Of Phrenologists, Planets, Big Pharma, and Phoneys

Evidence of serious head injury

Sometimes I wonder if there is any hope for the scientific mind.  This evening I read in National Geographic the following article on military head injuries:

Since 2000 some 220,000 US troops have suffered traumatic brain injuries, often from exposure to explosions.  To fathom – and treat – such wounds, blast data are key.  So last year the US military and private sector partners developed and deployed devices that assess explosion severity.  In field testing, soldiers wear the watch-size dosimeter on their chests, shoulders and heads.  The gauges measure pressure and acceleration, letting medics press a button and evaluate risk in color-coded traffic light style: red for serious, yellow for moderate, green for insignificant.

I do have one question: why is such an advanced nation happy to completely wreck nigh on a quarter of a million of its young, energetic brains in a war zone?  These injuries mean long-term damage and ruined lives.

Staff Sgt. James Ownbey, a Marine who served in Iraq as an explosive ordnance disposal technician in 2007 now suffers from a traumatic brain injury (TBI), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and numerous physical ailments (Washington Post)

So never mind designing clever ways to measure the damage – for God’s sake, what about getting them the hell out of harm’s way, by STOPPING THE WAR?!

Seeing stars after an argument

A year ago I was at the coffee bar at the office, arguing about the possibility of other life in the universe.  My opponent was a scientist; he was a very likeable and intelligent chap whose company was developing a probe able to give blood diagnostic readings direct from the patient’s arm.  And his stories were always worth listening to: like the time when as a toxicologist he diagnosed a number of people taken seriously ill in a single neighborhood.  He deduced that someone had attached a pump to their own tap and injected petrol at high pressure into the neighborhood’s water system.

I assured him the universe must be teeming with life.  He scoffed that the chances of life evolving were so perilously close to zero that there would be no way for it to evolve so completely elsewhere: we were therefore alone.  The usual group had gathered and rather sided with him, as I found myself unable to mount a coherent defence apart from insisting there were far too may stars.

I had been unable to persuade anyone because I failed to bring to life an amount that was mentally unmanageable on its own.  The number of stars was just too big.  This failure was annoying, especially knowing the number of stars was so vast – somewhere between 7 times 10 to the power 21, and the power 23.  But if I couldn’t imagine such a number, how could I expect to make it clear to anyone else?

The next morning I noticed the shower was probably less than a metre square, but it still looked fairly substantial.  This gave me an idea: imagining a star as a 1mm grain of sand, a flat square metre of it would be a million grains, or 1 followed by six zeros.  A cubic metre would be 1 followed by 9 zeros – a billion grains – and a strip a kilometre long would be 10 to the power 12, and a square kilometre (one metre thick) would be 1 followed by 15 zeros – which still left at least 6 zeros and possibly 8.

"My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings: Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!" Nothing beside remains. Round the decay of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare, The lone and level sands stretch far away

I knew the surface of the Earth was about 500 million square kilometres, or 5 followed by 8 zeros.  That day’s coffee break couldn’t come soon enough.  When it did, I casually asked my colleague if stars were sand, how much sand would he have?  “Oh, Iain, not this again,” he protested, but shrugged “- a bucketful.  No, no, probably a bathful.”

“Do you realise, that if stars were sand – 1mm per grain, let’s say, you would have enough sand to cover the whole parking lot, to a depth of one metre!”  He looked shocked at this.  “That’s a lot of sand – but how do you know the exact measurement of the parking lot?”

“Well, you’ll soon see.  Because you’d have enough sand left over after the parking lot, to cover all of England, to the same depth!”  The wheels were turning behind his eyes.  “And after that, you would have enough to cover the entire planet – oceans, icecaps, continents, the whole lot – and possibly the moon as well, a metre deep in sand.  Look around and imagine it.  Do you really think, with all those stars, that one ordinary, run of the mill star in the corner somewhere is the only one able to produce life?  It’s like believing God could only have one son, and then give up from exhaustion.  The universe must be teeming with life!”

He laughed and shook his head: “it’s inevitable really, isn’t it?”   And this conclusion must be intuitively obvious, since the job of a sun is to produce life.  If you want scientific proof of that, conduct an experiment of your own: look out the window.  But science wouldn’t know common sense if it ran them over with a steamroller.   So I was heartened to read this week that NASA say:

“Our galaxy is loaded with planets”

Nasa’s Kepler space telescope has found 60 planets and 11 new solar systems – all from a fist-sized patch of sky.

It’s the latest find from a two-year space scan, and brings the total to 60 confirmed planets. The new haul triples the number of multi-planet solar systems found by Kepler.

Planetary systems discovered in only one very small, randomly selected area of sky

Doug Hudgins, a Kepler scientist at Nasa says, ‘In just two years staring at a patch of sky not much bigger than your fist, Kepler has discovered more than 60 planets. Our galaxy is positively loaded with planets of all sizes and orbits.’

‘The approach used to verify the Kepler-33 planets shows the overall reliability is quite high,’ said Jack Lissauer, planetary scientist at NASA Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif., and lead author of the paper on Kepler-33.

These discoveries are published in four different papers in the Astrophysical Journal and the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

"Life, like a dome of many-coloured glass, Stains the white radiance of Eternity." Shelley Memorial, University College, Oxford.

When Less is Moore

Wired magazine have an excellent article this week by Jonah Lehrer about science reaching its limit in drugs research, due to its reliance on reductionist thinking which is not only now failing to work, but proving lethal.  I’d like to print it in full, but Nate Lanxon at their PR department says I can only print an excerpt of 200 words, as long as I include a link to their article.  That seems fair enough, so I’ll have to write my own instead, but here’s the link anyway as it’s well worth reading:

http://www.wired.co.uk/magazine/archive/2012/02/features/trials-and-errors

The gist of it is that the intellect seems to be reaching the end of its tether in some complex areas, provding diminishing returns much like Moore’s law of computing in reverse.   Lehrer cites as an example the development of smart drugs to interfere with the molecular processes of the body, specifically Pfizer’s 2006 drug in development, torcetrapib.  The molecule is shown below:

Torcetrapib

Torcetrapib was designed to manipulate the cholesterol production system in the body: Pfizer already has a medication called lipitor, which works by plugging up a very important enzyme usually kept busy making choleserol in the liver, so the level of low density lipoprotein (LDL) is lowered.  LDL is supposed to be the dangerous cholesterol – like the cowboy with the black hat.

This is quite a good cartoon, actually - a style much like Mad magazine's Jack Davis

Now, the body is a complex place.  As it happens, high density cholesterol, HDL, is supposedly the cholesterol wearing the white hat – as it takes the LDL back to the liver where it is broken down.  Torcetrapib was designed to gum up a protein which converts HDL to LDL, thus causing a lot of white hats and no black ones.  Pfizer expected the drug to redefine cardiovascular treatment.

Well, it certainly would have done that: in phase II trials it triggered chest pains and heart failure – killing 60 percent more people than their original medical condition would have done.  But in their optimism, Pfizer had already invested more than half a billion in tests and in gearing up production lines.  It all had to be scrapped.  Now compare that molecule with this one:

Note the location of Proline - an amino acid which provides a backbone to a molecule, locking the two segments at about a 75 degree angle from each other. I learned that from the internet!

This highly engineered molecule is called oxytocin – comprised of 9 amino acids (the codes given in blue), and much more complex than torcetrapib.   And therefore tens of millions more ways it could go wrong.   Each one is made in a very small factory – a single neuron – among a group of such neurons within the supra-optical nucleus.  This area has come in for a lot of research because its neurons produce a significant number of very important neurotransmitters, but as there are only a few thousand of them, it is a very manageable area for study.

In fact oxytocin is manufactured (I say manufactured because all are identical molecules and made by separate neurons) in response to emotions of gratitude and generosity.  The lack of it seems to be a factor in autism (a single injection of oxytocin can relieve some autistic symptoms for two weeks) and the presence of it seems to be an important part of bonding: animals which generate it are known to bond well, sometimes for life, and animals with less of it are known to lose interest after a while and seek another mate.  So much, so clear.

The neurons which make oxytocin, and the very similar vasopressin, also make other hormones, but those two are the only neurotransmitters known to act at a distance.  They enter the blood and the brain, and as one researcher claimed, “they seem to have a beneficial effect on every major system in the body.”  To operate, oxtytocin requires a certain receptor – a receptor which itself requires cholesterol.  I’m wondering if the cholesterol it requires is LDL.  If so, this single fact could have saved Pfizer getting on to three quarters of a billion dollars.

My point is that this molecule which is so effective to the brain and every major organ system within the body is produced by a natural factory within the brain – a tiny neuron.  It’s more complex and has more impact on us than anything we could come up with even with hundreds of millions in research.   And it’s generated automatically in a unique way: in response to unselfish emotions which themselves feel good, leading you to feel you are doing the “right thing”.  Well, you clearly are.  How difficult is it to theorise that the body itself might be able to come up with powerful drugs already peer-reviewed and needed for robust health, provided we are living a fairly good life, and listening to our inner voice?  Is it worth living if we rely on a crateload of pills every day instead of getting on with our lives?

The problem is widespread now.  As Wired’s article points out, hormone replacement therapy was supposed to reduce heart attacks in post-menopausal women, but did the opposite.  Oestrogen was supposed to prevent Alzheimers, but that didn’t work.  Vitamin C was supposed to prevent bone loss in cases of MS, but it didn’t.  Vitamin E was supposed to reduce cardiovascular disease – again, nope.

AstraZenca and GlaxoSmithKline are scaling back research into the brain – because it’s too complicated.  One look at the electro-chemical diagram of the retina will astonish any engineer.  In fact you could spend a lifetime on it and stil not grasp it in its entirety.  And there you have a problem: how are you going to mess with a system that interlinks with a thousand other systems – not one of which you can completely understand?  I’ve actually written software that turned out to be too complicated to maintain properly.

Once I came up with a six-dimensional array to handle a holiday pricing system for Budget Travel, the largest tour operator in Ireland.  They revealed at the last minute a series of discounts which they’d inserted into their brochure to drum up extra business.  Well, the first two dimensions were the number of hotel rooms and the details, with dates of stay and durations.  The third was the number of people in each room.  The fourth was the breakdown of passengers into adults, children and infants.  The fifth was the meal plan per person, and the sixth was the discount structure so that each person could have a whole set of pricing per night, with free nights, reductions and so on.  It wasn’t the comlexity so much as the fact that it was all in an array which only existed in the memory of the computer – it was laid to disk in a separate series of steps but it was the collection of dimensions that had to be managed mentally all at one time.

A year later I tried to add a seventh dimension, to incorporate currency variations, and I eventually gave up – it was too complicated.  What I had done under pressure working overnight could not be duplicated later – not by me, anyway.  I converted the whole thing into a series of tables which worked slower but was easier to diagnose.  Things can get complicated because they have had too much intelligence put into them and the amazing thing is sometimes that they work at all.  In the old days, Norton had a product that could fix the first Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheets if they corrupted.  But now, the things that can go wrong have hundreds of implications to other internal pointers and formulas – like reassembling a sandcastle.  So if your magnificent Excel spreadsheet goes belly up the only question is, did you make a backup?

Words fail me when I see articles on meditation studies praising the benefit of various neurotransmitters and their great effect on the peace of mind of an individual – which  sombrely conclude that analysing these processes could well lead to new drugs in the war on mental illness.  Look!  Never mind spending years of research and billions of dollars on factories churning out dodgy molecules, while the original problems all multiply and compound themselves – for God’s sake, man, the factories are already assembled, tooled up and ready to go, inside each and every brain – what about trying meditation?!

And now 175 words from the original Wired article, leading tortuously back to Moore’s law:

While correlations help us track the relationship between independent measurements, such as the link between smoking and cancer, they are much less effective at making sense of systems in which the variables cannot be isolated. Such situations require that we understand every interaction before we can reliably understand any of them.

These troubling trends play out most vividly in the drug industry. Although modern pharmaceuticals are supposed to represent the practical pay-off of basic research, the R&D to discover a promising new compound now costs about 100 times more (inflation-adjusted) than it did in 1950.

It also takes nearly three times as long. Industry forecasts suggest that once failures are taken into account, the average cost per approved molecule will top $3.8 billion (£2.46 million) by 2015. What’s worse, even these “successful” compounds don’t seem to be worth the investment. We are witnessing Moore’s law in reverse.

Although we’ve mapped every known part of the chemical pathway, the causes that matter are still nowhere to be found. If this is progress, it’s a peculiar kind.

A wolf in cheap clothing

In 2003 I received – as a result of my website which dealt at some length with genuine Kundalini experiences – a mysterious letter from one Solomae Sananda of PO Box 882, Somerset, California 95684, who had written a book called Kundalini and the Evolution of Consciousness, which she enclosed, along with an intriguing pamphlet.  The pamphlet offered to train me via a mail order course to become an ordained minister for $250; they would even send me a parking permit with my certificate.  I could pay up front, or pay half now and half when I took the final test.

But more intriguing by far was the claim that Cheryl Stoycoff – her real name – claimed to be an ascended master, and was now disseminating wisdom for the enlightenment of mankind.  I read the book, which was as close to nonsense as I have ever seen.  Her spiritual experience sounded so humdrum and banal that one could compare it to throwing out the trash.  “Once again, I checked out of my body for a while.”  It was as if she had read about genuine spiritual experience and decided that she, too, could be an ascended master, and make a quick buck.  There was nothing in the book whatsoever other than a colossal insult to the idea of spirituality, and the charging of $50 per head to listen at her feet added a nauseating context to what might otherwise could been mistaken for simple ignorance.

I wrote back that it was exactly this kind of rubbish that gave spirituality a bad press.   It’s small wonder that the militant atheists have so much ammunition when these frauds and phoneys are touting their wares.  People giving themselves exotic Indian names and answering every question with a riddle is still in fashion simply because no proper long-term scientific research has ever been carried out on the biology of spiritual experience.

Anyway, last weekend I thought I’d see what had happened to her in the intervening nine years.  It did not surprise me that her website, http://www.livingspiritfoundation.org was now a spam site pushing badly translated automated Chinese phrases about marketing scams, and that Cheryl has turned her back on universal enlightenment to push a rather averagely received book on raw vegatables for kids.

Oh well, no harm done, I thought.  But much worse was the following news I found in the Tulsa World of 25th July 2005:

By Nicole Marshall

A family is waging a court battle with a church that they say is a religious cult over the estate of a woman who was found dead on an Arkansas River bank in April.

Linda Mauer belonged to the Living Spirit Foundation and moved with it from California to Oklahoma in 2003. The church, under the direction of its spiritual leader, Solomae Sananda, formerly Cheryl Stoycoff, is based in Inola, its Web site shows.

After joining the Living Spirit Foundation, which describes itself as a nondenominational, interfaith, nontraditional and Christ- based spiritual organization, Mauer began using the first name ‘Bethany.’

Two passersby found her body April 1 in a muddy area thick with brush north of the 21st Street Bridge.  A detective at the time noted some “suspicious circumstances” but no obvious signs of trauma to her body.

Sananda’s husband, Clyde Stoycoff, filed a petition for probate of a lost will in Tulsa County District Court in June, claiming that Mauer willed her estate to him, Sananda and the Living Spirit Foundation, court records show.

Stoycoff describes himself as an ordained minister, director of ministerial services and business manager for the foundation, its web site shows.

Even if the judge allows the copy [of the will]to be used, or if the original is found, the family maintains that the will is not binding for several reasons, including the suspicious circumstances of Mauer’s death.

Apparently Mauer met Stoycoff in a yoga class, and Stoycoff convinced her to join the LSF.  She became so committed to it that when her mother died – leaving her an undisclosed sum – choosing to leave California with the couple, headed to Oklahoma, instead of attending her mother’s funeral.

Stoycoff’s site is down.  but the Internet Archive provides pages going back to before Mauer’s death.  From the text on it, Stoycoff seemed obsessed with dark satanic forces, and this tallies with claims that Stoycoff nominated Mauer as a gatekeeper who “held the energy of the gates of hell at bay so that Christ could form the new Earth through His body.”  No pressure, then.

I also found a tech discussion site in which someone who had moderated Stoycoff’s blog admitted that at the time, all this pretentious twaddle of hellish spectres around every corner sounded appealing, but in the light of this news, he realised it was corrupted and sick stuff.

Talk about putting a brave spin on a rejected, abandoned mental patient found starved to death in a ditch.  Stoycoff’s husband wrote of the woman they expelled from their inner circle “..because of her isolation, when the time came and her mission was complete, she drove to a public place last Friday morning (April 1), laid down and, with the assistance of a bevy of angels, went home to be with her True Love in the peace she so richly deserves. In the midst of my selfish sorrow of my missing her, I am overjoyed at her current circumstance.” 

With a flourish – no doubt tinged with sadness – the Stoycoffs then produced a copy of an email assigning them complete control over the funeral arrangements, which Mauer had supposedly hoped would expedite the processing of her will.  How convenient.  But how strange then, to read the following:

Paula Sullivan, a Tulsa woman who befriended Mauer, said Mauer changed both physically and emotionally before she last saw her in the winter.

“In the dozens of walks and even more cups of tea shared, Linda only spoke of spiritual topics — Scriptures and the inquiry classes she was taking in the Catholic Church. The last time I had tea with her in her apartment, she told me Clyde Stoycoff said Solomae was ‘expanding exponentially through spiritual realms.’ ”

Sullivan said Mauer was always very excited when she spoke about Sananda. But Mauer told Sullivan that she believed she had “denser energies” surrounding herself and that it wasn’t good for her to be physically near Sananda because of these dark energies, Sullivan said.

It seems the Stoycoffs got a bit tired of Mauer’s attentions and gave her the cold shoulder – a devastating blow for someone already on the fringe of sanity – but not so tired of her to turn down a chance at snagging her estate.  Stoycoff wrote to me exactly two years before all this happened.  She never responded to my furious reply.

All of this made me feel sick to think perhaps I could have prevented it by publicising her fraud with more vigour back in 2003.  But all I knew for sure at the time was that she had written a crappy and deceitful book and was running an “ordained minister” course with free parking permits.  It sounded like a stupid joke and impossible to take seriously;  I never imagined someone might lose their life because of her.   I could find no more about Cheryl Stoycoff from the internet, other than one of her sons has joined the Tulsa Air Squadron, and the other became a journalist.

Ascended Master's advice for scrapping junk cars, and "earning to the maximum when the desired opportunity is foremost." It probably reads better in the original auto-generated Chinese

I traced what looked like an affiliate website to an individual in Eastern Canada, who had claimed online that Sananda was her friend.  From the hosting details of her site I obtained her phone number, but came up empty handed: a very pleasant lady, she assured me she had never met Sananda and had only been impressed by her book.

Kundalini, in a nutshell, is the Sanskrit name for the coiled up force at the base of the spine responsible for evolution, for altered states of consciousness, and also, in a tainted, corrupted form, the horrors of mental illness.   Genuine knowledge of it is so sparse that cases of awakenings or partial awakenings can labour for years to find anyone with the least knowledge about it; some end up in institutions, or victims of despicable scam artists like the Stoycoffs.

There is one thing I can tell you for sure about Kundalini: it will one day be the most researched avenue in human biology.  If you want information about it, forget the yoga sessions at the corner gym, forget anyone dressing themselves in funny white clothes and making silly hand gestures, forget anyone adopting an esoteric Indian pseudonym and charging you twenty bucks a time to listen to their stupid riddles.  Especially avoid anyone who tells you they are an ascended master.

Instead, go to the Institute for Consciousness Research in Canada.  They have a website which I have linked to on the side of the page, near the top. As far as I know, they are the only credible avenue interested in divesting Kundalini of its mysterious origins, and placing it on a firm scientific footing.  Associated with the group are Gene Kieffer, a superb, energetic American writer who with John White brought Pandit Gopi Krishna to the attention of the western world and the Max Planck Institute.

And working tirelessly there are first class human beings such as Paul and Dale Pond, Michael Bradford, Vitold Kreutzer and Teri Degler.  Some of them have had kundalini experiences themselves – and all have developed their personalities to the point where they are part of the solution.  If you want to know anything about Kundalini, take it from me that these are the people to talk to.

About iain carstairs

I have a great interest in both scientific advances and the beauty of religion, and created www.scienceandreligion.com about 15 years ago with the aim of finding common ground between the scientist and the believer, and to encourage debate between the two sides.
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19 Responses to Of Phrenologists, Planets, Big Pharma, and Phoneys

  1. susan grace says:

    Oh, if only the majority of folks on this planet would and could understand that the most wonderful life altering, consciousness and brain altering chemicals, lie within their own physical frame and natural chemical laboratory. What is it about the human psyche, that it feels the need to turn to outside chemicals and intoxicants that brings about a euphoria that that is only transient and more often than not, dangerous!

    The youth of our world, it appears to me, don’t get this message – I see them drinking, smoking marijuana, smoking cigarettes, taking ecstasy, on and on (of course they are modeling adults who do the same thing generation after generation despite the cautions and warnings that grow each year). The Kundalini hypothesis says our birthright is a natural ecstasy born from within, expanded consciousness, and contact with planes beyond the five senses. Recently I found a forum devoted to raising awareness regarding Kundalini experiences, albeit in a Christian context: http://shalomplace.org/eve/forums/a/frm/f/25010765.

    There was an interesting post that reads in part:

    “It does indeed seem like there is an increase in the number of awakenings occurring throughout the globe… having myself experienced such a rather strange ‘psychological turn’, it concerns me greatly that there are individuals suffering from a genuine stirring of this cosmic force, who have little awareness of what is transpiring within them, and what steps to take… Based on my own [continuing] experience with this force, I hope to contribute to discussions from a physiological as well as neuroscientific perspective with the hope that it may enable individuals to frame their experiences within a more pragmatic, and less sensationalist context.”

    As far as false gurus and teachers, there’s a con man born every minute. It’s really sad, because the throngs rush to the side of “glamorous” magic making gurus, and ignore the genuine awakened mystic such as Gopi Krishna who promised no miracles and no quick fixes. I viewed an introductory copy of a documentary on Kundalini from 7Dotsmedia and one of the people profiled was a man who was a self proclaimed Kundalini master and counseled others.

    It was clear that something was not right with this man; yet he was luring hapless folks to his inner circle making big promises. Unfortunately, this is more often the case, and you are so right Iain, it’s because Kundalini has been deemed as not worthy of investigation up to this point, that con men/women continue to flourish and take advantage of the helpless.

    We can observe certain gurus and their organizations raking in millions and millions of dollars, and the folks with integrity that you mention (the Ponds in Canada ICR), Gene Kieffer (KRF), and author Teri Degler labor in relative obscurity to make the world a different place…asking nothing in return! Their conscience is clear.

    • One of the problems we had in the late 70’s in the UK was the word “kundalini”. People were mystified. The western word is bio-energy; once you mentioned that, they breathed a sigh of relief and would converse freely.

      Another problem was that the Hare Krishna were very big in the UK at that time. George Harrison’s 1970’s song “My Sweet Lord” had featured his interest in the Hare Krishna and they were always on the streets of London. Matter of fact they had a restaurant around Soho Square and would often walk around in groups, chanting and waving tambourines and so on. So you’d present a book called “The Biological Basis of Religion and Genius” by Gopi Krishna and people woud say, “oh, yeah, Hare Krishna, yeah” and start to wander off, and of course straight away you were diverted into explaining the name was just like “Smith” in India.

      Around of that time there was the 3HO group – the Happy Healthy and Holy group – what a bloody nuisance. Always dressed in white, always over-pious, always in a giddy world of their own. And the scientologists, really intense, focused people, were trying to make a name for themselves. We got to know the guy trying to make a huge Kirlean photography plate – the electricity would have been frightening, and Sir George Trevelyan of the Wrekin Trust. And people from Findhorn, a group I could never quite figure out. They had all this publicity, fantastic photo books and everything, and everyone knew about the huge vegetables etc but the people themselves seemed like hippies, totally detached from society. They were pleasant but seemed in a daze. How did they get anything done? Who had organised all this fantastic publicity? And how could they possibly grow such huge vegetables! It made no sense to me.

      I met Peter Fenwick, too, an absolutely fascinating guy. He was Consultant Neurophysiologist at St Thomas, with a lot of credibility, and had been trying to verify out of body experiences, by putting notes at the top of very high room dividers in his wards, which you could only see from a height of about 2.5 metres. But such a patient chap, and he really engaged you when you talked.

      We’d give seminars at CND rallies, too – we got hold of “The War Game” which was a harrowing cinema verité film of a nuclear strike on the UK. I saw it so many times and every time it felt traumatic. We’d show it and talk about the reasons why nuclear war seemed inevitable. But everyone was looking for something different, something meaningful. Of course there was room for loads of frauds and wishful thinkers. I think I gave a talk once at the EastWest centre; I must have been 20 or 21 or something. Later I got a really angry letter from the directors saying that they were “New Age” didn’t want such “doom and gloom” presented to their classes. I remember in one yoga class, some woman lay down to relax and actually fell asleep. It was a free for all really, but people bought a lot of the KRI books.

      And at the 1979 Festival of Mind, Body and Spirit we met Peter Sellers, who had just finished “Being There” and was clearly looking for something deeper in his life. It wasn’t long after that that he died, I think. Everyone was looking for something and it’s only natural that there was a kind of giddiness about those times. It was like the Hippies had found something to scientifically justify dropping out, to find something deeper. There was a lot of sincerity, and the people who were taken in by Sai Baba, you could really sympathise with them. One chap was a hydrocephalic – actually a very interesting and funny guy. And another friend of his who must have been in his 80’s. One woman, named Sandra, found a red thread and was convinced Sai Baba had materialised it from India. For some people, nothing made any sense, and that was the whole appeal – like an anti-sense existence.

      In Pinner we met one of the people who helped bring radar into use in WW2: he and his wife gave us an old Morris Minor to drive around! People were so kind. And just down the road lived a woman who rushed in one night, when we lived at 6 Rosecroft Walk, saying her son Simon was going to be on Top of The Pops that night! What was his band, I asked? “Well, they call themselves Duran Duran. Don’t ask me why.” She was a lovely woman, and she ran a catering company locally – her name was Anne le Bon!

      Ah, those were the days!

  2. Any thoughts on this Edgar Cayce guy? Or people that write books they’ve channeled from various people from stars or from the other side? As much as I would like to disabuse people of these notions, they do seem to provide some of the benefits of religion you identify.

    • Cayce was genuine, no doubt about it. In fact his life story would make a very good post. He was utterly convincing; as an example, he said that anyone who ate almonds every day would never get cancer. Nobody understood this. Recent molecular research has shown that almonds contain an inert form of the cyanide molecule, which accounts for the tingling you get on your tongue if you eat quite a few. And there’s only one enzyme in the body which can unlock this cyanide – and that enzyme is found at the base of new tumour sites!

      • Another of his cancer cures was the raw side of a freshly skinned rabbit, still warm with blood, fur side out, placed on the breast for cancer of that area. But, your defense of his description of Atlantis and our discovery of the Atlnatean Death Ray in 1958 should be interesting.

  3. susan grace says:

    My humble reply on channeling…it all sounds so innocent, and a lot of channeled writings and pronouncements seem rather benigh, but it also seems that every sage or saint worth his or her salt has said “beware”. Who is the entity coming through? How can we trust what it is who it says it is. So how do we distinguish between fake and real spiritual luminaries – perhaps by their words and actions.

    Gopi Krishna said he starkly contrasted the writings that flowed through his brain with automatic writing; in automatic writing, he explained, an expansive cosmic intelligence does *not* seem to be present. Whereas in revelation, he came in direct contact with a transcendent all pervasive intelligence that rules all. Some might say “well that was channeled”, but Gopi Krishna never claimed to be in contact with some bodiless entity named Abraham or Melchizedek or…fill in the blanks.

    When one reads the words of an enlightened sage and compares it to the bland expositions of channelers, there is no comparison! The state of enlightenment, according to those who have achieved it, can not compare with any other experience, and this is the experience to be sought after, not superficial exchanges at the lowly astral level. Gopi Krishna never performed a miracle, never demanded money, did not seek followers…and so the new age crowd who wanted to fawn over a divine magical being ignored him.

    Far too many look for wisdom in channeled writings, when it can be found very easily in the great revered spiritual texts and sacred literature of religious faiths. I know one who would rather go meditate on galatic portals with a “dolphin lady”, than read the writings of St. Theresa or Gopi Krishna — “too hard” she says! Aah, how shallow! As far as Edgar Cayce is concerned, he seemed spot-on about medical issues, but nothing he claims about Egypt has ever been proven. So not all wisdom and knowledge is accessible through the trance state.

  4. susan grace says:

    by the way, I have as matter of course stirred up a hornet’s nest on a certain Kundalini forum because I equate the word Kundalini with Holy Spirit. I said exactly what you did, Iain, that we’ve all racked our brains for a substitute word for Kundalini that seems to engender a negative connotation with not only the scientific community, but those of a certain religious persuasion. As you state, some have used instead the word bio-energy, yet that still does not fully capture the profundity of what Kundalini is – the psycho-physiological mechanism within driving human evolution. Kundalini, as Pandit Gopi Krishna explained, is *both* the mechanism and the energy.

    • I do think this constant reliance on other people’s thinking becomes very unappealing. I think atheism attracts people because it encourages one to think for themselves. I don’t even think the God/No God debate is much a part of it. Aggressives use that sometimes just to make someone else feel little, but apart from that, I don’t even think it amounts to much. It can’t be proved or disproved – walk away.

      In fact they’re starting to get a sense that you can’t just spend your life criticising. They’re trying to make lists of things to improve in society – the “ten things” to change in America for example. The God/No God argument is pointless anyway. Those who believe in a God capable of forming the Universe with its merest thought must next admit that the concept is so vast as to be unmanageable for a human. Therefore the belief arises from their own senses, but this can’t be communicated to others through words.

      You might be able to imagine the greatest painting. But only by using your own skill and intelligence can you transmit this idea to someone else. It’s pointless to invite people to an art show and instead of showing them your own attempts, say “Van Gogh said this about colours! Gauguin said that! Picasso said something!” It loses all its power and you become invisible. What is the point of such a life? The atheists see this. They don’t want to follow authority, they want to think for themselves. Of course, they do follow their leaders, but the seed of doubt is there.

      What is the point in inviting people to a concert, then getting up in front of the audience and putting on a CD? You have to put your own fingers on the strings and overcome all the obstacles that any player of the past did. Those obstacles include other people, time constraints, technical problems, discouragement, everything! You can’t just get up and say, “oh, clapton played a great solo! Let me tell you about it!” People will leave. They want to hear someone overcome obstacles, because it gives them faith that they, too, can do the same. This is the secret of art. People see that a little hand with a brush made a miracle – despite poverty, despite hunger, despite a short life. This encourages them as humans. Seeing mistakes just makes the whole thing even more powerful. There are big mistakes on the Sistine ceiling! But that shows the human signature and makes it all the more impressive.

      Do you think people go to a Vermeer exhibition to see how women dressed, or how they used a sewing cushion in 1530? They go to see how a human being just like them, with much the same worries and problems, somehow managed to create a masterpiece out of tubes of sticky paste. The mystery of it is what appeals. This is why they then go home and try to paint. People see tennis every year, or hockey. Then they rush off to buy all the equipment. Why? Because they are encouraged. They see something wonderful is posisble. Of course they underestimate the effort and skill required. But trying it out for themselves is the whole point of this. Then they can say, “Those players are great! Let ME tell you why!” I tried motor racing for the same reason. And as a result I understand why those people are so special. This is freedom – to try something. And it is genius which gives us that freedom, which encourages us.

      I think people are so ungrateful today because they’ve never had to go without. I was homeless for a while in the early eighties, and spent a week sleeping at Euston Square station. There isn’t a single night since then that I haven’t thanked God for a roof over my head and food in the fridge. You can’t imagine the value that has added to my life. One day I want to try and make my own wine! Of course it will taste like crap! But every other glass I ever have after that will be filled with wonder for me. I think this is what makes life worthwhile, to understand the value of everything we have. Even if science starts to give up on the research into biology because it so mind bogglingly complicated, they will be filled with a renewed sense of wonder that everything works so well, and surely that’s a good thing. I’m not much of a writer; my vocabulary is not much and I know so little about anything, but some days I get 3,000 hits! Why? People like to see someone try their hand at something! What else can I say?

      What has become of us? Are we always going to sit back and point to what someone else thought? What’s wrong with our own thoughts? With your own logic you can take apart most of society – most of its education, commerce, politics. But you can’t replace it with anything better as long as people are going to just blindly follow whoever leads in the new system. People have to think for themselves. If they do, they will also come out at the point of truth, but doing it through their own experience is what life is all about. All this “So-and-so said this, and what they said is incredibly beautiful..” but what about what YOU think and what YOU say? Wouldn’t that be even more beautiful?!

      This is even the secret of religion. That a sense of glory can be incorporated within our own frame. So Jesus was virtous. Did he wear out virtue? What’s wrong with our trying it, and seeing what we can do? Every soldier in Napoleon’s army each baked their own bread. So the whole army was fed, without any reliance on authority, without any need for organisation. We have become a nation of people with our hands outsretched. We want someone else’s work, someone else’s art, someone else’s thoughts. People sit staring at the television watching someone else grow rich. Everything must be done for us by someone else. I want to make my own art, my own music, my own writing. Everyone should try this, try to paint their little corner of the world in their own way. Otherwise why have we been given a life, and our own thoughts, only to run after someone else’s?

      If we believe in truth, we must also believe that each mind will come to much the same conclusion as us, given the same experiment. If people relied on their own senses, we wouldn’t have these ludicrous situations where social workers say “I thought something was wrong, but there was nothing on their paperwork to suggest they would kill their child.. they wouldn’t let me in.. so I recorded it as alleged inappropriate..” or firefighters turn up and don’t rescue a woman trapped in a mineshaft because nobody ELSE has told them whether or not it contravenes health and safety regulations, and the woman dies. This actually happened a few weeks ago. Unless people think for themselves, we are doomed. And people see this, and when they are sufficiently fed up with self-appointed authorities telling them what to do, they are bound to shun all authority, for a while, as an over-reaction.

      So if people are gravitating to atheism because it encourages logic within the individual, this in itself is a very worthwhile thing. That might even be the whole appeal of it. If molecular science leads to validation of spiritual laws, then let everyone reason about this for themselves, and we’ll all prove it to ourselves by experiment; if one’s own experience of meditation leads to spirituality, a sense of another consciousness, an atheist will be as liable to discover it as anyone else. But as long as we continually lean on some long dead hero or heorine, people should not take us seriously because we have not shown the courage and conviction which we ask of them, to make that journey – however imperfect or stumbling – for themselves. This is self-reliance, and I think it is also freedom.

  5. susan grace says:

    Folks are reading your blog perhaps for the reason that you are not only a gifted writer (though you downplay your ability) but you also talk about things in a common sense and practical way which is appealing. You make connections and show us the beauty in diverse things, such as molecular biology, that is beyond many of us, and you strive to make it understandable, no doubt to yourself, and also to your readers. You ask us to think…in a different way! So thank you for your efforts!

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  8. After a small run-in I had on hole #4 of a golf course with Clyde Stoycoff, my friend David told me to stay away from the Stoycoffs. Apparently they were regular customers of his. Said that “Solomae” acted like a battered woman most of the time… real skittish, especially around men. And apparently Clyde was less of an ordained christian minister than satan itself. Often telling lies, cursing, being overly judgemental of others, etc. Said that Clyde supposedly claims to be a retired California law enforcement officer and disabled veteran. Apparently, they still live in the northeast Oklahoma area. Their son is some kind of political columnist for the Tulsa World. The Tulsa World, of course, being the newspaper that first publicized the story about Mauer. How ironic!

    • Thanks very much for the observations! One thing I can’t forget is sending off for her book about kundalini and finding it was just the diary of an ordinary person who felt good sometimes, and not at other times. In those days people believed whatever they read about it, but after seeing Gopi Krishna give up 40 years of his life to try and educate people about the significance of kundalini, and the dangers, I really saw red. Actually I did find that info about one of their sons being a journalist, though I can’t remember if I wrote to him or not; if memory serves I believe the other son joined the military, the air force I think it was. Kind regards

      • Carrie Vickers says:

        Curiously, ONE son became a journalist on the TULSA paper…wonder if it was because he got to “delete” any stories of a suspicious nature about the Stoycroffs???????

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  10. Keith Davidson says:

    Clyde Stoycoff??? OMG!! He actually WAS a Deputy Sheriff with San Joaquin County back in the 80’s! Seems like he either hit on a scam or went off the rails!!!

  11. S M says:

    Hello BillLeeive!!! Very curious about your comments. I’ve got a dear friend who was fairly deeply involved with the Stoycoffs awhile back, and needs to contact them. Maybe you or your friend David knows of a way to contact them? Thanks for any help…

  12. Carrie Vickers says:

    I KNOW that Ann Foreman Nichols was involved EXTENSIVELY with this group[….She had a GREAT deal of money (from a suspicious DEATH of JOEL STORSS (whom she married and 7 weeks later he DIED)…She was a microbiologist @ Berkely, Ca. and followed Cheryl (Salaomae) to Oklahoma, after she inherited Mr. Storss estate)…WHERE she is NOW is a very, VERY unknown… THESE people are murderers…..

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