no further than the first time SOHO registered the kind of proton hit that we saw on July 14. It was several years ago, and, if I remember correctly, NASA stated that it was only a coincidence that there was a proton "shower" shortly after a CME, and that it wasn't possible for those pesky particles to fly from the sun to earth at near-light-speed. Now we know better, and, thanks to you, keep prodding science to let us in on the game. Again, there is a decent chance that, in the great scheme of things, this is all relatively unimportant, and we are just having some fun.

On the other hand, it is in the realm of possibility that the sky is, indeed, falling. My intuition, and what Jung called "sychronicity", tells me that it is. My intuition hints at regular and cyclical changes in the earth's climate, connected somehow to the sun and electromagnatism. Orbit guides me to other sources of information, regarding other people's intuition (which may be more accurate than mine), and to science (sometimes good, sometimes poor). Even those assiduous readers and contributors who ascribe the impending doom to a wrathful Christian God (at the expense of Jahweh, Allah, and the pantheon of Hindu, Shinto, Animist, and Buddhist deities), probably share this intuition, and are contributing some important symbolic and philosophical texture to the effort. The bottom line is that, I want to be the little pig with the brick house (as do, deep down in their survivalist hearts, all SUV-owning American men).

Kent, I believe that, through Orbit, you are letting all the other little pigs in.

Keep the faith.