The Evolution of the Catholic Church

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

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There's a lot about Pope Francis I like. I like that he's shifting the emphasis of the Church toward love, charity, and compassion and away from hate and judgment. I like that he's so outspoken on the issue of economic inequality. I like that he's at least flexible enough on GLBT issues that he apparently supported civil unions in Argentina. I like that he's driving Catholic hardliners crazy by giving tacit approval to a more gay, and divorce tolerant, direction. I don't like that he opposed same sex marriage in Argentina and equated gay adoptions with child abuse, only to make really lackluster efforts on the real child abuse scandal in the Catholic Church.

All in all, kind of a mixed bag, but when all's said and done, there's something about his face that makes me feel warm inside. There's an openness and a joy that emanates from Pope Francis that just makes me like him even when I'm disappointed in the lack of substantive progress. I get why the media loves him. He's loveable. I think, however, he's getting credit for radical changes in the Church that just aren't happening.

All day I've been watching stories pour in about how exciting it is that Pope Francis believes in evolution and the big bang. Such breathless headlines ignore the fact that there is nothing radical, revolutionary, or even new in his position. It's squarely in line with Church doctrine.

Said Pope Francis: 

The theories of evolution and the Big Bang are real and God is not “a magician with a magic wand”, Pope Francis has declared.

Speaking at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the Pope made comments which experts said put an end to the “pseudo theories” of creationism and intelligent design that some argue were encouraged by his predecessor, Benedict XVI.

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Grace in Transition

Grace in transition does not come easily to modern people who live in the climate controlled illusion that they have mastered nature, wilderness, and the Unknown. In transition we are neither here nor there and as a result we are either losing or gaining energy. This is why in the transitional seasons of spring and fall we often experience erratic emotions, "spring colds", and fall depressions. How we attend to these transitions determines the quality of energy we bring to our engagement with life. Join host and shaman, Christina Pratt, as she explores working with the seasons to draw the unique richness from each stage of the cycle of a year on earth. Each season is its own spirit. Akin to the spirits of the land, seasonal spirits have profound influence on us, regardless of our ignorance to their presence. To engage with the season spirits openly and honestly is to engage in simple elegance, rich blessings, and the refinement of presence.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014 at 11:00 AM Pacific

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Hoodoo Rootwork with Khi Armand

Hoodoo, a wellness modality and system of folk magic draws from many sources. It "is not New Orleans Voodoo, Haitian Vodou, nor Santeria, Palo, or any other religio-magical practices borne from the African diaspora," explains our guest Khi Armand. "...hoodoo is unique partly because of its lack of religious structure. It is not a religion... It is a powerful tool for creating change, no matter your creed or nationality." Join us this week as host and shaman, Christina Pratt, explores the roots and history of hoodoo, its contemporary manifestation, and current practices with Conjure in the City's, Khi Armand, from Brooklyn, NY.

This week's guest:
Khi Armand

Khi is a gifted and trained spiritual counselor and ritualist. He experienced psychic and supernatural phenomena from an early age, which led him on a journey to study the world's spiritual traditions and the energetic relationships between humans, plants, and other animal species. He holds a degree in Ritual Anthropology and studied animism and ritual at the graduate level.

A modern alchemist, Khi combines intuitive communication with the lifeforce in herbs, roots, stones, and bones with a thorough knowledge of their applicability in a variety of world magical practices (including hoodoo rootwork and Latin American curanderismo) toward helping his international clientele manifest both short- and long-term goals and intentions. Khi's alliances with helping spirits and his ability to channel and enlist Ancestral Helping Spirits lends his work tremendous efficacy and authenticity, drawing upon our most ancient wellness modalities as they regain worldwide recognition for their beauty, efficacy, and necessity.

Khi teaches workshops and presents at conferences across the United States. He performs time-honored and innovative rites that lead people into greater joy, purpose, and prosperity. Khi is a member of the Association of Independent Readers & Rootworkers (AIRR), a gathering of professional practitioners of African American folk magic who provide psychic reading and spiritual root doctoring services to the public.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014 at 11:00 AM Pacific

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Homophobic Cardinal Ousted By Pope Francis

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.




It has been confirmed, by Cardinal Raymond Burke, that Pope Francis intends to demote him from the Vatican's high court.

American Cardinal Raymond Burke, a darling of conservative Catholics who is virulently anti-gay, has confirmed to BuzzFeed what rumors from Rome have said for weeks. He will be demoted by Pope Francis from the head of the Roman Catholic Church's version of the Supreme Court to a figurehead role as the Patron of the Knights of Malta, a chivalrous order known for its work among the sick.

Maybe he can do that job without spewing hate at ninety miles an hour. Let's hope none of those sick people are gay. He recommends shunning them.

Burke recently told an interviewer that legally-married gay and lesbian family members should be shunned from family celebrations during the upcoming holidays, asking “what would it mean to grandchildren to have present at a family gathering a family member who is living [in] a disordered relationship with another person?”

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Creating Sacred Life: Shamanic Practice 6

The sacred is inherent in all things. Relationship with the sacred nourishes our deeper self, rekindles our passion for our soul's purpose, and opens the way for love to enter our lives. Yet we have largely lost the art of being in relationship with the sacred. In everyday life we starve our deeper self of the energies that nourish it, indulge our stories of isolation and separation and justify depression or aggression as appropriate responses to life and its teachings. The sacred, immune to our folly, is patient and present, waiting for us to remember how to tend our relationship with it. Join us this week as host and shaman, Christina Pratt, shares the basics of shamanic practice that retrain our intention, perception, and imagination to engage with the sacred as a natural course of our everyday lives.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014 at 11:00 AM Pacific

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The Ghosts of Clear Mountain

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

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An old college friend of mine tagged me into a comment thread on Facebook the other day. Had I ever encountered any of these supposed ghosts when we were at Montclair State?

Montclair State is said to be one of the most haunted colleges in America.

For years there have been reports of doors and windows slamming, lights flickering on and off, constant cold, and even a ghost who hovers over the beds of the tenants.

It is believed that Montclair is built on top of Indian burial grounds and alumni say it’s a very scary school. So scary, that many refuse to go in the woods after sundown. There have been many reports of figures believed to be Native Americans spotted in the forests.

According to Classes and Careers, the worst stories come from the Clove Road Apartments. Tenants have reported electrical appliances turning on and off on their own, lights on the second floor flashing on and off by themselves, disembodied knocks on bedroom and bathroom doors, “unearthly” noises emanating from the woods behind the apartments.

I remember hearing about weird happenings at Clove Road. I never got terribly invested in it. I only visited apartments there once or twice. When you're me, everywhere is haunted, and the vast majority is really unthreatening.

What struck me, though, about this story is that it to some degree affirms something I've long suspected -- that Montclair State might well be on an Indian burial ground. I had no idea at the time that this had been rumored. I only knew that the years I spent there were miserable. I had health problems and battled depression the entire time. My grades suffered. I simply hated it there.

Former Insider: TEAL is "Deluded and Dangerous"

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.




First, a note on TEAL's moniker: I can't keep up. Teal Bosworth Scott Swan has simply changed her name too many times for me to keep updating and adapting. She now seems to be identifying as Teal Swan, but when she first married Sarbdeep Singh Swan, she announced that her professional name would be TEAL, in all caps. For a while she signed all her obnoxious self-quoting info-graphics that way. At some point, she changed that to Teal Swan, but I am past caring. Because I have no idea how many times her last name will change, I am sticking with her suggestion of a stand-alone first name. However, I refuse to do the all-caps thing all the time. It's annoying to keep cap-locking as I type a body of text, so what I have adopted instead is the use of her first name and in all one case. In titles and at the beginnings of sentences, that is all caps, and in other text, all lowercase. This also solves the problem of having her name constantly SHOUTED, as that is what all caps means in internet-speak. So, for the most part, she is now identified in most of my text as teal.

After I posted my first blog on then Teal Scott, which focused largely on her mistreatment of her ex-boyfriend Fallon, I learned of another member of her inner circle who was similarly targeted, scapegoated, and vilified. The name Cameron Clark came up repeatedly in comments. The Shadow House episode in which teal had subjected her to a range of verbal assaults had gone down the memory hole, but it was the stuff of legend. As she had done with Fallon, teal instigated a shaming and shunning among her followers that was gruesome. Anyone who defended Cameron also got scorched, in some cases directly by teal.

Some time later Cameron reached out to me and we discussed some of her teal related concerns privately. When she felt ready to break her public silence, she also made some comments on my blog, to the great relief of many people who had been very concerned for her well-being. I am thrilled that Cameron now feels ready to tell her whole story publicly. In the player above, she is interviewed at length by Jessica Schab.

It's a long conversation, over five hours, but for anyone who wants to know what life in teal's orbit is really about, it's worth taking the time to weed through it. For reasons that should be obvious, I do not agree with Jessica's framing. I don't think teal is emblematic of the new age, of non-traditional spirituality, or of any kind of religion. I think she falls firmly into the category of religious abusers.

That she abuses her authority was apparent to me when I read in her blog posts that she had erroneously diagnosed her own boyfriend as a psychopath, blurring the lines between lover and client, between uncredentialed healer and therapist, between reality and something else entirely.

Study Finds Consciousness Survives Clinical Death

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.



Results from the AWARE Study were released yesterday and the evidence of continuing consciousness is compelling.

The largest ever medical study into near-death and out-of-body experiences has discovered that some awareness may continue even after the brain has shut down completely.

It is a controversial subject which has, until recently, been treated with widespread scepticism.

But scientists at the University of Southampton have spent four years examining more than 2,000 people who suffered cardiac arrests at 15 hospitals in the UK, US and Austria.

And they found that nearly 40 per cent of people who survived described some kind of ‘awareness’ during the time when they were clinically dead before their hearts were restarted.

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Enliven Your Spirit: Shamanic Practice 5

Sacrifice enlivens our spirit. It opens the way for miracles or the impossible or that which we truly desire to come into our lives. To enliven the spirit in our shamanic practice we must learn to step out of our comfort zones where we feel the simple exhilaration of surfing the surface wave and step into the deep soul satisfying discomfort of becoming people who will make a significant spiritual contribution to life on earth. Author, therapist, and internationally recognized teacher, Sandra Ingerman, joins host, Christina Pratt, this week to explore how we move our shamanic practices from serving our own visions to surrendering intimately to spirit and serving our part in the larger vision. Join us this week and discover who we need to become to engage in the transformations through love that are the needed medicines for our time.

This week's guest:
Sandra Ingerman

Sandra Ingerman, MA, is a licensed therapist and the author of numerous books including How to Heal Toxic Thoughts, Soul Retrieval, and Medicine for the Earth: How to Transform Personal and Environmental Toxins. She is also the author of several lecture programs produced by Sounds True. Sandra lives in New Mexico and can be found online at www.sandraingerman.com.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014 at 11:00 AM Pacific

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That Time Reza Aslan Smacked Down Bill Maher

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.



I've never much cared for Bill Maher's commentary on religion. I think his views on the issue are shallow and reasoned backwards from the most extreme examples. So I very much enjoyed Reza Aslan's recent take-down of Maher's thoroughly ignorant, Islamaphobic rant. In the process he schooled the equally simplistic Don Lemon and Alisyn Camerota.

Comedian Bill Maher recently made some comments about Islamic countries that characterized them as more prone to violence, misogyny and bigotry, and now religious scholar Reza Aslan has called Maher out on his own “bigotry.” Aslan, who became famous when he skewered Fox News, appeared on CNN to pick apart Maher’s “not very sophisticated” and “facile arguments” that characterize Muslim nations as all the same. As is evident from the CNN bit, these arguments are not unique to Maher, making Aslan’s nuanced argument an essential one to keep in mind as we increase military action in the Middle East.

Here’s Aslan’s point: “To say Muslim countries, as though Pakistan and Turkey are the same… it’s frankly, and I use this word seriously, stupid!”

“The problem is that you’re talking about a religion of one and a half billion people,” he explained, “and certainly it becomes very easy to just simply paint them all with a single brush by saying, ‘Well in Saudi Arabia [women] can’t drive,’ and saying that’s representative of Islam. That’s representative of Saudi Arabia.”

In particular, Aslan took on Maher's misrepresentation of female genital mutilation as a Muslim practice.

Pagans and Satanists Explore Religious Freedoms

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.




As predicted, the recent Supreme Court decision to allow religious invocations in public meetings is already exposing the hypocrisy and discriminatory practices of conservative Christian defenders of "religious freedom." Turns out some religions are more equal than others. Shocker.

In Florida's Escambia County, a potential legal battle is heating up between Agnostic Pagan Pantheist David Suhor and the county school board over his right to perform the invocation. Other local institutions have hosted him and his absolutely beautiful invocation can be heard in the video posted above. But he has locked horns with school board member Jeff Bergosh over his proposed appearance.

David Suhor, 46, a Pensacola resident and musician, said he is ready to bring litigation against the school board after he made requests to several board members to lead an invocation but was turned down by all but one. Suhor describes himself as an agnostic pagan pantheist and wanted to lead a pagan prayer.

“If you’re censoring Muslims, pagans or even satanists, then you’re practicing discrimination,” Suhor told the board.

After Suhor and school board member Jeffery Bergosh engaged in a heated debate through their blogs — Bergosh on jeffbergoshblog.blogspot.com and Suhor on anapplebiter.blogspot.com — Bergosh asked the district’s attorney, Donna Waters, to look into the matter.

Both blogs are worth a look, but Bergosh's has the added value of being unintentionally hilarious.

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The Shaman's Mind: Shamanic Practice 4

We interpret the world and our experience through our mind. Ancient peoples understood this and were sophisticated enough to leave nothing to chance. The ancient mind was trained first by stories and then by ceremonial engagement with the invisible world and education in a cosmology that was as functional as it was accurate. The ancient mind was prepared to become the shaman mind and take on the challenge of interpreting altered states of consciousness. "The contemporary mind is weak and vulnerable to seductions," explains host and shaman, Christina Pratt, "where the story telling is left to the media and ceremony runs from vapid and self centered to empty and self destructive, there is no coherent cosmology to illuminate the way. The mind is utterly unprepared to accurately interpret life itself much less enter altered states reliably. Join us this week as we explore the shaping of the shaman's mind.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014 at 11:00 AM Pacific

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Creating Shamanic Tools with Evelyn Rysdyk

There is nothing quite as powerful as making your own power objects and shamanic tools. Artist and shamanic teacher, Evelyn C. Rysdyk, joins us this week to share her new book, A Spirit Walker's Guide to Shamanic Tools. This is a beautifully illustrated guide to creating, decorating, consecrating, and using sacred tools in ritual and healing. Evelyn explores everything from how to use little known tools like shamanic mirror and wind staffs to responsible ways of obtaining your materials to the sacred process for creating your own drums, rattles, bundles and staffs. Join host and shaman, Christina Pratt, as she and her guest explore part three of the Shamanic Practice Series: creating shamanic tools.

This week's guest:
Evelyn C. Rysdyk

Evelyn C. Rysdyk delights in supporting people to remember their sacred place in All That Is. Whether through face-to-face contact with individual patients, workshop groups and conference participants, or through the printed word--Evelyn uses her loving humor and passion to open people's hearts and inspire them to live more joyful, fulfilling and purposeful lives.

She is a nationally recognized shaman teacher/healer, speaker, artist and author of Spirit Walking a Course in Shamanic Power, Modern Shamanic Living: New Explorations of an Ancient Path, a contributor to Spirited Medicine: Shamanism in Contemporary Healthcare and author of a regular column and numerous articles on shamanism, living in harmony with the Earth and how ancient healing methods support individuals to feel more whole, confident, connected and empowered. Evelyn's web site is www.evelynrysdyk.com.

In joint practice with C. Allie Knowlton, LCSW, DCSW at Spirit Passages (www.spiritpassages.org), their training center for advanced experiential shamanism, Evelyn offers a full complement of workshops, presentations and long-term trainings in advanced shamanism, eco-spirituality and shamanic healing. As founding members of True North, an integrated medical center in Falmouth, Maine, they collaborate directly with medical and other complementary health practitioners to bring healing of the spirit, mind and body to people who arrive at their center from across the USA.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014 at 11:00 AM Pacific

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Igniting the Ecstatic Heart: Shamanic Practice 2

A spiritual life is nothing but dogma and deception without the heart's active presence. The heart's active presence will soon wander, bored to death with you, if you refuse to engage regularly and intimately with ecstasy. Ecstasy, the falling into the fire naked losing yourself to One surrender ecstasy that comes in union with your helping spirits is one of the great gifts of spiritual life in a shamanic practice. So then why are our shamanic practices so stodgy, precious, (frankly) boring, and ineffective in creating large-scale life change? Join us for part two of a series on creating an effective shamanic practice in your day-to-day life. This week host and shaman, Christina Pratt, explores the necessary terror in igniting the ecstatic heart and how to keep the fire of true love burning at the core of your shamanic practice while you passionately engage the world.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014 at 11:00 AM Pacific

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Graham Hancock Graces Cover of Om Times

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

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Readers of this blog know that I have something of a love affair with the work of Graham Hancock. As I wrote here, it began rather magically as I was preparing for what would be a life-altering trip to Mexico. That trip was made possible by my friend Jill Mangino, who connected me with the organizers of the Flower of Life teacher training, and otherwise helped me get my ducks in a row.

My trip to Mexico, and particularly my visit to Teotihuacan, catalyzed a process in me and not an entirely comfortable one. Through it all, the works of Graham Hancock have served as guideposts. They provided me with a kind of map through a netherworld of myth and mystery.

I am filled with gratitude for Graham Hancock, for his wonderful books, but also for the incredible generosity with which he shares his ideas in interview after interview, seamlessly weaving together the strands of a massive and challenging body of work.

I noticed last night that Hancock had posted a new interview with Om Times on his Facebook page. Imagine my delight when I discovered that the interviewer was Jill Mangino. It's a great interview. Hancock again shows his tremendous knowledge, his analytical mind, and his willingness to ask hard questions rather than provide pat answers. He and Jill discuss many of the hot button issues that Hancock has been unafraid to press through the years: the possibility of very ancient, forgotten civilizations; Ayahuasca and shamanism; the hard problem of consciousness and the dogma of reductionist materialism; and, of course, the TED fiasco.

How wonderful that Om Magazine has brought together two of my favorite people, both so instrumental in my spiritual development.

And so the circle neatly closes.