Friday, November 27



On Thursday with Gary & Anna we visited Monsalvat, located close to where I live in Eltham. Monsalvat is a sprawling mixture of buildings set on 12 acres in an idyllic setting. Artist and architect Justin Jorgensen together with a dedicated group of volunteers purchased the land in 1934 with a view to establishing an artist’s colony of painters, sculptors, poets and musicians. Building materials used were rescued from old beautiful buildings being demolished in Melbourne to make way for modernization, locally produced mud bricks, rammed earth, mud stone, bush timbers and slate flooring combined with beautifully crafted stained glass windows. The artists operated a dairy and a small farm so that the community was largely self sufficient.
Many of the descendants of the original community today inhabit the adjoining cottages as sculptor’s painters and musicians. The appearance resemembles a European Castle with its adjoining chapel and surrounded by artist’s residences; once stables and storehouses.
The picture is of Gary and myself outside the castle and below are other pictures of adjoining buildings.
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Saturday, November 21

Island in the sun under pressure


Oh Island in the Sun -click on picture to enlarge.

The deep blue sea was tranquil and shimmered like a precious stone sparkling under the noonday sun as our small boat headed for a deserted island not far from Abyiang in the republic of Kiribiti. The oceans in that region can be treacherous; a sudden squall or storm turns the ocean into a cauldron of white tips and high waves like our journey so far; a mixture of excitement and relief. We had left the most populated island of Tarawa to visit Abyiang; to be guests of volunteer Australia and Canadian teachers who worked for the local Catholic mission school. Previously we planned to fly to Abyiang but the plane service was cancelled due to a breakdown. We had negotiated the trip with local boatmen but it soon became apparent they were not sure of the way. Finally, after spotting a landmark, we all trekked across the coral reef, knee deep in water with our boatman carrying our provisions to finally arrive both hot and exhausted.

I remembered my wife sitting quietly in the bow; fully recovered from an earlier ordeal when she awoke as if from a sudden nightmare to a raging shivering fever in an unfamiliar thatched hut on Abyiang. The schoolchildren brought us coconuts, confident the juice from the green adolescent coconuts would immediately restore her to good health. True to their word my wife was soon up and about as if the fever was no more than a bad dream, to our mutual relief. During the course of the week we joined in with school activities, then were told of a trip organized for us to visit a nearby deserted Island.

The first glimpse of the island from our boat was one of undisturbed pristine white sand and crystal clear water with almost jungle like thick foliage intruding in a wide arc onto the foreshore.

After landing we cleared an open space within the thick foliage to make up a rough camp but were soon interrupted by the arrival of a local family. Oh dear! We soon leant the island was not only inhabited but the islanders were concerned over our lack of protocol; strangers were expected to introduce themselves to the spirit of the Island by traversing it from one end to another.

The family finally departed amicably and we were left to explore the coral reef and its wondrous underwater sites. To our surprise the family returned again but this time with a number of large brightly coloured crayfish, caught specially to be consumed for our lunch. Furthermore after learning some of us were to soon return to Australia, they performed a special ceremonial dance of farewell on the sand. A most elaborate and complicated long dance ritual; in the spirit of friendship- extended generously to strangers, to whom they were unable to converse or ever likely to see again.

The dance reminded me of the ceremonies that must have been performed to farewell canoes long ago from Polynesia and Melanesia as they set out to populate the many Islands that now make up what was once known as the Kingdom but now a Republic ( since 1979) of Kiribiti.

Their history is recorded in the many dances and songs, words to exquisite harmonies lasting for several hours, never written down but handed down orally from the one generation to another. But that rich history takes on a much more sober note as Abyiang and the other islands that make up Kiribiti are gradually sinking into the ocean to the tune of global warming and erosion.
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Wednesday, November 11

Truth and Fiction in the Bible

Robin Lane Fox - The Unauthorized Version: Truth and Fiction in the Bible


The book is an interesting historical exposé about the Bible by a scholar whose approach to this biblical analysis is purely historical although he does value highly prior contributions from many of the leading theologians. In his introduction he shares his passion for history whilst acknowledging a non belief in GOD, to introduce to us his stated aim to critically review the veracity or otherwise of historical evidence within the bible where the bible makes reference to events taking place - to ask the question ‘is the text historically true or credible’?


Biblical text represents a literary history of humanity; rich in inspired testimony, prophesy, story, parable, metaphor, analogy, allegory and poetic verse. Fox, as a historian contends the bible does represent a fallen history of humanity but whose truthfulness is limited to the extent the texts remain faithful within that narrow context.

The question arises as to primacy of purpose and of expectations given the texts accumulation over 700 years.

What is evident is the continual gravitation towards ‘modernity’ - that is what was modern then – to became a primacy of purpose to flow through from the nadir of the old testament to the parables of Jesus whose mystery was to the disciples as it remains today - discerned by reference to allegory. The quest for the sacred and for life meaning was what held together tentatively those unwieldy papyrus manuscripts to emerge finally into book format a thousand years later. Along the long and arduous journeys which bears witness to the richly endowed stories biblical authors borrowed from the mythical, pagan or recalibrated prior events or texts to give reasons and substance to their existence as new needs arose.

Indeed in the very first book of Genesis spanning 2 centuries from the time of King David, scholars have identified at least 4 different authors collaboratively presenting different moral, repetitive and mythical interpretative views of creation edited by the one exhibiting a priestly style. - The Liturgical Press – Collegeville Minnesota – GENISIS – Pauline A, Vivano.

Fox asserts there are the 2 conflicting contradictory creation stories – the unblemished story of creation and the other in which Adam and Eve fall from grace.

The question arises, can different interpretations and issues of style be creditable and, are contradictions no more than a matter of acceptably different views taken from a different perspective, so that both different views might reasonably be argued as capable of being right rather than to assert such differences must logically denote a falsehood.

Repetition of style

An important aspect to a scholar’s work is to painstakingly analyze different writing styles and grammatical expression to reliably link a consistent style to identify each writer, but even so the results can be problematical and changes oft remain the secrets of antiquity.

The Bible represents a kaleidoscope of genres written in the style of priestly, poetic, historic, and philosophical traditions. Hence determining the cultural context together with both genre and style is a prerequisite to unlocking the door to understanding. What is revealed is purpose, as is the case of the creation text where the 4 authors offer different perspectives of the creation stories. At first sight these different perspectives may give the appearance of contradiction as the writers attempt to introduce new themes – many of which would already be very familiar to their intended audience.

Many of the earlier books of the Old Testament depict the tribal patriarchal evolution which invokes the ideas of their transcendent GOD or GODS tied to the preceding recorded events of triumph or tragedy – slavery to freedom, or the stained blood and redemptive events that shaped nationhood in keeping with a coherent purpose. The coherency of this purpose is evident in the patriarchal tribal stories of Abraham commencing when he believed in many GODS before his conversion in belief of the one GOD- Yahweh – or at least to assert Yahweh has primacy. Solomon in his youthful wisdom presiding over a period of immense prosperity that opened up trade with the Phoenicians and brought untold wealth and prosperity to his reign- attributable to his wisdom. But in the latter chronicles of the book of KINGS he succumbs to materialism and the worship of many different GODS towards the end of his extraordinary reign. Hence the writers adapt but do not distort events that shaped them – not necessarily confined to an era or historical context, but much more to do with what actions they perceived to be faithful or unfaithful to their GOD – to breathe new life and perspective into the living texts to impart perceived wisdom for each new generation.

Walking the Bible

A remarkable measure of that ancient past journey can be gauged by reading “Walking the Bible” by Bruce Feiler.
Feiler takes you on a 10, 000 mile journey to retrace the 5 books of Moses; through the desert, 3 continents, 5 countries and 4 war zones. He crosses the Red Sea and tests the slopes of Mt Sinai, to interview Bedouin tribes people and pilgrims – to touch and feel the ancient lands and in the process spiritually experienced that same sense of awe of what must have been felt so long ago from what is the cradle for many of the world’s great religions. A measure of the faithfulness of the ancient texts is the degree to which biblical stories still define existing terrain and foliage of a living landscape whist remaining faithful to a consistent coherent purpose.


Given the extraordinary long time periods that ensued over which the texts were compiled, matters of authorship and authenticity are legitimately challenged by Fox. He poses questions over what systems guarded against the alteration or amendments to books or material regarded as sacred. Later, in relation to the gospel writers he asserts irregularities in the narrative and falsehoods in relation to the nativity scenes. These are questions that go to the root of any historical quest for Jesus and assume greater importance when we consider maters of the heart or faith as interpreted within the gospels.

The historical Jesus

Here I believe it helpful to include a reference to the rather long somber conclusion presented by Albert Schweitzer in his ‘Quest for the Historical Jesus’ -
The mistake was to suppose that Jesus could come to mean more to our time by entering into it as a man like ourselves. That is not possible. First because such a Jesus never existed. Secondly because, although historical knowledge can no doubt introduce a greater clearness into an existing spiritual life, it cannot call spiritual life into existence.

History can destroy the present; it can reconcile the present with the past; to a certain extent there was a danger that we should offer them a Jesus who was too small, because we had forced Him into conformity with our human standards and human psychology. To see that, one need only read the Lives of Jesus written since the 'sixties, and notice what they have made of the great imperious sayings of the Lord, how they have weakened down His imperative world-contemning demands upon individuals, that He might not come into conflict with our ethical ideals, and might tune His denial of the world to our acceptance of it.

Many of the greatest sayings are found lying in a corner like explosive shells from which the charges have been removed. No small portion of elemental religious power needed to be drawn off from His sayings to prevent them from conflicting with our system of religious world-acceptance. We have made Jesus hold another language with our time from that which He really held.

Jesus as a concrete historical personality remains a stranger to our time, but His spirit, which lies hidden in His words, is known in simplicity, and its influence is direct. Every saying contains in its own way the whole Jesus. The very strangeness and unconditionedness in which He stands before us makes it easier for individuals to find their own personal standpoint in regard to Him.

Modern Lives of Jesus are too general in their scope. They aim at influencing, by giving a complete impression of the life of Jesus, a whole community. But the historical Jesus, as He is depicted in the Gospels, influenced individuals by the individual word. They understood Him so far as it was necessary for them to understand, without forming any conception of His life as a whole, since this in its ultimate aims remained a mystery even for the disciples.”


The question of concern over Fox’s irregularities and biblical factual errors proffered will only be of concern to those who believe all of the Bible is inspired truth- for those of less emphatic views but needless to say acknowledge their belief in the sacred, such revelations will not be of concern- perhaps one can be fortified by the view that what was to be analyzed in the flesh so to speak would reveal its ongoing fragility.

Fox in his conclusion draws a parallel in his acknowledgment in the humanity of the Bible to become empathetic with the idea of the revelation of human truth in the frank admissions and misunderstandings of the disciples, the betrayal, in their disloyalty and in the admissions of wickedness which stains the pages of much of the earlier ancient texts.

Robin Lane Fox’s book is a thoughtful and insightful treatise into the history of religion and of belief, but his findings will be met with immediate hostility to anyone of a fundamentalist persuasion. For others his courteous disciplined scholarly approach will be welcomed but for me the continuing theme became a tad too long and highly predictable.

Tuesday, November 3

The Biology of belief


Looking backwards in time my mind struggles to imagine how those first awakenings of self consciousness were played out in humanity’s journey of discovery. I rather think those first early insights will remain hidden forever in our oral history, in the evolving stories of dance, in the lyrical chants of the ancients or in the wondrous dreamland scenes carved on rock walls up to 60,000 years ago. Elkhonon Goldberg in ‘The Executive Brain’ suggests religious ideas about this time may have first emerged as we struggled to separate the thoughts we have about others are separate to those we think about. He suggests such self memories about a deceased person may have been attributed to the current spirit of that deceased person as it became a taboo custom to speak of the dead.

Before that momentous crossover into self consciousness much earlier a series of seismic events transformed our living planet to create nature’s vision splendor. The timing of those massive upheavals was necessarily precise to change our planetary environment to enable life’s previous abundant first single cell life to evolve into the multi celled life complexity we see today; as our planet temporarily appearing like Jupiter – totally wrapped in thick ice –then thawed to cause water to carve out the new landscape warmed by immense erupting volcanoes. Miraculously the planetary environment reached a state of equilibrium to give birth to the first evolved multi cell creatures some 650,000 years ago which are evident today in the fossilized imprints- as if just recently left in dried mud- in the thin layers of ancient rocks in the remote areas of what is known as the Flinders Ranges in South Australia.

These insights into our past are only made possible by the evolution of our self consciousness which enables us to makes sense of such things; to ponder the sequential events needed for one single cell to become the trillions estimated to make up the human body. The mechanism to enable enjoyment of our enhanced understanding is in the architecture of our frontal lobes which allow us to retrieve information stored in the older ‘limbic’ areas of the brain for dynamic processing in the frontal lobes area coupled with repositories of self awareness. Elkhonon Goldberg in ‘The Executive Brain’

Interestingly just as these frontal lobes are our most recently evolved brain area they remain by far the most vulnerable or fragile to trauma and the onslaught of dementia which exhibits those frightening losses of cognitive memory ability. It is not that memory is lost in dementia patients but rather the circuitry connections to memory are either damaged or severed, - Eklhonon Goldberg ‘The Executive Brain’.
Self consciousness is thought to be only evident in humans and maybe in other highly developed life forms albeit such views continue to be debated and constrained by a lack of any known developed animal language.

Given our newly acquired self consciousness- an insatiable curiosity combined with unquenchable thirst for knowledge it is hardly surprising we have complex ever changing belief systems.

But with the onset of a scientific age of new discoveries to contradict many of the rigidly held religious ‘beliefs’ scientists became very wary of making any references to ‘beliefs’ in scientific discourses preferring to talk about concepts which were to be only to be accepted as science after stringent evidentiary validation.

Book Review- The Biology of Belief

The title of Bruce H Lipton’s (Ph.D.) book ‘The Biology of Belief’ aroused my interest- no doubt as was the author’s intention to engender for him a wider reader’s audience.
The author’s first watershed moment is vividly described in the Prologue when he was lecturing medical students in the Caribbean

I had resigned my tenured position at the University of Wisconsin’s School of medicine and was teaching at an offshore medical school in the Caribbean. Because the school was so far out of the academic mainstream, I started thinking outside the rigid parameters of belief that prevail in conventional academia. Far from ivory towers, isolated on an emerald island in the deep azure Caribbean Sea, I experienced a scientific epiphany that shattered my beliefs about the nature of life.
My Life changing moment occurred while I was reviewing research on the mechanisms by which cells control their physiology and behavior. Suddenly I realized that a cell’s lifer is controlled by the physical and energetic environment and not by its genes. Genes are simply molecular blueprints used in the construction of cells, tissues, and organs. The environment serves as a ‘contractor’ who reads and engages those genetic blueprints and is ultimately responsible for the character of a single cells ‘awareness‘of the environment, not its genes that sets into motion the mechanisms of life.

His book is an amalgam of the next 20 years of research and experience which I will attempt to engage sufficient portions so that you have some understanding of the nature of his findings.

Cells as Miniature Humans

He introduces to us to the idea that every cell in our body – and there are roughly 60 trillion of them – is a smart cell capable of fulfilling all of the known bodily functions we attribute to our mind and body as a whole. This intelligence is resident in the cell membrane and reacts to its physiology through controlling proteins able to override the genetically encoded DNA resident in the cell nucleus. That is to say that although the DNA which is resident in the cell nuclei does determine our pre programmed genetic characteristics their operation can be turned off and on by the controlling proteins within the cells membrane environment. Hence the author contends our ‘belief systems’ are instrumental in the control of our biological functioning rather than by genetic determinants. Lipton explains the trend scientifically towards genetic determinism was adopted since the discovery of genes provided the final missing link to show how Darwin’s species adaption’s or changes were all transferred genetically into each new evolved generation.

An analogy to help explain the Magical Cell membrane

Lipton uses the analogy of the test pattern appearing on old TV sets. Those of us old enough to remember will recall how a test pattern appeared on our TV sets once the day’s program’s came to closures traditionally after midnight.

Think of the pattern of the test screen as the pattern encoded by a given gene, say the one for brown eyes. The dials and switches, TV fine –tune the test screen by allowing you to turn it on or off and modulate a number of characteristics , including colour, hue, contrast, brightness, vertical and horizontal holds .By adjusting the dials, you can alter the appearance of the test pattern on the screen, while not actually changing the original broadcast pattern. This is the role of the regulatory proteins.

Waltzed through the ‘Magical Membrane’ and on to ‘The New physics; Planting both feet on thin Air”

Lipton waltzes his readers through chapters entitled ‘Magical Membrane’, and on to ‘The New physics: Planting both feet firmly on thin Air’; to introduce the dual wave -particle physics theory to understand how energy underpins his biological beliefs and to persuade us more research is needed into the fields of energy waves rather than what is currently disproportionately devoted to genes. The question one skeptic might immediately ask is would this approach risk ‘throwing the baby out with the bathwater’ since it would signal a retreat away from genealogy which forms the mainstay applications of westernized based prescriptions. On a more general note however I think few would argue, not least of which, the inhabitants of developing nations, to say modern medical advances have ensured improved longevity and help enormously to maintain improved healthy sustainable lives. A visit to any impoverished nation reveals the extent to which provision of improved medical and mental health facilities with an array of prescriptive drugs has a beneficial improvement in the overall wellbeing of the population.

However I do not think the author risks ‘throwing out the baby out with the bathwater’ but I rather think the question might well be asked in reverse ‘has the westernized approach become guilty of putting too much faith in the genealogy? , or put another way ‘putting too many of its research dollars into one basket? As Lipton reminds us ever since Darwin’s species adaption’s or changes were thought to be conveniently verified via the modus operandam of genetically transferred information within the DNA of the cell nucleus into each new evolved generation, scientists have assumed this must represents the crucial frontier area to find future cures for such things as cancers and incurable disorders. Whilst it is true to say the environmental was accepted as playing a pivotal role in outcomes this was more generally attributed to the overall attitude of the mind and reactions to external stimuli rather than thought be equally present in the individual cell intelligence as suggested by Lipton.
The manufacturers and distributors of drugs found a powerful advocate in money motivation to direct disproportionate research efforts into the genealogy pool and away from other forms of research which may be far less drug dependant and be more successful without the dreaded side effects of prescription medicine.

Maybe we are at the crossroads where a more multi disciplinary approach offers the best future opportunities.
We can be optimistic that so called reliance in genetic determinism is almost dead in the water.

Positive thoughts and a conclusion

I think I am a positivist by nature but as the book moves into the realm of a personal empowerment treatise for living and loving, for me, I think his views are more intuitively driven than as a logical progression from earlier chapters. My point is a personal one and does not detract from the thrust of his inspirational message of self empowerment which will be met joyously by many less skeptical readers than me - particularly as he shares his own personal journey in tandem with his fascinating scientific treatise.
I should hasten to add I think intuition can play a pivotal role in many deliberations and does not diminish the validity of our outcomes but rather ads important new dimension to our everyday life. But what is intuitively true for some will not be so for others and for the teams that work together particularly in dynamic highly charged atmospheres, where intuition is no substitute for prior training and consultation. I was reminded of this factor when reading about the shortcomings of an ambulance emergency centre which relied too much on the intuition of its operators to determine the seriousness or otherwise of callers to allocate emergency status or otherwise to distressed cases with catastrophic results.

The author’s message is of hope and joy with an emphasis that nurturing of children is more important than their genealogy, that we can influence our outcomes by positive thoughts and what are fears already etched in sub conscious memory might be unlocked in conscious thought. They are aspects that many of us have long held to be true, but Lipton takes on an evangelical emphasis to encourage believers to no longer feel they are trapped in the rut imposed by the false belief we are constrained by a pre programmed genetic disposition.

But equally we know that the outcome does not always turn out as a positive as we might have hoped as we are confronted by children born or contacting an incurable chronic disorder who dies prematurely notwithstanding the loads of love nourished upon them so that it remains an enduring life mystery. The author does not broach such issues excepting to say that he thinks his biological way of thinking stands a better chance of finding a cure, by forging new frontiers into science.

The author’s admission that he has become a Spiritual scientist is oddly enough tucked away as an epilogue, was to me disappointing as I think he would be more effective is added to earlier discussions. His spiritual visions are lucid, concise and exciting as he asserts our life in not arbitrary as may have been inferred from Darwin and his successors but is rooted in a series of endless repeating patterns which depend upon co operation for survival. Those few cancerous cells lack housing and make up a minority who one day may no longer cause havoc as our cells membranes intelligence expands in conscious awareness sufficiently to ensure no damage can be done.

I would recommend this excellent book as fascinating reading for anyone with any interest in the cutting edge of biology – and wants to know why a spiritual scientist asserts our caring loving nature or otherwise is the spiritual energy source to have more of a profound influence on ourselves and others than we think – from the point of view of all of the combined energy evident in every cell in our body and the aggregate I am happy to call me.