TIMES, TIME, AND HALF A TIME. A HISTORY OF THE NEW MILLENNIUM.

Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.



Showing posts with label Environment. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Environment. Show all posts

Thursday, January 3, 2019

The People Who Want to Microchip People


Image Source: CBS News.

In an earlier post, I noted how the BBC is promoting human microchipping as well as larger tech-body implants. Their poster boy for this cause, colour blind guy, Neil Harbisson, merits a special 'cyborg' passport status.

Image Source: NYT.

Image Source: Munsell Color.

The subcutaneous chip was first developed by Siemens in the United States. The human microchip implant was invented by Kevin Warwick: "He is known for his studies on direct interfaces between computer systems and the human nervous system, and has also done research concerning robotics." You can read backgrounders on human microchip technology, here and here.

If this practice becomes widely accepted, it will become an automatic, mainstream practice, and children will be microchipped at birth. There are already brain chips which can affect moods and behaviour. Let this go further, and subcutaneous implants will become an organic user interface. They will also constitute an assault on the integrity of the bodies and minds of individuals both as individuals, and as members of society. Soon, it won't be necessary to talk about human rights and freedoms, because the preconditions for them will be medically removed and technically absent. For a disturbing, unconfirmed original sources on this endgame, see here.

The BBC promoting microchipping for Humans (29 January 2015). Video Source: Youtube.

The Body, Colonized

China Behavior Rating System V/S Sweden Microchip implants | Must watch technology (18 June 2018). Video Source: Youtube.

Of course, rhetoric which promotes rights and freedoms will remain. The political speeches will continue, but rights and freedoms will be erased in reality. Lip service will be paid to these archaic constructions until it is no longer necessary to do so, and people have forgotten them, or been reprogrammed. Expect whatever slavery that follows to be labeled as a new type of freedom. The Chinese have a saying about manipulation and the acquisition of power: point to a deer, and call it a horse.

Human microchipping is part of a new field called 'biointerfaced nano-engineering.' Another catch-all term is 'wearables,' created by firms like Proteus and MC10. This is not the path to convenience, progress or enlightenment. It is the path to slavery. Although it seems that the human body must become the next technological platform, it is not inevitable. Do not do it. Do not accept it.

This post is not a Luddite screed. It is a plea to save the best potentials of technology and keep them on a course that will not destroy us. We are entering a new stage in the Tech Revolution, in which we have to learn to take responsibility for progress and innovation. Thus far, citizens have been accepting actors on the receiving end of research projects released via big tech companies. These were experimental prototypes, presented as exciting consumer goods. Electronic goods were marketed with various political and socio-economic messages to make them palatable in the capitalist endeavour to build self-identity from the outside in.

Image Source: Go into the Story.

We were entranced in the first decades of the Tech Revolution by the gadgets and rapid software upgrades. Most people believed in the opening act that they acted as consumers inside the pre-existing capitalist model. They did not understand that that old system had already been effectively outdated and internally destroyed; only an illusory shell of that model persists as a form of mass behavioural control.

We can all be forgiven for assuming that consumerism was how tech was introduced into our reality. But it never was.

Although glitzy, futuristic marketing campaigns created the illusion that technology turned people into empowered, connected consumers, each new level of hardware and software between the 1980s and the 2010s blinded technophiles to the fact that they were never consumers at all. They were increasingly-conditioned lab rats, running through monitored environments, inside the biggest human behavioural study ever conducted.

Now, things must change. It is time to wake up. It is time to grow up. We can be forgiven for trusting those big corporations, helmed by intelligence agencies and Promethean research groups, as benevolent guides in the opening act of the Tech Revolution.

Image Source: Film Connection.

But we cannot be forgiven if we sleepwalk into Act Two, and deliver our children into immersive slavery. In transhumanism, the commodity is not the microchip or its successor technologies. The commodity will be a new type of interbody imperialism and colonization, developed under the banner of building safer, more efficient societies. This will be a coercive, predictable, micro-legalized system, based on live feed maps of humankind's biological processes, mass consciousness, and psychological and physical reactions as a collective of living beings.

There has to be a moment when we recognize that the integrity of our bodies and souls is worth more than a few everyday conveniences. We are not meant to become 'the Borg.' Planting a gadget in your body is not a form of self-improvement that is good for the environment. To believe this reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of the body as an environment in itself, and of the body as an organism functioning within the larger natural environment.

I suspect that what will happen is that humankind will split into two camps. One group will absorb technology fully into the mind and body with erotic abandon. They will love the quasi-sexual interface, and will mistake the enhanced experience for an authentic upgrade.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

A Day in Pompeii


A Day in Pompeii - Full-length animation (19 December 2013). Video Source: Youtube.

Image Source: Wiki.
For today, see A Day in Pompeii, an animated recreation of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius on 24-25 August 79 CE. The animation was created by Zero One, and initially shown at the Melbourne Museum from 26 June to 25 October 2009. Over 1,300 negative impressions of bodies and bodily remains have been found by archaeologists, in an area where up to 20,000 people lived at that time.

Mount Vesuvius is one of sixteen volcanoes in the world designated as 'Decade Volcanoes'; they are especially destructive and are subject to special study because they help us to understand our planet's core.

Eruption Of Mt Vesuvius 1944 (14 April 2010). Video Source: Youtube.

In 472 CE, the volcano erupted so violently that its ashfalls reached Constantinople. Mount Vesuvius has had periods of quiet and periods of greater activity. We are currently in the latter. The last major eruption was in 1944. At present, 3 million people live near the volcano. The Italian government has a plan to evacuate 600,000 people in one week in the case of the worst possible future eruption.

Naples with Mount Vesuvius in the background on 29 November 2009. Click to enlarge. Image Source: Antonsusi/Wiki.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Death in Panama


Image Source: The Daily Beast.

There is an Internet sub-genre devoted to investigating what has happened to missing people. One of the most disturbing recent cases of this kind captured the attention of bloggers, Redditors, Youtubers, and forum members.

"Lisanne Froon, aged 22. Picture taken on April 1, [2014] the day of her disappearance. Cellphone data, found in their backpack, revealed that attempts to dial 911 were made some 2 hours after this photo was taken. There was no reception. The last attempt to dial 911 was 10 days after their disappearance." Image Source: imgur.

This was the case of Kris Kremers and Lisanne Froon, two Dutch college graduates, aged 21 and 22. In March 2014, they traveled to Boquete, Panama for six weeks to learn Spanish and do volunteer work with local children. Then they disappeared during a day hike in the forest near the town.

At the time of writing this post, the debate on this case at the German forum, Allmystery, was nearly 600 pages long. One of the related Reddit threads is here. The police investigation focused on the girls' disappearance its effect on the local tourist industry. This post and a subsequent post will ask about the much larger context of this case, including the Panama Papers.

Image Source: Kris Kremers/Facebook/imgur.

Friday, May 11, 2018

The Goddess of Volcanoes


Crazy Lava Flows Captured in Hawaii (9 May 2018). Video Source: Youtube.

As many will know, Mount Kīlauea is erupting and creating very dangerous circumstances in Hawaii, USA. The earth is cracking open and lava is flowing out into neighbourhoods. Wiki: "in Hawaiian mythology Kīlauea's Halemaʻumaʻu Crater served as the body and home of Pele, goddess of fire, lightning, wind, and volcanoes." Here is footage from the streets.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Symbols of Immortality 4: The Fake Human Burger



No sooner did labs begin developing the ability to 3D print a fake hamburger, than Oxford-based evolutionary biologist, Richard Dawkins, stampeded straight for the less obvious question: why not 3D print a burger made of artificial human meat?

Inside the Quest to Make Lab Grown Meat | WIRED (16 February 2018). Video Source: Youtube.

Give him the benefit of the doubt for a moment. It may have been a Swiftian joke. Maybe it was clickbait. Dawkins was Oxford's professor for the 'Public Understanding of Science' until 2008, so he must know about outreach.

A 3D printer creating fake meat. Image Source: ByFlow via BBC.

Over the past few years, the major news outlets have promised that lab grown meat is coming to your table and that this is a good thing: Washington Post, BBC, Bloomberg, The Economist, Reuters. Motherboard and the BBC have covered the topic since the new year. BBC reported that Dutch firm ByFlow has started selling its 3D meat printers to restaurants. ByFlow's motto is: "Think. Design. Eat." Memphis Meats (backed by Bill Gates) and Mosa Meat are two artificial meat start-ups which will start selling fake meat for public consumption by 2021. Another cellular agriculture company is New Harvest.

In the third week of February 2018, news outlets reported that the US Cattlemen's Association filed a petition to the US Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA) against the Silicon Valley start-ups which are creating lab-grown meat. You can read their petition here. They focused primarily on the definition of real meat as created from animals which have been raised and slaughtered, so that fake meat cannot be labeled as genuine meat, thereby misleading consumers.

The Meat of the Future: How Lab-Grown Meat Is Made (2 October 2015). Video Source: Youtube.

Lab meat, also known as clean meat, is touted as cruelty free, especially to vegetarians. Vegan Insight reported on 16 March 2018 that 41 per cent of Britons will eat "lab-grown clean meat and fish" in the next decade.

Image Source: Belchonock/Depositphotos via New Atlas.

It is one small step to Dawkins' fake human meat. Fake cannibalism will probably get a lot of support. Under the video below the jump, one girl commented: "As a vegan, I'd be happy to eat cultured human meat. I'm actually very curious and not grossed out at all."

Joe Rogan's interviewee in this video, Sam Harris, said (here) that there was "zero ethical problem ... if this was never attached to an animal, we're dealing with concepts here," that is, the vegan girl would be eating an object cultivated in a vat of human cells.

This issue highlights a moral blind spot in technological progress; it proves that technology is skewing the human ability to judge right from wrong.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Iceland between Eclipses


Árstíðir - Heyr himna smiður (Icelandic hymn) in train station (16 September 2013). Video Source: Youtube.

Today marked the exact half-way point between the 31 January 2018 lunar eclipse and the 15 February 2018 solar eclipse. To relieve that point of suspended tension, listen to the Icelandic group, Árstíðir, sing the hymn, Heyr himna smiður, in a German train station on 15 September 2013. From the video notes:
"Heyr, himna smiður was written by Kolbeinn Tumason in 1208. The music was composed in the 1970s by Þorkell Sigurbjörnsson (1938-2013), one of Iceland's foremost contemporary composers."

Ice cave in Vatnajökull glacier, in south-east Iceland. Vatnajökull is visible from space and covers 8 per cent of the country. Image Source: Glacier Guides.

Iceland Ice Cave 2017 (17 January 2017). Video Source: Youtube.

Above, see one of Iceland's mysterious glowing blue ice caves and below, see the virtual travel ambient Route One tour, from the avant-rock musical group, Sigur Rós. Their three videos in the playlist below show a journey driving around the outer coast of Iceland:
"on the 2016 summer solstice, sigur rós unveiled a 24-hour ‘slow tv’ event live on iceland’s national television – and streamed live globally via youtube – set to a constantly evolving soundtrack based around elements of their latest song óveður. ‘route one’ is a 1332km journey the whole way round iceland’s coastal ring road, you can now relive that journey in full 1080p hd or 4k 360°.

Part 2 and Part 3 follow Part 1 in this playlist: Sigur Rós - Route One [Part 1 - 1080p] (19 July 2016). Video Source: Youtube.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Awaken the Amnesiacs 9: A True Mirror of a Better World



The preface to this post is a new piece I have published at Vocal Media:


Part of my series, Awaken the Amnesiacs, involves coming to terms with life in a surveillance state, where privacy has been lost. My earlier post, Reflection Reversal, introduced the idea that computer screens and monitors act like mirrors which turn viewers into objects, rather than subjects.

The core of this idea is the fact that we think we are in control of technology. Tools are objects and we are subjects. Right? We think we are using computers to empower and express ourselves. But there is a warning sign in our addiction to technology.

Our technology is constantly subliminally objectifying us, enslaving us, and siphoning off our energy. This unconscious inversion of individual integrity is creating underlying cognitive dissonance, tension, anxiety, and stress. As a result, we are absolutely convinced that 'something is wrong' with the whole world. There is endless harping, conflict and confusion over 'who is to blame' for this grating distress. It never occurs to us that 'what is wrong' is the lens we are using to view reality, not reality itself, nor the people [insert annoying/threatening group here] who bother us.

Thus, part of resolving 'what is wrong' with the world is not to: ramp up our attacks on the annoying people who bother us; or to withdraw into depressive, individual introspection; or to get lost in wacky spiritual practices or cults; or to become engrossed in conspiracy theories as a comforting alt-reality; or to lose yourself in virtual reality environments like Facebook or video games; or to heal what is wrong by self-sacrificing to aid the world and help others; or to immerse yourself  completely in the real world, like work, job, bank account, and hard, cold facts no matter what ...

Part of resolving 'what is wrong' with the world involves reconsidering the art of perception and self-perception in the turbulent times of the nascent surveillance state.

So how should we define ourselves? As we see ourselves, as others see us, or as technology sees us? The conventional self-help wisdom these days is to define ourselves from the inside out, not the outside in. We are counseled to know ourselves, and to go forth in the world in an authentic and grounded way.

The Limits of Consciousness

Your brain hallucinates your conscious reality | Anil Seth (18 July 2017). Video Source: Youtube.

Good luck with that! Before you can get past the social contract, the job, the expectations, the cv - before you can tame your ego and become a soulful human being through internal consciousness and then try to awaken beyond consciousness - and before you can even get to the fact that computers are constantly undermining that process - there is another problem.

Consciousness -- the final frontier | Dada Gunamuktananda | TEDxNoosa 2014 (16 April 2014). Video Source: Youtube.

The True Mirror

We almost never see ourselves accurately, at least physically. Because we primarily have used mirrors to see ourselves, we do not see ourselves correctly, nor do we know how others see us.

Robbie Burns Day just passed, and the great Scottish poet wrote in his 1786 poem, To a Louse:
"in the original Scottish, 'O wad some Power the giftie gie us, to see oursels as ithers see us!' Or, in modern English, 'Oh would some Power the gift give us, to see ourselves as others see us.'"

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Nuclear Leaks 38: Fukushima Unit 2's Melted Fuel



I haven't updated my nuclear posts for awhile, mainly because the topic is so depressing. The nuclear energy nightmare is the flip side of the carbon fuel conundrum. The latter skews global politics and the world economy and inspires endless outrages, pipeline conflicts, wars, and refugee crises. The former is not a great green alternative.

Also, the Fukushima disaster reminds me in more ways than one of my own mortality, not least that I miss eating Pacific fish, and the decommissioning of Fukushima will continue long after all of us are dead.

However, on 19 January 2018, TEPCO posted photos of melted fuel from a robot probe of the inside of Fukushima Daiichi Reactor Unit 2, here. CBC:
"TEPCO spokesman Takahiro Kimoto said ... 'There is so much that we still haven't seen ... . But we were able to obtain important information that we need in order to determine the right method for removing the melted fuel debris.' ... Melted fuel has previously only been documented inside Unit 3, where an underwater probe captured images of large amounts of melted fuel debris that looked like molten lava mixed with broken parts of equipment and structures on the concrete floor.

During Friday's investigation, the device — developed by Toshiba Corp. and the International Research Institute for Decommissioning, a government-funded organization of nuclear companies — found deposits in the shape of pebbles, clay and other forms, Kimoto said."
All photos below the jump are from TEPCO and were taken on 19 January 2018.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Wonders of the Millennial World 9: A New Year's Walk on the Beach


Image Source: Boston Magazine.

Happy New Year! Welcome to 2018. Today, see the creations of Dutch artist Theo Jansen who "demonstrates the amazingly lifelike kinetic sculptures he builds from plastic tubes and lemonade bottles. His creatures are designed to move -- and even survive -- on their own." (Hat tip: The Outer Light.)

Car commercial: BMW (South Africa). Defining innovation (15 August 2006). Video Source: Youtube.

Jansen creates skeletons which walk by means of wind- and solar power. His latest creation in 2017 was called Strandbeest, or 'Beach Beast.' TEDx explains that Jansen tries to invest his creations with primitive intelligence so that they can act autonomously in their own rudimentary self-interest:
"[The artist] builds large works which resemble skeletons of animals that are able to walk using the wind on the beaches of the Netherlands. His animated works are a fusion of art and engineering; in a car company television commercial Jansen says: 'The walls between art and engineering exist only in our minds.' He strives at equipping his creations with their own intelligence to manage avoiding obstacles, by changing their course when one is detected, such as the sea itself."

Image Source: Web Urbanist.

Monday, December 25, 2017

A Protestant Pilgrimage? An Interview with Andrew Wilson, Part I



To celebrate Christmas, I am very pleased to post the first part of an interview about Martin Luther with Andrew Wilson. As I noted in a previous post, this past Hallowe’en marked the 500th anniversary of the day when Luther (1483-1546) nailed the Ninety-five Theses to the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg.

Andrew has written a book which seeks the origins of that historic event in 1517. He is the author of Here I Walk: A Thousand Miles on Foot to Rome with Martin Luther. He completed his PhD at Princeton Theological Seminary and then embarked on a fascinating project to retrace Luther’s steps when the famous monk undertook his only trip to Rome, on foot, in 1510 or 1511.


Andrew’s wife, Sarah Hinlicky Wilson, accompanied Andrew on the 500th anniversary of Luther’s journey to Rome in 2010. They hiked across half of Germany, through parts of Austria and Switzerland, over the Alps, and finally across northern Italy to Rome, in a walking tour that covered one thousand miles. Their remarkable effort inspired the book, Here I Walk. Sarah wrote the book’s afterword.

The Wilsons’ travels became a practical meditation on Protestant and Catholic faiths in the Millennial world, even as they physically retraced history. Luther’s first hand experience of Rome’s corruption is usually linked with his later protest against his mother church. Did something else occur on Luther’s trip that tipped him toward the Reformation?

It was only 500 years ago, but as Andrew and Sarah discovered on their journey in 2010, the exact connections to Luther’s world are elusive. Luther’s German Europe was a place of scattered principalities, dukedoms, and free cities, not unified nation-states. In Rome, the pope was a temporal prince as well as the Church’s spiritual father, who declared wars to protect his territory; the pope also made strategic alliances with other princes. Despite these differences, the aftershocks of what Luther accomplished in response to that late medieval papal model still remain imprinted in subtle ways on communities, and on people’s minds, hearts, and souls. There are threads of connection between that time and this one, some tangible, some intangible.

The Camino de Santiago: a map of the travels of Saint James in Europe, now a famous path for pilgrims. Image Source: Manfred Zentgraf/Wiki.

Because the Wilsons wanted to follow Luther’s path to Rome, theirs was a Protestant pilgrimage. Pilgrimages were historically an anathema to most Protestants because they could not imagine them apart from efforts to acquire ‘merit’ in the eyes of God, although as I have remarked in my post on the Camino de Santiago, even atheists now go on pilgrimages. There are other religious ways to walk along the Way of Saint James than the Catholic visitation of holy sites and relics. And in fact, the Wilsons wanted their trek to be ecumenical in nature. Pilgrims’ trails are ancient paths, anchored in a prehistoric human existence. (p. 78) The Way of Saint James was an important interconnected footpath long before Saint James ever existed! This path spans a continent and responds to something eternal in human nature.

A German farming community left out produce for sale on the road, with the sign Selbstbedienung, meaning 'serve yourself' or 'self-service.'

This first part of this interview covers the Wilsons’ pilgrimage from Strasbourg to Erfurt, Germany, up to their passage through the Swiss Alps. The second part of the interview will cover their walk out of the Alps into Italy.

Note: All quotations are from the paperback edition: Andrew L. Wilson, Here I Walk: A Thousand Miles on Foot to Rome with Martin Luther. Afterward by Sarah H. Wilson. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Brazos Press, 2016. All photographs are from Andrew and Sarah Wilson's collection.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Welcome the December Solstice 2017


Stones of Stenness, Orkney, Scotland, UK. Image Source: pinterest.

Welcome the December Solstice. It arrives at 16:28 UTC, heralding the arrival of winter in the Northern Hemisphere and of spring in the Southern Hemisphere.


Today, the blog belatedly observes this year's 80th anniversary of J.R.R. Tolkien's classic, The Hobbit, which was first published on 21 September 1937. Above, for the solstice, hear Tolkien read a section from The Hobbit (hat tip: Brain Pickings via Sound Cloud).

Mystery of the Universe: "This ancient building is called Fornace Penna. It was an ancient fabric of bricks destroyed because of bombing in the second world war. Behind this beautiful historic wreck you can see the milky way in all its magnificence." (Sicily, Italy; 23 May 2015) Image © Salvatore Cerruto via TWAN.


Thursday, December 7, 2017

Los Angeles is Burning


"A fire in the Bel-Air section of Los Angeles on Wednesday [6 December 2017]." Image Source: Reed Saxon/Associated Press/NYT.

The mainstream media are reporting that several fires are devastating Southern California and are now ravaging Los Angeles, including Bel Air. This is the biggest wildfire event to threaten LA since 1961. The Getty Museum has closed to safeguard its art collections from the Skirball Fire, which is burning just west of UCLA, the Los Angeles Country Club, and Beverly Hills. The Getty announced, here, that they will reopen on 8 December. Similarly affected, UCLA will reopen on 8 December. The San Fernando Valley, including North Hollywood, is threatened by the Skirball Fire on one side, and the Creek Fire on the other. KTLA reports that for the first time, firefighters have used drones to assess where the Skirball Fire is traveling and how hot it is.


Fire has reached oceanfront homes as it moves toward the coast at San Diego and at Santa Barbara. The largest fire is the Thomas Fire, which has burned 115,000 acres, which (for comparison) is just over one quarter the size of Greater London, UK. 200,000 people have been evacuated. But the whole area under fire alert is vast, extending as far east as Tuscon, Arizona.




You can follow local fire maps, with names of highways and towns, here, here and here. You can follow CalFire on Twitter here and the LAFD here. There are lots of Instagram accounts following the fires. Here is the view from someone's bedroom.

Video by Ben Laffin on 6 December 2017. Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images. Video Source: NYT.

"The remains of the Vista del Mar hospital after the Thomas wildfire swept through Ventura." Image Source: Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images/ Guardian.

Man jumps out of car to rescue wild rabbit from raging Californian wildfires (7 December 2017). Video Source: Guardian via Youtube.







I have KTLA local news on my TV by satellite and they are covering the valiant efforts of firefighters in different areas of the city. You can watch their channel live stream and reports on the Internet, here. In the video directly below, you can see the city's famous skyline on the night of 6-7 December, with different fires clearly visible on three points on the horizon.

CALIFORNIA WILDFIRES Thousands of people have fled their homes as wildfires continue to burn (7 December 2017). Video Source: Youtube.

Deadly California wildfire forces thousands to flee (5 December 2017). Video Source: Youtube.

THOMAS FIRE In Ventura County Santa Paula Ojai California - WILDFIRE Creek Brush Fire 12/5/2017!!! (5 December 2017). Video Source: Youtube.

New Fire Erupts In Bel Air As Destructive SoCal Wildfires Rage (6 December 2017). Video Source: Youtube.

LIVE ON THE SCENE: The Thomas Fire continues to burn in Ventura County, California. 12.7.17 (7 December 2017). Video Source: Youtube.

Celebrities Post Video of Fires, Flee Their Homes as Los Angeles Is Engulfed in Flames (7 December 2017). Video Source: Youtube.

CALIFORNIA FIRE SCARY FOOTAGE, DAMAGE, CAUGHT ON CAMERA DECEMBER 2017 (6 December 2017). Video Source: Youtube.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Tweet of the Day 2: A Dreamy Full Moon



Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Luther's Hallowe'en


"A statue of 16th-century theologian Martin Luther stands on Marktplatz square on Oct. 20, 2016 in Wittenberg, Germany." Image Source: Time / Sean Gallup—Getty Images.

This Hallowe'en is very special, because it marks the 500th anniversary of the day when Martin Luther (1483-1546) nailed his Ninety-five Theses on the door of All Saints' Church in Wittenberg, Germany. You can read the Theses in English, here.

Although Luther followed in the footsteps of other late medieval religious reformers such as John Wycliffe (c. 1320s-1384) and Jan Hus (1369-1415), Luther's act is considered the central moment in the start of the Protestant Reformation.

Woodcut of indulgence selling in a church from title page of On Aplas von Rom kan man wol selig werden [One Can Be Saved Without the Indulgence of Rome]. From a 1521 pamphlet. Image Source: Wiki.

The catalyst of Luther's protest was the sale of indulgences by a Dominican friar named Johann Tetzel (1465-1519). The reason Luther acted on Hallowe'en was not because of the significance of October 31st, but because he was anticipating the day that follows: November 1st, All Saints' Day. On 1 November 1517, Tetzel planned to start selling indulgences near Wittenberg, and he was famous for his abuse of the practice. The following rhyme is attributed to Tetzel:

"As soon as a coin in the coffer rings
the soul from purgatory springs."

Indulgences were chits, authorized by the pope to draw upon the virtuous power of the saints to reduce God's punishments for sins. Indulgences were believed to absolve sins of those still alive, and of souls trapped Purgatory, a No Man's Land between heaven and hell where souls worked and waited to be purified.

Through papal relations with local princes, the sale of indulgences proved a way of gathering money quickly and efficiently from poor people in Europe. Indulgence monies funded wars and big infrastructure projects. The sale of indulgences provided the money to build the Gothic cathedrals of Europe, which tourists still visit today. The same sales also supported roads, bridges, and other important construction work.

This practice was an arcane precursor to our modern system, which still conveys private funds into semi-public foundations or governmental public coffers, all in the name of humanitarianism and the public good. Behind those slogans, there remains an enduring tension between the individual citizen and the growth of violent and powerful statecraft and its satellite entities.

Thus, the issues driving Luther and his protest were more complicated than indulgences. Luther's act was part of the evolution of the modern conscience (or lack of it). Unravel the discussions on faith, and the subsequent schism inside the Roman Catholic Church helped to herald the values driving our Millennial  political and economic systems.

First page of the 1517 Basel printing of the Theses as a pamphlet. Image Source: Wiki.

This was the earliest glimmer of a democratic age. Several medieval critics had condemned venality in the Church prior to October 1517, but Luther's Theses sparked a shift in popular awareness.

Luther meant his complaints to launch a debate with Tetzel. He did not intend for his Theses to become a public manifesto, a rallying cry for the common people, and he wrote the Theses in Latin. However, they were translated into German and printed through a radical new technology - the printing press. The press had been invented in 1440 and spread thereafter through the German lands. This was how Luther's Theses were shared across Central Europe and sparked revolts by the peasants against their royal and ecclesiastical masters.

Luther, with his intent of taking worship back to the holy texts, also made the Christian faith more democratic. He translated the Bible from Hebrew and Greek into German, by-passing Rome's official Latin Vulgate. He wrote important hymns, such as Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott (A Mighty Fortress Is Our God), based on Psalm 46. And - in defiance of the Roman Catholic insistence on celibate priests - he got married.

This blog will discuss these issues, with an eye to showing how Luther's ideas still shape our world. I will be interviewing Andrew Wilson, who wrote Here I Walk: A Thousand Miles on Foot to Rome with Martin Luther. The book chronicles a fascinating effort by Andrew and his wife Sarah to retrace Luther's footsteps in 2010.

Andrew hypothesized that the real breach with Rome began when Luther actually visited that city in 1511. Sent on business on behalf of his order, Luther walked to Italy, starting in October 1510 from the Augustinian monastery in Erfurt.

It is obviously essential to know what Luther saw in Rome and what he thought of it, because it led to him being the Catholic Church's biggest critic in history, a mere six years later. The conventional interpretation has assumed that Luther found a cynical, corrupt and bellicose papacy, Rome as Babylon.

However, Andrew found that the documents about Luther's pilgrimage gave little solid evidence. He decided to retrace Luther's steps - in today's landscape - to find a story in the environment along Luther's pilgrim's path.

Andrew and Sarah Wilson with a statue of St. James at the Lutheran church in Oettingen-in-Bayern. Image Source: Andrew Wilson.

Together, Andrew and his wife walked over one thousand miles and documented their travels on their Website, here. Andrew explained what he discovered about Martin Luther in his book, published in 2016. That discovery, and how it relates to us now, will be the subject of upcoming posts in December.


For the whole Luther interview and all related posts, go here.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Countdown to Hallowe'en 2017: Death in the Park


Image Source: Dan Bell/Twitter.

Today's post follows urban explorer Dan Bell again (see my earlier posts on him here, here and here), as he visited Gwynns Falls - Leakin Park, which spans 1,216 acres (492 hectares) in his native city of Baltimore, Maryland, USA. Leakin Park is famous as a murderers' dumping ground; it is estimated that some 80 people have been murdered there or their bodies have been abandoned there, and the number is probably higher.  The area is so heavily forested that it was the film location for The Blair Witch Project sequel, Book of Shadows (2000).

Baltimore’s Leakin Park : The Scariest Place in America / A Creepy Documentary Featurette (15 September 2017). Video Source: Youtube.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A Big Blog Thank You


S. Manon's photo of New York City's Central Park on a foggy fall night (2 October 2012). Image Source: Wiki.

This blog just passed 3 million hits! Thank you very much to everyone who has spent precious time here reading these posts. I am extremely grateful to all my readers. There will be a giveaway in November to thank readers who have helped the blog to pass this milestone.

Central Park on a foggy night. Image Source: Favim.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Countdown to Hallowe'en 2017: Humanity's Tombstone


Image Source: Vigilant Citizen.

I try to address really strange conspiracy theories, which nonetheless have some larger importance, during the month of October. Special weirdness is reserved for a Stonehenge-like monument in Georgia, USA, which bears cryptic messages in English, Spanish, Swahili, Hindi, Hebrew, Arabic, Chinese, and Russian.

Brad Meltzer's Decoded: Apocalypse in Georgia Season 1, Episode 10 (3 February 2011) © History Channel. Video Source: Youtube.

The Georgia Guidestones outside Atlanta were erected in 1980 on the orders of man working under an assumed name, R. C. Christian. There are revelations of his secret identity here and here. The Guidestones have inspired fear and vandalism, because alongside their espousal of rationalism, they also declare that the earth's human population should be cut back to 500 million people.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Last of Their Kinds: On and Off the Red List


Image Source: Sebastian Kennerknecht/PantheraCats/Twitter.

This year, the blog keeps returning to the Himalayas, and there must be something to that: see my earlier posts on the Himalayas here, here, and a 2015 post, here.

Today's post concerns the BBC report from 14 September 2017 that the snow leopard (Panthera uncia), the great cat of the Himalayas, has been removed from the endangered list, and is now classified as vulnerable. Scientists argue that the reclassification could place these cats at greater risk, but it is still good news that their population has improved.


As the snow leopard departs the endangered list, more than 150 species have been added to it. The ash trees of North America, a population of 9 billion trees, have been classified on the brink of extinction, due to an invasive Asian insect, the emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis). In the past few years, all the beautiful ash trees around my home in eastern Canada have died or started dying.

The Christmas Island pipistrelle bat was declared extinct this month. Image Source: Lindy Lumsden/Mongabay.

The Christmas Island Pipistrelle vesper bat of Australia (Pipistrellus murrayi) was declared extinct in September 2017. I have previously written on extinctions as less-recognized moments in history and as turning points in time. I have also discussed efforts to use genetic manipulation and cloning to bring back extinct species, as scientists work against the course of time and evolution; this is most noticeable when they plan to revive prehistoric species.



Image Source: BBC.



Image Source: BBC.

Image Source: Scott Olson/Getty Images/NPR.

Snow Leopard: First Intimate Images In The Wild - Planet Earth - BBC Earth (12 March 2017). Video Source: Youtube.


See all my posts on Extinction.