Third Paradigm is an out-of-the-box thinktank on community sovereignty and regenerative economics.
We look at how to take back our cities, farmland and water; our money, production and trade; our media, education and culture, our religion and even our God.
We present a people's history of the Bible and a parent's view on how to raise giving kids in a taking world.
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This week I decided to go for the latter. A friend had given me a CD called The Secret. I had been telling her about my youngest daughter entering the perilous world of middle school, and the pressure on my oldest daughter as a senior. Every adult keeps asking her where she's going to college, while I'm trying to get her to forge a new path. I complained about the limited view kids have of their own possibilities. She said, "You have to watch this CD with them. It'll open their eyes."
The movie opens with dramatic music and figures in powdered wigs hiding a book from inquisitors and conquistadors in flickering candlelight. The website reads,
"The Secret reveals the most powerful law in the universe. The knowledge of this law has run like a golden thread through the lives and teachings of all the prophets, seers, sages and saviors in the world's history, and through the lives of all truly great men and women. Every human being has the ability to transform any weakness or suffering into strength, power, perfect peace, health, and abundance. By applying the knowledge of this law, you can change every aspect of your life. This is the secret to prosperity, health, relationships and happiness. This is the secret to life."
So what is the secret? It's that YOU are a magnet. You're attracting everything that happens to you, good and bad. Money is magnetic energy that you can harness for personal wealth creation. Got cancer? Get your mind right, dude. Getting evicted? Subprime is so unenlightened.
To become a money magnet, state and intend the amount you want to receive. It worked for Citigroup and B of A, as Barlett and Steele write in Good Billions After Bad. Fall in love with money. Pay yourself first, which tells the Universe that you're worthy of more. Do whatever it takes to feel wealthy, looking for wealth wherever you go. Eliminate words like, "I can't afford it," which repel money faster than moldy socks. Nothing's too much if it makes you happy.
After ten minutes of this drivel, my daughters and I decided to watch the Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan, which we enjoyed thoroughly. Those Chinese matrons at the mah–jongg table are the mothers of prosperity consciousness and magical thinking.
But money as religion isn't just for Wall Street anymore. It's been mainlined on Main Street, especially in New Age bookstores and movies like What the Bleep. I agree with the premise that reality isn't what it's cracked up to be. What I don't agree with is that reality is stupid, that it can be manipulated by the power of our focused selfishness. Should we send copies of The Secret to the billions of starving people impoverished by our egocentric consumerism? Oh yeah, no DVD players.
In today's show, we'll quote from Douglas Rushkoff's article, I Am God , which appears in the e–zine, Reality Sandwich. But first, let's hear two poems: In a Handful of God by Hafiz and one by Nelly Sachs.
The first poem was In a Handful of God from my all–time favorite poet, Hafiz. The clear–eyed mystic sees, in a handful of ocean water, ecstatic dancing lovers and finely tuned Musicians acting stoned For very intelligent and sane reasons, And of course becoming extremely sweet And wild. This fits right in with one of the books I've been writing, Revolutionary Mystics and How to Become One. Then Nelly Sachs pictures longing as the stuff that stars are made of.
The editors of the anthology of women poets are Aliki Barnstone, a poet local to Santa Cruz, and her dad, Willis Barnstone, an internationally–renowned poet and incredibly prolific translator in Spanish, French, Chinese, Latin, Greek, Coptic, and Aramaic. He's also a translator of Gnostic scriptures in two volumes I have called The Gnostic Bible and the Other Bible. He's translated the New Testament directly from the Greek using the Hebrew names for places and people. I've found it invaluable in my research because he, in his words, "doesn't soften the blows." Where the gospels say insulting and offensive things about the Jews, Barnstone hasn't sugarcoated them. He lets the reader figure out what to do with the disconnect between our prettified image of Jesus and the ugly things he's quoted as saying. Barnstone has come out this year with a Restored New Testament, which combines the two by including the Gnostic gospels of Thomas, Mary, and Judas.
My research, as regular listeners to Third Paradigm know, questions whether Jesus is a half–truth — a fictional character who takes the philosophy of the real Christ, which was the zealot revolution, and applies it to the worship of an individual, who's really Caesar. Jesus is not a revolutionary; he doesn't challenge the Roman Empire. His violence, his curses, his prophetic warnings, and his insults are all directed towards the insurgent Jews. Towards the Romans he urges forgiveness, forbearance, nonviolence, docile payment of taxes, and the goal of being first among slaves.
I've wondered if any of my proof points would resonate with Willis, who has removed a millennia and a half of varnish from this tome. Were the speeches of Jesus more inclusive or less as Willis got closer to the unvarnished truth? But what's notable isn't just what Jesus says, but what he neglects to talk about. In the New Covenant, Barnstone writes this about the Gospels' authorship and texts:
"For many years I have pondered how the gospels could be relentlessly an apology for Rome when its essence, regardless of presumed later tampering in copying and redacting by its editors, was established between the years 70... to 150, years... of vast public persecution by Rome... Since... there is no copy in Greek of the gospels before the fourth century, [and, as an editorial note, none at all in Hebrew or Aramaic] I had to assume... that the most furious Romanizing of the gospel texts occurred between... Constantine in the early fourth century and the canon in 367. I asked Professor David Trobisch... about the anomaly of Christian loyalty to their persecutors. His response: 'Think of the perfect parallel in Josephus.' Here was the greatest of Jewish historians, I realized, who details the day–to–day marches of Roman armies and the concerns of their commander, Titus, as he heads to Rome [Jerusalem?]. And Josephus takes the same line as the gospels, defending the action of the Roman armies that in 70 were to level the walls, raze the city, destroy the Temple, crucify many of its inhabitants, and exile Jews and Christian Jews alike... 'Why did Josephus placate the Romans?' His response, 'Because he was a Jew, living in Rome in a fine villa, in pleasant captivity, and were he to have taken any other line opposing the emperor it would have been his end, exile or the sword.'"
That seems unduly generous to Josephus, to think that he harbored a shred of regret or integrity after he became the adopted son of Caesar, which made him the son of God. Both Josephus and the authors of the gospels are imperialists through and through, who never even notice the little people — women, slaves, or servants. Thank goodness that we're more enlightened now. Or are we? Let's break for Depeche Mode with Your Own Personal Jesus.
[Depeche Mode – Your Own Personal Jesus]
We were talking about the gospels as unabashed apologists for Rome, and how their view parallels Josephus. We mentioned how invisible the slave class is in the Bible, to which historians reply that Jesus had to start somewhere. Slaves and women would have been too much to bite off for that era, even for the son of god. But what about now?
"While you might expect the marriage of progressive sociopolitical goals and the culture of spirituality to ground activism in ethics, it turns out that just the opposite is true.
That's because what we think of as 'spirituality' today is not at all a departure from the narcissistic culture of consumption, but its truest expression."
First he follows Protestantism through John D. Rockefeller, who saw his power to make money as a sacred gift from god, to department store magnate John Wanamaker, who developed religious services for 'business and professional people who wanted to be freed from the guilt of doing what they were doing.' Rushkoff writes,
"Religion became a way to support capitalism and purge reflection. The poor should not be helped in any case, lest their immorality be rewarded. Books like Charles Wagner's The Simple Life criticized the social programs we now associate with churches, because they involve the redistribution of wealth, which was a repudiation of the way God had given it all out. Instead, everyone should just avoid 'pessimism' and 'analysis,' and be 'confident' and 'hopeful.'"
Then in 1893, the mind–cure healers came together at the Parliament of Religions — Helene Blavatsky, Mary Baker Eddy, and Swami Vivekananda, introducing yoga and the cult of personal happiness. Wanamaker's window–dresser, L. Frank Baum,
"mythologized the philosophy: The Wizard in the Emerald City can provide anything to anyone as long as she believes. The Wizard of Oz was mind cure at its best: the salvation of the self through positive thinking."
Over the next decades, the growth of psychology fed the obsession with the self, setting liberation, self–expression, and self–actualization as the highest goals.
"Thousands flocked to the hot tubs of Esalen to find themselves... Instead of annihilating the illusion of a self, as Buddha suggested, the self–centered spirituality of Esalen led to a celebration of self as the source of all experience. Change the way you see the world, and the world changes. Activism starts within."
So Vietnam protestors became neuro–linguistic programmers, and the fashion market realized that nonconformists were primed for slogan–emblazoned sweatshop products. Power to the people! Stick it to the man!
"The Stanford Research Institute hired Abraham Maslow to turn his hierarchy of needs into psychographic categories of American consumers, applicable to marketing."
In the meantime, preachers became self–improvement hucksters. Rushkoff writes,
"The televangelist Creflo Dollar (that's his real name) blings the word to his followers: 'Jesus is ready to put some money in your pocket.... You are not whole until you get your money. Amen.' Dollar may be the epitome of the 'prosperity gospel.' Megachurches are megacorporations, whose functioning and rhetoric both foster the culture and politics of the free market. Christian branding turns a religion based in charity and community into a personal relationship with Jesus –– a narcissistic faith mirroring the marketing framework on which it is now based. Megastar and multimillionaire televangelist Joel Osteen, 'the smiling preacher,' prays for raises and bonuses for members of his congregation, and promises that people will find material success through faith. And keep finding it as long as they believe they will."
Just click your heels together, Dorothy.
Let's break for the The Fray with Happiness
[The Fray – Happiness]
We've been quoting liberally from Douglas Rushkoff's article on Reality Sandwich called Douglas Rushkoff's article, I Am God. It's an excerpt from Life Inc., How the World Became a Corporation. Doug also has a radio show called The Media Squat. Speaking of which, I won't be broadcasting a new show next week because I'm taking the time to get all the help I can from Mike Scirocco before some savvy employer snaps him up. Although I've yet to meet him, he's one of the most thoughtful and considerate people I've never met.
So let's put prosperity religion into perspective with a comment Submitted by tony damico on the article:
"the premise makes me think of the implications of 'The Secret' and the Oprah–izing of spirituality, where it's all about money and consumption, and the feel–good law of attraction ideology that really seems to ignore socio political hegemony and oppression...
not that the spiritual principles aren't true, and useful, and necessary but that spiritual principles need to be coupled with a longing for social justice and equality, and actions to achieve this in order to evolve the human race."
Let's imagine a scenario. Let's say that you lived in the pre–bellum South — not the antebellum South, but before the Civil War. Your family didn't own any plantations or slaves, but every product that you bought, every dollar that circulated originated from slave labor. You, however, were a good and caring person. You raised your kids to be kind, and not bully or insult anyone, even slaves. You were active helping the poor in your church and community. You sent your kids off to colleges in the North, where they became enlightened liberals.
But when they got back, the jobs they found were as doctors, lawyers, preachers, and merchants working in a slave–owning community. Maybe they gave massages and created herbal remedies. They became wealthy without ever owning a slave or working for a plantation owner. But here's the question: were they innocent? Could they be good people without confronting the contradiction at the heart of their belief system?
The biggest question for reponders to the article was how you do it — how do you live honestly and make a living? Next to the article, there appeared ads from their sponsors — healing dance retreats in Bolivia or Boulder, yoga that liberates body and soul, om–wellness to change lives and teach wellness, and a hubcap prayer wheel that enables you burn karma while you burn rubber. I'd have to guess that Reality Sandwich hasn't figured that one out yet.
This has been Tereza Coraggio with Third Paradigm. Thank you to Skidmark Bob for production, music, and editing.
Thanks for listening.