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Human Gut Microbes

Terrain Theory: Recontextualising the Germ

Why is it considered “settled science” among epidemiologists, virologists and the general public that certain diseases like Influenza and COVID-19 are transmitted through human contact, when in fact it has never been proven that diseases spread this way? For more than a century Germ Theory has had the dominance and authority of religious orthodoxy, yet a far more plausible explanation for how and why we get “infected” with certain illnesses is Terrain Theory, which illustrates that a multitude of environmental and genetic components combine to determine the incidence of disease in a population or individual. In the following essay, Torsten Engelbrecht, Dr. Claus Köhnlein, MD and Dr. Samantha Bailey, MD draw on material gathered in their extraordinary book Virus Mania to reveal the explanatory power of terrain theory.

For about 120 years in particular, people have been very susceptible to the idea that certain microbes act like predators, stalking our communities for victims and causing the most serious illnesses named COVID-19, AIDS, hepatitis C, avian flu etc. But such an idea is thoroughly simple, too simple. Unfortunately, as psychology and social science have discovered, humans have a propensity for simplistic solutions, particularly in a world that seems to be growing increasingly complicated. But medical and biological realities, like social ones, are just not that simple. Renowned immunology and biology professor Edward Golub’s rule of thumb is that, “if you can fit the solution to a complex problem on a bumper sticker, it is wrong! I tried to condense my book The Limits of Medicine: How Science Shapes Our Hope for the Cure to fit onto a bumper sticker and couldn’t.”1Golub, Edward. The Limits of Medicine: How Science Shapes Our Hope for the Cure. The University of Chicago Press, 1997: xiii.

By focusing on microbes and accusing them of being the primary and lone triggers of disease, we overlook how various factors causing illness are linked together, such as environmental toxins, the side effects of medications, psychological issues like depression and anxiety, and poor nutrition. If over a longer period of time, for instance, you eat far too little fresh fruits and vegetables, and instead consume far too much fast food, sweets, coffee, soft drinks, or alcohol (and along with them, all sorts of toxins such as pesticides or preservatives), and maybe smoke a lot or even take drugs like cocaine or heroin, your health will eventually be ruined. Drug-addicted and malnourished junkies aren’t the only members of society who make this point clear to us.

For billions of years, nature has functioned as a whole with unsurpassed precision. Microbes, just like humans, are a part of this cosmological and ecological system. If humanity wants to live in harmony with technology and nature, we must be committed to understanding the supporting evolutionary principles ever better and to applying them properly to our own lives. Whenever we don’t do this, we create ostensibly insolvable environmental and health-related problems.

“[T]he doctor should never forget to interpret the patient as a whole being.”

Dr. Rudolf Virchow

These are thoughts which Rudolf Virchow (1821-1902), a well-known doctor from Berlin, had when he required in 1875 that “the doctor should never forget to interpret the patient as a whole being.”2Langbein, Kurt and Bert Ehgartner. Das Medizinkartell: Die sieben Todsünden der Gesundheitsindustrie. Piper, 2003: 37. The doctor will hardly understand the patient, then, if he or she does not see that person in the context of a larger environment. Without the appearance of bacteria, human life would be inconceivable, as bacteria were right at the beginning of the development towards human life.

Bacteria could very well exist without humans; humans, however, could not live without bacteria! It is, therefore, unreasonable to conclude that these mini-creatures, whose life-purpose and task throughout biological history has been to build up life, are, in fact, the greatest, singular causes of disease and death. Yet, the prevailing allopathic medical dogma of one disease, one cause, one miracle pill has dominated our thinking since the late 19th century, when Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch became heroes.

Robert Koch and Louis Pasteur
Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) is considered the “father of germ theory.” He believed the healthy human body was sterile and got sick only when invaded by tiny bacteria too small for any microscope in his time to see. Robert Koch (1843-1910), one of the founders of modern bacteriology, expanded on Pasteur’s germ theory and developed his Koch’s Postulates, long considered the gold standard for linking specific microorganisms to specific diseases.

Prior to that, we had a very different mindset, and even today, there are still traces everywhere of this different consciousness. “Since the time of the ancient Greeks, people did not ‘catch’ a disease, they slipped into it. To catch something meant that there was something to catch, and until the germ theory of disease became accepted, there was nothing to catch,” writes Edward Golub in his work. Hippocrates, who is said to have lived around 400 B.C., and Galen (one of the most significant physicians of his day; born in 130 A.D.), represented the view that an individual was, for the most part, in the driver’s seat in terms of maintaining health with appropriate behavior and lifestyle choices. “Most disease [according to ancient philosophy] was due to deviation from a good life,” says Golub. “[And when diseases occur] they could most often be set aright by changes in diet—[which] shows dramatically how 1,500 years after Hippocrates and 950 years after Galen, the concepts of health and disease, and the medicines of Europe, had not changed”3Golub, Edward. The Limits of Medicine: How Science Shapes Our Hope for the Cure. The University of Chicago Press, 1997: 37-40. far into the 19th century. The German Max von Pettenkofer (1818-1901), once appointed rector of the University of Munich, jeered: “Bacteriologists are people who don’t look further than their steam boilers, incubators and microscopes.”4Langbein, Kurt and Bert Ehgartner. Das Medizinkartell: Die sieben Todsünden der Gesundheitsindustrie. Piper, 2003: 51.

Just a few hours after birth, all of a newborn baby’s mucous membrane has already been colonized by bacteria, which perform important protective functions. Without these colonies of billions of germs, the infant, just like the adult, could not survive. What’s more, only a small part of our body’s bacteria have been discovered.5Blech, Jörg. Leben auf dem Menschen: die Gesundheitserreger. S. Fischer Verlage. Frankfurt am Main, 2014. (see “The majority of cells in the human body are anything but human: foreign bacteria have long had the upper hand,” reported a research team from Imperial College in London under the leadership of Jeremy Nicholson in the journal Nature Biotechnology in 2004.6Nicholson, Jeremy K., Elaine Holmes, John C. Lindon, and Ian D. Wilson. “The challenges of modeling mammalian biocomplexity.” Nature Biotechnology, 22. 2004: 1268-1274. (see In the human digestive tract alone, researchers came upon around 100 trillion microorganisms, which together have a weight of up to one kilogram. “This means that the 1,000-plus known species of symbionts probably contain more than 100 times as many genes as exist in the host,” as Nicholson states. It makes you wonder how much of the human body is “human” and how much is “foreign.”

Human Microbiome

Nicholson calls us “human super-organisms”—as our own ecosystems are ruled by microorganisms. “It is widely accepted,” writes the Professor of Biochemistry, “that most major disease classes have significant environmental and genetic components and that the incidence of disease in a population or individual is a complex product of the conditional probabilities of certain gene components interacting with a diverse range of environmental triggers.”7Nicholson, Jeremy K., Elaine Holmes, John C. Lindon, and Ian D. Wilson. “The challenges of modeling mammalian biocomplexity.” Nature Biotechnology, 22. 2004: 1268-1274. (see Above all, nutrition has a significant influence on many diseases, in that it modulates complex communication between the 100 trillion microorganisms in the intestines!

“Alone the production of a large part of the food that lands on our plates is dependent on bacterial activity.”

Dr. René Dubos

How easily this bacterial balance can be decisively influenced can be seen with babies: If they are nursed with mother’s milk, their intestinal flora almost exclusively contains a certain bacterium (Lactobacillus bifidus), which is very different from the bacterium most prevalent when they are fed a diet including cow’s milk. “The bacterium lactobacillus bifidus lends the breast-fed child a much stronger resistance to intestinal infections,” writes microbiologist René Dubos. This is just one of countless examples of the positive interaction between bacteria and humans. “But unfortunately, the knowledge that microorganisms can also do a lot of good for humans never enjoyed much popularity.” As Dubos points out:

“Humanity has made it a rule to take better care of the dangers that threaten life than to take interest in the biological powers upon which human existence is so decisively dependent. The history of war has always fascinated people more than descriptions of peaceful coexistence. And so it comes that no one has ever created a successful story out of the useful role that bacteria play in stomach and intestines. Alone the production of a large part of the food that lands on our plates is dependent on bacterial activity.”8Dubos, René. Mirage of Health: Utopias, Progress, and Biological Change. Harper & Brothers, 1959: 69.

The term mysophobia (fear of germs) was first coined by William A. Hammond in 1879 to describe a case of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) in a person repeatedly washing one’s hands. Irrational fear of germs has been aggressively exploited by Big Pharma, allowing bells on the industry’s cash registers to ring in perpetuity. Image credit: Merlijn Hoek

In this context, it should not be forgotten that a gigantic industry has been built up around the fear of microbes, earning multi-billion dollar profits from the sale of drugs and vaccines, whereas no one earns nearly as much money from advising folk to eat healthier, exercise more, breathe more fresh and clean air, or do more for one’s emotional well-being.

One may ask, But haven’t antibiotics helped or saved the lives of many people? Without a doubt. But, we must note that it was only as recently as 12 February 1941, that the first patient was treated with an antibiotic, specifically penicillin. Therefore, antibiotics have nothing to do with the increase in life expectancy, which really took hold in the middle of the 19th century (in industrialized countries), almost a century before the development of antibiotics; and plenty of substances—including innumerable bacteria essential to life—are destroyed through the administration of antibiotics, which directly translated from the Greek, means, “against life.” Further, nowadays millions of antibiotics are unnecessarily administered, and in fact antibiotics are held responsible for nearly one fifth of the more than 100,000 annual deaths that are traced back to medication side effects in the United States alone.

Indeed, the ledger for vaccinations of any kind reads poorly because there is no solid, placebo-controlled study demonstrating that vaccination—usually an intervention on a healthy body—is better than doing nothing. Meanwhile, there are placebo-controlled studies showing that vaccination is worse than doing nothing—as well as dozens of studies showing that the unvaccinated are better off than the vaccinated.9Engelbrecht, Torsten, Claus Köhnlein, Samantha Bailey, Stefano Scoglio. Virus Mania: Corona/COVID-19, Measles, Swine Flu, Cervical Cancer, Avian Flu, SARS, BSE, Hepatitis C, AIDS, Polio, Spanish Flu: How the Medical Industry Continually Invents Epidemics, Making Billion-Dollar Profits at Our Expense, 3rd English Edition. Books on Demand, 2021: 348-357.

Furthermore, “It is well known that deaths from common infectious diseases declined dramatically before the advent of most vaccines due to improved environmental conditions—even diseases for which there were no vaccines,” as Anthony R. Mawson, professor of epidemiology and biostatistics, pointed out in 2018.10Mawson, Anthony R.. “Vaccination and Health Outcomes,” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, Special Issue, July 15, 2018. (see This is exemplified by measles. The measles vaccination was introduced in West Germany in the mid-1970s (see the syringe in the graphic below), at a time when the “measles scare” was essentially over.

Measles Deaths in Germany 1961-1995
Measles vaccination was introduced in West Germany in the mid-1970s (where the syringe is shown in the graphic), at a time when the “measles scare” was essentially over. The arrow (early 1990s) indicates the combined data from reunited Germany. Source: Buchwald, Gerhard, Impfen: Das Geschäft mit der Angst (in English: Vaccination: a Business Based on Fear), Knaur, 1997, p. 133.

If we ask bacteriologists which comes first: the terrain or the bacteria, the answer is always that it is the environment (the terrain) that allows the microbes to thrive. The germs, then, do not directly produce the disease. So, it is evident that the crisis produced by the body causes the bacteria to multiply by creating the proper conditions for actually harmless bacteria to become poisonous, pus-producing microorganisms. This explains why the dominant medical thought pattern can’t comprehend that so many different microorganisms can co-exist in our bodies (among them such “highly dangerous” ones as the tuberculosis bacillus, the Streptococcus or the Staphylococcus bacterium) without bringing about any recognizable damage. They only become harmful when they have enough of the right kind of food. Depending on the type of bacterium, this food could be toxins, metabolic end products, improperly digested food and much more.

Pasteur finally became aware of all of this, quoting Bernard’s dictum —“the microbe is nothing, the terrain is everything”—on his deathbed. But Paul Ehrlich (1854-1915), known as the father of chemotherapy, adhered to the interpretation that Robert Koch preached: i.e. that microbes were the actual causes of disease. For this reason, Ehrlich, who his competitors called “Dr. Fantasy,“ dreamed of “chemically aiming” at bacteria, and decisively contributed to helping the “magic bullets” doctrine become accepted, by treating very specific illnesses successfully with very specific chemo-pharmaceutical preparations. This doctrine was a gold rush for the rising pharmaceutical industry with their wonder-pill production. “But the promise of the magic bullet has never been fulfilled,” writes Allan Brandt, a medical historian at Harvard Medical School.11Brandt, Allan. No Magic Bullet: A Social History of Venereal Disease in the United States Since 1880. Oxford University Press, 1985: 161.

Viruses measure only 20-450 nanometers (billionths of a meter) . . . so tiny, that one can only see them under an electron microscope.

This distorted understanding of bacteria and fungi and their functions in abnormal processes shaped attitudes toward viruses. At the end of the 19th century, as microbe theory rose to become the definitive medical teaching, no one could actually detect viruses, which measure only 20-450 nanometers (billionths of a meter) across and are thus very much smaller than bacteria or fungi—so tiny, that one can only see them under an electron microscope. And the first electron microscope was not built until 1931. Bacteria and fungi, in contrast, can be observed through a simple light microscope.

“Pasteurians” were already using the expression “virus” in the 19th century, but this is ascribed to the Latin term “virus” (which just means poison) to describe organic structures that could not be classified as bacteria. It was a perfect fit with the concept of the enemy: if no bacteria can be found, then some other single cause must be responsible for the disease. Readers may wonder how it can be continually claimed that this or that virus exists and has potential to trigger diseases through contagion. An important aspect in this context is that some time ago, mainstream virus-science left the road of direct observation of nature, and decided instead to go with so-called indirect “proof” with procedures such as antibody and PCR tests, despite the fact that these methods lead to results which have little to no meaning.

According to Dr. Samantha Bailey in her recent podcast “The Truth About PCR Tests,” the PCR-test is not a legitimate clinical diagnostic tool and thus unable to actually determine if you’ve been infected with a virus. In fact, the inventor of the test, Dr. Kary Mullis, has warned that the PCR-test “doesn’t tell you that you are sick. These tests cannot detect free, infectious viruses at all.”

A virus with indeterminate characteristics cannot be proven by PCR any more than it can be determined by a little antibody test. And even if scientists assume that the genetic sequences discovered in the laboratory belong to the viruses mentioned, this is a long way from proving that the viruses are the causes of the diseases in question, particularly when the patients or animals that have been tested are not even sick, which often enough is the case.

Another important question must be raised: even when a supposed virus does kill cells in the test-tube (in vitro), or results in embryos in a chicken egg culture dying, we cannot safely conclude that these findings can be carried over to a complete living organism (in vivo)! For example, the particles termed viruses stem from cell cultures (in vitro) whose particles could be genetically degenerate because they have been bombarded with chemical additives like growth factors or strongly oxidizing substances. These effects were demonstrated with antibiotic use in a 2017 study.12Buzás, Edit I. et al.. “Antibiotic-induced release of small extracellular vesicles (exosomes) with surface-associated DNA.” Scientific Reports, 15 August 2017.

In 1995, the German news magazine Der Spiegel delved into this problem (something that is worth noting, when one considers that this news magazine usually runs only orthodox virus coverage), quoting researcher Martin Markowitz from the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center in New York:

“The scientist [Markovitz] mauls his virus-infected cell cultures with these poisons in all conceivable combinations to test which of them kill the virus off most effectively. ‘Of course, we don’t know how far these cross-checks in a test-tube will bring us,’ says Markowitz. ‘What ultimately counts is the patient.’ His clinical experience has taught him the difference between test-tube and sick bed.”13Grolle, Johann. “Siege, aber kein Sieg.” Der Spiegel, 29, 1995.

“Unfortunately, the decade is characterized by climbing death rates, caused by lung cancer, heart disease, traffic accidents and the indirect consequences of alcoholism and drug addiction,” wrote Sir Frank Macfarlane Burnet, recipient of the Nobel Prize for Medicine, in his 1971 book Genes, Dreams, and Realities. “The real challenge of the present day is to find remedies for these diseases of civilization. But nothing that comes out of the labs seems to be significant in this context; laboratory research’s contribution has practically come to an end. For someone who is well on the way to a career as a lab researcher in infectious disease and immunology, these are not comforting words.”14Burnet, Sir Frank Macfarlane. Genes, Dreams and Realities. Medical and Technical Publishing, 1971: 217-218.

To biomedical scientists and the readers of their papers, Burnet continued, it may be exciting to hold forth on “the detail of a chemical structure from a phage’s [viruses from simple organisms; see below] RNA, or the production of antibody tests, which are typical of today’s biological research. But modern fundamental research in medicine hardly has a direct significance to the prevention of disease or the improvement of medical precautions.”15Burnet, Sir Frank Macfarlane. Genes, Dreams and Realities. Medical and Technical Publishing, 1971: 217-218.

Medical teaching is entrenched in Pasteur and Koch’s reality-distorting focus on one enemy, and has neglected also to pursue the thought that the body’s cells could produce a virus on its own accord, for instance as a reaction to stress factors. The experts discovered this a long time ago, and speak of “endogenous viruses”—particles that form inside the body’s cells themselves.

In this context, the research work of geneticist Barbara McClintock is a milestone. In her Nobel Prize paper from 1983, she reports that the genetic material of living beings can constantly alter, by being hit by “shocks.”16McClintock, Barbara. “The Significance of Responses of the Genome to Challenge.” Nobel speech, 8 December 1983. These shocks can be toxins, but can also be from other materials that produced stress in the test-tube. This in turn can lead to the formation of new genetic sequences, which were unverifiable (in vivo and in vitro) before.

Torsten Engelbrecht works as an investigative journalist in Hamburg and is an author of the heretical and still unchallenged book Virus Mania (co-authored by Dr. Claus Köhnlein, MD, Dr. Samantha Bailey, MD, and Dr. Stefano Scoglio, BSc). In 2009, he received the Alternative Media Award for his article “The Amalgam Controversy.” He was trained at the renowned magazine for professional journalists Message and was a full-time editor at the Financial Times Deutschland, among others. As a freelance journalist, he has written articles for publications such as OffGuardian, The Ecologist, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, Rubikon, Freitag, Geo Saison, and Greenpeace Magazine. In 2010, his book Die Zukunft der Krebsmedizin (The Future of Cancer Medicine) was published, with Dr. Claus Köhnlein, MD, and two other doctors as co-authors. For more details see

Dr. Claus Köhnlein, MD, is a medical specialist of internal diseases. He completed his residency in the Oncology Department at the University of Kiel. Since 1993, he has worked in his own medical practice, treating both Hepatitis C and AIDS patients who are skeptical of antiviral medications. Köhnlein is one of the world’s most experienced experts when it comes to alleged viral epidemics. In April 2020, he was mentioned in the OffGuardian article “8 MORE Experts Questioning the Coronavirus Panic.” An interview with him by Russia Today editor Margarita Bityutskikh, published on Youtube in September 2020 on the topic of “fatal COVID-19 over-therapy,” garnered 1.4 million views within a short time.

Dr. Samantha Bailey, MD, is a research physician in New Zealand. She completed her Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery degree at Otago University in 2005. She has worked in general practice, telehealth and in clinical trials for over 12 years with a particular interest in novel tests and treatments for medical diseases. She has the largest Youtube health channel in New Zealand, and creates educational health videos based on questions from her audience. For her full, uncensored repertoire, visit her Odysee channel. Bailey has also been a co-presenter for a nationwide television health show in New Zealand that debunks common health misconceptions, called The Checkup.

Freedom Convoy 2022 Leaders

Who Truly Represents the 2022 Freedom Convoy?

Over the last three weeks, the Canadian government and its legacy media have been ruthless in their attempts to demonize the 2022 Freedom Convoy as a plot by fringe right wing extremists to enact a Canadian version of America’s January 6/21 “Capital Riot” in Washington DC—grossly mischaracterized as an “armed insurrection.” In the following paper, Jason Unrau sets the record straight: the trucker convoy currently protesting in Ottawa against Covid mandates is a festive, nonviolent organization that has inspired an international movement, incorporating truckers, farmers, doctors, public servants, and a diverse cross-section of patriotic Canadians who want nothing more than the immediate restoration of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that for the last two years have been suspended well beyond time limits set for a State of Emergency and without the Trudeau government ever having “demonstrably justified” the need for any suspension of the Charter. Pictured above: screenshot of the Freedom Convoy ADDRESS TO THE NATION on February 6, 2022. Seated in the front row from left to right: Tom Marazzo; Dr. Paul Alexander; Dr. Roger Hodkinson; Jeff Gaudry.

“By knowingly not prescribing agents that are effective at prophylaxis and minimizing the effects of COVID-19—by intentionally preventing that from happening, you are killing people. Pure and simple.”

Dr. Roger Hodkinson, MD

The Real Reps of the Convoy

Who represents the Freedom Convoy? If you believe the legacy media, the truckers are a disorganized rabble of fringe conspiracy theorists, white supremacists, extremists, domestic terrorists, racists, sexists, antisemites and misogynists. But the truth is, the Freedom Convoy is a nonviolent, very carefully structured organization composed of, in the words of Pierre Poilievre (MP, Carleton, Ottawa), “hard-working, law-abiding and peaceful truckers” as well as a number of Canadian public servants and physicians such as Dr. Roger Hodkinson, with whom I conducted an interview (see below), and Dr. Paul Alexander, an epidemiologist and former COVID Pandemic evidence-synthesis advisor to PAHO-WHO (Pan American Health Organization-World Health Organization).

But Poilievre’s comment fails to capture just how impressive the convoy leadership truly is. Even a smear campaign by The Globe and Mail fails miserably to discredit them. The convoy’s chief spokesman, Tom Marazzo, is a former captain in the Canadian army who is acting as liaison with police during the Ottawa protest.

One of the main organizers is Chris Barber, a Saskatchewan-based trucker who says he’s “fully vaccinated,” but has helped establish the convoy to end all Covid “mandates and government overreach.”

Another leader is Pat King, an Alberta-based trucker and social media influencer, and Jeff Gaudry, a trucker from British Columbia who supported the government’s Covid response early on, but believes “that the passport system was a direction we should have never gone in this country.”

Then there’s former Mountie, Daniel Bulford, who resigned from the RCMP over the vaccine mandate, and has also been working closely with local authorities on behalf of the convoy. He was a corporal in the RCMP and worked with the emergency response team at National Division. He has, moreover, been a personal-protection police officer tasked with safeguarding politicians and the Parliamentary precinct.

Tom Quiggin, meanwhile, works on “protective intelligence” for the convoy, and used to be in the PCO (Privy Council Office), the RCMP, the military and even international arms inspection before he left government in the early 2000s.

Benjamin Dichter claims to be double-vaccinated: he is a podcast producer, money manager and cryptocurrency enthusiast who has been working with the convoy’s chief fundraiser Tamara Lich, an Alberta-based politician and former member of the Maverick Party. She has helped the convoy raise over $10M in public donations, despite ongoing attempts by the government to block those funds.

Fortunately, on February 3, 2022, the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms announced that a “legal team is working on behalf of Convoy organizers to ensure all funds raised by GoFundMe are released to the truckers for their intended purpose . . . to cover the costs of the convoy, specifically food, fuel, lodging, and other necessary related expenses.” The Justice Centre also confirmed that “it is representing the Freedom Convoy 2022 in Ottawa and has a team of lawyers on the ground providing legal assistance and advice.”

The most recent addition to the convoy’s list of representatives is Brian Peckford, former premier of Newfoundland and one of the original architects of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms—who, by the way, has recently launched a legal challenge against the federal government to end all Covid travel restrictions. Peckford joined the convoy shortly after Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau threatened to invoke the Emergency Measures Act in order to crush the freedom convoy using military force.

So what, then, is the 2022 Freedom Convoy’s stated purpose? What are their ultimate objectives? Their Campaign Statement on the fundraising site GiveSendGo states the following:

“To our Fellow Canadians, the time for political overreach is over. Our current government is implementing rules and mandates that are destroying the foundation of our businesses, industries, and livelihoods . . . We are taking our fight to the doorsteps of our Federal Government and demanding that they cease all mandates against its people. Small businesses are being destroyed, homes are being destroyed, and people are being mistreated and denied fundamental necessities to survive. It is our duty as Canadians to put an end to these mandates. It is imperative that this happens because if we do not our country will no longer be the country we have come to love. We are doing this for our future Generations and to regain our lives back.”

The Freedom Convoy’s terms are that it will remain in Ottawa, embedded in the parliament precinct, until Trudeau lifts his unlawful vaccine mandates and passports (which prevent unvaccinated from leaving the country, or accessing rail, air travel or federally regulated transport). Each time Trudeau has lashed out at the convoy and rebuffed their offer to meet, the convoy has stood its ground, reiterating demands: that the truckers aren’t going anywhere until all the mandates—from masks to vaccines—are lifted.

Drone footage of Freedom Convoy 2022 protest in Ottawa
Screenshot from drone footage of the Freedom Convoy 2022 protest in Ottawa on January 29, 2022. Footage taken by @CrusadersoftheResistance

Public support for the truckers is massive, despite what legacy media says. Images of crowds waving Canadian flags and pickets from overpasses and highway-side pitstops abound. These spontaneous, flash-crowds demonstrating popular support—following Trudeau’s remarks calling the trucker convoy a “small fringe minority of people . . . who are holding unacceptable views”—have been impressive enough to prompt Nova Scotia Premier, Tim Houston, to outlaw “gather[ing] alongside Highway 104, the Nova Scotia-New Brunswick border, or at the Cobequid Pass toll area in support of the 2022 Freedom Convoy.”

As of February 11, 2022, convoys not directly affiliated to the main organization have since appeared at three major bridges spanning to the United States, including Ambassador Bridge, a main transport artery, which supports 25 percent of all international trade between the two countries. There are also convoys disrupting cross-border traffic between Coutts, Alberta and Montana and a similar protest at the Manitoba/US border.

Canada’s 2022 Freedom Convoy has inspired similar efforts internationally, in Europe and as far away as New Zealand and Australia. Meanwhile, at this writing, one is said to be gearing up for a run to Washington D.C. to visit President Joe Biden.

Freedom Convoy 2022 in Ottawa
2022 Freedom Convoy, February 2022, Ottawa. Image credit: Jason Unrau

Trudeau: Vaccine Pusher

On the eve of the official convoy’s arrival, a triple-vaccinated Trudeau remained immovable on his policy of vaccine mandates and vaccine passports, urging everyone to get their vaccinations and boosters before retreating to his cottage to isolate five days after testing positive for COVID-19.

But this glaring irony had no purchase among Trudeau’s votaries in his bought-and-paid-for media, who went to work on their next assignment: discrediting and smearing the convoy, but on a grander scale and with a ferocity not seen since they aimed their guns at Donald Trump. In fact, an even more glaring irony issued from Trudeau’s lips when he said at a recent press conference, “Mandates are the way to avoid further restrictions.” American satirist JP Sears noted the sterling logic behind Trudeau’s statement and observed, “In other words, restrictions are the way to avoid further restrictions.”

On the matter of vaccine safety, Trudeau’s government had indemnified the manufacturers and by June 1, 2021—barely four months into the mass vaccination experiment—Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, Theresa Tam, announced compensation for those “who have experienced a serious or permanent injury after receiving a Health Canada authorized vaccine.”

Theresa Tam announces Canada Vaccine Injury Support Program

AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 jab was basically shelved by this stage, at least for a first-dose, based on blood clotting risk, especially among over-50s. Later we would learn of increased myocarditis risk among young men and other injuries. By the federal government’s own count, as of February 4, 2022, there were more than 7,500 adverse events, among them 44 cases of cardiac failure; 39 cardiac arrests; 229 cases of thrombocytopenia (opposite of clotting); heart attacks, 99; myocarditis/pericarditis, 1,720; and more than a dozen other adverse reactions of ‘special concern’.

There’s also the heartrending story of 17-year-old hockey player Sean Hartman. He played for the TNT Tornados in the town of New Tecumseth, where all individuals 12 years of age and older are required to show proof of vaccination to enter a recreation facility. Dan Hartman believes one dose of the vaccine killed his 17 year-old son. But unfortunately his testimony about vaccine safety before Toronto Board of Health was scrubbed from Youtube, much like Dr. Hodkinson’s was.

The Smear Campaign

On Saturday, January 29, 2022, as thousands of people flooded Parliament Hill to support the truckers and a carnival atmosphere was developing, legacy media, for example Global News, singled out one Confederate flag and a Nazi flag and fixated on these isolated events as somehow representative of an incredibly diverse throng of Canadians, deliberately ignoring the official 2022 Freedom Convoy leadership.

But if you were a shut-in living under your bed watching CBC News on January 29, you may have believed a horde of Trump fanatics and Nazi lumberjacks were ransacking our G7 capital, looking for Trudeau, when in fact an unusually well-organized and diverse group of Canadians had come together in the spirit of peace and love to wrest their country from the hands of a “basic dictatorshipadmiring tyrant.

The huge influx of people did not go unnoticed by my local convenience store owner, a Syrian immigrant who raised his family in Ottawa. He told me that since the truckers arrived, business hasn’t been this good since Canada Day:

“There is no problem with these guys, they’re nice and spend money. I don’t think they like Trudeau, though.”

On day six of the massively supported protest, which the Trudeau-media and our hapless mayor were now calling “an occupation”—it became clear to local police that the convoy was immovable. Nevertheless, Trudeau still refused to meet with the official convoy representatives, and I doubt he ever will. Instead, legacy media turned its resources upon organizers and participants, and in a few days, journalists knew more about the convoy and the minutiae of its activities, than they cared to know about the risk-profile for jabbing the nation’s children with experimental pharmaceuticals.

Documenting media smears and escalation—there’s even a website called aimed at doxxing participants—all aimed at Canadian working class men and women now encamped in their trucks, could fill a book. So in the interest of time and space, I urge you to read Ottawa resident Dave Maybury’s “A Night With the Untouchables.”

Maybury did what the official Canadian press hadn’t bothered to do for almost an entire week: put a human face on the freedom convoy and articulate a vast chasm between reality and legacy media reporting. (Another notable article that has tried to humanize the protesters is “What the Truckers Want” by Ottawa journalist Rupa Subramanya.)

“I have read a lot about what my new neighbours are supposedly like,” Maybury writes, “mostly from reporters and columnists who write from distant vantage points somewhere in the media heartland of Canada.”

“Apparently the people who inhabit the patch of asphalt next to my bedroom are white supremacists, racists, hatemongers, pseudo-Trumpian grifters, and even QAnon-style nutters.” 

No stranger to mainstream media smear and slander is Alberta pathologist Dr. Roger Hodkinson, who arrived with the convoy and has helped other MDs find the courage to speak out against vaccine mandates and the safety of the vaccine itself, addressing huge weekend crowds.

I doubt a better image exists for the abysmal state of public discourse in this country than a flatbed trailer loaded with dissenting physicians with bongo drums and bullhorns speaking truth to power against corrupt government, Big Pharma and their mainstream media stenographers.

On the seventh day of gridlock in Ottawa’s seat of government, one of the largest days of the freedom convoy protest, Hodkinson applauded the convoy’s resolve: “These truckers have bigger balls than their god damn trucks!”

Interview with Dr. Hodkinson

I first spoke with Hodkinson in the fall of 2020, eight months into crushing pandemic restrictions across Canada, following the now laughable “2 weeks to flatten the curve,” and even back then he was seething.

“Mixing politics and medicine is a dangerous game,” Hodkinson told me over the phone, a recap of his searing excoriation of Alberta’s pandemic restrictions and their chief medical officer, Dr. Deena Henshaw, at a November 13, 2020 Edmonton city council meeting on extending mask bylaws.

Mere weeks before COVID-19 vaccines would be pushed on the Canadian public, Hodkinson’s five minute Mancunian blitz over City of Edmonton Zoom was easily clipped, tagged and posted online where it spread rapidly on social media. 

Copies have since migrated to upstart VOD site, Rumble, because Youtube censors were scrubbing versions as fast as people could post them; the last to elude detection on Youtube was titled something like, “Jesuit Inquisition,” which showed the online-oppressed are not without a sense of humour. 

Though Brampton, Ontario doctor, Kulvinder Kaur Gill, has been consistently critical of government mandates and 21 doctors signed a letter to Ontario premier Doug Ford in September 2020, urging against more harmful lockdowns, Hodkinson’s visceral rant took on a life of its own and propelled him into the crosshairs.

Which is why I contacted him, in the first place, for an Epoch Times story about his lay-language repudiation of everything Canadian governments had done to that point in their purported fight against COVID-19, not to mention government directed media assaults meant to discredit him.

“This is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on an unsuspecting public.”

Dr. Roger Hodkinson, MD

Hodkinson’s blunt assessment, which seems an eternity ago now, was that cloth and paper masks “were simply virtue signalling”; social distancing is “useless” and “positive COVID-19 tests do not mean clinical infection.” Moreover, case numbers, Hodkinson explained, were driving public panic; consequently, all testing should cease except for those who present with symptoms to hospital or to their personal physicians. Otherwise, he advised, just treat COVID-19 like the seasonal flu.

Hodkinson’s opening salvo is as relevant today as it was then:

“The bottom line is this. There is utterly unfounded public hysteria driven by the media and politicians. It’s outrageous. This is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on an unsuspecting public. There is absolutely nothing that can be done to contain this virus other than protecting older, more vulnerable people. It [COVID-19] should be thought as nothing more than a bad flu season. This is not Ebola, it’s not SARS. This is politics playing medicine and that’s a very dangerous game.”

That a “fact-checker” from Associated Press emailed Hodkinson the same day the story was published in Epoch Times is coincidental, in my opinion. By this time the video had been subtitled into several languages and was circulating internationally.

But having seen the correspondence from AP to Hodkinson, the so-called *fact-checker® seems more determined at total estrangement from facts rather than any semblance of honest inquiry.

“Good afternoon, Mr. Hodkinson,” writes AP. “The fact-checking team at The Associated Press debunks misinformation that circulates online. We are writing a debunk on some of the comments you made in Edmonton’s city council meeting.”

Before his encounter with rank stupidity masquerading as journalism, or the gonifs on Edmonton City Council, Hodkinson attended Cambridge University and United London Medical College, emigrated to Canada and finished a pathology residence at the University of British Columbia. Later he taught clinical pathology at Alberta University and is CEO of Western Medical Assessments, a diagnostics firm, where he’s been medical director for more than 20 years.

Or the Hodkinson-abridged version: “You might say I know a little something about this.”

Not so, according to Associated Press. After cherry picking Hodkinson’s remarks, on December 2, 2020, AP’s *fact-check® team concluded: Pathologist falsely claims COVID-19 is a hoax, no worse than the flu. Agence France-Presse also produced a similarly baseless *fact-check®.

These still fester online, and because shared videos or articles about Hodkinson contain incorrect professional affiliations, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada originally denied Hodkinson’s association altogether.

When contacted for clarification, comms director for the college, Sandra Shearman, blamed social media.

“We updated our online statement to make it clear that while Dr. Hodkinson did not identify himself as a past chair of the college, this was incorrectly reported by other online sources,” wrote Shearman in an email. “In fact many social/online references to date have described him in this manner.”

In its correction, the college did recognize Hodkinson’s general pathology credentials bestowed in 1976, yet records from the 1990s—when Hodkinson said he oversaw the annual general pathology examination for the college—were conspicuously unavailable. Shearman wrote: “We do not have records of our exam committees from that far in the past.”

Almost 15 months after his own Trudeau-media Inquisition, Hodkinson is a key member of the counter-attack and confident in the convoy’s chances of bringing the illegally sustained State of Emergency to a close.

“The colleges of physicians and surgeons across Canada and across the western world have been brutal in their assault on the fundamental right of physicians to first of all do no harm and secondly, informed consent.”

Dr. Roger Hodkinson, MD

Since speaking out on the mishandling of COVID-19, the College of American Pathologists “has [had] its teeth in my backside,” as Hodkinson puts it, and he continues to get grief from Alberta’s College of Physicians and Surgeons.

“The colleges of physicians and surgeons across Canada and across the western world have been brutal in their assault on the fundamental right of physicians to first of all do no harm and secondly, informed consent. It’s fundamental to our profession.”

Hodkinson says this has violated doctor-patient privilege and chilled freedom of expression among Canada’s medical practitioners, destroyed public confidence in healthcare, and grievously interfered in an individual’s right to make personal health choices with all the information at hand.

As Dr. Kulvinder Kaur Gill (pictured above) wrote in a tweet from August 4, 2020 that enraged the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO): “If you have not yet figured out that we don’t need a vaccine, you are not paying attention.”

“There is absolutely no medical or scientific reason for prolonged, harmful and illogical lockdown.”

Dr. Kulvinder Kaur Gill

Doctors vs. Colleges of Physicians & Surgeons (CPSOs)

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario began making examples of doctors like Hodkinson more than a year ago. The outspoken Dr. Kulvinder Kaur Gill, for example, has challenged her censure by the Ontario college after the regulatory body deemed several of her tweets “inaccurate and harmful.”

Gill’s provincial court challenge in September 2021 remains in limbo until CPSO completes its internal review. Social media posts flagged by CPSO in its warning to Gill included:

“There is absolutely no medical or scientific reason for prolonged, harmful and illogical lockdown.”

“COVID-19 is not a serious health issue.”

“If you have not yet figured out that we don’t need a vaccine, you are not paying attention.”

Following the College’s censure of Gill, CPSO issued a statement threatening to sanction any doctors who contradicted health authorities’ pandemic advice on vaccines, lockdowns and masking.

In response, 150 doctors signed the Declaration of Canadian Physicians for Science and Truth in opposition to the College’s move, stating that their “primary duty of care is not to the CPSO or any other authority, but to our patients.”

“We’re a group of doctors who are very concerned about this college statement and policy that we really feel is putting patients’ safety at risk and is undermining basic medical ethics that we’ve been following throughout all of our careers,” Dr. Patrick Phillips, spokesperson for the declaration, said during an interview last spring.

“The worst of it is from the ages of 8 to 25, I’m noticing a big uptick in suicidal tendencies. I also see people after suicide attempts. Honestly, it is heartbreaking.”

Dr. Patrick Phillips, MD

Phillips practises family medicine in Englehart, Ontario, about 200km northwest of Sudbury. He also works emergency ward shifts at regional hospitals and told me he witnesses fallout from public health restrictions that shuttered schools and shut down organized sports and other youth activities.

“I’m seeing in the emergency department [that] when parents or their children are suicidal, they come in seeking care,” he said. “The worst of it is from the ages of 8 to 25, I’m noticing a big uptick in suicidal tendencies. I also see people after suicide attempts. Honestly, it is heartbreaking.”

When I contacted the college to get a reaction to the declaration, I also asked if CPSO were currently investigating any physicians and if so, how many. Phillips confided that the College had opened a file on his activities, so I wanted to know the scale and scope of the CPSO witch-hunt.

Back-and-forth emails are banal, except that the PR person tried to make me spill the name of the doctor who had prompted my queries. Like the inherent privacy invasion of mandated vaccine and passports, the regulator had no issue trying to invade Phillips’ privacy.

Adding injury to insult, later in November CPSO sued four physicians: Drs. Mary Elizabeth O’Connor, Celeste Jean Thirlwell, Rochange Kilian and Mark Raymond Trozzi—an attempt to get compliance with ongoing investigations into vaccine exemptions they issued to patients and prescriptions for alternative therapies such as Invermectin.

Ridiculed as “horse dewormer” by misleading commentators—often working for Pfizer-sponsored networks—many Latin and South American countries have distributed Ivermectin to their citizens, and most recently, Japan has authorized it as an early intervention for clinical infection of COVID-19.

“By knowingly not prescribing agents that are effective at prophylaxis and minimizing the effects of COVID-19—by intentionally preventing that from happening, you are killing people. Pure and simple,” as Hodkinson said.

Freedom Convoy 2022 in Ottawa
2022 Freedom Convoy, Ottawa, February, 2022. Image credit: Jason Unrau

Truckers & Doctors in Government Crosshairs

As of this writing, hundreds of trucks continue to gridlock the streets around Parliament in Ottawa, where drivers vow to remain until Trudeau lifts his coercive and divisive rules, including vaccine passports for entering pubs, gyms and even big box stores, liquor stores and pot shops in Quebec; now the jab is required by the Trudeau government to (a) keep your federal government job, (b) to access air and rail travel and (c) to even leave the country (though this is an indirect consequence of a quid pro quo arrangement with the U.S.), applicable to all citizens 12 years of age and older.

These measures cannot be justified as promoting health and safety; they are being used to punitively abuse and coerce by attrition those who have refused to join the mob of experimental jab enthusiasts. Meanwhile, legacy media treats the truckers like it has done medical professionals who dared speak against encroaching and outrageous government overreach—poised now to extend into a third year, and indefinitely should new health concerns arise.

“But real scientists and real physicians, we should be questioning ourselves all the time. We should be open to questioning ourselves.”

Dr. Byram Bridle, MD

University of Guelph professor Byram Bridle, for instance, exiled from campus for refusing the university’s vaccine mandate, has written a letter worthy of everyone’s attention to his (former) employer, criticizing the vaccine mandate which has been taken up energetically by many other post-secondary institutions.

Bridle’s nine-page indictment of the university’s mandatory vaccine policy includes proving his own natural immunity from a previous COVID-19 infection, and concludes by posing the following question to the institutions’ president, Charlotte Yates:

“I have proven to you that I am immune to SARS-CoV-2, but you have banned me from the campus and ruined my life because I don’t have a piece of paper saying that someone saw two needles go into my shoulder. You have a piece of paper that says that someone saw two needles go into your shoulder, but you have not proven that you are immune to SARS-CoV-2. However, you are allowed on campus and your life can proceed uninterrupted. How is that fair?”

Bridle joined the trucker convoy on Friday February 11, when he told a small gathering at the truckers’ Sheraton Hotel HQ about the incredible toll that censorship in the academy and media were taking not only on dissenters, but on liberal democracy’s foundational bedrock of scientific and intellectual inquiry:

“I spent a lot of time waking up everyday wondering, ‘Am I wrong? Am I the one who’s wrong?’ We’re all being pummelled with this messaging . . . we’re being told that we don’t know what we’re talking about, that we’re not real experts. But real scientists and real physicians, we should be questioning ourselves all the time. We should be open to questioning ourselves.”

The Friday gathering at the Sheraton was supposed to be a debate: Bridle, Hodkinson and another outspoken physician, Dr. Paul Alexander, versus what ended up being three empty chairs—one for Canada’s ‘top-doc’ Theresa Tam, another for her deputy Dr. Howard Njoo and National Advisory Committee on Immunization Chair, Dr. Shelley Deeks.

“The truckers here, we really need you to stand the ground for everybody . . . I don’t think people understand; the public does not know because the mainstream media’s not carrying it . . . the few physicians who are willing to stand up, they’re being crushed. Their livelihoods are being taken away from them. They’re being isolated. It’s a classic divide-and-conquer strategy.”

[P]arents are not being told the vaccine is experimental; fast-tracked through development in less than a year, a process which typically takes several years or more.

Meanwhile, on June 17, 2021, during a child vaccination clinic at Walter Murray Collegiate in Saskatoon, University of Saskatchewan clinical professor of surgery Dr. Francis Christian gave a speech on the lawn of the Saskatoon school, urging a pause in vaccinating children in Canada and that provincial health officials were keeping parents in the dark.

“COVID-19 does not pose a threat to our kids. The risk of them dying of Covid . . . is even less than the risk of them dying of the flu,” he said, and added that parents are not being told the vaccine is experimental; fast-tracked through development in less than a year, a process which typically takes a minimum of several years.

“The principle of informed consent is being consistently violated in this province for the mRNA vaccine for our kids. I have not met a single vaccinated child or parent who has been adequately informed and who then understand the risks of this vaccine or its benefits.”

Less than a week after a video of Christian’s speech was posted to BitChute and spread rapidly on the internet, he was sacked from the local health authority and suspended by the university.

As Christian noted in his speech, the mean age of death from COVID-19 in Canada is 83.8 years, older than the average life expectancy. And by May 2020 it was well-known in the public health community that coronavirus severity stratified by age, and more than 80 per cent of victims succumbed in long-term care homes and suffered from multiple co-morbidities.

But instead of giving any consideration to Christian’s views, Saskatoon Star Phoenix, in a hit-piece, seized upon his personal misfortune by surveying his output of fiction and poetry; suggesting that these suspicious indulgences in creative writing “might provide some insight into his world view” and help explain why this “controversial professor [would] jeopardize an impressive career and reputation.”

Freedom Convoy 2022 in Ottawa
2022 Freedom Convoy, Ottawa, February 2022. Image credit: Jason Unrau

An Immovable, Unflappably Peaceful Freedom Convoy

As the freedom convoy in Ottawa stretches into its third week, spirits remain high and the truckers immovable, for now. They have even built a proper stage backlit by a giant outdoor television for a slate of musical entertainment scheduled over the weekend (Feb. 12/13).

That the convoy won’t be intimidated or cowed and the crowds keep surging, especially during the weekends, has precipitated a collective meltdown among local authorities and the press, both of whom have worked tirelessly to wear down the convoy and escalate the situation.

The legacy press and politicos continue to level their tired strategy against the 2022 Freedom Convoy, and in a desperate attempt to control the narrative, have even ramped up their failing rhetoric, using the same trite tactics of plying the pandemic health edicts by hammer-and-tong, PR exaltation of public health officials while silencing and *fact-checking® dissenting doctors.

Social media is filled with troubling comments from both the Trudeau-news network and elected officials: when will police start arresting people? Will Trudeau call in the military? Even The Globe and Mail’s chief Parliament correspondent, Bob Fife, has described the scene downtown as “anarchy,” while other reporters and city councillors consistently hammer away at their propagandistic wedges, inflaming public discourse with loaded military terminology; “occupation,” “siege,” and “terrorists”—hoping frantically to steer the narrative toward a January 6th armed insurrection at the U.S. Capitol (of the North).

Truckers continue to hold the line in Ottawa, undaunted, and unflappably peaceful amid the blizzard of name-calling and toothless threats emerging from the Trudeau apparatchik.

Their demands haven’t changed: that the government respect and uphold the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, including the freedoms of its citizens to informed consent and to their right to bodily autonomy, without coercive restrictions on the right to earn a livelihood and the right to freedom of movement both domestically and across international borders.

Given the current restrictions, indignities and slander against truckers and other Canadians who declined a COVID-19 vaccine, and the absolute state of outrage among establishment players, Ontario Superior Court Chief Justice, Geoffrey Morawetz’s remarks before authorizing the removal of the convoy from Ambassador Bridge epitomizes the fog of cognitive dissonance that’s befallen our land:

“The activities that are the subject of this injunction, the freedom that those want directly results in the denial of freedom to others in society,” Chief Justice Geoffrey Morawetz told the court without any awareness of the irony issuing from his pen. And with a flourish of unconscious satire, he added: “The direct denial of their freedom to work. The direct denial of their freedom to cross and to move goods and services across the bridge.”

Jason Unrau is a freelance journalist with an interest in resource development and Indigenous rights, particularly where they intersect. Through more than 20 years of chasing leads from the Canadian Arctic to Ottawa, he has been a staff reporter at Whitehorse StarNews of the NorthBlacklock’s Reporter and The Post Millennial, freelanced for legacy newspapers and magazines, and most recently for Epoch Times and C2CJournal. This is his first article for The Secular Heretic

Fish at the Chinese Place image

The Fish at the Chinese Place

The fish in the following short story by Kevin Kunundrum is the only anchor of reality in a fake world. We have been looking for pandemic stories, both fictional and true, to share with our audience . . . and here’s a great one. Enjoy!

You don’t even notice it as you step into the foyer, with a fake Chinese rubber plant and an old cigarette machine to greet you. A hard left to the door of the restaurant, and you’re inside this transplanted Nanking. The mural on the wall—a bucolic scene of blossoming trees and rolling hills and misty mountains from the Ming Dynasty. To the right, a big calendar with numbers surrounded by Chinese characters and a feeling of otherworldly claustrophobia. And then the smell of why we’re here, the all-you-can-eat buffet. It’s not the greatest, but there’s lots of it. And sometimes the Lo Mein is good. When it’s right from the kitchen and hasn’t been turned over with the spoon too many times.
And we all wear our masks like bandits. Like roving gangs, eyes darting about with suspicion. The Warlord emerges from the kitchen and sizes me up. I pose no threat. His Lieutenant behind the counter turns my way, his eyes shift above his mask like slits in a tank, for there’s a martial feeling in the air. After all, this whole mess is China’s greatest export. But I don’t hold a grudge. At least not today, because the food does smell good.
    “The buffet?” says the Lieutenant.
    “Yes,” I reply.
    A diminutive Asian woman, barely five feet tall, hands me a plastic glove, thin and transparent like the bladder of a jellyfish, or one of those Portuguese Man-of-War. Then she leads me to a table far from everyone else. As I sit down, I feel like a lighthouse looking out at the sea. 
    “The buffet?” the waitress asks.
    I nod. And moments later I’m before the food. With the glove on my dominant hand, I spoon out the fried rice, the Lo Mein, the crispy chicken, the beef with broccoli, the spicy pork, and the green beans, which every single time have been limp and flavorless, but still I think, maybe this time! I grab a spoonful. 

Back at our tables we can remove our masks. But if we return to the buffet, we must go in disguise. And trying to remove the glove to eat is an ordeal, as it’s become a second skin. The waitress appears with a plastic cup of water at arm’s length, as if I’m a survivor of Chernobyl. I unwrap my straw, then take a sip. And no one seems too concerned with plastic straws these days. The pandemic, this global Narcissist, commands center stage. I grab a forkful of Lo Mein and a noodle falls onto the table. Immediately, I imagine being inside a giant Petrie dish with this badass virus that kicked AIDS’ ass! These germs that never die, that stick to surfaces like crazy glue and wait for the slightest touch. Why did I come here again? Why did I even leave the house? The world has become an infection and everyone’s gone insane.
    “How’s your food?” I ask myself.
    “They must have a new chef,” I reply. “It’s actually quite good.”
    “Is it not usually?”
    “It’s usually meh,” I say. “But this is much better than meh.” (Or maybe I just haven’t been out to eat in so long, meh is the new delicious.)
Ten minutes later, I put on the glove and mask for round two. Others are there, moving slowly past the Sweet and Sour Chicken, the dumplings that look over-cooked. And there’s that awkward maneuvering as we recall social distancing, yet we want our shot at the new plate of spare ribs that just came out. We barely regard each other, since for all we know, we might be infected. Well, I know I’m not. But who knows about the ones in my way? With masks on, they’re less than human. They’re a surface—a surface covered with germs. We don’t even want them to speak, from those hidden mouths like some ventriloquist. We prefer them to keep moving, ponderously yet determined. Finally, the spare ribs! There are still some juicy ones left. But now there’s someone behind me, coming up my ass. Don’t they know I might be infected? Social distancing! And besides, those are my spare ribs! Back off!
     A half hour later…
    “That was pretty good,” I say to myself.
    “Not bad.” I crack open my fortune cookie:  Plan for many pleasures ahead. I look at it for a moment longer, then put it on the plate along with the plastic glove and the crinkled-up napkin, replete with my contagions.
As I leave the restaurant, I pass through the foyer and I’m fixed by a single staring eyeball. Against the back wall, against a stack of boxes is a fish tank crammed into the remaining space as an afterthought. And in the green murky water is a single fish. It’s big, at least a foot long, and maybe ten pounds, perfectly shaped in its adulthood. An eye is pressed against the glass as I move closer, unmasked. It looks at me now, this fish-eyed lens gazing out in blank, voiceless despair. Its fins vibrate out of habit as it hovers in place. Then it makes a defiant circle to return to its stand, its eye glued to mine. Is it longing I see, alone in this watery sameness making endless roundabouts? “Maybe this time!” it thinks. Maybe this time it can stretch itself on the current and float effortlessly away. And maybe it doesn’t even see me, or the stack of boxes or the old cigarette machine or the fake plastic plant or this cramped-up place in its forgotten world. Maybe it lives in an ocean of once, faraway and endless, sleek against itself as it glides past and disappears! (But then it’s here. And only inches above, the tank is open where the water ends.) And maybe it lives each second in what was. And this, the not and no. The ever-why. The always of how much longer. The silence of never again.
I look into that eye, I see parallels of a place that was, then was not. And so seamless did we slip into it. This fish is the rage of those whose world was untimely ripped, and whose memory of gone and over is the only thing left that’s real.

Kevin Kunundrum travels the country in his psychedelically-painted, multi-colored school bus, to sing uplifting pop-songs to throngs of . . . Wait, that was The Partridge Family. Kevin Kunundrum mostly stays at home and grumbles. This short story is from his new book UTOPIA. Visit his website,

A Rube Goldberg Machine represents the erosive quality of machinery upon consciousness, as it fascinates us with its novelty, but ultimately leaves us in a bored stupor.

Perception & the Mechanism that Kills Consciousness

Perception is the great mystery of philosophy and science: how does it come about that we interpret various sensual stimuli into the visible and tangible world? This is known as “the hard problem”—a subject this magazine has previously explored with Steve Robbins. In the following essay, Ashvin Pandurangi tackles a different problem of perception: the deleterious effect repetition and the mechanization of thought have upon perception and consciousness. As the author explains, “Not only have our ideas about the world taken on a mechanical nature, but our method of forming ideas has been mechanized.” This behaviour, which comes from a desire for efficiency and predictability is, in fact, the enemy of consciousness.

Mechanical technology itself is not unique to the modern age. What is unique is how this technology has influenced every dimension of our cultural existence, right down to the way we perceive and think about the world around us. Not only have our ideas about the world taken on a mechanical nature, but our method of forming ideas has been mechanized. That is what Barfield refers to (see below) as “consciousness”; the subconscious way in which we perceive and cognize the World Content before it is made conscious. Our considerations here will focus mostly on the digital age of technology which has only come into widespread use over the last few decades after Barfield’s passing. Since the dawn of the 21st century, this technology has come to govern every sphere of our lives from our mornings to our evenings, our weekdays to our weekends, and our youth to our adulthood. It dictates our decisions in our homes and offices, in our cities and countrysides, and in our social, civic, personal, and professional lives. Based on his writings and the spirit of his thought, it is a safe bet that Barfield would be very concerned with the accelerating pace of this development. 

Many psychology books, articles, Youtube channels, and podcasts have taken a stab at exploring the harmful effects of digital technology. Unfortunately, these analyses of the situation paint with very broad strokes and thereby remain hopelessly abstract and mostly unhelpful. They treat the mechanization phenomena as one more item in a long list of bad habits, like smoking or eating fast food, just another activity that people in the modern world should either avoid altogether or use in moderation to whatever extent possible. These approaches cannot possibly be helpful because they fail to diagnose the problem we are dealing with in its living essence. The task of any genuine “phenomenology” is to observe and deeply contemplate how these underlying dynamics of the phenomena manifest in our immanent experience.

We start with the phenomenal appearances—in this case, various aspects of digital technology—but we don’t arbitrarily end with mere appearances if we can go further and deeper through sound, logical reasoning. It is by penetrating the depths of phenomena that we begin to actually hear their tales and tunes, otherwise muted. At first, only by faint whispers, but later through resounding images, tones, and words.

“We must not forget that nine-tenths of the words comprising the vocabulary of a civilised nation are never used by more than at most one tenth of the population; while of the remaining tithe, nine-tenths of those who use them are commonly aware of about one-tenth of their meanings.”

Owen Barfield, History in English Words (1953)

Owen Barfield wrote a history of Western culture by focusing exclusively on the origins and transformations of English words, perceiving how a study of their presence, absence, and usage could provide unique insights into Western civilization. Moreover, such an approach could shed light upon an objectively valid, living, and qualitative knowledge of this evolving history. By penetrating into the deeper layers of meaning which gave rise to these word groupings—some portion of the 90% of meanings of the 90% of words which are commonly ignored in a civilized nation—he perceived how the 10% of meanings of the 10% of words we actually use came into being. This insight is both literal and metaphorical at the same time. It is literally true of modern languages, and it metaphorically points to the relation of the visible to the invisible world. In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Barfield’s favorite poet, “A Fact is the end or last issue of spirit. The visible creation is the terminus or the circumference of the invisible world.

“It has only just begun to dawn on us that in our own language alone, not to speak of its many companions, the past history of humanity is spread out in an imperishable map, just as the history of the mineral earth lies embedded in the layers of its outer crust. But there is this difference between the record of the rocks and the secrets which are hidden in language: whereas the former can only give us a knowledge of outward, dead things—such as forgotten seas and the bodily shapes of prehistoric animals and primitive men—language has preserved for us the inner, living history of man’s soul. It reveals the evolution of consciousness.”

Owen Barfield, History in English Words (1953)

Language provides an imperishable map of inner experience, and that is even more true of the sensible perceptions from which all language is drawn. Barfield and Emerson often indicated how all language employed to symbolize inner mental states and dispositions began as words reflecting perceptible appearances. Emerson observed, “Right originally means straight; wrong means twisted. Spirit primarily means wind; transgression, the crossing of a line; supercilious, the raising of the eye-brow.” This ideal quality of physical images has not disappeared but has only been veiled by our own abstract and limited cognition. One major obstacle to examining the transformations of perceptions, as opposed to words, is that most people cannot access perceptions beyond a very limited range of their recent memory. There is another approach, however, which can still yield fruit. We can start with our current perceptual experiences and see what those disclose to us about the phenomena in question, which, in this case, is the mechanism of modern human culture and daily life. To begin with what presents itself to our experience most immediately is the genuinely phenomenological approach.

“All conscious nature has experiences of pleasure and pain. Man alone can deliberately will the repetition of an experience. And repetition, experienced as such, is at the heart, for good and evil, of his faculty of reasoning, and thus makes possible his language, his art, his morality, and indeed his humanity. Yet it is the enemy of life, for repetition is itself the principle, not of life but of mechanism.”

Owen Barfield, Orpheus: A Poetic Drama (1937)

Owen Barfield (1898-1997) was a poet, critic, philosopher and member of the famous Inklings, a literary group at Oxford that included J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. He had a profound influence on both writers, and became a close friend of Lewis. In fact Lewis dedicated The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to Barfield’s daughter, Lucy. Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Anthroposophy, influenced Barfield, who translated several of his works and wrote The Case for Anthroposophy. Most famously, Barfield is known for pointing out how analogy gets to the root of consciousness.

The willing of repetitive experience is also what we call Thinking and Memory. That is why Barfield places it at the very foundation of so many qualities which make us uniquely human. How can such qualities, which ground our speech, our reasoning intellect, our art, and our morality, then, transform into “the enemy of life“? It has been said, “all evil is unevolved good” (Steiner). Many riddles surrounding the current state of humanity can be understood through the lens of this simple Wisdom. For our purposes here, the enemy of life arrives when this unique human quality of repetitive experiencing, which underlies all technological development in the modern age, is clung to for the conveniences and comforts it provides long past its expiration date. This stubborn refusal to evolve with the currents of cognition—a deeply ingrained desire to swim upstream against them—then compounds itself into something which carries much more tragic consequences for humanity as a whole. The longer it is ignored, the more it festers within us as a cancerous tumor. We will see how those consequences have already unfolded in modern society and are still unfolding around us in due course, but a careful phenomenology first requires we understand why. Barfield takes us back to the Renaissance era, when many of the predecessors to our current English vocabulary were reintroduced into the streams of Western thought.

“The new intercourse with the ancient literatures of Greece and Rome naturally brought into English a positive stream of ‘literary borrowings’. At first these were mostly Latin words. If we try to imagine an English from which such words as accommodate, capable, capacious, compute, corroborate, distinguish, efficacy, estimate, experiment, insinuate, investigate, and a host of others equally common are as yet absent, we may partly realize what an important part was played by the Renaissance in producing the language in which we speak and think.”

Owen Barfield, History in English Words (1953)

At this stage, there was still a feeling for the concrete experiences to which these words referred. At the end of the 17th century, a “computer” was still a human being “who calculates . . . whose occupation is to make arithmetical calculations.” By the end of the 19th century, we first get its usage as a “calculating machine” with its own existence independent of any particular human being. It is only in 1937, through the personality of Alan Turing, that the word is first used in its modern sense of “programmable digital electronic device for performing mathematical or logical operations.” We should try to concretely sense the distancing that is occurring in these word-transformations as we move away from the human body-brain and its living cognitive processes. The philosophical meaning of “abstract” as a verb from the mid-16th century is, “to draw away, withdraw, remove.” We should be clear that it is only this drawing away of human thinking from nature and its processes which made modern technology possible, such as that which I am taking advantage of now. We only fool ourselves if we imagine that we could have done without the Wisdom of this process. Yet our clear thinking should remain equally clear as we explore, in precise and concrete terms, what qualities of living experience we have also forsaken in this abstracting process of the modern mechanical age.

One aspect of the phenomena at issue here is obvious from the outset—digital technology acts as a synthetic substitute for natural perceptual and cognitive processes. These processes should be understood in their deepest sense—ones which allow us to relate to the World Content in every waking and dreaming moment of our lives. They allow us to make sense of the manifold phenomena which confront us. To perceive what happens when these processes are substituted out by digital media technology, we first need a basic understanding of what these processes do for us. We will approach this topic by way of a few illustrations. First, let us examine why it is that we perceive anything in the world around us. What functions are the “perceptions” in the phenomenal world serving in our experience? To stimulate our Imagination here, and to give readers an opportunity to discern some clues to this ‘mystery’ of perception, I am going to quote a few modern thinkers over a range of time who spoke directly to this function of perceptual phenomena that we are searching for. No matter how abstract the language becomes, remember that these thinkers below were speaking of our immanent phenomenal experience.

George Berkeley (1685 - 1753) Bishop of Cloyne, Ireland, and famous critic of Descartes.

“Light and colours, heat and cold, extension and figures—in a word the things we see and feel—what are they but so many sensations, notions, ideas, or impressions on the sense? and is it possible to separate, even in thought, any of these from perception? . . . my conceiving or imagining power does not extend beyond the possibility of real existence or perception . . . as it is impossible for me to see or feel anything without an actual sensation of that thing, so is it impossible for me to conceive in my thoughts any sensible thing or object distinct from the sensation or perception of it.”
– from George Berkeley, A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge (1710)

Friedrich Hegel (1770 - 1831) famous for his dialectical philosophy, his extreme systematization of idealism, exceeding even Kant, and his convoluted, often impenetrable, writing style.

“Only within a one is [a perception] a property; and only in relation to other properties is it specific . . . isolated property is basically just a form of sensuous being since it . . . is now reduced to mere meaning, having, in other words, altogether ceased perceiving and involuted into itself . . . But sensuous being and meaning mutate into perception.”
– from Friedrich Hegel, The Phenomenology of Spirit (1807)

Johann Wofgang von Goethe (1749 - 1832) was a famous poet, playwright and philosopher, known for, among other things, his explorations of consciousness.

You must, when contemplating nature,
Attend to this, in each and every feature:
There’s nought outside and nought within,
For she is inside out and outside in.
Thus will you grasp, with no delay,
The holy secret, clear as day.
– from Goethe, Epirrhema (1819)

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 - 1882) was the father of the transcendentalist school of philosophy and famously established the proud American tradition of self-reliance.

“The ruin or the blank, that we see when we look at nature, is in our own eye. The axis of vision is not coincident with the axis of things, and so they appear not transparent but opaque. The reason why the world lacks unity, and lies broken and in heaps, is, because man is disunited with himself. He cannot be a naturalist, until he satisfies all the demands of the spirit. Love is as much its demand, as perception. Indeed, neither can be perfect without the other. In the uttermost meaning of the words, thought is devout, and devotion is thought. Deep calls unto deep.”
– from Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature (1836)

Henri Bergson (1859 - 1941) was a famous lecturer and critic of Einstein, pointing out that space is an illusion generated by a flawed metaphysic and that true Time is in fact best understood as cosmic memory.

“The insufficiency of our faculties of perception—an insufficiency verified by our faculties of conception and reasoning—is what has given birth to philosophy. The history of doctrines attests it . . . No matter how abstract a conception may be it always has its starting point in a perception.”
– from Henri Bergson, The Creative Mind (1956)

For these thinkers, the key to understanding the function of perceptions in our phenomenal experience is not what we find in the properties of the perceptual structure, but what we find missing. Look at the objects in your room right now. What you will not find, under any circumstances, is an isolated perceptual structure which does not present itself in the context of many other perceptual structures. The lamp does not present itself apart from the table or floor it is resting on. The door does not present itself apart from the walls it is situated between, and the computer monitor does not present itself apart from the wires through which electrical currents pass to make the display possible. What is the reason for this fact? As per Hegel’s remark quoted above, a truly isolated property would be “reduced to mere meaning” and “involute into itself.” Put more simply, the perceptual property would disappear, i.e. we would no longer perceive it with any outer quantitative structure. As long as a perceptual structure remains connected to other perceptual structures, and those structures to yet more structures, so on and so forth, the property we can isolate only in our thought is still serving a function in our experience. It is that function which explains its continued perceptual existence. 

So what is this function? It is found within the complement of all perceptual structures—their conceptual meanings. Perceptions are like voids of meaning; they are negative images which invite us to fill their voids with our meaningful concepts. This negative image relates to Berkeley’s statement above—if we are thinking about a “sensible thing,” then we are perceiving it with our thought, and, if we are perceiving it with our thought, that means we have not yet exhausted that perception with our conceptual meaning. So there cannot possibly exist a thought about some-thing which we have never perceived. Such thinking would be perfectly united with its object and there would be no perception of the object as a distinct entity. Goethe points to this “holy secret” of Nature as well because “each and every feature” she carries in her perceptions serve as a ‘suction’ on our conceptual cognition—what appears as an outer ‘thing’ in our perception is, in essence, an absence of inner conceptual meaning. She offers her appearances as “inside out and outside in” by presenting what is truly absent (meaning) as a perceptual structure. Nature, by presenting her appearances in this manner, invites (or demands) our thoughts to render her subtle meanings increasingly more transparent than opaque. Consider this imaginative visual analogy of the process provided by a like-minded soul:

Let us imagine ourselves in a ‘God’ state. We think the thought ‘circle’ and our cognition assumes the shape of the meaning of circle. Our whole reality then consists of the meaning of circle: there would be no need for any thought-perception of it because we experience the complete meaning of it—our cognition is one and the same with the idea, i.e. the meaningful quality of circle-ness through and through. There is nothing that a perception could add to the idea that we now experience as the entire meaning of our Divinity. In fact, if we have a perception in our Divine mind, then this means that there is at least one more idea present—the idea of perception. In the first state, our whole Universe was made of the meaning of ‘circle’. Now, in addition to that, we also experience the idea of reflection, something which we have thrust out of ourselves in order to symbolize in perception the meaning of circle which was previously our complete reality. 

We then exhale (an outward movement) our own cognitive essence and create a void shaped as circle. If we fill it completely with our perfect cognitive essence, then everything becomes the invisible inner meaning of circle again. But we don’t allow this to happen. We resist the suction and we keep the void open. Now this void exists for our Divine being and we can experience many other ideas in relation to it. The void tries to suck in from our meaningful essence an infinity of possible ideas that can try to approximate its shape (every idea except circle, which would close the void perfectly). For example, we can try to fill the void with a meaningful concept in the shape of a hexagon. It is like we are saying: “this thing looks to me like a hexagon.” The void draws in our cognitive essence into itself and we assume the meaning-shape of a hexagon. Yet, the perception does not completely disappear because the idea that we experience is not a perfect fit. The hexagon fills the circle but there are six sectors of the circle that remain:

image of a circumscribed hexagon

Those six sections which remain in the circle image above (light green) correspond to perceptions which persist in the world around us. Take a moment to remember here that the purpose of this phenomenological approach is to indicate how perceptions manifest in our immanent experience. We are not interested in assuming anything about the “fundamental essence” of perceptions or generalizing our immanent experience into any abstract “universal principle” which governs the entire Cosmos. There is no good fruit to be produced from any such purely abstract endeavor, which attempts to “leap in one bound to the eternal” (Bergson). For now, we only need to ask ourselves—when we look at the world around us, assuming we are looking with genuine attention and interest—do the perceptions in our surrounding environment invite us, or even compel us, to fill their voids with our meaningful concepts as illustrated above? I do not think this fact is reasonably doubted by anyone engaging in this exercise with good will. We can remember here Bergson’s observation that insufficient perception, revealed as such by our conceptual reasoning, has given birth to all philosophy (and all thoughtful inquiries in human history). The next step of our phenomenological endeavor is to confirm the reasoning above with specific perceptual phenomena in our experience. 

For instance, let’s consider the letters and words we use when speaking and writing, which are those same ever-evolving letters and words which Barfield used to sketch an entire historical account of Western culture. These are the letters and words which I have written previously and which you are reading right this moment. So the perceptions, in this case, are the letters which make up the words, the words which make up sentences, the sentences which make up paragraphs, and so forth. What occurs when these perceptions present themselves to our eyes, in the case of reading? We perceive the outer structure of those words, sentences, paragraphs, etc. – their “syntax” – and that syntax stimulates our thought to go searching for the inner conceptual meaning which makes sense of the syntactical structure – their “semantics“. No words have semantic meaning in isolation, but rather the meaning lives in the empty spaces between the letters, words, and sentences (the latter spaces are indicated by “punctuation“). Consider the following sentence in three formulations to discern carefully how your own cognitive activity responds when perceiving them:


(2)hereli esthewhitemo usewhowaseate nbytheb rowncat“.

(3)herelies thewhitemouse, whowas eatenbythe browncat“.

What else have I done in formulations #2 and #3 above apart from creating and enlarging (or modifying with punctuation) empty spaces within the syntax of the letters and words, so that your conceptual activity can fill them with meaning more easily? Nothing else has been done besides that. Note how the empty spaces do not automatically bring meaning to the structure, but only reveal it after our cognitive activity has been invited in to assume its shape and we accept the invitation with meaningful engagement. The same logic used above will apply to all other perceptual phenomena in our experience. Consider music when we are listening, singing, or dancing to it and discerning its underlying rhythm. This rhythm is discerned, usually subconsciously, by the silent spaces (“intervals“) between the beats, notes, and chords. The musical aesthetic also allows us to broaden our phenomenology a bit more to begin considering how our perceptions do not only include spatial structures, but also temporal ones. The temporal structures are easily missed when considering simple shapes, objects in our rooms, or words in an essay, but not so much when considering our auditory perception of music. That is, if we know to look for them. 

The term “liminal space” was developed to refer to that duration of transition between one state of being and the next state, and in music these spaces are exemplified by “rhythmic thresholds.”

Psychologists who have studied these rhythmic thresholds have identified the lowest possible limit that the mind can perceive, with normal waking cognition, as 33 beats per minute (“lower perceptual limit”). They have also identified approximately 240 beats per minute as the “upper perceptual limit.” That is not the fastest speed at which music can be played, but the threshold at which our normal cognition will fail to notice any significant difference in the musical structure if it were to become any faster. It is very important to remember that these thresholds are limits of our own normal cognitive perception at any given time, rather than absolute limits on cognitive perception itself. Above we have already reasoned that these spaces between perceptions (musical beats/notes) seem to invite more conceptual activity the larger they become, but are these the only factors at play? In seeking this answer, we are asking what our immanent experience discloses to us when listening to music at various speeds within these perceptual limits. To be clear, the following is not an exact mathematical science; it may not even be a great representation of the perceptual semantics we are exploring. However, with normal waking cognition, and within the narrow boundaries of a written essay, it is likely the best that I can do. We will proceed with the phenomenology of temporal perception by listening to the following musical clips in three stages. 

(1) Lower perceptual limit (33 BPM):

(2) Above-Mean Perceptual Limit (180 BPM)

(3) [Almost] Upper Perceptual Limit (240 BPM – Drums)

How did these three clips rate on a spectrum of inviting liminal spaces for your cognition to fill their voids with conceptual meaning? For me, clip #1 was a struggle due to the prolonged temporal gaps. Yet, after about 10-20 seconds, I could feel my cognitive activity picking up and searching for meaning to constellate within the liminal spaces. Clip #3 was the most difficult for my cognitive activity, as the drumbeats came in fast and furious, leaving almost no room for my activity to be welcomed into the spaces. Clip #2 was the most welcoming for me, and, although there was some struggle for the first few bars, it smoothly invited my cognitive activity into its natural progression of liminal spacing and made it feel very welcome there. At this point, some readers may be wondering whether their cognitive preferences were mostly an artifact of the song choices, i.e. a result of the fact that most people will prefer Vivaldi’s Four Seasons to an unknown, slow-motion Moon song or a death-metal drum performance. I don’t deny such factors are relevant, but the real question is, Are these other preferential factors also reflections of the liminal spacing between the temporal perceptions? Reason tells me that our preferences for songs will have a lot to do with how much cognitive suction their liminal spacing stimulates within us. 

Much more can be said about the dynamics occurring in these liminal spaces of perceptual phenomena, but now we need to begin returning to the main phenomena at issue in this essay series on mechanism. How many readers would be more willing to apply the adjective mechanistic to Clip #3 than they would for the other clips? With this clear connection between the over-narrowing of liminal spacing and meaning, we begin to see what mechanization really takes away from our cognition and perception of the world phenomena we are always encountering around us. It is not only the overall meaning available to any given population which is sacrificed in the ever-increasingly mechanized world, as Barfield indicated in the opening quotation, but also the capacity for each individual to play a decisive role in co-creating that meaning through an ever-evolving courtship with Nature; the capacity to microcosmically build up our legacy by giving birth to meaning which will serve as the stable foundations of knowledge for our descendants in centuries to come. In the next part of this essay, we will look more closely and precisely at this phenomenon of mechanization in the digital age.

It will be important to remember that a genuine phenomenology does not arbitrarily end once it diagnoses a deep problem in our experience. This cynical approach to phenomenal inquiry in recent decades is itself an expression of mechanism—it is the computer program terminating once it completes a few iterations of its code. The genuine inquiry, instead, evolves with its phenomena as the nerve-senses evolve within a living organism and continually feed back meaningful information to the brain; it seeks to become increasingly united in meaning with the phenomena and therefore anticipate how its future stages will blossom in our experience. To employ a photographic analogy, the genuine phenomenology seeks to focus its lens vertically and deeply on its subject, rather than only widely and horizontally. Our thoughts must be transfigured into seeds planted deeply within the perceptual soil, rather than scattered loosely over the ground, so they blossom in full health. We must remember to go deep into the phenomena, not wide. Going deep with our cognitive activity is the essence of life and novelty, while going wide inevitably becomes repetitive, mechanistic, and, therefore, establishes itself as the enemy of life.

Ashvin Pandurangi is a consumer bankruptcy attorney in the Washington D.C. area who looks for truly imaginative solutions to his clients’ financial problems, especially those born of excessive fragmentation, isolation, and alienation in the modern age. He writes essays on mythology, aesthetics, psychology, philosophy, and spirituality, with the aim of gaining a deep and holistic appreciation of how these cultural traditions have manifested across the world and across the epochs of human history, while also conveying those insights to others whenever possible. Visit to read more of his work.

Perfect harmonic proportionality and incommensurability of water: image of water droplet causing ripple effect.

Consciousness & the Water Molecule

The following is an advanced, philosophical consideration of the geometric properties of the water molecule, which the author conceives of as a dipole antenna, channelling mind and life to the receiver body. To Ken Wheeler, water is the technology by which consciousness emerges from the One to find expression in the living being. Most who consider themselves practical-minded materialists will wince at the idea of conflating the integer, 1, with the One, or Monad. Even the subject of consciousness smacks of things spiritual, anathema to a materialist worldview, which considers consciousness as nothing more than an accidental epiphenomenon of brain chemistry. To Wheeler, however, the Pythagoreans were closer to understanding existence (and non-existence) and the mystery of human consciousness than we are today. To his mind, it is absurd to expect a theory of everything to emerge from a tradition of atomization, as absurd indeed as expecting to discover the loaf of bread by slicing, drying and crumbling it to bits. In the end, one will maintain that the loaf has little relation to the crumb and that the rules that apply to the crumb do not apply to the loaf, ultimately concluding with Richard Feynman that it’s not supposed to make sense. Such reasoning is by definition nonsense, but for those caught up in the quantum zeitgeist, this sort of New Atheist rubbish reaffirms their nihilism and too often awards them a fat paycheque and social aplomb.

From a Pythagorean and Neo-Platonic perspective, numbers are not mere notation for counting and measuring; they also represent the geometrical field of realities and non-realities that shape the universe and the non-universe. In particular, the incommensurable set, especially Phi (the golden ratio), impugn our present numeric notation and by extension our mathematics. Our Arabic number system, even with the help of our decimal crutch, simply fails to express—or can only hope to approximate—the most naturally occurring and ubiquitous geometric relationships like Phi, Psi and Pi. Arguably, these irrationals are not numbers; hence the need to use Greek letters in place of integers. That these are numbers (in a sense) is borne out by the fact that they can be plotted on the number line, but more clearly, these elusive figures represent relationships and are primarily geometrical expressions or emanations from the One—the naught or aether. The usefulness of our integer system, then, lies not so much in its accuracy as in its ability to unify abstract, metaphysical considerations with material, geometrical emanations. The author takes for granted that his reader has already considered the irrational number set at this level.

Moreover, Wheeler takes for granted a basic familiarity with his work on magnetism, especially his explanation of the “plane of inertia.” According to him, magnetism proper is not a force of attraction, but the loss of inertia and decay of energy, resulting in the epiphenomena of space; and space, having no properties, is not a thing, but instead a theatre arising from the interrelations of things, which physics defines as force and motion. In short, inertia is accelerated, potential energy, and the plane of inertia is the portal to the aether found along the central axis of a magnet commonly referred to as the “Bloch wall.” Despite the Michelson-Morely experiment, supposedly disproving the existence of the aether, Wheeler demonstrates in his numerous Youtube videos the various sneaky ways present day physics finds to reintroduce an equivalent because no physics can operate without it. According to the author, magnetism, dielectricity, electricity and light are all aether modalities the way ice, vapour and liquid are each modalities of water. Logically, then, aether is the opposite of space (counterspace), and is the non-manifest source of the manifest universe. Moreover, the expression of aether as it radiates and decays into the world, unfolds according to geometrical patterns governed by a handful of incommensurable proportions. Existing “between and apart from the mutually annihilating fields of the dielectric and the magnetic,” the plane of inertia “is the lowest pressure zone” and thus, the place “where all life flourishes.”

To Ken Wheeler, water is not only the vehicle of consciousness, it also provides an as above, so below analogy of the behaviour of the aether. “Drop a stone upon the water and you will see two things that are one: a drop emerges from the surface, and waves / ripples radiate outwards. The waters are as unto the aether, but with no surface.” In other words, water is the manifest twin of the unmanifest aether, reflecting the One into Mind. The geometric unfolding of this phenomenon is the focus of the following study.

It would be remiss of us not to attempt one last note on Wheeler’s vocabulary, and this is concerning the term “attribute.” “Space, like a shadow, has no properties, only attributes,” Wheeler explains, for space is but an attribute of magnetism. “Illumination,” he tells us, “is an attribute of light,” not light itself. Likewise, the attribute of the One, or Monad, is Mind, or consciousness. Therefore, we are wise to distinguish between the thing itself and its attribute; otherwise we fall into confusion and error by, for instance, reifying space and attributing to it properties . . . ultimately positing absurdities such as the bendable nature of space-time. The spiritual equivalent is mistaking the body for the self or conflating one’s imagination with the One. Such confusions are among the attributes of Evil.

A Correction to the Erroneous Model

The assumed measure of the water molecule at 104.5 degrees is presumed from measure through the axis of the atom, rather than the outer perimeter of the molecule’s geometry of influence, which is 108 degrees. In accordance with this observation, water is a POLAR MOLECULE at the inverted-V plane of inertia split along 85 degrees. The following study explores the metaphysical implications that follow from this correction.

Diagram 1 

I have worked for nearly 20 years with this specific 108-36-36 triangle, which is the only absolutely perfect harmonic geometry according to the Pythagoreans (and likewise in tripartite makes the Pythagorean pentagram). By no coincidence, when we overlay the water molecule upon this geometry, we can observe many levels of perfect harmonic proportionality. Water is a polar molecule, whose PLANE OF INERTIA contains the 85 degree angle, which means LIFE itself. Without water, there is no life; there is no consciousness. There are three golden-angles—85, 108, 137.5077—and within this geometry, water expresses 100% perfect harmonic, perfect incommensurability, establishing such between both its components (i.e. H & O), its whole, its plane of inertia, and its ratios.

Diagram 2 

The aqua lines below, in another layer of perfect harmonic incommensurability, of the water molecule exists at the axis of oxygen, and with base of 1, secondly at the axis of the hydrogen, and with base of Phi (1.618..), and lastly at base of the molecule with its base of 2  plus Phi-2 (life, or .381966), or in total 2.381966. Fascinating (not at all since this geometry is the only perfect geometry as declared by the ancient Pythagoreans and contains the water molecule itself), how the total of these harmonic sections of 1, Phi, and 2+Phi-2 = 5. 

“Everything is complete in the pentad.”


Likewise several ancient cultures have declared life and ALL (pan) complete within or at 5.  

All base angles are 36 degrees.

Amazingly also, either ‘end’ of the entire geometry is 2 (1 at top, or the Agathon, then base of 1), whose mid-section is the golden ratio (Phi), however the base is 2 and life (.381966, or Phi-2). 

Diagram 3 

There are three golden angles in nature: 85, 108, and 137.5077. The angle 135.5077 represents growth, 85 represents life (also =  Phi-2), and 108 represents (Phi-3) the aoristos dyad and manifestation resultant of the first 1 and 1 undivided-Pair of the Absolute and its attribute (both together also being = 1, but extrapolation being 1 and 1). 

Note below: the inverted aqua angle of 137.5 degrees with base of 1. 

Note also the inverted red angle below of 85 degrees represents life, perfect proportionality and likewise represents the PLANE OF INERTIA of the polar water molecule.  

The green angle represents the perfect incommensurable cut of the entire 108-36-36 triangle which surrounds the entire water molecule.  

Note, too, the water molecule’s inverted-V PLANE OF INERTIA (in red) and its three nucleus centers. In its entirety, this configuration expresses absolute and utter 100% perfect harmonic proportionality. 

Phi from the power of -3 to Phi cubed 

“There are [in our existence] two things, one the authentic Self (psyche), and the other ever pursuing something other than itself…one that is ever for the sake of things that really are, the other that which having become for the sake of the former (psyche tou pantos)”

—Philebus 53d

The Phi framework proceeds from: 0.236067978 by increasing powers of Phi to produce the additive series: 0.381966011, 0.618033989, 1.00000000, 1,618033989, 2.618033989, 4.236067978 and so on. The totality of Emanation is encapsulated from the 7 figures proceeding from either side of the Monad, being Phi to the power of -3 to Phi cubed. Phi to -3 is the primordial agnosis which its choate to the Monad and forms the empirical basis and separation of the Nous, thereby creating “Unity” and all things in between (eidos-matter-mimesis). Perfectly in proportion to each other relative to the 1st Hypostasis, the Monad, the 2nd and 3rd Hypostasis are inverse squares of Phi, the Psyche being Phi to -2 and the Nous (Unity and vertical) being Phi squared. The Antinomy to Agnosis is totality (4.23606), of which the 1 divided by agnosis = 4.23606 (1/.23606 = Phi cubed). The remaining proportions belong to matter and Being, both of which share equal portions of shape and matter, with Being, the exceptional empirical hybrid of the empirical intelligible. Certainly this is another Pythagorean trinity of which Plato and his formers were well aware of. Also, certainly no coincidence, the 2nd and 3rd Hypostasis are both a distance of Phi from the Monad if the Monad is removed from both hypostases. Interestingly, there are 5 section of Phi to -3, Phi to -2, and Phi to -1, but only one section of Phi, Phi squared, and Phi cubed inside the 1-1-Phi Pythagorean triangle. 

The 1-1-Phi Pythagorean triangle and its attributes 

“The world is single; it began to form from the center outwards. Starting from this center, the top is entirely identical to the base; still you might say that what is above the center is opposed to what is below it; for, for the base, lowest point would be the center, as for the top, the highest point would still be the center; and likewise for the other parts; in fact, in respect to the center, each one of the opposite points is identical, unless the whole be moved.”

Fragments of Philolaus—Boeckh 10, Stob. Eclogl. 1:5:7, p. 360

“Now that which comes to be must be bodily, and so visible and tangible; and nothing can be visible without fire, or tangible without something solid, and nothing solid is without earth. Hence the Divine, when he began to put together the body of the universe, set about making it of fire and earth. But two things alone cannot be satisfactorily united without a third; for there must be some bond between them drawing them together. And of all bonds the best is that which makes itself and the terms it connects a unity in the fullest sense; and it is of the nature of a continued geometrical proportion to effect this most perfectly. For whenever of three numbers, the middle one between any two that are either solids (cubes) or squares is such that, as the first is to it, so is it to the last, and conversely as the last is to the middle, so is the middle to the first, then since the middle becomes first and last, and again the last and first becoming middle, in that way all will necessarily come to play the same part towards one another, and by doing so they will make a unity. Now it had been required that the body of the universe should be a plane surface with no depth, a single measure would have been enough to connect its companions and itself; but in fact the world was to be solid in form, and solids are always conjoined, not be one mean, but by two. Accordingly the Divine set water and air between fire and earth, and made them, so far as was possible, proportional to one another, so that as fire is to air, so is air to water and as air is to water, so is water to earth, and thus he bounded together the frame of a world visible and tangible. For these reasons and from such constituents, four in number, the body of the universe was brought into being, coming into concord by means of proportion, and from these it acquired Amity, so that coming into unity with itself it became indissoluble by any other save him who bound it together.”

Timaeus, 31b-32c, Plato’s Cosmology: The Timaeus of Plato, Transl. Francis MacDonald Cornford, Bobbs-Merrill, Indianapolis, 1975: 43-44

Agnosis-Emanation “cause before cause,” the basis of emanation .236067976, or Phi-3 

“In short, the philosophers began only to speak of contrary principles; but above these elements they knew another superior one, as is testified to by Philolaus, who says that God has produced, and realized the finite and infinite, and shown that at the limit is attached the whole series which has a greater affinity with the One, and to Infinity, the one that is below. Thus, above these two principles they have posited a unifying cause, superior to everything which, according to Archenetus, is the cause before the cause, and, according to Philolaus, the universal principle.”

Archytas of Tarentum (400 B.C.) , Metaphysical Fragments

.23606 is the privative principle by which the Monad, in image as Nous, is ‘dissected.’

“The One itself always remains One, but is divided amongst all things temporal and which partake of its image “in radiation.”


As we know: 1/.23606 = 4.23606 Totality. This privative principle, which has no ontological actuality whatsoever is best seen as the ratio of radiation by which the Monad has its “image” or Logos in all phenomena. In reality, .23606, mathematically in our Pythagorean triangle, and logically so, is the “seed” whereby 1/Phi and Phi are made manifest. Agnosis has the Subject (Monad, noetic) as its Object (visible), by which is meant radiation, or Emanation. .23606 is the principle of all excess, therefore kakon, evil, is the ‘seed’ of noetic forms, empirical shapes, and of matter itself. Nous is separated from the One by .23606, as well as matter and forms from the Nous, lastly as the basis for Phi, or Being itself. 

In the strictest sense, .23606 is the Dyad itself, and not 1/Phi. The reconciliation that, obviously, the One is the “cause” for all things would negate the very stature of the Monad and its Principle, for the One cannot be moved, or it would be subordinate to what it moves to. This “dark principle” which itself uncaused, is the “cause of all things but which itself is without any cause,” is not the Monad by the very principle of duplicity which is not of the One, but what the Monad is not, being Self-assimilated to itself on the magnitude of Subjective-Gnosis. There can be no Creationistic 1st Perfect that we, lesser ‘Gods’ in the sphere of becoming can look above and declare a sentient Creator both aware of his minions but also of his own Nature. In a partless Perfect, self-gnosis is logically untenable. This absence, this “dark principle” leads to the establishment of a “Second God”-Numenius, being the Nous, which Plotinus calls the Dyad. But this “real Dyad,” also driven by Subjective-agnosis is the source for all things create. But before the Noetic Dyad which is “real” in the sense of being the basis for the Nous‘s emanation to other, there exists agnosis to and of the One. .23606 of the Monad is not a diminishment of the One’s potency, but an objective attribution of the subjective Monad that, of and within same, there does not exist either self-awareness or sentience, which would imply a Creationist Theism, something Plotinus outright rejects: “there is no knowledge in the One.” We might as soon attribute reality to a privation, or absence—in the example of darkness (that its being is not substantial but only a lack, a privation of light)—as we would ascribe any existence, ontological or empirical to the privation of gnosis which exists from the very first through to the very last, except in the case of those “rare few who have assimilated to the Good”—Plato-Plotinus. If we were to apply the ignorant contention of the Creationists that “God made man in his own image,” then God is a completely ignorant fool who confuses phenomenal attributes with his noetic, uncreate, and eternal nature. The Gnosis which must “be made become” by the Being is something which is immanent but not imparted either by the Monad, the Nous, or lastly by the Psyche. The subjugation of becoming advocated is meant that .23606, or agnosis, be foremost recognized and lastly inverted through assimilation with the Good. 

To say that the One is cause of anything would bring deficiency to the One that it be in need of anything, rather that which does not exist, agnosis, a pure absence, is opposite to that which is Self-inherent and Self-assimilated thereby nullifying Emanation. The ancient Advaitins and Vedanists were grand masters at debating the dialectic of the nature and meaning of “that which did not exist, but was the uncaused cause of all things which were made become”. Seemingly untenable, how is it that something which does not exist is the cause of anything? Just as if someone, analogously, were to land upon planet X which had no water, how might this person perish from what “doesn’t exist”? The answer is simple if viewed in this way. The “darkness of the Godhead” is that within which there is no Self-Gnosis: its nature is a pure unbridled actuosity of Emanation wherein Subject-gnosis must be “made become” by the person who, in anamnesis, “wades back to the source” by various means of assimilation, such as apophasis (‘talking away’), the via negativa wherein all empirical objectivity is denied in order to give root to Subjective and noetic knowledge of the Godhead, the very principle which one is by Nature. This “turning round” (tat tvam asi) of the will (Nous) within man is the basis for the mystical epistrophe which Plato and Plotinus spoke of as Monistic mystics, advocating a “Oneing with the Principle of all things.” We can only talk of .23606 as being “real” in the position of the second hypostasis (the Nous), as before this, it is merely an absence, a privation of which “nobody can make measure” (Plato), or “we cannot speak of something totally non-existent” (Proclus). 

If we give light to the nature of .23606 and its nature, it is that of a multi-faceted mirror in which the unmoving, unchanging Monad is reflected as a plethora of noetic and phenomenal things, where all things are in proportion (Logos) to the One and to each other in perfect ratio either to the One or to each other in blending. 1/.23606 = 4.23606. (See the pentagrams above.)

Also in the Tetraktys, there are 5 examples of 1/Phi, 5 examples of 1-1/Phi, but there are only 4 examples of .23606, because one of them is ‘hidden’, which is meant the privation choate to the Monad. The Tetraktys itself is composed of 1-4 which total 10, or totality, but the last remaining section is .23606 or privation, being the impetus for Emanation, giving a total of 4.23606. 

The Psyche, the Soul 1-1/Phi .381966, or Phi-2 

“How can that which is never self-same ‘be’ anything? For if it is ever self-same, it is evidently not at that time transient, and if it is always self-same and ‘itself’, how can it ever change or move without relinquishing its own form?”

Cratylus 439E

“Because bodies, according to their own nature, are changeable, inconstant, and infinitely divisible, and nothing unchangeable remains in them, there is evidently need of a principle that would lead them, gather them, and bind them fast together; and this we name Soul. If then the soul were a body of any kind of constitution, even if it were as small as (an atom,) what would then hold that together? For we said that every body needed some principle that would hold the body together, and so on into infinity, until we should reach the incorporeal . . . Should it be said, however, that because bodies have three dimensions, then must also the soul, as it penetrates the whole body, be of triple extension, and therefore in any case be a body, then would we have to answer that although every body has three dimensions, yet not everything that has three dimensions is a body. For quantity and quality, which in themselves are incorporeal, may under certain circumstances be reckoned quantitatively. Likewise the soul, which in itself is non-extensive, might be considered as tridimensional in case that by chance it had happened into something tridimensional . . . Before those, who earlier than we have attempted to explain the nature of the soul mathematically as some medium between the natural and the supernatural, it is asserted by those who call the soul a number, that it consists of unity, as something indivisible, and of the indefinite doubleness (manifold) as something divisible. Others, however, who conceive of the soul as of a geometrical figure, insist that it consists of a point and the divergence (either a locus and the divergence of two lines, or a centre and the radius of a circle); of which the first is indivisible, and the second divisible. Of the first opinion are the partisans of Aristander, Numenius, and the majority of the expounders; of the second opinion is Severus.”

The Neoplatonic Writings of Numenius. Coll. & transl. Kenneth Sylvan Guthrie. Great Works of Philosophy, Vol VI. Ed. Robert Navon. Selene Books, Lawrence, Kansas. 1987. 44-46.

Of the Phi-Series framework, the element “Aether” may be understood to be the ubiquitous value: Phi-2 = 0.3181966 which we already know to be the “Body,” “Soul,” and “Spirit.”

Ken Wheeler is a translator of ancient Pali, Greek and Russian. He writes books and articles on Metaphysics, specifically Neoplatonic, earliest Pythagorean Emanationism, as well as earliest Buddhist and Upanishadic philosophy. Wheeler, AKA Theoria Apophasis on Youtube, also provides extensive and in-depth reviews of photographic equipment. On the same channel, Wheeler shares his research and discoveries in the arena of field theory, specifically magnetism. Check out his channel and his book Uncovering the Missing Secrets of Magnetism.

Political Sociopathy & the Dark Art of Ketman

The following essay explores the dark art of Ketman (a form of play-acting for the purposes of achieving success) as it manifests in present day, Western society.

Pictured above: Roman Republican or Early Imperial Relief depicting the poet Menander with masks of New Comedy, 1st century B.C. – early 1st century A.D.. (Princeton University Art Museum)

What is Ketman?

Ketman is the individual practice of social deception for the purposes of personal advancement and material gain. It’s tactical, clinical, and socially cleansed in the bureaucratic bathhouse. Ketman is a form of play-acting, except it’s play-acting for keeps in the real world. It’s slightly more sociopathic than it is schizophrenic. The underlying metaphysic (or approach to life) supposes that the bearers of Ketmanic doctrine walk in the full light, and the secrets of that light must be kept from the benighted: those with whom they often share a common ethnicity, but with whom they secretly disagree fundamentally, and consequently, among whom the players of Ketman must strive and struggle to survive without betraying publicly the truth about who they really are and what they honestly believe. More clever than the silly, fellow-believers who comprise their friends and colleagues, the enlightened players of Ketman analyse the customs and the state machinery, and leverage them to their profit, in a game of Whoever dies with the most toys wins. That’s the materialist spirit of Ketman as a Persian social phenomenon of the 1850s, as I understand it from Czeslaw Milosz’s book, The Captive Mind. (It is perhaps worth noting that there is also a positive, spiritual form of Ketman that Milosz touches upon. This essay, however, concerns itself with the materialist, spiritually harmful side of the teaching.)

Milosz’s purpose in invoking the idea of Ketman is to help describe the psychic shift he witnessed in his social circles and in the press as the people succumbed to totalitarian oppression in Soviet Poland, where what Milosz calls “the New Faith” exercised a tyrannical grip on all aspects of life. So Milosz’s Ketman is a new beast, quite different from the Persian kind. Here’s how he describes it, using the subject of poetry as a figure for the greater state of play:

“Poetry as we know it, can be defined as the individual temperament refracted through social convention. The poetry of the New Faith can, on the contrary, be defined as social convention refracted through the individual temperament.”

Captive Mind

Milosz’s Ketman, then, is a hollowing out of the individual; a sort of Aliens or Body Snatchers or even Exorcist-type scenario, where a parasite—or parasitic social movement or demon—displaces the individual and takes control of the body in pursuit of ends that are not in the best interests of the host. 

This analogy suggests unconscious psychological displacement. Ketman, however, is a more slippery art than that. It is a game, often played consciously, that nevertheless turns unconscious as individuals learn to play-act their role in the totalitarian state. Here’s Milosz:

“Conscious acting, if one practices it long enough, develops those traits which one uses most in one’s role. . .After long acquaintance with his role, a man grows into it so closely that he can no longer differentiate his true self from the self he simulates.”

Captive Mind

I picture a hand puppeteering Guy Smiley, and the Guy Smiley puppet spreading, taking over first the arm and gradually devouring the whole body like a snake until all the puppeteer is entirely engulfed in a new skin and consumed by its new smiley purpose. 

Some personalities are especially suited to Ketman and thrive under dictatorships. Happy to finally be having their turn on the wheel of fortune, this class of people take pride in their skill set and their success, enjoying a perverse pleasure in what we today would call gaslighting:

“To say something is white when one thinks it’s black, to smile inwardly when one is outwardly solemn, to hate when one manifests love, to know, when one pretends not to know, and thus to play one’s adversary for a fool (even as he is playing you for one)—these actions lead one to prize one’s own cunning above all else.” 

Captive Mind

To summarise, Milosz presents a form of Ketman that amounts to a conscious effort on the part of an individual to supplant his own personality, his own desires, his own beliefs in favour of a bureaucratic role in the machinery of fakery and total social control. Once the schizoid displacement is achieved, the original personality fades into the background, while the state persona dominates. The better one is at psychological compartmentalisation, the prouder one is likely to be of the achievement of Borg-like self-annihilation. As a consequence of this pride, a master of Ketman is often cruel to those he perceives as naive enough to have scruples and abide by notions of honesty, integrity, courage, honour, loyalty, equality, and liberty . . . because the practitioner of Ketman thrives during periods of ethical decline and values cunning above all else. The rational, humane world, on the other hand, represents an order in which he is powerless. Ethical behaviour is, therefore, anathema to a natural expert of Ketman. 

“It is impossible to enumerate all the forms of Ketman,” Milosz writes. But he makes an effort to supply us with a sense of Ketman’s many guises. Indeed what renders Milosz’s exploration of the concept so useful to us is his introduction of subcategories, such as Metaphysical Ketman, National Ketman, Aesthetic Ketman, Professional Ketman, Sceptical Ketman, and Ethical Ketman, among others. By way of this taxonomy, Milosz extends the potential of the term to describe the same impulse as it manifests in various areas of human activity. Once a reader understands how Ketman insinuates itself into every aspect of life in an authoritarian regime, he is better equipped to spot the disease of play-acting in his own state and determine just how pervasive the corruption is. 

Headshot portrait of Polish author Czeslaw Milosz.  
(Photo by Horst Tappe/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Czeslaw Milosz (1911-2004) was a Polish poet and literary figure who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1980. He defected from Communist Poland to the West in 1951 to escape the oppressive regime that came to power after World War II. In 1953 he published The Captive Mind, a collection of essays exploring how Communism corrupted the minds of his fellows.

(Photo by Horst Tappe/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Educational Ketman

With that abridged provenance of the term behind us, let’s turn to Ketman in the western world today. It is most certainly among us, but it is no longer Milosz’s Ketman, no longer an intellectual game worthy of being compared to chess. Today’s Ketman has very little intellectual dimension, though we mustn’t discount the strategic expertise slithering out of the Pharmaceutical-Industrial Complex. But even giving that beast its due, today’s Ketman is an intellectual disease arising from New Atheist demystification, a cultural reincarnation of ennui, a white-shoe cynicism and contempt for “the system.” And this “system” we speak of, which at first glance may appear to be a nebulous mirage, we are each of us, in fact, intimately familiar with: it is the impersonal bureaucratic edifice that stands between us (the grassroots) and the formidable surpluses the central banks, the leading corporations and the governments are sitting on. Meanwhile, those surpluses include human beings. So everything . . . everyone . . . is disposable. 

The high school, the college and the university have become training grounds, inculcating students, mainly with lessons on how to cunningly ply the Ketmanic tool kit.

This socio-cultural atmosphere nurtures and rewards cunning, and thereby installs Ketman. The high school, the college and the university have become training grounds, inculcating students, mainly with lessons on how to cunningly ply the Ketmanic tool kit. And students are incentivised with grades, and grades are too often, now in the teaching racket, mere number games involving superfluous grade distribution to water down failure of a student to give a shit. The administration calls this “student success”; and they rate a teacher’s performance using this metric of how many scoundrels a teacher has enabled, rewarded for viciousness and set loose upon society. All of this is Ketman because all involved know they have been a party to both moral and civil corruption, often referring to it amongst themselves as “bullshit.” 

Let’s take a peek at the tool kit presented to a student to encourage a turn at the game of Ketman. A student can make a disability claim and gain the privilege of extra time to write exams and complete assignments. A student might file an anonymous complaint against a recalcitrant teacher who stands firmly on principle. Often enough, the teacher in question is not in the least ethical, and is also a practitioner of Ketman; but then again, at times a teacher is firm for good reason. No matter, the student can complain of sexual harassment, of misgendering, of feeling unsafe, or accuse a teacher of spreading misinformation, or of using offensive terminology and lord knows what else. Students who find doing their homework uncomfortable, and feel they are owed a passing grade until society atones for its sins, confront teachers and intimidate them with their “feelings” regarding their use of language or teaching materials. An anonymous complaint can be levelled at a teacher, and before they know it, they’re in HR’s banana republic, kangaroo court facing a tribunal of administrators. How many times out of ten are students who pull at the levers of such socially corrective regulations, in fact taking pleasure in exploiting the cracks a broken system? Let’s call this society-wide Ketman that emerges from a culture of disposability, Systemic Ketman. 

Here comes the part I find most disturbing because it coils at the heart of human error and is the portal to all manner of evil. In order to make these victim claims viable, the individual filing one must present anxiety. In other words, one is encouraged to method act for bureaucratic leverage. Keep in mind that those who would merit a high grade for intelligence, hard work and progress do not generally seek bureaucratic solutions to their homework. Those students who would make the best philosophers, researchers, investigative journalists, or honest, visionary politicians rarely resort to lying to themselves because they are too self-conscious and feel shame when they cheat. To play-act strikes them as immature and dishonest. These students are penalised by Systemic Ketman: they are penalised by having their commitment and their talents diminished in the cooked ledger book of “student success”; and because these students of merit represent the world as it ought to be, they are despised by the impostors against whom they must vie for advancement. (See imposter syndrome.) In short, most disturbing about this disposable society is that folks are trained to lie to themselves and resent true virtue; and once you go down that road, it is very difficult finding your way back home, emotionally and psychologically speaking. 

In the same category of mendacious self-corruption, and somewhere in the zone of Educational Ketman and Expert Ketman we find an all-too-common breed of professor who believes that having paid his dues, he has been blessed with a sort of Gnostic relationship to truth that precludes his having to exercise his sitzfleisch. Consider the case of a fellow who teaches Research Methods, who balked when informed that Wikipedia and Snopes were not acceptable sources of reference for his conclusions. His response: “How dare you criticise me! I teach Research Methods. This is my area of expertise.” This practitioner of Ketman uses his certification to pose as an expert. In other words, research methods are apparently unnecessary if one is an expert®.

Fiduciary Ketman

Money is also disposable at present, hence fraud, racketeering, endless lockdowns and government shakedowns; even war is cheap. When you run out of money, you just print more. When you can just cook up more junk, there is no accountability. I know a young man who maxed out his credit card at $20,000 and never paid it, and never had to! He was also issued a new card before a few years were up. It cost the bank too much to hunt him down for payment, and benefitted the bank far more to hook him up with credit. I urge the reader to pause here and consider a moment the implications—the surpluses the bank must be hoarding for that equation to work . . . To his father’s chagrin, he was rewarded for his Ketman. Certain corporations are deemed too big to fail—a phrase resonant with Ketman. Rewards are handed out to blackguards, the best practitioners of Ketman. Inflation is their friend, so they tell you it’s yours too. 

[N]ow a “bank account” was a “financial product”—so that by the magic of lawyer trickery bullshit and bureaucratic incantations, my account is transformed into a money resort . . .

The TD bank strikes me today as what one would expect of a McDee’s Bank, if such a thing existed. When I first put money in that institution in the late 1980s, they employed knowledgeable staff and service reps, whereas now one is generally more informed than the person serving you. With online services in play, the folks on staff are generally unqualified to advise on anything. When you peek in on a branch, note how the tellers and managers seem to be biding their time, waiting for the robots to take over. Adding insult to injury, one is obligated to rent one’s bank account like a money hotel for your cash despite the diminished use of cash and despite the diminished use of manpower and time. The deal I had with the bank when I joined up was that they worked hard to earn and maintain my trust, and I, in return, would do my banking with them. They never dreamed back then of toying with me, of waxing clever and gaslighting me by telling me they were now providing me with a “service,” that now a “bank account” was a “financial product”—so that by the magic of lawyer trickery bullshit and bureaucratic incantations, my account is transformed into a money resort . . . And presto! Which would you like, sir, a basic or all-inclusive? 

Funny money; fake money.
Funny money. Don’t miss visuals here.

Shopping Ketman is a more light-hearted form of playing Pretend in a world full of cheap, disposable junk: the practice of purchasing an item, usually from a large box-store, without any intention of retaining it, but only to hold and use for the duration of the return period stipulated in store policy. Some play this game with expensive clothes, including shoes worn for one outing. Who wants to buy a computer printer when the built-in obsolescence period on these things is so short, that by the time you get through the backup inks you bought with the machine, the cartridges are obsolete? Those who understand Ketman respond with “Fooled me once…”; and the next time they “buy” a printer, they use it for their project and return it by the best-before date for a full refund. 

Of a similar species is Energy Ketman, or green® energy and appliance efficiency® to reduce electricity consumption. Your average electric dishwasher built in the 1980s actually washed your dishes. One loaded the machine with food-encrusted plates and cutlery over a couple of days, as one does, and when it was full, one added detergent from a box, turned the thing on and wow! Later, in the 90s, new efficiency® models of dishwasher came to market, and these appliances have had no business calling themselves dishwashers because they are essentially ornamental. The form of efficiency® involved is actually a devolution of energy, where the buck is passed to the stakeholder® who now must wash his dishes before placing them in the machine which provides a secondary wash for good measure—which is hardly an example of efficiency or even of usefulness. These new appliances would be better billed as “dishwashing aids,” because “dishwasher” is false advertising. Now imagine this sort of approach to energy efficiency® on a wider scale, with experts®—so narrow minded, they can see through keyholes—legislating endless policies to make tidy ledger books for the Ministry of Climate Change, while in fact passing the energy buck elsewhere down the production, pollution and waste line.

This isn’t quite a fiduciary form, but I’d be remiss not to mention Sexual Ketman, a form of social posturing and friend® manipulation: this might involve posting a sexually provocative image of oneself or of sharing® beauty shots on the Facebook or whereeverhaveyou for the purposes of exhorting “affirmation” from one’s “network” or “community”—which is mechanically compelled to provide affirmation when given the signal. Sexual Ketman includes all manner of virtue signalling. I remember a friend I had in my twenties telling me he’d pretended to be a Quebecois revolutionary for one night so he could sleep with a woman. How many men pretend they are feminists, or pretend so convincingly, they don’t recognise the pretence and are devoured by their own puppet . . . for the express purpose of getting laid? How many women do the same? Sexual partners are disposable. Sexual fantasies are disposable. And in hyper-populated cities, one’s very identity is disposable. So one’s beliefs are equally disposable. 

Qualitative life suffers under administrative regimes because quality has no bureaucratic value. Beauty has no bureaucratic value. Love has no bureaucratic value.

CBC deploys gaslighting strategy to demonise the word freedom. See the article for a lesson in Linguistic Ketman.

Linguistic Ketman

Linguistic Ketman has recently gone commando with regard to a whole spectrum of terms. There has, throughout my life, been a continual game of Political Correctness (PC), for example, around how to politely make reference to intellectually delayed persons. On the tip of every tongue sits the word retarded, but we mustn’t use it. So many terms have come and gone to replace the original word, it is difficult to keep track. Inevitably, one dances around it hoping to propitiate the PC sensibility which flutters around every conversation like a dark spirit of surveillance. Similarly, writers feel the need to use “inclusive” language to signal their compliance with politically correct policies, using they and their when they know damn well the gender of the person indicated; fumbling with written stammerings like s/he his/hers or the tedious “he and she” which symbolise and instantiate self-censorship along with compelled speech. 

Consider how no one actually cares about these pieties, except bureaucrats, and for them it’s not that they care; it’s simply their purpose. The administrative purpose lies in its power which is circumscribed by the job description and a rule to be administered. Petty rules are therefore essential to administrative practice. Proof of work to a bureaucrat is a spreadsheet showing some form of numeric growth. To make activity mensurable, administrators encourage robotic, repeatable production inputs and outcomes. And to get their way, they implement petty, arbitrary rules, or hold back resources. Qualitative life suffers under administrative regimes because quality has no bureaucratic value. Beauty has no bureaucratic value. Love has no bureaucratic value. Pleasure and happiness wind up in a ledger book of some kind, cherry picking the metrics best suited to arrive at a result most positive to the ledger-book regime. Once the metrics are determined, a system is locked in place to reproduce output results that look good according to the administrator’s book-keeping. The reality being measured, however, may have little to nothing to do with the means of measurement. In fact, too often the bureaucratic avenue causes more harm than good much the way someone trying to be helpful at a worksite might pick up a 12-foot iron bar and swing it round without realising how many heads he’s caved in: perhaps he meant to be helpful, but if so, he also caused collateral damage enough that we would have been better off without his help.

Facebook fact checkers are more correctly referred to as *fact checkers®.

Think a moment about how the word, fact, has recently been touched by a legal sleight of hand, such that a fact is nothing other than a species of opinion: hence, Facebook fact checkers are more correctly referred to as *fact checkers® which refers to nothing more than an opinion police employed to promote bureaucratically sanctioned opinions. As a result, what is presently tagged “misinformation” by our *fact checkers® is not in fact misinformation: instead, both fact and misinformation have been transformed into virtual reality synthetics, avatars, fungible, electronic badges. Make no mistake! The cynical manipulation of the word fact is a conscious act of Ketman, and it’s the Devil’s way of shifting reality. We are not comforted to learn that George Soros has just funded a fact checking, “good news” initiative. Soros is known for his philanthropic support of the American Democratic party and leftist activism. Ergo, over the next while, we can expect an intensification of the politicisation of facts and misinformation

It behoves us to dwell a moment on how bureaucrats recruit language into a game of definitions to imbue words with administrative purpose. The covid scam, for instance, is predicated on a strategic alteration of the definition of the term pandemic from a word denoting a deadly disease with high infection rate, to a word without connection to disease, danger, or death. Once words fall into the hands of Ketman, the bureaucrat can tell you that up is down, that a man menstruates, that a woman is a social construct, that dangerous is safe®, that safe is dangerous and that vaccines® do not confer immunity from death and disease, nor do they prevent transmission, but are nevertheless *vaccines® (see the fine print). 

This is the condition that ensues when words are deemed disposable. Hence the idea that vaccinations and boosters are a short-term solution (which somehow isn’t a bad thing) and are required “to remain up to date” on a 5-month basis forever (possibly every 3 months in the near future). If batteries had to be replaced for something that often, consumers would reject the product and “buy” with no intention of ownership. Sobering to consider that with acceptance of a jab every 6 months, one is essentially buying into the idea of renting one’s health, and by extension, of leasing one’s body. Worth the effort to figure out to whom you are ceding ownership, no? It strikes me as a drug dealer’s typical approach to business. But this situation smacks more of a drug cartel that engages in human trafficking.

So, as a result of this health scam, the latest Ketman game in town is Booster Ketman. We are beyond Vaccine Ketman, here. Listen to this repartee overheard while helping some fellas move the other day:

“Did you get the boost?”

“Yeah. I qualified right away. You know how?”


“Well, I had a double of the Astra Zeneca, right? . . . and this time, I went for a Pfizer.”

“Riiight! I get it. Yeah. Pfizer. That would do it.”

Massive highway-side billboards blast in emergency red, “Boost Up!” – “Book your booster now.” Boost Up is notable for its double meaning, its implied social boost, required for you to keep up, with the vaguest whiff of a threat encoded there that if you miss your boost, you may fall behind and become an outcast. Some expert Ketman there, right out of a Marketing and PR room. It sounds a little Nike-like with its Just do it vibe. Boost Up! And the above conversation reflects the sport of it, too, a cynical gaming of the system: the reason for switching brands was to get his dose sooner than he otherwise would have. Sure there was a risk, but that’s part of the booster fun; it’s about being part of the experiment, of taking part directly in The Science™. And queue jumping is a Ketman favourite. Moreover, the above quoted conversation is the complete extent of the exchange I witnessed. Nothing regarding health preceded or succeeded that quick, matter of fact chatter. It came up suddenly and out of nowhere, like a friendly rivalry between close friends or cousins. Boosting Up® is now a game of who can outmanoeuvre the system to get boosted® first.

If health is disposable, then human life is not far behind. Indeed, human life is presently felt to be disposable. Hence the acceptance of collateral damage due to lockdowns and vaccine injuries. Hence the promotion of unrestricted abortion, including very late-term. 

A further example of Linguistic Ketman that is not to be missed is the recent smear piece perpetrated on the word, Freedom, by the Canadian propaganda arm of the Trudeau dictatorship, the CBC, and meant to undermine the positive optics of the 2022 Freedom Convoy. In an article published February 14th, 2022, one can read how “The word has become common among far-right groups, experts say.” Experts® indeed. Via these luminaries, our souls are enriched by wisdoms such as, “For many, freedom is a malleable term — one that’s open to interpretation.” Another expert plies us with, “You can define it and understand it and sort of manipulate it in a way that makes sense to you and is useful to you.” Sound familiar? Ketman Classic: gaslighting. Freedom is a social construct. One imagines the Trudeau apparatchik cooking up this crack during late hour Zoom sessions, with unscrupulous think-tankers desperately trying to dig their way out of the bad optics of a government standing against freedom. The article continues to insult the average intelligence by suggesting that “freedom” is a word resonant with hate that leads directly to violence of the sort that erupted at the U.S. Capitol during the January 6th insurrection®. One recalls a time when terrorists were being rebranded as freedom fighters. Now peaceful freedom fighters are being rebranded as domestic terrorists and perpetrators of “violent freedom.”

Professional Ketman

A post by a vaccine activist (from late 2021) compared vaccine refusal to refusal to use snow tires on one’s car without it occurring to him that if any batch of snow tires caused collateral damage (including injury and death), there’d be a recall and an investigation into quality control. Likely someone would be fired and possibly jailed for negligence. What we’re witnessing here is Medical Ketman, a play-acting sphere in which the rules applied elsewhere do not apply to public health interventions: this is a form of Linguistic Ketman, a favourite tool of administrative and lawyerly prestidigitation. 

CDC PR spokesperson, Rochelle Walensky, left. Ontario Premier, Doug Ford, right. Both putting on the same practiced face of anxiety-ridden earnestness and concern
CDC PR spokesperson, Rochelle Walensky, left. Ontario Premier, Doug Ford, right. Both putting on the same practiced face of anxiety-ridden earnestness and concern while lying to the public.

A most glaring example of this phenomenon of fakery today is the preamble one hears from politicians who understand that the medical emergency is a bureaucratically engineered power grab, and a dangerous one that will lead to unrestrained segregation, dehumanisation and tyranny . . . and still they feel the Ketmanic obligation to utter their sincerely play-acted acknowledgment of the (false) severity of the disease and the (false) safety and efficacy of the vaccines. In other words, before he can take a stand against the administrative coup détat, the supposedly well-meaning politician surrenders the battlefield by offering up the linguistic grounds of opposition; for surely, if the disease is indeed so severe and the safety and efficacy of the vaccines so certain, vaccine mandates are not opposable on any meaningful grounds other than vaguely moralistic ones of purely academic interest. The politician may understand this trouble, but nevertheless he feels that should he not lead with such preamble, he will be publicly shredded and cancelled, and his chances to ameliorate the situation will be lost. Some may perceive such a politician as a coward, and this may be so; but he is also practicing Ketman. And let us not jump to conclusions, the best players of Ketman never betray whether they are acting defensively or offensively. 

The climate changes. This is how. Shut up! Only stupid people ask questions . . . Take your safety sacrament and take part in the body of The Science™ or face the inquisition and extended isolation. 

The theatre of acknowledgment presents us with another example of compelled preambles. One who wishes to be known as upstanding and worthy among progressives must signal one’s allegiances using acknowledgement preambles or be deemed a denier and a hater. These words are presently being bureaucratised, and will very soon be terms bearing legalistic, administrative condemnation, entailing fines and sanctions as per a social credit system. If one fails to acknowledge that he stands on un-ceded First Nations territory, for example, or if he fails to acknowledge the immense harm being caused by anthropogenic climate change, he will be in breach of a bureaucratic policy and will be promptly excommunicated and deprived of livelihood without hope of a defence. 

No one involved in this system has to believe he is participating in a good or worthy system because, as far as he can tell, he’s just doing his job, just filling the role set before him, just playing the game of Ketman. And at this stage of the game of pretend, he does not see that he has any choice. After all, he is told, This is how things work. Its settled. The stars move. This is how. The climate changes. This is how. Shut up! Only stupid people ask questions. Speak these words at the appointed times. Meet with the robed officiate. Take your safety sacrament and take part in the body of The Science™ or face the inquisition and extended isolation. 

True, Ketman has been with us here in the West a long time. Perhaps, there’s always a little Ketman going on, and no such thing as politics without it and no community without its politics. There’s always some measure of fakery and skullduggery afoot. The question then must be, to what extent? And how exactly did the dry rot creep up on us? How do we stop it? And if we succeed in halting the progress of this horrifying game of pretend, how do we prevent the nihilistic cynicism, this insubstantial, groundless ground from finding its way under our feet again in the future? 

What I have presented here is a mere reintroduction to Ketman for our age and our desperate moment as we face intensifying state control, engineered fear, manufactured panic, along with cynical scapegoating and mindless segregation. As Milosz indicated, Ketman presents innumerable shapes, and this essay only scratches the surface. Doubtless, readers will discover it everywhere once they make a point of watching themselves and their friends with an eye for it. My concern is that as the totalitarian dome closes over our heads, many are mistaking their cynicism for a shield, and many are mistaking their Ketman for a superior cleverness, when in fact these are the vaseline of submission, forms of self-distancing and self-mechanising that lead to heartlessness and cruelty. 

Dare we take comfort in the fact that Ketman will not prove a winning strategy for much longer because what’s at stake is our long-term health and quality of life? More people are awakening to this realisation, but still too slowly. By force of Ketman, we are not permitting ourselves to think certain thoughts, or to research facts or to speak up and say something at our place of employment. And let’s face it, not everyone knows how to conduct research. And when someone with no research skills “researches” “the facts,” he’s liable to wind up in the teeth of the *fact checkers® reading “good® information®” or alternatively on the shoals of the flat earth, wearing a foil hat. To these research tourists, branding and marketing are everything. Consequently, people are accepting a shake® in place of a milkshake because they don’t understand the lawyer trickery bullshit terms of the scam. These days, when we think we’re playing the system, it’s not true; it is we who are being played. 

What does this mean in practical terms? Many of us are still using Facebook and its Meta offspring, still using Google and Youtube. We are telling ourselves that we are, after all, subverting the system from within. But that is simply not the case. So long as we continue to support the companies colluding with corrupt governments to censor us and suppress the truth, to help spread disinformation and label truth as disinformation®, to sow fear and division . . . so long as we provide their investors with incentive, through our participation, to finance these evil activities, we are collaborators and not at all the resistance.

Asa Boxer is an award-winning writer. His latest book The Narrow Cabinet: A Zombie Chronicle is available as of spring 2022, and can be found at the usual online shops. Boxer is known for his grit, sardonic humour and accessible poetry.

photo of Jorge Luis Borges

The Concept of God: Jorge Luis Borges & The Aleph

What is God? A physical Being that knows all? A mental or spiritual “space” of pure understanding? Jorge Luis Borges spent his life exploring these thorny metaphysical questions, and never with more probing insight and wit than in his famous story “The Aleph.” In the following essay, Karen Warinsky examines how Borges’s story uses the Kabbalistic concept of the Aleph—the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet that Kabbalists believe opens a window into the relationship between God and His creation—both to admire and to mock those like himself who seek to comprehend what is incomprehensible, ie. a total vision of the nature of the cosmos. Pictured above: Jorge Luis Borges at his office, Argentine National Library, 1973. Image credit: Levan Ramishvili

Argentinian author and philosopher Jorge Luis Borges examined why people hold certain beliefs, how those beliefs effect life choices, and how, occasionally, those tightly held and committed stances can be quite humorous. Borges found it funny that individuals and cultures can proclaim they know the truth about life, when he saw from his own observations, and from his study of science and metaphysics, that more theory than proof exists in the world.

Borges’s 1949 story “The Aleph” shows his ability to tackle the thorniest of philosophical and scientific concepts with a writing style designed to get a laugh from his readers. Each year on the anniversary of the death of a woman he once loved, the narrator goes to her cousin’s house for a drink; this visit evolves into a yearly dinner in the dead woman’s honor. Slowly the narrator becomes friends of a sort with Carlos Argentino Daneri, the woman’s cousin. The narrator finds a poem Daneri is writing to be repellent: “He read me many other stanzas, each of which also won his own approval and elicited his lengthy explications. There was nothing remarkable about them . . . Application, resignation, and chance had gone into the writing”1Borges, Jorge Luis.  “The Aleph” and Other Stories: 1933-1969.  Ed. and Trans. Norman Thomas Di Giovanni.  New York: Dutton, 1978. (“The Aleph” 19).

Instead of finding innovation in Daneri’s poem, the narrator thinks, “Daneri’s real work lay not in the poetry but in his invention of reasons why the poetry should be admired” (“The Aleph” 19). Borges blasts the pomposity of those writers and thinkers who claim they have hit upon the truth about a particular subject and who believe they have the talent to pass along their understanding to others. The Borges character in “The Aleph” delivers a critique of such egotists:

He read me certain long-winded passages . . . and . . . praised a word of his own coining, the color “celestewhite,” which he felt “actually suggests the sky,” . . . But these sprawling, lifeless hexameters lacked even the relative excitement of the so-called Augural Canto (“The Aleph” 20).

One day Daneri calls the narrator in a panic after learning his ancestral home will be torn down to make way for the expansion of an adjacent bar. He is mortified. Daneri tells the narrator he loves the home and cannot finish his poem without it, because the cellar contains something essential. It contains an Aleph.

Image credit:

Aleph is the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Like other pre-mathematical languages, the letters stand in as numbers. This practice eventually led to numerological thinking that, practiced among Kabbalists, came to be known as gematria. Simply put, “Gematria is the calculation of the numerical equivalence of letters, words, or phrases . . . [to gain] insight into . . . the interrelationship between words and ideas.”2Gal Einai Institute, 2000-2005. “Numerology-Gematria,” from the teachings of Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburg.  <>. But on a deeper level, the study of gematria is actually an attempt to address the question of the relationship between God and creation.

Information taken from the lectures and writings of Rabbi Harav Yitzchak Ginsburgh on the website Inner Dimension states that gematria and the Kabbalah (the so-called “hidden” knowledge in the Torah), seek to find answers to whether God is “the underlying force behind everything.”

Borges was a student of gematria, and here he plays a bit with the significance of the Aleph. Daneri uses the Aleph to describe a point in space that contains all other points.  Borges’s trademark irony is apparent when he has Daneri explain the Aleph to the narrator:

“It’s in the cellar under the dining room,” he went on, so overcome by his worries now that he forgot to be pompous. “It’s mine—mine. I discovered it when I was a child, all by myself. The cellar stairway is so steep that my aunt and uncle forbade my using it, but I’d heard someone say there was a world down there. I found out later they meant an old-fashioned globe of the world, but at the time I thought they were referring to the world itself. One day when no one was home I started down in secret, but I stumbled and fell. When I opened my eyes, I saw the Aleph.”

“The Aleph?” I repeated.

“Yes, the only place on earth where all places are—seen from every angle, each standing clear, without any confusion or blending. I kept the discovery to myself and went back every chance I got. As a child, I did not foresee that this privilege was granted to me so that later I could write this poem . . .”

I tried to reason with him. “But isn’t the cellar very dark?” I said.

“Truth cannot penetrate a closed mind. If all places in the universe are in the Aleph, then all stars, all lamps, all sources of light are in it, too.”

“You wait there. I’ll be right over to see it” (“The Aleph” 23-24).

Though the narrator has no real interest in helping Daneri finish his mammoth poem, the idea of looking at such a metaphysical wonder—a point where all places can be seen from every angle with complete clarity—is too compelling to resist, and he runs over to see it.   

Epigraph to the story "The Aleph" by Jorge Luis Borges
The first epigraph of Borges’s story “The Aleph” comes from the titular character in Hamlet as he’s slowly going mad. The epigraph, then, seems to be poking fun at the crazy idea that through the ‘nutshell’ of the Aleph one can acquire the ‘infinite’ knowledge attributed to God.

While Borges mocks both science and literature in “The Aleph,” he was also a serious student of these subjects, as well as of metaphysics and religion. Toward the end of his life, he lectured on a diversity of subjects from gematria and the Kabbalah to Buddhism and reincarnation. Nevertheless, Borges’s innate skepticism and deeply humorous way of looking at life color nearly all his writing.

In his book, Humor in Borges, René de Costa explains that Borges leads to the cosmic only after a comic episode: Daneri “telephones Borges, and we discover that the basis of his poem on ‘the entire universe’ is none other than ‘a trip around his room,’ in reality the basement, from which he views the universe through an ‘aleph’”3De Costa, René. Humor in Borges. Detroit: Wayne State UP, 2000. (de Costa 30). (Significantly, according to de Costa, the story’s narrator is a parody of Borges himself (de Costa 27).)

The comedy continues, and “we have a kind of reversal, with Borges acting the compliant part of the clown’s dumb sidekick, docilely carrying through the absurd instructions of Daneri” (de Costa 30). “As with Franz Kafka, there is a flip-side to [Borges’s] most serious writing,” de Costa adds, for “terms like ‘Borgesian’ and ‘Kafkaesque’ are often used to describe almost any baffling mix of the normal and the strange” (de Costa 7).

In her essay “Jorge Luis Borges, Existentialist: ‘The Aleph’ and the Relativity of Human Perception,” Mary McBride describes “The Aleph” as a “concept story” that expresses a main concern of human analysis—“the relativity of human perception, the inadequacy of man’s reason to explain the enigma of the universe”4McBride, Mary. “Jorge Luis Borges, Existentialist: ‘The Aleph’ and the Relativity of Human Perception.” Studies in Short Fiction 2 (1977): 401-03. (McBride 401). McBride states that in this story Borges “illustrates the existentialistic assumption that existence has no meaning for a human being except for the meaning created by that individual’s experience” (McBride 401).

When the narrator sees the Aleph, Borges switches the tone of the story to one of wonder in contemplation of the potential of omniscience:

I saw the teeming sea, I saw daybreak and nightfall, I saw the multitudes of America, I saw a silvery cobweb in the center of a black pyramid, I saw a ruptured labyrinth (it was London); I saw, close up, unending eyes watching themselves in me as in a mirror, I saw all the mirrors on earth and none of them reflected me; . . . I saw my empty bedroom . . . I saw the survivors of a battle sending out picture postcards . . . I saw the rotted dust and bones that had once deliciously been Beatriz Viterbo; I saw the circulation of my own dark blood; I saw the coupling of love and the modification of death; I saw the Aleph from every point and angle, and in the Aleph I saw the earth; I saw my own face and my own bowels; I saw your face; and I felt dizzy and wept, for my eyes had seen that secret and conjectured object whose name is common to all men but which no man has looked upon—the unimaginable universe (“The Aleph” 27-28).

The term Kabbalah has become the main descriptive of Jewish esoteric knowledge and practices and roughly translates to “receiving” or “that which is received.”

Borges’s idea of a unified place where all things could be discerned at once comes in part from his knowledge of gematria, and he lectured on this and on the Kabbalah in Buenos Aires in 1977. The term Kabbalah has become the main descriptive of Jewish esoteric knowledge and practices and roughly translates to “receiving” or “that which is received.” The Kabbalah is meant to provide spiritual vehicles that help bring humanity closer to God. Its studies and practices are meant to help humanity approach higher insight into God’s creation.5“Kabbalah.” The New Encyclopaedia Britannica. Micropaedia Ready Reference, 15th ed. 2002.

To Borges, however, the Kabbalists were unsuccessful insofar as they were not, in fact, in possession of the Truth and perfect vision. To Borges, the more fundamental theme at play was humanity’s often inept and sometimes humorous attempts at understanding the workings of the universe.

In a lecture of his from 1977, Borges tackled the subject, explaining that the Kabbalists were influenced by the Gnostics and that in order to link everything to the Hebrew tradition, they invented this strange system of deciphering letters.6Borges, Jorge Luis. Seven Nights. Transl. Eliot Weinberger. New York: New Directions, 1980. He stated, “The cosmic system of the Kabbalah may be described like this: In the beginning there is a Being analogous to the God of Spinoza, except that the God of Spinoza is infinitely rich”  (Borges 100). “The en sof, {the most fundamental emanation of God} in contrast, is infinitely poor, for of that Being we cannot say that He exists, for if we say that He exists then we must also say that stars exist, men exist, ants exist.  How can we put them all in the same category?  No, that primordial Being does not exist” (Borges 100).

Kabbalists believe, according to Borges, that it cannot be said that God thinks, because thinking is a logical process, moving from a premise to a conclusion. Likewise it cannot be said that He wants, because to want something is to feel the lack of something. “Besides, if the en sof is infinite, how can He want something else? And what other thing could He create except another infinite Being which would become confused with Himself? However, since the creation of the world is unfortunately necessary, we have ten emanations, the Sefirot, which emerge from Him but come after Him” (Borges 100).

Sefirot, or Tree of Life
According to the late Kabbalah scholar Z’ev ben Shimon Halevi, the Sefirot, or Tree of Life, reflects the Kabbalistic notion that “a human being is a miniature version of the primordial Adam, who is the model of all that exists. Thus, each individual like a hologram, is a microcosm of the whole Universe.” Each of us, in other words, contains all the knowledge of the Aleph “within the deeper parts of the psyche . . . even as the body possesses an inherent knowledge gained over millions of years of physical evolution.”

Though he states many times in his lectures that it is challenging to attempt an understanding of the concept of God, what God is and what God wants, Borges made it a part of his life’s work to try and do just that. If God is a being that knows all, or a place of pure understanding, Borges may have entertained the idea that an Aleph could be real.

A commentary Borges wrote on “The Aleph” gives us his definition of this concept: “What eternity is to time, the Aleph is to space. In eternity, all time—past, present, and future—coexists simultaneously. In the Aleph, the sum total of the spatial universe is to be found in a tiny shining sphere barely over an inch across” (“The Aleph” and Other Stories 263).

Charming how Borges the humorist, while ridiculing Denari and intellectuals like him who believe they have resolved some abstruse cosmic enigma, also includes himself among those deserving of ridicule. God and the universe are unknowable, he seems to conclude, yet the human thirst for discovering them is unquenchable. At the meta-narrative level, Borges shimmers, makes of himself a foil, highlighting the universal human folly of metaphysical speculation. The protagonist of “The Aleph” believes he has discovered a universal, timeless, divine mystery in a lightless, airless, subterranean location. It seems we are to infer that the only means of transcendence—of elevation out of the perpetual condition of ignorance—is humor, especially turned toward oneself. His sardonic, self-deprecating wit is essential, then, to understanding the ethics of “The Aleph.” It’s a tale simultaneously of celebration and condemnation, of our troubled relationship with knowledge: it’s a tale of the insatiable human desire to conceive of the inconceivable, to shine a light where only darkness can exist.

Karen Warinsky is a poet based in Connecticut. Her poem, “Roodhouse,” was long-listed in the 2011 Montreal International Poetry Prize.  Two years later she was named a finalist in the same contest with her poem, “Legacy,” and those top 50 entries were published in The Global Poetry Anthology by Véhicule Press in 2013. Since then she has had many poems published, including two in the 2017 anthology Nuclear Impact: Broken Atoms in Our Hands (Shabda Press, 2017); two in the Mizmor Anthology (Poetica Publishing, 2019); and other poems in a variety of literary journals.  Her first collection of verse, Gold in Autumn, came out in 2020 and she has a new book, Sunrise Ruby (both published by Human Error Publishing) coming out this spring.  The books are available from Barnes & Noble or by contacting the author @KWarinsky on Twitter or on Facebook.

Vaccine Passports

Vaccine Passports Cause Hate: Segregation & the COVID Regime

In this essay, Asa Boxer examines the potentially horrifying consequences of the hate speech being currently deployed by world leaders in order to gain public acceptance of vaccine passports by stirring up hatred against those “unvaccinated” with the Covid-19 experimental mRNA gene therapy treatments. This essay originally appeared, in an abridged and edited version, in The Epoch Times on September 16, 2021.

Legally speaking (in Canada at least), hate speech is a public utterance, publication or symbolic representation that promotes the vilification and detestation of an identifiable group.

In recent months, I have witnessed the proliferation of lawn signage stating, “Hate has no home here.” Those displaying these signs are by and large well-meaning folk who feel that their message telegraphs support to those who might otherwise feel marginalised. Unwittingly, however, these signs are telegraphing hate. A more effective message would state, “We welcome all kinds; we love YOU!” Instead, the signage implies that there is a certain kind of person who is not welcome. These deplorables are being vilified and detested. In other words, the anti-hate movement is itself promoting hate.

Meanwhile, anti-haters seem to have lost their ability to identify hate, since certain species are deemed healthy. The movement is so caught up with lawn signage, that when confronted with actual hate—for instance when Justin Trudeau says, “You need to condemn those people,” or “They are putting at risk our kids”—it evades their radar. Hate has found a back door into their hearts.

With the advent of the COVID era, due to the efforts of some cynical pharmaceutical PR & Marketing persons, there has been an effort to characterise those who oppose lockdowns and various other misguided forms of government overreach as “haters.” A very tenuous claim circulated widely in 2020, for example, suggesting that criticism of lockdowns was hateful of certain minority groups at greater risk of infection. The giveaway that this absurd argument was merely a form of political rhetoric is that now that vaccine passports are top of the agenda, the observation that marginalised minorities are disproportionately impacted by the measure is receiving little attention and is almost never called hateful. 

The emergent COVID regimes—taking a page from the Nazi playbook—are singling out a group as unclean contaminants and a contagious threat to society. Politicians are engaging shamelessly in hate, wilfully inciting detestation of the unvaccinated. Meanwhile, the vaccine hesitant are guilty of nothing more than a difference of opinion, on the one hand, and on the other hand, of an opposition to state control over their bodies.

Enter COVID and overnight, the My Body, My Choice ideal is quashed.

Prior to COVID, the My Body, My Choice slogan was ubiquitous in the fight for abortion rights. And up until yesterday, one couldn’t argue against it without being vilified as a hateful misogynist. Enter COVID and overnight, the My Body, My Choice ideal is quashed. The reasoning? Legalistically speaking, our “bodily autonomy is not absolute.” Recently, lawyers representing the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) came out saying precisely that, using the anti-abortion perspective to support vaccine mandates.

As Glenn Greenwald points out, this position is a complete about-face for the ACLU, which, in reports from 2008 and 2020, warned against vaccine mandates and coercive state behaviour, demonstrating how statist overreach has done more harm than good during past health crises. In contrast, educational approaches have proven exceptionally efficacious at bringing disease outbreaks quickly under control. Not only the ACLU, but also close to 60,000 medical professionals and doctors worldwide have demonstrated their agreement with this level headed assessment by signing the Great Barrington Declaration.

Anyone who wants to make a claim of exceptionalism when it comes to COVID need only observe those regions that have rejected lockdowns and segregation. In the face of all manner of international pressures, Sweden, for instance, upheld its constitution and the rule of law. Consequently, the Swedes are thriving and have not suffered the immense collateral damage brought about by the coup d’etat affected elsewhere.

No doubt hating Nazis or the KKK may be a good thing. For argument’s sake, I will grant the problematic and circular argument to those who feel it is right to hate haters. I will also tentatively grant the anti-abortionist reasoning that our “bodily autonomy is not absolute.”

However, here’s the trouble with that position when applied to COVID vaccines. The unvaccinated do not represent a greater risk to others than the vaccinated. The vaccinated pose at least as much of a risk as those who are unvaccinated. As the case in Israel has made clear, the vaccinated are still vulnerable to the disease. In fact, according to a recent study, the vaccinated are 13 times more likely to become infected with COVID and more than 27 times more likely to become ill than unvaccinated folk who have recovered from the illness and acquired natural immunity.

The vaccines in play are non-sterilising: this means that they do not stop a vaccinated person from carrying and transmitting the virus. There is, in short, no argument that justifies mandating them. And it is irrational to segregate the unvaccinated.

[T]he historical record of rushed vaccines is full of dangerous duds.

According to Professor Christina Parks from the University of Michigan Medical School, a PhD in cellular and molecular biology who testified before the Michigan State Legislature in August 2021, the greater proportion of vaccine hesitant are PhDs and those lacking a high school diploma. The latter “know what they don’t know” and “they don’t trust the government,” as Parks explains. Why do PhDs hesitate?—(a) the historical record of rushed vaccines is full of dangerous duds, (b) pharmaceutical companies are notorious felons who have paid out billions of dollars in damages, and (c) PhDs are familiar with how corruption operates within faculties and institutions, especially within the medical sphere.

The Dengue vaccine, developed by the NIAID under Dr. Anthony Fauci’s aegis and still approved by the CDC, was given to thousands of children in the Philippines and killed at least 600 kids before it was banned there. Another rushed vaccine in the US in 1976 (this time against swine flu) led to 53 deaths from vaccination. In that case, the swine flu epidemic that was expected never materialised. One of the worst consequences of that vaccine rush was that the US waived liability for vaccine developers. More recently with the H1N1 vaccine, developed just over 10 years ago, 1 in 10,000 developed a nervous disease.

Now visit VAERS—the US Adverse Event Reporting System—and look at the death signal for the present run of vaccines! (Or you can visit It dwarfs these past death signals by orders of magnitude. The USA has 14,925 post vaccine deaths (as of September 19, 2021) and the number keeps rising weekly. Keep in mind that bulk counts make no distinction between those who die with COVID and those who die of COVID, whereas VAERS reports of those who die with or of vaccines are going unaddressed and “official numbers” are deflated to 7,000 (still astounding) through statistical manipulations that exclude those vaccinated with one dose and those vaccinated less than 14 days prior to death.

PhDs are aware of these facts and are, therefore, hesitant.

* * *

When it came to light that the Nazis had been engaged in scientific experimentation on humans, including sterilisation of the “unclean,” world leaders came together to ensure this horrific side of science would never again rear its ugly head. The result was the Nuremberg Code, which made informed consent the ethical cornerstone that would guide pharmaceutical developers when entering any phase of human testing. Essential to this concept: consent cannot be coerced. Telling someone, for instance, that they will lose their job or their rights if they do not consent to a medical procedure is the purview of the worst sort of haters.

In short, the anti-hate movement is asleep at the wheel. Our watch dogs are gazing at lawn signs while segregationist policies and hate speech abound. It is time the anti-hate movement performed an internal audit to investigate how it is contributing to rather than diminishing hate in the world.

Asa Boxer is an award winning writer, and a founder of the Montreal International Poetry Prize, now run by McGill University. He presently co-edits The Secular Heretic, an online magazine for the arts and sciences. Boxer has published several books of poetry, and he also produces a weekly cultural video series called Daymakers.

Muhammad XII's family in the Alhambra moments after the fall of Granada, by Manuel Gómez-Moreno González, c. 1880

Two Poems by Ricardo Pau-Llosa

Muhammad XII’s family in the Alhambra moments after the fall of Granada, by Manuel Gómez-Moreno González, c. 1880. The Alhambra palace and fortress complex is located in Granada, Andalusia, Spain.

Epistemology at Aleida’s Swimming Pool

A world is no less itself when upside down
reflected in the pool, as if dangled from its heels
like a prisoner already confessing his innocence
or his guilt by his journey through condition.
A slight breeze ripples the water into rungs
the eye climbs across the harped semblance,
toward the point where image spills from the real
onto the trembling surface and there resounds.
Hearing and sight teach each other, mold
from wave and shot what we call World.
Yet mystery. Precision. The distance we know
by reverb and frequency the eye translates into size.
So the ear, too, has a vanishing point it borrows,
as shadow is courted into depth by aural eyes.
All else we touch, smell, and taste in nearness,
as if the body staked its right as nest
and center where horizons siren their numbers to rest.

Al Andalus

In courtyards of sun and night I find
my moment's calendar. Centuries, in a bud still,
bloom in the timeless mind as light pools
in the oyster palm of fountain to settle into motion.
Language—contained infinite—turns the rotation
of the moon into emblem, its one face spools
myriad yet same. A syntax of shadows fills
the atrium, the square Roman heart which lined
Bath and Córdoba, Byzantium and Havana and speaks
form into the form of mind. There rest breaks
the bread of words into tone, doubt, and palate.
The moon on earth—these walls cratered with flowers.
A blank that shines by night is an eloquent slate.
Each prayer a column; each column a blessèd tower.
Among lions I walk, and beneath the petaled combs
I am hovered from rivulet and harem to amber domes.
The wanderer's journey is the history of home.

Ricardo Pau-Llosa is a Miami-based poet, art critic, and story writer. His first book of poems, Sorting Metaphors (Anhinga Press, 1983), won the first national Anhinga Prize. His third book of verse, Cuba (Carnegie Mellon), was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 1993. His latest collections are Man (2014) and The Turning (2018), both from Carnegie Mellon.

Mackerel fish chromolithograph (1878) by Samuel Kilbourne

Two Poems by Stefan Sullivan

Pictured above: Mackerel fish chromolithograph (1878) by Samuel Kilbourne. Original from Museum of New Zealand. Digitally enhanced by rawpixel.

Monsignor on the Lam

As a boy in Nowhere, Illinois, I came across
Ratline: Nazis on the Lam, a book 
about death-camp goons snaking
through the high grass of Paraguay
with Vatican papers and fake optical frames.
This got me thinking. 
Why did our priest have a Lithuanian accent?
As an altar boy, I watched him fold the purificator
and wipe the chalice lips. I watched his stony jaw.
Had he lathered up the midnight mob?  
With plainsong to the bobbing pitchforks? 
With swings of the thurible that lit
the killing-barn straw?
Whenever he touched my shoulder, I tensed up big time. 

Yet, years later, I learned that he never left Illinois.

A lot of Lithuanians settled near the mines.

The Stages of Cannes

At a Stage 1 party, you meet the boss of Film Slovakia
and a sun-leathered location scout from the Mad Max remake.
You also spot a '60s-era bombshell holding a white poodle.
She steadies herself between two Paco Rabanne-scented grifters.
She laughs easily despite mild disfigurement from plastic surgery.

At a Stage 2 after party, the bouncer wields his flashlight
like a border guard. Under the Cuervo tent, you run into a chain-smoking
B-lister who screwed James Caan's fourth wife at a wedding in Los Cabos.
He drinks 3 whiskies in 10 minutes. Then he repeats the story. 
The grandstand, sponsored by Dos Equis, features a salsa band in white
You dance with a Russian socialite whose husband bankrolled a Miramax
She invites you to the after-after party.

At the Stage 3 after-after party, a jasmine-scented driveway snakes 
up to a Belle Époque hotel lit in yellow from below.
The drummer is so suave, he only beats with brushes. 
The pianist never moves his hands.
At the caviar station, Dustin tells you that he caught a mackerel
on the set of Papillon. From a rowboat. Very angry. That mackerel. A
"So you caught a fish?" In a silk bathrobe, Mr. Weinstein joins the mix. 
"That's all you got? That's your f&%$# story?"
"Not a fish, Harvey!" Dustin pops a cracker in his mouth. 
"A 9 pound mackerel." 

You look around for the socialite. 
She left in a cab, the doorman says. 
In the direction of Stage 4.

Stefan Sullivan is a Washington-based author and philosopher. His book of philosophy, Marx for a Post-Communist Era: On Poverty, Corruption and Banality, was published by Routledge London in 2001. His Sibirischer Schwindel (Berlin: Die Andere Bibliothek, 2002) is a collection of two adventure novels. Sullivan has written essays for Playboy (Germany), Newsweek, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, and Ethnic and Racial Studies. His poem, “The Ordering Impulse,” was published in the May 2021 issue of Global Poemic.