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The Dark Times ahead as an Opportunity for Change

Sunday, April 30th, 2017

A few days ago, I received an e-mail of Fali Engineer, a friend from the Houston Lodge of Theosophical Society, with a video-file of a speech by Valarie Kaur. I found the video online at Scroll.in, and it is worth viewing.

“She spoke of the dark times ahead and how instead of leading to despair, this could be an opportunity for change,” it says on her website. And further: “This speech was actually the message of the Revolutionary Love Project, an initiative she launched in autumn of 2016. This movement and her New Year’s Eve speech, Kaur said, arose from her distress about the increase in hate violence during the US presidential election campaign.”

This moving talk was given on last New Year’s Eve in an African American Church in Washington DC. Though it was helt in the context of the political situation in America, what she is talking about is not an American topic but a universal one – about the basic oneness of humanity and overcoming hate an exclusion.

Valarie Kaur is a powerful woman and a charismatic speaker. Wikipedia says about her that she “is an American documentary filmmaker, a civil rights activist, and a Sikh interfaith leader. After the murder of Balbir Singh Sodhi, she began to document hate crimes against Sikh and Muslim Americans immediately following the attacks of September 11, 2001, which resulted in the 2006 documentary Divided We Fall. … Kaur has given speeches at the White House, the Pentagon, and the Parliament of the World’s Religions.”

:: The 6 minute video “Raising a Brown Boy in Today’s America“.


Valarie Kaur [picture from the video (c) Scroll.in]

Vertical Gardens

Tuesday, March 21st, 2017

I recently came across a website about façade greening in Sao Paulo, Movimiento 90°, and then found another very fascinating website of Patrick Blanc, a botanist and the inventor of the Vertical Garden. Partly, it is a special form of green walls, which I had already encountered with ivy-clad walls, also at the walls of may father’s office building. However, the Vertical Gardens Patrick Blanc has realised are much more sophisticated, hanging florist artworks.

The site about Movimiento 90° speaks about the advantages of such vertigal gardens:

“The plants improve air quality by filtering CO2, can help with heating and cooling in the buildings they are attached to, reduce acoustic problems and, during periods of drought, increase the relative humidity in the air. But to add an extra creative spin, Guils’ studio Movimento 90º invited artists to design the gardens they were creating, and encouraged them to treat the buildings’ walls as blank canvasses.”

May this creative way of using façades grow and bring a better quality of life into the stone, glass and concrete deserts of our cities.

Image: Wikipedia / Jean-Pierre Dalbéra from Paris, France: Le mur végétal (Musée du quai Branly)

Image: Wikipedia / Cillas: A wall of living plants designed by Patrick Blanc at Caixa Forum near Atocha station, Madrid

Image: Wikipedia / Thelmadatter: Green wall at the Universidad del Claustro de Sor Juana in the historic center of Mexico City

About Sheeps and Goats, Applying a Magic Sauce and Winning Elections

Monday, December 5th, 2016

On a nearby mountain we recently saw two dwarf goats standing on the roof of their hut, Bruno and Leo – sturdy, perky and full of power.

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Quite a different mentality from that of sheep. Sheep seem to be more interested in following their herd.

sheep

You can imagine that it needs a different method for approaching goats or sheep. Or for targeting humans behaving in similar manners. Scientists and marketeers are researching methods to deal with the different types – and the latter want to get the sheep eating what they want to offer them.

Now, if someone finds what kind of psychograms the different animals in a crowd have, it would be much easier to get them run in the “right” direction. And if politicians show this “right” direction, and scientists develop the psychometric instruments, and marketeers cleverly “tailor” such tools for delivering ads and other steering methods, the “ignorant animals” will unknowingly be driven in the wanted direction by eating the food prepared to their “Likes”. The outcome will be an explosive mixture for “guiding” the sheep  – the ROI, the “return on investment” being highly intelligent and effective mass manipulation.

Last Saturday’s issue of the weekend magazine “Das Magazin” of the Swiss newspaper “Tageszanzeiger” – a paper not at all close to conspiracy theories – published an article called “I have only showed that the bomb exists“. It is about a young Polish researcher, Michal Kosinski, who just gave a talk in Switzerland at the Risk Center of the ETH Zurich about the dangers of Big Data and the so-called digital revolution.

The topic of big data and their power in marketing is not new to me but I felt the article quite alarming. Maybe you can read it with the help of Google translator or so. The information below is mainly from this article.

Michal Kosinski is a leading expert in psychometrics, a data driven branch of psychology. He first worked at the first psychometric laboratory at the University of Cambridge, England, and now is working at Stanford University, USA. His research lead to new and very effective ways of profiling great amounts of persons from out of the digital traces they leave on the internet, especially Likes. You can test it on the site of Cambridge University “Apply Magic Sauce” (a personalisation engine that accurately predicts psychological traits from digital footprints of human behaviour). Kosinski’s research showed that from a few Facebook “likes” the intelligence, religious affiliation, alcohol, cigarette and drug consumption can be calculated, besides many of their attitudes, and even if the parents of a person have remained together until their 21st year of age. And it goes much beyond.

Against Kosinki’s intention and knowledge his research was used to develop very effective mass targeting tools by a British enterprise, Cambridge Analytica (CA) – “Better Audience Targeting, Powered by Data Modelling”. These instruments are not only marketing boosters but they were used to steer people with targeted news and other ways of influencing in the Brexit campaign and now in Trump’s election campaign – and they are much more effective than what was known upto now. The head of Cambridge Analytica declared “We have psychograms of all adult US citizens – 220 million people”. On their website a video is shown with a quote by a political pollster: “There are no longer any experts except Cambridge Analytica. They were Trump’s digital team who figured out how to win.”

Euphemistically, Cambridge Analytica boasts that they are “building a future where every individual can have a truly personal relationship with their favorite brands and causes by showing organizations not just where people are, but what they really care about and what drives their behavior.” Marketing speech for intelligent manipulation. Have a look at their website and you will understand better.

With these tools, 175000 versions of Trumps messages, slightly varying according to the target persons, were given out. The team of Trump’s electoral assistants got an app to recognize the political attitude and personality of the residents of a house. They contacted only those whom the app showed as receptive to their messages, and they carried text guides adapted to the personality of the resident they approached. Here is a TV report of SkyNews with a talk of Mr Nix, the head of Cambridge Analytica, from YouTube about their influencing the election.

The members of the Clinton team first were laughing about these British data people. Now, many (right-wing) political parties in Europe are becoming clients of Cambridge Analytica, and the business has requests from all over the world. I am sure that soon legislation here will have to react on these methods. Kosinski, the researcher whose findings enabled all this, declares that he has not built this bomb but only showed what is possible.

Power (politics) and money (business) together are a dangerous mix. They need to be guided by wisdom, i.e. by ethical and moral guidance – and this not only as “marketing speech” declarations. And we ourselves need to develop a high degree of discrimination and loving understanding not to let ourselves get dragged into what others define as “what we really care about”.

In other words, we must firmly stand in the light of our soul and act from there. And we need to have a clear view of what those of the “world” around want us to. Like Bruno and Leo looking around from their viewing platform.

P.S. (6 Dec.2016): An article in the German version of the Wired magazine discussed the claims of Cambridge Analytica (CA) and pointed out that the cooperation between CA and the Brexit campaneers did not work out and that the way they are using data from Facebook etc. for profiling without permission of the users is against European data protection laws.

goats

Catastrophes, Attention and Compassion

Thursday, November 19th, 2015

Some thoughts about the recent violence and a correspondence with Sri Kumar.

Last Friday morning when I went down to pick up the daily newspaper a thought flashed through my mind: Is there something in the news about a terror attack? The thought quickly passed by and the newspaper didn’t report anything out of the ordinary. Next morning I read about the attacks in Paris. It was only then that I thought again of this “fiery messenger” in my mind: There was something in the air before it manifested “on ground”.

Later I saw the news-wave rising in the few online portals I visited. The following days, the newspapers were full with background stories and analyses.  The politicians and other opinion makers got busy, governments demonstrated determination to counteract. Many showed their sympathy and solidarity: On Facebook, many faces of “friends” appeared in the blue, white and red of the French tricolore…

When I thought of the victims whose lives brutally ended, I felt something in the atmosphere beyond the uproar of indignation and confusion – like cries of other victims not in the limelights of attention fuelling – be it in the middle East, in parts of Africa and elsewhere. Later, I read in the local newspaper about people in Lebanon asking, Why no attention to our victims? And about the many victims of attacks in Nigeria and elsewhere. Rising the attention is one of the prime goals of the terror attacks and if we just focus on their acts, their perverse strategy works out: “mission accomplished”.

Attention is a precious good and often disproportionately distributed. Though sympathy and compassion are important, we need to open up our hearts to all where we feel the suffering. It is an attitude and not a doing. An attitude of inclusion and very much needed now.

Some friends from Spain asked me if Dr. Kumar, our teacher, did say anything about the terror in Paris. I wrote to him and he replied:

“I prefer not to get into the activity of opinionating upon events that have political relevance. I only see the whole violence at that level is but reaction to the past action of Europe in Middle East. We the humanity do not learn the basics. ‘Love thy neighbour’ remains an ideal. We fight with neighbours everywhere on the planet. We say we are developed but not in its true sense.”

And a little later: “Hundreds of thousands are killed in Middle East for believed political ideology, for which no concern is shown. Just a hundred and twenty draw global attention. Don’t you see the fallacy?”

From various sides I received calls for synchronised meditation to help spreading light and peace. One mail reminded that by building powerful thought forms the path of humanity will be energised towards a positive future – bringing Love and Light to counter-balance the fear and shadows, to create an international wall for protection. Meditative invocations are certainly important contributions.

I was reminded of the invocation for European unity given by Dr. Kumar some years ago, which I regularly use. Some friends just asked me about it, and so I share it here. The “East in us” refers to the Ajna centre on the front, the seat of soul consciousness, and the “West in us” to the base centre, the physical anchoring:

We the citizens of Europe strive to stand united.
We endeavour to unite the east and the west in us and in Europe.
We aspire to stand in the fusion of the East and West of Europe
and provide a field for fusion for easterners and westerners of Europe.
May we fulfil the Hierarchical plan of discipleship
standing in the Light, Love, Power and Synthesis of Hierarchical energy.

Having finished the above lines, I thought about the word “catastrophes” used in the title. Terror attacks are not “natural disasters” but purposefully planned atrocities. However, I decided to use this expression to hint at the larger avalanche of destruction caused by the pathological distortions of fanatic ideologies, political or religious.

sunset

We Are Greater Than I

Monday, August 3rd, 2015

It is a commercial but well done, and the message is spiritual: “We are greater than I”.

The description of the video spot of Samsung created in partnership with the World Surf League says: “It shows how we are all connected, intrinsically co-dependent, and tied together for better and for worse.” And further:

“No individualism here, no ego, no celebration of one hero. In surf, as in technology, one cannot reach the next level alone. Without the people around us, without “We”, without “Us”, “I” is nothing. Together, we make each other better. Together, we push, we inspire, we challenge and redefine each other. We Are Greater Than I.”

May it be so with Samsung, the surfers and with all of us: no ego, no celebration of one hero… And not a side-blow to a competitor who uses “i” in the names of his products.

This viral video got over 5 million views within a month.

wearegreaterthani
(C) Samsung, from the video

A Call for Help and A Petition to Putin not to Allow the Destruction of the Roerich Museum in Moscow

Thursday, December 4th, 2014

I just came across a petition on Change.org addressed to Mr. Vladimir V. Putin, the President of the Russian Federation, with an appeal to prevent the destruction of the non-governmental Museum named after Nicholas Roerich and to provide assistance to the Museum.

I immediately signed this petition. I deeply admire the work of Nicholas Roerich and I have published a number of blog-posts about him, also about the new museum.

The Ministry of Culture of Russia headed by Mr. V. R. Medinsky is aiming at taking away from the ICR the Roerichs heritage, thus destroying the non-governmental Museum. You find more details on the the page of Change.org with the appeal. On the website of the museum, there is also a call for help and international protection.

International_Centre_of_the_Roerichs
The Roerich-Museum, Moscow

If you also like the beautiful art of Nicholas Roerich, you might also sign the petition and disseminate it among your friends and acquaintances, as a little contribution to the preservation of the museum, for the culture of Russia and the whole world.

Madonna_Oriflamma
Madonna Oriflamma, holding the Banner of Peace

“Normcore” and “Normal Temperament”: Breathtakingly Inconspicuous

Friday, July 11th, 2014

A few days ago I read an article about the German national team at the World Cup in Brazil – not about their sport performance, which I followed only vaguely, but their fashion.

The article remarked that though the German team never had much sympathy in Switzerland the trendy soccer viewer should notice that the Germans are trend-setters:

Unlike all players of other teams who wear tattoos, long hair, beards or use other ways “to make a difference”, the German team is “breathtakingly inconspicuous”. Even in their physique they are no muscle-men. He wrote that he took “normcore” as a media hype but that this team displays a “hardcore normal existence” – demonstrating that even no special hairstyle is needed to win a match.

fifa_bird_cup
Not just normcore – the international football birds of the “Fifa Bird Cup” 2014 on a garage door at the Lake Lucerne

I had to think of what Master CVV teaches about “normal temperament” as a fundamental attitude required in spiritual life. Sri Kumar explains it:

“Do not live above the ground. Be practical and be normal. Have no anxiety in you that others should recognise that you are spiritual. Make no efforts to enable others to understand that you are spiritual. As far as possible, keep a veil. As far as your spiritual understanding is concerned transact with the other person as a normal human being. Always keep the spiritual understanding in the background. Do not use too many spiritual terms in your anxiety to make others know that you are also spiritual. If possible, hide it. Wait to understand the other person, speak to him in the same language and terms that he speaks. Don’t use terms which he does not use. … You carry your understanding in you and then according to the others’ understanding you transact with him on that plane. Keep the higher understanding in you. Don’t vomit your higher understanding. At all levels meet the understanding of the other man.”

So let’s retain normal temperament in all events of life.

fifa_bird_cup2
Admiring the Bird Cup pictures….

The United Power of Good Will

Thursday, June 19th, 2014

I’m quite reserved as per political activism and campaigning for social change ideas, believing in the fact that the change I want to see outside has to grow within me first.

However, the last months I have changed a bit my position when I came across an inspiring movement called “Sum of us” (sumofus.org). )I know other such campaigning movements fighting against social and environmental atrocities and violence, and I’m also a bit active with the well-known Avaaz.)

When reading about SumOfUs, I had to think of what I read many years ago in the book Esoteric Psychology Vol. II, p. 742 from 1942 by Alice A. Bailey / The Tibetan Master:

“Their united good will (at present latent, unused and unorganised) can become a world force and through sheer weight of numbers, these people can make their presence effectively felt.  It will be a force which can mould public opinion through the expression of intelligent love (with the emphasis upon the word intelligent) but which will employ no separative devices, no armed force, no coercion and no political scheming and manipulation.  Is it not possible so to evoke the spirit of good will, present but oft inactive in the hearts of all men, that there will be such a vast number of men and women of good will in the world—consciously in touch with each other throughout the planet—that their voice will not be negligible, nor their expressed desires impotent?”

Many initiatives carry this spirit of good will. I have reported about some in this blog. SumOfUs is clearly in this spirit -here are their last campaigns:

  • A campaign against Nestlé patenting the fennel flower.
  • A campaign against Nestlé going into poor countries like Pakistan and buying up whatever clean water is available.
  • A campaign against corporate agribusiness wanting the Canadian parliament to give them long-term patent rights over seeds.
  • A campaign against Google not paying taxes to governments around the world.
  • A campaign against bee killing poisons.
  • A campaign for Sumatran orangutans – giant food corporations drive them to the brink of extinction by massive palm oil plantations.
  • A campaign for calling on European leaders to make sure the Robin Hood tax passes (to make bankers pay and benefit the poorest in the world).
  • A campaign against Nike firing workers for forming a union.
  • A campaign for the State of Vermont against Monsanto who is fighting hard to kill GMO labelling in Vermont.

See what they write on their website:

“Here’s what we stand for:

  • Governments that answer to citizens – not corporations
  • Fair treatment of workers and the right of every human being to make a living, safely and ethically, for themselves and their family;
  • The right of ordinary consumers to products that are produced and marketed ethically, sustainably and transparently;
  • The right of communities to manage and protect their own environment and natural resources;
  • Business models that put people and the planet first instead of being driven by shortsighted greed.

Yeah, take that deep breath, close your eyes and imagine what kind of a world that could be – and then crash back to this one.

We’ve witnessed again and again what happens when powerful corporations get their way:

  • Environmental and health catastrophes like Fukushima and the BP oil disaster;
  • A global financial crisis that destroys entire economies;
  • Rising food prices and starving children;
  • Families from Kalamazoo to Timbuktu losing their houses and land;
  • Poisons pouring into our air and water.

You name it, corporations are behind it. But rather than being held accountable – their CEOs are often walking away with bonuses. And these injustices are largely left to continue unabated.
But the world doesn’t have to be this way. And here’s the secret: We own the corporations that are causing all these problems. They rely on us to buy their products. They count on us to buy their stock. They need us to work for them. They need us to continue to elect governments that let them get away with murder.
We are SumOfUs.org, and we’re not going to take it anymore.

So these are forces of Good-Will which counter-balance destructive trends.

SumOfUs

A Generation Workshop – A Breeze of Aquarian Wind

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

The children born in the last decades are much more electric and have a faster reaction time -through the influence of Uranus their bodies are becoming lighter and more refined.

Last Saturday I was invited to a “Generation Workshop” (GenerActions) at a regional trade fair in Grenchen. A friend working at Infocklick.ch, the Swiss child and youth promotion, had invited me for this encounter of different generations: Young persons who have ideas and projects meet experienced people of the elder generation and can tap on their knowledge and experience. A fascinating approach.

The stand of the workshop was in the huge hall of the Swiss Velodrome. Members of three projects and some  experienced adults were there. One project was a magazine called “und” (and), of young and old working together in a “generation tandem” magazine. Another project was about launching a youth parliament in a Swiss canton. And a third one was a web radio.

I joined the two 14 years old boys who are running since 2 years the web radio “WRS1” (Web Radio Switzerland 1) – youngsters for youngsters. With their team of 4 boys Dominic and Noah realise two broadcasts of two hours per week. I was fascinated by their technical knowledge and cleverness. Beside the broadcasting they are actively using different communication channels: website, YouTube, Facebook

I went with them through their website and gave them hints how to optimize the site and the way they are communicating. They were very attentive, taking notes, asking. And while the other workshops were already over we were still sitting together and intensely discussing. There was a breeze of Aquarian wind in the air – I’m sure these young people will bring fresh innovations in the near future. Thank you Dominic and Noah for allowing me to use the photos of you.

wrs1_1
The two members of the web radio team

wrs1_2
In action

 

Dissolution and the Joy of Giving Things Away

Thursday, March 6th, 2014

Pisces is the final sign of the zodiacal cycle. It sounds the quality of conclusion for a restart, dissolution for a fresh beginning. Pisces prepares the seeds for the coming cycle, and thus it is the subtle commencement, while the tangible commencement is in Aries.

This year, my wife and I experience the Piscean quality of dissolution in a very intense manner: In the final week of Aquarius we applied for a new apartment and got the positive confirmation at the beginning of Pisces. Already beginning of December we had received a termination notice for our old apartment and we started saying good-bye to the place where we had lived the last 3 years. Now, entering Pisces, the preparation for the move are going on – the dissolution starts manifesting:

I went through the book shelves and sorted out (I mentioned it in a previous blog-post): I took the books into my hands and felt inside if there was still some attachment to a book. If no – it came into a box. If yes, I asked myself whether it was an emotional bond and if I would miss it when I gave it away. Again more books came into the box.

In Berne, we have a huge reference library with esoteric and alternative literature, and most of the books went there – I was glad that maybe some interested reader might make good use of the volumes – and our book-shelves became lighter.

The next step was to unburden our basement rooms. A car load went to the waste disposal. But there were things which people might want to use. So I chose a website where you can buy and sell things – or give them away for free. I didn’t want to start selling but give things quickly away. The first test was extremely fast: Hardly had I published my old guitar that the telephone rang- a lady in broken German asked if she could get it. I said yes and tried to describe how she can reach our house – she lived 50 km away. Since she didn’t understand well my explanations I told her to send me an e-mail. She asked if I can reserve the guitar for her; I said yes.

An e-mail arrived – “How can I get the guitar and where are you living?” I sent the detailed description, and shortly afterwards the answer came that she is coming Saturday evening.

Saturday evening, the phone rang – she was nearby but didn’t find the house – it’s a bit back from the street. I saw her car but she didn’t see me. So I went out with the guitar. An African lady and her daughter came out of the car. The eyes of the child shone about the guitar and the lady gave me an invitation to their market shop where they sell African and Indian products and do Afro haircuts, I would get 50% off – not just what I wanted.

Two days later, my wife got a phone call: A lady in broken German – switching then to English –  told her that she wanted to get the guitar which I had promised her. The guitar was away – but who was the lady? It turned out that the first one only phoned and didn’t send an e-mail and that the e-mails were from another lady…

The other things went away with great speed and without mix-ups – especially a jigsaw – there were more than 10 requests – mostly after I had switched off the online ad, a few minutes after I had posted it. The lucky person came from a town about 40 km away… I wondered if he calculated the gas costs…

Others, when they came and saw what we wanted to give or throw away were happy to take more things – and we were happy to give them away:  my old easel, book shelves, picture frames, household articles, children comic books and games… It was a good experience to see the things disappear, hopefully finding a new phase of their lives.

The only object I wanted to sell was a string trimmer, less then 3 years old. I didn’t put a high price – but no reaction came during the last days. Today I reduced the price – I wonder if someone reacts. I’m sure, if I gave it for free there would be a dozen phone calls. But I’m determined to sell it, at least this one! Or keep it, if no-one is interested. In 2.5 weeks we will move to the new apartment…

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An empty bookcase – just one book left for our study circle, the rest is already in boxes.