Saturday, February 28, 2009

James Quinn - The Great Awakening: Boomers, Your Crisis Has Arrived

Very interesting article on the Fourth Turning, the idea that about every 80 to 100 years, culture goes through a radical reinvention of itself - the time-frame is about every four generations. According to this model,we're due to be in the midst of a change right now. Sounds about right.
James Quinn - The Great Awakening: Boomers, Your Crisis Has Arrived

"There is a mysterious cycle in human events. To some generations, much is given. Of other generations, much is expected. This Generation has a rendezvous with destiny."

Franklin Roosevelt – 1936

President Roosevelt was correct. The generation he was speaking to was already dealing with the worst financial crisis in the history of the United States, the Great Depression. By 1945, over 400,000 of this generation had lost their lives. Another 600,000 men were wounded. Much was expected and much was sacrificed. Every generation has a rendezvous with destiny. The generation that won World War II passed the ultimate test and proceeded to produce the next generation, the Baby Boom Generation. Their rendezvous with destiny is underway. Will it be a rendezvous with history that results in World War III, the collapse of the Great American Republic, dictatorship, or a return to the original Constitutional principles upon which this country was founded? Many of you are probably thinking the idea of WW III, collapse or dictatorship is crazy. I’d respond with the wisdom of Kramer from the classic Seinfeld show.

Jerry: "Oh you're crazy"

Kramer: "Am I? Or am I so sane that you just blew your mind?"

Jerry: "It's impossible"

Kramer: "Is it? Or is it so possible your head is spinning like a top?"

Jerry: "It can't be"

Kramer: "Can't it? Or is your entire world just crashing down all around you?"

As a student of history I’m drawn to the concept of cycles. It is comforting to think that history has recurring patterns and a natural rhythm. Trying to figure out why the major events in history occurred is complex, challenging and fascinating. When I read an updated 1997 article by Doug Casey in December on John Mauldin’s site called Foundations of Crisis, I was blown away. Mr. Casey had read the book The Fourth Turning by William Strauss and Neil Howe and made some forecasts of what would happen in the next few years. They were eerily accurate, including an airliner being purposefully crashed into a government building to trigger a crisis. After reading this article I’ve been trying to wrap my arms around the implications of their theory and the possible consequences for the United States. I know that an individual can learn from the past. I’ve always thought that poet George Santayana’s quote, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it", is profound and worth studying.

The crucial issue is whether societies as a whole are capable of learning from the past or are they condemned to the inevitable cycle of history. Can an individual change the course of history? Was World War II inevitable, even if Adolph Hitler had been killed during World War I? Is there anything that can be done to avert the cyclical crisis that seems to arrive on a consistent basis throughout history? Is our destiny already preordained? Mr. Strauss and Mr. Howe wrote the following words in 1997:

Based on historical patterns, America will hit a once-in-a-century national crisis within the decade...'like winter,' the crisis or 'fourth turning' cannot be averted. It will last 20 years or so and bring hardship and upheavals similar to previous fourth turnings, such as the American Revolution, the Civil War, the Great Depression and World War II. The fourth turning is a perilous time because the result could be a new 'golden age' for America or the beginning of the end. It all will begin with a 'sudden spark' that catalyzes a crisis mood around the year 2005.

I don’t have a preconceived notion of our country’s destiny, but I’m getting a bad feeling about the track we are on. The last thing in the world I want to see is my three boys being forced into a war caused by a bunch of clueless 60 year old political hack morons in Washington DC fulfilling their destiny to cause the once in a century national crisis. Based on the foolish actions of most politicians in Washington over the last thirty years, I fear for the future of our country. I don’t think the politicians in Washington comprehend the state of affairs. I sense the mood of the country turning. Fear, anger and disillusionment are the prevalent themes. Change is coming, but it is not the change that Barack Obama campaigned for. It will be forced upon us by circumstances beyond any one person’s control. While we are hurtling towards our summit with destiny, Congress continues its path of pork barrel spending, short term solutions, party politics, and condemning our children and grandchildren to a lower standard of living. The “leaders” of this country are using the tried and true method of using fear to ram through their $900 billion tax on future generations. President Bush used the same fear tactics to launch his invasion of Iraq. I see a similar success story with the coming stimulus package. Maybe the coming crisis will ultimately lead to Great Leaders rising to the occasion.


Strauss and Howe believe that history is marked by 80 to 100 year cycles which match the lifespan of most human beings. These cycles are discernible by four generations of 20 to 25 years that show remarkable consistency over history. I’m sure this theory will anger the individualists out there. They are not saying that everyone within a generation acts alike, but are shaped by joint experiences and time period in history. According to Strauss and Howe:

Turnings last about 20 years and always arrive in the same order. Four of them make up the cycle of history, which is about the length of a long human life. The first turning is a High, a period of confident expansion as a new order becomes established after the old has been dismantled. Next comes an Awakening, a time of rebellion against the now-established order, when spiritual exploration becomes the norm. Then comes an Unraveling, an increasingly troubled era of strong individualism that surmounts increasingly fragmented institutions. Last comes the Fourth Turning, an era of upheaval, a Crisis in which society redefines its very nature and purpose.

They are able to trace these turnings back to 1500 with remarkable consistency. They have broken U.S. history into the following cycles of history: Revolutionary Cycle (1701-1791), Civil War Cycle (1792-1859), Great Power Cycle (1860-1942), and the Millennial Cycle (1943-2???). Within these cycles are four distinct generations, that have a consistent persona because their parents had similar views, they listened to the same music, read the same books, were taught the same curriculum, were bombarded with the same marketing messages, and experienced the same set of unique experiences. Even though every Baby Boomer is not alike, the sheer size of this generation of 76 million people has left a dramatic imprint on history. The shared experiences of this cohort are clearly visible as they have marched through the cycle of history. The four typical generations within a cycle as described by Strauss and Howe are:


A Prophet (or Idealist) generation is born during a High, spends its rising adult years during an Awakening, spends midlife during an Unraveling, and spends old age in a Crisis. Prophetic leaders have been cerebral and principled, summoners of human sacrifice, wagers of righteous wars. Early in life, few saw combat in uniform. Late in life, most prophets come to be revered as much for their words as for their deeds.


A Nomad (or Reactive) generation is born during an Awakening, spends its rising adult years during an Unraveling, spends midlife during a Crisis, and spends old age in a new High. Nomadic leaders have been cunning, hard-to-fool realists, taciturn warriors who prefer to meet problems and adversaries one-on-one.


A Hero (or Civic) generation is born during an Unraveling, spends its rising adult years during a Crisis, spends midlife during a High, and spends old age in an Awakening. Heroic leaders are considered to have been vigorous and rational institution-builders, busy and competent in old age. All of them entering midlife were aggressive advocates of technological progress, economic prosperity, social harmony, and public optimism.


An Artist (or Adaptive) generation is born during a Crisis, spends its rising adult years in a new High, spends midlife in an Awakening, and spends old age in an Unraveling. Artistic leaders have been advocates of fairness and the politics of inclusion, irrepressible in the wake of failure.

This concept of 100 year cycles consisting of four generations is very logical to me. It all seems so theoretical and quaint until you realize that if they are right, we have just entered The Fourth Turning, a period of upheaval, crisis and enormous societal and possibly worldwide change. This is not a normal cyclical recession and bear market. There are much larger forces at work. Washington politicians are so consumed with their short-term election politics, power plays, enrichment of supporters, and letting lobbyists write our laws, they are incapable of seeing the real gathering storm that is about to engulf them. They go about their day to day horse trading and fooling the public with rhetoric, while a crisis of epic proportions is looming just over the horizon.


The recent song by the group Five for Fighting called 100 Years reflects the 100 year cycle that all humans live through.

15 there's still time for you
Time to buy and time to lose
15, there's never a wish better than this
When you only got 100 years to live
I'm 33 for a moment
Still the man, but you see I'm a they
A kid on the way
A family on my mind
I'm 45 for a moment
The sea is high
And I'm heading into a crisis
Chasing the years of my life

The lyrics heading into a crisis couldn’t be truer today. We are only on this earth for 100 years. Why shouldn’t every person want to leave the earth a better place than they were born into? Instead, the world has periods of advancement and periods of regression, periods of peace and periods of war, periods of awakening and periods of crisis.

The last 150 years in American history as segmented by Strauss and Howe is charted below. Each generation experiences the four turnings at a different time in their lives. An appreciation of past turnings may give us clues to what will befall our country in the next 20 years.

Great Power Saeculum

Missionary Generation

Prophet (Idealist)


The indulged home-and-hearth children of the post-Civil War era. They came of age as labor anarchists, and campus rioters. In the 1930s and ‘40s, their elder elite became the “Wise Old Men” who enacted a “New Deal” (and Social Security) for the benefit of youth, led the global war against fascism, and reaffirmed America’s highest ideals during a transformative era in world history.

Lost Generation

Nomad (Reactive)


The Third Great Awakening was a period of religious activism in American history from the late 1850s to the 1900s. It affected pietistic Protestant denominations and had a strong sense of social activism. It gathered strength from the postmillennial theology that the Second Coming of Christ would come after mankind had reformed the entire earth.

G.I. Generation (aka Greatest Generation)

Hero (Civic)


As young adults, their uniformed corps patiently endured depression and heroically conquered foreign enemies. In a midlife subsidized by the G.I. Bill, they built gleaming suburbs, invented miracle vaccines, plugged “missile gaps,” and launched moon rockets.

Silent Generation

Artist (Adaptive)


Grew up as the suffocated children of war and depression. They came of age just too late to be war heroes and just too early to be youthful free spirits. Instead, this early-marrying Lonely Crowd became the risk-averse technicians and professionals—as well as the sensitive rock ‘n rollers and civil-rights advocates—of a post-crisis era in which conformity seemed to be a sure ticket to success.

Millennial Saeculum

Baby Boom Generation

Prophet (Idealist)


Basked as children in Dr. Spock permissiveness, suburban conformism, Sputnik-era schooling, Beaver Cleaver friendliness, and Father Knows Best family order. They came of age rebelling against the worldly blueprints of their parents. Youth pathologies worsened—and SAT scores began a 17-year slide. In the early 1980s, many young adults became self-absorbed “yuppies” with mainstream careers but perfectionist lifestyles. Entering midlife (and national power), they are trumpeting values, touting a “politics of meaning,” and waging scorched-earth Culture Wars.

13th Generation (aka Generation X)

Nomad (Reactive)


Survived a “hurried” childhood of divorce, latchkeys, open classrooms, devil-child movies, and a shift from G to R ratings. They came of age curtailing the earlier rise in youth crime and fall in test scores—yet heard themselves denounced as so wild and stupid as to put The Nation At Risk. In jobs, they embrace risk and prefer free agency over loyal corporatism. Politically, they lean toward pragmatism and non-affiliation, and would rather volunteer than vote.

Millennial Generation

Hero (Civic)


As abortion and divorce rates ebbed, the popular culture began stigmatizing hands-off parental styles and recasting babies as special. Child abuse and child safety became hot topics, while books teaching virtues and values became best-sellers. Today, politicians define adult issues (from tax cuts to deficits) in terms of their effects on children.

New Silent Generation

Artist (Adaptive)


This generation is the first to be born in a digital world and is currently in grade school. This new generation is being molded from the outset to be unique, with a focus on advanced second-hand interactive learning techniques. The result being Gen Z children are exposed to an environment that is heavy on stimuli, and weaker in interpersonal relationships.

Sources: Wikipedia & The Fourth Turning

Here begins part two (of three) of this series:


The American High in the 20th century began in 1946 with unconditional victory in World War II. According to Strauss and Howe:

A HIGH brings a renaissance to community life. With the new civic order in place, people want to put the Crisis behind them and feel content about what they have collectively achieved. Any social issues left unresolved by the Crisis must now remain so. The need for dutiful sacrifice has ebbed, yet the society continues to demand order and consensus. The recent fear for group survival transmutes into a desire for investment, growth, and strength--which in turn produces an era of commercial prosperity, institutional solidarity, and political stability. The big public arguments are over means, not ends.

The mood of the country after World War II was joyous. America was left as the sole global power. Its industrial power was unsurpassed. Europe, Japan and the Soviet Union lay in shambles. The country settled into a period of prosperity and conformity. America was brimming with confidence. We were confident that our democratic principles could be spread throughout the world. The American High lasted from the Truman presidency through the Kennedy presidency. As the youthful President Kennedy took office in 1961, anything was possible. We could put a man on the moon, defeat communism, and eradicate poverty. The symbol of this period would be the Disney World ride Carousel of Progress, a sterile world inhabited by animatronic people. This time period also gave life to the Baby Boom Generation. Their mouseketeers ears and Leave it to Beaver lives of the 1950’s were brought to an abrupt confidence shattering end with the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963.


The Fourth Awakening of the great American Republic began in 1964. This episode is known as the Conscious Revolution. Strauss and Howe describe these phases in history:

An AWAKENING arrives with a dramatic challenge against the High’s assumptions about benevolent reason and congenial institutions. The outer world now feels trivial compared to the inner world. New spiritual agendas and social ideals burst forth, along with utopian experiments seeking to reconcile total fellowship with total autonomy. The prosperity and security of a High are overtly disdained though covertly taken for granted. A society searches for soul over science, meanings over things. Youth-fired attacks break out against the established institutional order. As these attacks take their toll, society has difficulty coalescing around common goals. People stop believing that social progress requires social discipline. Public order deteriorates, and crime and substance abuse rise.

The upheaval of the 1960’s took the country by surprise. The Vietnam War, assassination of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, campus riots, Kent State massacre, drug use, and promiscuous sex marked a vivid departure from the High. The older establishment was outraged by the personal liberation youth culture. Baby Boomers rebelled against everything their parents stood for. The Cultural Revolution was shocking to the older generation. Previous Awakenings in U.S. History were religiously based. The 1960’s and 1970’s were a tumultuous period that tore the fabric of American life apart. Instead of being led by mainstream religions, this Awakening was led by a Baby Boom generation that had been coddled and spoiled by their parents. Instead of turning to religion, they turned to self actualization. They became the self absorbed “Me Generation”.

The New Age teenage hippies of the 1960’s grew into selfish adults, more concerned by their professional careers, obtaining a Harvard MBA, acquiring the biggest McMansion, and graduating from a 200 Series BMW to a 300 Series BMW. As the country moved out of the 1970’s into a new era, individualism and ego enrichment became the dominant themes. The end of this Awakening period in 1984 was marked by the classification of the then 25 to 35 year old Baby Boom Generation as Yuppies. Young upwardly mobile professionals were characterized accurately in the movie The Big Chill, the novel Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe and the TV show Thirtysomething. These were not flattering portrayals.


The latest Unraveling period in U.S. history began during the presidency of Ronald Reagan. His theme of “Morning in America” convinced most of the country that a new era of prosperity would lead to all boats rising. Strauss and Howe describe the traits during these periods:

An UNRAVELING begins as a society-wide embrace of the liberating cultural forces set loose by the Awakening. People have had their fill of spiritual rebirth, moral protest, and lifestyle experimentation. Content with what they have become individually, they vigorously assert an ethos of pragmatism, self-reliance, laissez faire, and national (or sectional or ethnic) chauvinism. While personal satisfaction is high, public trust ebbs amid a fragmenting culture, harsh debates over values, and weakening civic habits. The sense of guilt (which rewards principle and individuality) reaches its zenith. As moral debates brew, the big public arguments are over ends, not means. Decisive public action becomes very difficult, as community problems are deferred. Eventually, cynical alienation hardens into a brooding pessimism. The approaching specter of public disaster ultimately elicits a mix of paralysis and apathy.

The period between 1984 and 2001 was a period of peace and prosperity. President Reagan cut taxes, Paul Volcker defeated inflation, the Soviet Union collapsed, the stock market went up 1,000%, and MBA yuppies elevated to senior management positions on Wall Street. This interlude echoed the High of 1946 to 1964. The self involved Baby Boom Generation kept busy accumulating stuff. Their personal satisfaction is what mattered most. Gordon Gekko, the John Thain of his generation, uttered the words in the movie Wall Street that reflect the mood of the 1980’s. Greed, for lack of a better word, is good.”

The 1990’s were dominated by cultural wars. The Republican Party and Democratic Party debate become extremely partisan. Public deliberations became harsh. Moral certitude was exuded by all sides of every issue. Hard driving overachieving narcissistic yuppies wearing Brooks Brothers suits and Rolex watches dominated corporate America. As twenty-eight-year-old Rob Lewis, a yuppie profiled in Newsweek, noted, yuppies were often willing to sacrifice "marriage, families, free time, relaxation." He added, "Our marriages seem like mergers, our divorces like divestitures."

The internet was going to change the world. Fraudulent IPOs were rolled out to the unsuspecting public. Day traders could get rich without working. Government did what it does best, spend money and defer all tough decisions to the distant future. A tough unpopular decision deferred is the path to reelection for a professional politician. The unwillingness to work together towards solutions that would insure that future generations weren’t left with the debts of the Baby Boom Generation, led to the current crisis being worse than it needed to be. As yuppies dashed down the streets of New York City, beating away on their crack-berries, on a sunny cool Fall morning, little did they know that their materialistic egotistical frenzied lives were about to change forever. With the tragic murder of 3,000 Americans in the Saudi-led terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the Fourth Turning had arrived.


We know how this Crisis period in our history began. We don’t know how it will end. Previous crisis periods in American history included The American Revolution (1773-1794), The Civil War (1860-1865), and the twin crisis of The Great Depression and World War II (1929-1945). All three period included wrenching highly destructive total wars. Will our current crisis period result in World War III?

Strauss and Howe describe the commonalities of most crisis periods:

A CRISIS arises in response to sudden threats that previously would have been ignored or deferred, but which are now perceived as dire. Great worldly perils boil off the clutter and complexity of life, leaving behind one simple imperative: The society must prevail. This requires a solid public consensus, aggressive institutions, and personal sacrifice. People support new efforts to wield public authority, whose perceived successes soon justify more of the same. Government governs, community obstacles are removed, and laws and customs that resisted change for decades are swiftly shunted aside. A grim preoccupation with civic peril causes spiritual curiosity to decline. Public order tightens, private risk-taking abates, and crime and substance abuse decline. Families strengthen, gender distinctions widen, and child-rearing reaches a smothering degree of protection and structure. The young focus their energy on worldly achievements, leaving values in the hands of the old. Wars are fought with fury and for maximum result.

Every crisis period has been initiated by a catalyst. The passage of the Stamp Acts started the American Revolution, the election of Abraham Lincoln sparked the Civil War and the Stock Market Crash of 1929 initiated the Depression/WW II crisis. If history is our guide, the Iraq and Afghan Wars will not be the only wars during this crisis epoch. Many challenges lie ahead. I don’t think the majority of Americans are ready to meet these challenges.

Winter Has Arrived

Strauss & Howe wrote the following words in 1997:

America feels like it’s unraveling. Though we live in an era of relative peace and comfort, we have settled into a mood of pessimism about the long-term future, fearful that our superpower nation is somehow rotting from within. The America of today feels worse, in its fundamentals, than the one many of us remember from youth, a society presided over by those of supposedly lesser consciousness. We yearn for civic character but satisfy ourselves with symbolic gestures and celebrity circuses. We perceive no greatness in our leaders, a new meanness in ourselves. Each new election brings a new jolt, its aftermath a new disappointment.

The Prophet Generation is the elder statesmen as we begin this secular crisis. George W. Bush was born in 1946. He is the eldest of the Prophet/Baby Boom Generation. Barack Obama was born in 1961 at the very end of the Baby Boom Generation. These two men have or will lead the United States through most of this crisis stage. George Bush and his cohort of neo-conservatives and their drastic overreaction to the terrorist attacks of 9/11, have set the stage for the most dangerous crisis in U.S. history. A Crisis always results in the appearance of strong leaders. George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin Roosevelt rose to the occasion during our previous Crisis episodes. Strong does not always mean wise, thoughtful or right. George Bush exhibited strong leadership during his tenure. Wisdom and thoughtfulness were not two of his better traits. Barack Obama is a smart man and has exhibited some strong leadership skills in his initial weeks in office. He has also exhibited an ability to exaggerate threats to get what he wants. Will he rise to the level of Washington, Lincoln or Roosevelt?

On the day George Bush took office, he inherited an annual budget surplus that was the result of gridlock in Washington and PAYGO restrictions on Congressional spending. The National Debt stood at $5.7 trillion and our unfunded future liabilities for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid stood at $20 trillion. We had not been at war for nine years. Today, our National Debt is $10.7 trillion, poised to rocket above $13 trillion in the next year. Our unfunded liabilities now total $53 trillion as President Bush signed a prescription benefit plan expansion that added $8 trillion to our grandchildren’s burden. Since 9/11 almost 5,000 Americans have died in battle, with 50,000 Americans wounded. We’ve spent $800 billion, so far, on a war that didn’t need to be fought. Untold thousands of Iraqi and Afghan civilians have been killed or wounded, despite the fact that none of the 9/11 terrorists were from Iraq or Afghanistan. Fifteen of the nineteen hijackers were from our “staunch ally”, Saudi Arabia. The acts of a terrorist organization consisting of less than 2,000 members resulted in actions by an American President that resulted in declining American moral influence throughout the world, increased terrorism around the world, budget deficits that threaten the very existence of our capitalistic system, and an American public that is angry, disillusioned and confused. Doug Casey in 1997 described the future actions of George Bush to a tee. “The Boomers in Elderhood will be dogmatic, harsh, puritanical, and quite willing to burn down the barn in order to destroy whatever rats they see.”

Domestically, the period from 2001 to 2008 could be described as “Boomers Gone Wild”. Boomers in their 40’s and 50’s now dominate society, as they have assumed the positions of power in government and business. Based on what they have accomplished so far, I truly fear for what comes next. After 9/11, President Bush urged Americans to spend to defeat terrorism, while Alan Greenspan lowered interest rates to historically low levels. This was like waving a red cape in front of a bull. The materialistic, self actualizing, individualistic Boomers went on the grandest borrowing and spending spree in the history of the world. Their mission: Save the world from terrorism by buying a 6,000 sq ft McMansion, the largest HDTV, the biggest Hummer, and most expensive Rolex. Boomers running Wall Street were happy to oblige with loans and complex derivatives to finance the Mardi Gras like celebration of capitalism.

The aftermath of the eight years of partying is, not surprisingly to some, the greatest hangover in the history of the world. There are 19 million vacant homes, 10% of all homes in the U.S. are in foreclosure, 20 million homeowners are underwater with their mortgage, $30 trillion of consumer wealth has be obliterated, the savings rate dropped below zero, consumer debt levels are at historic levels, and the banking system is insolvent. The Boomer economists, like Paul Krugman, are sure they have the answers (they don’t) and the current bank bailout tab has already reached $9.7 trillion. You have to hand it to Americans, we truly believe bigger is better. If this is the easy part of the twenty year crisis, I’m not looking forward to the hard part.

Go to part 3 >>

Daily Dharma - The Buddha's Path

A little dharma for the weekend morning, from Tricycle's Daily Dharma.

The Buddha's Path

Suppose we use a traveling metaphor for the universal spiritual quest. The main map the Buddha offered for the trip to happiness and contentment is called the Eightfold Path, but I have often thought it should be called the Eightfold Circle. A path goes from here to there, and the nearer you are to there, the farther you are from here. A path is progressive... on a genuine path you need to start at the beginning and proceed in a linear way until the end. With a circle, you can join in anywhere, and it's the same circle.

When the Buddha taught his path, he said it had a specific number of constituent parts; people could be sure they were going the right way if they saw any one of eight special markers....The order in which the traveler sees the signs doesn't matter. If we look at any sign closely, it becomes apparent that Right Understanding, the suspicion that it is possible to be contented even if we aren't pleased, arouses Right Aspiration to make a lot of Right Effort to develop more Right Understanding.... It's all connected.

- Sylvia Boorstein, It's Easier Than You Think

From Everyday Mind, a Tricycle book edited by Jean Smith

Read this Daily Dharma on

Chogyam Trungpa on Passionlessness

Interesting topic for contemplation.
Ocean of Dharma Quotes of the Week

February 28, 2009


The first characteristic of a dharmic person, or a practitioner, is passionlessness, which is an interesting theme for Westerners. You have all kinds of possibilities of organizing and creating occupations -- from chewing gum to taking trips to the Bahamas. You are always looking for ways to solve your boredom, your boredom problem. In contrast, passionlessness means experiencing boredom properly and fully. You don't immediately fill the gap with all kinds of things....In Western society, when any little irritation comes up, there is always something to cure it. They even sell little pads to stick on your spectacles to keep them from sliding down, so that they will stay on your nose properly. From little things like pads for your spectacles to the biggest of the biggest, as long as anybody can afford it, the Western approach is to cure any kind of boredom, any kind of irritation at all. So passion is connected with being unable to relate to boredom -- needing some kind of sustaining power. And a practitioner is someone who can maintain himself, who can relate with boredom.

From "Seven Characteristics of a Dharmic Person," in THE COLLECTED WORKS OF CHOGYAM TRUNGPA, Volume Two, pages 484 to 485.

Ken Wilber Stops His Brain Waves

This video has been around for a while, but I have been thinking about neuroscience lately and how the reductionists insist that consciousness is a function - even a by-product - of brain activity. In this view, anything that we consider consciousness or mind is just not real. This is partially true, and even Buddhists believe this, though in a different way.

But what The Ken does here completely explodes that point of view. He is able to use consciousness to stop the brain. In the reductionist neuroscience perspective, this should not be possible. What Wilber demonstrates is that consciousness dictates brain states, or at least can, and not that the brain dictates consciousness.

Certainly, this is not how it is for most of us, but he shows that the way neuroscience views the brain and consciousness is partial at best.

You already knew that Ken has no heart, now we find out that he has no brain, either!

That's right, Ken can stop his brainwaves on demand. Actually—and in a more serious vein—this is the famous EEG machine recording where Ken enters various meditative states, one of which is a type of "thoughtless," "image-less," or "formless" state, whose correlate is that his brainwaves come to an almost complete stop, as clearly recorded on this portable electroencephalograph (EEG) machine. (This video is discussed in One Taste, April 10 entry.)

We asked Ken to do a short 10-minute commentary on these various meditative states and the corresponding brain-wave patterns that are shown on the EEG machine in the video. Ken enters four meditative states (nirvikalpa closed eyes, nirvikalpa open eyes, sahaj, and mantra-savikalpa), each of which has a very distinctive brain-wave pattern. In his commentary, Ken emphasizes that the patterns shown on this machine may or may not be typical, but they do emphasize that profound consciousness states can be evoked at will, and these show immediate correlation in brain-wave patterns.

If nothing else, seeing somebody's brainwaves flatline in about 4 seconds is a sight not easily forgotten! It also explains why we once heard Ken's girlfriend say, upon delivering news that she thought might not be happily received, "Now, um, honey, make your brain waves go to zero...."

More seriously, as Ken often says, "If you want to know God, you've got to get your brain out of the way first. It's just one big stupid filter...."

Friday, February 27, 2009

Plant-based Diet for Muscle Building - JB's Results

A while back I posted on Dr. John Berardi's experiment with a plant-based diet for muscle building. Well, the results are in and they look pretty good. Keep in mind he did eat eggs, but other than that, he was vegetarian.

He did a little more bodyfat that I would like to see in a month, but when putting on SEVEN POUNDS in a month, some bodyfat is to be expected.

Here are the results
(I deleted a few charts on skinfold measurements):

The Experiment, A Synopsis

For those of you who haven’t been following along, back on January 13th, I announced my crazy scheme. After what was essentially a dare, I decided to test the idea that with hard training and exceptional attention to dietary detail, I could pack on a bunch of body weight (most of it coming from lean body mass) and muscle strength eating a mostly vegan diet. In other words, no animals, only vegetables.

Yes, someone did mail me steak.

Here’s the original article for those of you interested:

Some thought the idea was really cool, while others got really mad. Some were very supportive while others sent free-range steak in the mail.

Regardless of the distractions, I pressed on. I spent the next month following a pretty strict animal-free diet, eating nothing but plant based foods like nuts, veggies, legumes, quinoa, sprouted grains, etc.

Now, for the record, I did include 3 eggs with almost every breakfast. And I occasionally included some honey in my granola. But despite those two “vegan transgressions” I was able to successfully complete a full month of meat-free, plant-based eating.

The Articles, The Attention

Throughout this process, my experiment got a lot of attention. I was interview by Chris Shugart of T-nation (here) and appeared on a host of TV and radio programs where pro-vegetarians and anti-vegetarians ran me through a veritable gauntlet of questions.

I also published two additional articles right here on the Precision Nutrition web site, sharing some important lessons I learned along the way.


Meat: Good For Us or Disease Waiting to Happen

In the end, I must say that I’m really happy I did this experiment. I got the chance to be exposed to a new way of eating and a new group of people. I got a chance to help educate the public about what good nutrition means, whether or not it includes meat. And, as you’ll see below, I even built a little muscle for my trouble.

(Although, I must admit, the day after the experiment ended, my friends and neighbors discovered me giggling maniacally over a big Omaha steak).

The Results - My Stats

At this point, I’m sure most of you are wondering one thing: did I accomplish my goal and pack on the lean mass. Or did I fail miserably. Well, it’s time for the moment of truth.

Tracking a host of skinfold measures and girth measures - and recording them using the Precision Nutrition Results Tracker - I did end up gaining 7 total pounds, 4.9 lbs being lean body mass, and 2.1 lbs being fat mass.

To start with, here’s a complete comparison of my pre (Jan 12th) and post (Feb 8th) measures.

Comparison of Pre (Jan 12th) and Post (Feb 8th) Body Comp Data

Comparison of Pre (Jan 12th) and Post (Feb 8th) Body Comp, Skinfolds, and Girt Data - All Courtesy of the Precision Nutrition Results Tracker

Also, here’s some individual body comp data:

Body Weight, Lean, and Fat After My Plant-Based Diet - Along With A Comparison of The Changes Made

Body Weight, Lean Mass, Fat Mass, and Fat Percentage After My Plant-Based Diet -- On The Right You'll Notice The Total Changes Made Since My Last Measurements.

And here’s some girth data:

Girth Recordings After My Plant-Based Diet -- On The Right You'll Notice The Total Changes Made Since The Last Measurement Period.

All in all, I’d say a pretty successful month.

It appears that even without eating meat or many animal products, my training regime (which I didn’t change) and my diet regime (which was based on the principles shared in the Precision Nutrition Plant-Based Diet Guide and included a surplus of calories) allowed me to gain 7lbs with a 2.5:1 ratio of lean mass to fat mass.

The Results - My Pics

Now, I know you want to see the results with your own eyes. So, next up, the before and after pics. Here are some pics of the scale to confirm my body weight changes.

Body Weight Before

Body Weight After

xHere’s what I looked like at the start of this experiment:

xx xx xx

And here’s what I looked like at the end (minus the facial hair; trying to be sexier, ya know):

xx x xx xx

All in all, visually, the changes are small.

Although if you squint hard enough, I think you’ll see that I do look a little fuller and heavier in the second set of pictures. Also, if you’re still squinting, you might notice that I’ve lost a small amount of definition too. But that’s usually to be expected when trying to pack on body mass.

Science Daily - Collective Religious Rituals, Not Religious Devotion, Spur Support For Suicide Attacks

Want to make a suicide bomber? Use collective ritual - a little blind faith and devotion ain't going to get it done, at least that's what a new study finds.

Collective Religious Rituals, Not Religious Devotion, Spur Support For Suicide Attacks

ScienceDaily (Feb. 20, 2009) — In a new study in Psychological Science, psychologists Jeremy Ginges and Ian Hansen from the New School for Social Research along with psychologist Ara Norenzayan from the University of British Columbia conducted a series of experiments investigating the relationship between religion and support for acts of parochial altruism, including suicide attacks.

Suicide attacks are an extreme form of "parochial altruism" - they combine a parochial act (the attacker killing members from other groups) with altruism (the attacker sacrificing themselves for the group).

While the relationship between religion and popular support for suicide attacks is a topic of frequent conjecture, scientific study of the relationship is rare. The researchers found that the relationship between religion and support suicide attacks is real but is unrelated to devotion to particular religious beliefs or religious belief in general. Instead, collective religious ritual appears to facilitate parochial altruism in general and support for suicide attacks in particular.

The researchers surveyed Palestinian Muslims about their attitudes towards religion, including how often they prayed and went to mosque. The researchers found that devotion to Islam, as measured by prayer frequency, was unrelated to support for suicide attacks. However, frequency of mosque attendance did predict support for suicide attacks. In a separate survey of Palestinian Muslim university students, the researchers found again that those who attended mosque more than once a day, were more likely to believe that Islam requires suicide attacks, compared to students who attended mosque less often.

A similar pattern of results was found in research carried out with other religious groups. In another experiment, the researchers conducted phone surveys with Israeli Jews living in the West Bank and Gaza and asked them either how frequently they attended synagogue or how often they prayed to God. All participants were then asked if they supported the perpetrator of a suicide attack against Palestinians. Analysis of the responses showed that 23% of those asked about synagogue attendance supported suicide attacks while only 6% of those queried about prayer frequency supported suicide attacks.

In the last experiment, the psychologists surveyed members of six religious majorities in six nations (Mexican Catholics, Indonesian Muslims, Israeli Jews, Russian Orthodox in Russia, British Protestants and Indian Hindus) to see if the relationship between attending religious services and support for acts of parochial altruism holds up across a variety of political and cultural contexts. These results also showed that support for parochial altruism was related to attendance at religious services, but unrelated to regular prayer.

This study indicates that religious devotion does not cause support for suicide attacks or other forms of parochial altruism. However, the findings suggest that regularly attending religious services may make individuals more prone to supporting acts of parochial altruism. The researchers theorize that collective religious rituals and services create a sense of community among participants and enhance positive attitudes towards parochially altruistic acts such as suicide attacks. Although, the researchers note, the greater sense of community, developed via religious services, may have many positive consequences. They observe, "Only in particular geopolitical contexts is the parochial altruism associated with such commitments translated into something like suicide attacks."

Journal reference:
  1. Ginges et al. Religion and Support for Suicide Attacks. Psychological Science, 2009; 20 (2): 224 DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2009.02270.x
Adapted from materials provided by Association for Psychological Science.

Some New Psychology Books

Another installment in the perpetual listing of new books that I would like to own and read. Follow links to see the full reviews. All reviews come from Metapsychology Online Reviews.

* * *
Sexual Orientation and Psychodynamic Psychotherapy: Sexual Science and Clinical Practice
by Richard C. Friedman and Jennifer I. Downey
Columbia University Press, 2002
Review by Minna Forsell

Social psychology has taught us that gender is the first distinction that we make when meeting someone, so essential to our understanding of others that the question of what it is and how it influences us is one of the vastest and deepest in the field of psychology. The link between gender and sexual orientation is equally complex. Given the prominent place of sexuality in psychodynamic theory and treatment, the need for an understanding of its elusive nature is crucial.

Sexual Orientation and Psychodynamic Psychotherapy is a successful attempt to syncrhonize empirical studies on sexuality with psychodynamic thinking. The result is an engaging exploration of gender, sexual development and psychotherapy that gives thought-provoking perspectives on human sexuality as well as clinical work.
Read more.

* * *
Unsettled Minds: Psychology and the American Search for Spiritual Assurance, 1830-1940
by Christopher G. White
University of California Press, 2008
Review by Gustav Jahoda, Ph.D.

William James's Gifford Lectures, delivered in Edinburgh 1901/2 and published under the title The Varieties of Religious Experience remains one of his best-known works. It has the significant sub-title A Study in Human Nature, and the broad historical background that led to the use of this phrase is explored by White. It all began before mid-19th century when many (presumably educated) Americans found the rigid hell-fire Protestant theology unacceptable and looked around for alternatives. The religious liberals, including pastors, turned to teachings that promised help them in understanding the inner spiritual potentials of human nature. At the outset it was phrenology, and when that became gradually discredited, they turned to the then emerging discipline of scientific psychology. Initially it was the physiological reflex arc that was considered the central explanatory concept, later followed by such notions as 'the will' or 'suggestibility', whose adoption by a multitude of academics, pastors and lay people is described in considerable detail.
Read more.

* * *
Psychiatry and Empire
by Sloan Mahone and Megan Vaughan (Editors)
Palgrave Macmillan, 2007
Review by Tony O'Brien, RN, MPhil

Psychiatry and Empire is part of the Cambridge Imperial and Post-Colonial Studies Series, covering modern imperial history and contemporary issues in the former colonies. According editor Megan Vaughan's introduction, psychiatry has long been considered to more or less unproblematically have functioned as an instrument of colonization, adding scientific and medical authority to the subjugation of colonized peoples. The story is a familiar one. Early settlers paved the way with guns and occupation; the resulting crises of legitimation being addressed by the newly emerging social and medical sciences. Psychiatry is a prime candidate as a tool of colonization, having as it does, the mandate to manage unruly and disruptive members of the community. In this publication the various authors consider the relationship between psychiatry and the colonial enterprise, arriving at differing conclusions, although all broadly in support of the central argument that psychiatry helped provide a rationale, under the guise of science, for existing practices of social control. However as many of the contributions show, this was by no means an uncontested or straightforward process. Distance from the center, Paris, London or Amsterdam, meant that the effectiveness of psychiatry was limited. In some cases it also created opportunities for innovation and critique although the viability of any alternative discourses and practice were, in the end, subject to the fate of the colonial governments.

Read more.

* * *
How Infants Know Minds
by Vasudevi Reddy
Harvard University Press, 2008
Review by R.A. Goodrich, Ph.D.

The mixture of close observation and probing speculation that characterizes Vasudevi Reddy's eleven-chapter monograph, How Infants Know Minds, makes for compelling reading. Overtly inspired by the work of Margaret Donaldson, Peter Hobson, and Colwyn Trevarthen since the 'seventies, Reddy aims to shatter a number of shibboleths largely unquestioned by researchers in the field of developmental cognitive psychology. After briefly identifying her principal target, we shall then outline an initial set of contentions likely to figure in debates arising from Reddy's argument. That, in turn, will lead us to conclude with some reservations of a conceptual and an historical kind.


Readers are immediately introduced to the abiding epistemological problem of how infants "come to understand people," how they can become "aware of others' minds," how they "perceive" them as "'persons,' as psychological beings" (1). Without pausing to consider whether each expression of "how infants know minds" (to cite the title) is synonymous or not, Reddy aligns the problem to a pervasive yet disconcerting tendency. It is the tendency in the practices and theories of "a psychology which holds on, surreptitiously, to dualisms it claims to have discarded and, more openly, to methods of investigation...more appropriate to non-sentient subjects" (2). Yet, she continues, perhaps the problem is a result of the misguided assumption of "thinking of the organism's capacities separately from the environment in which it functions" (3). Returning the infant to its interactively human, familial context and allowing that affective interactions or exchanges between an infant and its caretaker(s) constitute an embodiment of minds is, Reddy believes, the means of resolving the puzzle of how one mind comes to know others non-inferentially:

engaging with other minds and becoming aware of them is an emotional process from start to finish (41).
In short, rather than presuming that minds develop in isolation, should we not begin with the premise that minds are "intrinsically connected" from the beginning by way of "emotional engagements" and not through the "belated consequences of a rationally constructed understanding"? (4) Why? Because if we adhere to the latter, we are condemned to construing or inferring the presence of other, seemingly inaccessible minds from the viewpoint of the detached spectator (or onlooker) rather than from the role of the engaged participant (7).

Read more.

Metanexus 2009 Conference

Woo Hoo! It's in Phoenix - I'll be there!

These folks are growing their own, unique, and useful from of integral philosophy, through a variety of mediums. They are the same people who bring you The Global Spiral magazine.

Save the Date for the 10th Annual Metanexus Conference

Cosmos, Nature, Culture
A Transdisciplinary Conference


Metanexus Conference
July 18 – 21, 2009
Phoenix, Arizona

No one knows for sure, but it is estimated that there are something like 1024 stars in the universe. When talking about numbers so unimaginably large, our world seems cosmically insignificant. But as far as we know, we're the only ones who count—in two senses of the word: We alone can count the stars, and it seems to count for something that we do. As Aristotle begins his Metaphysics, "All men by nature desire to know." There is something within us—manifested as it is in the entire spectrum of human endeavor, from the sciences, to philosophy, to religion, to the arts, to ethics—that demands we pursue the whole story of the whole cosmos if we are to be whole persons, in order to know who we are, where we are from, where we are going, and how we should live.

According to a recent piece in Scientific American, it seems that in about 100 billion years, scientists (if there are any) will no longer be able to detect the Big Bang. As the article poetically put it, "the runaway expansion of the cosmos by then will have blown away all evidence of the big bang like dandelion fluff into the wind." The universe will look to our counterparts in the future as if it were static. There will be no ability to detect expansion, and no way to find the cosmic microwave background radiation. Astrophysicist Lawrence Krauss notes that we only discovered dark energy because we live in a 'special' time during which its mysterious influence is neither too weak nor too strong to observe. "This is about the only time in the history of the universe when you could detect it, and that's really weird," Krauss says—a weirdness that results in our time really being an "extraordinary moment." When the big bang finally and permanently recedes, "with it will go cosmology, the study of the origin and evolution of the universe." And without understanding our origins, the "whole story" will be gone forever.

So maybe we need to gather our "cosmic" rosebuds—as well as our biological, ecological, philosophical, theological, mathematical, and whatever other rosebuds—while we may. As Carl Sagan wrote, "the Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be. Our feeblest contemplations of the Cosmos stir us— there is a tingling in the spine, a catch in the voice, a faint sensation, as if a distant memory, of falling from a height. We know we are approaching the greatest of mysteries." If we are truly to understand the cosmos and our place in it, as well as our relation to each other and to the divine, we must adopt rich transdisciplinary approaches that deeply respect yet cut across the various fields of knowledge, institutional boundaries, cultural borders, and religious traditions that frame our intellectual and spiritual pursuits.

If we wish to pursue something like the whole story of the whole cosmos for the whole person, we need to explore such questions as:

What is the state of our knowledge about our origins? What has the latest cutting edge research in cosmology, quantum physics, evolutionary biology, and neuroscience to teach us about where we are in our story and where we are going? And what do we know about the end of ourselves and of everything? What do we know about the birth of the stars and the moment of our death?

Recent years have witnessed a resurgence of interest in metaphysics, in particular the metaphysics of science. Can metaphysics give us a "whole story"? Can it at least contribute to the "story" of who we are and what we know? What role does metaphysics play in helping us get our story right? Is it essential? Could it be instead, as its critics maintain, an obstacle to knowing? What is the nature of "ultimate reality"? Are there fundamentally different levels of reality? Does science give us the final truth of reality? What is "scientific realism"? What is the metaphysical status of "universals," "substance," "causes," "ontological categories," "numbers," "properties," "time," and the other terms in which science speaks to us?

To paraphrase novelist Walker Percy, "Why it is that of all the billions and billions of strange objects in the Cosmos—novas, quasars, pulsars, black holes—we are beyond doubt the strangest?" There is something inescapably "first person" about consciousness. What accounts for this? Can third-person, objective science give a complete analysis of first-person, subjective experience? And can it tell us how to live our lives, how to seek virtue, or how to live together? The human brain manifests a massive complexity, comprising about 100 billion neurons and 100 trillion (1014) synapses. But are we our brains? What can the latest developments in neuroscience, which has taken on fields from psychology to religion to economics in recent years, tell us about our deepest questions and our future prospects?

D. H. Lawrence wrote, in his Apocalypse, "We and the cosmos are one. The cosmos is a vast living body, of which we are still parts. The sun is a great heart whose tremors run through our smallest veins. The moon is a great gleaming nerve-centre from which we quiver forever. Who knows the power Saturn has over us, or Venus? But it is a vital power, rippling exquisitely through us all the time." To what degree are we relational beings? Is there an essential relation between "I" and "Other"? And do animals count as "other." Does "nature" as a whole count as "other"? Are human beings "natural," or are we, as some suggest, a "threat" to nature? And what about God? Is God the "whole" which we seek , or does God somehow belong to the "whole"? Is God, instead, beyond the whole, making the whole possible?

How might we go about a search for meaning, for what is "real and important" to ourselves? Is this a spiritual quest? A philosophical practice? An empirical exercise? A potential scientific discovery? How do we best approach this search, or are these questions somehow flawed? Is there such a thing as "natural law," and can it help us to know who we are and how to live? Is there a relation between, in Kant’s words, "the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me"?

Join us for the 10th international Metanexus Conference when philosophers, biologists, physicists, cosmologists, neuroscientists, cognitive scientists, theologians, scholars in religious studies, and other researchers and educators will discuss these and other profound questions of cosmos, nature, and culture in a rapidly evolving and complex world.

Among the attendees will be representatives of the Metanexus Global Network of multidisciplinary Local Societies from more than 40 countries.

Some of the speakers at previous Metanexus conferences include:

Nancy Ellen Abrams

Mahmoud Ayoub

Ian G Barbour

Stephen Barr

Mario Beauregard

Arthur Caplan

John D. Caputo

Bruce Chilton

Philip Clayton

Roy Clouser

John DiIulio

George F. R. Ellis

Ursula Goodenough

John F. Haught

Philip Hefner

Gail Ironson

Antje Jackelén

Byron Johnson

Robert Kane

Robert Lawrence Kuhn

Timur Kuran

Nancey Murphy

Meera Nanda

Jacob Neusner

Andrew Newberg

Basarab Nicolescu

Ronald L. Numbers

Robert Pollack

Stephen Post

Joel Primack

Robert D. Putnam

Tariq Ramadan

Holmes Rolston III

Pauline Rudd

Norbert M. Samuelson

Jeffrey P. Schloss

Martin Seligman

Bülent Senay

Magda Stavinschi

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

Esther Sternberg

Marijan Sunjic

Hava Tirosh-Samuelson

Charles Hard Townes

George E. Vaillant

J. Wentzel van Huyssteen

David Sloan Wilson

Amos Yong