Sunday, August 06, 2006


Collapse by Jared Diamond
Kali's Odiyya by Amarananda Bhairavan
Aghora by Robert Svoboda
Aghora II by Robert Svoboda
Aghora III by Robert Svoboda
The Supreme Doctrine by HubertBenoit
The Supreme Identity by Alan Watts
Tantric Quest by Daniel Odier
Terror and Liberalism by Paul Berman

Warrior Woman: Wafa Sultan

Dr. Wafa Sultan is an Arab-American psychiatrist who has undertaken no less a task than to challenge the patriarchy and prejudices of Islam. She came to international prominence when she took on leading Arab clerics and theologians through interviews on Al-Jazeera, theArabic-language television channel based in Qatar.
In this no-holds-barred debate Dr. Sultan declared that “The clash we are witnessing around the world is not a clash of religions, or a clash of civilizations. It is a clash between two opposites, between two eras. It is a clash between a mentality that belongs to the Middle Ages and another mentality that belongs to the 21st century. It is a clash between civilization and backwardness, between …human rights, on the one hand, and the violation of these rights, on other hand. It is a clash between those who treat women like beasts, and those who treat them like human beings.
“What we see today is not a clash of civilizations. Civilizations do not clash, but compete….The Muslims are the ones who began using this expression. The Muslims are the ones who began the clash of civilizations. The Prophet of Islam said: ‘I was ordered to fight the people until they believe in Allah and His Messenger.’ When the Muslims divided the people into Muslims and non-Muslims, and called to fight the others until they believe in what they themselves believe, they started this clash, and began this war. In order to stop this war, they must reexamine their Islamic books and curricula, which are full of calls for takfir and fighting the infidels.”
“The Jews” she said, “have come from the tragedy (of the Holocaust), and forced the world to respect them – with their knowledge, not with their terror, with their work, not their crying and yelling. Humanity owes most of the discoveries and science of the 19th and 20th centuries to Jewish scientists. 15 million people, scattered throughout the world, united and won their rights through work and knowledge. We have not seen a single Jew blow himself up in a German restaurant. We have not seen a single Jew destroy a church. We have not seen a single Jew protest by killing people. The Muslims have turned three Buddha statues into rubble. We have not seen a single Buddhist burn down a Mosque, kill a Muslim, or burn down an embassy. Only the Muslims defend their beliefs by burning down churches, killing people, and destroying embassies. This path will not yield any results. The Muslims must ask themselves what they can do for humankind, before they demand that humankind respect them.”
When accused by Dr. Ibrahim Al-Khouli of being a heretic, and blaspheming against Islam, she shot back, “You are free to worship whoever you want, but other people's beliefs are not your concern.” Since the interview, she has been subjected to a stream of death threats, but remains undeterred.
In a subsequent interview on Israel Radio, Dr. Sultan described how her perspective on Islam changed after witnessing the murder of her college professor in the name of Allah by Islamic extremists.
“The year 1979 was the turning point of my life. I was a medical student at the University of Aleppo in Syria. At that time, the Brotherhood of Islam committed very bloody and ugly crimes against innocent Syrian people in the name of their God. I witnessed the killing of my professor, a great human being who had nothing to do with the government. They filled his body with hundreds of bullets before my eyes while screaming Allah is great. At that moment I was traumatized. I had just lost trust in their God and started to question his teachings. This event was the turning point that has led me to the present point.”
After immigrating to America, she met Jews for the first time, challenging the ideas she was raised with that Jewish people were not human creatures. She said that it was only through meeting and interacting with Jews on a personal basis that her views began to shift: “I have discovered how wrong we were. The more I work with them the more I find out we are all human beings. The first experience I had in the medical field was with a Jewish doctor. We were four Muslim women in his program, and he treated us very well. My experience is great, so I have to break this taboo and tell my people the truth."
Instead of perpetuating the cycle of hate and bloodshed, Dr. Sultan advocates creating connection and communication between Arabs and Jews to foster tolerance and compassion. “There is a saying ‘Get to know your enemy in order to know how to fight him.’ Far from this saying I would say, ‘Get to know your enemy in order to befriend him.’ Once you know how much suffering your enemy is going through, you will be more compassionate and eventually more tolerant. Get people on both sides to know each other, to communicate with each other,” Wafa implored.
Women in the Islamic world have traditionally been severely oppressed. Dr. Sultan called on them to take on leadership roles in the struggle to rid Islam of its militant influences, because it is the nature of women to compromise and to seek to make peace.
“I would like to tell every woman in the Islamic world, 'you are a true leader. Our people are not going anywhere unless you get in the driver's seat and drive our new generation safely to their destination. You are by your nature more flexible.' I would like to tell every woman that men have proved nothing but their failure, by keeping you out of the big picture they misled us and took us from one disaster to another. I would like to tell every woman believe in yourself and play your role.
“Mother Nature has given you the ability to conceive and give birth to life, and I am sure has also armed you with the skills to preserve this life. You are by every means a peaceful creature and by practicing your natural skills and playing your natural role you will be able to lead your divided and broken world to a peaceful better life. The bright future I am hoping for is not too far away,” Wafa stated, envisioning a new reality in the future where all Muslim women will be free to speak their minds openly. “What I am saying right now, if a Muslim woman were to say it in ten years from now she will say it not from her home in the United States but from her home in Saudi Arabia.”
The Al-Jazeera video can be viewed at

Wednesday, March 15, 2006


Monday, March 13, 2006



Friday, February 24, 2006

A Modest Proposal

Whereas the world suffers from environmental degradation and both material and spiritual poverty, and;

Whereas solutions to these problems have been addressed by the cream of academia and the adepts of age- old spiritual traditions, and;

Whereas literature in English has way more of this cultural quintessence than many other Western languages and;

Whereas many monetary and legal obstacles prevent the easy translation, publication and distribution of such literature into other languages, and;

Whereas book publishers often put profits above wide spread easy availability, therefore
A nonprofit foundation should be formed to ease the
penetration of cutting edge thought and deep spiritual reflection into the many languages of the world.

To that purpose I am inviting a response on the part of all interested parties to participate in making such a legal entity.

Some thoughts to consider: If you’re an author, please don’t let your English publisher have foreign language rights. They’ll sit on them and do no publication in other languages. Often they will try to sell these rights for a prohibitively high sum preventing their distribution. If you’re a publisher consider taking a tax right off by donating your foreign language rights to the aforementioned, as yet unestablished, foundation.

Yours Truly
John Coelho
A while back David Horsey, on the editorial board of a Seattle newspaper, asked readers to say what they would do if they were the newly installed pope. Hardly to my surprise he didn’t publish my response so I will present it directly to you.

If I were the new pope I would begin with a long list of apologies.

I would apologize for burning to death millions of “witches” for failing to renounce their pre Christian religions as the Church consolidated its hold over Europe.

I would apologize for driving all the Muslims and Jews out of Spain save those Jews who renounced their religion and adopted Catholicism.

I would apologize for torturing and killing “crypto- Jews” who had purportedly not truly renounced Judaism and still practiced it in secret.

I would apologize for murdering and torturing Anabaptists, Catharists , Protestants and other heretics.

I would apologize for stymying the whole development of science and free thought, until their impetus was irresistible, by persecuting those who discovered new perceptions and theories to explain nature.

I would apologize for suppressing life affirming pantheistic perceptions within the Church that link God with Nature, and for enforcing a punitive dualistic theology on those who know that it is nonsense.

I would apologize for terrifying children with a vision of eternal hell fire.

I would apologize for blessing the instruments of war and lending theological legitimacy to every imperialist and nationalist bloodbath in Europe.

I would apologize for being Francisco Franco’s right arm as he crushed the Spanish Republic and killed ten of thousands of opponents.

I would apologize for being the largest single interest group opposing effective birth control and, helping to bring on an era when only genocide, AIDS and environmental collapse will be able to stop the population explosion’s relentless rape of the planet.

I would then go to the grave of Giordano Bruno, a mystic immolated by the church, and leave a wreath on top of it to symbolize a new era.

Last, I would plead with defrocked priest, Matthew Fox to forgive the Church for expelling him for his pantheism and beg him to consider being the new pope in my stead.
The terrorist attacks in Washington, DC and New York a few years ago have led people to wonder how religion could motivate people to commit such horrific acts. Such behaviour might lead one to reject any concern for what lies beyond mundane existence and live a dry secular life but there’s no solution to the human dilemma in this for we all will ultimately want to know what’s beyond our limited scope. First of all, even though the terms religion and spirituality are often used interchangeably the religion of the terrorists is of a particular common type: it is religion unsubordinated to spirituality. Religion and spirituality denote two distinct phenomena. If we are going to maintain an interest in the beyond we should ask what religion is and how it differs from spirituality.

Religion is a theological belief system and a code of conduct. Spirituality is the experience of love, compassion and unity . In contrast to religion which is mental, but often not intellectual, spirituality exists in the realm of feeling and can only be experienced to the degree that the mental function can be transcended. Religion legitimately achieves two purposes: providing a lifestyle in which spirituality can flourish and serving as a"finger pointing at the moon". In the latter case it points the metaphysical novice toward an experience of God by giving him an abstract though temporary way of percieving God.
The fact that 90% of religion has become an end in itself is an old story. The religion of the hijackers is cancerous in the sense that it doesn’t subordinate itself to spirituality just as cancerous tissue in an organism doesn’t subordinate itself to the higher needs of the organism. Much as malignant tissue comes to dominate an organism so does an attachment to religious doctrine or, for that matter, attachment to a secular credo come to dominate the soul and protect the believer from uncertainty.

Religion that subordinates itself to spirituality can be found in such practices as the sabbath when the sabbath is observed as a surcease from material concerns allowing the mind to rest on the spiritual and in moral codes that cause one to feel in balance with the needs of society and, hence more open to spiritual vibrations.

Cancerous religion can be seen in forcing others to observe the sabbath and other moral or religious practices beyond concern for what is hazardous to societal well being. The motivation comes from insecurity and fear and the result can even be harmful to society.. An example is the Taliban decree that no woman can work outside of the home causing thousands of war widows to starve to death. In contrast, the prohibition and punishment of theft, rape, and murder can from any reasonable point of view be considered justified and not based on malignant religion..
To the degree that religion becomes an end in itself what unconscious dynamics are empowering it? A good degree of the exploitive, cold uncaring hierarchical nature of society is merely the outward projection of the "ego" or, the neurotic character structure. This is the contracted egocentric structure of the "bound soul". If religion is not in service to peoples’ spirituality what other part of human consciousness is it in service to? I think we can see by the results in death and destruction.

One of the surest ways to know if a motivation is based on this malignant kind of religion is to what degree it focuses on belief.. As a central theme of most western religion, belief is based on ignorance and insecurity. You don’t know what you believe and you don’t believe what you know. The reason you want to believe it is to avoid feeling insecure. If you knew it you wouldn’t need to believe it. If you believe it it’s for sure you don’t know it and no matter how much you hide from insecurity in belief it is always there waiting for you.. We know a religion is full of spiritual ignorance and to what degree it is dangerous to others in the degree of fervor to which it concentrates on belief. Spirituality, in contrast, shows you how to face insecurity through direct experience of the void within. Better to face it than to force others to live in such a way as to enhance your fragile security.

One of the biggest examples of religion being an end in itself is where it exalts belief above the values it purports to uphold. In my Catholic childhood I was told that a nice guy who is an atheist was of a lower order than a cretin who believed. The atheist would never go to heaven because he didn’t believe where as the cretinous believer might slip in if he repented for any mortal sins he might have committed.

Of course in the West the inroads of rationalism have steadily eroded the absolutism of Christianity as the result of the renaissance and the enlightenment. Unfortunately Islam never had these two moderating historical events; hence we see belief leading to the mayhem in New York City and Washington, DC. Never the less while the West focuses on the Islamic world looking for allies in the war against violent muslim extremists the focus is on the more educated elites. The rationality these people have gained from secular education makes them more relativistic but there has always been another redoubt of tolerant relativism in the Islamic world, based on spirituality, the mystical Sufi sect, another source of potential allies.
As far as popular awareness is concerned we have two options: the absolutist religious fundamentalists who are all too ready to sacrifice you to their beliefs and the rationalist who, as a relativist, is tolerant. But the spiritual or mystical person is also tolerant and a relativist- on a deeper level. The mystic experiences a universe in which only the totality is absolute. Anything in it is only relative to something else. For example heat is relative to cold and good is relative evil. The beliefs of malignant religion bring its adherents into the perpetual struggle between two opposite principles trying to make one of them absolute. For example, if God, separate from his creation, is absolute good then of necessity there must also be an absolute evil which immediately makes the two only relative to each other but the average Christian thinks that God is absolute good in spite of this. The spiritual perception that God comprises all opposites making him beyond good and evil solves this source of endless conflict.

The fact that the rationalist and the spiritual person are natural allies is seen in a number of phenomena. Rationalism has found through science more and more complex ways in which even the smallest speck of matter animate or inanimate is in harmony with everything else suggesting an intelligence behind phenomena. The theory of relativity, in effect a pantheist statement, states that everything is energy. Einstein, himself, was not conventionally religious but communicated the perception that his endless scientific quest showed him more and more of God’s nature. The intellectual researcher is a truth seeker as is the mystic. The malignantly religious person is "sure" he has found the truth and need look no further. If he is a Presbyterian minister enunciating some Christian doctrine at the table he might just bore you to death with his "certainty." If he’s a Taliban militant he might actually kill you rather than tolerate any uncertainty.
These malignantly religious people are immune to the perception that you have to be empty and only then will God come in. Empty of materialism, empty of religious concepts, empty. Paradoxically, one of the biggest obstacles to an experience of God is a belief in God, as necessary as such a belief might have been in the beginning to motivate someone to seek God.
Since a spiritual person is a truth seeker he doesn’t blot out knowledge from outside whatever religion he is part of. For example, the population explosion and its resultant poverty, ethnic conflict and ecological crisis, the need for alternative energy to slow down the greenhouse effect and so on are realities that the spiritual person may allow into his mind and he may behave accordingly. If having large families disrupts the balance of nature and contributes to poverty and unrest then he may practice birth control. If the hybrid car pollutes less he may try to buy one, etc. If, however the cancerously religious person spends all his time reading the bible, koran or torah considering all truth to be therein then he may and often does contribute greatly to the problems of the world. In fact studies show that fundamentalist families tend to have far more children than other families and are oblivious to many social and ecological concerns.

Because self exploration is not part of the fundamentalist mind set the religiously motivated terrorist will tell you that he is willing to die because he is a selfless servant of God or the dispossessed. An exposure of motivations will show that the terrorist hopes to gain something for himself whether it be a special place in heaven or the admiration of his contemporaries.
It’s time that cancerous religion were taken off its pedestal and the motivations of religious fanatics were exposed. Whether it be terror or sociopolitical problems only reason and real spirituality with religion as a junior partner will provide any help.