Bob Schwartz

“Shaman walking across Russia to ‘exorcise Putin’ arrested on ‘terrorism’ charges”

“He, Putin, is not human. He’s a beast, a demon.”

For those living under undemocratic regimes—in Russia, the United States, or elsewhere—this may be the most important and interesting story this week that has been missed.

The Independent:

Shaman walking across Russia to ‘exorcise Putin’ arrested on ‘terrorism’ charges

Alexander Gabyshev was attempting to walk 5,000 miles from Siberia to banish ‘demon’ president.

Six months ago, Siberian shaman Alexander Gabyshev experienced a mystical revelation.

He had been chosen to exorcise dark spirits from Russia – as he told anyone willing to listen – dark spirits that were being directed by a demon called Vladimir Putin.

To this end, the shaman set off on foot from far eastern Siberia. He aimed to meet his presidential nemesis in Moscow sometime in 2021. But in the early hours of Thursday, over 1,800 miles into his journey, Mr Gabyshev was stopped, arrested, and reportedly charged with extremism offences.

Authorities were taking no chances, with an elaborate dawn raid to detain the ageing shaman.

According to witnesses, police first cut off the highway on the border between Buryatiya and Irkutsk, the impoverished regions lying on the sides of Lake Baikal. They cut off mobile networks. Then officers surrounded the shaman’s campsite, before pinning him to the ground, leading him to a waiting van, and whisking him away.

For a long time, the idea of a 50-year-old shaman tugging a small trailer towards Moscow was the butt of jokes. Only a fragmented biography about the man was available. It seemed to speak of personal tragedy: a history graduate, Mr Gabyshev turned to mystical religion after the death of his wife in the 2000s.

There seemed little prospect of the one-man protest managing to complete the 5,000-mile journey to the capital.

Yet every day that Mr Gabyshev inched along the federal highway towards his goal, 10 miles at a time, his following grew. A handful even joined him on his crusade.

For some, his unusual protest spoke to a wider general disaffection with Moscow. Locals staged demonstrations in support. And that was when things started to get embarrassing for the Kremlin.

In an interview with the local outlet Znak published before his arrest, Mr Gabyshev said he aimed to create an “army” by the time he reached Moscow.

“God told me to go and banish the demon,” he said. “He, Putin, is not human. He’s a beast, a demon.”

Mr Gabyshev encountered plenty of resistance along the way. Earlier this month, a group of shamans more loyal to the Kremlin tried to impede his entry into Buryatiya. Nearer the regional capital, police also began to take a close interest, arresting two of Mr Gabyshev’s followers.

Ironically, the propaganda video below publicizing this mission is from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, which is funded in whole or in part by the American government. There seems to be no recognition that if Putin is viewed as a demon requiring exorcism, there may well be others who view Trump as a demon requiring exorcism. So far, no shamans. A walk from Washington to Palm Beach perhaps?

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The American Economy and Kites

Mega Flag Kite

Mega Flag is one of the world’s largest kites, measuring 138 feet x 83 feet.

Some say the winds of the American economy will never stop blowing, carrying the economy infinitely higher forever. Some of the same people say that if we rely on intelligence, reason, and science, with initiatives such as wind turbines, the lights will all go out when the wind stops blowing.

What if the winds do slow or stop blowing and instead of the lights going out, the Mega Flag economy can’t stay aloft and comes crashing to the ground?

 

Chuang Tzu and Dreams

Once upon a time, I, Chuang Tzu, dreamt that I was a butterfly, flitting around and enjoying myself. I had no idea I was Chuang Tzu. Then suddenly I woke up and was Chuang Tzu again. But I could not tell, had I been Chuang Tzu dreaming I was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming I was now Chuang Tzu? However, there must be some sort of difference between Chuang Tzu and a butterfly! We call this the transformation of things.

Chuang Tzu (Zhuangzi) (c. 369 BCE – c. 286 BCE) is one of two renowned sages of Taoism. The other, Lao Tzu (Laozi), is the reputed author of the Tao Te Ching, but is thought not to be an actual person. Though the details of the life of Chuang Tzu are murky, he is thought to be very real, though not all the writings bearing his name may actually be his.

The adventurous and challenging words of Chuang Tzu are unlike any in global literature, religion or philosophy. Above is his most famous story, repeated and pondered for centuries.

For a slightly bigger picture, following is an excerpt from Chuang Tzu in which the story of the butterfly is found.

Only fools think that they are now awake and that they really know what is going on, playing the prince and then playing the servant. What fools! The Master and you are both living in a dream. When I say a dream, I am also dreaming. This very saying is a deception. If after ten thousand years we could once meet a truly great sage, one who understands, it would seem as if it had only been a morning.


From The Book of Chuang Tzu
Translated by Martin Palmer

Chapter 2
Working Everything Out Evenly

‘How do I know that the love of life is not a delusion? Or that the fear of death is not like a young person running away from home and unable to find his way back? The Lady Li Chi was the daughter of a border warden, Ai. When the state of Chin captured her, she wept until she had drenched her robes; then she came to the King’s palace, shared the King’s bed, ate his food, and repented of her tears. How do I know whether the dead now repent for their former clinging to life?

‘Come the morning, those who dream of the drunken feast may weep and moan; when the morning comes, those who dream of weeping and moaning go hunting in the fields. When they dream, they don’t know it is a dream. Indeed, in their dreams they may think they are interpreting dreams, only when they awake do they know it was a dream. Eventually there comes the day of reckoning and awakening, and then we shall know that it was all a great dream. Only fools think that they are now awake and that they really know what is going on, playing the prince and then playing the servant. What fools! The Master and you are both living in a dream. When I say a dream, I am also dreaming. This very saying is a deception. If after ten thousand years we could once meet a truly great sage, one who understands, it would seem as if it had only been a morning.

‘Imagine that you and I have a disagreement, and you get the better of me, rather than me getting the better of you, does this mean that you are automatically right and I am automatically wrong? Suppose I get the better of you, does it follow that I am automatically right and you are therefore wrong? Is it really that one of us is right and the other wrong? Or are we both right and both wrong? Neither you nor I can really know and other people are even more in the dark. So who can we ask to give us the right answer? Should you ask someone who thinks you are right? But how then can that person give a fair answer? Should we ask someone who thinks I am right? But then if he agrees with me, how can he make a fair judgement? Then again, should we ask someone who agrees with both of us? But again, if he agrees with both of us, how can he make a true judgement? Should we ask someone who disagrees with both of us? But here again, if he disagrees with both of us, how can he make an honest judgement? It is clear that neither you, I nor anyone else can make decisions like this amongst ourselves. So should we wait for someone else to turn up?

‘To wait for one voice to bring it all together is as pointless as waiting for no one. Bring all things together under the Equality of Heaven, allow their process of change to go on unimpeded, and learn to grow old. What do I mean by bringing everything together under the Equality of Heaven? With regard to what is right and wrong, I say not being is being and being is not being. But let us not get caught up in discussing this. Forget about life, forget about worrying about right and wrong. Plunge into the unknown and the endless and find your place there!’

The Outline said to the Shadow, ‘First you are on the move, then you are standing still; you sit down and then you stand up. Why can’t you make up your mind?’

Shadow replied, ‘Do I have to look to something else to be what I am? Does this something else itself not have to rely upon yet another something? Do I have to depend upon the scales of a snake or the wings of a cicada? How can I tell how things are? How can I tell how things are not?’

Once upon a time, I, Chuang Tzu, dreamt that I was a butterfly, flitting around and enjoying myself. I had no idea I was Chuang Tzu. Then suddenly I woke up and was Chuang Tzu again. But I could not tell, had I been Chuang Tzu dreaming I was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming I was now Chuang Tzu? However, there must be some sort of difference between Chuang Tzu and a butterfly! We call this the transformation of things.

Fight or flee?

Somewhere in the nightmare of failure that gripped America between 1965 and 1970, the old Berkeley-born notion of beating The System by fighting it gave way to a sort of numb conviction that it made more sense in the long run to Flee, or even to simply hide, than to fight the bastards on anything even vaguely resembling their own terms.

Hunter S. Thompson
Freak Power in the Rockies
Rolling Stone #67, October 1, 1970

For more about Hunter S. Thompson see If Hunter S. Thompson Was Here and Hunter S. Thompson and Political Journalism.

Mike the Squirrel

This is a picture of a metal squirrel in front of a cactus. The squirrel was a gift from a beloved friend to mark our departure as a neighbor. I named him Mike. That was one of our many departings from friends and neighbors and Mike goes with us. He is never banished to a closet or storage room. He currently lives openly in a desert backyard. This friend and I do not stay in touch much. Mike the squirrel does not mean to nag but he is a reminder of missed opportunities for more moments with cherished friends. After posing for this picture, Mike returned to his usual spot on the back porch. I return to my chair where I can see the cacti and palm trees backed by mountains here before me and here after me. Maybe I will reach out to that friend and tell her how Mike is doing.

Watch the Hannah Gadsby special Nanette on Netflix. Just don’t read anything about it first.

“There is nothing stronger than a broken woman who has rebuilt herself.”

Watch the Hannah Gadsby comedy special Nanette on Netflix now. It will change how you see things—and how you see yourself.

It is conveniently classified as “standup comedy”, but that is totally inadequate. “Theater” or “art” might be closer, but “experience” is even better.

For maximum impact, don’t read anything about the show before you watch it. You can read the rave reviews after, but like the inadequate label of “standup comedy”, the praise of the critics falls short.

You will laugh, cry, feel and think. And most likely never forget what you’ve seen.

The White House is the civic car crash we can’t take our eyes off of

There are many who say the occupant of the White House is incompetent, ignorant, corrupt and crazy, at the least. Yet when we try to stop thinking and talking about him, many of us utterly fail.

It is a cliché to say that people often can’t take their eyes off a car crash, particularly a gruesome one. Clichéd and true.

For better or worse, American civic life is centered on the White House. The situation there can be described as a horrible and chronic car crash. The fire department never arrives to put the fire out. The tow truck never arrives to haul the wreck. The ambulance never arrives to carry the sick and injured away.

We keep calling 911, but no one answers. So we just keep gawking.

OBEY T-Shirt

OBEY is the extension of artist Shepard Fairey, “Manufacturing Quality Dissent Since 1989”. He is a remarkably productive and effective artist-activist, most famous for his Obama “Hope” poster:

Now OBEY is selling a special OBEY T-Shirt:

It was not offered specifically to coincide with the tragic events of the past few weeks, but is more appropriate than ever. OBEY explains:

We’re overwhelmed by the support and dialogue around our “This Is An OBEY T-Shirt” T-shirt. The timing of the release of the shirt was not intentional to fall in the aftermath of the recent sufferings in our country such as the shootings in El Paso and Dayton or the ICE raids in Mississippi. This shirt was designed months ago and was part of the Fall 2019 collection that is being introduced to the market now. This shirt touches on so many topics that deserve attention in the US and around the world, and we would like to take the opportunity to do some positive while we have everyone’s attention.

OBEY Clothing will be donating its profits from the sale of these items. For those of you familiar with the brand you know about our OBEY Awareness program founded in 2007, designed to do just this sort of thing. All profits for the project will be donated to several 501c3 designated non-profit organizations, helping in the aid of the families of shooting victims as well as defending the rights of those that can’t defend themselves.

 

Clearing the Chessboard

Searching for Bobby Fischer is a movie about a real life chess prodigy. In a memorable scene, his teacher sweeps the pieces off the chessboard, so the child can better concentrate on the actual state of play, undistracted by the apparent state of play.

Meditation and related attention practices are all about clearing the chessboard. What comes next depends on the context, whether it’s a way to relax or a search for enlightenment. The point is that the apparent state of play, the pieces on the chessboard, are distractions and may become obsessions. Only by focusing on the empty chessboard can you see the game for what it is.

Demons

From Jewish Fairy Tales and Legends (1919)

“Demons are spirits that act malevolently against human beings, usually in the form of disease, illness, confusion, or misfortune.”

“The malevolent effects of demons are many: they cause illness and death, especially for the vulnerable (children, women in childbirth), they trouble and deceive the mind, and they cause contention in the community of mortals. The appearance of demons varies, but is always terrible.”

“Intriguingly, there is a strand of tradition that holds a mortal can work constructively with demons, if one knows the proper rituals of power to control them.”

“Usually spirits must be controlled magically, captured, and coerced to do the will of the adept. By the same token, anything that smacks of demon veneration or worship, such as making offerings or burning incense to a demon, is expressly forbidden.”

The Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth, Magic and Mysticism (Second Edition)

***

Depending on one’s religious beliefs, demons may be characters in complex stories embellished over millennia or may be very real presences in an equally complex existential scheme. Either way, like so many traditional visions, they offer opportunities to see the world we live in and the people we live among with fresh eyes. If demons do happen to be in our midst, this information may come in handy.


From The Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth, Magic and Mysticism (Second Edition) by Geoffrey W. Dennis

Demons:

Demons are spirits that act malevolently against human beings, usually in the form of disease, illness, confusion, or misfortune. Judaism has not produced one uniform attitude toward the demonic, its origins, nature, or functions. Jews do have traditions of demonic creatures which are ontologically distinct from humanity (Such as Samael, Asmodeus, and Lilith), yet an equally large body of Jewish thought regards these same evil spirits to be malevolent byproducts of humanity: incomplete human Souls, the malevolent dead, or spirits spawned by human action. While there are a few pre-existent spirits, demons are usually understood to be spiritual byproducts of human criminal and immoral sexual activity. Moreover, it is not until the Middle Ages and the rise of classical Kabbalah in the 13th century, that one can read of demons that fit the Christian mold of hell-spawn that threaten the very fabric of the cosmos; the majority of sources from antiquity view shedim, mazzakim, and kesilim as other traditional cultures have imagined djinns, sprites, and elves—cruel, mischievous spirits who afflict humanity with miseries, both great and small.

While the Hebrew Bible devotes remarkably little attention to demonology, it does make mention of evil spirits (Lev. 16:10; 1 Sam. 16:14–16; Isa. 13:21, 34:14), including satyrs and night demons, but does not provide a great deal of detail. In fact, the language of the Bible is so ambiguous, it is often difficult to discern whether the author is referring to a named demon, or poetically reifying an abstract concept, such as Death, plague, or pestilence (Jer. 9:20; Hab. 3:5; Ps. 91:6).

Clear-cut and more elaborate stories about demons appear during the Greco-Roman period. The Gospels, which provide us with a comparatively detailed picture of Jewish life in 1st-century Palestine, record several accounts of confrontations between Jesus and demonically possessed people (Mark 5). Select demons—Belial and Masteman—are mentioned repeatedly in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Josephus also includes some reflections on the subject (War 7; Ant. 8:2, 8:5)….

The Talmud begins by asserting that they are a creation of the twilight of the sixth day (M. Avot 5.6). The suggestion is that these spirits are partly formed souls, unfinished beings left over from God’s creative process. The Talmudic sources do not specify whether demons are an independent creation, or whether they first appear as a result of the sin of Adam and Eve, which in some traditions also happened at twilight of the sixth day. Whatever the case, they are tied to humanity, for they cannot procreate on their own; they used semen from Adam in order to make more of their own kind (Eruv. 18b). A celebrated elaboration on this tradition is that of Lilith, the first woman, having transformed herself into a witch-demon using the Tetragrammaton, takes the nocturnal emissions of men she seduces to procreate demons (AbbS). Eve was also seduced by incubi, producing a line of malevolent offspring, beginning with Cain (PdRE 21; Targum Pseudo-Jonathan 4:1)….

The malevolent effects of demons are many: they cause illness and death, especially for the vulnerable (children, women in childbirth), they trouble and deceive the mind, and they cause contention in the community of mortals….

There are numerous strategies to stop the predations of demons. Reciting certain psalms repels evil spirits (Pss. 29, 91, 121), as do other key verses of Scripture (Num. 7:4–6). Magical phrases and incantations have also been recorded that can combat their malevolent effects….

Intriguingly, there is a strand of tradition that holds a mortal can work constructively with demons, if one knows the proper rituals of power to control them. This idea premised on the implications of absolute monotheism—all things are created by God purposefully. This belief that man can direct demonic energy to beneficent purposes is first articulated in stories about Solomon controlling demons (Testament of Solomon). One Sage in the Talmud permits demon summoning, provided one does not violate Torah in either the manner of the summoning or what is asked of the spirit (Sanh. 101a). Eliezer of Metz (ca. 12th century) permitted the use of imps in spells and amulet writing: “Invoking the demons to do one’s will is permitted … for what difference is there between invoking demons and angels?” Demons can be turned against other demons (Lev. R. 24). Rabbi Judah Loew of Prague permitted communication with demons, but solely for the purpose of divination (B’er ha-Golah 2).

Sometimes the demon will help a human willingly, which is taken as evidence that even demons serve God, however inscrutably (Pes. 106a), but usually spirits must be controlled magically, captured, and coerced to do the will of the adept. By the same token, anything that smacks of demon veneration or worship, such as making offerings or burning incense to a demon, is expressly forbidden (Sanh. 65b).