Monday 28th of May 2018

god versus the debbil...

god and the debill

Gus discuses the following article:
Why I am Not an Atheist: Better Apathetic Godlessness than Illiberal Scientism

by Thomas Wells

The New Atheist movement that developed from the mid-naughties around the self-styled "four horsemen of the apocalypse" - Hitchens, Dennett, Harris and Dawkins - had a tremendous public impact. Godlessness has never had a higher public profile. How wonderful for unbelievers like me?

Hardly. I am as embarrassed by the New Atheists as many Christians are embarrassed by the evangelical fundamentalists who appoint themselves the representatives of Christianity. It has often been noted that the New Atheist movement has contributed no original arguments or ideas to the debate about religion. But the situation is worse than this.

The main achievement of New Atheism - what defines it as a more or less coherent movement - is its promulgation of a particular version of atheism that is quasi-religious, scientistic and sectarian. New Atheism been so successful in redefining what atheism means that I find I must reject it as an identity. My unbelief is apathetic and simply follows from my materialism - I don't see why I should care about the non-existence of gods.

What the New Atheists call "rationality" is an impoverished way of understanding the world that excludes meanings and values. At the political level, the struggle for secularism requires more liberalism, not more atheism.

The metaphysical problem: Too much God

New Atheism isn't nearly godless enough for me. These atheists seem somewhat obsessed with the quite unremarkable fact that god doesn't exist, like an ex they claim to be over but can't stop talking about. Indeed, it seems so central to their personal identity that I find it hard to tell the difference between them and the official religionists. I appreciate that many atheists will find this claim very disagreeable. If so, that just demonstrates my point. Atheism should not look like another option on a "select your religion" drop-down menu; it should be beyond religion.

Take the role of Truth. The followers of religions attach great practical significance to the fact that they are true - it's what makes that religion worth following rather than another. But atheism should be the opposite. The idea that god doesn't exist should not gain any significance for being true. So it is disquieting that one cannot straightforwardly distinguish New Atheists from religionists in terms of "unbelievers" versus "believers." These atheists are believers. They not only hold specific religious beliefs - about the existence of God, the divine nature of the universe, the proper interpretation of sacred texts, and so on - they hold them with passion and fervour.


Of course, New Atheists have the right to publicly criticise religion, and also to press for the realisation of secular constitutional principles at the social as well as government levels. But they should keep those two exercises distinct. I worry that because New Atheism was born in battle it has developed a battle-field mentality of righteous anger for its cause and contempt for all who refuse to join it. That is the essence of sectarianism. It is not an appropriate attitude or strategy for the deliberately de-militarised space of liberal politics, intended for civilians and dependent on mutual civility.

Gus sees New Atheism differently:

Like religious formats, there are varied forms of atheism, all mostly attached to a "reason" of sorts to subscribe to, or explain, atheism. Atheism is not a religion though. In this context, New Atheism tries to be more scientific about its "reason". There is nothing wrong with this. 

As the author, Thomas Wells, mentions, one can also be a lazy atheist — that is to say subscribing to "apathetic godlessness". One can believe there is no god without having a reason for this philosophical position. There is no shame with this and I know a few people who strut the stage of life in this fashion. 

But as religions and their subsidiaries are working hard to make a dent into the secularity of social interactions to regain some past glory in most countries, we might need to rattle the cage a bit. 

New Atheism rattles the cage. We need New Atheism to fight, say, an Abbott and his crew of bigots, who erode the gains secularity has made under the sun. Lazy atheism won't cut the cheese there, except in our own little space and I suppose we do not have to convert people. But if you think that Abbott bringing back Knights and Dames is a silly little game that happened because "one day" he though about it after having denied he would, don't be fooled. It's a highly calculated move that involves white-lying, white-anting and moving fast when nobody's looking, while appearing grinningly demure and ingenue. This specific tactic is part of making sure the divine regains a foot-hold in the Australian government's political innards. 

New Atheism needs some mighty weaponry to combat this mystical "disease" and to fight the royal rekindled "meaning" of social structure. 

New Atheism's two main weapons are science with its observable evidence and the strong rejection of arcane mysterious religious illogical dogma. Should one think that this is "Illiberal Scientism", well, so be it. Science and religion do not mix. 

I know, some scientists still try to mix science with their religious beliefs, mostly out of fear and/or habit rather than proper rational thought. Religion makes no sense at all. Science makes sense relatively. But after years being guided and comforted by religion, it is difficult for anyone, even for some most ardent thinker, to dump religion. The mechanism of brainwashing is very strong. 

The main argument of New Atheism presently is that religions are far too heavy on most of our political and social systems, and at most time, religions try to prove superiority of importance and of purpose with "meaning" (that makes no sense, but it is accepted to be "mysterious") and "love" (which is also a nonsensical position in this context). Many atrocities are performed under this or that religious belief umbrella. Unfortunately, we are not fully allowed to dispute the freedom of religious beliefs — a religious freedom which in most cases end up to the detriment of many people, including women and young girls. Those atheists who fight these hidden or overt hideous religious dogmas can appear to be "illiberal" — but they have no choice in this. They have to be fierce about the non-value of the freedom of religious belief in most of the contexts than encroach on secularity. 

Science is a good start to debunk many of the silly-gisms of religion. Science does provide an essential platform to manage our future with a much better understanding of ourselves — and of our place in this weird universe — rather than continue with oppressive illusions of dogma. Though science is mostly a tool, it can influence our visions and be part of our dreams. 

Religion has played a historical role — but not exclusive — in the constructs of societies, yet it has done so through a range of hypocritical positions and false views — added to a very weird and venerated inflated narrative — that have been created to control the debate, in order to stifle dissent and to destroy the notion of no-god. Don't be fooled, even if YOU are apathetically godless, they will take your family, especially your kids, prisoner... You will become estranged from them.

We all remember Galileo and yet history has forgotten most of the other dissenters or even the quiet disbelievers, of which there were many, including strong non-believers. The religious mobs, especially the three Abrahamic organisations, were at most times behaving like a Taliban, that is to say they were rejecting and punishing anyone who did not believe according to their particular dogma... There were "religious wars" that intermixed with unsavoury alliances, as well as being manipulated through ethnic divides, establishment of fodder classes all in order to foster a specific result of religious dominating illusion used by ruthless kings as a simple tool of conquest.

But for many soft non-believers like the writer above, it is fashionable to lump strong-minded atheists as "believers in a non-god", that for example having an opinion, about the sacred text being a lot of shit, is like being a believer in reverse.  Let's be clear, should an atheist like me make a statement in regard to the 'sacred" text, it is not a fully-defining statement of who I am. Atheism is a lot more than living without a god — or fighting the people who believe in god, which is only done when these people encroach on our secular rights...

The concept of choice for a religious person is strongly distorted by the concept of sin. For atheists there is no such thing as a sin (not the devil), but a responsibility, relative to our choices and the reaction of those choices instilled in people who can decide with their own prejudices or idiosyncrasies to see differently what we think we are doing.

Atheism demands far more responsibility of action in this life because there is no redemption possible for being a dork or a goodie, a dangerous idiot or a "saint". For an atheist, the only "true" options are to care or not to care. Should we decide to be good, under rules of secular interaction, we can detect and avoid behaviour that could intrude on other people's right. It's a choice, not a divine commandment... And when people walk on our toes, we tell them. That has been the purpose of the New Atheism. 

Meanwhile in god versus the debbil...:

VATICAN CITY — A darling of liberal Catholics and an advocate of inclusion and forgiveness, Pope Francis is hardly known for fire and brimstone.

Yet, in his words and deeds, the new pope is locked in an epic battle with the oldest enemy of God and creation:

The Devil.

After his little more than a year atop the Throne of St. Peter, Francis’s teachings on Satan are already regarded as the most old school of any pope since at least Paul VI, whose papacy in the 1960s and 1970s fully embraced the notion of hellish forces plotting to deliver mankind unto damnation.

Largely under the radar, theologians and Vatican insiders say, Francis has not only dwelled far more on Satan in sermons and speeches than his recent predecessors have, but also sought to rekindle the Devil’s image as a supernatural entity with the forces  of evil at his beck and call.

Last year, for instance, Francis laid hands on a man in a wheelchair who claimed to be possessed by demons, in what many saw as an impromptu act of cleansing. A few months later, he praised a group long viewed by some as the crazy uncles of the Roman Catholic Church — the International Association of Exorcists — for “helping people who suffer and are in need of liberation.”

“ ‘But Father, how old-fashioned you are to speak about the Devil in the 21st century,’ ” Francis, quoting those who have noted his frequent mentions of the Devil, said last month while presiding over Mass at the Vatican’s chapel in St. Martha’s House. He warned those gathered on that chilly morning to be vigilant and not be fooled by the hidden face of Satan in the modern world. “Look out because the Devil is present,” he said.

Since its foundation, the church has taught the existence of the Devil. But in recent decades, progressive priests and bishops, particularly in the United States and Western Europe, have tended to couch Satan in more allegorical terms. Evil became less the wicked plan of the master of hell than the nasty byproduct of humanity’s free will. 

Gus Leonisky
your local debill


uncomfortable praying leads to "stick fingers in the ears"...


Susan Galloway, who is Jewish, and Linda Stephens, an atheist, felt uncomfortable sitting through the predominately Christian prayers that opened every town meeting in Greece, New York. For years they lived through their discomfort. Then they asked that the town meetings start instead with non-sectarian prayers that did not explicitly reference specific religious ideas. Eventually, the town council told both women that they could stand in the hallway or stick their fingers in their ears.

Instead, they filed suit.

This week, the US supreme court ruled, 5-4, in favor of the town of Greece, and opened up a new battlefield in the culture wars. What Galloway and Stephens experienced will unfortunately continue to occur in many communities throughout the country – those who are part of a minority religious tradition in a particular locale should just "put up or shut up" and wait their turn.

The part of upstate New York in which Greece is situated was historically known as the "Burned-Over District" in the 19th century for speed with which residents accepted (and some times quickly rejected) a diversity of religions. That diversity, which included Mormons, Millerites, Spiritualists and Evangelicals in the 19th century, looks different in the 21st: according to a 2010 survey by the Association of Religious Data Archives, those who are unaffiliated with a religious tradition made up the largest group in the county – more than twice as many people claimed no religion as said they were Catholic.

The trend toward non-affiliation in upstate New York mirrors the rise in non-affiliated and non-religious people across the United States. According to the Pew Foundation, the number of people unaffiliated with a religious tradition is just under 20% in America, and on the rise.

Rulings like the latest big one from the Roberts court do not take into account the changing landscape of belief in America. And it will only intensify the clashes between those who want to invoke specific deities, and those who have amorphous or other religious beliefs – as if both of those groups weren't preparing for future battles over prayer already.

The supreme court has now allowed the majority religion of the members of a city government to dominate the sectarian prayers offered at its meetings. In many towns throughout the nation, of course, these councils are populated predominately by conservative Christians (especially in the midwest and southern states).

While the majority opinion in Greece v Galloway affirms that the prayers should be non-coercive (as in, the government cannot force its constituents to participate), it does leave room for a type of coercion: the choice by these councils or groups to only offer the ability to pray at meetings to particular religious leaders who conform to the religious views of the officials issuing the invites.

read more:


religious ridiculostas economistus

We think of religious teaching as informing the debates on same-sex marriage and abortion, but sideline its influence on our economic life, writes Andrew West.


We are having one of these periodic "national conversations", this time about the place of religion in our political life.

It has been going on for seven years, ever since Kevin Rudd declared himself a "Christian Socialist" to ABC TV's Geraldine Doogue in 2007. But it has intensified since the election of the conservative Catholic Tony Abbott as Prime Minister, and the appointment of seven fellow Catholics to his cabinet.

At Easter, The Sydney Morning Herald pointed out that the representation of Catholics in the cabinet was twice their proportion of the population. It was not a sectarian assault, but it did suggest that an active faith in politics was a subject of fascination, if not a cause for wariness.

Most of the critical commentary about religiously motivated politicians focuses, predictably, on the cultural, or "life", agenda: same-sex marriage, abortion and euthanasia.

But these issues are, despite intense media coverage, rarities in Australian politics. Our election campaigns are not animated by the pro-life, pro-choice debates. Gay marriage may be an obsession with audiences on Q&A but it will occupy but a fraction of the Parliament's time.

What the commentariat - liberal and conservative - overlooks or misunderstands is the impact of religious teaching on our economic life.

The Left is enraged that a faithful Catholic or evangelical informs his or her conscience on abortion or marriage with a traditional interpretation of the scriptures. But they don't object - or more likely don't acknowledge - when the Christian politician is inspired by Matthew's gospel on exalting the least among us or Leviticus on welcoming the stranger.

The Right defends the freedom of faith leaders from Cardinal George Pell to Brigadier Jim Wallace to speak in favour of faith and family but insist that Pope Francis, not being a Chicago-trained economist, really shouldn't pronounce on inequality or capitalism.

Tony Abbott has actually been rather quiet about his religion, despite having been a seminarian. Any close reading of his Catholicism would suggest he is in the small-c conservative mainstream - accepting of the moral doctrines, but wrestling a little more with the recent teachings on capitalism and the rights of employees.





We need New Atheism to fight, say, an Abbott and his crew of bigots, who erode the gains secularity has made under the sun. Lazy atheism won't cut the cheese there, except in our own little space and I suppose we do not have to convert people. But if you think that Abbott bringing back Knights and Dames is a silly little game that happened because "one day" he though about it after having denied he would, don't be fooled. It's a highly calculated move that involves white-lying, white-anting and moving fast when nobody's looking, while appearing grinningly demure and ingenue. This specific tactic is part of making sure the divine regains a foot-hold in the Australian government's political innards. 


typing pool in heaven versus earthly copyrights...

Jesus Christ does not hold copyright for works published in his name, a German court has ruled.

Frankfurt's higher regional court this week ruled that the late American psychologist Helen Schucman, and not Jesus Christ, should be regarded the legal author of a book that Schucman claimed had been dictated to her by Jesus in a series of "waking dreams".

Germany's New Christian Endeavour Academy, a registered association, last year published extracts from A Course in Miracles, originally published in 1975, on its website. The association argued that Schucman had not considered herself the author of the work, and referred to a 2003 ruling by a New York court that it said had put the work into the public domain.

"For many there is no doubt that Jesus of Nazareth is the author of the course and that copyright law therefore doesn't apply to his work," the academy said.

However, the US-based Foundation for Inner Peace, which claims to have inherited copyright for the book after Schucman's death in 1981, protested against the publication and took the case to court. Now the Frankfurt judges have ruled that the law is on the foundation's side.

The court reasoned that Schucman should be considered the sole author of the work, and not merely an assistant or typist. The authorship of a work was not determined by the mental state of its creator but the "actual process of creation", the court said, meaning a writer was the legal owner of his work even if he or she had written it while mentally disturbed, in a trance or under hypnosis.

please stop writing about things you do not know about.


After a long wafty exposé of crappy thoughts, Scott Stephens, the editor of religion and ethics "domain" at the ABC ends up with with this silly tirade:



Abdal Hakim Murad once remarked, with biting concision, "The New Atheism is built on three pillars: human ego, priestly pederasty, and the Wahhabis of Mass Destruction." Like a once seemingly insuperable empire, the "New Atheism" itself has now all but collapsed from its own rapaciousness. It sought to conquer too many kingdoms too quickly, never realising that it had neither the philosophical underpinnings nor the imaginative resources to sustain itself amid the wastelands of late-modernity, until it was too late. Much like the mythical "spirit of Vatican II" (which never was), the "New Atheism" now exists only as a media epiphenomenon, an ambient irreligiosity that has mistaken visceral cynicism for a kind of professional virtue.

And yet there is no denying that Waleed Aly and I belong to the two religious traditions on account of whose hypocrisy "the name of God is blasphemed" throughout the West. The terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001 and the torrent of revelations of clerical sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in the first half of 2002 produced the ideal conditions of possibility for the emergence of the stridently antitheistic rhetoric and materialist reductionism that would come to be synonymous with the "New Atheism."

I am at least consoled that, within the vast folds of the Islamic and Christian intellectual traditions, the inherent potential for repentance, reform and rebirth is always present, as the unending internal struggle to reflect the Divine beauty in common life goes on. But what resources, I wonder, exist within secular liberalism for the struggle against human ego?

Scott Stephens is the Religion & Ethics Editor for ABC Online.




One can be lost for words to debunk such debbilic imbecilic conclusion designed to demonise atheism (or as Scott Stephens calls it "secular liberalism"). But I will try — not too hard since it's late in the day... I always try, to my detriment I suppose, but the "other side", the enlightened religious side, always annoys me by trying to push the head of atheists in the mud in whichever fashion they can, often with a soft form or hypocrisy.

The potential for repentance is senseless to an atheist. Sin does not exist.

What exists is the relative awareness of our ability to inflict pain or promote contentment in a social context and in a relative natural environment, to ourselves and onto others. Evolution brought humans (homo sapiens sapiens) to this strong stylistic position which has similar resonance — albeit no so developed as our limited observations so far show — in the world of other species. Whatever we do, whatever way we wrap this realisation either with divine concepts, religious dogma or simply an acceptance of the natural mechanics of life, we still all have ways to deal with the "ego".

Atheism is actually a far more powerful responsible position to be in, rather than dilute our personal self with the idea of some superior-being watching every move of our free will and keeping score... Our atheistic free will is truly free. It is also a far more demanding responsibility as it as no illusive gains in an afterlife and no redeemable points for being altruistic, should we be so. 

Being an atheist demands that we'd be aware of all the "traps" of ego. These are not traps per se, but they are such as narcissism, sadism, masochism and other traits in which the management of pain and contentment are blurred or reversed — contrary to the evolved reactive flexible mechanics of life. Often these traits are used by religious people to prove themselves superior to others. 

Atheists (and all other humans, for that matter) do not need a divine intervention nor the illusion of an afterlife to be able to manage our selves. Atheists do not have any struggle to manage or "go against" their ego. We exist. We are. We do our best. Ego is irrelevant once we understand and are aware of what we do and share...

Stop Scott... please stop wondering about "secular liberal resources against ego"... Please stop writing crap about things you know nothing about.

Abdal Hakim Murad is also in the same boat of self-deluded blind ignorance. His biting concision is utter crap.


Gus Leonisky

Your local atheist


carry on praying...


From Matthew Anslow

On 21 March a group of nine Christians, myself included, held a peaceful prayer vigil in the office of Australian Immigration Minister Scott Morrison. We were praying about and protesting the inhumane asylum seeker policies of the Australian government. Five of the group were eventually arrested for trespassing, though the charges were later dismissed in court. A similar vigil has subsequently been held in Foreign Minister Julie Bishop's office.

Our act of civil disobedience, taking the form of public prayer, generated numerous responses. We have received much support - far more, in fact, than we expected - from church leaders, people of all different faith traditions, atheists, and media. Our action also attracted its fair share of disapproval, ranging from personal abuse to theological diatribes. Much of this centred on our use of prayer.

On the one hand, there were the fashionably cheap shots taken at us by some atheists, those who ridicule the practice of prayer without, apparently, understanding what prayer actually is. (This is in contrast to those atheists who have shown a deep respect for our action, some having even attended our recent public prayer vigils, despite that it stems from a worldview they do not themselves hold.). One contrarian, in a comment on a Huffington Post write-up of our action, exemplified the kind of inanity I am talking about: "Well they should have been arrested for thinking that prayer was going to do anything at all." Such a comment betrays a common assumption that prayer has only instrumental value for Christians.

On the other hand, there were those Christians who, in addition to acontextually quoting parts of Romans 13:1-5 and Matthew 6:5-8, asserted the private nature of prayer, to the exclusion of public expressions such as demonstrated by our action. (Admittedly, this is even more puzzling given that many of the same people would be dismayed by talk of the removal of the Lord's Prayer from the opening of Parliament.)

read more:


Good for you, but please do not include me in "some" atheists... I may believe that your prayer may not reach the almighty but I admire your guts for doing it in an unfriendly, dangerous and dishonest environment of this minister's office.  Please carry on, especially in "religious" hypocrite bastards' offices, as they behave like little hitlers because of a stolen "mandate" to turn boats around.


Won't do any harm to pray on the location of their signing of the deeds. The disruption should unsettle their own religious beliefs, but between you, a lamppost and me, their hypocrisy is stronger in their heart than their professed religious adherence.


flotsam and jetsam of education...


Diatribe from John Milbank

Blah blah blah,


Sometimes, by contrast, as with the French revolutionary terror or the Chinese cultural revolution, attempts have been made directly to impose the abstractness of ideals in their very abstraction. Since, as Hegel realised, this is contradictory, the result of the imposition of ideals is always terror: for the only way to incarnate an abstraction as an abstraction is by way of ceaseless subtraction of the determinate - a process also embarked upon at times for this false reason by modernist art. But subtraction in practice is death, violence.

It follows that an ideal is either pointless in its very knowability, and therefore really unknown, or else it is so well known that it is really an ideal of destruction. The only "third way" here would be the notion of an unknown concrete ideal in which we dimly participate by putting it into effect to a certain degree. But this is just the rationale for embracing Plato's forms or Augustine's ideas rather than modern ideals, as inculcated by our educational process. The entire argument is clinched once one recognises that without any ideas/ideals whatsoever, there could be no specifically human motivation, and therefore no existence of human culture.

One can therefore conclude that our desire to know the Good both ensures that we can in some degree realise it, while guarding against any totalitarian notion that we have the precise formula for its implementation. However, modern education - that very education which we are so strangely eager for our children to undergo - teaches them nihilistically that there is no Good, in which case they are, each and every one of them, a self-legislating god, or else suggests terroristically that it possesses the formula for its entire implementation here and now.

In either case, education not only fails to educate into virtue, but abundantly succeeds in the training of highly talented criminals, mostly skilled in the evasive exploitation of every human law.

John Milbank is Research Professor of Politics, Religion and Ethics at the University of Nottingham, and Director of the Centre of Theology and Philosophy. His most recent book is Beyond Secular Order: The Representation of Being and the Representation of the People.


Obviously, John Milbank never understood the theory of relativity, though he tries to instil some uninteresting flexibility in his diatribe. And this relative scientific stuff being quite complicated, especially when marrying it with Quantum mechanics which make his mobile phone rings, he won't try too hard except in his little jar, like a fly trapped in it. I am unkind, I know, but it's much easier to fluff on and on at length about Good-security-blankets while weaving some big words amongst them. 

Let's say from the onset, under no circumstances has the education system of most western countries tried to eliminate the idea of choice by imposing an ideal or nihilism upon the learners of life. To the contrary, the western style of education is more open about widening the choices in points of views, including understanding relativity of these choices and learning some compassion, while pointing out to the iffyness of some viewpoints and the "unnatural" basis of others.

Religion for example has teaching qualities to a point — but its basis is set in the quick sands of fairy tales upon fairy tales while itself is hijacking the exclusivity of truth (Good?)... This is where the Islamic countries fail in educating Rita... They limit education to one single religious point of view and swat all others.

Abstraction is not a false reason. Abstraction can lead to the discovery and understanding of symbolism. Abstraction of abstraction is no more false than say a certified absolute about the existence of god... or Good — as I believe Milbank cumbersomely tries to hide his attachment to the absolute, while wading in the shimmering pool of reflected virtue.

Virtue is relative to the social context. Human laws can be flawed and are also relative to the corresponding social context. The laws in Iran are different to Australia. It is not illegal to kiss anyone on the cheek at Cannes. In Iran it is. As well in such country, adultery (proven or not — including by being raped) can be punished by death, by stoning.

We survive in the flotsam and jetsam of our relative culture, rejecting some part and accepting others. We create our own views. Including doing abstractions that may appear nihilistic. But most if not all of what we do is in favour of our own survival and that of the social context — sometimes contrarily to what we expect from our complex philosophical ideals. We tone down or up and we compromise gently or not.

And of course as we all (should) know, there is no "Good"... "Good" is a relative notion (not universally explained, practised or valued) that is based on our natural animalistic inheritance of pain and contentment... Thus the idea of "good" is only a relative virtue in a social environment in which some action are painful (to us and/or others) while other actions are providing survival and contentment. Not a hard choice once one knows these simple mechanics, but as a personal choice it can become confused when we add irrelevant concept such as the fear of god that constantly reminds us we're not worth the efforts of his (her) creation. Alleluia! Amen! Long live robed entertainment. 

To suggest that modern education leads to terrorism of indoctrination is beyond the pale. Yes modern education teaches more about self-responsibility than the fear of god (idealised Good). As well modern education teaches us that we live on the small planet with limited resources and of our "good and bad" influences on this little space. Nothing wrong with this. 

I believe that John Milbank is a great learned scholar with views on his own ignorance... Who knows.

Gus Leonisky

Your local ignorant educational geezer. 


Note: Hegel's views, as pertinent as they can be, are not absolute either... 


of meditation...


Can meditation really slow down the effects of age? One Nobel Prize-winner is finding the scientific in the spiritual, writes Jo Marchant.

It’s seven in the morning on the beach in Santa Monica, California. The low sun glints off the waves and the clouds are still golden from the dawn. The view stretches out over thousands of miles of Pacific Ocean. In the distance, white villas of wealthy Los Angeles residents dot the Hollywood hills. Here by the shore, curlews and sandpipers cluster on the damp sand. A few metres back from the water’s edge, a handful of people sit cross-legged: members of a local Buddhist centre about to begin an hour-long silent meditation.

Such spiritual practices may seem a world away from biomedical research, with its focus on molecular processes and repeatable results. Yet just up the coast, at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), a team led by a Nobel Prize-winning biochemist is charging into territory where few mainstream scientists would dare to tread. Whereas Western biomedicine has traditionally shunned the study of personal experiences and emotions in relation to physical health, these scientists are placing state of mind at the centre of their work. They are engaged in serious studies hinting that meditation might – as Eastern traditions have long claimed – slow ageing and lengthen life.



Unfortunately the search engine on this site is down but should be repaired within the next few days... But somewhere here I posted an article I wrote back in 1994 about non-spiritual meditation, which I called Non-Reactive Defocusing. It's a form of "meditation" that resets the mind in tune with the body... There are times when we push our body to do things, but eventually the mind and the body hormonal reactivity get out of step. We get tired, not so much because of lack of energy but due to the mind-body conflicts. We want to carry on, the body says no... We get edgy, annoyed and unsettled. The Non-Reactive Defocusing for about 20 minutes "presses the reset button". Find the whole article on it. I will try to find the link.