Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Power Of Kabbalah

THE Theosophists of the Middle Ages drew their occult knowledge from two streams of thought which, long before, had sprung from a common source. One of these streams was the Hermetic philosophy, the other was the Kabala. In our modern dictionaries the Kabala is defined as "the mystic Theosophy of the Hebrews." The prominent Kabalistic writer, Dr. Christian D. Ginsburg, speaks of it as a system of religious philosophy, or Theosophy, which not only exercised a powerful influence upon the Jews for hundreds of years, but also captivated the minds of some of the greatest thinkers of Christendom.

What is known today as the Kabala is a highly complex system having four distinct divisions. The first, or practical Kabala, deals principally with ceremonial magic. The second division, or the literal Kabala, is subdivided into three sections: (1) the Gematria, which discusses the numerical value of Hebrew words; (2) the Notaricon, which treats of the formation of words; and (3) the Temura, which deals with the relationship between words. The third division is the unwritten, or secret Kabala, which is always transmitted orally. The fourth is the dogmatic Kabala, which consists of four sections: (1) the Sepher Jetzirah, or Book of Formation; (2) the Sepher Sephiroth, which unfolds the Doctrine of Emanations; (3) the Asch Metzareph, which treats of the science of Alchemy; and (4) the Zohar, or Book of Splendor. The Zohar itself has five sections: (1) the Sepher Dzeniouta, or Book of the Concealed Mysteries; (2) the Idra Rabba, or Greater Holy Assembly; (3) the Idra Suta, or Lesser Holy Assembly; (4) the Beth-Elohim, or House of the Gods; and (5) the Book of the Revolutions of Souls.

The traditional origin of the Kabala closely resembles the opening sentences of the fourth discourse of The Bhagavad-Gita. According to the account, the Kabala is divine Wisdom which was first taught by God to a company of angels. Adam caught glimpses of these truths and passed his vision on to Noah. Noah communicated it unto Abraham, who in turn taught it to the Egyptians. Moses gained his knowledge in Egypt and passed it on to his seventy elders. From them the Kabala was transmitted orally until the year A.D. 80, when some of the teachings were committed to writing. At this point tradition stops and actual history begins. And from that history we can complete Krishna's sentence and say: "In the course of time the mighty art was lost."

The actual origin of the Kabala is somewhat different. At the beginning of our Fifth Race(1), about one million years ago, the knowledge which had been accumulated by thousands of generations of initiated Adepts was recorded in written form. The language used was Senzar, the secret sacerdotal tongue which preceded Sanscrit and was known to the Initiates from time immemorial. Among the scriptures drawn from this primeval source were the Chaldean Book of Numbers, the Sepher Dzeniouta and the Sepher Jetzirah. These books form the basis of the written Kabala. The unwritten, secret, or orally transmitted Kabala belonged to the Chaldees or Magi, those great Aryan(2) Adepts who came to Babylonia thousands of years before the Jews settled in that country, and who, according to a statement made by one of the Theosophical Mahatmas, "were at the apex of their occult fame before what you term the Bronze Age." Abraham gained his knowledge of the Kabala from the Chaldees while he was living in the city of Ur. Moses acquired his in Egypt when he was a priest of the Sun, living in the city of Heliopolis.

The first person to be initiated by Moses was his elder brother Aaron, whose name heads the list of initiated Nabaiim, or Prophets. From that time on, Schools of the Prophets began to appear in the countries inhabited by the Jews. In these schools every branch of science was taught, the study of Alchemy(3) forming an important part of the curriculum. They were also Schools of the Mysteries, where the probationers were subjected to the same rigorous form of discipline as the Eastern Chela(4). Those who had passed through their final initiation were known as the Innocents, the Infants, or the "Little Ones."

The first Jews to call themselves Kabalists were the Tanaiim, who lived in Jerusalem about the beginning of the third century B.C. Two centuries later three important Jewish Kabalists appeared. The first was Jehoshuah ben Pandira, now known as Jesus the Christ. The second was the great Chaldean teacher Hillel. The third was Philo Judaeus, in whose writings we find a clear statement of the three fundamental propositions of Theosophy. He defined God as an "Idea free of all mixture, devoid of all combination, which pervades everything and fills the entire Universe." Within that unlimited and unnameable Principle, he said, "is an eternal and immutable Law which is the strong and lasting support of the Universe." In regard to man, Philo wrote that "Man is the noblest of all creatures by reason of the higher element, the Soul, which is pure in its essence, the faithful image and copy of the Eternal Idea." (De. Decal. xxv.)

During the siege of Jerusalem in the year 80 A.D., an Adept-Rabbi, Simon ben Jochai by name, escaped from the city and hid himself in a cave, where he remained for twelve years. After his death two of his disciples, Rabbi Eliezar and Rabbi Abba, collected some of the manuscripts he had left and compiled them into a book. This was the original Zohar.

For the next thousand years the Kabala was studied in secrecy and silence. But in the eleventh century Rabbi Ibn Gebirol (also known as Avicebron) produced two important Kabalistic works: the Fons Vitae, and the Kether Malchuth, the latter being a superb poem indicating the impersonality of the First Great Principle:

Thou art ONE, and Thy Unity is never diminished, never extended, and cannot be changed. Thou art ONE, and no thought of mine can fix for Thee a limit, or define Thee. Thou ART, but not as one existent, for the understanding and vision of mortals cannot attain to Thy existence, nor determine for Thee the where, the why and the how.
In the twelfth century the Theosophical Doctrine of Emanations was introduced by Rabbi Isaac the Blind and his pupil Rabbi Azariel ben Menachem, and in the thirteenth century a second Zohar appeared, this one compiled by the Spanish Rabbi Moses de Leon. After the appearance of this Zohar, the Kabalistic teachings were taken up by the Christians, the first Christian to call himself a Kabalist being Raymond Lully. Since that time virtually everyone connected with the work of the Theosophical Movement seems to have been a student of Hebrew philosophy. As men like Sir Isaac Newton, Spinoza and Leibnitz drew attention to the Kabala, the number of its students steadily increased, and when H.P.B. came on the scene there were hundreds of kabalistic students scattered about in Europe and America, many of whom became members of the Theosophical Society.
The present-day Kabala contains many Theosophical teachings. The Sepher Dzeniouta opens with the words: "The Book of the Concealed Mysteries is the Book of the Equilibrium of Balance." This refers to the Point in the Circle, which "hangeth in that region which is negatively existent." That region is described as Ain-Soph, the "Boundless" or "Limitless." Within Ain-Soph the Primordial Point, Sephira, appears. Sephira, by dividing itself into two parts, emits Chochmah, the male potency, and Binah, the female potency.

The first three Sephiroth are purely intellectual in metaphysics. They express the absolute identity of existence and thought, and form what the modern Kabalists call the intelligible world. -- (Franck: Die Kabbala.)
From this primordial Trinity seven emanations issue, each emanation differing in its degree of perfection in proportion to its distance from the Supreme Power. According to the Kabala, matter is merely the most remote effect of this emanative energy.
The story of the successive attempts to form universes, which is fully discussed in The Secret Doctrine, appears also in the Zohar:

There were old worlds which perished as soon as they came into existence, were formless and were called sparks. The sparks are the primordial worlds which could not continue, because the Sacred Aged had not yet assumed its form of King and Queen (which occurred in the Third Race) and the Master (the reincarnating Ego) was not yet at work. -- (Idra Suta.)
Many Kabalists have taught the Theosophical tenet that man was hermaphrodite in the early part of the Third Race. Some of them say that man was created with a male and a female body which were joined together at the shoulders. Others say that the separation of the sexes occurred during the "sleep of Adam." The Kabalists also say that man is a seven-fold being, and in Myer's Kabala a definite Hebrew name is given to each of the seven principles, corresponding perfectly with the Sanscrit names used in Theosophical literature. The doctrine of Reincarnation is also a Kabalistic teaching. In the second book of the Zohar the soul pleads for freedom from rebirth, saying that she does not wish to be returned to earth where she will again be subjected to all sorts of pollutions. But the soul is informed that she will be reborn even against her will.
In the third book of the Zohar the fate of the soul who has broken her connection with her Higher Self is graphically described: "All souls which have alienated themselves from the Holy One have thrown themselves into an abyss, and have anticipated the time when they are to descend once more upon the earth." -- (Idra Suta.)

The cycle of rebirths which every soul, under the law of Karma, must experience, is described in the Kabala under the term Gilgoolem. Philo Judaeus shows that the doctrine of Reincarnation was accepted by the Kabalistic Jews in the first century B.C.: "The air is full of souls; those who are nearest to earth descending to be tied to mortal bodies return to other bodies, desiring to live in them." -- (De Somniis.)

It is quite apparent that the written Kabala of the present day contains numerous Theosophical teachings. But an important question arises: Is the real Kabala contained in the books now known by that name?

The word Kabala comes from the root Q B L, which means "to receive." This suggests that the true Kabala is no mere book or collection of books, but rather a system which has been passed down orally from one generation of Initiates to the next. According to the teachings of Theosophy, the Kabala is not merely one system, but consists of seven systems which may be applied in seven different ways, providing seven interpretations to any given esoteric subject. The real Kabala, therefore, is not available to the public. The book which contains the fullest record of these seven systems is the Oriental Kabala. There is only one copy of this book in existence, and that is in the hands of those Initiates who, at the present day, are the only genuine Kabalists, and out of whose possession it is not likely to come.

Students of Theosophy know that no Great Teacher has left his esoteric instructions in books which are available to the public. The Hebrew Initiates were bound by the same pledge of secrecy as all other Initiates. As Simon ben Jochai was an Adept-Rabbi, and therefore bound by the Sodalian Oath not to reveal the Mysteries to the world at large, it is quite apparent that even the original Zohar could not have divulged those Mysteries, whatever else it may have revealed. As for the second Zohar of Moses de Leon, it is known that he was helped in his compilation by a number of Syrian and Chaldean Christian Gnostics, and that it passed through many other Christian hands in the course of time. This second Zohar is only a little less exoteric than the Old Testament itself.

Is there really any printed book which contains the real Kabala? The Oriental Kabala, the only book which contains a complete record of the seven systems, is in the hands of Eastern Initiates, and therefore not available to the public. Nor is the Chaldean Book of Numbers, which forms the hidden basis of the written Kabala, now procurable. Only two or three copies of this book are extant, and they are in the hands of private individuals. A Chinese Kabala, called the Yih-King, is said to have been written in 2850 B.C. in the dialect of the Akkadians, those early Aryan immigrants who first civilized Babylonia and made it a center of Sanscrit learning. Who at the present time has access to this work? An important Vatican manuscript of the Kabala is said to have been possessed by the Count de St. Germain. Where is it today?

Many students are eager to learn the esoteric meaning of Hebrew philosophy. But although one may read all the books of the Kabala in the original, and then the numberless commentaries, in the end he can only find himself utterly confused by the many different translations of the texts, by the veils deliberately thrown over the archaic doctrines and by the ignorance of profane writers. Many clues to the Hebrew Mysteries will be found in the writings of the medieval Kabalists, but they can yield little accurate information unless the student possesses the key.

Where can this key be found?

H.P.B. once made an interesting statement which should give pause to all would-be students of the Kabala. She said that she was the only Kabalist in America. Perhaps the student will find what he is seeking if he turns to her voluminous writings for information. If he perseveres in his search, learning to read between the lines and within the words, he will find three keys to the Mysteries. As for the rest--

The last four keys of the seven that throw wide open the portals to the mysteries of Nature are in the hands of the highest Initiates, and cannot be divulged to the masses at large -- not in this, our century, at least. -- (The Secret Doctrine, II, 517.)

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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Sunscreen Causes More Harm Than Good

Sunscreen may do more harm than good if it is not used properly, researchers warn today. Once it soaks into the skin it can react with sunlight to cause damage below the surface.

Filters contained in sunscreen that keep out ultraviolet (UV) radiation can generate harmful compounds that attack skin cells, says a new study.

It is the first time that filters in sunscreen have been found to act in this way, according to researchers at the University of California, Riverside.

But it can be prevented by coninually applying new layers of sunscreen to stop sunlight penetrating into the skin.

Experts are also urging sunscreen makers to develop new creams that do not soak so deep into the skin.

Dr Kerry Hanson, a senior research scientist in the university's department of chemistry, said the problem occurs when sunscreen gets below the surface of the epidermis, the outermost layer of skin.

Dr Hanson said 'Suncreens do an excellent job protecting against sunburn when used correctly. 'This means using a suncreen with a high sun protection facor and applying it uniformly on the skin.

'Our data show, however, that if coverage at the skin surface is low, the UV filters in sunscreens that have penetrated into the epidermis can potentially do more harm than good.

'More advanced sunscreens that ensure that the UV filters stay on the skin surface are needed.'

The latest findings come after a warning last month by British scientists that rubbing in suncream can dramatically reduce its effectiveness.

They said this fails to stop dangerous UVA radiation from the sun pentrating into the skin where it can damage cells and cause cancer.

Rubbing sunscreen into the skin is effectively the same as having no cream at all, researchers say.

The only way to stop this is by applying a thick 'butttery' layer of sunscreen. The new study is different in that it says the cream actively combines with the radiation to damage skin.

But the advice is essentially the same - keep on applying sunscreen so that there is a layer on top of the skin.

The latest study, soon to be published in the journal Free Radical Biology & Medicine, investigated the production of harmful reactive oxygen species (ROS) by the use of sunscreens.

ROS is naturally produced in the body by exposure to UV rays, leading to skin damage and visible signs of ageing.

But three UV filters which are widely used in sunscreens actually generate ROS in skin themselves when exposed to ultraviolet radiation - adding to the natural level.

But the researchers found extra ROS are generated only when the UV filters have penetrated into the skin and, at the same time, sunscreen has not been reapplied to prevent ultraviolet radiation from reaching these filters.

The research used skin tissue in the laboratory to test the effect of sunscreen penetration on ROS levels in the deep epidermis.

Images taken before and after exposure to UV radiation showed ROS generation in the skin increased after sunscreen penetration.

British experts said the damaging effect of sunscreen was likely to be low and when used correctly the benefits outweighed any risk.

Professor John Hawk, dermatologist for the British Skin Foundation, said 'It seems possible that penetration of suncreen filters into the skin might slightly increase sunlight induced damage, if no further sunscreen is applied and the skin is exposed to UV light.

'But we already warn against not re-applying suncreen regularly, since ordinary sun damage would be occurring.

'High factor suncreens can be considered safe and effective if re-applied frequently. If not reapplied, there might be a slight increase in the damage outlined in the study but it is not likely to be significant.'

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Ancients Used Mint As Painkiller

The doctors of ancient Greece and China had it right when they applied cool and minty salves to soothe aches and pains, a new study suggests.

A synthetic treatment with the same properties as mint oil is an effective painkiller when applied directly to the skin. The new cooling compounds could be especially beneficial to millions suffering with the chronic pain of arthritis and diseases affecting nerve endings, scientists say.

“They work particularly well in ongoing pain states where the nervous system becomes hypersensitive so even the lightest touch becomes painful,” said study leader Susan Fleetwood-Walker, a professor of neuroscience at the University of Edinburgh.

Healers in ancient Chinese societies treated injuries with mint oil, which contains anti-inflammatory properties and produces a cooling effect on the skin.

Cold compresses were also recommended in the fifth century BC by Hippocrates, who is considered the father of modern medicine. Swelling and joint pain could be eased by the numbing effect of copious amounts of cold water, the ancient Greek scholar said.

The new compounds use the same soothing chemicals found in mint oil, but incorporate a few other important elements that work specifically with a pain receptor nerve in the skin called TRTM8, newly discovered by Fleetwood-Walker and her team.

“Chemicals in mint oil and cooling the skin can activate these painkilling nerves but neither traditional method is very specific,” she told LiveScience. “We have shown that the TRTM8 receptor is the critical molecular target for this pain killing effect.”

Special analgesic ingredients in the compounds — telling the receptor to turn off pain messages going to the brain — make them even more effective, the results showed.

Fewer side-effects
The minty formula offers significant advantages versus some other pain medications, which do not always work on sufferers of long-term pain, say the researchers.

“Some types of chronic pain, especially following nerve injury, are resistant to morphine,” Fleetwood-Walker said. “These compounds act powerfully as pain killers on many types of chronic pain including nerve injury pain.”

Because the compounds are applied externally, they should also come with a shorter list of potential adverse reactions, she said. “They seem to be just as powerful as morphine, but work through an entirely separate mechanism, with what we think will be less side effects.

The findings appear in an August issue of the journal Current Biology.

© 2006 All rights reserved.

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Hollow Earth Theories

There are two hollow earth theories. According to the first one we live on the crust, but there is another world on the inside where lies - some say - the realm of Agartha, the home of the King of the World (see, for example, the fantasies of French philosopher René Guénon). The second theory has it that while we think we live on the outer crust, we actually live in the interior (on a convex surface instead of a concave one).

One of the first hollow earth theories was proposed in 1692 by the English astronomer Edmund Halley (discoverer of the now-famous comet), who suggested that the Earth was composed of four spheres, each embedded in the others like so many matryoshka dolls, illuminated by a luminous atmosphere and perhaps inhabitable.
The theory was reproposed in the early 19th century by J Cleves Symmes of Ohio, who wrote to various scientific societies: "To all the world: I declare that the Earth is hollow and habitable within; containing a number of solid concentric spheres, one inside the other, and that it is open at the poles 12 or 16 degrees."

Symmes believed that at the north and south poles there were two apertures that led to the interior of the globe. He attempted to raise funds for an exploration of the polar regions to locate these entrances. The Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences still has a wooden model he used to explain his theories.

The idea was later championed by Jeremiah Reynolds, a newspaper editor, who took it upon himself to promote the expedition at the expense of the American government (a request ultimately denied). The journey was unsuccessful, since he and his party were thwarted by Antarctic ice. At the end of the century the theory was revisited by cult leader Cyrus Reed Teed, who said that what we believe is the sky is a gaseous mass that fills the interior of the globe with areas of bright light (sun, moon and stars would not be heavenly bodies but visual effects).

It is widely rumoured on the internet that the hollow earth theory was taken seriously by top-ranking Nazis who believed in the occult sciences. In some circles of the German navy it was purportedly believed that the hollow earth theory would make it easier to pinpoint the exact position of British ships because, if infrared rays were used, the curvature of the Earth would not have obscured observation.

Hitler allegedly sent an expedition to the Baltic island of Rügen where a Dr Heinz Fischer trained a telescopic camera toward the sky in order to spot the British fleet sailing on the interior of the convex surface of the hollow earth. It is even said that some V1 missiles went astray because their trajectory was calculated on the basis of a hypothetical concave surface instead of a convex one.

Symmes's story is told well in Banvard's Folly (Picador, 2001) by writer Paul Collins, who has reconstructed the stories of a series of madmen. Some were geniuses in their way, scientists who staked their entire careers on false hypotheses. He discusses the lives of men such as respected French physicist René Blondlot, who discovered N-rays in the early 20th century. N-rays didn't exist, but they threw the scientific community into turmoil.

Or consider the eponymous John Banvard, an American artist and showman, whose life, Collins says, was "the most perfect crystallisation of loss imaginable". In the mid-19th century he was the richest and most famous painter in the world because of his landscape dioramas, but of both man and his works virtually nothing remains today. Then there was forger (and writer) William Ireland, considered stupid by all, even his own father, but who duped all of 18th-century England into believing that he had discovered texts, documents and entire works by Shakespeare.

The list continues all the way to music instructor Jean-François Sudre, the inventor and promoter of Solresol, a universal language based solely on musical notes and accessible even to the blind and mute. But Sudre is still remembered in histories of artificial languages, whereas the accomplishments of most of these men - some considered brilliant inventors, famous in their day - eventually sank into oblivion.

On various occasions I have written about "literary madmen", but they are not merely a fixation of mine. I find that reflecting upon outlandish theories that were taken seriously for a long time teaches one to distrust many ideas that are accorded full credence in the media, and even in some scientific circles.

If you search the internet for "hollow earth", you'll find that both theories - the one that says we live in the interior of the planet and the one that claims that we live on its exterior, with an entire civilisation underneath our feet - still have plenty of adherents. Or, if you pass a few pleasant hours with Collins's book, at the same time you'll be reminded not to put your faith in the extravagant claims of madmen.

Umberto Eco's most recent novel is The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana

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Steorn And The Perpetual Motion Machine

Sean McCarthy believes his small Irish high-tech company has overturned one of physics' most fundamental laws.

It happened by accident, he says. His company Steorn was looking for an efficient way to power closed-circuit TVs that spy on ATMs, and instead stumbled on a technique they think produces more energy than it consumes.

The company hasn't released specific details about the process, other than to say it involves magnetic fields configured in precisely the right way. Using the magnets results in a motor that's more than 100 percent efficient -- essentially creating energy, McCarthy says.

For scientists and engineers, this is the equivalent of a perpetual motion machine, and is almost unanimously viewed as flat-out impossible. McCarthy, an affable former energy company engineer, knows just how preposterous his claims sound. So, he advertised in this week's Economist for a panel of the "most cynical possible" physicists to help validate them.

"If we're right, that will come out in due course," McCarthy says. "If we're wrong, that will come out. It's such a big claim that it has to be validated by experts."

A big claim it may be, but hardly original. The clamor of voices saying they've invented revolutionary new "free energy" technologies has grown tumultuous in recent years, driven perhaps by the internet's capacity to connect and inspire would-be tinkerers, or simply a that lay people are more fascinated with science.

The American Physical Society was worried enough about the trend a few years ago that its executive board put out a statement in June 2002, warning against such claims.

"(We are) concerned that in this period of unprecedented scientific advance, misguided or fraudulent claims of perpetual motion machines and other sources of unlimited free energy are proliferating," the group said. "Such devices directly violate the most fundamental laws of nature, laws that have guided the scientific progress that is transforming our world."

McCarthy says he's not using his claims to raise money, at least not yet. Steorn is privately funded, but is not seeking new investment until after the tests have been done, he contends.

The company has, however, filed patent applications on some of its work, and hopes to commercialize it by creating batteries for mobile phones and laptops, both markets that can respond quickly to new technologies. In the unlikely event it is borne out, it could also radically transform the automotive business and other industries.

The drive to create an engine that powers itself, or a self-replenishing source of energy, has long been a holy grail for the tinkering class, with a history stretching back nearly a thousand years. Like alchemy, its medieval pseudo-scientific counterpart, it has attracted high names and low, scientists and faith-based researchers, believers and outright scam artists.

Among the most notable investigators was Leonardo da Vinci, who included drawings of several self-driving devices inside his notebooks. However, he was publicly critical of such schemes, comparing them to the alchemical quest to transmute lead to gold.

Documenters of such schemes nevertheless find an unbroken string of subsequent proposals, tests, and failures that stretch to the present day, occasionally crossing over lines where would-be inventors are accused of running out-and-out con operations.

Perhaps the most famous recent claimant is a flamboyant only-in-America figure named Dennis Lee, who has spent much of the last decade churches and auditoriums across the United States promising "free electricity," among other inventions, and selling rights to open "dealerships" for thousands of dollars at a time. His efforts have led numerous state attorneys general offices to seek sanctions, including a recent string of fines and court orders in the state of Washington.

The flaw with such claims lies in one of the most fundamental principles in basic physics, known as the first law of thermodynamics.

In layman's terms, the first law states that energy is always conserved inside a closed system. It can be transformed into different forms inside the system, such as heat or work, but it can't be created or destroyed.

"Thermodynamics is largely an empirical field, and everything we've observed is consistent with the first law," says Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Ian Waitz. "When you make enough observations over a long period of time, things that start as hypotheses turn into things we call law. This would be not consistent with all other observations, which is a reason to be skeptical."

In the past, most claimants haven't met a standard of ordinary proof, much less an extraordinary one required to overturn a fundamental pillar of modern science. In most cases, sincere claimants have found that they simply didn't calculate the energy produced and consumed correctly.

Some of the most flamboyant inventors have found that their devices were coincidentally broken or burned out when testing time rolled around. Others have simply been exposed as obvious frauds, with batteries or a generator hidden out of sight.

While outlandish, McCarthy's claims have stirred up enough interest to at least hope for a thorough vetting, if not confirmation.

His Economist ad, quoting playwright George Bernard Shaw's dictum that "All great truths begin as blasphemies," is seeking a jury panel of 12 physicists to perform public tests. Whatever the unorthodoxy of that approach, he says the researchers will have no constraints on their work. They will be given full access to the company's work, will be able to take the technology home to test in their own laboratories, or recreate the process themselves.

According to the company's website, nearly 1500 scientists have "expressed interest" in testing the technology as of late Monday, and more than 17,000 people had signed up to receive word of the results.

"Ultimately the aim is so large, that the people involved, and the process that goes on, has to be purer than pure," McCarthy says.

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Copperfield Discovers Elixir Of Life

Master illusionist David Copperfield says he has found the "Fountain of Youth" in the southern Bahamas, amid a cluster of four tiny islands he recently bought for $50 million (26.4 million pounds).

One of his islands in the Exuma chain, Musha Cay, is a private resort that rents for up to $300,000 a week and the other islands serve as buffers to keep prying eyes away from celebrity guests on the white sand beaches.

Copperfield is coy about his reasons for the Fountain of Youth claim, but the man best known for entertaining with grand deception insists his archipelago also contains the legendary waters that bestow perpetual youth. Seriously.

"I've discovered a true phenomenon," he told Reuters in a telephone interview. "You can take dead leaves, they come in contact with the water, they become full of life again. ... Bugs or insects that are near death, come in contact with the water, they'll fly away. It's an amazing thing, very, very exciting."

Copperfield, who turns 50 next month, said he had hired biologists and geologists to examine its potential effect on humans but he's not inviting visitors to swim in or drink from it just yet.


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Brain Works Like The Internet

Your brain functions a lot like the Internet or a network of friends, scientists said Tuesday.

Researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to study the activity in peoples' brains and how different regions connect. They conclude the human brain can be visualized as a complex interacting network that relies on nodes to efficiently convey information from place to place.

Very few jumps are necessary to connect any two nodes, the study found.

"This so-called 'small world' property allows for the most efficient connectivity," said Dante Chialvo, a physiologist at Northwestern University.

Other networks -- social and biochemical -- rely on the same principle.

The scientists measured the degree of correlation between activities in tens of thousands of brain regions. They found that many of the nodes had only a few connections, and a small number of nodes were connected to many others. These "super-connected" nodes act as hubs -- as with the Internet or your most gossipy friend -- getting the word out quickly and widely.

So maybe, the thinking goes, if you can figure out how the Internet works -- or why your gossipy friend succeeds -- then you can grasp your own mind.

Or, put more scientifically, these findings of basic principles of brain function suggest "that the underlying properties can be understood using the theoretical framework already advanced in the study of other, disparate, networks," Chialvo said. The research could help frame other studies of the brain's role in schizophrenia, Alzheimer's disease and chronic pain, Chialvo and his colleagues say.

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Love Versus Fear

There are really only two emotions in the Physical Universe - love and fear. An article by Alex Paterson.

There are really only two emotions in the Physical Universe - those being love and fear. All other emotions are just variations on these two primary states of emotion. Love is the emotion associated with a 'knowing' that everything in the Universe is an expression of a singularity (i.e. God) and is therefore interconnected, whereas fear is the emotion underlying the perception (i.e. illusion) of being separate from God. The following article compares these two states of consciousness.

Love is an expression of the Oneness that underlies all reality associated with a deep felt knowing that everything is an expression of Source and that nothing (no-thing) can exist outside Source. By contrast, fear is rooted in the illusory perception of separation that pervades the Physical Universe.

Love expresses itself as an urge towards unity, whereas fear is a result of the perception of dis-unity that is part and parcel to God's game of separation that defines the Physical Universe. (i.e. The 'them' versus 'me' syndrome associated with the isolation currently experienced by most humans)

Love is rooted in a state of ' knowing ', whereas fear is based entirely upon ' beliefs', most of which are false.

Love knows the difference between 'knowing' and 'believing', whereas fear is unaware of the difference and believes they are one and the same. (see Belief versus Knowing by Alex Paterson)

Love knows that existence is eternal and that 'time' is an illusion. fear believes 'time' is real and as such is only aware of the temporal nature of physical existence.

Love recognises the perfection underlying all processes in the Universe, whereas fear thinks the Universe is imperfect.

Love knows that the Universe is in a perfect state of balance and that all the circumstances a Being finds itself in have been created entirely by that Being for the purpose of experience. As such, love knows that the Universe is perfectly safe, whereas fear perceives potential threats all around it and believes the Universe to be unsafe.

Love knows that physical death is simply a change of state, that consciousness is eternal and as such survives physical death. Fear believes death is final and that consciousness ceases upon death. Love welcomes physical death as an old friend because it knows existence is the never-ending evolution of consciousness and that 'death' is a return to a more authentic state of consciousness. Fear is terrified of death and will do almost anything to avoid it, including the killing other Beings in order to perpetrate its perception of existence.

Love knows that everything in the Universe is an expression of Itself and that so called 'enemies' are just aspects of Itself mirroring facets of its psyche (i.e. Soul) that need to be addressed and healed through the process of unconditional love and acceptance. Love knows that at a higher level of existence all enemies are really just loving friends acting out a role in Love's play for the purpose of experience. By contrast, fear believes its enemies are truly separate Beings bent on harming it.

Love knows that 'true' love is unconditional, meaning it judges nothing (no-thing). Love knows that "conditional love" is by definition an oxymoron. Fear expresses an emotion called "conditional love" believing it to be "love", but it is not.

Love is an expression of Truth whereas fear is the result of Illusion (i.e. Maya). fear could be correctly described as being "False Expectations Appearing Real".

At its essence, source is love and as such love is the only 'real' (authentic) energy in the Universe. All else is just illusion (Maya) associated with the game of separation that defines the physical Universe.

Copyright © 2003 Alex Paterson. Visit for more of Alex Paterson's work.

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The Bicameral Mind

The Bicameral Mind

Bicameral Images reveal our two selves.
Okay, I made up the term, but it fits so well in describing an extremely interesting phenomenon that many people may not realize -- each of us is really two people. No, I don't mean in the traditional sense of having an alter-ego, or a good and bad side. Nor do I mean that we are all schizoids. I mean we are literally two thinking beings residing in the same body.

About ten years ago, I saw an interesting exercise in which a college psychology professor had taken photographs of her students, made copies that were flipped left to right, and then had them cut in half vertically. She reassembled the images using the two similar sides of the face.

[A quick way to do this is to place a small mirror perpendicular to a photograph showing a good front face view. As you look into the mirror you can form a whole face from the reflection of either side.]

The composite pictures were humorous. Although the individuals were easily recognizable, their facial expressions seemed to express exaggerated emotions, like anger, suspicion, or happiness -- and occasionally a look of total blankness. Even more interesting was the observation that the two sides of the same face were often so different. Why?

This exercise seemed to suggest that, while a handful of people have symmetrical faces, a vast majority of us do not. Also it raised the possibility that each side of our face could express different emotions at the same time! Subsequent research into facial expressions and the workings of the human brain has offered an interesting theory that not only explains this left and right difference in facial expressions, but could help us to understand our "other self."

First, some science.

We'll keep this light and uncomplicated. Our brain, like the rest of our anatomy, is made up of two halves, a left brain a right brain. There's a big fold that goes from front to back in our brain, essentially dividing it into two distinct and separate parts. Well, almost separate. They are connected to each other by a thick cable of nerves at the base of each brain. This sole link between the two giant processors is called the corpus collosum. Think of it as an Ethernet cable or network connection between two incredibly fast and immensely powerful computer processors, each running different programs from the same input.

The left side of our body is "wired" to the right side of our brain, and vice versa. For whatever reason nature did this cross-over, it applies even to our eyes, which process a majority of their sensory data on opposite sides of the brain.
We can thank Nobel Prize Winner (1981) Roger Sperry for this next contribution. Sperry conducted what are sometimes called the "split-brain" experiments. Here's how it went: A patient suffering from uncontrolled seizures had an area of his brain removed by surgery in an attempt to control his illness. This area just happened to be the corpus collosum, which was suspected of having developed lesions (short circuits).

Following his surgery, Sperry's patient seemed completely normal -- almost. A series of tests were conducted where each "half" of the patient was isolated from the other. Different visual and tactile information could then be presented to the patient's left or right side, without the other side knowing. The results were astounding.

With their communications link severed, each side of the patient's brain was functioning independently. Although this did not prevent his ability to walk, talk and eat, some unexpected findings were encountered in some of the higher brain functions when each side was examined independently of the other.

The right hand and eye could name an object, such as a pencil, but the patient could not explain what it was used for. When shown to the left hand and eye, the patient could explain and demonstrate its use, but could not name it. Further studies showed that various functions of thought are physically separated and localized to a specific area on either the left or right side of the human brain. This functional map is consistent for an estimated 70 to 95 percent of us.

The main theme to emerge... is that there appear to be two modes of thinking, verbal and nonverbal, represented rather separately in left and right hemispheres respectively and that our education system, as well as science in general, tends to neglect the nonverbal form of intellect. What it comes down to is that modern society discriminates against the right hemisphere.
-Roger Sperry (1973)

Upon completing the map, it was becoming clear to researchers that each side of the brain had a characteristic way that it both interpreted the world and reacted to it. The information below will help illustrate the characteristics which are known to reside on each side of our brains.


uses logic
detail oriented
facts rule
words and language
present and past
math and science
can comprehend
order/pattern perception
knows object name
reality based
forms strategies


uses feeling
"big picture" oriented
imagination rules
symbols and images
present and future
philosophy & religion
can "get it" (i.e. meaning)
spatial perception
knows object function
fantasy based
presents possibilities
risk taking

Our personality can be thought of as a result of the degree to which these left and right brains interact, or, in some cases, do not interact. It is a simplification to identify "left brain" types who are very analytical and orderly. We likewise certainly know of the artistic, unpredictability and creativity of "right brain" types. But each of us draws upon specific sides of our brain for a variety of daily functions, depending on such things as our age, education and life experiences. The choices of which brain is in control of which situations is what forges our personalities and determines our character.

Experiments show that most children rank highly creative (right brain) before entering school. Because our educational systems place a higher value on left brain skills such as mathematics, logic and language than it does on drawing or using our imagination, only ten percent of these same children will rank highly creative by age 7. By the time we are adults, high creativity remains in only 2 percent of the population.

The Brain and Intelligence

There is a known correlation between brain size and intellectual ability. Homo Erectus, our distant ancestor, had a brain size of about 1200 cc. Modern Homo Sapiens have an average brain of about 1400 cc. Oddly, the Neanderthal people who failed to evolve into humans already had a brain size of 1500 cc -- larger than modern man. Obviously then, its not only how big the brain is as much as how it is configured. This is further evidenced by the fact that we have known genius brains measuring as small as 1000 cc. and as large as 2000 cc.

Increasing brain size was a risky endeavor for human evolution. The brain requires a highly stable temperature and a supply of high protein and energy. One quarter of our caloric intake is used for brain energy consumption.

The War of the Brains

The two brains not only see the world in vastly different ways but, in our current society, the left side just "doesn't get" what the right side is all about. It tends to dismiss anything significant coming into consciousness from its "flaky" cranial twin. Sometimes two sides can actually disagree, resulting in our perception of emotional turmoil from the expressive protests of right brain.

Our conscious mind can only focus on data from one brain at a time. We can switch from one side to the other very quickly (with our corpus collosum intact) but that's not always the most efficient way to act and eventually ultimate authority to enter consciousness is delegated to one brain or the other. In our modern world, this battle is almost always won by the left brain.

It appears that most people will never reach their maximum potential because of compromises that have been made between these two governing bodies. Sometimes skills which the right brain can perform better are routinely handled, with less skill, by the left brain. Ideally, both brains work together in people with optimum mental ability. This coordinating ability may be the key to superior intellectual abilities. In most people, however, the left brain takes control, choosing logic, reasoning and details over imagination, holistic thinking and artistic talent.

Methods have been devised to "shut off" the left brain, allowing the right side to have its say. Creative writing courses often use this method to combat "writer's block." The logical left side is easily bored by lack of input and tends to "doze off" during such activities as meditation (repeating a mantra or word over and over) or in sensory deprivation environments. The right brain is then able to "sneak" into our consciousness, filling our minds with emotional and visual vignettes and freely associated images. All too quickly, though, the left brain will assert itself and dispense with these irrational images, asserting its Spock-like logical dominance and the right brain will have to be content to find expression in dreams.

Bicameral Images

Facial expressions are nothing more than skin and muscle being pulled or flexed according to the control of the brain. Our facial nerves effectively divide our face into two separate sides, each controlled by the opposite side brain. Facial expressions are the earliest form of communication. Experiments conducted on all ages and cultures around the globe have revealed that there is universal agreement to some basic emotional facial gestures.

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Achieve Divine Wisdom

Toward Divine Wisdom and Understanding

Shifting Paradigms

The wisdom and understanding of our own inner essence is a beacon that draws us inward toward ever deeper connection with the Divine. Yet rather than look for divine wisdom within, most people have long preferred to look outward, thus maintaining a dependence upon a vast hierarchy that stretches between the individual and the Divine. In all our wanderings away from the Divine, humankind has obscured its most compelling features through a persistent belief in limitations defined by this vast external hierarchy.

The Divine dances outside of the confines of any hierarchical structures. It is complete within itself, and has a singular purpose of demonstrating the collective potential of all life within the universe. It is the archetype of perfection. It is the standard bearer of each soul's innate design and ultimate destiny. The essence of the Divine is far beyond mental conception, so that humanity’s tendency is to resort to the limiting language of the hierarchical paradigm to define it.

The Hierarchical Paradigm: Searching for Connection and Wholeness

When people are unaware of their inner wisdom and wholeness, they search for order and security outside themselves. Uncertain of their place within the hierarchical order of the world, they tend to define themselves based upon their insecurities. Individuals thus become only pieces of their wholeness and like shards of glass from a beautiful vase, they bear little resemblance to their aggregate beauty. Within the hierarchy, many in high positions of power have taken advantage of our collective insecurities in attempting to guide the development of all humankind. They have obscured the direct connection between the individual and the Divine through a variety of means designed to intercede between our inner essence and our divine source.

Each individual can come to know themselves to be free of all forms of hierarchical control. This is not to imply that we should not trust others or join together in bonds of friendship and community. It is simply a reminder that relative truth is constantly shifting in the hands of those who desire to control. And even when the motive for their controlling behaviors may be of good will, it is still a form of control. When the revealers of "truth" within the hierarchy withhold and suppress information, they are usually positioning themselves to acquire and maintain power rather than to disseminate empowerment to all.

The desire for connection and wholeness is a fuel that drives us to seek out and explore the hierarchical paradigm. This inner longing provides us with the motivation to seek help and guidance from a specific group within the hierarchy, and in so doing, cultivate a sense of belonging and connection. Furthermore, the hierarchical paradigm is a stage whereby we develop a sense of connection to some grand, encompassing vision. This is why the hierarchy nurtures prophets who point toward a greater vision.

Spiritual leaders are able to peer deeply beneath the surface reality of life and experience how intricately connected every life form is, and how the composite of all life is intelligent far beyond measure. These visionary leaders can thus interpret reality through their personal abilities to perceive and express life's dimensional depth and limitless intelligence. Yet no one is able to articulate life's full dimensional depth and breadth with the tools of language. They can only, at best, describe their interpretation or their impressions.

In actuality, all of us are able to peer beneath the surface reality of life and perceive a unique vision of the universe. We require only time and intention to develop our own interpretations. And this is precisely what many great spiritual leaders have taught. Life's deeper essence is not an absolute to be experienced by the chosen few, but an evolving, dynamic intelligence that wears as many faces as there are life forms. No group or people has the exclusive portal into the universe by which the Divine expresses itself in all its majesty. The portal is open and available to all, because the Divine is within all things.

Those who are recognized as great prophets each produced a vision of the universe beyond what was currently defined by the hierarchy. Because their interpretations were articulated with authority and depth of insight, they became a target of debate among various groups in the hierarchy. This debate then created a polarity of belief. A sympathetic constituency emerged to defend and embellish their leader's interpretation, while established groups held it in contempt of previously held beliefs. Invariably, the leader's vision became confined and shaped into rigid dogma by followers who desired to create a religion or sect. Thus, this infusion of fresh insight quietly receded into the hands of the hierarchy, where its deeper meaning was obscured by the very fact that it was incorporated into a massive structure that both protected and promoted it.

The Transformation Paradigm: Inner Wisdom and Understanding

A new paradigm is emerging that promotes a clear connection of individual consciousness to the compelling features of the Divine without the intervention of a hierarchy. This is when the fables and myths of history step into the light and become known as they were originally intended. This is the time when language will be transformed into a new form of communication that breaks down all barriers of control. Personal transformation, through the awakening of inner wisdom and understanding, is the pathway into wholeness.

The transformation paradigm is initiated simply by the recognition that rather than the dependency-inducing ways of the hierarchical paradigm, there are accelerated, independent pathways that bypass the hierarchy and lead to self-mastery. These new pathways lead to the divine wisdom and understanding that is present within all of us. This wisdom can be accessed through the practice of three principles of transformation: seeing the Divine in all, nurturance of life, and gratitude. The application of these life principles disengages individuals from the controlling elements of the hierarchy, thus initiating the transformation experience.

As there are relative truths, there are relative freedoms. As individuals evolve through the hierarchical process, an ever-increasing sense of freedom is gained, yet external forces continue to exert control through limiting language and confining belief systems. These controlling influences lead to continued reliance upon the hierarchy as it unceasingly attempts to impose a sense of inequality between us. The underlying equation of the hierarchical paradigm is: individual + hierarchy = God connection. In the case of personal transformation it is: individual + inner wisdom and understanding = divine equality with all.

The Synthesis Paradigm: Integration

For those who feel called, the time has come to integrate the dominant paradigm of the hierarchy with the liberating transformation paradigm. This integration occurs naturally once we have fully explored the two paradigms and develop a synthesis paradigm whereby transformation is attained by searching for connection and wholeness through our own inner wisdom and understanding. It is this combination of release from dependency on the hierarchy and transformation from within that initiates the synthesis paradigm.

Once we take responsibility for our own transformation and integration, it does not mean that the hierarchy is to be shunned or avoided. The hierarchy is quite benign as a manipulative force and merely represents one important stage in the journey toward wholeness. What is being set in motion now is the initial preparation for these paradigm shifts. More specifically, these paradigms will be simultaneously played out over the coming years. As always, it will be the choice of each one of us as to which paradigm we embrace in our journey.

All of the highest imaginings of humanity are yet unaware of our deepest foundation. We have sought the upper reaches of the building, yet remain unaware of the foundation's design. It is here, at the very core of existence that the Divine is bursting forth with its creative energy while simultaneously reintegrating with its invitation to wholeness. It is here that equality is realized, not in the lofty places of relative truth lodged in the hierarchy, but rather in the deepest part of the foundational plan of life's original source and ultimate destiny. The origin and destiny of existence is the tone of equality in life. Listen for this tone—this frequency of vibration—and follow it back into the very foundation from whence all things arise and return.

Consider these words as symbols only. Feel the truth that stands behind these words, and tap into this empowering energy force that reaches out for you. Know it as a tone or vibration—a resonance that waits for you around every corner in which your life will turn. It is a beacon of the Divine gathering itself into the form of language in order to usher you to a place from which you can experience the formless tone of equality—the bypass of limitation. It is the primal language of our divine source that bestows to you the freedom to generate your own deepest beauty in the expression of your highest truth.

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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Acoustic Levitation Video

From drdeak
This is an acoustic levitation chamber I This is an acoustic levitation chamber I designed and built in 1987 as a micro-gravity experiment for NASA related subject matter.

The 12 inch cubed plexiglas Helmholtz Resonant Cavity has 3 speakers attached to the cube by aluminium acoustic waveguides.

By applying a continuous resonant(600Hertz) sound wave, and by adjusting the amplitude and phase relationship amongst the 3 speakers; I was able to control levitation and movement in all 3 (x,y,z) axis of the ambient space.

This research was used to show the effects of micro-gravity conditions that exist in the space shuttle environment in orbit, but done here on Earth in a lab.

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Light Speed Travel A Possibility

A Trip as Far Away as Space-Time Will Allow
by Guy Gugliotta, Washington Post Staff Writer

Scientists Contemplate Ideas, Impossibilities of Interstellar Transit

So: It's about 7:45 p.m. in Council Bluffs, Iowa, on a chill, blustery December night, when this “big round thing” with flashing red lights suddenly crashes in Big Lake Park, just off North Eighth Street.

Eleven witnesses, including cops and firefighters, either see the crash or rush to the scene within 15 minutes to watch the flames from the molten metal -- mostly carbon steel -- that covers the ground.

It happened on Dec. 17, 1977. The “big round thing” that local resident Criss Moore saw hovering in the air 25 years ago has never been explained.

No one knows if aliens are really blowing up their starships over Council Bluffs. But if extraterrestrial life forms are visiting from time to time, somewhere some sentient beings must have figured out a way to transit interstellar space. Discussions about unidentified flying objects march hand in hand with the feasibility of interstellar space travel.

Earlier this month, George Washington University and the Sci-Fi Channel sponsored a symposium at the university where serious people took up these two topics. Scientists agreed that we won't be doing star trips anytime soon, but “soon” may not mean much in the context of the cosmos.

“The universe is 14 billion years old,” said symposium panelist Michio Kaku, a theoretical physicist from City University of New York. “Human civilization only began 5,000 years ago.”

So give science a chance.

The trick, of course, is to be able to travel faster than the speed of light -- 186,000 miles per second -- which is as fast as anything travels in the world as we understand it, but not nearly fast enough to commute to stars. Our nearest stellar neighbor, Proxima Centauri, is 4.2 light years away.

There are glimmers about how this problem might be overcome. They involve bending space-time in such a way that one could scoot Enterprise-like through the cosmos.

One way is through “warp speed,” implying that we can move faster than light through space-time by distorting space-time itself. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) likens warp drive to a moving sidewalk: A person walks at one speed but travels much faster because the sidewalk moves as well.

Another way to distort space-time is by harnessing an enormous amount of energy -- like that of an entire star -- to create a pathway, or “wormhole,” connecting two points that used to be separated.

Suppose, Kaku said, “you wanted to get from one side of a rug to the other, and instead of walking across, you used a big hook to pull the other side of the rug close to you. Then you just stepped over.” By crumpling the rug, you built the wormhole, Kaku said: “It's like Alice Through the Looking Glass -- you start in Oxford, then step through the wormhole and you're in Wonderland.”

Which is where all of this is right now. The theories are neither proven nor discounted, the science doesn't exist to describe these phenomena with the necessary rigor, and the engineering needed to pull off the technological feats can't even as yet be contemplated.

“I like to speculate about this stuff as much as the next guy, but it's really hard to do,” said Ralph L. McNutt Jr., chief scientist for the Space Department at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. “There is no obvious way of getting to warp drive out there.”

Instead, McNutt would test the limits of the real world. He is leading a team that has suggested to NASA's Institute for Advanced Concepts the possibility of sending a 340-pound probe powered by nuclear generators into interstellar space to a distance of 93 billion miles from Earth. “It's still not far away,” McNutt said, noting that a light-year is more than 63 times farther, but it will test the current limits of technology.

At NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, scientists have moved a bit further with what the laboratory's Henry M. Harris calls the “proof of concept” for a “beamed energy sail” that could cut travel time to Proxima Centauri from 400 centuries (in a rocket) to a mere 40 years.

Using a lightweight, high-temperature-resistant, carbon-based sail material, the JPL proposal envisions a starship pushed deep into the solar system by a huge laser: “We could get to Jupiter in eight hours and be moving at a tenth of the speed of light,” Harris said.

Harris said that JPL and the sailmaker, Energy Science Laboratories Inc. of San Diego, have accelerated small sails in vacuum chambers “at a few g's” and that “we can extrapolate that material for a spacecraft accelerating at 100 g's.” One g is the measurement of the force of gravity on an object at rest on Earth.

But 10 percent of light speed still isn't very fast, and “we can't go much faster,” Harris said, because even a speck of dust “could do serious damage in a high-speed interstellar collision.”

So the message is that comfortable, interstellar space travel -- at least by Earthlings -- is not on for now. But will it ever be?

This is a hard question to get at, but what evidence there is suggests that thinking people believe it will. GWU panelist Peter Sturrock, an emeritus physicist from Stanford University, suggested that scientists tend to give credence to UFO reports -- as long as they are polled by secret ballot.

Ted Roe, executive director of the privately funded National Aviation Reporting Center on Anomalous Phenomena, found in an aircrew survey of a major airline that 25 percent of the respondents had seen something they couldn't explain, but virtually no one had reported it. Aircrews, like untenured physicists, can get the sack for reporting a UFO sighting.

But if UFOs are real, then so is interstellar space travel, even though “when you talk about going faster than light speed, then you're talking about [harnessing] the energy of stars,” Kaku said.

For Earth, this is probably attainable in “100,000 to 1 million years,” Kaku added. “When I look at the age of the universe, I see that we've attained technology in the blink of an eye. There's plenty of time.”

Others are not so sure. Princeton astrophysicist J. Richard Gott III invoked the Copernican Principle -- a bedrock tenet of the scientific method -- which holds that nothing is “special.”

If interstellar space travel were common, then “the Earth would have been colonized by extraterrestrials a long time ago,” Gott said. “The Copernican Principle tells us that a significant fraction of the intelligent observers in the universe must be sitting at home on their own planets, or they'd be special. If they aren't, then we're special.”

© 2002 The Washington Post Company

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India's Ancient Spaceships

In the Vedic literature of India, there are many descriptions of flying machines that are generally called vimanas. These fall into two categories: (l) manmade craft that resemble airplanes and fly with the aid of birdlike wings, and (2) unstreamlined structures that fly in a mysterious manner and are generally not made by human beings. The machines in category (l) are described mainly in medieval, secular Sanskrit works dealing with architecture, automata, military siege engines, and other mechanical contrivances. Those in category (2) are described in ancient works such as the Rg Veda, the Maha-bha-rata, the Rama-yana, and the Pura-nas. In addition, there is one book entitled Vaima-nika-sa-stra that was dictated in trance during this century and purports to be a transcription of an ancient work preserved in the akashic record. This document gives an elaborate description of vimanas of both categories.
In this chapter, I will survey some of the available literature on vimanas, beginning with the texts dating from late antiquity and the medieval period. The latter material is described in some detail by V. Raghavan in an article entitled "Yantras or Mechanical Contrivances in Ancient India." I will begin by discussing the Indian lore regarding machines in general and then turn to flying machines.

Machines in Ancient and Medieval India

In Sanskrit, a machine is called a yantra. The word yantra is defined in the Samarangana-sutradhara of King Bhoja to be a device that "controls and directs, according to a plan, the motions of things that act each according to its own nature." There are many varieties of yantras. A simple example would be the taila-yantra, a wheel that is pulled by oxen around a circular track to crush seeds and extract their oil. Other examples are military machines of the kind described in the Arthasastra of Kautilya, written in the 3rd century B.C. These include the sarvato-bhadra, a rotating wheel that hurls stones, the sara-yantra, an arrow-throwing machine, the udghatima, a machine that demolishes walls using iron bars, and many more.

These machines are all quite understandable and believable, but there are other machines that seem less plausible from the point of view of modern historical thinking. Thus Raghavan mentions a device that could create a tempest to demoralize enemy ranks. Such a weapon is also mentioned by the third-century Roman writer Flavius Philostratus, who described sages in India who "do not fight an invader, but repel him with celestial artillery of thunder and lightning, for they are holy and saintly men." Philostratus said that this kind of fire or wind weapon was used to repel an invasion of India by the Egyptian Hercules, and there is an apocryphal letter in which Alexander the Great tells his tutor Aristotle that he also encountered such weapons.

Modern scholars tend to regard Philostratus's work as fictitious, but it does demonstrate that some people in Roman times were circulating stories about unusual fire or wind weapons in India. In ancient epics such as the Mahabharata, there are many references to remarkable wind weapons such as the vayavya-astra and fire weapons such as the sataghni. In general, the weapons described in older works tend to be more powerful and remarkable than those described in more recent works. Some ascribe this to the fantastic imagination of ancient writers or their modern redactors. But it could also be explained by a progressive loss of knowledge as ancient Indian civilization became weakened by corruption and was repeatedly overrun by foreign invaders.

It has been argued that guns, cannons, and other firearms were known in ancient India and that the knowledge gradually declined and passed away toward the beginning of the Christian era. This is discussed extensively in a book by Gustav Opperts.

Robots and Other Automata

Robots form another category of remarkable machines. There are many stories in secular Sanskrit literature involving a yantra-purusa, or machine-man, that can behave just like a human being. An example is the story in the Buddhistic Bhaisajya-vastu, in which a painter went to the Yavana country and visited the home of a yantracarya, or teacher of mechanical engineering. There he met a machine-girl who washed his feet and seemed human, until he found that she could not speak.

Fantastic sounding robots of this sort often appeared in fictional stories intended for entertainment, and thus they had the same status as the robots of modem science fiction. However, there are many descriptions of quite believable automata that were actually constructed and used in the palaces of wealthy kings. These include: singing and dancing birds, a dancing elephant, elaborate chronometers with moving ivory figures, and an astronomical instrument showing the movements of the planets.

The designs of these automata are similar to those of the automata that were popular in Europe in the eighteenth century. Here is a description taken from the twelfth-century Samararigana-sutradha-ra:

"Male and female figures are designed for various kinds of automatic service. Each part of these figures is made and fitted separately, with holes and pins, so that thighs, eyes, neck, hand, wrist, forearm and fingers can act according to need. The material used is mainly wood, but a leather cover is given to complete the impression of a human being. The movements are managed by the system of poles, pins and strings attached to rods controlling each limb. Looking into a mirror, playing a lute and stretching out the hand to touch, give pan, sprinkle water and make obeisance are the acts done by these figures."

Apart from their practical applications, robots also provided a metaphor for the relationship between the soul and the body. Thus, in the Bhagavad-gita-, Krisna says,

"The Supreme Lord is situated in everyone's heart, O Arjuna, and is directing the wanderings of all living entities, who are seated as on a machine (yantra) made of the material energy."

Raghavan, for his part, found this metaphor regrettable. He lamented that in other countries machines led to a materialistic civilization, but in India they only reinforced the idea of God and Spirit. Thus, "even writers who actually dealt with the yantras, like Somadeva and Bhoja, saw in the machine operated by an agent an appropriate analogy for the mundane body and senses presided over by the Soul, and for the wonderful mechanism of the universe, with its constituent elements and planetary systems, requiring a divine master to keep it in constant revolution."


There are many stories in medieval Indian literature about flying machines. Thus in Bana's Harsa-carita there is the story of a Yavana who manufactured an aerial machine that was used to kidnap a king. Likewise, Dandl's Avanti-sundar tells of an architect named Mandhata who used an aerial car for such casual purposes as traveling from a distance to see if his young son was hungry. His son, by the way, was said to have created mechanical men that fought a mock duel and an artificial cloud that produced heavy showers. Both of these works date from about the 7th century A.D..

In the ninth to tenth centuries, Buddhasvamin wrote a version of the Brhat-kathd, a massive collection of popular stories. Buddhasvamin spoke of aerial vehicles as dkdsa-yantras, or sky-machines, and he attributed them to the Yavanas, a name often used for barbaric foreigners. It was quite common for flying machines and yantras in general to be attributed to the Yavanas in Sanskrit texts.

Some scholars take the Yavanas to be the Greeks, and they attribute Indian stories of machines to a Greek origin. For example, Penzer thought that the Greek philosopher Archytas may have been the "first scientific inventor" of devices resembling the Indian yantras, and he pointed out that Archytas "constructed a kind of flying machine, consisting of a wooden figure balanced by a weight suspended from a pulley, and set in motion by hidden and enclosed air."

No doubt there was much exchange of ideas in the ancient world, and today it is hard to know for sure where a given idea was invented and how highly developed it became. We do know, however, that fairly detailed ideas concerning airplanelike flying machines were known in medieval India.

Bhoja's Samardngana-sutradhdra states that the main material of a flying machine's body is light wood, or laghu-ddru. The craft has the shape of a large bird with a wing on each side. The motive force is provided by a fire-chamber with mercury placed over a flame. The power generated by the heated mercury, helped by the flapping of the - wings by a rider inside, causes the machine to fly through the air. Since the craft was equipped with an engine, we can speculate that the flapping of the wings was intended to control the direction of flight rather than provide the motive power.

I would suggest that the vimanas described by Bhoja are similar to conventional airplanes. Thus they are made of ordinary materials like wood, they have wings, and they fly like birds. Raghavan suggested that the mercury engine was intended to be a source of mechanical power for flapping the wings as in bird flight. He supported this by noting that Roger Bacon described a flying machine in which some kind of revolving engine caused wings to flap through a mechanical linkage.

Ramachandra Dikshitar, however, said that according to the Sama- rdngana-sutradhdra, the vimdna "has two resplendent wings, and is propelled by air." This suggests that some kind of jet propulsion was used.

However these vimanas were actually powered, it seems likely that they relied on some conventional mechanical method that extracted energy from burning fuel and used it to produce a flow of air over wings. Were the vimdnas mentioned in Samardrigana-sutradhdra ever actually built, or were they just products of imagination? I don't know. However, the elaborate descriptions of yantras found in medieval Indian texts suggest that many sophisticated machines were made in India long ago. If sophisticated mechanical technology was known in remote times, then it is quite possible that airplanes of some kind were also built. It is interesting that the Sanskrit astronomical text entitled Surya- siddhdnta mentions a mercury engine used to provide rotary motion for a gola-yantra, a mechanical model of the planetary system. This suggests that at least one kind of mercury engine was used to produce rotary power. The text also says that the design for the mercury engine is to be kept secret. It was standard practice in ancient India for technical knowledge to be passed down only from teacher to trusted disciple. An unfortunate consequence of this is that knowledge tended to be lost whenever oral traditions depending on teachers and disciples were broken. It is thus quite possible that many arts and sciences known in ancient times have been lost to us, practically without a trace.

Additional Sanskrit works referring to flying machines are listed in a book by Dileep Kanjilal.9 These are: the Yukti-kalpataru by Bhoja (twelth century A.D.); the Mayamatam attributed to Maya Dfinava but probably dating to the twelth century A.D.; the Kathdsaritsdgara (tenth century A.D.); the Avaddna literature (first-third centuries A.D.); the Raghuvamsam and Abhijndna-sakuntalam of Kalidasa (first century B.C.); the Abhimdraka of Bhasa (second century B.C.); and the Jdtakas (third century B.C.). These dates are often approximate, and the material in the various works is often taken from older works and traditions.

The Vaimaniko-Sastra

The Vaimdnika-sdstra is a highly detailed description of vimanas, and it is given great credence in a number of books and articles. These include the writings of Kanjilal,2¡ Nathan,2' and Childress. In particular, the Indian ufologist Kanishk Nathan wrote that the Vaimdnika-sdstra is an ancient Sanskrit text that "describes a technology that is not only far beyond the science of the times but is even way beyond the possible conceptual and scientific imagination of an ancient Indian, including concepts such as solar energy and photography."

It is indeed true that this book contains many interesting ideas about aerial technology. But it is important to note that it was written in the early 20th century by a psychic process known today as channeling.

The story behind this is presented in the introduction to G. R. Josyer's translation of the Vaimdnika-sdstra. There it is explained that knowledge in India used to be transmitted orally, but as this tradition died out, writing on palm leaves was used. Unfortunately, palm leaf manuscripts do not last very long in the Indian climate, and large volumes of old written material have been lost due to not being regularly recopied.

This is certainly true. But Josyer went on to say that the lost texts "remain embedded in the ether of the sky, to be revealed like television to gifted mediums of occult perception." The medium in this case was Pandit Subbaraya Sastry, a "walking lexicon gifted with occult perception," who began to dictate the Vaimdnika-sdstra to Mr. Venkatachala Sarma on August 1,1918. The complete work was taken down in exercise books up to August 23, 1923. In 1923, Subbaraya Sastry also had a draftsman prepare some drawings of the vimanas according to his instructions.

According to Subbaraya Sastry, the Vaimdnika-sdstra is a section of a vast treatise by the sage Maharsi Bharadvaja entitled Yantra-sarvasva or the Encyclopedia of Machines. Maharsi Bharadvaja is an ancient risi mentioned in the Mahdbhdrata and other Vedic works, but I do not know of any reference indicating that he was concerned with machines. The Yantra-sarvasva is no longer extant in physical form, but it is said to be existing in the akashic record, where it was read and recited by Subbarayat Sastry.

As far as I am aware, there are no references to this work in existing literature. This is discussed in Kanjilal's book on vimdnas. Although the Vaimdnika-sdstra could be a hoax, I have no reason to suppose that it was not dictated by Subbaraya Sastry in the manner described by Josyer. But is the work authentic? Even if it was existing as a vibrational pattern in the ether, during the process of psychical reading and dictation it might have been distorted or adulterated by material from the unconscious mind of the medium.

In fact, there are good reasons for thinking this might be the case. The text of the Vaimdnika-sdstra is illustrated by several of the drawings made under Subbaraya Sastry's supervision. These include cross sections of the rukma-vimdna, the tripura-vimdna, and the sakuna- vimdna These cross sections show the kind of crude mechanical and electrical technology that existed in the period just following World War I. There are large electromagnets, cranks, shafts, worm gears, pis- tons, heating coils, and electric motors turning propellers. The rukma-vimdna is supposedly lifted into the air by "lifting fans" that are powered by electric motors and that are very small compared with the size of the vimdna as a whole. It definitely does not look as though it could fly.

These mechanical devices may well have been inspired by the technology of the early 20th century. But if we turn to the text of the Vaimdnika-sdstra, we encounter material of a much different nature. To illustrate this, here are ten examples taken from a list in the Vai-mdnika-sdstra of 32 secrets that a vimdna pilot should know.

1. Goodha: As explained in "Vaayutatva-Prakarana," by harnessing the powers, Yaasaa, Viyaasaa, Prayaasaa in the 8'h atmospheric layer cov- ering the earth, to attract the dark content of the solar ray, and use it to hide the Vimaana from the enemy.

2. Drishya: By collision of the electric power and wind power in the atmosphere, a glow is created, whose reflection is to be caught in the Vishwa-Kriyaa-darapana or mirror at the front of the Vimana, and by its manipulation produce a Maaya-Vimaana or camouflaged Vimana.

3. Adrishya: According to "Shaktitantra," by means of the Vynarathya Vikarana and other powers in the heart centre of the solar mass, attract the force of the ethereal flow in the sky, and mingle it with the balaahaa-vikarana shakti in the aerial globe, producing thereby a white cover, which will make the Vimana invisible.

Here three methods are described for hiding a vimdna from the enemy. They sound fanciful, but it is interesting to note that vimdnas described in the Purdnas and the Mahdbhdrata have the ability to become invisible. The word "shakti" (sakti) means power or energy.

4. Paroksha: According to "Meghotpatthi-prakarana," or the science of the birth of clouds, by entering the second of the summer cloud layers, and attracting the power therein with the shaktyaakarshana darpana or force-attraction mirror in the Vimana, and applying it to the parivesha or halo of the Vimana, a paralyzing force is generated, and opposing Vimanas are paralyzed and put out of action.

5. Aparoksha: According to "Shakti-tantra," by projection of the Rohinee beam of light, things in front of the Vimana are made visible.

6. Viroopa Karena: As stated in "Dhooma Prakarana," by producing the 32nd kind of smoke through the mechanism, and charging it with the light of the heat waves in the sky, and projecting it through the padmaka chakra tube to the bhyravee oil-smeared Vyroopya-darpana at the top of the Vimana, and whirling with the 32nd type of speed, a very fierce and terrifying shape of the Vimana will emerge, causing utter fright to onlookers.

7. Roopaantara: As stated in "Tylaprakarana," by preparing griddhrajihwaa, kumbhinee, and kaakajangha oils and anointing the distorting mirror in the Vimana with them, applying to it the l9th kind of smoke and charging with the kuntinee shakti in the Vimana, shapes like lion, tiger, rhinoceros, serpent, mountain, river will appear and amaze observers and confuse them.

8. Saarpa-Gamana: By attracting the dandavaktra and other seven forces of air, and joining with solar rays, passing it through the zig-zagging centre of the Vimana, and turning the switch, the Vimana will have a zig-zagging motion like a serpent.

9. Roopaakarshana: By means of the photographic yantra in the Vimana to obtain a television view of things inside an enemy plane.

10. Kriyaagrahana: By turning the key at the bottom of the Imana, a white cloth is made to appear. By electrifying the three acids in the north- east part of the Vimana, and subjecting them to the 7 kinds of solar rays, and passing the resultant force into the tube of the Thrisheersha mirror . . . all activities going on down below on the ground, will be projected on the screen.

The word "television" in item was employed in the English translation of Vaimdnika-sdstra tha came out in 1973. The original Sanskrit text was written in 1923 before television was developed.

It seems clear that the illustrations in the Vaimdnika-sdstra are contaminated by twentieth century material from the medium's unconscious mind. Yet the passages I have just quoted mainly contain non-twentieth-century material, and this is expressed in terms of Vedic words and ideas. It may be largely a product of Subbaraya Sastry's imagination as applied to his extensive Vedic knowledge, or it may be a reasonably faithful rendition of an ancient Vedic text preserved as an etheric pattern.

The only way to find out about this is to obtain other obscure Sanskrit texts and see whether or not they confirm some of the material in the Vaimdnika-sdstra. Repeated confirmations would at least indicate that Subbaraya Sastry was presenting material from a genuine tradition, and further investigations would be needed to see whether or not that tradition had a basis in actual fact. At the moment, we should remain open to various possible interpretations of the Vaimdnika-sdstra material.

Vimanas in Vedic Literature

The Bhdgavata Purdna, the Mahdbhdrata, and the Rdmdyana are three important works in the Vedic tradition of India and contain a great deal of interesting material involving the aerial vehides called vimdnas. They also describe different races of humanlike beings who operate these vehicles, and they discuss the social and political relationships existing in ancient times between these beings and humans of this earth.

To some, this material is of no value because it seems fantastic and mythological. Thus the Indian ufologist Kanishk Nathan rejected the old Hindu religious texts because they attribute exaggerated feats to gods. He felt that they are simply poetry in which "a writer who is not reporting an actual event can let his imagination move in any direction it wishes to take him." He also pointed out that these texts belong to a prescientific age, and therefore, "Given the cultural, technological and scientific knowledge of that historical period, a writer can, while enjoying generality and avoiding detail, create inventions and combinations that do not actually exist."

One can reply that it has not been established that ancient writers were simply indulging in poetic imagination, with no regard for facts. There is a modern prejudice to the effect that anyone who has spiritual interests must be unscientific, and whatever he writes must be imagi- nary. This viewpoint makes sense as long as all observable data seem to support a mechanistic world model that excludes old religious ideas as exploded fallacies.

But if we carefully examine the UFO phenomenon, we find extensive empirical observations that completely contradict our comfortable mechanistic world view. It is noteworthy that this anomalous material, ranging from physically impossible flight patterns to beings that float through walls, fits quite naturally into the spiritually oriented cosmologies of the old Vedic texts. It is therefore worth considering that the writers of these texts may have been presenting a sound description of reality as they experienced it, rather than simply indulging in wild imagination.

General Purpose Vimanas

The preceding chapter presented the story of Salva's vimana, which is found in the Mahdbhdrata and the Bhdgavata Purdna. This was a large military vehicle that could carry troops and weapons, and it had been acquired by Salva from a nonhuman technological expert named Maya Danava. The Purdnas and the Mahdbhdrata also contain many accounts of smaller vimdnas, including pleasure craft that seem to be designed for a single passenger. These were generally used by Devas and Upadevas but not by human beings.

In this section, I will give a series of examples, showing how vimdnas figure as common elements in many different stories from these texts. Each example is extracted from the midst of a larger story, and it is not feasible to present these stories fully in this book. My purpose in presenting the examples is to show that vimanas are frequently mentioned in the Purdnas and the Mahdbhdrata. Apparently, they were as commonplace to people of the old Vedic culture as airplanes are to us today.

In the first account, Krsna killed a pythonlike serpent who was trying to swallow his father, King Nanda. By Krsna's arrangement, the soul of the serpent was transferred to a new body of a type possessed by the celestial beings called Vidyadharas. That soul had possessed such a celestial body before being placed in the body of the serpent, and so Krsna asked him why he had been degraded to the serpent form:

The serpent replied:

"I am the well-known Vidyadhara named Sudarsana. I was very opulent and beautiful, and I used to wander freely in all directions in my airplane. Once I saw some homely sages of the lineage of Angira Muni. Proud of my beauty, I ridiculed them, and because of my sin they made me assume this lowly form."

In this passage the Sanskrit word vimanena is translated as "in my airplane." It seems to have been a small private vehicle.

The next story is similar. Krsna had relieved the soul of one King J Nrga from imprisonment in the body of a lizard and had awarded him a celestial body. When the time came for the king to depart, a vimdna from another world came to get him:

Having spoken thus, Maharaja Nrga circumambulated Lord Krsna and touched his crown to the Lord's feet. Granted permission to depart, King Nrga then boarded a wonderful celestial airplane as all the people present looked on.

In the next case, we see the effect of a beautiful woman on the pilot of a vimdna. Here the sage Kardama Muni is describing the beauty of his future wife, Devahuti, to her father, Svayambhuva Manu:

"I have heard that Visvavasu, the great Gandharva, his mind stupefied with infatuation, fell from his airplane after seeing your daughter playing with a ball on the roof of the palace, for she was indeed beautiful with her tinkling ankle bells and her eyes moving to and fro."

It would seem that Visvavasu's vimana was a small single-seater. Perhaps he didn't have adequate seatbelts, and he banked too steeply while trying to see Devahuti.

After Kardama Muni married Devahuti, he decided at a certain point to take her on a tour of the universe. To do this, he manifested an aerial mansion (called, as usual, a vimana) that was lavishly equipped as a pleasure palace. Here the sage Maitreya relates the story of this mansion to his disciple Vidura:

Maitreya continued: "O Vidura, seeking to please his beloved wife, the sage Kardama exercised his yogic power and instantly produced an aerial mansion that could travel at his will. It was a wonderful structure, bedecked with all sorts of jewels, adorned with pillars of precious stones, and capable of yielding whatever one desired. It was equipped with every form of furniture and wealth, which tended to increase in the course of time.... With the choicest rubies set in its diamond walls, it appeared as though possessed of eyes. It was furnished with wonderful canopies and greatly valuable gates of gold. Here and there in that palace were multitudes of live swans and pigeons, as well as artificial swans and pigeons so lifelike that the real swans rose above them again and again, thinking them live birds like themselves. Thus the palace vibrated with the sounds of these birds. The castle had pleasure grounds, resting chambers, bedrooms and inner and outer yards designed with an eye to comfort. All this caused astonishment to the sage himself."

The sage was astonished because he had not actually designed the aerial palace or imagined it in detail. In effect, what he did was mentally put in an order for a flying palace, and he received it from a kind of universal supply system because he had earned good karmic credit through his austerities and practice of yoga. To understand what was happening here, it is necessary to consider some basic features of the Vedic conception of the universe.

Over the years, many analogies have been used to describe the universe. Thus the Aristotelians compared the universe to a living organism, and the early mechanistic philosophers compared it to a gigantic clock. To understand the Vedic conception of the universe, the modern idea of a computer with a multilevel operating system is useful. On the hard disk of such a computer, there are programs that can be set into action by typing in appropriate code words. When a code word is typed, the corresponding program will execute if the computer user has a suitable status. If he does not, then to him the code word is simply a useless name.

Typically, the user's status is indicated by the password he types when he begins to use the computer. Different users will have passwords indicating different status levels. Above all other users is a person called (in the Unix operating system) the superuser, who has full control over all programs on the system. Often this person is responsible for creating the total system by loading various pieces of software into the computer.

According to the Vedic conception, the universe has a similar organization. The superuser corresponds to the Supreme Being, who manifests the total universal system. Within that system there is a hierarchy of living beings having different statuses. A being at the ordinary human level has many remarkable powers, such as the power of speech, and a being at a higher level, such as Kardama Muni, can manifest even greater powers. When we grow up using a certain power, we tend to take it for granted, and when we completely lack access to a power, we tend to regard it as impossible or mythological. But all of the powersÑincluding the power to call up flying palaces, are simply programs built into the universal system by the superuser.

The parallel between the Vedic conception of the universe and a computer can be made more explicit by introducing the concept of a virtual reality system. It is possible to create an artificial world by computer calculation and equip human participants with sensory interfaces that give them the impression of entering into that world. For example, a participant will have small TV screens placed in front of his eyes that enable him to see from the vantage point of the virtual eyes of a virtual body within the artificial world. Likewise, he may be equipped with touch sensors that enable him to experience the feel of virtual objects held in that body's virtual hands. Sensors that pick up his muscle contractions or his nerve impulses can be used to direct the motion of the virtual body.

Many people can simultaneously enter into a virtual world in this way, and they can interact with one another through their virtual bodies, even though their real bodies may be widely separated. Depending on their status, as recognized by the computer's superuser, the different virtual bodies may have different powers, and some of these powers might be invoked by uttering code words, or mantras.

An extremely powerful virtual reality system provides a metaphor for the Vedic universe of maya, or illusion, in which conscious souls falsely identify themselves with material bodies. Of course, this metaphor should not be taken literally. The universe is not actually running on a digital computer. Rather, it is a system of interacting energies which, according to the Vedic conception, has features of intelligent design and organization reminiscent of certain manmade computer systems. Returning to the story of Kardama Muni, we find that after having acquired his marvelous flying palace, he proceeded to travel to different planets with his wife:

"Satisfied by his wife, he enjoyed in that aerial mansion not only on Mount Meru but in different gardens known as Vaisrambhaka, Surasana, Nandana, Puspabhadraka, and Caitrarathya, and by the Manasa-sarovara lake. He traveled in that way through the various planets, as the air passes uncontrolled in every direction. Coursing through the air in that great and splendid aerial mansion, which could fly at his will, he surpassed even the demigods."

In the Sanskrit, the Devas are referred to here as vaima-nikan, which means the "travelers in vima-nas." Thus the verse literally says that Kardama Muni's vimana excelled the vaimanikan. The Sanskrit word for planets is loka, which can refer to other physical globes and to higher-dimensional worlds not accessible to ordinary human senses.

The idea of calling up universal programs figures in another story that involves a vimana. It seems that there is a kind of mystical armor called Narayana-kavaca, which is called up by invoking the names of the Supreme Being. (Narayana is a name of the Supreme, and kavaca means armor.) At one time, a brahmana named Kausika used this armor and later gave up his physical body. Still later, the Gandharva king, Citraratha, experienced some strange interference with his vimana when he passed over the remains of Kausika's body:

Surrounded by many beautiful women, Citraratha, the King of Gandharvaloka, was once passing in his airplane over the brahmana's body at the spot where the brahmana had died.

Suddenly Citraratha was forced to fall from the sky headfirst with his airplane. Struck with wonder, he was ordered by the great sages named the Valakhilyas to throw the brahmana's bones in the nearby River Sarasvat. He had to do this and bathe in the river before returning to his own abode.

An example of a vimana used for military purposes comes up in the story of Bali, a king of the Daityas. Bali's vehicle is very similar to the one obtained by Salva, and it was also built by Maya Danava. It was used in a great battle between the Daityas and the Devas:

For that battle the most celebrated commander in chief, Maharaja Bali, son of Virocana, was seated on a wonderful airplane named Vaihayasa. O King, this beautifully decorated airplane had been manufactured by the demon Maya and was equipped with weapons for all types of combat. It was inconceivable and indescribable. Indeed, it was sometimes visible and sometimes not. Seated in this airplane under a beautiful protective umbrella and being fanned by the best of camaras, Maharaja Bali, surrounded by his captains and commanders, appeared just like the moon rising in the evening, illuminating all directions.

My final example of a vimana is taken from the story of the sacrifice of Daksa. It seems that Satl, the wife of Lord Siva, wanted to attend a sacrifice arranged by her father Daksa, but Siva did not want her to attend because of Daksa's offensive attitude toward him. Here we see Satl entreating her husband to let her go to the sacrifice after seeing her relatives traveling there in vimanas:

"O never-born, O blue-throated one, not only my relatives but also other women, dressed in nice clothes and decorated with ornaments, are going there with their husbands and friends. Just see how their flocks of white airplanes have made the entire sky very beautiful."

All of the beings referred to here are Devas or Upadevas. We can see from this and the other examples that vima-nas were considered to be standard means of travel for beings in these categories.

The Mahabharata also has this idea of self-sustaining flying cities that travel indefinitely in outer space. In this section and the next two, I will give several examples of this. The first is the flying city of Hiran- yapura. This was seen floating in space by Arjuna while he was travel- ing through the celestial regions after defeating the Nivatakavacas in a great battle. Arjuna was accompanied in his celestial journey by a Deva named Matali, and he asked him about the city. Matali replied:

"There once were a Daitya woman called Puloma and a great Asuri Kalaka, who observed extreme austerities for a millennium of years of the Gods. At the end of their mortifications the self-existent God gave them a boon. They chose as their boon that their progeny should suffer little, Indra of kings, and be inviolable by Gods, Raksasas and Snakes. This lovely airborne city, with the splendor of good works, piled with all precious stones and impregnable even to the Immortals, the bands of Yaksas and Gandharvas, and Snakes, Asuras, and RakSasas, filled with all desires and virtues, free from sorrow and disease, was created for the Kalakeyas by Brahma, O best of the Bharatas. The Immortals shun this celestial, sky-going city, O hero, which is peopled by Pauloma and Kalakeya Asuras. This great city is called Hiranyapura, the City-of-Gold."

Here the inhabitants of the city, the Paulomas and Kalakeyas, are identified as the descendants of two rebellious relatives of the Devas named Puloma and Kalaka. The "snakes" are a race of mystical beings, called Nagas, that can assume humanlike or serpentine form. The "self-existent god" is Brahma, who is understood to be the original progenitor of all living beings within the material universe. Since Brahma's origin is transcendental, and he has no material parents, he is said to be self-existent. The immortals are the Devas. They are referred to as immortal because they live for millions of our years. However, according to the Vedas, all em- bodied beings in the material universe have a finite life span and must die after some time.

With his superior powers, Brahma arranged for the Paulomas and Kalakeyas to have a flying city that could not be successfully attacked by various powerful groups of beings within the universe, including the Devas. However, he left open a loophole for the Devas by declaring that the flying city could be successfully attacked by a human being.

Arjuna was half human, half Deva. His mother was an earthly woman, and his father was Indra, the king of the Devas. Indra had equipped Arjuna with celestial weapons just for the purpose of defeating enemies of the Devas who had obtained protective benedictions from Brahma that didn't apply to humans. Thus Arjuna decided that it was part of his mission to attack Hiranyapura. Here is Arjuna's account of what happened after his initial attack:

"When the Daityas were being slaughtered they again took to their city and, employing their Danava wizardry, flew up into the sky, city and all. I stopped them with a mighty volley of arrows, and blocking their road I halted the Daityas in their course. But because of the boon given them, the Daityas easily held their celestial, divinely effulgent, airborne city, which could move about at will. Now it would go underground, then hover high in the sky, go diagonally with speed, or submerge in the ocean. I assaulted the mobile city, which resembled Amaravati, with many kinds of missiles, overlord of men. Then I subdued both city and Daityas with a mass of arrows, which were sped by divine missiles. Wounded by the iron, straight-traveling arrows I shot off, the Asura city fell broken on the earth, O king. The Asuras, struck by my lightning-fast iron shafts, milled around, O king, prompted by Time. Matali swiftly descended on earth, as in a headlong fall, on our divinely effulgent chariot."

Aeial Assembly Houses of the Devos

According to the Maha-bharata, just as the Daityas have flying Cities such as Hiranyapura, the Devas have flying assembly houses, which are used as centers for their administrative activities. Here are some examples, beginning with the assembly hall of Indra, or Sakra, the king of the Devas. In this passage, a league is a Sanskrit yoiana, which ranges from 5 to 8 miles:

"Sakra's celestial and splendid hall, which he won with his feats, was built by himself, Kaurava, with the resplendence of fire. It is a hundred leagues wide and a hundred and fifty long, aerial, freely moving, and five leagues high. Dispelling old age, grief, and fa- tigue, free from diseases, benign, beautiful, filled with chambers and seats, lovely and embellished with celestial trees is that hall where, O Partha, the lord of the Gods sits with Saci...."

It is standard for descriptions of vimanas to say that they are brilliantly glowing or fiery. We find the same feature in the following description of Yama's hall, which was built by Visvakarma, the architect of the Devas:

"This fair hall, which can move at will, is never crowded. Visvakarma built it after accumulating over a long time the power of austerities, and it is luminous as though on fire with its own radiance, Bharata. To it go ascetics of dread austerities, of good vows and truthful words, who are tranquil, renouncing, successful, purified by their holy acts, all wearing effulgent bodies and spotless robes; . . . and so go great spirited Gandharvas and hosts of Apsaras by the hundreds.... A hundred hundred of thousands of law abiding persons of wisdom attend in bodily form on the lord of the creatures."

An interesting feature of Yama's hall is that it is populated by beings of many different types. In Yama's hall, in addition to Gandharvas, Apsaras, and various kinds of ascetics, there are Siddhas, those who have a yogic body, Pitas, men of evil deeds, and "those familiars of Yama who are charged with the conduction of time."

The latter are functionaries equipped with mystic powers that enable them to regulate the process of transmigration of souls. Yama is the Vedic lord of death, who supervises the process of transmigration.

Another curious point about Yama's hall is that it never becomes crowded, no matter how many different beings enter into it. This suggests that within Yama's hall space is transformed in a way that goes beyond our ordinary experience.

There are Vedic siddhis called mahima and anima that allow an object to greatly expand or contract in size, while retaining its proportions and internal structure.

The assembly hall of Brahma provides another striking example of transformations of space that seem incomprehensible from an ordinary standpoint. In this case, the great sage Narada Muni visited Brahma's hall and found that he could not adequately describe its architectural layout:

"Thereupon the blessed and mighty lord Sun took me and went to the faultless hall of Brahma, which knows of no fatigue. It is not possible to describe it as it really is, king of the people, for from instant to instant it has another indescribable appearance. I know neither its size nor its structure, Bharata, and never before have I seen such beauty. The hall is very comfortable, king, neither too cold nor too hot; when one enters it, one no longer is hungry, thirsty, or weary. It is as though it is made up of many different shapes, all very colorful and luminous. No pillars support it. It is eternal and knows of no decay. It is self-luminous beyond the moon and the sun and the flame-crested fire; on the roof beam of heaven it blazes as though to light up the sun. In it sits the blessed lord, O king, the grandfather of the worlds who, alone, constantly creates the worlds with his divine wizardry."

The Aerial Mansion of Ravana

The epic called the Ra-mayana contains an interesting account of a vimana. The main story of the Ramayana is that long ago a country on this earth named Lanka was occupied by a race of malevolent beings called Raksasas (Lanka is thought to be the island now known as Sn Lanka, although some have questioned this.) Ravana, the king of the RakSasas, reigned in Laiika from a fortified city, and it was there that he hid Slta, the wife of Lord Rama, after kidnaping her with the aid of his powers of illusion. Ravana also possessed an aerial mansion that would fly according to his mental commands and that he used for his military exploits.

Lord Rama engaged a being named Hanuman, who belonged to an intelligent monkeylike race, to find Slta and report back to him. Although born on earth in a primitive society, Hanuman was also the son of the wind-god Vayu, and thus he was equipped with mystic powers that were useful in this search. In the course of his search for Slta, he saw Ravana's aerial mansion, which was hovering over his capital city:

"That heroic son of the Wind-god saw in the middle of that residential quarter the great aerial mansion-vehicle called Puspakavimana, decorated with pearls and diamonds, and featured with artistic windows made of refined gold.

Constructed as it was by Visvakarma himself, none could gauge its power nor effect its destruction. It was built with the intention that it should be superior to all sirnilar constructions. It was poised in the atmosphere without support. It had the capacity to go anywhere. It stood in the sky like a milestone in the path of the sun....

It was the final result of the great prowess gained by austerities. It could fly in any direction that one wanted. It had chambers of remarkable beauty. Everything about it was symmetrical and unique. Knowing the intentions of the master, it could go anywhere at high speed unobstructed by anyone including the wind itself....

It had towers of high artistic work. It had spires and domes like the peaks of mountains. It was immaculate like the autumnal moon. It was occupied by sky-ranging RakSasas of huge proportions with faces brightened by their shining ear-pendants. It was delightful to look at like the spring season and the bunches of flowers then in bloom. It had also for protecting it numerous elementals with round and deep eyes and capable of very speedy movements.

Hanuman, the son of the Wind-god, saw in the middle of the aerial edifice a very spacious construction. That building, half a yojana in width and one yojana in length, and having several floors, was the residence of the king of the RakSasas....

Visvakarma constructed in the heavenly region this Puspakavimana, or aerial mansion-vehicle of attractive form, which could go everywhere and which augmented the desire nature of its occupants. Kuvera by the power of his austerities obtained from Brahma that aerial mansion which was decorated entirely with gems, and which received the homage of the residents of all the three worlds. It was by overcoming Kuvera that Ravana, the king of the Raksasas, took possession of it."

Especially interesting is the reference to "elementals with round and deep eyes" whose job is to protect the vimana. These beings seemed to come with the vimana itself, while the RakSasas were mere interlopers who acquired it through the military exploits of Ravana. I also note that at eight miles per yojana, the residence of Ravana on the vimana would be four miles by eight miles in size.

What About Flying Horses and Chariots?

It is clear that there are extensive Vedic traditions about humanlike races of beings that can fly freely throughout the universe using vehicles called vimanas. But one might object that there are also Vedic stories about horse-drawn chariots that fly through the sky. Surely these stories are utterly absurd, since it makes no sense to say that an animal could run through air or outer space using its legs. Because of this absurdity, some claim, we should not take anything in the Vedic literature very seriously.

The answer to this objection is that there are indeed accounts of horse-drawn flying chariots in Vedic literature, but these stories are not necessarily absurd. To understand them properly, it is necessary to fill in various details that will place them in context within the overall Vedic world picture. When seen in this way, both the horse-drawn chariots and the self-powered vimanas make sense. I will try to fill in the needed details by referring to a number of stories from the Maha-bharata about the Pandava hero, Arjuna. In the first story, Arjuna is traveling through space in a literal chariot drawn by horses. This description has a number of important features, includ- ing travel through space on some kind of roadway:

"And on this sunlike, divine, wonder-working chariot the wise scion of Kuru flew joyously upward. While becoming invisible to the mortals who walk on earth, he saw wondrous airborne chariots by the thousands. No sun shone there, or moon, or fire, but they shone with a light of their own acquired by their merits. Those lights that are seen as the stars look tiny like oil flames because of the distance, but they are very large. The Pandava saw them bright and beautiful, burning on their own hearths with a fire of their own. There are the perfected royal seers, the heroes cut down in war, who, having won heaven with their austerities, gather in hundreds of groups. So do thousands of Gandharvas with a glow like the sun's or the fire's, and of Guhyakas and seers and the hosts of Apsaras.

Beholding those self-luminous worlds, Phalguna, astonished, questioned Matali in a friendly manner, and the other said to him, "Those are men of saintly deeds, ablaze on their own hearths, whom you saw there, my lord, looking like stars from earth below." Then he saw standing at the gateway the victorious white elephant, four-tusked Airavata, towering like peaked Kailasa. Driving on the roadway of the Siddhas, that most excellent Kuru Pandava shone forth as of old the great king Mandhatar. The lotus-eyed prince passed by the worlds of the kings, then looked upon Amaravatl, the city of Indra."

One important thing to notice about this passage is that Arjuna entered a region of stars where there was no light from the sun, the moon, or fire. This is what we would expect to find if we did travel among the stars. It is also stated that the stars are very large, but they seem small due to distance when seen from the earth, and this also agrees with modern ideas.

In that region, Arjuna saw that the stars were self-luminous worlds, and that they were hearths of Gandharvas, Guhyakas, and others, including "men of saintly deeds" who had been promoted to heaven. The stars themselves are spoken of as aerial chariots in this passage, and this is clearly a poetic description. They are also spoken of as persons, and this refers to the predominating persons living on them.

The next point to notice is that Arjuna was "driving on the road- way of the Siddhas," and that this roadway went past the worlds of the kings to the city of Indra. Later on, this road is spoken of as the "road of the stars" and the "path of the gods." Thus it seems that Arjuna's chariot was traveling on some kind of road through outer space.

The Vishnu Purana sheds some light on the actual route followed by Arjuna. It states that the Path of the Gods (deva-yana) lies to the north of the orbit of the sun (the ecliptic), north of Nagavlthl (the naksatras Asvinl, Bharanl, and Krttika), and south of the stars of the seven r$is. Asvim and Bharam are constellations in Aries, north of the ecliptic, and Krttika is the adjacent constellation in Taurus known as the Pleiades. Asvim, Bharam, and Krttika belong to a group of 28 constellations called nak$atras in Sanskrit, and asterisms or lunar mansions in English. The seven ris are thestars of the Big Dipper in Ursa Major. From this information, we can form a general idea of the Path of the Gods as a roadway extending through the stars in the northern celestial hemisphere.

Another important celestial roadway is the Path of the Pitas (or pitr-ya-na). According to the Vishnu Purana, this roadway lies to the north of the star Agastya, and south of Ajavlthl (the three nak$atras Mula, Purvasadha, and Uttarasadha), outside of the Vaisvanara path. The region of the Pitas, or Pitrloka, is said in Vedic literature to be the headquarters of Yama, the Deva who awards punishments to sinful human beings and whose aerial assembly house was described above. This region, along with the hellish planets, is said in the Bha-gavata Pura-na to lie on the southern side of the universe, to the south of Bhu-mandala, the earthly planetary system.

The nak$atras Mula, Purvasadha, and UttaraSadha correspond to parts of the constellations Scorpio and Sagittarius, and it is thought that Agastya is the southern-hemisphere star called Canopus. Thus from the description in the Visnu Pura-na we can gain an idea of the location of Pitrloka and the road leading to it in terms of familiar celestial landmarks. Such celestial roadways involve large distances, and if they go through outer space, then there is the problem of the lack of a breath- able atmosphere. What sort of horses could follow such roads? We can answer this question by recounting a Maha-bha-rata story in which Arjuna was offered a benediction by the Gandharva named Citraratha. Although Citraratha owned a vimana, here he is concerned with horses:

"O best of men, I now wish to offer each of you five brothers a hundred horses of the type bred by the Gandharvas. The mounts of the gods and Gandharvas exude a celestial fragrance, and they move at the speed of the mind. Even when their energy is spent, they do not diminish their speed....

These Gandharva horses change color at will and fly at the speed they desire. And simply by your desire, they will appear before you, ready to serve. Indeed, these horses will always honor your wishes."

It seems that these are mystical horses that function according to laws governing subtle categories of material energy. The roadway on which they travel is presumably of a similar nature, and the fact that they can travel vast distances on this road in a short time is due to the fact that they obey the laws governing subtle energy rather than the laws governing ordinary, gross matter.

The fact that a gross human body can be carried along such a road can be understand in terms of the mystic siddhis called pra-pti and mano java. The basic idea is that the subtle laws include and supersede the gross laws. Gross matter obeying the familiar physical laws is also obeying the subtle laws. But the same subtle laws can be applied to cause gross matter to act in a way that violates the ordinary laws of physics.

Now let us consider Arjuna's chariot. Here is a description of one chariot that he used:

The chariot had all necessary equipment. It could not be conquered by gods or demons, and it radiated light and reverberated with a deep rumbling sound. Its beauty captivated the minds of all who beheld it. Visvakarma, the lord of design and construction, had created it by the power of his austerities, and its form, like that of the sun, could not be precisely discerned.

My tentative conclusion from this material is as follows: The technology involved in the vimanas and the flying horse-drawn chariots is essentially the same. It depends upon mystic powers and higher-dimensional aspects of material energy that are unknown to present-day science but are commonplace to the Devas. The vimanas are essentially architectural constructions that can fly, both in three dimensions and in higher dimensions, by virtue of powers that to us seem mystical. The Gandharva horses operate on the same mystical level, and the same is true of the chariots they draw.

If this is true, one might ask why the Devas and other related beings would bother with horse-drawn vehicles when vimanas that move by their own power are available. Judging from the Mahabharata as a whole, the answer is that these beings use horses because they like them. They make use of flying architecture when that suits their purposes, but they also have a fondness for equestrian activities. Likewise, they have powerful weapons, like the brahmastra, based on radiant energy, but they also have elaborate rules governing hand-to-hand fighting with maces. The general impression is that the Devas and Upadevas emphasize life and personal prowess over machines.

With Vedic celestial roads a beam seems to define a pathway through space that a person can move along by using his legs. The beings that use these pathways have powers that enable them to pass through walls, and they can carry human bodies through walls also. The Vedic celestial road is also a pathway through space that one can walk on. The horses and chariots that move on it have mystical properties, and the horses can appear and disappear at will. A human being like Arjuna can also be conveyed along such a road. The point where the analogy of celestial road to light-beam path may break down is that the celestial road is cosmic in scale and seems to be relatively permanent, whereas the light beam is small and is deployed temporarily when needed.

It turns out, curiously enough, that the celestial pathways mentioned in Vedic literature are beams of light of a peculiar nature. Thus the Bhagavata Pura-na gives the following description of the travels of a mystic along the Path of the Gods:

O King, when such a mystic passes over the Milky Way by the illuminating Susumna to reach the highest planet, Brahmaloka, he goes first to Vaisvanara, the planet of the deity of fire, wherein he becomes completely cleansed of all contaminations, and thereafter he still goes higher, to the circle of gisumara, to relate with Lord Hari, the Personality of Godhead.

The path followed by the mystic is the deva-ya-na path, and it is referred to here as the illuminating Susumna. According to the Sanskrit dictionary, Susumna is the name of one of the principal rays of the sun. Thus the Susumna must be some kind of light beam. Clearly, however, its position in space indicates that it is not an ordinary sunbeam.

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