From Fundamentalism, Through Atheism, Toward Realization
A Video Autobiography by a Kriya Yoga Student of Paramahansa
Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF)
Summary, conclusion, and implications for nation and world
Teenage boys streamed out of these three houses and began to pound the two little black boys. (All photos herein, such as the one above, that do not include copyright information are owned by the author; or - in rare cases - received from family members who gave permission).
Photo of the old Scarrit school. I took this picture probably in the late 1950s, about a decade after the incident.
Something happened when I vaulted that stone wall. I never expected those five teen-age bullies to stop beating the two little black boys because of – me? A puny little kid perhaps not yet even 8 years old?
Until then, I had thought of myself as a weak little kid, defenseless against the onslaught of my parents. Until recently I had been greeted every morning by a bloody beating because I had wet the bed. Still I was beaten often. My parents believed in the efficacy of violence to solve problems. It was perhaps the only behavior-change technique that they knew.
But a light bulb lit in my head when the bullies turned and shuffled back home, looking down at the ground. If words could have been attached to that bulb, they might have said, “Life doesn't have to stay the same. Life can change. I can change it. I have power.”
As the great ones say, “Mind over matter, soul over mind.” I was a long way away from the God-guided soul-over-mind phase, but thank goodness my entry into the mind-over-matter phase started early. I was starting to again adjust to life in the material world.
This seed of faith in myself grew when – perhaps fertilized by the courage that resulted from my practice of Kriya Yoga – I successfully rebelled. The beatings stopped. The nightmares ended. As I look back, this is when my unending growth in happiness started. I never again feared death, and the seed of faith in myself spouted.
It grew further when I passed my ham radio operator's license at age 13. I had failed miserably at age 12 when I went to the FCC office. At the time, I didn't realize that there was little transfer between the skill of sending Morse code and the skill of receiving it. Intellectually, I knew the code. But intellectual knowledge is not skill – skill resides throughout the body. In contrast, intellect is confined to the mind, mostly dependent upon the brain. The container is too small. When I heard the code coming in through the earphones, the cells of my body were screaming, “So now what am I supposed to do”?
Back home, I bought a BC-454 Army-surplus receiver and developed the skill of receiving code. Next trip to FCC, at age 13, all went well. Almost a year after I passed the test, the license arrived. After getting the bugs out of my transmitter, I was on the air.
I went with a friend who was trying for his own novice license. We went on a Saturday with a school teacher who was a friend of an FCC examiner. After my friend passed, the examiner asked me if I wanted to try for the General-Class license. I declined, but my teacher encouraged me to at least try. I passed. And a year after that, I got the top license (at the time), a Class-A.
I really felt good about myself when I designed and built what perhaps was the cleanest 1000-watt transmitter in the country. I could operate it at full-power just 15 feet from a TV set and there was absolutely not a trace of interference on any channel. Same for a radio placed just a few feet from my transmitter. By contrast, my teacher's Collins KW-1 with a Collins exciter, which together cost about as much as a new car and which were considered the best in the world, produced a good bit of interference. My self-confidence bounded. My playground lesson in self confidence had been learned.
But emerging was another important lesson that I learned during that playground incident with the bullies: They were good guys. The next day, I saw the five bullies sitting in a row, with several more friends, smoking after school. I sauntered over and walked before them. “N---- lover! N---- lover”! they taunted.
After this happened a few days in a row, one of their younger brothers talked to me. He said, “They say you are a N---- lover. Do you love N-----”?
I knew these ethnic boys were deeply Catholic. So I replied, “Jesus said that we should love everyone.”
“Yeah, yeah; but N-----? Do you love N-----”? he demanded.
I replied, “I don't think they like to be called 'N-----'.”
“Alright,” he replied, “have it your way. Do you love Negroes”? He was relentless.
Cornered, I responded, “Yes, I love Negroes.”
He thought about it. Then he said, “Do you want to get their goat when they call you 'N----- lover”?
“Sure, but how”? I asked.
“Next time just say, 'Aw, yer momma does it too'.”
“But what does it mean”? I asked.
“Don't even think about it. Just say it.” he instructed.
So next time I did as he had instructed. It worked. Immediately, about a dozen pair of ethnic feet simultaneously flew through the air. And all were pointed my way.
It occurred to me that I might better enjoy the afternoon by reading in my room. I vaulted back over the stone wall on a tear.
After I got maybe halfway back across the playground toward my home, I thought I felt one of the teenagers touch my bare shoulder. I glanced back, and saw two hands almost ready to grasp me. I wasn't going to make it home!
I was small for my age but with extremely fast reflexes. Instantly I turned 180 degrees and darted between them. After that, I ran in a figure-8 pattern. But they quickly saw the pattern and all at once I was tightly surrounded.
I saw one boy standing with his legs apart. Being small and quick, I darted out between his legs just as they jumped.
I heard heads thump against heads, bodies against asphalt. I halted my flight after a few paces and turned around to enjoy the show. It was a writhing ball with legs and arms jutting out at odd angles. They were shouting, “Ouch! You got 'em? That hurts! He's gotta be here. John, you got 'em? Paul, how 'bout you”? "Joe"?
I was laughing so hard that my sides hurt.
Then one of the boys extracted himself. I thought, “he'll see me for sure.” I stood stone still, trying to muffle my laugh. My sides were splitting.
Finally he saw me and the race resumed. This time I ran in a random pattern and they couldn't catch me. Finally they abandoned the chase and slunk back home.
I wanted to call out to them, “Hey! Let's play some more.” But I knew that wouldn't do it.
So I said the magic words, “Aw, yer momma does it too.” They resumed the chase, but soon gave up again.
Next day when I walked in front of them, I looked each boy in the eye, seeing if he would take the bait. All conversation stopped, but none said peep.
Some days later, I was running around the playground making a general nuisance of myself when I heard someone call, “Hey kid! Come'ere.”
I looked around and saw the boss staring at me. I never understood what made him the boss – he was soft-spoken, like the Marlon Brando's Godfather character, and not especially large; but most of the kids – especially the other ethnic boys – always seemed to be watching him from the corner of their eyes.
I ran over and stood before the boss. He reached out and grasped my bare shoulder. I thought, “now I've done it; he can hold me with one hand and slug me bloody with the other.”
After a tense pause, and with a stern face, he said, “you's got guts, kid. I like that,” and gave my shoulder a little squeeze. I beamed him a smiled and then ran off.
Thereafter, whenever some kid in this rough neighborhood might seem about to mix it up with me, the boss would just spread his hands and wave them down. The kid always would back off. If it was one of the ethnic boys, the boss would say, “the kid's okay – he's got guts.”
When the boss wasn't around and some kid threatened me, three or four of the ethnic boys would run to my side and glare at the kid. Occasionally they'd ask, “Need any help Larry”?
"Naw, naw, thanks anyway." Those ethnic boys would put their lives on the line for me.
Before long, they were inviting me to lunch. A rare honor, for these families had a reputation for being totally closed to outsiders. As I reflect back over my life, I have enjoyed the companionship of many loyal friends; but I see these ethnic boys as among the most loyal friends that I have ever had.
Many decades later, I got a phone call just after I had published my main book for home inspectors and their customers. When the caller told me his name, it rang a little bell. “You probably have read my home-inspection book.” he explained. I had, and I remembered him as the founder of an association of home inspectors in the Northeast U.S.
“Ain't you's proud”? I recognized his ethnic accent and felt and immediate bond. Our plans to meet in person never materialized, but we spent hours on many an afternoon talking.
last time he called he said, “Larry, I don't think of you as a
friend; you're family, my brother. I want to do something for you. If
you got some competition that ain't doing you right, call me. I got
connections. Need a kneecap broke? Call me – I'll fix it up – no
charge – you're family.”
That lesson helped in dealing with my parents. I didn't approve of their bullying me, but I learned to look at the big picture. They didn't smoke, drink, gamble; they were responsible parents and pillars of the church. They were God's children, no matter how deluded they might currently be in some ways. Just like every one of us in this world.
Your fearless warrior, 1958. I really didn't like my job as signal clerk because I had to work evenings in order to keep up with the demand and had no time to read or think - the main reason for which I had gone into the Army.
I did some more work on myself in the Army during my mind-over-matter phase. I quit my job.
"You're in the Army," screamed the company commander, "You can't quit your job"!
He began to pound the desk. He stomped his feet. He jumped up with such force that his chair flew back onto the floor. He ran around the desk to yell up at me. He screamed incoherently up toward my ear.
Standing at attention, I could only see his forehead. It got red. Veins appeared. they throbbed. Right away I could tell that something was wrong.
After the company commander stopped screaming, he told me to get out of his orderly room while he conferred with my sergeant.
The captain sent my sergeant to call me back in. “Reavis,” he said - now calm, “if you don't want to be the Battalion Signal Clerk, then just what do you want to do”?
“Sir,” I replied, “I know you are short of radio operators. I'd like a radio truck.”
My T-195 transmitter and R-23 receiver tucked into the back of my radio truck. Above them, you can see the right brace that held up my shelf full of books. While I was still the Battalion signal clerk, I once saw flickering lights when I went to the depot to pick up new radio repair parts. I sent my assistant behind the wall to see what was going on. He told me they were cutting in half T-195 transmitters with a torch. I asked the counterman why and he told me they were surplus - we weren't authorized to have that many T-195s. "We're doing it as part of President Eisenhower's military economy drive," he explained. I peeked around the wall: T-195s - a mountain of them - patiently waiting their turn to be cut in half. Each T-195 had stenciled on it the cost - over $5000 each. Just so that no officer's record would be besmirched by having too many T-195s they were destroying them in order to bury them? Seemed to me that Ike must have had something else in mind. I lost a bit more respect for the Army and that contributed to my decision to quit my job.
The radio truck provided a service to the nation that I could enjoy. I had quit my clerk's job partly because I had had to work evenings in order to keep up with the demands of the job. No time to read or think – which was the goal for which I went into the Army in the first place. I felt driven to resolved my unease regarding my fundamentalist religion.
5th Cav. H.Q., north of Seoul, a few miles south of North Korea. You can see the vehicles in the motor pool, just above the horizontal section of the road (the large vehicles in the bottom foreground are tanks (and a few trucks) of our 5th Cav. (tanks had replaced horses by the time I was in the Cavalry); and the high hills beyond - where I would drive every morning to deploy my antenna and get on the radio network.
Every morning, I drove out of the Army compound up to the top of any one of the high hills around us. I put up the antenna, turned on the radio. At 9:00 checked into the voice and CW networks. Then I turned up the volume, adjusted the mute so that no sound would come out of the speaker unless I was sent a signal on my frequency, and napped.
On the tailgate of my truck, just after getting the truck - and getting busted for quitting my job; 1958. No pacifist, but also no longer the right-wing fundamentalist patriot that I had been when I entered the military.
After a refreshing nap, I read. At 11:00 I checked out of the network as it closed down for the day. At 11:30 I parked back in the motor pool and went to lunch. We had 500 men* in the HQ company - far beyond the usual 130+ - and the lunch lasted until 1:00 P.M. in order to feed all of them I went back to my bunk and dozed or read until time to go back to work at 1:00 P.M.
Now it was time to go down to the wash point and talk to the Koreans as they washed my truck. After a lot of conversation, maybe a bit more reading, it was 2:30 - time for a relaxing break. After the break, I meandered back to the motor pool. Maybe I would change the spark plugs or the oil. Or maybe I'd read a bit more. If nobody was around, I'd take off for the day at around 4:00.
Sgt. R. was a good guy, pretty smart, lots of stripes, about to retire. A day or so after I had quit my job, my sergeant said, "Reavis, you know there is such a thing as a three-day weekend pass."
"No kidding! How can I get one"? I asked.
"You request it from me," he explained.
"How often can these be obtained"? I inquired.
"As often as I give the okay," he informed me.
Buddha at Eunjin.
So it was that every Thursday around 4:00 P.M. I would ask for a three-day pass. Almost every time, my sergeant said okay and I'd be gone until early Monday morning. I traveled with my little bag of books to Buddhist temples and historical sites all around South Korea. At night, I read and reflected.
Akihabara Station - the wholesale electronics district of Tokyo where they sold to me because I was a ham radio operator (sometimes they would test my code skills first - just to make sure).
After a few months of this arduous duty I was eligible for some R&R (Rest and Recreation). I always chose Japan. Supposedly, R&R lasts for two weeks. But - flying by transportation as available - I always got about a month. After a month in Japan before arriving in Korea (while they repaired storm damage to our ship), after a couple of one-month R&Rs, and after another few weeks there as I passed by Japan on my return trip back to the U.S., I had made some friends in Tokyo during those month-long visits, four in all. (Not long ago, I again made contact with one of my old Japanese friends; he was retired in New Jersey after having spent his life negotiating trade pacts between the U.S. and Japan.) And at night I read.
I shot this photo waiting to get onto transportation as available during one of my R&Rs.
They got to know my reading habits in the library and would notify me whenever a new box of books arrived from stateside. When I got to the library, they already would have sorted the books into two stacks – the Army's stack, and the Reavis stack.
The Army stack had covers with pictures of sweaty men with machine guns and half-naked ladies. My stack had covers with titles such as “Mathematica Principia,” “Varieties of Religious Experience,” The Doors of Perception,” “Pragmatism.” The sorting process probably wasn't that difficult for them. I devoured each book. It was the beginning of my soul-over-mind phase.
University of Missouri, 1961.
But I continued in my mind-over-matter phase. I read, I reflected, I went into psychology. I did so when lots of others did the same. When I applied to grad school, getting a place in a Ph.D. program was more difficult than getting into a medical school. The competition was fierce, and scores on the test commonly used for choosing applicants were higher for psychologists than for any other profession, save for psychiatry. My grades were low, and my competitors' scores on the test were high. What chance did I have?
But I got into the U. Missouri. Some of the professors thought that I was a genius - I was the only grad teaching assistant who was allowed to teach only 3 hours per week instead of 9, design my own course, and choose my own texts; but not all professors felt that way about me. I got kicked out after getting my Masters.
A friend told me he had applied to far more than 100 grad schools. I thought about that tactic for getting into another Ph.D. program, but decided I really didn't like filling out the forms.
Still, I had gotten kicked out of the U. Missouri. My grades weren't good. Competition was fiercer than ever. True, my test scores were astronomical, and I could call upon a growing list of professors for letters of recommendation who were convinced that I was destined to transform psychology; I might have a chance, even if I only applied to the three grad schools that I most wanted to attend. If I couldn't get into one of my first-three choices, then so be it.
I applied to U. Ca. at Berkeley (then ranked #3 in the country); U. Texas at Austin (#10); and Ohio State (#32), where my adviser wanted me to study with his old adviser, Prof. Harold B. Pepinsky – whom I would appreciate, claimed my adviser, for his ethical sensitivity.
Guruji must have pulled strings:** I got accepted into all three. I wrote a letter of intention to Berkeley. But soon I got a return letter that informed me that a new state law limited the number of out-of-state students and I might not be able to commence classes for up to two years.
I phoned Texas, but they wanted me to come down for a face-to-face interview before they would guarantee a teaching assistanceship. So I chose Ohio State.
Campus of Ohio State University, Columbus. For entertainment in the evening, sometimes we'd get an ice cream cone and sit on the park bench to eat it. My party-loving wife of the time was not amused, especially in the winter when the park bench was covered in snow. I thought it was a lark. Were we incompatible? Photo from mid-60s.
At first, I didn't get along at all with Pepinsky. But then he got the astonishing praise from his friend, the chairman of the psychology department at Battelle Memorial Institute - where they soon had put me in charge of their Washington, D.C. office; and then offered me a fabulous full-time job. I declined the job offer, but Pep was impressed.
Soon after that I got my huge grant directly from the National Science Foundation and I put Pep on my payroll. I also bankrolled half of a full-time secretary's pay so that he could afford to pay the other half. I also flew him and his Ph.D. wife down to Yucatan for consultation (his wife was especially grateful, for she had long had a professional interest in doing research on the Maya culture, but had never been able to secure funding for a trip). That seemed to raise his opinion of me.
While doing research in Yucatan I received a call from the U. Chicago. They wanted my wife and I to fly up to talk with them. I couldn't remember having lost anything in Chicago, and declined their all-expense-paid offer. But they insisted. Off we went.
Upon landing, we were greeted by a delegation as if we were minor royalty - a department chairman, a few high-power researchers, a couple of grad students. But they were mum. I was perplexed. They wined and dined us for a few days showing us the sights of Chicago, the marvels of research at the U. Chicago (where the first atomic bomb researchers did their work), etc. But why was I there?
Finally, a meeting on the last day ended the mystery. They thought I was going to be a major researcher, and they just wanted to give me money in exchange for a footnote on all publications that credited partial funding by the U. Chicago. But I already had more money than I could spend. I tried to think of some legit way to use their money - I liked these folks. But I never succeeded. Still,I was floating in high self-esteem.
A couple of years after that with my Ph.D. in hand, I had rooms of secretaries as we conducted large-scale research projects in Dallas while I worked under their Institute of Urban Studies. I was on a roll.
My office in the psychology department at SMU was in this building. My research office was in the building that housed the Institute of Urban Studies. My South-Dallas office was in a church. Most of the secretaries were on a floor partially vacated in the SMU library building. I was on a roll.
It all crashed. I had sent out a grad student to see what had become of the 200 report copies that we had printed after completion of the first study. The result: nothing at all. No one had read it. No one had even read the 95-page summary. No one in even one of the several dozen agencies involved had even read the portion of the report that pertained to their agency, according to my grad student's report to me. $220,000 of taxpayers' money - down the drain. The effort of a couple hundred people - down the drain. My effort - down the drain. Am I going to spend my life writing book-length reports that no one reads?
Then I met my love – and lost her. And when I needed my wife most, she was busy partying.
It seemed that my life was mostly a waste. I can imagine my guardian angel having turned to an assistant at some earlier point and saying, "Give the poor guy everything he wants - the beautiful, charming, Mexican wife, the Ph.D., the research money, the acclaim. Let him see how much happiness he gets from it."
I sat in the backyard in Jan., 1970. I didn't do much else until late 1973. Dallas, Texas.
I canceled all journal subscriptions, resigned from my research at the Institute, dropped all volunteer work, quit all university committees possible, and sat in my backyard. As the months rolled by, the signal-to-noise ratio in my head in my head improved. I heard my students talking from several miles away. I reflected. That's when I began move further into my soul-over-mind phase.
I got into SRF. My wife divorced me, kicked me out of the house, and brought in one of her boyfriends who enjoyed smoky, noisy bars. I got a new job. I got a new wife.
Soon life turned truly sweet for the first time ever. My new wife would get peeved with me when I replied “Not me – I have no problems” - just after she had told me of some friends' new difficulties and had concluded with “But we all have problems.”
But not me. I might have projects to work on – getting a good income, overcoming my anger; but problems? Not me. Life was sweet indeed - especially compared to what had gone before.
Old age has brought new projects. Having had many years of excellent income, money is not one of them, but my body has been in the care of hospice for weeks. So do I have problems? Rarely. There are terrible days of pain that bring down my spirits, but they pass. Even the pain now is become just another project to work on. I have no problems.
I'm happy that I'm about to get free from this worn-out bodily prison. But I work hard to stay in it in order to continue to serve, to grow spiritually.
I now serve mainly by creating this autobiography. Yoganandaji mentioned autobiographies as recommended reading. Maybe mine might be worth something to someone. Anyway, it now is the service that has been assigned to me and I do it cheerfully.
Reflections: Nation and World
As I do the same, I reflect upon my nation and my world. Generally, I have tried to address timeless issues in this autobiography. However, it has been rough – emerging from the dark ages of the Kali Yuga - and immediate problems are demanding attention, not just ageless problems. On Oct. 25, 2011, it was found that the incomes of the wealthiest 1% of all people in the U.S. had increased 275% during the last three+ decades. Just a few days later - on Nov. 3, 20ll, it was announced that the proportion of the population that is classified as "the poorest of the poor" was at an all-time high of about 1 person in 15. Can we endure this trend without additional great suffering and turmoil?
I am concerned that the current difficulties facing my nation and the world as we move into the Dwapara yuga may endure for decades. And even Yoganandaji addressed in a general way the economic issues facing people during the Great Depression. And so I now will turn to some current issues because of my concern that whatever I have to say about them won't have an especially short shelf life.
In my nation, many are bewildered and frightened by the changes wrought by the transition out of the dark ages. Working-class whites, especially, don't understand what happened.
When I was teaching psychology in the 60s, I predicted that the nation would be seen to be declining and would become a major world power. Some laughed, some scoffed, many shouted insults. Did anyone believe? My radical views were not welcome at SMU.
My prediction wasn't my own creation – it was the product of research published by McClelland, Atkinson, and others who founded the study of need for achievement. N-Ach, as it was called, peaked in this country somewhere around 1870. At the time when I was teaching those classes, the U.S. in the 1960s still had high N-Ach, and Japan was also pretty high, but the highest then was China.
According to historical data, a downturn in N-Ach is followed by a downturn in arts, military power, economic power, and other signs of decline – about a century after the downturn in N-Ach. Thus the basis of predictions by psychologists – like me.
I saw it as sad – this dying of an empire; but simultaneously exciting to see the birth of a new one.
I don't blame the working-class folks for their anger-driven thrashing about to find something to which they can give their loyalty. Their mainstream denominations are in decline; even membership in fundamentalist churches has been declining for several years. National power is in eclipse. Their own income has declined for decades - at first relative to the income of the better educated, but now in absolute terms. The civil rights movements have deprived whites from their last self-esteem support, as no longer can they claim their false superiority over Jews, Black, Latinos; and now, increasingly, even gays. They are hurting as during this, the electioneering year of 2011, they churn through one after another populist Republican would-be presidential candidate. No savior can be found for their decline in comfort and status.
President Carter wanted us to turn down the thermostat and pull on a sweater. Photo public domain - a work of the Federal Government.
They are thinking: Jimmy Carter must be proved wrong! We don't really need to pull on a sweater and turn down the thermostat; do we? We don't really need to find a way to live frugally; do we? Surely a savior-candidate can be found so that we can go back to our old high-consumption lifestyle. But can any savior-candidate restore the lost N-Ach?
How could they not be hurting? These were the people I grew up with. I hurt with them.
Jerry Garcia never accepted the notion that he was the "leader" of the Grateful Dead. But he certainly was the creative center of the band, and he certainly was my all-time favorite musician. So many good songs - Ripple, Stella Blue, China Doll, Dark Star, so many others. I rarely listen to them any more, partly because they bring back so many sad memories, but also because they are not especially uplifting for the consciousness; but - like eating ice cream - once in a while it's good and avoids fanaticism. Photo protected by CC Attribution license held by Carl Lender.
During the '60s, Jerry Garcia and the Dead lived in a mansion near the corner of Haight and Ashbury at 710 Ashbury. During one of my trips to San Francisco, I visited that area, and it brought back many memories. Among them was the memory of the blond who I mentioned in my Physics video who lived near Kiest Park in Dallas. Long ago she told me that when she was looking for an apartment near the SMU campus, she found two that met her needs; but chose the one on Asbury Street because of the similarity in name to the Ashbury address of the Dead's mansion. Such was the power of the Grateful Dead on the thinking of many of us back in the day. What a tragedy that Jerry Garcia lived a hedonistic lifestyle and died young. Half of his ashes were spread into the San Francisco Bay, the other half into the Ganges in India. Photo protected by CC Attribution Non-commercial license held by Daniel Schwen.
The decline of the nation became first visible in the 60s. Many left-of-center leaning kids became hippies and degenerated into sex, drugs, and rock-'n-roll. Grateful Dead, anyone? Still my favorite band – but leaders down a path of total self-destruction. Such a shame.
Many right-of-center leaners became the “me first” generation. They jettisoned all sense of obligation to the common good, and abandoned the poor.
Alan Greenspan stood by Ayn Rand as he was sworn in. Photo in public domain because it is a work of the Federal Reserve System.
More recently, the right has become the “me-only” generation, with Alan Greenspan standing proud next to Ayn Rand the first time that he was sworn in as Chairman of the Federal Reserve. (I used Ayn Rand's books as required reading in class to show the contrast between her philosophy of me-first greed and the very different philosophy of Yoganandaji's Autobiography – which I also selected as a textbook.) But the courageous and honest Greenspan admitted on TV and radio that his understanding of how the economy worked was faulty – during hearings in the aftermath of the Great Recession.
The Great Recession started at the end of the Bush years. Yes, that Bush: another populist not-too-bright politician to whom the working classes gave, then withdrew, their loyalty. Another failed savior – in their eyes. I feel for Greenspan, Bush, all the others who thought they could turn back the clock.
So what is the solution? Given the decline in N-Ach, the German solution - intensive training of the working class members in the skilled trades with resulting low unemployment and booming exports - will not work here. Rather, we must do at least the following things in order to compete with the hard-working Chinese, Mexicans, and others:
First of all, we must get rid of the belief by some on the left that we should require a higher minimum wage. Just since I moved to California in 1999, I have seen countless nearby businesses (usually agricultural, such as the small cut-flower businesses) move from California to Mexico or elsewhere. And not for the purpose of increasing their profits: they did it for survival. Many that did not move did not survive. *
Few flower-field workers, such as those shown above in nearby Carlsbad, CA., do not earn enough to live on here in California (most of these workers probably are illegal immigrants and live under tarps thrown over bushes or tree branches). Each year, the city of Carlsbad brings clears out their camps in the canyons - during the season when they no longer are needed by the growers; then they come again next year. I admire their work ethic and approve of their efforts to support their families, most of whom probably were left behind south of the border; but isn't there a better way?
For obvious reasons, raising the minimum wage also is not a viable option, for doing so may merely drive our remaining businesses into bankruptcy or beyond our borders.
So if raising the minimum wage would be counterproductive, then what should we do? It seems to many, including myself, that first we must cut government spending -currently the government barrows 37 cents out of each dollar that it spends. This is not sustainable, and lowers the confidence of our entrepreneurs that our economic future is secure. Without that confidence, investment in new or expanded business cannot remain healthy. In the short term, I support returning tax levels on the rich to traditional (higher) levels. But this cannot be much of a solution, for our government borrowing far exceeds even the ability of the rich to pay.
The only true solution is to reduce government spending. Not immediately, for this would hurt the struggling recovery. But smaller government is a must for our future. Then, with spending cut, we could cut taxes. Money that otherwise would go toward taxes could then go toward getting out of debt, savings, and necessary purchases.
But how to do that without hurting the poor? At least we must do the following:
1. Get rid of the impediments to affordable housing. We should start with reducing the zoning restrictions - such as once again allowing the construction of tiny houses (arguably, the almost total lack of tiny houses forced low-income families to buy homes that were too large and that they could not afford - leading to the crash of 2008), once again allowing home-based businesses, reducing the required minimum lot size for new houses, once again allowing families to live with other families in the same house, and getting rid of similar self-imposed impediments to living a simple life.
Recently I heard a spokesperson for some city explaining why his city would not allow 1000-square-foot houses to be built. He claimed that such tiny houses were uninhabitable. What nonsense! My first wife and I lived in a tiny mobile home that provided a floor space of about 200 square feet - just a fifth of the area of the 1000-square-foot houses that the spokesperson called "uninhabitable." And it should be noted that the little trailer was packed not only with a small library of books, but also with a lot of electronics equipment (I put myself through school partly be designing and building electronic apparatus used by professors and graduate students in their research). Moreover, my wife had closet clothes-hanging space that was at least twice that available to either of my parents in the houses of my youth. Certainly, the reason that cities don't want to see affordable little houses being built must be attributable to other motives.
The problem is that almost no town or city wants them in their backyard; and, to be sure, they will be drawn to communities that allow them in by accepting these reforms. Perhaps that's why these reforms might best be carried out at the Federal level so that the enlightened reform-minded communities will not be obliged to become magnets of the poor. But - politically difficult or not - this step is job #1 for our survival as a competitive nation, and the political will someday may be found if the economy continues the trend of the past several decades (as surely it will).
Just changing our housing and zoning codes alone won't make it possible for our low-income workers to compete with those in such countries as Mexico. An entire change in our communities will be needed.
I spent enjoyable summers in this house located in Monterrey, N.L., Mexico. Sometimes this house would provide shelter for up to 11 adults, plus varying numbers of kids as the years went by. With 11 adults, space was tight; but I enjoyed every moment of that experience, and the cost of housing per adult was unbelievably low.
In addition to the savings that resulted in having so many families under one roof, it should be recognized that the architecture of the house itself contributed to a low-cost housing experience. For example, the three-foot-thick walls would cool off overnight and then absorb much of the heat of the day. Even when it was well above 100 degrees F. outdoors, the indoors still would be rather comfortable. And the walls, about 20 feet tall, shielded the interior, including the nice open patio that had been built into the mid-section of the house, against noise, dust, and air pollution from the traffic in the street. And the high ceilings - around 15 feet above the floor - allowed the hot air that did enter through the doors and windows to rise to the ceiling, leaving the cooler air down near the floor where the humans spent their time.
The fact that this house also housed my mother-in-law's business made living in this house doubly economical. Having won a national contest for professional dress designers, she had plenty of business from movie actresses, high-level politicians' wives, and other affluent patrons who were willing to pay her $2000 or more per dress; and this was back in the early '60s when $2000 was a pretty penny to pay for a dress.
But apart from her affluence, a family of modest means could have lived well in this house due to the fact that food was so plentiful in this neighborhood and so cheap. I typically did the chore of buying the day's food, and I'd run out the door, cross to street, and go to a kitchen window of a neighbor's house and buy fresh home-made tortillas, eggs, and milk. If we wanted lettuce or apples, it was just another few paces to the corner mom-and-pop store that had such delicacies that required refrigeration.
Citrus fruits, avocados, bananas, mangoes, papaya, watermelons, cantelopes, onions, and most other produce that did not require refrigeration came to us - we didn't need to go to get them. All day long there would be a constant stream of push-cart vendors who called, "Naranjas! Limones! Toronjas"! and we'd run out and buy a huge bag of oranges or grapefruit for maybe 8 U.S. cents. Sometimes, the vendor also would juice a bunch for you for a few cents more. With nearby home-based vendors plus street vendors, who needs a car? Or a large refrigerator? We made do with a tiny refrigerator that served the many adults and kids in the house without much problem.
If a few pennies for avocados were to strain someone's budget, you could walk just a few blocks and get as many avocados and figs as you wanted for free. I discovered this fact during one of my morning walks when I stumbled upon a leafy-green street where the City of Monterrey had planted rows of fig trees and avocado trees by the curb. At first, I wouldn't pick up the fruit that I saw on the sidewalk, wanting to save it for the poor. But soon I saw that no one was getting the fruit and it was left to rot or to be trampled underfoot. So thereafter I went out for my walks with a paper bag in my pocket. Not being able to bear to watch the delicious fruit rot, I would fill the bag. That tree-ripened produce was delicious! Most people in Monterrey would not pick up the fruit lest neighbors see them and conclude that they were desperate. Me, being a Gringo, could not have cared less for such opinions; so I got the produce.
If the poor tired of eating such free food, they could walk into most any restaurant and ask for a free meal. I know this is true because I met my future wife as she was tending the family-owned restaurant that she managed. Often I saw poor people come in and ask for a free meal. They were not turned away. A bowl of soup with some meat in it, a few tortillas, a bit of fresh produce - it didn't cost the restaurant much, and it provided a great benefit for the poor.
In addition to such unorganized private charity, the Mexican government paid much of the price for staples such as dried beans. As a consequence, beans, milk, and some meats were dirt cheap. Free medical care also was available in government-run hospitals. Pretty good care, too, judging from the care that my father-in-law received when his leg was amputated because of diabetes. Such services were paid for by extraordinary taxes on luxury items - such as automatic transmissions in cars and the like. Yes, the Mexico of the early 1960s had many poor people, perhaps just as many as today. But it's hard to believe that anyone did without the necessities of life. Back then, the cost of living was extraordinarily low, but the basic needs of all were met.
Almost none of the above is possible in the U.S. of today. The home-based businesses, the street vendors, the many adults per house, on and on we have passed laws that prevent that kind of efficiency. Is it not time that we start to undo all the barriers that we have created for efficient living?
2. Provide a transportation system that does not require a car. When I spent time in Korea, Japan, or Mexico, I mostly got by without a car (which I never had access to in Korea or Japan) and rarely did I have a problem - even with two kids and wife - in Mexico. I usually did take to car to Mexico, but typically did not run errands with it. For errands (not always, but often - when others could not go), I personally went daily - on foot or on the bus - to the local market or the local shops down the street to pick up food and other necessities.
Less convenient than a car? Often. But with their outstanding public transportation, rarely did I feel any need for a car. And why should I? Buses or trolleys ran very frequently (typically running at five-minute intervals in Mexico and Korea, and almost as frequently in Japan). Moreover, trains were cheap and also ran pretty frequently.
Politically difficult to do the same here? Increasingly, our prosperous citizens are unwilling to pay for survival systems, such as public transportation; but, again, this could change as an increasing proportion of the population suffers.
It also should be noted that doing the above should reduceoverall public expenditures, for - with reform - the unemployed now could afford to work at low-paying jobs if outrageous housing costs could be tamed. Their ability to survive in low-income jobs would reduce the need for unemployment expenditures, housing subsidies, food subsidies, and other public support.
Obviously, the poor must accept these reforms for them to succeed. At present, they, too, feel entitled to enjoy the profligate U.S. lifestyle. But - gently, with reforms, or harshly - with a collapse of the entire system - they sooner or later must do so. As the yogis say, "Too many desires destroy all true happiness." The poor - and indeed all of us - must learn to discriminate between needs and desires; and have the self-discipline to reject the latter which are most likely to destroy all true happiness.
3. Reform our health-care system. At present, we spend about twice as much per person as is spent in the average country of Europe, with scant evidence of superior health resulting from all of our extraordinary spending. There are many reasons for this dismal fact, but one of the main problems is that we spend too much during the last year of life:
"One of the things that frustrates us all is to see care being provided in an absolutely futile situation ... and doctors and hospitals are not accountable but are also being rewarded (financially) for that (futile care)," says John Santa, medical director for the Center for Evidence-Based Policy in Portland. - USA Today.
Almost as bad are the drugs approved by tax-dollar-financed agencies (such as Medicare) that slightly extend life but are exorbantly priced. One such approved drug was Provenge. It provided an additional 4.1 months of life, but at a cost of $93,000. If you want the best societal bang for the tax buck, wouldn't that money be better spent on training poorly educated pregnant girls so that their fetus might have a better chance to survive - along with other pregnancy-related services? Or to provide them with improved childhood services?
In any case, proponents of Provenge argue that it is a money-saving drug. That's because most patients probably would otherwise be given almost useless chemotherapy.
They probably are right:
"Wherever data were uncertain, the authors deliberately erred on the side of over-estimating the benefit of chemotherapy. Even so, the study concluded that overall, chemotherapy contributes just over 2 percent to improved survival in cancer patients." - ICNR.
Chemotherapy has many harmful side effects. Here, a patient sits with feet inside of devices that cool the toes - in order to reduce the probability that the nails will drop off in a few months. Photo protected by CC Attribution license held by jennifrog.
Despite its abysmal record with any type of cancer, chemotherapy still is used to treat many cases of prostate cancer:
". . . the comparable [to Provenge] chemotherapy for advanced stage prostate cancer patients, Taxotere, ends up costing about $23,000 per month of life extended by the treatment. - ABC News
As it happens, there are alternatives to chemotherapy that are immensely cheaper, more effective, and abundantly supported by a vast array of sound research; see for example, Anticancer, by Schreiber, M.D., Ph.D. They are neglected because they lack the huge marketing budget of the drug companies.
If we were a society with infinite resources, these costs might be acceptable, especially if the drugs actually worked as well as alternative treatments. But - as we are increasingly aware - our resources are finite, and dwindling. It should be noted that despite the arguably higher cost for chemotherapy, Provenge was taken off the market in Aug., 2011 - mainly because of its $93,000-per-pop cost. Good riddance, but I just wish the same would happen to chemotherapy in these near-useless situations.
You might argue that I'd feel different if I were the one who was dying of prostate cancer. Not true - I am dying of prostate cancer. Some 15 months ago I was given a couple of not-too-expensive androgen-deprivation drugs. But because these drugs ruin bones, an assistant to the oncologist called one night around 7 p.m. telling me that I was scheduled to come in the next morning for an injection. Not being very forthcoming, I pressed for additional information and learned that the injection was intended to help my bones. I also wrote down the name of the drug to be injected.
I asked how much would be the total cost of the injection - to no avail. So I got on the web and found that the lowest cost reported was over $5000 per injection - most of which would be paid for by Uncle Sam. Instead of getting the injection, I dropped all conventional therapy (which didn't seem to be doing all that much for me anyway). With the therapy the oncologist estimated that I might live up to another two years. But I've lived about two-thirds that time so far without their therapy (I admit that I've turned to a considerable variety of alternative diet and device options - most of which, such as raw vegetable juice - surely do not have the harmful side effects that I was experiencing from the androgen-deprivation drugs). I also have been pain-free for a couple of months, mainly because of my use of a magnetic pulser device which shrinks tumors and seems to eliminate all my pain - not expensive, and no tax dollars involved.
I'm not against spending tax dollars for health care. In fact, I'm for it. But the problem with government-paid health-care programs (and government social programs in general) is that there is no corresponding self-restraint. Currently in our society - drug companies, physicians, health institutions, and patients alike - seem to be motivated to get as much as they can for themselves regardless of the consequences to the common good. Unwilling to accept reasonable restraints, entire programs are headed for the financial abyss.
Has no one heard of the law of karma?
4. Stop throwing money down the pit of higher education. The Week magazine (Nov. 4, 2011 p12) stated that around 300,000 college grads are working as waiters and waitresses, and some 19,000 are working as parking-lot attendants. No doubt, this is but the tip of the iceberg, for we are churning out far more college graduates then even our industrialized economy can absorb.
The phenomenon is not new. Even when I was teaching undergrads at Ohio State back in the 1960s, I always remembered to begin each semester by reminding my students of the billboards that littered the freeways around campus that proclaimed, "All of our truck drivers are college graduates." Is it proper for taxpayers to spend tens of thousands of dollars providing a college education for the work force of furniture-moving companies, restaurants, parking lots, and a host of other services that society provides? May I ask how a college degree prepares them to do their job better than equally conscientious folks who have no such degree? I ended such lectures with an invitation to consider dropping out of college. Students who hate to study and do not enjoy writing papers probably should be doing something else with their time.
Obviously, getting training in a skill so that one can become an accountant, doctor, lawyer, or other skilled professional pays off time both for the funding society and the individual. Such skill training should be continued. But skill training is not the same as so-called education.
I say "so-called" because little real education is experienced by the vast majority of liberal-arts majors. It is true that employers may prefer them over high-school dropouts, for at least they have demonstrated that they are incapable of experiencing boredom. Most employers of unskilled labor prefer employees who cannot experience boredom and those employers are willing to pay extra in order to get them. But should tax payers be obliged to pay for this exorbitantly expensive selection process? I argue that no longer can we afford such wasteful spending.
Certainly some students who are enrolled in colleges of humanities and sciences belong there. For example, I became so involved in writing my term paper for my introduction to philosophy class that I could hardly wait for dawn to come again each day so that I could get back to it. The title of my term paper was "On the Existence of Zero Quantities," and after I turned it in, the instructor pleaded with me to spend the summer with him in order to prepare it for publication in an academic philosophy journal. Given my motivation, curiosity, and ability to contribute to the search for truth, I do not see support for my undergraduate education in H&S to have been misplaced.
To the contrary, I would argue that students who can't wait to start writing on the next term paper, those who are both bright and highly motivated and immensely curious to understand how the world works, should indeed be supported. Supporting them may not increase the availability of skills needed by society, but they gravitate into positions that provide the philosophical reflection needed to guide society. And guidance is sorely needed by our Western societies today.
How to separate the few from the many who do not belong in classes? I am reminded of a young lady in one of my graduate seminars. One of my goals in that seminar in social psychology was to make sure that each student who received a passing grade in that course could intelligently read a scientific journal and discern the truth or fallacy of the evidence and the reasoning being presented in that article in support of the author's hypothesis.
Each time I raise that lever, I am - in essence - conducting an experimental test of the usually unverbalized hypothesis, "if I raise the setting of the thermostat, I will raise the temperature of the air." The raising of the lever constitutes the manipulation of the independent variable - which in this experiment is the setting of the thermostat. The dependent variable would be the temperature of the air, which would be operationalized by observing a nearby thermometer a few minutes later.
In order to understand a scientific report, one must begin by understanding the difference between an independent variable and a dependent variable. Such conceptualization is not difficult - most students in my freshman classes were able to grasp the relevant concepts in just minutes. Asimple example is that offered by an ordinary thermostat. If I slide the lever up, in my mind I am holding the hypothesis that doing so will result in an increase in air temperature. In this simple experiment, the independent variable is the setting of the thermostat, and manipulation of that independent variable is accomplished by my sliding the lever up on the thermostat. The dependent variable would be air temperature, as measured by a nearby thermometer. Simple, right?
I spent a lot of time trying to help that unfortunate girl in my SMU office - just behind the the window indicated by the arrow.
Not for that grad student. I worked in the classroom trying to help her get the concept, then for a much longer time in my office. But to no avail - she was just too dense to get it.
I felt sorry for her inadequacy, but - after observing so many additional failures during the course of that semester - I gave her an "F" for the final grade. After a conference with the chairman of her department (sociology), she was kicked out of graduate school.
The blond girl from Kiest Park with whom I was so in love was upset with me. "But she wants to be a counselor, and I'm sure that she would be a good one" was her argument. I couldn't disagree. I had read the countless outcome studies on the efficacy of counseling, and I knew that education was irrelevant to the effectiveness of counselors. In one study, for example, housewives with no special training whatsoever had just as many positive outcomes (as measured by their high-school clients' grades in school, etc.) as those with a Ph.D. in psychology or psychiatrists with their M.D. degree. I had to agree that it might well be true that this girl with limited ability to think abstractly nevertheless could be an effective counselor.
But I see this as just another case where our society has given too much emphasis to college certification. If, as suggested by the research, getting a degree in counseling does not improve one's efficacy as a counselor, whose craziness is it to require counselors to have degrees? Why should I as a professor committed to truth participate in this ludicrous charade?
In the meantime, the great majority of the 12 students in this grad seminar were bright and they were getting short-changed in their education. While I was spending a lot of time in class trying to help this unfortunate girl with basic concepts, what were the other 11 doing? No wonder that researchers have found that the brightest and most creative of those who enter college soon drop out. Maybe the Steve Jobs and the Bill Gates of this world should not be in any college, even one the eliminates the intellectually-limited students such as this girl. But - if we were once again willing to give low grades to those who have not mastered the material and kick them out long before they reach grad school - at least some of the best who remain in school might find college classes sufficiently stimulating so that they might continue. If so, they undoubtedly would benefit from the stimulation that can come only from interacting with special colleagues.
Still, I wonder if it is true that college is the place for the brightest and most creative. My very best education took place in the U.S. Army library, reading the works produced by the great minds of the past and present. Authors such as Plato, Goethe, William James, Freud, Jung, Huxley, Alfred North Whitehead, Bertrand Russell, and so many more. 50 years later I still remember many of their lessons. Going back to college after reading these mostly was a let-down, with the exception of that great philosophy course that I took.
Joie, Ananda, and I spent many a Saturday afternoon in Samuels Library in Front Royal, Va., and we always checked out an armload of books. Photo of their new building released into public domain according to owner.
Perhaps the best plan would be for those who really want to know truth to head for the libraries. Our society could fund expanded programs there that would nourish their minds. Inspired teachers could conduct seminars for tiny groups of eager students. Better yet, the teachers could coach the scholars as they persued their own subjects of interest. The scholars' projects would be far more educational than mere random reading, in many cases. Traditional training in the skills and science then could be the focus of colleges.
There should be a healthy interaction between the skills-oriented universities and the education-oriented library scholars. Most such scholars should be encouraged to get a solid grounding in advanced math and the sciences, for example. For that, they would take select courses in the universities. Those courses already are populated mainly by students who are highly intelligent and strongly motivated. That being the case, there would be no need for significant modification of those course policies in order to accommodate the needs of the library scholars.
In return, some of those who go through some great library programs could come to the colleges to provide a bit of education for those who are focused on skill building. Even those with advanced skills could benefit from at least a little education - so sadly missing in most programs for professionals (at Kansas City Junior College where I studied engineering, only a single 3-hour non-engineering elective was allowed during the entire two-year program).
The payoff for such reforms to education is that education could again at least be given a chance to thrive, and the costs of college would be dramatically reduced as the number of students was slashed. Perhaps those who don't fit into either the library or the college skill-building programs could then go back the learning labor skills.
Such skills are the lifeblood of any society. Without those who know how to skillfully operate machines or properly harvest lettuce, where would the world be?
Unfortunately, skills are not easy to acquire. In contrast to intellectual learning which depends mostly on a brain that is extraordinarily plastic, skills reside throughout the body where change does not come readily. The consequence is that whereas it may take a really bright student only a year or so to learn a lot of calculus, it takes much longer to become skilled at cutting lettuce.
I recently read an excerpt from a book written by an Anglo who decided to find out what it was like to cut lettuce. He could hardly believe how difficult it was to achieve that skill. He only succeeded because his coworkers, the experienced Mexican cutters, helped him - regularly throwing some of the produce that they had cut into his own basket so that the Anglo would not get fired. Even after a year or two, the Anglo still couldn't keep pace, but he had improved so much that he thought that at the end of three years he might be at least average in his lettuce-cutting skill. In order to really clear the fields of lettuce and to do so quickly but without damaging the produce - or cutting his own fingers - would have taken anyone much longer.
And home builders wonder why so few now can do a proper job of applying plaster to the walls of our houses? No wonder we instead almost always opt for plasterboard and settle for almost 100% right angles, with a rare opportunity for even a single curved surface (it didn't used to be that way - look at the houses of the 1920s, with their arches, subtle arcs on the vertical edges of partitions at the passageway between dining room and kitchen, etc.). Now we settle for sterile design.
An example closer to home: Two weeks ago my wife called the plumber who often has made plumbing repairs for us. He was so busy that he didn't have time to return her call. By persisting, she eventually was able to secure an appointment for yesterday. He arrived some four hours late. He appologized, but Joie was quite ready to forgive him, for it is not at all easy to find a competent plumber. In just a few minutes he replaced an "O" ring that was leaking on the kitchen fawcet spout and Joie paid him his fee of $75. Despite the brevity of his visit, we felt it was a bargain.
The photo shows a rusted-off screw that once held the handle for this shower valve. When we called a plumber to fix this and several other problems, the plumber's helper squirted on some penetrating oil. I did not think the oil would work, and when he started twisting on the stub with Vice-Grip pliers, I urged him to stop before he twisted off the remaining stub - which would have made removal very difficult indeed.
Instead, I urged him to wrap a wet rag around the valve base in order to protect the valve seat and its washer and the wall, then wrap aluminum foil around the rag in order to protect it from the flames of a torch. Then heat up the screw with a torch and immediately throw cold water on it.
He looked at me as if I had just dropped in from Mars. Then his boss, the company owner and a licensed plumber, appeared on the scene and he, too, started twisting on the stub with his pliers. Again, I explained it all, with the same blank stare as a response. Finally, I told them I'd do it myself; and I did - using a torch and cold water - in just a few minutes, and the screw was so loose that I could just about get it all the way out without tools; so much better than risking twisting off the stub and having to replace the entire extension (if one could be found). Why are our plumbers so incompetent?
And rightfully so, for more incompetent plumbers have been through our Encinitas home than I care to remember. After one left, Joie's shower had but a trickle of hot water. I realized that one of the little cotton rags, or a piece thereof, that the plumber had used to close off the pipes while he worked had fallen into the pipe. I had been concerned when I saw him using those rags - smart plumbers use a wad of bread instead; bread will not permanently block the flow of water even if it falls inside the pipe. But I did not try to improve that plumber's skills, for having learned the hard way during my years as a home inspector, few electricians or plumbers are willing to change after they get set in their ways. To them, I'm just another master plumber or master electrician - why should they listen to me?
So how to fix this problem? I didn't dare call back the plumber, for he surely would have wanted to open the seal that the builder had carefully installed under this structure - a seal that not only prevented vermin from getting into the structure, but also would greatly reduce heat-robbing air infiltration during chilly, windy weather. I absolutely was not willing to breach that nice seal.
So I opened the faucet in Joie's shower, hoping that I could pull out the rag. No luck. Nor did any combination of pressure or back-flushing drive out the offending rag. Finally a solution came to me. I don't remember what I did, but it worked and proper hot-water pressure was restored to the shower. Not at all enjoying the several plumbing jobs that I have had to do during my golden years after incompetent plumbers left our place, and yet having plenty of money to hire the work done for us, you can bet I was thrilled when we finally stumbled onto this competent plumber.
So many people unemployed, and yet so much need for skilled workers - this is just one tiny example among millions.
Skills - so needed in our society - sadly are hard to find. I read recently that our unemployment rate could be significantly reduced if only we had people with the needed skills to fill all of the vacancies - skills such as machinist, tool-and-die maker, welders, and so many more. Its a worldwide phenomenon. Even South Korea finds itself with too many college graduates and not enough skilled workers.
If we could just get our priorities right, mostly defund the universities, and establish something like the library scholars' programs, then that most corrupting of all influences on higher education would naturally wither - and, yes, I'm talking about commercialized sports. At least, commercialized sports would wither for the library scholars, for after experiencing sleepless nights due to their delirious excitement as they played with some novel idea, they are bound to find the brutish antics on the football field B-O-R-I-N-G. I speak not only from personal experience, but also as one who has known many others of like mind.
As noted by the conservative columnist George Will, the first president of Cornell refused to fund his team's request to travel in 1883 by explaining, "I will not permit 30 men to travel 400 miles merely to agitate a bag of wind." Spoken like a true scholar.
Also noted by Mr. Will: The salary of the head coach of the University of Alabama is $4.6 million, plus innumerable perks. Now I ask: If Alabama is such a rich state that it can afford to spend around $5 million per year for its coach, then why does the state of California - with the 7th highest per-capita income among the states of the U.S. (according to the latest official analyses that I could find) - perenially transfer large sums of money, through Federal programs for the poor, to the poor states of the Southeast, such as Alabama?
"Alabama is tied with Kentucky for the third highest poverty rate amongst the 50 states . . ." - The Alabama Poverty Project. And hear this: "On November 9, 2011, it became the subject of the most expensive municipal bankruptcy ever in the US, at $4.1 billion, with debts of $3.14 billion . . ." - Wikipedia. The municipality in question was Birmingham, Alabama and its crash also involved the enmeshed surrounding county. Already I can see those California tax dollars heading for the poverty-stricken Southeast once again.
In contrast to the $5 million for the coach, the annual salary for the president of the University of Alabama is only about 1/10th that much: $487,620. I guess that says something about the school's priorities: Apparently, the value of commercialized sports far outweighs the value of scholarship.
Many argue that the high salaries for coaches are justified by increased donations to the school and other monetary benefits. Certainly, it's not just the University of Alabama (and my former employer, SMU - see next paragraph) that have taken this route - it's just short of universal in our country. George Will doubts that there is much true payoff from such nonsense, as do I. But even if it were so, Mr. Will plantively asks: "Is the football industry as currently conducted an efficient way to do this"?
But I need not go so far afield as Alabama when I have my own experience to draw upon. At SMU, the head coach earned about 70 times as much as I did. Yes, I'm talking about the same corrupt coach who used to call me on the phone pleading, in essence, to raise some star athelete's grade on a test that he had just barely passed. Just passing wasn't sufficient: only a "B" would do - needed to offset all of the other low grades that the athlete was accumulating. Already having been hauled before the dean and under similar pressure to be a "team player" from my boss, the department chairman, I complied and gave repeat tests, each more dumbed down than the one before, until finally the star got his "B." But my superiors wanted "B" grades or above for almost all students.
The general source of the authorities' concern was economic - "If you make demands on the students' time or give low grades, they'll switch to some easier school and we no longer will receive their daddy's fat check."
People sometimes blame the integration of minorities into our classrooms for the grade inflation of the last 50 years. But at SMU the average GPA went from about 2.7 when I arrived to about 3.2 by the time I left - with rarely a dark skin in sight. When I was there, my classes almost were 100% lilly white. I can say authoritatively that the reason I abandoned all academic standards of excellence had to do entirely with pressure from above, not from failing dark-skinned students coming from below. Surely the nationwide decline in standards is, at least in large part, due to the same pressures that I faced.
Seeing that I wasn't going to be able to win this battle, I gave up. I mostly stopped assigning homework and gave almost everyone either an "A" or "B." In practice, I didn't abandon all standards. On one final exam day, a young girl whom I couldn't remember ever having seen popped into the test room. I asked, "Who are you"?
She replied, "I'm a student in this class. My name is ---"
I scanned the computer print-out and what do you know? Her name was there. She got hardly any answers right on the exam, so I felt that even under my now SMU-approved standards, she just didn't deserve a "B." So I gave her a "C" instead of the customary "B" or "A." But that was an exceptional case.
After I fell into step with the university culture of low standards, no longer did I get any urgent phone calls from the coach. And no longer did students form committees devoted to getting me fired (and yes, such a committee of students was formed to get me fired during my first semester at SMU). Everyone was happy - coach, chairman, dean, students. Everyone, that is, except me. I grew to detest that job. I felt dirty. It was the most demeaning job I ever held. In fact, it was the only demeaning job that I ever held. Three times I resigned, twice talked out of it by my department chairman. I must say, it always seemed to me that SMU treated me better than I deserved - they consistently bent over backwards to please me; but the job itself was the pits. Finally, after 8 years, I was free and turned to earning an honest living by renovating houses. I felt clean again.
Thank goodness the harsh SMU death penalty put an end to the worst such corruption. But even if the worst corruption could be eliminated, still, commercialized sports is a corrupting influence on any campus. I can't tell you the number of complaints I received during my first semesters at SMU from students who were bitter because my homework assignments were cutting into their sports-related activities - building floats for the homecoming parade, etc.
The Hidden Valley Ashram for SRF men offers swimming, hiking, volley ball, and other sports-related activities. All are encouraged to vigorously participate in these healthy activities for at least 30 minutes each day.
It would be a different story if the students were participating in sports. Yoganandaji's strict rule for ashram residents was 30 minutes of physical activity each day, in addition to the recharging exercises that we practice before each meditation. Regularly he himself would swim or play tennis with the monks. When I visit the Hidden Valley Ashram where young SRF monks often get their first training, I see the volley-ball games and other sports activities every evening. Participating in sports is a wholesome way to live a balanced life. But commercialized-sports watching? In what way does that lead to balanced living?
Ridding the corrupting influence of commercialized sports - although easy in the scholars' programs - would be a tough sell in the skills-based universities. Lacking the abstract reasoning powers so necessary for finding ideas a source of enchantment, most people adore the cute girls in their skimpy clothing who urge the poor brutes on the field to engage in ever greater levels of brutality. Now, that's some fun for you, they say. The Roman gladiators are gone, but the dark-age mentality lingers. It's not the worst sin in the world - even many good meditators still love watching commercialized sports. But here I'm arguing that it should be banned from campus life.
Surely the day will come when the universities are free from the corrupting influence and misplaced priorities of commercialized sports. The dark ages are receding, and will continue to do so. I and the ultra-conservative George Wills do not always agree, but this time his editorial was spot on.
In general, the conservatives also are absolutely right when they demand that individuals start taking more responsibility for their own welfare while relying less on the government. I for one hope that the government programs that give big profits to the for-profit schools will end - and the sooner the better. Their track records are dismal - the majority of their graduates do not find appropriate jobs and are left with government loans that they cannot hope to pay. The new requirement that at least 40% of such schools' grads must be repaying their debts is a step in the right direction; but only 40%? Is that a standard that we find acceptable?
Are all for-profit training programs bad? Of course not. I myself created one for home inspectors and market it to this day. It is not a brisk seller. My ebay listing includes this phrase: "Do you want a training program that will turn you into a home inspector in just a few weeks? This is not such a program." When prospective buyers ask how long it will take them to become a minimally qualified inspector if they take my course, I tell them a year, minimum, unless they already have an in-depth knowledge of houses and their problems.
And there's the rub. Despite glowing unsolicited comments regarding our main textbook from founders of associations of home inspectors and other experts, most inspection students would prefer to pay 10 times as much for a brief training program. A competitor who owned such a training program once bragged to me that he could turn a shoe salesman into an inspector in two weeks.
Once, at a convention of home inspectors, I sat in on one of his classes. I couldn't believe the dumbed-down pablum that he was teaching. Knowing that he was a smart home inspector, I later asked him how he could stomach teaching the material in such an oversimplified way. His answer was frank - that's how you make money in this business. He was right about that - he sold his training business to Kaplan - reportedly for millions of dollars. After the sale, he went into the pornography business.
Having served as an expert witness in court cases involving home inspectors, I can understand why British, German, and other inspectors must train for 15 years or more during their apprenticeship before being allowed to pass himself or herself off as a home inspector. I have personally talked to these inspectors who went through such apprentiship programs, and they know in astonishing detail tables of standards for plastic, for example, that is used in plumbing (standards, by the way, that were published in the U.S.), the model codes that govern building standards, and other minutia that many inspectors in this country don't even know exist.
We really must curb the nonsense of taxpayer money going to worthless for-profit programs. "Out of the fifteen sampled, all were found to have engaged in deceptive practices, improperly promising unrealistically high pay for graduating students, and four engaged in outright fraud, per a GAO report released at a hearing of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee held on August 4, 2010." - Wikipedia. Among the 15 schools were two Kaplan schools.
Do I regret having developed a more rigorous course when my competitor probably made a few million bucks mainly with his two-week program? Of course not - I would not give up my principles for all the millions that he and many others have put into their pockets. My goal never was to make millions.
I didn't yearn after millions of dollars, I yearned for spiritual growth. I just wanted to earn a living and still have many hours per day left over for meditation and service. And it worked out great. For years, our income far exceeded the national average. And since 1995 when I stopped doing home inspections, I mostly have averaged around four hours per week in time spent on the business. Joie spends a little more time on the business than I do, but nothing approaching the usual 40-hours-per-week definition of "full time." Despite years of assigning higher priorities to other pursuits, the business still returns a solid income. The result of our business activity and frugality is that there is no way that we'll run out of money in my lifetime. Nor is such a dismal fate likely to be found in Joie's future. How can I have any complaints? Just because my competitors got a lot more money than I did?
Bill Gates now has dedicated his life to giving away his billions for the upliftment of mankind.
Almost as impressive was his leading 100 of the richest people in the U.S. to take out full-page newspaper ads urging then-president Bush and congress NOT to pass the Bush tax cuts for the rich.
Some say that the government should stop trying to help people, and that those functions should be undertaken solely by volunteers like Mr. Gates or organizations that are financed by donations. But here is my question:
Why should the generous people carry ALL of the load? By definition, they always will do more than their fair share to help solve the world's ills. But should not the selfish be required to carry at least part of the load?
Copyrighted photo released under CC Attribution Share-Alike license by its owner, World Economic Forum.
Nor do I begrudge college drop outs like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs for the billions that they pocketed. Admirably, Mr. Gates has dedicated his life to giving away his fortune for the upliftment of others.
Steve Jobs was a Buddhist who, I have been told, read the Autobiography of a Yogi yearly. Photo protected by CC Attribution license held by Matt Yohe.
And Steve Jobs might have done the same had his life not been cut short. In any case, I am fascinated by Mr. Jobs, for - among other things - he personally called the SRF headquarters to ask permission to put the audio version of Yoganandaji's Autobiography of a Yogi on iTunes. I have been told that Steve Jobs claimed to re-read the Autobiography once each year. A long-time Buddhist, his last word were "Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow." Way to go, Steve.
Despite my sympathy for the conservatives' call for less government, the liberals also are right in urging us to help those who have missed the boat and need help. And government can be without equal when it comes to efficient delivery of help. The efficiency of government can go as high as 97% - as in the case of Social Security. Even taking into account fraud, more than 90% of the Social-Security take gets into the hands of the intended recipients. No nonprofit comes even close to matching that record, and insurance companies only return about 70% of what we pay into them. If you like money and efficiency, you should like such government programs.
In contrast, most nonprofits rely upon commercial
fund raisers for most of their income, especially on telemarkers. "According to a report by the
Attorney General of New York, 592 telemarketing campaigns conducted
during 2003 raised $187.4 million, of which only a third – $63
million, or 33.7% – reached charitable institutions. The Attorney
General published almost identical findings for 2002 (31.1%), 2001
(31.9%), and 2000 (31.5%), and similar findings for previous years
going back to 1994." - The Intermational Journal of Not-for-Profit Law.
New rules from the Federal government have curbed the worst abuses, but
more correction remains to be done, for fund-raising costs still are
far too high relative to the benefits provided, executive salaries are
sky high, and the needy are still underserved.
It's okay to gamble your retirement on stocks and bonds, but will they be there when you need them? Yoganandaji does recommend saving for your retirement - Social Security pays too little for you to depend upon it as a sole source of income. But should you put your savings into stocks and bonds? During times of economic uncertainty, Yoganandaji recommended keeping your savings in cash and government securities.
Moreover, what about those who are too poor to buy stocks and bonds? And those who at a young age suffer a devastating calamity that renders their body unfit to earn a living?
In some countries, such unfortunates are left to die on the streets. I, for one, do not wish to live in such a country. If we choose to underfund Social Security and similar government programs to such an extent that they fail, that is our choice to make. But is it a wise choice?
The U.S.A. is not a spent force. It again can be a great nation. It's a matter of priorities. George Will feels the situation regarding commercialized college sports to be hopeless. But not me. I repeat: The U.S. again can be a great nation. Let us hope that we don't have to wait long to see the day when the priorities of the first president of Cornell again prevail. It is so sad to contemplate all of the resulting suffering from unemployment, poverty, and lost talent that our ignorant choices impose upon us. But we did this to ourselves, and we can correct our errors. Let each of us do our part to see that the needed changes happen. If we fail to do so, the law of karma will arrange for other nations that have not yet ruined their good karma to grow in their endeavors while we fall ever further into misery.
5. Stop spending trillions on counter-productive wars. Before our war in Iraq, that country was ruled by a terrible dictator. Now it is ruled by corrupt rulers that cannot or will not even protect minorities. Under the dictator, Christians felt free to worship without fear of attack. Now, more than half of them - most of whose families had lived in Iraq for centuries - have fled for their lives; and more are hoping that they, too, can join the exodus. This is progress? According to the CIA, we are under greater threat now than before our invasion of Iraq - mainly because we have stirred up so much anti-U.S. sentiment among Muslims. This conclusion of the CIA dates back to at least 2006.
According to the Pope, our invasion of Iraq was not a just war. Our evil war in Iraq has wrought evil fruit by the backlash-inspired explosive growth of Islamic fundamentalism. It is so sad that Christians throughout the region now are paying the price.
Of course, we at home are paying the economic costs of the war. The latest report from the Congressional Budget Office puts the figure of the Iraq war at about $2 trillion, or about $6,300 per person. Independent economists generally have put the figure about a third higher, which would be over $8000 per person. Do you feel that you've gotten thousands of dollars worth of benefit from the war? If we would have treated the terrorism attacks of 9/11 by police action the way the British treated the Irish terrorism of a few decades ago, the outcome surely would have been much better than the disaster that we're stuck with.
Obviously, the evil war in Iraq has not been our only evil war. During the last half of the 20th century, we engaged in some 80 wars, invasions, and battles. Most of them, I would argue, were either pointless or counterproductive. And our out-of-control military spending has sapped our economy. As President Eisenhower warned, ". . .we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist."
But why continue kicking this near-dead horse when it's already down? A large and growing number of citizens in the U.S. now doubt the wisdom of our war in Iraq, and many are beginning to doubt the wisdom of wars in general. I sympathize with their goals, but am concerned that we'll avoid war when war is warranted. I do believe that our involvement in WWII was benevolent. Yoganandaji himself said that the U.S. was earning much good karma during that war, for it pursued the war with no self-interest in national territorial expansion. I would say the same regarding the war in Korea. But I have seen no clear-cut justification for any of our many wars since then. I believe that Eisenhower's worst fears have come true.
Having said that, it certainly is true that the world needs a world policeman - vile rulers such as Stalin, Hitler, and the rest must be dealt with in the future before they cause so much suffering. But it would be better for the U.S. if the U.S. did not try to shoulder that burden alone. During the first decade of the 21st century, the U.S. spending on the military exceeded all of that spent by the other big military spenders combined.
But, as implied above, the risk of excessive militarism isn't just to our pocket book. It also involves our spiritual welfare, for it is too easy for a nation with unchallenged military power to use it when not appropriate. Almost unbelievably, we now have politicians during this election year of 2011 who are openly recommending that we again stoop to torture. Such a thing would have been unthinkable in the U.S. of my youth. Such is the corrosive effect of excessive militarism.
So what should be done? We should tackle the problem of international criminals who maintain power by murdering their own citizens or who destroy peace by threatening their neighbors the same way that crime is fought everywhere.
First, we need a deliberative body that sets laws. Fortunately, we already have such a body in the form of the United Nations. Imperfect though it is, its declarations, freely adopted by its members, fast are becoming recognized as international law. Other international organizations also are in existence which also improve the body of international law.
Second, there must be an international court that has the authority to decide when international laws have been broken. Again we find that international courts do exist, but jurisdictions are fragmented. Worse yet, the U.S. has resisted the formation of a strong international court. As this country has made clear, we do not want our war criminals to be put on trial by an impartial judge and jury - we want to either ignore their crimes or else, when public outrage no longer can be ignored, try them ourselves. The resulting justice is faulty, and promotion of a world standard that everyone should comply with is stymied. This must change if we are to enjoy a further decline in violence and injustice.
Third, we must have a standing international police force at the ready to enforce orders and judgments issued by international courts when financial and other penalties are not working. This is totally missing today, and must be corrected. If enforcement by an international police force were to happen, much of the world's resentment against the U.S. would evaporate.
"This crusade, this war on terrorism is going to take a while" - President Bush, apparently failing to understand why the word "crusade" when used in context with his war against Muslim fundamentalists, might have been unwise; did he really think that the Muslims have forgotten the West's crusades against Muslims?
"According to the same survey, Europeans believe the United States contributes the most to world instability along with Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and North Korea. . ." Why should the U.S. bear the burden of outrage alone? It's difficult to believe that an international police force, used against the dictator of Iraq, would have resulted in such animosity against the U.S.
And obviously, if a standing world police force were established, the financial costs of policing the world would be born by many - not just (mainly) by the U.S. With the U.S. debt now about $12 trillion, a few trillion saved on military expenditures would help a lot.
6. Eliminate all farm subsidies, including ethanol. Giving tax dollars to prosperous corporations in order to improve their profits to grow corn, soybeans, and other commodities is unjustifiable. The subsidies for corn are especially harmful for five reasons:
1. Until recently, most corn was used for animal feed. Feeding food to animals in order to produce food in the form of meat is extraordinarily inefficient. If the food were instead eaten directly by humans instead of by animals, that food would provide between four and seven times the calories and nutrition compared to the payoff that results from eating animals. Moreover, the reduction in meat consumption would improve health, and the amount of fresh water freed for other purposes would increase several fold.
2. Corn used ethanol does little to decrease our consumption of oil from abroad. That's because almost as much oil is used in the growing of corn for fertilizer, conversion of corn into ethanol, transportation of the product, etc., as is displaced at the automobile's tank by the addition of ethanol to the gasoline. Please note that researchers believe that cellulose-based ethanol may soon become economically viable. Cellulose is so much more plentiful than food crops that its use as a biofuel indeed may be justified. But in the meantime, there seems to be no legitimate role for food-based biofuels.
3. Corn is used to produce the near-ubiquitous HFCS (high-fructose corn syrup). HFCS consumption has been linked to a variety of health problems. Like the early research that showed smoking to be a health risk, the research so far has not demonstrated conclusively that HFCS is harmful; but numerous studies seem to suggest that it is.
4. Corn is hard on the soil. "Corn is particularly hard on the soil, requiring plenty of fertilizer, water, and pesticides" - Earth Island Journal.
5. Subsidies distort market prices. For thousands of years, Mexican family farms grew corn and earned enough to survive. Then the opening of Mexican markets to corn that had been partly paid for by U.S. tax payers drove thousands of small family corn farmers out of business. "While corn production has been central to the Mexican economy for centuries, it cannot economically compete with highly subsidized corn produced in the United States" - U. California San Diego journal Prospect. Desparate, many of them turned to drugs in order to make a living. Part of the violence in Mexico stems from the desperation of those who could no longer support their families by growing corn.
Now that we own much of the Mexican market for corn, the recent surge in prices of corn because of its increasing use for ethanol is making life difficult for all poor Mexicans. Perhaps in time, some former farmers will buy land and try to start again. But starting a farm from scratch is a daunting task, and perhaps we'll not see many small family corn farmers in Mexico again for a very long time.
A similar case could be made against most other farm subsidies. Admittedly, the Obama administration has attempted to divert some of the counterproductive subsidies into channels that would would support the growers of fresh fruits and vegetables. But the support of nutritious food is tiny compared to the support given for the production of junk food. And it's likely to stay that way, for the rich corporate farms have far more dollars to spend on lobbyists than do those who grow nutritious foods. Thus it appears that the only way to solve this harmful waste of tax dollars is to eliminate all farm subsidies and the tax dollars that make ethanol so profitable. Fortunately, financial problems in the U.S. government have actually resulted in the killing of some of the worst of these subsidies. But we still have a long road to travel before we reach sanity on these issues.
7. Eliminate wealth disparity. There was a time - back in the dark ages - when the guy with the biggest bicep muscles got the biggest slice of society's pie. In the 11th century, for example, the Duke of Normandy became known as William the Conqueror after the commoner king, King Harold II, was killed when he entered the battlefield at the Battle of Hastings. In those days, a person typically became king - or continued to be king if his kingship had been inherited - by demonstrating his personal physical strength, and those big biceps meant big rewards.
Artist's concept of King Harold II as he was killed. His sword and big biceps had served him well, but not this time. 1911 drawing by unknown artist, copyright expired.
Eventually, the rest of us got fed up with the notion that the guy with big biceps should get such outsized rewards from society. Now when some guy tries to get more than his fair share by exercising his big biceps, we put him in jail instead of making him our king.
But it no longer matters much who has the big biceps. Since the industrial revolution, wealth no longer is a matter of big biceps, but rather is a result big brains. Those young college grads who flooded into Wall-Street banks a few years ago, many of whom made millions of dollars per year, could do so because they genuinely were clever. They were so clever that they devised schemes to divert billions of society's dollars into the pockets of their employers - many of whom really didn't understand the advanced math algorithms that made it happen.
Countless other big brains make big money more legitimately. But the point is that big brains now occupy the space in society that once was occupied by big biceps, and the result is a growing disparity of wealth. As noted at the beginning of this section, the wealthiest 1% of our population has seen its wealth increase by 275% recently, whereas the wealth of the rest of society has increased but little; and the poor are poorer than ever.
The baby of the famous aviator Charles Lindbergh was kidnapped in 1932. Ransom notes demanding a large sum of money followed, but in the end, the baby was murdered.
Reflecting upon this crime, Yoganandaji gave a number of recommendations that were intended to reduce crime. Under his article's sub-heading, " 'Starve' Criminals," he recommended a number of social changes that he claimed would starve the underlying cause of much criminality. Among them was this recommendation: "Let Unreasonable display of wealth be made legalized social and spiritual crime . . ." In other words, it is appropriate that some earn a lot more money than others; it is extravagant consumption that is the crime against righteousness. Billionaires who use their billions to help others are benefactors of mankind. But can one depend upon proper motives of the billionaires? What about those who care not for the plight of the poor?
President Theodore Roosevelt busted up large corporations and promoted union power. While promoting union power probably would be counterproductive in our current world of international competition, we need those of his spirit. What happened to the Republican Party in the meantime? 1903 painting by Sargent, copyright expired.
After an earlier period of extreme disparity of wealth during the early 20th century, the Republican President Theodore Roosevelt broke up the largest corporations, including the huge Standard Oil. Although wealthy himself, he saw the evil of extreme wealth. As he said, "To destroy this invisible Government, to dissolve the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task of the statesmanship of the day." In order to promote the power of unions in government, he established the U.S. Dept. of Commerce and Labor. Thus the balance of power between great wealth and the ordinary people began to change.
His progressive policies also were followed by the mostly Democratic presidents that followed for the next half century. The social reforms enacted during the Great Depression prevented widespread starvation. Finally, the largest public-works project perhaps in the history of mankind - known as WWII - ended the Great Depression virtually overnight. Instead of a huge unemployment problem, we instantly had a huge labor shortage. So much so that the U.S. Government sent recruiters to Mexico to try to lure workers to come to the U.S. under the Bracero program. WWII demonstrated to many that government spending can end even a depression and lift millions out of poverty.
This graph shows the proportion of the total U.S. income that was earned by the top 1%. Notice that the reforms initiated by Teddy Roosevelt and then enhanced by later administrations worked. The rich still were far richer than the average person in the '60s and '70s, but not extravagently so. But with the Reagan revolution of 1980 and the destruction of the earlier reforms, the rich now again are extravagantly richer than the average person. Since 2008 when this graph terminates, the disparity of wealth has contined and perhaps even accelerated. Notice that the time when the middle-class fared best in absolute terms were the decades when the disparity was lowest - the 1950s until the Regan revolution of the 1980s. It has been since the 80s that middle-class incomes have stagnated and the poor have become poorer in absolute terms - not just relative to the top 1% (see details below).
Regarding the rise in homelessness during his administration, Reagan gave his explanation: "In the closing weeks of his presidency, Reagan told the New York Times that the homeless 'make it their own choice for staying out there.' " - Wikipedia. Of course, that is true - for many of the homeless; but for all of the homeless?
Moreover, the same article states that the U.S. Government debt "roughly trippled" as government spending increased greatly (mostly for military purposes) and taxes fell. Because of the huge increase in barrowing, the economy grew - for the short term (anyone can live well when barrowing money hand-over-fist - for a while); but now we're suffering from the "barrow-and-spend" policies that he initiated. Drawing protected by CC Share Alike license owned by Fred the Oyster.
Wealth disparity would not be so bad if the rest of the population were continuing to prosper. And, of course, that was the theory of the politicians who undid the reforms of the early 20th century that made life so much better for most people. According to them, "a rising tide lifts all boats." Their notorious "trickle-down" theory argued that by making the rich even richer, the rest of us would be better off too. Did it turn out that way?
Unfortunately, "Since 1979 the average pre-tax income for the 90% of households (excluding the top 10%, which has seen a huge income increase) has decreased by $900, while that of the top 1% increased by over $700,000, as federal taxation became less progressive." - Wikipedia
Worse yet, the will to replace those often flawed welfare programs with better ones is missing. I noticed the change in direction beginning with the Civil-Rights legislation of the 1960s that leveled the racial playing field - and diminished the disparity of wealth between blacks and whites - when the previously solid-Democratic South became solidly anti-Democratic-Party in its politics when whites rejected the Democratic efforts to level the playing field for blacks (blacks were not allowed to vote in the South back in those days). Many whites, even though they themselves benefited from government programs, were willing to sacrifice those benefits lest some of their own tax dollars go to help those who were even lower on the totem pole under them.
The racial component has been forgotten, but working-class taxpayers still complain that they don't want any of their tax dollars go to help those "welfare bums." With such sentiment giving wind to their sails, it is easy for politicians to make their arguments that the rich need to get richer - however contrary to the facts those arguments may be.
While the motives that support the attitude against "welfare bums" may be off base, the notion of "welfare" merits examination. In general, government programs that give something for nothing are contrary to the law of karma and usually have pernicious outcomes. Probably the worst was the infamous AFDC - Aid to Families with Dependent Children. When first initiated in 1935, most recipients were widows. Given the belief at the time that mothers should stay home with their children, there were no out-of-home work requirements. To the contrary, benefits would be cut in proportion to income earned.
As the program evolved, an increasing number of young single girls received AFDC. Because of the requirement that no man be living in the home, there was a great disincentive for the girls to get married: If they married or otherwise were found to be living with a man, their benefits were cut off. The result was that many children who otherwise might have had the benefit of growing up with a father-figure present were deprived of that benefit.
The impact hit blacks especially hard. The earliest data regarding black families - from the late 1920s - showed that most black children were growing up to age 18 in intact families with both their father and mother present. But by the 1990s, data showed that only a rather small minority of black children lived with their fathers until the age of 18. This dramatic decline in the integrity of black families generally is attributed in large part to the pernicious effects of AFDC policies - so much so that many of the blacks with whom I did research during the 1960s referred to AFDC as the African Family Destruction Conspiracy. It seems clear that this program failed in large part because it did not comply with the law of karma. The law of karma, after all, is a simple statement of a cause-effect relationship: You get what you earn.
At the same time that AFDC began, the government also started the WPA - the Works Progress Administration. Rather more in compliance with the law of karma, it paid unemployed people to work on government projects. Countless bridges, sewer lines, parks, fire stations, and other necessary infrastructure projects were completed. But because efficiency failures could not result in project failure - as would be the case for most businesses that have to compete in order to survive - inefficiency often prevailed. It is this same tendency toward ever lower efficiency that doomed Communism in the U.S.S.R and China to perpetually poor economic performance. As one Polish Communist worker put it, "They pretend to pay us, and we pretend to work."
The progressive NIT (Negative Income Tax) was promoted by the conservative Milton Friedman, the first prominant voice heard in its support. Milton Friedman is the intellectual source of much modern conservative economic thought. Photo protected by CC Attribution license owned by ellenm1.
Although deeply flawed and not one of our best presidents, President Nixon almost was able to pass the progressive NIT; he also established OSHA, the EPA, and other programs that were supported by his Democratic advisor Daniel Patrick Moynihan and that most sensible persons support. Photo in public domain because it is an official governmental (White House) photo.
Daniel Patrick Moynihan, it is said, was able to get support from President Nixon for progressive programs, such as the NIT, partly because Nixon wanted, in exchange, to get the Democrats to support his escalation of the war in Vietnam. Photo in public domain because it is an official work of the U.S. Government.
Probably the best governmental program was the one proposed for the U.S. by the conservative economist, Milton Friedman, promoted by the liberal Democrat Patrick Moynihan, and almost passed by the Republican President Nixon. It is the NIT - the Negative Income Tax. The NIT has the benefit of rewarding work by paying an oversized refund check to those whose income falls below a certain figure in order to ensure that all who work receive enough to live on - and thus is in accord with the law of karma. If combined with a flat tax system, it also would dramatically simplify the tax code - a considerable cause of wasted effort and warped incentives in our current (2011) system. But it also would be a progressive system that would ensure that all people who are willing to work would be guaranteed sufficient income to meet reasonable needs. Perhaps the flat tax is not the way to go, but surely it is no worse than our current system in which the super rich often get so many loopholes that they pay a lower rate than the rest of us.
I must confess that my wife and I have personally benefited from the loopholes, for we have paid no income taxes for decades. But looking past our own benefits, the superiority of a NIT plus a tax system that lets no one, not even the clever, off the hook would greatly benefit the country. I, for one, strongly support such changes - in the interest of the common good even though it would not be personally beneficial.
The NIT would not solve all needs - there still would be a need to deal with those whose bodies or minds are so impaired that they cannot contribute to society; but it would go a long way to solving the basic problem of how the U.S. can again become competitive and we need to be able to create jobs that pay so little that employers can stay in business despite low-paying jobs beyond our borders. And make no mistake: Any person who is able in body and mind must feel that he or she is contributing to the world in order to maintain a proper sense of worth - and this would be promoted by a NIT. Maybe someday it will come to pass. If so, it would go a long way to reduce the current disparity of wealth.
The consequence of the failure of such progressive policies such as the NIT, along with elimination of programs that tutored low-income college students and similar progressive programs, is the great and growing disparity of wealth. Almost unbelievably, some politicians still are urging even greater tax cuts for the rich and even greater benefits given to the powerful corporations that pay their election campaign costs. The total list of changes that we must make to reverse this sad state of affairs far exceeds the scope of this paper, but it is urgent that we get to work on this as a nation. We can start by electing politicians that at least seem to understand the problem and recommend specific reforms. They are difficult to find in either major party, but, when found, they should be supported by our votes. And we must be willing to inform ourselves and to think for ourselves.
Long ago it must have seemed inconceivable that society would ever put in jail someone who used his big biceps to reap big rewards. Likewise it seems impossible to many now that we could limit the rewards reaped by big brains. In all of our reforms, we still must remember that those who are wealthy enjoy their advantage because they created their own good karma - either in this lifetime, or in the past.
And those who are poor - I repeat - are poor because they have not yet fully learned and put into practice God's laws of prosperity, such as diligence, conscientious work habits, willingness to defer immediate gratification in order to obtain future goals, taking into account the common good and the needs of others, and all of the rest of the mindset that is necessary in order to be prosperous. A person who has become prosperous while ignoring the consequence for the common good, nor taking into account the needs of others, is doomed to lose prosperity. That loss may not manifest until the next lifetime, but the clock seems to be speeding up. I myself have seen a number of persons whom I know well go from great prosperity to homelessness. In many cases, I noticed that these people were not following the recommendations that have been made in, say, the Lessons published by Yoganandaji. I never said a word of advice to them, for unsolicited advice rarely is wanted, and even less frequently heeded. In any case, such unsolicited education is the province of the law of karma - it's not part of my job description.
As for traditional solutions, too much socialism is deadly. Just look at the tragic history of China or Russia. Even Sweden, which I once thought might be able to manage a rather socialized economy, is not doing well. Recently I read a translation of an article published in Sweden that claims that, according to some study, the workers in Sweden take off more sick days per year than any other nation in Europe. The article concluded that either the Swedes were the sickest people in Europe, or else they were calling in sick every time they wanted to hang out at home and watch TV or else go hunting or whatever. The obvious implication of the article was that the generous rules regarding sick time were being abused.
But too much capitalism is just as bad as too much Socialism. When Communism fell in Russia, crime flourished as selfish self-interested capitalism took root. A few prospered, but many sank. As psychological depression increased, so did alcoholism and a host of other social ills; and this happened just as the free health-care system was abolished. The result, among other things, has been a decrease in life expectancy. Unlimited capitalism leads to unlimited disparity of wealth and almost unlimited pain. Recently I read that the three countries with the greatest disparity of wealth are Russia, Mexico, and the U.S. I don't know if it is true that we are one of the worst in the world, but our situation is grim by any measure.
Hunger demonstration in Germany after WWII. The U.S. Marshall Plan saved many Germans from starvation. In 1960, the German government issued a stamp in honor of George Marshall, the plan's author. Photo in public domain because it is owned by the Bundes Archive, an agency of the German government.
8. Institute evidence-based drug policies. President Nixon launched his War on Drugs in 1971. The consequence?
"After 40 years, the United States' war on drugs has cost $1 trillion and hundreds of thousands of lives, and for what? Drug use is rampant and violence even more brutal and widespread."
"In the grand scheme, it has not been successful," Kerlikowske told The Associated Press. "Forty years later, the concern about drugs and drug problems is, if anything, magnified, intensified." - FoxNews.com quoting U.S. drug czar Gil Kerlikowske
According to Wikipedia:
"The report said that treatment is the cheapest way to cut drug use, stating that drug treatment is twenty-three times more effective than the supply-side 'war on drugs'."
Alberto Fujimori, president of Peru from 1990–2000, described U.S. foreign drug policy as "failed" on grounds that "for 10 years, there has been a considerable sum invested by the Peruvian government and another sum on the part of the American government, and this has not led to a reduction in the supply of coca leaf offered for sale. Rather, in the 10 years from 1980 to 1990, it grew 10-fold."
". . . the federally-funded Monitoring the Future Survey reports about 85% of high school seniors find marijuana "easy to obtain." That figure has remained virtually unchanged since 1975, never dropping below 82.7% in three decades of national surveys. The Drug Enforcement Administration states that the number of users of marijuana in the U.S. declined between 2000 and 2005, though usage rates remain higher than they were in the 1990s according to the NSDUH.
If, as almost everyone agrees, the war on drugs has been a counterproductive disaster, then what should be done?
The centerpiece of my preferred solution would be to keep most drugs illegal but to at least give the hard drugs out for free to those who already are addicted. In order to get them, addicts would go to a clinic or doctor who would verify the addiction with urine and blood tests. Upon proving an addiction, the addict then would be given permission to get the drug at an approved clinic.
The immediate benefit would be the sudden collapse of the illegal drug cartels, for no free-enterprise empire, not even the powerful and rich cartels, can compete with free. And with no street peddlers to give out free samples in order to addict new victims, fewer new victims would mean a long-term decline in total number of addicts.
In addition, the taxpayer's burden would decline, for the cost of the drug plus the testing and clinics' cost would be but a tiny fraction of the billions currently being spent on military, law enforcement, and incarceration costs.
The benefit to the addicts would be free access to certified pure drugs of known potency, leading to much reduced threat to health or death by accidental overdose. And, obviously, by switching to an effective strategy of drug-reduction policies instead of relying upon ineffective law-enforcement policies, fear of incarceration would become a sad but distant memory.
The benefit to Mexico and other gateway countries to the U.S. market would be an overnight decline in violence. Tens of thousands of lives would thus be saved.
Unfortunately, this policy probably would not work with marijuana. And make no mistake - marijuana use has harmful effects. Sad to say, I myself would take a toke of joints that were always being passed around when I went to grad student parties at SMU - or sometimes even when grad students would drop in at my house and start rolling joints (I never once saw marijuana at the University of Missouri or Ohio State, nor at Tec in Mexico; in fact, I only saw it once I became a faculty member at the Christian-affiliated SMU). The reason for my regret is that marijuana seems to permanently decrease one's ability to concentrate, and the ability to concentrate is the core of one's ability to meditate. Without concentration, attempts to practice even the most powerful meditation techniques are reduced to mere sitting in silence.
Regardless of the effects, use of marijuana is so widespread, and the general public is so skeptical of reports of harmful effects, and so many people want to use it at home and would resist having to go to a clinic in order to use it, that I do not believe that it is politically possible to include it in a program such as the above. Therefore, I reluctantly would support a program of legalization, control, and taxation for use of marijuana under the following conditions:
1. The tax revenue should be used only to treat and to educate against the use of drugs. If the tax revenue were to be used for other governmental purposes, the agencies that benefited from that tax would become themselves addicted to the income and would not wholeheartedly support programs that attempt to reduce the use of marijuana.
2. Tax-free use of medical marijuana be continued along the lines of California's (and other states') medical-marijuana programs. I myself have purchased medical-marijuana extract, which I once (so far) used by rubbing it on the skin over an especially painful area. If desperate, I would place some of it under my tongue. Not only does marijuana work far better and with fewer harmful side-effects compared to the usual drugs prescribed for cancer patients (morphine, which results in constipation, and steroids which result in sleeping problems), but there is some evidence that it may even help fight cancer.
The above measures would not totally eliminate drug use, but if implemented they would dramatically reduce our costs in terms of dollars and lives lost, would reduce our overcrowded prison population by half, and would provide a huge increase in funding for treatment for those who want to be free from slavery to drugs.
Our experience with the prohibition of alcohol may be instructive:
"Prohibition had an impact on the crime rate of America. According to a study taken in 30 US cities, there was a 24 percent increase in crime rate between 1920 and 1921. The rate of arrests on account of drunkenness rose 41 percent, and arrests for drunken driving increased 81 percent. Thefts rose 9 percent, and assault and battery incidents rose 13 percent. Before Prohibition, there had only been 4000 federal convicts, and less than 3000 were housed in federal prisons. By 1932, the number of federal convicts had increased 561 percent and the federal prison population increased by 361 percent. Over 2/3 of all prisoners in 1930 were convicted on alcohol and drug charges.
"As soon as national prohibition took effect, the homicide rate rose to 10 per 100,000, a 78 percent increase over pre-prohibition America. " - Crime Rate, as published by LibraryThinkquest.org
In our society, we are the ones who chose unwise paths, and we can change. Again I repeat, the U.S. again can become that shining liberal example that so generously fed starving Germans and, to a lesser extent, the starving Japanese after WWII, despite the fact that just days before, they fought such a vicious war against us. We also showed that liberal mind set here at home in our domestic policies.
I have read that the phrase "bleeding-heart liberal" stems from the once-popular painting of Jesus that hung on the walls of many working-class homes during my childhood. It showed Jesus pulling open the flesh of his chest to reveal a heart that was dripping blood. That bleeding heart of Jesus - a tender heart that was bleeding because of the pain caused by our sinful ways. In that spirit of Jesus, I am proud to be called a Jesus bleeding-heart liberal. Just listen with an open heart the obvious message in these beautiful words of Jesus:
Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me,
ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
25:42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty,
and ye gave me no drink: 25:43 I was a stranger, and ye took me
not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited
25:44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? 25:45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.
The painting depicts the story of the Good Samaritan, as told by Jesus. Samaritans were a class of people who were despised by most Jews for their unorthodox theology. But in the story as told by Jesus, high-ranking Jews walked past the injured man (implied to be Jewish), while a detested Samaritan provides succor. Now we no longer hate Samaritans - the target for our hate has shifted many times since then. In our own time, such a story would be equivalent to a story of a gay person helping a known member of an anti-gay organization.
The lesson that Jesus sought to convey is that we should love everyone - and help them when the opportunity arises - regardless of their social standing or what they might have done against us and our beliefs. It was this lesson that so beautifully was put into practice by the U.S.A. after WWII when we fed the starving Germans and, to a lesser exten, the Japanese so soon after they fought a vicious war against us. The good karma that we earned won for us the admiration of the world and the friendship of both of these powerful nations. The law of karma again was shown to work: do the right thing and you will be rewarded. Maybe again we should give it a try? Maybe exchange our war budgets for peace budgets in order to help the poverty-stricken Muslims of the Mideast? Photo of stained-glass window protected by CC Share-Alike license owned by Romary.
I bemoan the suffering of the world, and the the suffering of my nation. Once we were powerful, and still we knew how to forgive and to replace hate with love - both at home and abroad. Who could ask for more? I am proud of my super-patriotic past. And I hope the justification for that pride again returns. If the above reforms were initiated, we indeed could cut taxes drastically while providing a better life for the poor.
"When the false prosperity collapses, what will you do? There will be millions unemployed."
Yoganandaji wrote those words in 1940 during the Great Depression, noting that far worse was to come in the future.
"Never before in the history of this land has there been so deep a contrast in living standards as will visit this country - the contrast between riches and poverty."
"Instead of raising taxes and making people feel they cannot succeed in any direction, the government should give incentive to enterprising people who can promote business growth and further progress in other directions, thus creating jobs."
"When the selfishly rich hold onto their wealth and don't want to give the laborer his due, disorder follows. . . . 'The laborer is worthy of his hire,' say the scriptures (Luke 10:7). . . . Those who grow rich in business should share their wealth . . ."
"There is enough money to blanket the world, and enough food to feed the world. Proper distribution is necessary. If men were not selfish, no one would be hungry or needy. Man should concentrate on brotherhood."
"Every able-bodied person should be given work for a wage, rather than be an idle receiver of charity."
If you waste money on luxuries, you will not be spared. Pay cash for everything you buy, and if you don't have the cash, don't buy.
I remember when as a fundamentalist teenager I was sent with a few other teenagers to distribute Christmas hams to the poor. At one black family's house, we gave the mother the ham. But then the door opened and the father threw the ham back at us, exclaiming, "I want a job, not charity"! I felt ashamed that our church had done absolutely nothing to erase the restrictions that made it so difficult for a black person to get a decent job. That was one of the main reasons why I seriously considered converting to Judaism in the 1960s - the Jewish congregation at Temple Imanu-El was the only group in Dallas that was seriously trying to change the unjust system. Elsewhere I've told the story of how my saintly Catholic boss at the grocery store got into hot water when he hired a black man. How shameful that in our country, a store manager could endanger his own career by doing what was right. Thanks goodness those ugly days have passed, but inequality still persists, and grows greater every day. So much more needs to be done.
"In establishing the old-age pension, (Social Security), the United States has taken a laudable step toward giving security to the aged."
"If the politicians who sponsor war were required to go to the front lines to face the enemy, they would not be so quick to advocate war"!
"Adopt high thinking and plain living now. Choose a dwelling place that is adequate, but not larger than you actually need, and if possible in an area where taxes and other living expenses are reasonable. . . . Make your own clothes; can your own food. Grow your own vegetable garden, and if feasible, keep a few chickens to produce eggs."
"Man has to go back to the land; it will come to pass eventually. If you think this isn't so, you will find that you are mistaken. . . . put money aside regularly for greater security."
"Don't be wasteful, for you are going to have to learn to do without. . . . Pay cash for everything you buy. . . . Don't barrow. Keep your assets in cash and government securities."
You are now unemployed yourself? I realize that none of the above provides immediate help for someone in your plight. And I know the horror that unemployment brings. The only really painful period in my life after joining SRF came when I myself was unemployed after they fired my boss, me, and most of the rest of the upper-level management at a children's home where I had worked for two years after my SMU experience. That period of unemployment was terrible. After exhausting all the usual approaches to finding a job - and mostly being told that I was overqualified - I started doing handyman work. A job here, a job there, plus throwing newspapers early in the morning helped make ends meet.
This was the first major renovation project that Joie and I tackled (we already had made some improvements to the old rent house that I had made my own home after the divorce). Although we did add the front porch, we did not rewire this old house nor make some of the other improvements that later I would have made; nevertheless we sold it for a good profit.
But soon doors opened and Joie and I were able to buy an old, run-down house that we could renovate. We did so, and earned a surprisingly good profit. During and after that renovation work, I read every technical book in the downtown-Dallas library about houses - over 100 of them; and countless magazine articles about houses. Eventually, I got my licenses as a plumber, electrician, and Class-A building contractor.
This was the last renewal of my licenses. By this time, I had stopped doing home inspections, and had not renovated any property for more than 12 years.
After a decade of renovating houses, I started doing home inspections, which I entirely enjoyed. Then I started writing books for home inspectors and homeowners and our income soared. A few years after we started selling books, I stopped doing inspections, and developed a video-based training course for inspectors.
Throughout all of these career moves, I had lots of time for meditation every day, and an increasingly good income. For years, I've only been working about 4 hours per week on average, but we still enjoy a surprisingly strong income.
The moral of this story: Don't give up. Try this, try that, try something else. Keep positive. Throughout your efforts, remember to search for ways that will serve others, and include others who are even less fortunate in your circle of concern. In the end, I found something that did not seem demeaning - in contrast to my job as a faculty member - and something that was sufficiently interesting so that I was not bored with my work. And almost from the beginning, it paid more than I earned during my eight years as a faculty member. Life was good indeed.
Everyone is different, but the law of karma is the same for all. Use it. If you do all things now in accord with the law of karma, the future must become better. I wish I could convey all the details for how to achieve prosperity that are taught in the SRF Lessons. But they far exceed the scope of this article. For sure, you'll have better "luck" if you can find your true guru, then follow the guru's instructions, lamb like. It's your choice.
About 800 years ago the Norwegian Norse shared Greenland with the native Inuit tribes. While the Norse were slowly starving, the Inuit were thriving. Why? Specifically, why could the Norse not use their free will to change and become sufficiently like the Inuit so that they might have been able to survive?
According to Jared Diamond, the answer partly was, ". . . and, perhaps most crucial, cultural conservatism." - Wikipedia. Here he is referring to the refusal of the Norse to switch to the mostly seafood diet of the Inuit - they preferred to continue striving after their European diet. They died out as a consequence. His speculation is affirmed by archeologists who, after studing the Norse dung heaps, concluded that indeed they quite possibly starved to death.
Why is it so difficult to change even when we are headed for disaster? Because we don't excercise our free will. Instead, we are slaves to our likes and dislikes. And we call ourselves free? We are no more free than the Jewish people when they were slaves to the "Egyptian" comfort and plenty. Read again the story of the Exodus and this time read it as a story of escape from the bondage of slavery to likes and dislikes. As Yoganandaji says, too many desires ruin all real happiness.
But it's not just our current likes and dislikes that have stolen our free will. Psychologists and others who are familiar with the twins studies argue that much of our behavior is attributable to genes. So, yes; our behavior depends partly upon genes. But why were we attracted to our particular set of genes? Why did we get born to these particular parents?
Yoganandaji says that when the sperm and ovum unite, a magnetic flash goes out into the ether. Then a race begins between souls who again want to live in a body, and the magnetic fit between the total magnetic characteristics of the new zygote and its environment, on the one hand, and magnetic pattern of the souls' karmic characteristics, on the other hand, determines which soul gets that body.
Thus it is that we get the parents and genes and environment that we need to continue our spiritual growth. But there is a price: According to Yoganandaji, at least 70% of the soul's free will is lost the moment it enters the human body. After that, it is governed largely by desires, hatreds, and other karmic influences that result from past-life decisions. Developement of new likes and dislikes in this lifetime further restrict exercise of our free will.
You may think that you have free will. After all, you can choose to take a nap on Sunday afternoon or instead take a walk in the park. But, according to much research, your "choice" is an illusion. That's because before "you" decide, your brain activity already has kicked in to determine your "choice." The notion that you could have done otherwise is an illusion for as long as you are controlled by your brain. And for sure, your brain is the depository of your likes and dislikes - both those that you brought into your genes from your previous lives, as well as - to a lesser extent - the new ones that you have developed more recently - and the destination of the incoming stimuli from the senses. The sum total of all their interactions determines your actions. Only when you still the brain activity so that you can get beyond all that can you say that "you" have free will.
However - as implied above - when environmental influences become powerful, sometimes they can motivate change even against genetic influences. For those who have not yet allowed their behavior to be fully guided by their God-appointed guru nor are yet able to get beyond the brain and connect with Spirit through intuition, the most powerful environmental influences are likely to be those that are painful. Sad but true, few individuals and few societies change very much until they suffer.
who likes to suffer? Wouldn't it be better to be guided by those who
can guide from their foundation of omniscient intuitive wisdom that is
Burning at the stake. Copyright expired.
Spain quickly became the richest nation on earth after it stole Mexico's gold. In 1492, Columbus sailed the oceans blue – for Spain. It also was the year when Spain removed the last vestige of Muslim power from Spain. At last, Spain was in Christian hands. High time to start burning Jews at the stake – which also began in 1492 when Spain got the necessary approval from the Pope. Spain got that permission as the result of Spain's threat to remove troops from Italy. Without Spanish troops, Italy - including Rome - also might be overrun by the Muslims, just like so many other Christian lands had fallen to the Muslims. What could the Pope do but comply with Spain's demand for permission to begin the Spanish Inquisition?
Gandhi on a salt march, 1930. The Mahatma protested the British law that made it illegal to gather sea water in order to collect the salt that remained after evaporation. Salt is a necessary mineral for life, especially for residents in a hot climate, such as prevails in most of India. The law forced poor Indians to purchase salt from the British at prices that they could not afford. Gandhi presided over peaceful protests. "John Court Curry, a British police officer stationed in India, wrote in his memoirs that he felt nausea every time he dealt with [peaceful] Congress demonstrations in 1930." Photo copyright expired after 60 years, according to Indian law, and now is in public domain.
Having seen Spain be so richly rewarded (temporarily) by its vicious policies, the other nations of Europe quickly went down the same path. When England became a dominant power upon humiliating the great Spanish Armada, it eventually took over India - considered to be the jewel in the crown of British imperialism.
Not finding gold to steal, the British stole the people's efforts to survive. They made the spinning wheel illegal so that Indians would have to buy British textiles. They also made it illegal to gather sea water in pans that would leave behind salt as the water evaporated. The British became rich, in part, by exploiting people – much as the Spanish Conquistadores exploited people by stealing their gold.
The French took land from the peasants and created plantations for growing products to be consumed by the industrialized nations, such as these bananas growing today in Vietnam. Photo protected by CC Attribution license held by mckaysavage.
Among other nations exploited by France, Vietnamese land was taken from peasants and turned into plantations for rubber and other products consumed by the industrialized nations. This exploitation ended only with the total defeat of the French by the Vietnamese at the battle of Dien Bien Phu in 1954.
Sadly, the U.S. then tried to impose its own brand of imperialism on the Vietnamese when we fought to put in power the hated dictator, Ngo Dinh Diem, that we had chosen for them. As a Catholic, certainly he was respected by the Christian Vietnamese minority. But CBS polls at the time found that even in the areas of Vietnam where the dictator's support was greatest, about two out of three respondents said they would prefer being ruled by the "enemy" ruler, Ho Chi Minh. Please keep in mind: These strong sentiments against the dictator came from the areas of Vietnam where his support was strongest!
It should be noted that President Roosevelt had sent arms to help Ho Chi Minh during WWII, knowing that those arms threatened the French as well as the Japanese (Roosevelt supported the policy of self-determination). Unfortunately, President Truman betrayed Ho Chi Minh and the great Vietnamese majority who supported him after the war in order to appease the French: The French wanted to resume exploiting Vietnam - now that the Japanese had been driven out.
I am not here defending Ho Chi Minh. He proved himself to be a terrible dictator. But that's another story. What I am saying is that by the time it was over, millions of lives were lost in our attempt to keep our chosen dictator in power, and millions more suffered; and the payoff was? How in the world could we have believed that we would further the cause of democracy in its struggle against Communism by betraying the legitimate desires of the great majority of the Vietnamese people for self-determination? At that time, world opinion was solidly against us. We have never fully recovered the respect and influence that we enjoyed prior to our misadventure in Vietnam. Generally, exploitation for purposes of economic gain or for geo-political power does not pay - at least not in the long run. There really is a law of karma, don't you know?
Mill children in the U.S. Notice the unguarded belt. My father's cousin lost an arm in such a belt (OSHA regulations prevent such tragedies today). Photo date is 1909 - copyright expired.
Exploitation became the theme of the Industrial Revolution. Even during the 20th century people were shamelessly exploited to bring wealth to the new rich factory owners. Children were shackled to their machines and forced to work long days, sometimes every day of the week with no time off. Even adult laboring men and women were exploited.
Suffragettes, unions, and other social movements of the 20th Century ameliorated that exploitation. Working-class people became “middle class.” Assembly-line workers in Detroit earned more than college professors. There was no self-restraint, just as there had been no self-restraint among the oil- and railroad-barons of the 19th Century.
Our Harmony Hollow home. Just above the split in the road, our upper acreage had almost no soil.
The exploitation mind set also was seen in the treatment of Mother Nature. When Joie and I bought our acreage in Virginia, old timers told us that our high portion had once been the site of an orchard. Now it was just a pile of rocks. In some places not even trees could grow and the stones were totally bare. I read that Virginia had lost more than 90% of its topsoil. Exploitation takes its toll.
My conservative uncle, 1944(?), WWII. Photo probably shot in the Phillipines. He couldn't change and he lost the farm, shortly before a stroke took his life in the late 1950s. Photo by anonymous photographer.
My working-class uncle got a farm with a VA loan when he left the Army after WWII. Each spring, dad and I would travel to South Missouri in order to help him remove the rocks from the fields so that planting could begin.
This photo, shot near the location of my uncle's farm, shows the hilly terrain. Fortunately, the owner of this land does not appear to have cultivated the hillside. Photo protected by CC Attribution license held by mrwynd.
After maybe the third year of this, I asked him, “What happened? We clear out all the rocks from the fields every year, but they keep coming back.”
He explained, “The rocks always were there, hidden under the soil. The winter rains wash away the soil, exposing the rocks.”
I looked at his hilly fields, with the rows plowed straight down the slopes. I asked, “Then why don't you use contour plowing”?
He chuckled. “Probably would help,” he admitted. “But that's not how I was brought up. I plow straight, and the straighter, the better.”
Spoken as a true working-class conservative. He couldn't change to meet the current need. He lost his farm.
My conservative uncle on his beloved farm during happier days in the late 1940s or 1950s.
And whose fault is it? Is he going to blame Jewish bankers who charged interest on his loan? Blacks, who would farm for even less income? Most likely, not himself for not adapting to the need. President Reagan promised that he would not cut off help to the "undeserving poor." Where are these undeserving poor? They do not exist. Our behavior creates our karma, either recently, or in a past life. Still, the poor are God's beloved children. If we are strong, it is our privilege and duty to help them.
My uncle moved back to the city, where again dad got him a good job as a helper in a school - just like after WWII. Back then, he met his wife - a school teacher - while sweeping floors in her classroom after the kids had gone home.
But now, having lost his beloved farm, suddenly he died within a year or so when a massive stroke hit him. I was with his family just minutes after he died. His widow wailed, "10 years! We had just 10 years together"! How sad is this story? I was all-too aware of my uncle's weaknesses, but I really loved my uncle. Sometimes it really hurts to see the law of karma at work in the world.
Karma lessons from Europe
In grand Teutonic tradition, Germany had saved during the boom years. They had money. Why should they now be asked to bail out the profligates? But they bellied up to the task, putting themselves on the hook by guarantying 300 billion in loans (as I write). Their total tax intake for last year (2010) was only 240 billion – and that's with their high tax rate. Their export economy still is booming with a low unemployment rate, and their marvelous safety net still unimpaired. But for how much longer? Even with German frugality and productivity, Germany's population of only 82 million people (roughly a fourth that of the U.S.) cannot bail out all of the debtor states of Europe.
The spenders' banks cannot collect on their bad loans. No one wants to reward the banks that made all those risky loans. Why should the banks get to keep all their profits when times are good, but ask for taxpayer help when they make colossal blunders? But if those banks fail, countless others will fail. Even in Germany. With so many lost banks, who will keep the economies supplied with money? The world economy could collapse. Every economist feels that the banks must be saved. But how?
No informed person really believes that this patch provided by the rich Europeans can hold. The current belt-tightening in Greece - required as a condition for help from Germany and the others - has choked the Greek economy. When the government expenditures go down because of cuts to social services, spending by Greek citizens who were dependent upon the government goes down. Will additional drastic cuts in social services save Greece? Their austerity-induced additional decline in GDP has made it ever more unlikely that they'll ever pay their debts with this strategy.
And how much more can Germany afford without endangering its own credit rating? And where would the political will come from to persuade the fed-up Germans to give even more? Let us hope that at least Italy can fix it's own problems - it's need is so much greater than Greece's that the entire EU currency countries combined could not bail them out. But Italy's problems result from the loans given to its unproductive South where the people nevertheless want that high-quality lifestyle enjoyed by their northern neighbors - northern Italy is highly productive and does not burden the country with debt. A reorganization of Italy's government spending can still save the day.
The Europeans have gone to China for help. However, the Chinese believe that Europe must reform rather than try to cover its inherent structural defects with patches. And even the booming Chinese economy is starting to slow. At the same time, they are confronted with ever-increasing demands from their people for a greater share of China's wealth. One must remember that although China has the second largest economy in the world, the per-capita income is very low. Poor villages in China are populated with peasants that may earn no more than $150 U.S. dollars per year. And with the elimination of most government help, such as the barefoot doctors that previously cared for the ill during the days of Communism, the inhabitants of the thousands of poor villages are hurting - and demanding a bigger slice of the pie. Caught in this vise, China is sitting this one out.
China also is politically unstable. Before they stopped releasing the numbers, China was experiencing thousands of mini-revolts (about 70,000), often violent, every year. What happens if China has another of its predictable revolutions? They have happened so often during their long history. Without their dynamic economy – now the second largest in the world and still growing at a fast pace - what happens to the European economy if a charismatic Mao-like demagogue arises to channel all that discontent into another revolution? Indeed, what would happen to the world economy?
Many economists believe that some debtor nations must leave the Euro, or all of Europe will fail. This seems quite likely to happen now that Germany is demanding strict safeguards with strong penalties for those nations that barrow too much (and often lied about violating Eurozone rules in the past). The economic catastrophe that follows either outcome surely will be terrible. The global economy could implode. The U.S. could go far into a depression, the likes of which we perhaps have never seen. Even during the Great Depression, the unemployment rate was only about 25%. Is worse coming?
While the Eurozone could trigger a global economic collapse, the possibility that Japan might fall is an even greater concern. As of 2011, the Japanese government owes more than twice its GDP in debt - more than twice the ratio of the U.S. Worse yet, its population is old and getting older - young people simply are not willing to have enough children to keep the population stable, and its outstanding health care system keeps adults alive longer than any other nation (actually, about tied with France for #1 in the world).
If creativity peaks during the teen years, then it follows that Japan's total creative pool is shrinking as its population declines and moves toward senility. Moreover, having so many additional older unproductive people puts an increasing burden on government charged with caring for them while at the same time suffering from declining tax receipts. The bottom line is that the future looks bleak indeed for Japan unless it starts to allow more foreigners to move into this infamously xenophobic country. Where's the solution? If the Japanese economy should collapse, the impact on the world economy would be catastrophic, for its economy is the third largest in the world.
For the sake of all of us, let us hope that my concerns are unfounded.
Will we change?
This transition from the Kali Yuga to the Dwapara Yuga indeed is difficult, but necessary. Just as William the Conqueror was obliged to kill countless people when rebellious nobles challenged his rule, he succeeded in creating the first modern nation state (according to some historians, because it was by means of William's Norman Conquest that Wales was first incorporated into the rest of the English state). This, at a time when the rest of Europe was governed by some 1,500 sovereigns, each with shifting loyalties, resulting in constant warfare. If a sovereign didn't constantly try to expand his power by warfare, he would be perceived by other sovereigns as weak. Soon, a coalition against him would be formed and he would be doomed. Peace had no chance. At least in the new nation state founded by the Conqueror, peace had a chance for the majority of Englishmen.
William the Conquerer was born here in this French castle in Normandy, probably in 1027 or 1028. Photo released into public domain by owner, Ollamh, imposing no restrictions.
I've read a good bit about the Conqueror, mostly books written by British historians. I gather that you'll be hard pressed to find one who doubts that the Norman Conquest was beneficial for Great Britain – and Europe – even the world.
King Philip II of Spain sent the great Spanish Armada to England, intent on driving from power the heretic Protestant, Queen Elizabeth. It didn't work out that way. The Armada lost, and more than a third of his ships failed to make it back home to Spain. This 16th-century painting by an unknown painter shows the queen with her hand triumphantly on the globe with a painting of sailing ships near her right shoulder. Eventually, England would rule the waves during the peaceful Pax Britannica. Painting copyright expired.
The relative peace and regime stability of England during the Middle Ages resulted in British supremacy during the 19th Century. Their model of nationhood swept the world, much to the benefit of all. Late in the 19th century, even the conservative Germanic tribes united under Bismark to form the modern nation state of Germany.
Bismark unified the various political divisions of Germany, turning it into a modern nation state late in the 19th century. Photo copyright expired.
Eventually, the great nations of Europe saw the fallacy of unlimited national sovereignty. After the two world wars of the first half of the 20th century, they gave up some of that sovereignty in order to form the European Union. The wars that plagued Europe for so many centuries ceased.
(Violence has decreased with the arrival of the Dwapara Yuga. Perhaps this was first documented in detail in Payne's 2004 book, A History of Force. Now we also have Winning the War on War, Twilight of the Nation State, and The Better Angels of our Nature: Why Violence has Declined. No doubt there are others that I have missed, for it is becoming obvious to many historians and other observers that there is a worldwide decline in violence. And the decline has been dramatic. For example, about six centuries ago the homocide rate in the town of Oxford, England, was around 110 per 100,000 citizens per year. In contrast, today the homocide rate in the hugely more populous London is less than 1 per 100,000 citizens per year. This represents a decrease in violence of more than 100 to 1!
Even warfare now claims fewer victims. The horrible wars of the 20th century claimed only about 3% of the population, according to the author of The Better Angels book. In contrast, wars during the dark ages claimed about 15% of the population.
Paramahansa Yoganandaji. Photo copyright by SRF; used here under fair use doctrine for non-profit work.
Yoganandaji says that further consolidation and distribution of sovereign power is coming - with the prospect of further declines in violence and improved prosperity for all. He hopes that the U.S. and India will join together to form the basis of a world government in which both material and spiritual prosperity are respected. Is it coming? The result of the current turmoil, with decaying institutions, stultifying national boundaries, will bring – what? The Dwapara Yuga is bringing us a much better life. I hope I enjoy it next time.
The politicians ordered that there be no more special last meals. Understandable, for the murderer was a white supremacist who, with his friend, had stopped to pick up a hitchhiker. The hitch-hiker turn out out be black. They chained him to the bumper of their truck and dragged the man until some of his limbs fell to the side of the road. This murderer wasn't a nice guy. But a prison cook who had cooked hundreds of meals for condemned prisoners gave his verdict: the elimination of last meals was "heartless." I agree; shouldn't our decisions be guided by higher motives?
A few days before, Georgia executed a black man who was believed by many around the world to be innocent. Seven of the nine accusers withdrew their accusations, and there was no physical evidence in support of his conviction. No matter, this was Georgia and a new trial was denied.
Is the death penalty a wise penalty? The Lord says, “Vengeance is mine” - Romans 12:19. Yoganandaji says that even a murderer is God's beloved child. While he lives, he still has a chance of redemption. Only God, he says, gives life, and only God has a right to take it. Old beliefs, such as the efficacy of violent solutions to problems – much like my parents' belief that beatings would fix my bed-wetting – are part of the Kali Yuga thinking. They must change as we move into the Dwapara Yuga. An increasing number of prison wardens agree and are speaking against the death penalty, including Donald Cabana who was a death-row warden in Mississippi.
The U.S. executes more prisoners that any other liberal democracy. At present, the legal taking of human life is confined mostly to the Southern states, with about half of all executions taking place in Oklahoma, Texas, and Virginia. But use of the death penalty is declining even in the U.S. As of 2011, 16 states have abolished it altogether, and a number of other states have not used it in recent years.
Worldwide, the death penalty is dying with a few notable exceptions such as Iran and China. Neighboring India, with its huge population, has all but abolished the death penalty. Who says we are not entering a new age?
The terrible law of karma continues to bring change
Yoganandaji says that Christ pervades every one of us and every speck of matter and pervades all empty space. It's not just the physicists who precipitate a particle out of a wave function by an act of consciousness. Every one of us does that. All is connected.
Consequently, says Yoganandaji, our thoughts - and their accompanying behavior - affect the very earth we walk on. When negative thoughts prevail, great storms, terrible droughts, earthquakes – even volcanoes – are Mother Nature's response. Belief in the efficacy of violence, hatred, exploitation of people and the earth . . . Noah's flood (which probably really happened - but you can disregard the improbable claims of the young-earth proponents) resulted from evil behavior, the factory of which always is the mind. Thoughts are things that affect other things. All is connected. Again please note: The physicists who conducted the EPR experiments and found faulty Einstein's assertion that “I believe the moon is still there even when no one is looking” are being vindicated by excellent experiments in physics.
How misguided are those who continue to believe in the American ideal of rugged individualism. We are one, and there is only one here: Only God truly exists and we are but splinters of God. Yes, of course, each person must be responsible for the bad or good karma of his or her deeds. All poverty is the result of prior failure to obey one or another of God's laws for prosperous living. As is says in Galatians 6:7, ". . . as a man soweth, so shall he also reap."
But a wise strong person helps the weak. It's not just, but it is the duty of the strong, and a duty that the wise among them embrace. All who are involved benefit, especially those strong. Their karma improves. When the strong embrace their role, that society is strengthened.
The appropriate roles of the weak and the strong
Those who were full of restless creative energy were assigned to the Rajasic caste. They were groomed to serve others as administrators, rulers, kings, artists, and entrepreneurs.
Arjuna, shown here before Lord Shiva, was the great warrior of the Gita. Painting by Raja Ravi Varma, 1846-1908, is in public domain because copyright has expired.
The kids who showed exceptional loyalty and courage were assigned to the warriors' Kshatriya caste. They served others by defending them – even putting their own lives at risk. The warrior profession is a noble one indeed, for sometimes violence is called for. Would any informed person prefer to have seen victory by Hitler in Germany and the militarists in Japan?
The few who were most spiritual were groomed to serve in the Brahma caste. They served as gurus to generals, great business leaders, and others who were beneath them.
Society was seen as an organic whole, with each part duty-bound to serve all the others. That day will return.
Why we forgot the lessons of the golden age and are having to learn again
Plato deplored the spread of writing. Image copyright expired.
As the Kali Yuga progressed and the mental faculty of memory declined, people invented writing. Plato, for one, deplored the invention of writing – on the grounds that it hastened the further decline of memory.
Sri Yukteswar. Copyright by SRF; used here under fair-use doctrine in a noncommercial publication.
As omniscience was lost with the earlier passing of the golden Satya Yuga and the world plunged down into the Treta Yuga, no doubt some Platonic figure deplored the substitution of memory for the omniscience of direct knowledge – just as much as the few scholars of 500 A.D. no doubt deplored the loss of literacy. But, as Sri Yukteswar says, the change of yugas cannot be stayed (except by love).
now that the additional prana
is being experienced as enhanced ability
to think abstractly, we are learning again the lessons that have been
forgotten. Easy or not, we are transitioning to a better age.
In 2011, for example, the Catholic church made a small but
significant change to its mass. For a long time, the priest said, "The
Lord be with you," and parishoners would respond with "And with you."
No longer. Now the revised response shall be, "And with your spirit."
Obviously, this is much closer to the teachings of the Great Ones who
have long proclaimed that we are not these bodies, nor these minds, but
rather each one of us is the unblemished individualized spirit, forever
one with God.
Each church will find its own justification for such changes, sometimes
on target, sometimes a little off key. But regardless of their
justification, the materialism
of the past is rapidly being replace by the new, non-material
understanding that is inevitable as we move into the Dwapara Yuga.
In addition to the law of karma, great souls are helping with the transition
We're trying to transition into the Dwapara Yuga. The transition is disruptive. Even some of the late gains of the Kali Yuga are in temporary decline during this painful transition time - at least in Western democracies.
When I worked in the grocery store at the check-out counter, some customers found that they had forgotten their checkbook. Long before plastic payments were possible, what to do?
One of the stores where I tore scraps of paper in order to make checks. Photo shot while home on leave, Aug., 1958 (on my way to Korea).
No problem. I tore off a corner of a grocery bag and told them to write out a check on the scrap of paper. And if they couldn't remember the name of their bank? No problem. I instructed them to write their phone number on the scrap of paper. That way, the head checker could call them if they forgot to call in the name of their bank.
The head checker finally complained: I wasn't tearing the scraps neatly. I reformed, and tore a scrap that resembled the size and shape of a check so that she could include it every night under the rubber band that bundled the day's checks.
When paper bags got expensive – three cents each! - she went to the printers and had cut and glued a little pad of check-shaped paper. “Use these,” she instructed, as she tossed the pad to me when I came to work one day.
None of my checks ever bounced. Middle-class white cheats did shoplift (generally, blacks did not dare come to our "white" store, so all the cheats were white); sometimes I'd ask to look closely, in my own hands, at the thick magazine that a lady might be holding too tightly to her bosom. She'd look embarrassed as the slab of bacon slip out. Same for those who tried to wheel out the bacon-in-magazine resting on the bottom rails of the grocery cart.
But most people were honest. Loyalty and trust prevailed. The dramatic decline in trust in this nation, documented by researchers over the last 60 years, perhaps is the most frightening of all the trends that I have seen. (Trust is a good predictor of a nation's economic performance; at present, trust in China and in India - two growing economies - exceeds that of the U.S., a stagnant economy.) Loyalty no doubt also has followed the same decline – albeit without such extensive documentation. Are we a civilization in decline? The old must die before the new can be born.
Judas betrayed Lord Jesus. He was a high soul who probably could have achieved full realization in that lifetime if he could have been loyal. The very definition of tragedy, for loyalty is one of the most important virtues for achieving union with God.
Instead, he suffered many lives throughout the dark ages. Finally, he achieved his final emancipation from imprisonment in this world during the 20th century – says Yoganandaji. As I recall, God assigned another guru to guide him after he broke the bond of the guru-disciple relationship by his disloyalty to Lord Jesus. Thank goodness for reincarnation – we all get another chance. Even the disloyal. But why do we wait so long? And what will become of our nation now that loyalty and trust are in such decline?
William the Conqueror, probably painted around 1620 by unknown painter (centuries after the Conqueror was gone). Copyright expired.
The great William the Conqueror also came back in the 20th Century. This time as a fully-realized guru in India. Apparently he already had been a fully-realized being even when he served mankind as the Conqueror. During that lifetime, he helped the Pope establish the celibate priesthood (at the time, any prosperous man could become a priest in exchange for payment; a title of bishop cost more - the practice was called Simony). He also is believed by historians to always have been faithful to his wife – a rarity in those dark days when loyalty was given little more than lip service. These are but a few of his accomplishments during his days during the dark ages.
I am told that when he came this time, he brought with him many loyal friends and some family members to help establish his important spiritual work. Included among them was at least one child, and his beloved wife and his mother from his days as the Conqueror. Their task? Setting the stage for the Dwapara Yuga, just as he had set the pattern for the nation-state back in the dark ages of the Kali Yuga. He is a great avatar who has often responded to God's request to return to help struggling humans find their way back home.
Fully-realized gurus are not perfect while in the body. God asks them, "Are you ready to temporarily forget your status as one who is one with all, to go back into delusion believing that you are an individual, separated from Me and all of My creation"?
When the fully-realized servent humbly agrees, the servent comes back with delusion intact. The great ones say that even the atoms of the body could not be held in place without taking on karma. It is karma-producing desire that binds together the atoms.
That karma taken by an avatar comes from his disciples. When the Conqueror came back with family and friends as helpers, many - perhaps most - of those high souls became fully realized themselves during that lifetime. They did this mainly by God's grace, the guru's help, and their own efforts; but having the guru directly take some of their karma helped. And the example set by the guru as he or she recapitulates previous spiritual achievements - by showing others how to go from delusion to freedom - shows the path back to God for millions.
Lord Jesus did the best that he could. A true avatar, no doubt his best was the best that could possibly have been done. But it was a tough sell - especially that business of the Holy Trinity. Quote: "The fiercely monotheistic Jews rejected the idea of the Trinity since it first arose, it has been similarly rejected by Islam since that religion was founded . . ." Why?
Archaeological digs have found "kitchen gods" in the Jewish homes prior to - but not after - the destruction of the first Jewish temple and exile as slaves in Babylon. Jewish thinkers ascribed that disaster to idolatry. No doubt, those peers of Jesus were thinking, "This guy is going to get us cast again into slavery with his three-god concept. We better get rid of him for the welfare of all Jews." And so they conspired to find a way to kill Jesus.
Since then, Jewish scholars consistently have denied that there is any whiff of the trinity doctrine in the Old Testament (even though some Christians have tried to force-fit some Old-Testament verses into the trinity mold). So if the doctrine of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost is a new teaching from Lord Jesus (and certainly, it was seen as new by his contemporaries), where did it come from?
Lord Jesus spent his lost years mostly in Tibet - where he studied with Buddhists, and some in India - where he studied with Hindus. Appropriately, his teaching of the trinity seems to be a translation of the ancient Sanskrit doctrine of Sat, Tat, and Aum. In that doctrine, the metaphorically male God the Father metaphorically impregnates the metaphorically feminine ghost-like vibration, Aum (St. John's "Great Amen," the precursor of Mother Nature); and the sole offspring of that union between the Father and the Holy Ghost is the only begotten son, Christ - Tat, or more precisely, Christ Consciousness - Kutastha Chaitanya, in Sanskrit.
The Kutastha Chaitanya (Christ Consciousness) in the human body is experienced primarily at the 6th chakra (Sta. Teresa's 6th "mansion"), whereas God the Father is at the 7th chakra (Sta. Teresa's 7th "mansion"). That's why Jesus said that no man can go to the Father except through the Son, Christ - you can't get to the 7th chakra save by first going through the 6th. Lacking the abstract thinking ability that was the hallmark of the dark ages, almost no one understood the meaning of the words of Jesus. So they killed him. Painting copyrighted by SRF; used here under "fair use" doctrine for non-profit work.
When Jesus cried out in his momentary delusion, "My God, why hast thou forsaken me" (Matthew 27:46; see also The Second Coming of Christ, pp 1483-1487) his momentary slip back into delusion was evident. Although this passage makes clear that Jesus was not God (how could he ask God how he could forsake him if he were God? Jesus was human), Jesus was one with his Father - a perfect father who never would forsake him. Following his crucifiction, he re-achieved his full realization. He could do that because he no longer needed any karma in order to hold together atoms in his body. Decay of his body began. Such is God's plan for all of us. Unlike us, however, Lord Jesus re-created his body three days later. But the point is that before Jesus left the body, he still could slip back into delusion - if only for a moment; he was not always perfect until after he left the body.
If you think Yoganandaji was perfect while in the body, read his Autobiography. Better yet, read Mejda, the tribute to Yoganandaji which was written by his brother. In that book you'll see that Yoganandaji sometimes could be a very naughty little boy.
But when darkness prevails, God sends an avatar to bring light. Like Lord Jesus, Yoganandaji's return to full realization shows how all humans can return to God. His small limitations during childhood make it possible for us mere humans to relate to his struggles.
Even in Communist Cuba. SRF was the first religious program allowed back (a close associate of Fidel had read the Autobiography and became enthralled with it).
In East Germany, a lady under the then-Communist government moved into an apartment and found a picture on the wall. She intended to trash it, but never got around to it. Soon she felt strangely attracted to the Indian in the picture. Then she was taught how to practice Kriya Yoga by means of her intuition, like me (believe me, there is nothing special about me getting initiated by the great guru working through intuition). After the fall of the Berlin wall, SRF monks visited and she learned that the Indian in the picture was none other that Yoganandaji. The truth and power of Yoganandaji's mission cannot be suppressed; even the Communists were powerless before him.
Yoganandaji and other fully-enlightened beings are leading us. The Dwapara Yuga will see a flood of kriyabans.
How it works - the blurring of boundaries
The transition to the Dwapara Yuga is difficult, but the patterns for the Dwapara Yuga are being deployed. Old boundaries blur, then fail. During the Kali Yuga, the 1500 sovereignties become the nation states based on the pattern set by the Conqueror. Old boundaries blur again as the nation states become the European Union.
Jimmie Rogers, considered to be the founder of modern country music. Photo copyright expired.
The great Jimmie Rogers - acclaimed as the founder of modern country music - joins with the great Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong - acclaimed as one of the founders of jazz - to make a recording. Old boundaries between races blur as the Southern white hillbilly singer sings and picks his guitar and the black jazz man toots his horn. The boundaries between musical genres blur as country and jazz form a union. More recently, the Buddhist blue-grass musician, Peter Rowan, records gospel music. God's plan cannot fail. The gurus are on the case. The Dwapara Yuga is not an especially high yuga, but it sure beats the hostile fragmentation of the dark ages. The boundaries must blur and the fragments must form a grander union. Will we see a United States of the World founded on the principles of the nation-states of the old U.S. and ancient India? Life on earth is going to be better than it has been for a very long time. Not heavenly great, but better. Thank God!
God gave his terrible creative force of repulsion, the Satanic Maya, the power to create the illusion of division out of His indivisible oneness (in reality, only God exists). Then God gave the command, "Let there be light."
NASA's WMAP satellite is improving our knowledge of the bang. The blinding flash of the bang now has cooled so much that the hot, short, wavelengths have become the relatively long wavelengths of the microwave background radiation. Drawing released into public domain by NASA.
Upon command, Satan used his force of repulsion to eject the illusory pieces of the indivisible into the void. The fireball of photons expanded at the speed of light, carving empty space out of the void. As it ballooned, the fury of its repulsive force was stretched over an ever greater volume as the balloon expanded at the speed of light.
Almost instantly it reached the size of a pea. Is that when the all-pervading superior attractive force ever present as the physical forces of attraction first overcame the force of repulsion?
No matter. The illusory divisions hidden within the simplicity of the fireball that separated quark from quark blurred, finally to be obliterated as the first successful gluon melded together the first set of quarks to become the first viable protons and neutrons. (research published in 2011 indicates that the temperature of the fireball when this first occurred was around 2 trillion degrees Kelvin.) More followed; many, many more.
As the balloon grew, the frenzied dance of photons slowed further. The explosive energy of repulsion stretched ever more thin and hidden boundaries blurred, then failed, as the electromagnetic force pulled the first electron into orbit around the first proton to successfully form the first atom. Hydrogen atom followed upon hydrogen atom, until the fireball was filled with them. The simplicity of the fireball became more complex as evolution began.
As the fireball expanded and experienced additional cooling (because the same amount of heat now was spread over a still-greater volume), illusory boundaries blurred, then were overcome as God's attractive power of love in His aspect as Christ ever present in the form of gravity pulled the hydrogen atoms into lumps. Further cooling added helium, as a second proton and electron created the first complex atom. Other complex atoms followed as entropy increased.
Christ's plan for creation continued to evolve, right on schedule. Christ Consciousness, eminent within all of creation, guides the Word, the Holy-Ghost Aum vibration so that evolution proceeds according to plan.
Stars are forming in this nebula. Photo released into public domain by NASA and ESA.
As the lumps pulled themselves together into a smaller volume, the temperature within the lumps began to rise even as the fireball cooled. Fusion of the atoms began within the lumps, now hot and under the intense pressure of gravity. The lumps became stars.
Deep in the bowels of the stars, the attractive force of intense gravity formed a womb of super-intense temperature and pressure. Boundaries blurred, then failed, as the first carbon atom was created. The first building block of life had arrived. Silicon, the building block of planets, also was created in the huge star's womb, along with all the other heavy atoms.
Millions of years later, the huge star became old and unstable. When it exploded, the precious contents of its womb spewed out into empty space. Other huge stars did the same.
Rather similar to the evolution of stars, the attractive force of Christ love in the form of gravity drew these heavy atoms into clumps. The clumps became planets. God in His aspect of Christ (the Sanskrit Tat) slept in the particles (the product of Aum's Mother Nature) that composed the planets.
After untold millions of years, God's ever-present consciousness sleeping within every particle that composed the planets began to dream the dream of life as boundaries blurred, then failed, as the minerals combined to form the first micro-organism.
Christ's unstayable plan of evolution now formed ever-new varieties of life. Old boundaries blurred, then failed, and God's love pulled together the micro-organisms into plants. And then animals, and God began to awake to become aware from within His new universe.
The Greeks' askelopios (a.k.a asclepios or asclepius) is an appropriate symbol for healing, for it is based on the ancient seers' perception of the ida and pingala energy channels winding around the sushumna. When Jesus referred to Moses raising the serpent in the wilderness, the "wilderness" refers to the emptiness of meditation where no weed thoughts grow to intrude upon the intuition.
The "serpent" refers to serpentine route of the prana during the practice of Kriya Yoga (or similar technique) as it travels up and down through the spiral ida and pingala channels, the energy rotating over and over around the sushumna in the core of the spine.
"Raising" refers to the magnetization of the spine which eventually draws the consciousness into its straight sushumna channel (the once-serpent-bound consciousness, now freed, becomes the straight rod or "staff" of Moses in the straight sushumna), through which the deeply meditating devotee raises the consciousness up through the energy centers of the spine (where the Christ energy is especially focused, but imprisoned by our desires) at the points of intersection of the ida and pingala energy channels (the energy centers being the "stones of fire"of Ezekiel [see Ezekiel 28:14-16], known in India as the chakras) until it reaches the five-pointed star of the spiritual eye between the physical eyes.
The energy having been withdrawn from the lower chakras, which feed prana ("chi," or "qi" as it is known in the Far East), the energy-deprived breath, heartbeat, and other functions now have ceased. Nor are they needed, for the digestive and other functions also have ceased, and the blood no longer needs to be cleansed of the resulting impurities by breathing.
Now in the breathless state, with no intruding thoughts to pull the devotee back into limited bodily consciousness, then the devotee plunges the consciousness through the star of the spiritual eye (as the energy floods into the cerebrum [Ezekiel's "mountain of God"] - symbolized in the medical symbol as the sphere at the top of the rod) to reach the omniscient state of pure intuition, where God can be known. The omniscient state of pure intuition (Sta. Teresa's 7th, or "King's Mansion") is the state in which the devotee can "see" the "formless Christ" (in Sta. Teresa's terms) in order to melt back into God.
Are techniques such as Kriya Yoga absolutely necessary? No. Each year of healthy living results in one revolution of the energy around the spine. However, practice of Kriya Yoga with deep meditation can produce many revolutions of the energy around the spine during a single meditation session. That's why the great ones such as Babaji, Lahiri Mahasaya, Sri Yukteswar, and Yoganandaji refer to the technique as the "airplane" route back to God. Even so, after getting to the threshold of God by Kriya Yoga, only love can pull one through - no technique can replace the role of devotion. Drawing protected by CC Attribution license, held by Wyscan.
Ancient Greek statue of their god of healing, Asclepius. As the dark ages took their toll, people forgot what the symbols meant, and here the staff is shown with but one of its two serpentine channels. Image copyright expired.
Question: Why is the 5-pointed star universally chosen to represent Christmas on our Christmas trees and other Christmas decorations - such as the outdoor Christmas decoration shown in the photo? Why not a 6-pointed star? After all, Jesus and all of his disciples were Jewish; and in Judaism, the holy symbol is the 6-pointed star. Would it not be more appropriate to use the religious symbol that Jesus and his disciples honored during their lifetimes?
Not really, for it is a 5-pointed star that one sees when deeply meditating. And it was the same 5-pointed star that the wise men from the East saw when, in deep meditation, they intuitively saw where the manger was located. Knowing this, it is understandable why persons with some (or much) intuitive ability always have felt more comfortable with a 5-pointed star.
Christ, secreted within every particle of matter/energy, guided evolution to create the human form. But humans were not formed solely by natural evolution. Intervention by God into this evolutionary process formed the energy centers (chakras) at the intersecting nodes of the ida and pingala channels of the cerebral-spinal system (see the photos and captions above). Then God was awake and knew that he was awake within the human form. But more important, the energy centers made it possible for the human to become a super human and know God.
By doing good works, we gain good karma and God's favor. However, hear this from the Bible book of Revelation:
And hast borne, and hast patience,and
for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.
As made clear in that passage from Revelation, good works and ordinary worshipful efforts (the labor for my namesake, mentioned in that passage) are not sufficient to do that. More is needed in order to go back to our first love. Otherwise, we remain in the state wherein we "have left our first love" and God is somewhat withholding approval for us, resulting in our separation from Him.
As suggested above, Christ Consciousness has provided the means for overcoming this barrier. Humans responded to Christ's love in the human form by learning to pull the Christ Consciousness secreted in the spinal ida and pingala channels (especially at the chakras) into the taintless sushumna in the spinal core. This is the inevitable result of revolving the energy around and around the sushumna as the energy travels up and down the spiral ida and pingala channels. This rotating current magnetizes the sushumna just as surely as connecting a battery to a copper wire wrapped around a nail will magnetize the nail, and the magnetic pull of the sushumna draws the consciousness into the core of the spine where the devotee can manipulate it in order to raise it toward the Christ center between the eyes. When the meditator practices Kriya Yoga, he or she is encouraged to visualize the current flowing up and down the straight channel of the sushumna, which Yoganandaji says has a diameter that is about equal to that of the graphite in a pencil.
When the energy reaches the point between the eyebrow, the meditating devotee observes light. After further calming the mind (aided, hopefully, by the practice of Jyoti Mudra) the five-pointed star is seen - blurry at first, like a blurry pentagon. In due time, the meditator was able to plunge through the star as the current entered the cerebrum. The lover of God melted into God's love for the first time - the "spiritual betrothal" of Sta. Teresa's 6th mansion in her book, The Interior Castle.
After many tries, the lover finally was not pulled back from home by worldly desires. The devotee had returned to the unity of our one source - the "spiritual marriage" spoken of by Sta. Teresa in her description of the 7th mansion. No more did boundaries separate the devotee from the devotee's first love. (As Ezekiel 28:15 says, "Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created.".)
The devotee's melting union with first-love God was complete. The devotee was free forever. God's love had won. In the end, Christ always does win. Ultimately, the devotee knows by experience that all is God's love. This is the end point of all evolution. When we get there, we know that we are back where we began.
The Problem of Evil
When his beloved Annie Darwin died, Charles Darwin's faith in God was tested. Photo copyright expired.
The problem of evil has bedeviled many sincere truth seekers. How could an all-powerful, all-good God, allow the many terrible events that we all experience or learn about in our world?
As I have mentioned before, Bart Ehrman is my favorite Biblical historian. His faith as a fundamentalist was tested even in the fundamentalist Moody Bible Institute - for theological reasons. But, he says, it was the problem of evil that pushed him into agnosticism (see his latest book, where he explains why, in his opinion, Biblical answers to the problem of evil fail).
I once read a case history of a little boy that could not experience pain. At first I thought, "Lucky boy; no pain from scraped knees."
But the reality was less happy. The little boy had to be monitored lest he, for example, grasp a red-hot element on an electric range - unable to comprehend the consequences. Or else he might climb high up a book case, never having experienced the pain of a fall. His freedom from pain constantly put his life at risk. He needed to experience his bad karma - for the sake of his life.
So it is with all bad karma. We need to experience the consequences of our karma so that we may grow in happiness by learning karma's lessons. When we suffer, it is because we have knowingly or unknowingly broken God's laws - either in this lifetime or in some past lifetime.
When the terrible diseases would roll over Europe, Jewish people often did not fall ill. To Christians, this was proof enough that the Jews had learned how to send epidemics to Christians - sort of an early version, in their eyes, of germ warfare.
19th-century bathing tub, Italy. Photo protected by CC Attribution license, by Jojan. According to Wikipedia, plumbing for bathing dates back to 3300 B.C., with the finding of copper water pipes under some ancient buildings in India; also see this.
But the truth is easy for us to grasp: Jews bathed, whereas Christians viewed bathing as a sinful pampering of the body - a body for which they invented machines of self-torture (argued against by Sta. Teresa, but with little effect). Sometimes Christians of that era tried to solve the epidemic problem that was killing up to one person in three by killing the Jews. Their understanding was erroneous, and their "solution" for naught. It was the violation of God's laws of hygiene that increased their probability of falling ill. Ignorance of the law is no excuse of the law.
But ignorance is being dispelled in this Dwapara Yuga. Around 1860, the statisticians figured it out, and it wasn't the Jews who were killing the Christians: Cleanliness matters (see The Ghost Map). Christ's plan for our Dwapara Yuga now is expressed in almost universal hygiene as the practical aspects of the law of karma become better understood.
Individual consequences of karma
Of course we should try to reduce all violence. But before we make judgments regarding injustice, we should ponder the possibility that the laws of karma are at work. Most people do not want to hear Galatians 6:7 which claims that as we sow, so shall we also reap. Who wants to always blame themselves for their problems? It's no fun.
Instead, we want to blame the Jews, the Blacks, the gays, the Republicans, the conservatives, the liberals, the unfair foreign competition - most anyone or any group; except ourselves.
As it says in Isaiah 45:7, God creates evil. The seers of ancient India said the same. So how can we say that God is good - or, even more audaciously - that this world is perfect?
Evil does exist within this creation. Those two white supremacists who drove that pickup down the road with a black man attached to the rear bumper did an evil deed. No question about that.
But from God's viewpoint? From God's viewpoint beyond creation, this world is perfect for its purpose. And what is the purpose of this world? Its purpose is to school us until we become perfect. As Jesus said, "Be ye perfect" - Matthew 5:48.
Like the child who could not experience pain, we need pain. The pain of bad karma is the temporary guru for those who have not yet wanted God so desperately that God has sent them a true guru, or who refuse to follow the guidance of their guru.
It is true that when one yearns for God, God first responds by sending teachers. Teachers arrive in the form of churches, saintly educators, including teachers who perhaps for others might be a true guru (just as Jesus was a teacher for many who may not have been given by God to Jesus to serve as their guru), holy books, Bibles, sermons, and the like. But these teachers are not necessarily one's true guru.
A true guru is one who is appointed by God, and is sent only when one is desperate to become one with God. Appropriately, it is the guru's God-appointed duty to bring about full realization in the follower. However, the follower must then follow the guru's recommendations or else the guru's guidance is for naught. And, painfully often, that was my mistake.
When Yoganandaji warned me not to seek a wife in Mexico, I wouldn't listen - me being smarter than the guru (it's a joke, folks). But after experiencing the pain of that hard-headed decision, I was more willing to follow my guru, lamb like. The "guru" of the law of karma worked in that case.
I don't know what that black man did to wind up thumbing a ride on the side of that road at that particular moment in time - his last "ride," as it happens. But Sri Yukteswarji says that the past of every person is dark with shame. Mostly, we're just fortunate that God does half of the work of salvation, and the guru does 25% - leaving us to do only 25% - according to the Great Ones of India. Salvation is mostly a gift from God. But we have to do 100% of our 25% in order to get out of this world in which Darwin's beloved daughter dies and we all experience the death of the body and the temporary loss of those to whom we are attached and white supremacists drag blacks to their death. Who wouldn't want more? I certainly do.
This drawing shows the Bang expanding and cooling as time progresses (along the vertical axis), with the features becoming spread out over ever-increasing space as space itself expands. Drawing released into public domain by author, Gnixon.
But God created evil because without the terrible Satanic repulsive force, the Big Bang couldn't have happened and this whole show of illusory boundaries and illusory limitations could not be. God is purely good, but has created the illusion of evil through His Satanic Maya. He has done that because it is His desire to share His bliss with others. Without the illusion of evil, there could have been no others.
So although God created this illusory evil, we're the ones, by our free will, who chose to "bite the apple" of temptation in the midst of the garden (e.g., engage the sexual organs that are in the middle of the body). It didn't have to be so. Many enjoyed this creation for a short time and then went straight back to God without having gotten caught up in His terrible dream show. So who, after all is to blame? God for giving us free will and creating the satanic force that tempted us? Or we who disobeyed God's instructions and submitted to temptation? Of course, we don't want to blame ourselves; do we?
In defense of fundamentalism
BIOLA (Bible Institute of Los Angeles), my mother's alma mater. Photo shot by my mother during the 1930s, with her hand-written notes at bottom.
After fundamentalists from the Middle-East knocked down the twin towers, fundamentalism began to be seen as a tarnished brand name. One day I went to the website of my mother's alma mater and found that they had totally removed all traces of the word - not even acknowledging that they were the ones who had published The Fundamentals - the writings that were so dear to the heart of my mother (and required reading for me during my childhood).
Many fundamentalists today say that BIOLA has betrayed the cause. Be that as it may, when I was a fundamentalist, I proudly used the word to describe my own beliefs.
To be sure, fundamentalism already was suspect before the 2001 attack due to our own home-grown terrorists. That homegrown terrorist movement appears to have been strongest in my own home state of Missouri, according to this article in a St. Louis newspaper.
As a consequence of the bad press, many fundamentalists here are turning to the brand name "evangelical." But the majority of evangelicals, in contrast to fundamentalists, believe that salvation may not be limited solely to Christians, according to surveys. Such evangelicals thus cannot be called fundamentalists.
By whatever name, is fundamentalism evil, as many would claim today?
I cannot imagine my father not being a fundamentalist. He was so lacking in abstract thinking ability that he could not pass the electricity portion of the test to become an engineer even though he did well on the four sections that dealt with more concrete subjects; he was a concrete thinker. With only three formal years of education, what chance did he have? Especially with the emotional burden of having been regularly beaten during his father's drunken tirades.
My father's world view was simple: Alcohol was the worst evil - based on his own experience with a drunken father; the Catholic Church served alcohol for their socials; therefore the Catholic Church was evil. After joining a fundamentalist Protestant church, he dressed up his anti-Catholicism in theological garb. But his motivation was clear when one listened to him speak on such topics.But without his fundamentalist beliefs, he, too, might have fallen into booze and partying. He seemed to have an addict's personality, and addiction to fundamentalism probably was healthier than addiction to alcohol or other intoxicant.
Kabul, Afghanistan. Photo protected by CC Attribution license held by Colleen_taugher.
So in my view, my father had his reasons for adopting Protestant fundamentalism. Others have their own reasons for becoming fundamentalists.
I am reminded of a tape recording made by a journalist from Las Angeles who was vacationing in Afghanistan with her family back in the 1960s. Playing with one of the tiny cassette recorders that had just become available, she walked down a street in Kabul while recording a running commentary. Frequently she expressed her shock when she encountered young girls with see-through blouses, with little or no clothing underneath. Who am I to tell the fundamentalist Taliban that they should moderate their views? No doubt they remember that time when their young daughters degenerated into sex, drugs, and rock'n'roll.
When I read that the Pope had declared that "Orthodox churches were defective and other Christian denominations were not true churches," I expressed my misgivings to my son. But he argued that the Pope's message was necessary to shore up the Catholics' faith. Who am I to contest that view?
Islam is the only true religion, according to this graffiti painted on a wall in the Middle East. Photo protected by CC Non-Commercial Share-Alike license held by CharlesFred.
When I see people in the Muslim countries holding up signs that declare Islam to be the only true religion; or when I read of the Islamic school not far from where I lived in Virginia that once had teachers' textbooks for first-grade students that stated, ". . . all religions, other than Islam, are false, including that of the Jews, Christians and all others"; who am I to contest that view? (It should be noted that the Academy has been making a better effort to eradicate such exclusionist passages from their texts than seems to be the case for many other fundamentalist groups - read the linked article.)
To ask fundamentalists to be more liberal is like chiding a child in kindergarten for not having a Ph.D. Growth takes time. And, having experienced the terrible pain of losing my fundamentalist beliefs, who am I to criticize others for avoiding that pain? I'm also reminded of the old saying, "Be careful what you wish for, lest you get it." Fundamentalism may not be the ideal form for any religion, but almost all religions carry a strain of it; and the alternative might be worse - at least for the moment.
Not to worry: Fundamentalism is dying with
the greater understanding that is ever more apparent as we enter the
The saints are helping us to enter Dwapara Yuga
Having served others for centuries, he deserved a retreat; so he headed for desert. He would pray and meditate there alone until God freed him.
Satan noticed. He went about his business as usual. He put the bug in the ear of a young girl. She was a comely bronze-skinned girl whom St. Anthony often had seen walking on the banks of the Nile (according to Saints that Moved the World; I'm somewhat circumventing that version of the St. Anthony story and mixing in other information, as needed, while trying to be faithful to the what we really know of St. Anthony).
The temptation of St. Anthony, by Henri Fantin-Latour, 19th Century. Copyright expired.
At night she walked out into the desert. She danced for St. Anthony as he tried to sleep on the warm sand.
As he ignored her, she decided to bare her body. Still St. Anthony ignored her.
She snuggled close to him. He maintained his self-discipline and turned his back to her.
In the morning, St. Anthony hid in some old ruins. The girl wouldn't find him again. Satan wasn't amused.
In the night, Satan came to the ruins and hurled huge boulders. People were much more easily frightened during those terrible days of the dark ages. But St. Anthony prayed to Christ.
When all his tricks failed, Satan took his devilish humanoid form.
The Torment of St. Anthony of the Desert. Painted by Michelangelo; copyright expired.
"Anthony"! roared the Devil from his humanoid form, "I will show you there is no God. You must bow to me"! (According to Yoganandaji.)
In the morning, the trembling St. Anthony cried, "My Lord! Where were you"?
Christ answered, "Anthony, I was just the same with you."
Anthony learned from experience that Christ was ever near. He returned to civilization when summoned to help prevent a war, or for other duties that only he could fulfill; but mostly he meditated in the desert. His body old and emaciated, he finally melted back into God's love. In the end, the attractive power of love always wins over the repulsive power of Satan. St. Anthony is watching over us.
The temptation of Lord Buddha, 12th-Century Burmese. Copyright expired.
When Lord Buddha resisted the temptation of the dancing girls that the Evil One had sent ("dancing of three damsels in seductive postures"), he graduated into full realization. All over the world, Buddhists are lost in meditation, spreading the Buddha's compassion vibrations to us all. With their help, Lord Buddha is leading us to become compassionate; nay, become compassion itself.
SRF Greenfield Retreat, where Sister Subrata passed around the little sprig of the rosebush from Assisi.
I held the little sprig of the rose bush in my hand. I saw the crimson spots. Whenever St. Francis would be overcome with sexual desires, he would throw his body onto the ancestors of the rose bush from which this sprig was cut (link: "St Francis of Assisi is said to have flung himself into the centre of a rose bush to help him overcome temptation"). Those bushes still show the little stains of blood from the body of St. Francis.
Cigoli's painting of St. Francis, 16th Century, copyright expired.
Sister Subrata had brought back this sprig to those of us at the SRF Greenfield Retreat after her superiors had granted her leave to visit the grounds of the great saint of Assisi. A kind nun watching over the rose bushes had granted her permission to cut the sprig. It was God's will. St. Francis is showering his love and devotion for God and Christ over the world.
According to legend, Pope Innocent III dreamed that St. Francis was trying to right the tilting Catholic Church. Painting by Giotto, 13th or 14th century, copyright expired.
How on earth can we ever think that we are alone? How could we ever seek anything other than oneness with God? God in the form of Lord Krishna; Lord Buddha; Lord Jesus; St. Anthony; St. Francis; the Muslim Sufi saint, Omar Khayyam; Yoganandaji; - how many does it take to convince us to seek God alone? Do we really want to continue indefinitely in this vale of tears?
Omar Khayyam (a.k.a. Omar Chayyam), Muslim Sufi saint - 1048-1131. Image: copyright expired.
And yet, here I am, wanting another lifetime here so that I can live out my desire to be a monk after the death of this body. A noble goal? Uh. . . better - I dare say - than wanting 70 virgins after death. But wise?
SRF Hidden Valley Retreat Center for Men - where I sometimes have spent weekends. Many new monks are assigned to this facility. Will I be one of them?
A truly wise person would desire only one goal: God. A desire for anything else, even to be a monk, is a distraction. Maybe that's one reason why I didn't make it this time.
But the desire to be a monk is a deep-seated one. Probably won't get burned out of my consciousness even by my kriyas; just gotta bite the bullet and live it out. It probably shouldn't take too long; then, hopefully, I'll be single-mindedly focused on achieving my one true goal: knowing God. Maybe next time will be my last time.
Faulty thinking is holding us back
When I got around to looking for a house to buy after getting a Ph.D., I told the real estate agent that I wanted something around $10,000. She said, "Just let me show you a few others first." When she showed me a two-story brick house, I asked, "How much does something like this cost"?
"If you have a Ph.D., you can afford it"; she knew before I told her approximately how much I earned. When she told me the monthly payments, I exclaimed, "But that's almost a third of my after-tax income"!
Our 3-bedroom $10,000 house.
She assured me that it was normal to pay 30% of one's income for a house. Well, it wasn't going to be normal for me! I ditched the agent, found a for-sale-by-owner for $10,000, and bought it. Most of the later houses that my second wife and I purchased we either bought for cash, 100% paid for, or else a very small loan. Payments that equal 30% of income for housing is normal? Not for me!
I can't help but feel that our current debt problems around the world are none other than the just dues of the karma that people have created for themselves. Extracting ourselves from this mess is going to be painful, but how else can the world learn that such excessive exploitation of the resources of the world and of the financial system cannot be sustained? Unfortunately, most people don't learn until they suffer. I'm happy to be taking a little vacation from this world for a few decades. I hope you all fix it a bit in my absence.
Many times I was a Catholic - most likely if I was with the Conqueror. Most likely I was a Buddhist when I lived that lifetime in the Far East; many times I was a Buddhist. How many times have I been Jewish? I feel so at home with Jewish people. For at least a couple of lifetimes I was a Protestant. Next time, will I be a member of the Taliban? My views on sexuality are somewhere to the right of theirs. I feel the need for their protection from my sexual desires. Otherwise, I might foolishly get married and again lose my chance to be a monk.
No matter. Again I will patiently pull my kriyas - most likely from my early years, just as in this lifetime. My gurus are on the case. The love of Christ will make it so. I will be a monk in my Master's ashram. Ma (Daya Mata, our late SRF president) said so. Old boundaries blur. I can hardly wait.
Before I end my autobiography the topic of remorse should be covered, for a wise reader can learn what not to do by reflecting upon the consequences of the author's bad decisions.
The house indicated by the arrow probably was where "Sarah" Cohen lived. When I was in my mid-teens, my mother asked my sister and I if we would like to invite "Sarah" to attend with us the meeting offered by a Jewish evangelist who had converted to Christianity. After returning home, in our dark car my mother began to try to convert the Jewish girl, and I joined in to help my mother. But when I saw "Sarah" on the verge of tears, I wanted to shout, "Stop! Stop! This isn't right." But I said nothing.
She was a fine little Jewish girl. Although probably only around 11 years old, she was diligent in her school work, obedient to her parents, and respectful and kind to others. Clearly, she was moving forward spiritually, Christianity or no Christianity.
After our failed attempt to convert her to fundamentalist protestantism, her parents no longer would allow her to play with my sister and I (she and my sister had been best friends before this incident). Soon, the Cohen family moved out of the neighborhood.
This was not the first great error of my life, but I have felt the pain of that girl ever since; and the pain of my conscience. My attempted proselytizing in this case now has become one of my most painful memories of remorse.
Perhaps my first great mistake of this lifetime was when I chose to not say those words that Guruji imparted into my consciousness, "No, father, you don't understand. I'm supposed to go with this man." - spoken just after I crossed a Hollywood street like this one. Had I spoken those words and perchance have become an SRF monk, how different my life would have been. Not only would I have avoided the anger, depression and confusion that followed during the next several decades, but maybe I even could have achieved full realization in this lifetime, for living as a monk does impart spiritual advantages.
Surely one of the most painful of my errors was my refusal to consider waiting to marry the girl in Kiest Park that was shown to me in a vision by my guru while on a hillside in Korea (see the introduction to my Physics video). After falling deeply in love with her some 10 years later, I realized how much pain, depression, and anger I could have avoided had I only heeded my guru's advice not to seek a wife in Mexico. Pain, depression, and anger are negative emotions that pull us down from the cerebrum where God dwells and into the lower chakras where negativity dwells. If I had heeded my guru's advice regarding my first marriage, I surely would have advanced further on the spiritual path in this lifetime.
But arguably, the worst error I made after leaving the street corner where I encountered my guru occurred when I refused to follow his meditation instructions after joining SRF in 1973. One night shortly after learning the first meditation techniques and I sat in my darkened room to practice them, I suddenly remembered a lecture that I had not quite thought through that I had to deliver early the next morning. But instead of leaving my meditation chair, I decided to think through the rest of that lecture right there.
A great tug of war commenced, as my guru tried to pull my concentration back to my meditation technique, while I pulled my concentration toward my morning lecture. I won, of course, for God has given us free will. But at what cost! Never again did I find it easy to quickly go deep into meditation. If I would have been wiser and concentrated one-pointedly on my meditation technique, I would not have lost the momentum of my early enthusiasm for meditation. A wise devotee follows the guru's advice lamb-like.
But enough with remorse - I wish to end this autobiography on a high note. So now I recall just a few of those who have helped me on my journey during this lifetime.
Before proceeding I should explain that even though my parents are not listed below, they did provide me with shelter, food, and a home - only charging me room and board during summers of my teenage years before I moved out for good. And both had some good qualities - my mom read to me and prepared fruit salad, and my dad set a good example by almost always donating 15% of his before-tax income to the church. Nor did they drink, smoke, or do drugs. I could have done worse in the parent category.
Nor have I included my wondrous wife, Joie. Not because she is in any way unimportant in my life, but because I already have mentioned her often in my autobiography as one who has contributed immensely to my spiritual growth and to my personal happiness. I cannot imagine any better wife for me. So much so that I always was rude whenever the blond girl from Kiest Park called (always anonymously, but never when I did not know; I even knew when her daughter called, grilling me for details regarding Homexam Inc., the business that Joie and I started). Finally, when she called in the late 1990s asking if Homexam would like to sponsor a girls' volleyball team, I was limitlessly rude to her. She never called again. Nor did I want her to do so, for I was 100% committed to doing my best to be loyal to Joie - not just physically (that part was easy), but also emotionally.
Even during the darkest days of my nightmare years, I never relinquished the knowledge that goodness existed in the world - even during those periods when my parents were beating me daily because I wet the bed. I think I was able to hold onto that thread of truth in large part because of my grandmother, Beaulah Lee Reavis. She died at the age of 62, about the time that I turned 12; and I rarely had had a chance to even talk with her - she always was surrounded by her 8 children and countless other adults. But once she held me on her lap, and I could feel not just the warmth of her body, but also the warmth of her love.
Even though she rarely attended church, the church was overflowing on the day of her funeral. I wondered how all these people had known her. She rarely shopped, and indeed, rarely left the house. But just meeting her even once must have left a great impression on many.
Many decades later, I got a call from dad one day. He said he and mom were drawing up a will and wanted me to give them a list of the things that I wanted after they were gone. I told him I would have no list, for I wanted only one thing, but I wanted it a lot: Grandma's old kerosene lamp.
It was a lovely little silver lamp and often I had heard grandma say that it was the only pretty thing that the Good Lord had ever let her have. And when the electricity would go out during WWII, we'd sit around in the semi-finished basement of grandma's house and that kerosene lamp would cast a warm glow over Grandma and all the rest of us crammed into that small space. When my grandparents passed, my father always kept it proudly on display. He and mom both assured me that I would get it when they passed.
But after mom and dad died, I never saw the lamp again. No matter; I still have the memories of my warm grandmother burning brightly in my heart - lamp or no lamp.
Mostly I steered clear of my grandfather. For several years before the time this photo was taken just after WWII, drink had taken its toll on his mind and he would hit us little kids whenever he got within arms' reach. Whenever we saw him lumbering in our direction, one of the grandkids would scream the alarm: "Grandpa is coming! Grandpa is coming"! and we would run helter-skelter for the woods just behind the house (to the right of this photo). The woods consisted of old-growth oaks - the likes of which haven't been seen in the U.S. for many decades. The trunks of some probably were 4' in diameter - plenty enough for a dozen or so little kids to hide behind. And if he still pursued us, we could hear the "crunch, crack" as he shuffled through the thick bed of leaves and dry twigs. If the sounds got too close, they warned us that it was time to run deeper into the woods.
But one day he approached me as I held a chicken under my arm. From around the age of 7, it was my job to kill the several chickens needed for the Sunday afternoon lunch. At first, my mom would hold the chicken while I chopped off its head with the hatchet. But before long someone taught me how to "hypnotize" the chicken by first calming it, then lowering its head to the block and then slowly pull a finger of the other hand away from its beak across the block in front of the chicken. The stupefied chicken then usually would hold still long enough for me to grab the hatchet and whack off its head. After I learned to do that, my mom never again helped me kill the chickens.
And little wonder, for it was messy. With no head, the body would fly. Usually in circles lower than the roof of the house, but sometimes they would fly high up into the air. I always marveled that these chickens that could fly so high in death rarely would fly over the 6' fence of the chicken coop. In any case, after a minute, two minutes, or sometimes maybe a bit more, it would drop and I would have to go retrieve it - often through mud, brier bushes, whatever.
My grandfather, having observed this ritual for weeks, finally decided to educate me. As a 7-year-old kid, I couldn't run with the chicken as he approached, so I just froze. When he got to me he growled, "Wring its neck"! I didn't get it. He elaborated, "Like a whip." His verbal limitations allowed no more explanation, but when he made a whip-like movement with his arm I got it. I grabbed the chicken by the neck and flung it over my head as I gave it a sharp thrust in the other direction. As soon as the spinal column severed, the bird turned instantly into a few pounds of dead meat. It was fast and clean, and it seemed much more humane. Perhaps no meaner man had ever walked this patch of earth, but I was immensely grateful to my grandfather for this lesson.
Of her eight children, only my Aunt Kathryn (see arrow) seemed to fully inherit Grandma's warmth. But as I learned after WWII, there was more to her goodness than just warmth. U.S. commerce had discovered the African-American market in time for the 1946 Christmas season, and you could walk into any Montgomery-Ward's toy department and find a knot of black ladies huddled over a table. The table had little black dolls. Astonishingly, my white Aunt Kathryn bought a black baby doll as the Christmas present for her daughter that year.
When we opened our presents, I immediately recognized her courage and saw for perhaps the first time that she was a kindred spirit - the only relative with whom I felt that kind of kinship. A little later, my admiration of her only increased when my Aunt Leta and Dad got into a bit of an argument over whether the Pope was the Devil incarnate (my Aunt Leta's position) or merely was the chief agent working for the Devil on earth (my father's position). Usually mum during such arguments, my Aunt Kathryn finally could take no more of this and blurted out, "The Pope is just an old man trying to do the best he can, just like the rest of us." She always was forgiven such crazy views ("crazy," in the eyes of Protestant Fundamentalists), for everyone loved my Aunt Kathryn. My mother often said that Aunt Kathryn was her best friend.
Despite the crush of the Sunday afternoon crowd, Aunt Kathryn always would find a time to speak to me. On the Sunday following Christmas when I was 6 years old, she asked what Santa had brought for me that year. When I answered that Santa had not brought me anything that year, she went into action - asking all of her sisters and brothers to try to give me something for Christmas and for my birthdays. I never again had a Christmas when Santa failed to bring me something.
None responded more generously to my Aunt Kathryn's plea than did my Aunt Leta who gave me this shirt some 60 years ago during my teen years. I show you the collar of this shirt so that you can see that it is like new; same for the cuffs. Every thing about this old shirt is like new. And not because it hasn't much been worn. During countless winters, I wore it every single day. It was, for example, the shirt that I wore during those several days when I sat on the bench in the warm winter sun at Ohio State, wondering whether I might be the first grad student to pass the Young Turks' comprehensive exams (see ** below). And you'll see this shirt on me as an undergrad at the U. Missouri in one of my videos. My Aunt Leta gave me all the best presents of my youth - not just this extraordinary shirt, but also my first watch, my first camera, my first pocket knife - the list goes on and on.
I can't say that I ever felt warmth from my Aunt Leta (center, in the photo, standing near the chopping block which would have been a bit to the right). I knew by her lavish presents that love was in her, but it seemed to be buried deep in a pit filled with hatred and bitterness. My dad said it was because she had been stood up at the altar. Probably there was some truth to that story, for after I learned to play the guitar, she regularly would ask me to sing "Wildwood Flower," a song of love betrayed. In the middle of the song she usually would burst into tears and run from the room.
But as you can see in this 1917 photo of her (far right), even as a child of only 8 years she was pretty somber - just like my 10-year-old dad (far left).
If you weren't able to see her pain in the previous photo, maybe you can see it in this enlargement.
Or maybe in this 1912 photo (with my uncle who later lost his farm, and my dad, center), when she would have been just 3 years old - or 4, at most. I suppose her pain could have been partly due to their poverty - living in that single-car-garage-sized shack. The old shack still stood into my teen years and I saw it several times - a tiny shack that had no windows, with no interior plaster and you could see the sunlight coming through cracks between the siding boards. Perhaps more likely it was due to the countless nights when my grandfather, hearing two coins clink together in his pocket, would head for the bar. Everyone knew that when he returned he just might beat up every one in the house.
But how did she come to get born into such a dreadful situation? Her well of hatred must have begun filling many lifetimes ago.
Be that as it may, my Aunt Leta's hatred seemed to know no bounds. She didn't just hate men and Catholics. She also hated Blacks, daylight-saving time, women who dressed in men's clothes when they went to work in WWII defense plants - most anything and everything.
Still, I knew that beneath that unfathomable pit of loathing, there was love. She couldn't radiate that love, but she could show it in the lavish presents that she gave to me. She always was a reminder to me that within even most hateful, love dwells. Her existence constantly reminded me that every one of us is a child of God no matter how much charcoal temporarily covers our golden soul.
It's just an old guitar. Now warped perhaps beyond repair, it would not have been mistaken for a fine guitar even when new - with its crude details, including the almost unusable tuning machine. But even if it were a fine guitar, would it not be just a bit strange to think of such an inanimate object as a friend?
Nevertheless, I spent countless lonely nights in the early '70s after the kids had gone to sleep and my wife was with her boyfriends at the bars when this old guitar seemed to be just about the best friend that I had in the world. If it were raining and I couldn't sit in the backyard or if I just felt the urge to make music, I would head for the living-room sofa with this guitar. After a while the songs would start to come.
As a teen, I seriously considered making music my career. My dad wisely dissuaded me from doing so; but the desire to share music with others in an intense way lingered on. I sometimes could cajole a few of my friends to form a band with me and play for a church social or some other event, but it never amounted to much.
Finally I got a chance to scratch that itch in a definitive way during the early '70s. In those days, Laura Joplin had a house near the SMU campus that was more spacious than any available to the rest of us, so after my marathon Thursday-night grad seminar a number of us would head for her house for the party. There we would be met by wives, girlfriends, and former students and assorted folks who would come and go for the next few hours.
Those evenings were joyous, but with a bit of melancholy hanging over us. Janice - Laura's famous sister - had died not that long ago; and it didn't help that Nixon was escalating our murderous war in Vietnam. The mood fitted my own melancholy perfectly.
On one such evening, a grad student brought an expensive new guitar that had been given to him by his parents. I started to play the fine instrument, and a little crowd gathered. Soon, magic appeared. Anything I heard in my head instantly came out of the guitar. Soon my left hand was flying up and down the fretboard, my right hand bringing forth great crescendos of sound. The breakers of sound then would give way to the most delicate of tinkling melodies - like as if they were little bells chiming in straight from the astral plane. A grad student came out of the house and tugged on the arm of his wife, trying to get her to come in to meet some of his other friends. She wouldn't budge. Nobody moved. He joined the crowd, now maybe a dozen - and the magic continued - for how many minutes?
I had never played like that before, nor again since. But I had a tasted of that moment that many musicians wistfully refer to when the crowd becomes one in spirit. Since then, I haven't had much desire to become a musician. Did that magical gift save me from having to come back yet again in order to live a life as a musician?
Never missing an opportunity to awaken me, Guruji began to speak to me through the songs that floated into my consciousness while I played the guitar on the couch. I tell you - some of the words that came with those songs certainly lifted my atheistic eyebrows! You can hear some of those atheist's songs here or on YouTube.
So, yes - I think of the old guitar as a dear friend. Like me, it's playing is just about all played out. But - in its day - that inanimate musical instrument was instrumental in the hands of Guruji whose duty it was to open my eyes.
(Photo copyrighted by SRF - used under "fair use" doctrine for noncommercial projects.)
But far beyond saintly souls, angels, wise teachers, family kin and friends, my guru is peerless. There is no equal for a true guru, for he - having no personality - is an empty container through whose transparency one can discern the face of God. And only a true guru can raise a follower to the guru's own stature. Whether that happens to me within a few decades or after many more lives matters not; nor do all the triumphs and failures of life matter. After a while, they recede into the distance, like echoing sounds of some great battle taking place far beyond the hills. Only the presence of the guru matters, and I know that he will continue to be with me. Forever.
Om Christ, Om Guru, peace, amen.
Goodbye and God bless you - Larry Reavis
* Less than half of those 500 men in our HQ company were enlisted men; the majority were officers. Even though fraternization between EM and officers was strictly forbidden, some of those officers became counted among my best friends while I was in Korea.
The hootch where the colonel befriended me.
One such began his friendship with me one afternoon just after I had eaten and was stretched out on my bunk to make sure the mattress didn't levitate to the ceiling. All of a sudden, someone shouted "TEN-HUT"! and I and the other couple dozen men in the hootch snapped to attention. An officer had just walked through the back door.
I thought it strange. Just 30 or 40 minutes before we were to return to work? And why the back door? I didn't get it.
While looking straight ahead, through the total silence I heard the officer quietly ask, "Is there a soldier named Reavis here"?
"Yes sir, that's him," replied one of the nearby soldiers.
The officer approached, then stood before me. "As you were," he called out to the other men. Movement returned to the statues, but no longer was there the roar of conversation, no loud laughing.
And me? I'm still standing at attention; but now I could see his bird.
Good grief a-mighty - a full-bird colonel. Most likely the hootch had never hosted a colonel before. 2nd Lt.? Sure, every inspection. Sometimes a 1st Lt. I personally never saw a captain in the hootch, much less a major or a Lt. Col.
Actually, I had once seen a Col. - but not in the hootch. At Ft. Leonard Wood, we had had an afternoon-long celebration on the 4th of July. After thousands of men paraded past the high brass, and the band tooted, a platform with microphone was hastily placed out in the middle of the parade grounds. Someone announced that the base commander would speak, and introduced a Col.
When I say that I saw him, that's almost an exaggeration. Just a tiny speck - that's what I saw from my vantage point maybe a block distant from the great man.
I'm thinking, "Dunno what I done done this time, but it must have been a lulu if they sent a full-bird colonel down to straighten me out."
The Col. said, "At ease soldier." I went to the parade rest position.
"No, I mean just relax - you're not in trouble," he elaborated.
I relaxed and looked at him, puzzled. He said, "They tell me you know about electronics. Is that right"?
"A bit, sir," I replied.
It turned out that he was interested in electronics, knew a lot, and wanted to know more. So we began to talk. Every few days he came back again to pick my brains.
He wanted me to be his jeep driver; could get me out of having to walk guard duty, he assured me. I drove occasionally for him, but I already had the best job in the Army. I declined. But still, I really enjoyed talking with him.
Sergeant M. Another good sergeant; 1958. I use this photo without his permission, presuming that he is long-fled from that body (by now he would be around 100 years old).
One day Sgt. M. walked into the hootch while I was waxing elegant to the colonel, my arms flying. Sgt. M. looked at me delivering my passionate lecture to the colonel, looked at the colonel who was totally concentrated on what I was saying - with Sgt. M looking like maybe he feared that he was hallucinating. My relationship with Sgt. M. sorta changed after that.
There were other officers who became my friends. But none so high, nor smarter. I liked that colonel. You can't imagine how gratifying it was to find someone who shared my interests; finally I found someone to talk to in the Army. Like finding water when parched in the desert.
And, I must admit, it was personally gratifying to get such recognition - after all those years when my mother screamed at me, "You good-for-nothing lumox! You'll never amount to a hill of beans"! Thank goodness I didn't have to depend mainly upon my parents for validation.
I have had the privilege of working with many high-ranking officers through the years, starting with Battelle where one of the people that I supervised in 1965 in that Washington, D.C. office was a recently retired Lt. Col. He was great. He always did exactly as instructed - one of the few whom I never had to correct. All those high officers that I have met were good men.
that I have moved past my lifetimes as a warrior - in this lifetime,
I've always thought of myself as a philosopher; but I have
great respect for warriors, and the high-ranking officers are the
** It's pretty clear that guruji intervened at several points in order to see me get a Ph.D. In one case, I was double-crossed when I signed up to continue my personal research under the guidance of a certain Dr. B., one of the three "young Turks" - as they were known by both faculty and grad students - who had just been hired at Ohio State to run the social psychology section. But when I got back from Christmas holidays, I learned that Dr. B had handed over me and the other one or two grad students who had signed up for individual study to another of the Turks. This Turk wanted us to perform slave labor for his own research - my research efforts would have to be abandoned. I decided to drop that "course."
When I turned in my drop slip to the dean's office, I was told after a wait that the dean wanted to see me. I walked in and he immediately began lecturing me along the lines of "do you know how much money OSU would lose if every grad student dropped one course"? I explained why I was dropping the course, but the dean wasn't interested. Eventually, I rose from my seat and on the way out I said, "I've made my decision, now you can make yours."
Apparently the dean didn't even bother filing my request, for after I did not receive any notice of the disposition of my request, I went to the dean's office. The clerk at the counter could not find my application on file anywhere.
While I was waiting as she continued the search, in walked the lady who had administered the Spanish language exams the night before to grad students. While they still were handing out the exams, I turned mine in. This kind lady had said, "Oh, don't give up yet"!
I replied, "I finished it."
So she remembered me and, having scored the test and noting the almost perfect score, asked how I had learned Spanish so well. After my explanation, she asked why I was in the dean's office. I explained and she said, "Oh, don't worry."
Then she handed me a blank drop-course-request form, I filled it out, she forged the dean's signature, and a few days later I received the notice. Had she not done that, I would not have a Ph.D., for one single "F" on the transcript means no Ph.D.
Was her timely arrival in the office just when I needed her a coincidence? Fat chance! Guruji was on the case.
Later, I had to decide which comprehensive exams to sit for. After finding that all my calculus and other math courses, plus the advanced inferential statistics courses that I had completed since then, resulted in being eligible to sit for a Ph.D. in statistics, I was tempted to go that route. I really liked math; after resolving my torment regarding fundamentalism, math became so easy - now that my mind was untroubled and I could concentrate.
I also qualified for general experimental and a few others. But in the end, I wanted the freedom that comes with a Ph.D. in social psychology; so that's what I chose (its freedom comes from the amuity in the term "social psychology" - almost anything you research you can define as being part of the enterprise of academic social psychology).
Which meant that I'd have to sit for the written, and then the orals, courtesy of the young Turks. I had taken hardly any courses with them and really didn't know them. No matter - social psychology was what interested me.
I think it was three days before the all-day written comprehensive exams when a fellow grad student asked me which exams I had chosen. When I informed him that I was sitting for the social psychololgy exams, he exclaimed, "Oh, you are brave"!
"What do you mean"? I asked.
"Don't you know? Eleven candidates have gone before the Turks, and not one has passed."
Panic! I ran to the library and started reading social psychology books. But then I thought I'd never pass if I sat for the exams in this state of mind.
So for the rest of that day, and the entire next day and the one after that, I just sat on one of the park benches in the warm winter sun. By the time I had to appear for the exams, I was back in my usual arrogant frame of mind.
It went well indeed. And then for the oral exams.
I was at my belligerant best. Certain that I was talking to my intellectual inferiors, I was arrogant, rude, and erudite. A few hours later they were done with their questions, and I retired to sit in the hall while they deliberated.
After the exam, Pep (as Prof. Harold B. Pepinsky was known to us grad students) told me they had had a spirited debate over whether to merely grant me the status of "passed," or "passed with honors." In the end, they told Pep that I needed a bit more socialization, and they didn't grant the "honors" designation; but I did pass the comps - the first to get permission to continue on to write my dissertation in social psychology since the arrival of the young Turks. I surely feel that my easy trip through the comps was, again, mainly due to guruji's intervention. Most likely the same could be said for getting accepted into Berkeley, U. Texas, and OSU Ph.D. programs despite poor grades and an attitude.