News Notes

Zip Dobyns

I hope that some of our readers were able to see the recent series on Healing and the Mind which appeared on public television. Bill Moyers produced the five shows which pictured Moyers as a somewhat skeptical observer investigating some of the current work at the mind-body interface. I liked the first show best. It presented a variety of Chinese beliefs and techniques which the west is beginning to investigate. The most interesting part was a dramatic demonstration of his power by a Chi Master. A younger and bigger man from the U.S. had been studying with the Chi Master for four years but he was unable to “throw” the older man who just stood there smiling and apparently manifesting some kind of cosmic power which tossed the young man to the ground.

I was somewhat disappointed in the two shows on work with cancer groups. The emphasis was just on traditional group psychotherapy to help the patients feel accepted in the group so they could freely express their feelings. The group leaders repeatedly said that they had no expectation that any of the patients would get well but the therapy made them feel better. I wish that Moyers had done a show on the work of psychologist Lawrence LeShan who has as many as half of his supposedly terminal cancer patients get well.

The January 1993 issue of Brain/Mind and Common Sense had an interesting article on a parrot named Alex. Alex is an African Gray who has been trained for 15 years by a researcher at the University of Arizona. He demonstrates a level of intelligence which matches chimpanzees and dolphins, considered two of the brightest of non-human creatures. He can identify and remember names, shapes, sizes and colors, and squawk them correctly in response to questions. Yet he is considered just an average learner for this type of parrot. Part of his skill is credited to a new type of instruction. Instead of giving him food when he performs a task correctly, his teacher, Irene Pepperberg, demonstrates the correct action with another human. When the human does it accurately, he or she is praised. When it is done wrong, he or she is scolded. Later, Alex has a chance to do the same thing. If he is right, he is praised and given the object which is part of the test as a toy he can play with. If he does it wrong, he is scolded. Two other African Gray parrots are now learning to perform the same tasks which were previously considered impossible for birds. Pepperberg thinks it is possible that many other animals might do as well with proper training.

The weekly science newsletter, Science News, is one of my favorite sources of information on what is happening in all major fields of science. The February 13, 1993 issue had an article on a recent discovery of a gene so basic that it is found in life forms from plants to yeast to animals to people. The gene was found in an enzyme which is affected by ethylene gas. It helps plants alter their growth and development in response to the environment. “Emerging seedlings make ethylene so they can break through hard soil. Later in the plant’s life, the rapid production of this substance may protect a torn leaf from infection. Finally, ethylene affects the rate at which fruit ripens or petals fade.” p. 103. So plants are not as totally helpless as we tend to assume. There is some kind of consciousness at every level and commonalities between plants and animals.

The February 6, 1993 issue featured an article on the discoveries showing the brain’s ability to produce its own “high.” A “marijuana-like” chemical was first isolated in pig’s brains in late December 1992. In the 1970s, neuroscientists had discovered the brain’s ability to produce compounds similar to opium. The newly discovered chemical may be involved in the regulation of mood, memory, pain, movement etc. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that allow nerve cells to communicate with one another in the brain and between the brain and the body. Scientists are exploring how these “feel- good” chemicals influence human behavior. Meanwhile, some are recognizing that the influence is circular—that emotions influence the production of the chemicals.

An interesting article in the February 27, 1993 issue discussed correlations between a client’s heart rate (measured by sensitive instruments) and her flow of thoughts and emotions during a series of psychotherapy sessions. The heart rhythms fit patterns being studied in the relatively new work with “chaos,” theory or nonlinear dynamics. The heart rate “wandered widely” when the client seemed most focused on the emotions and thoughts at issue during the session, such as when the therapist was making an interpretation to help the client gain insight into her reactions. There were less complex patterns when the client seemed more defensive or anxious. In the chaos studies, the highly complex patterns are considered essentially unpredictable since they are extraordinarily sensitive to “starting” conditions. When we are functioning in habitual ways, we are quite predictable. The implication is that in a state of “openness,” one can understand (interpret) oneself and the world in new, unpredictable and hopefully more effective ways.

A brief article in the February 20, 1993 issue described the “strange immune system illness” which was first discussed publicly at an International Conference on AIDS. In the interval since the “new” syndrome was first described, an extensive search turned up 47 cases of people who had the limited number of T- lymphocytes in their blood which is the hallmark of AIDS but who did not have the HIV virus. None of the spouses, children, or sex-partners of the ill individuals had developed the illness so it did not appear to be contagious. Some of the ill individuals died but others recovered. The consensus of the researchers was that the “new” illness was not a major threat but its cause remained mysterious. A new book called Rethinking AIDS by Robert Root-Bernstein is less optimistic. Root-Bernstein is an immunologist who thinks that testing HIV-positive is neither a necessary nor a sufficient cause for contracting AIDS. He claims that a person with a healthy immune system has virtually no chance of contracting AIDS, that other factors causing immune system breakdown are more critical than HIV, and that we should focus more on understanding and strengthening the immune system. The January 16, 1993 issue describes a study which found that older men who had very low cholesterol were more likely to be depressed. The scientists don’t suggest it—they are baffled by the finding—but the advice of the ancient Greeks still works—Moderation. It is possible to overdo things which are “good” when done moderately.

The February 13, 1993 issue has an extensive article on the active volcano which has been discovered under Antarctica. The heat welling up under a tremendous mountain of ice explains a previous mystery—“streams” of ice, some of which flow more than 2 meters a day in contrast to the ice along their banks which moves at only 2 meters a year. Five of these ice “streams” are draining ice from the stable center of West Antarctica into the Ross Sea. Three others drain the other side of West Antarctica. Water-logged sediments under the ice streams lubricate the rocks and permit the movement. Heat from the volcano which was confirmed (and additional volcanoes which are likely) acts like grease under the rapidly moving ice. Fossil algae suggest that the present ice sheet began growing less than two million years ago—probably less than 600,000 years ago. If the underlying volcanoes become more active, they could speed the melting of the Antarctic ice which would raise the level of the world’s oceans. It is estimated that melting the West Antarctica ice sheet (which is more likely) could raise the oceans as much as six meters. If the East Antarctica ice sheet melted (considered less likely), the oceans might rise as much as 60 meters. (A meter is just over 39 inches). The scientists are relatively confident that even the more vulnerable West Antarctica is not likely to reach the point of catastrophe for at least 100 years and probably not for a much longer time. But if the slumbering volcanoes “wake up,” or if we get global warming of the atmosphere from fossil fuels, or if changing ocean currents bring warmer water to Antarctica, residents of low-lying areas from Miami Beach to Bangladesh might need to move to higher ground.

I paid a bit more attention to the Antarctica story partly because of the widespread predictions of geological disaster by many psychics, most of them imitating Edgar Cayce. I have stayed updated on some of the current predictions with the help of The Mountain Astrologer and my friend, Bodo. Gordon-Michael Scallion of New Hampshire is one of the main sources of the “doom and gloom” scenarios. He lectures widely and sends a newsletter to subscribers. Though he has had some “hits” on his earthquake predictions, I think his claimed accuracy is not nearly as high as his advocates assert. A personal client in L.A. recently showed me the map produced by Scallion which predicts a massive earthquake in California before May 9, 1993, followed by others between 1993 and 1995, so that by 1995 most of California will be inundated, leaving about 150 islands. In view of all the practicing astrologers in California who would see catastrophe in the charts of all their local clients if anything like this were going to occur, I think that the whole forecast is absurd. Certainly, we will have earthquakes—we have them every day. We may even have more big ones this year, as I have written in the past. But I think that Scallion’s predictions are as improbable as those of David Korish, the “Waco wacko” as some are calling him though his shoot-out and present stand-off with the agents of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is no laughing matter. This decade and probably well into the next millennium will likely be in many ways a “time of tribulation” but I think that the crises and destruction will be largely created by humans rather than by nature. I would suggest that if any astrologers feel moved to take Scallion seriously, they should choose a clearing house person or organization to collate the data—to see how many clients’ charts actually look catastrophic. I haven’t seen any in my clients. Everyone has challenges but the kind of total catastrophe predicted by Scallion—the extension of the Pacific Ocean almost to Boulder, Colorado, does not show in the horoscopes I have seen.

The news lately has featured several students of cults and charismatic leaders as people try to understand what is happening in Texas as well as the bomb which hit the World Trade Center in New York. Astrology’s mutable dilemma pictures the issue of beliefs (Sagittarius and Pisces) versus the ability to understand and cope with the world around us (Gemini and Virgo). We all are guided by some kind of belief system which determines what we think is true, real, desirable, moral etc. We can never prove the absolute principles of the world. We accept them on faith. But we need to constantly test our faith against our experiences and the experiences of others. The latter includes the evidence of science including past geological records. Mountain chains as high as the Rocky Mountains do not sink under the ocean in a couple of years. Earthquakes do not last for an hour, as was predicted by the English psychic interpreter of Nostradamus about whom I wrote a year ago. The latter has already been proved wrong since she predicted that Prince Charles would be crowned King of England last year. By this coming May we will have a chance to test Scallion’s and her accuracy again since both have predicted a huge earthquake in southern California. I do think that a moderately big quake is possible this summer, but I am more concerned about the economy and civil unrest connected to lack of jobs. The closing of military bases is going to be another blow to the economy of California but we have to cut the defense budget. It is a hopeful sign that we now have a decent police chief in Los Angeles and that several extra million dollars have been allocated this year for summer jobs for young people. It is also hopeful that we have a President from Hope, Arkansas who inspires hope in our citizens. Scallion will say that his scenario is just delayed when his big “fracture” does not happen. He also sometimes suggests that if humans raise their consciousness and become more positive, they can mitigate the drastic events. But he is quite definite that most of his forecasts are set and inescapable, so he hasn’t left much room for escape when they prove wrong. Readers might like to see if their library has a copy of a book published quite a few years ago called When Prophecies Fail. It describes the reactions of a small group of “true believers” after the prophecies of their leader failed to materialize.

Copyright © 1993 Los Angeles Community Church of Religious Science, Inc.

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