Posts

Dream hunters and healers in Corsica (and Macedonia).

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  When I lived in what is now the Republic of North Macedonia, I had a friend, B, whose sister was happily married and had just given birth to their first child. This sister's sister-in-law, somewhat older, was also married with two children. With the birth of the child, the sister-in-law began to behave in 'interesting' ways that appeared designed to do harm to the newborn (her nephew). She was seen speaking under her breath when the baby was being baptized, items of the baby's clothing would disappear after she had visited their home, the babies' parents became convinced that his aunt was casting the 'evil eye'.  Not knowing quite what to make of these tales, that B would regale me with, I christened the sister-in-law, 'the wicked witch', and would ask periodically how the saga was unfolding.  A couple of months later, I was invited by B to a family St. Nicholas Day celebration. I arrived with the party in full swing, myriad people assembled around

Forbidden Fruits

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Whereas their previous novel, 'The Forbidden Book'  https://ncolloff.blogspot.com/2013/09/the-forbidden-book.html  began with a bomb desecrating a church that itself contains a desecrating image of the Prophet Muhammed, this second novel from the partnership of Joscelyn Godwin and Guido Mina di Sospiro starts with a more peaceful 'explosion' in an archeological discovery that offers the possibility of re-writing our knowledge of pre-history and of religion - a golden pomegranate in which is sealed two entheogenic substances, carbon-dated to a time when the Mediterranean was land and Malta was the center of a long-lasting paleolithic culture whose monuments comprise one of its attractions to this day. The discovery is made by Monica, an ambitious American archaeologist, and her eccentric billionaire sponsor, Sebastian Pinto. It is a discovery that will trigger Sebastian's murder and Rafael, his son, and Monica's search for the killers as they, in turn, are pursue

Flatland: A Day on Transformative Ways of Knowing

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  My report on a fascinating day on transformative ways of knowing held under the auspices of the Scientific and Medical Network and the Centre for Myth, Cosmology and the Sacred recently published in the Network's Paradigm Explorer. Edwin Abbott’s satirical novella, which gave this day its title, imagines the perplexities of a square as it visits a one-dimensional world and is visited from a three-dimensional one, being misunderstood and misunderstanding in turn. Abbott’s principal aim was social satire but, in the process, raised profound issues about how we construct our realities and what happens when those constructs are broken into by new levels of experience, presaging other worlds, other possibilities. The Scientific and Medical Network exists because it speculates that our present world trapped betwixt a dated, ‘knowing’ scientific materialism and patterns of religion that feel socially performative at best, assertively fundamentalist at worst, is indeed flat, two dimens

Riders on the Storm: Ways through a crisis

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My only meaningful contribution to climate change as public policy was helping produce a report on the human impact of such change in Russia ahead of the COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009. In conjunction with this, I liaised with the Russian government's climate change negotiators; and, because this was not a feat that the hosting Danish minister had been able to achieve (sic), I found myself a leading source of intelligence on what the Russian government's stance would be.  I remember asking one of the negotiators what would help him the most in nudging forward his own government. The response was 'noise' about climate change not from people like me (an international NGO) nor even a Russian NGO but ordinary people in Irkutsk, say, talking about it, being concerned by it. Our task was to seed that if we could. Reading Alastair McIntosh's 'Rider in the Storm' reminded me that the 'right noise' remains urgently necessary. But to get there, first, we must acq

Hunting ghosts, science and the need for a touch of metaphysics.

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  Since traditionally one settles down with a ghost story or two on Christmas Eve, I decided to embark on reading about a real-life ghost hunt that began with the Fox sisters launching 'modern spiritualism' in Up-State New York in the 1840s and whose first phase was concluded in the first decade of the twentieth century with the death of the principal psychial investigators. In the interim, they had founded the Society for Psychical Research (and its American equivalent). Blum, herself, admits, in an afterword, both to having not a 'psychic' bone in her body, never having had any kind of anomalous experience, and, in writing the book, moved from a skeptical position to a more open-minded one. There may just be more in heaven and earth than is dreamt of in our (materialist) philosophies.  It is a well-arranged, artfully paced, and broadly judicious telling of the remarkable men (and one woman) who formed the backbone of the psychic investigators, their principal subjects

Joining in the dance?

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Re-discovered this review I wrote and struck me as (momentarily hopefully) counter-cultural since our cover dancers are neither social distanced nor apparently masked ...!!! You are attending a Society of Friend's meeting. Gathered in a calm silence punctuated by occasional quietly spoken testimony, one of the attendees begins to tap out a rhythm with their feet, they begin to sway, stand up, dance on the spot, speaking in words ecstatic, occasionally intelligible but mainly sounds of intense feeling. How does the meeting respond? Does it allow itself to synchronize its rhythms with the enthusiast and join in the dance? Does it shuffle uncomfortably in its seats, stretching natural tolerance to breaking point? Or does the clerk of meeting, gently lead the enthusiast out to a quiet corner and a cup of tea, fearing in them some mental imbalance? I suspect it might be the latter and yet, as their nickname of 'Quakers' demonstrate, the origins of the Society of Friends were in

Merry Christmas and a Happier New Year

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Archbishop Desmond Tutu, campaigner and celebrant, vibrant witness to an inclusive Church and polity, once remarked that he was too busy, challenged, and committed not to find two hours a day for silent, personal prayer! This might be a touch demanding for most of us but in a year that has demanded reservoirs of adaptability, flexibility, and resilience from all of us, something proximate might not be a bad place to start!  As I have known from long association with the Prison Phoenix Trust,  https://www.theppt.org.uk/  a spiritual practice makes a difference and can be practiced anywhere, even in the most difficult of circumstances. One of the surprising things, I first noticed about a prison is just how noisy they are for starters! Interestingly, at least in the early days of the pandemic with inmates locked down, one of our trustees, governor of a women's prison, noted that several women had mentioned how less stressful life was now, with the contacts with others limited, contai