History of Astrology

by Sudha Hamilton

 

Looking back in time in search of the origins of astrology, we are faced with the question, what is astrology? Is it an advanced scientific hypothesis, based on the premise that the heavenly bodies give off an ‘influence,’ which affects individual events on earth, or is it primarily a universal language, as argued by Giovanni Pontano, the Italian Renaissance astrologer? Pontano’s treatise, On Celestial Things, published in 1512, stated that astrology is “a language of the stars and planets that formed the letters of a cosmic alphabet that conformed in all essential ways to the language of humans.” In my experience as an astrologer, it has been the latter definition, which has made most sense to me and encouraged me to take the journey of life guided by the stars above.

It is generally agreed that humankind’s look to the stars has been one that all the tribes of earth – indeed, every culture – has shared in. Evidence of this remains today on ancient cave and wall paintings, and on surviving archaeological tablets and texts in museums around the world. To look up at the night sky and witness the incredible changes of the celestial light show would have been profoundly awe-inspiring. It would also have stimulated the formation of a number of basic philosophical questions like: why are we here? What is nature of time? Who controls the movement of the stars across the heavens? When we ask, what is the history of astrology? We must consider that, incredibly, there once was a time when the inhabitants of this world did not know what time it was! Imagine how that would affect everything you did or wanted to do.

Continued in Healing Our Wellbeing by Sudha Hamilton

Wanted Wellbeing Dead or Alive

We live at a time when we wish to have the greatest wellbeing in the history of humanity. We are alive during a time of unprecedented new approaches to health and healing, when practitioners of pioneering wellbeing modalities are arriving, almost, daily. In this book I have collected my published writing on a variety of healing techniques, nutritional approaches and therapies in an attempt to offer you some insight and understanding into this exciting field.

Of course, some of these healing modalities and sources of wisdom are in fact ancient, dating back, in some instances, to the Babylonian civilisation several millennia ago. There are, however, new adaptations of these timeless truths and they have been incorporated into new modalities. History, to many people, is unknown and so the wisdom proffered here may indeed shine a light on the cause of unhappiness and, even, illness. The aim of this book is to introduce readers to new ways of healing and increasing their sense of wellbeing.

Thought Field Therapy offers amazing relief to many sufferers, who cannot find healing in what we call ‘modern medicine’ today – tapping on the meridians discovered by Chinese medicine thousands of years ago. House Therapy is my own insight, linking our homes to our minds or souls – and showing how we can heal and change things through this understanding. Retreats and Spas have become our new way of holidaying – a new holy day on which to heal.

Nutrition must be one of the most exciting new fields of knowledge when it comes to our health and there are many pieces here on our physical selves – and what is good and bad to consume. I hope that you enjoy the writing and finish this book with a greater understanding of your health and some of the therapies and approaches to healing that currently abound.

©Sudha Hamilton

Continued in Healing Our Wellbeing by Sudha Hamilton

A Lot of Contentious Christian Ideology

by Robert Hamilton

In this essay, I will be critically assessing the argument, put forward by Robert Di Vito in his published article, “Old Testament Anthropology and the Construction of Personal Identity,” that Lot’s contentious offering of his daughters to a ‘mob’ of men in Genesis 19 is an example of a ‘value system’, which ranks the family group above any individual rights. Di Vito’s argument rests, intrinsically, on the difference between our modern sensibilities and that of the characters who inhabit the Old Testament Hebrew Bible. How are we so different from these denizens of the Bronze Age?

De Vito, references Charles Taylor’s, Sources of the Self, to outline the development of the “self” from the Enlightenment, in the late seventeenth century, as a pivotal shift from how we considered ourselves and our place in the universe previously.[1]

“Essentially, the development which Taylor charts extends from Augustine through Descartes, Locke, and Kant on into the romantics, culminating in the affirmation of the human subject as an autonomous, disengaged, self-sufficient, and self-responsible unity, one whose own “inner depths” are the sufficient ground of its efforts at self-expression and self-exploration.”[2]

This sense of “self,” which all of us hold so dearly today, was in De Vito’s view, absent, or hardly developed, during the time of the Hebrew Bible. In contrast to our sense of “individuality,” which we, as modern people,  value highly, the members of Old Testament family groups were defined by their kinship to a patriarchal family leader (“father”), and to a lesser extent, their tribe. The narrative within the Hebrew Bible confirms this, through its focus on these characters, like Abraham, Noah and Moses, to name a few. Martin Noth describes this focus, within the Pentateuch, as the “circle of patriarchs”.[3] In Genesis 12:26 the story revolves around Abraham, with Lot, his nephew, making a peripheral appearance in Genesis 19, mainly because of his relationship within Abraham’s family circle. Individuals within family groups, and or tribes, had no personal value outside of the family.[4] The crux of De Vito’s argument is, that identity was defined very differently in the time of the Old Testament, in comparison to how we define it today.

Wives, sons and daughters, within the stories of the Hebrew Bible, are there to carry out their “father’s” wishes in everything. De Vito, emphasises this “unequivocal patriarchy” within the ancient Israelite family group and makes it clear that all property was owned by the “father” and that his children, grand children, and so on, were his property.[5] So, that, when Lot, in Genesis 19, offers his virginal daughters, to be raped by a mob of men as an alternative to Jehovah’s  male angels, or messengers, being sodomised by these same men, it may not be, as morally contentious in the same way, as we view it today.[6] In fact biblical scholars, like Desmond Alexander, see the Genesis 19 story as proof of Lot’s righteousness, in the same way that Abraham’s righteousness is portrayed in Genesis 22.[7]  Paul Tonson in his article, “Mercy Without Covenant,” sees Lot, as performing his more important duties, as host, rather than his less important parental obligation.[8] It is, however, pretty repugnant behaviour whatever way you look at it and devalues both the role of women and the duty of care a father has to his children. In the words of Lyn Bechtel, “his offer violates the assumption of protection of women as the producers of life that characterizes ancient society.”[9] Scott Morschauser, in his article, “Hospitality, Hostilities and Hostages,” disagrees completely with the traditional interpretation of the Hebrew in Genesis 19: 1-9 – he reads the meaning of the words to refer to Lot, as a judicial patriarch interviewing the messengers at the gatehouse, during a time of war, and then being challenged by the mob to hand over the two men as possible spies.[10] He goes further, to completely discount any sexual meaning in regard to the men, or Lot’s daughters – if this is correct then it greatly undermines the common understanding of Genesis 19.

De Vito, in his essay, goes on, to argue that this patriarchal family grouping system provided social stability and that in early Israel this was how villages were constructed, with several “father’s houses” forming a clan based grouping.[11] De Vito stresses, that it is the social roles determined by the family group, which define the identity of the members of the Old Testament families. Morality is centred within a community model, which is founded on an extended family group, with one patriarchal leader responsible for all moral decisions affecting the family – the “extended lineal group.”[12]

Surrounding this kernel of truth, according to De Vito, the article presents some very interesting analysis of contemporary attitudes towards identity, in contrast to historical antecedents. The article, begins with a comparison of, the ancient Greek’s idea of the  duality of body and soul, with the Israelite’s literal conception of a united single self. The author, importantly, qualifies the difference between today’s sense of self with the more primitive, Old Testament, conception of self. De Vito states,

“Just as the promotion in modernity of a socially disengaged self contrasts sharply with the embedding of the Israelite in the family, so too the modern conviction of personal unity finds only a distant echo in the biblical construction of individual identity.”

The essential points here, are the “social disengagement” of the modern self, away from identifying solely with roles defined by the family group, and the development of a “personal unity” within the individual. Morally speaking, we are no longer empty vessels to be filled up by some god, or servant of god, we are now responsible for our own actions, and decisions, in light of our own moral compass. I would like to mention Julian Jayne’s seminal work, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, as a pertinent hypothesis for an attempt to understand the enormous distance between the modern sense of self with that of the ancient mind, and its largely absent subjective state.[13]

“The preposterous hypothesis we have come to in the previous chapter is that at one time human nature was split in two, an executive part called a god, and a follower part called a man.”[14]

This hypothesis sits very well with De Vitos’ description of the permeable personal identity of Old Testament characters, who are “taken over,” or possessed, by Yahweh.[15] The evidence of the Old Testament stories points in this direction, where we have patriarchal family leaders, like Abraham and Noah, going around making morally contentious decisions (in today’s terms) based on their internal dialogue with a god – Jehovah.[16]  As Jaynes postulates later in his book, today we would call this behaviour schizophrenia. De Vito, later in the article, confirms, that:

“Of course, this relative disregard for autonomy in no way limits one’s responsibility for conduct–not even when Yhwh has given “statutes that were not good” in order to destroy Israel “(Ezek 20:25-26).[17]

This brings us to De Vito’s next sub-heading, within the article, Heteronomy – the opposite of autonomy – and the fact that the Old Testament Israelites were clearly told to obey and definitely not to think for themselves:

“Wisdom comes not to those who look within themselves for worlds to explore, or who embark on roads never travelled, but only to those willing to heed the authoritative voice of tradition “(Prov 1:8-9).

The essence of the argument here, is that only god has the moral right, and that autonomy is wrong, as is personal freedom, and that man is a puppet waiting for Jehovah to fill him with his “wind” or spirit. No individual human actions can be judged by humanity, according to De Vito’s interpretation of the Old Testament, only by god; and that the narrative of the Hebrew Bible is about family groups and tribes.

Social Identity Theory, developed by Henri Tajfel in the nineteen seventies, has a relevance here when considering behaviour by members of groups.[18] How much of our identity is derived from interpersonal values and how much from intergroup expectations imposed upon us? The permeable individual, the sheep within a flock of sheep, Tajfel highlighted the behaviour of individuals at times of war, as a clear example of when the scale is tipped strongly in favour of intergroup influence over the individual. The Old Testament characters are, it seems, perpetually at war on behalf of their jealous god Jehovah; who demands total obedience. (Deut 8:1-19) Scott Morschauser’s interpretation of Lot’s behaviour with the messengers, as possible military spies, would fit appropriately here as well.

Both Jayne, and De Vito, analyse the linguistic make-up of highlighted sections of the Hebrew Bible, and in Jayne’s case, he questions the translations of certain words, and this, in his opinion, can change the meaning of the texts.[19] De Vito references Hans Walter Wolff’s,Anthropology of the Old Testament, when he talks of the “interchangeability” of terms, like heart, soul, flesh and spirit used in the Old Testament to describe the same “unity” of the person but with different words.[20]

“The eye of the adulterer waits for dawn, saying, `No eye will see me.'” (Job 24:15a)

“When the ear heard it, it called me happy; when the eye saw it, it bore me witness.” (Job 29:11) [21]

As you can see, in these two examples taken from De Vito’s article, the writer of this text, within the Old Testament, gives parts of the body autonomous sentiency.  De Vito references A.R. Johnson’s, The Vitality of the Individual in the Thought of Ancient Israel, when determining that it is merely “synecdoche” and poetic language.[22] I hesitate to accept this blithely and would caution greater discrimination  in the linguistic examination of the texts within the Hebrew Bible.[23] The meaning of these words change, even when transferred from the oral tradition to being written down, and even further depending on what language they are translated into.[24] What De Vito, and the referenced biblical scholars, are determined to illustrate here is the non-dual totality in the “Hebrew conception of the person” but not in a primitive sense, rather, in a more complex way.[25] Why is this important to De Vito?

The article begins by referencing an early comparison between the deaths of Socrates and Jesus, in a lecture by Oscar Cullmann at Harvard University.[26] This highlights an ancient argument about the moral, and intellectual, superiority of the classical Greek conception of life over the Christian model. What De Vito is attempting to do here is link our sense of truth in our modern conceptions of identity with the essence of Old Testament morality. There is a never ending need for Christian scholars to explain the righteousness of their religion, especially in the face of examples of primitive savagery, which abound in the Old Testament. An example of this is Lot’s story, which goes on to present incest between father and both daughters, and resultant children from, what we would call today, acts of abomination. (Genesis 19:30-38) I find this particularly relevant when you consider the current Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Abuse, which focuses in large part on institutional abuse within religious organisations and their schools. I imagine that there are some confused members of the priesthood, who having read these stories in the Old Testament, are, perhaps, merely acting out in accordance with what they have learnt from these prophets and patriarchal leaders. How can we condone a religion, and their operation of schools within our communities, when their holy books contain such morally questionable activities? What kind of message are we sending out to the members of our community?[27] Supposedly, it is in part, because we overlook the Old Testament and discount its scriptural relevance, but biblical scholars, like De Vito in this article, continue to attempt to validate its importance to our sense of who we are.

De Vito reaches, some strange conclusions, in my view, that personal identity in the modern sense is the worship of idolatry, with our own conception of ourselves being the idols, I presume. Like so many Christian scholars, he eventually comes down on the side of the Bible, after a circuitous journey through psychology and modern cultural senses of identity. This wild goose chase, is usually, in  my experience,  an attempt by the writer to maintain the Christian religions relevance to the modern world. I find it extraordinary, that a religious text written by biased proponents, many years after the purported times it professes to cover, is taken so seriously by scholars, and some psychologists, as a source for the understanding of humanity.[28]

In conclusion, the evidence suggests that De Vito is correct, that the family group took precedence over the rights of the individual in the world of the Old Testament. Social Identity Theory would define these characters as heavily directed by intergroup expectations at the expense of their interpersonal values, they simply had no value outside of the group; and these groups were often at war with one another. Julian Jayne’s hypothesis about the ancient mind, also explains a great deal about the pre-eminence of god, and his prophets, in the decision making by characters, within the narratives of the Hebrew Bible; and most importantly conveys the abyss between modern mind and ancient mind. There is, however, a too ready acceptance of easy answers in regard to the Hebrew understanding of terms like soul and spirit, in De Vito’s essay, when there is much debate, by scholars, over meanings in the linguistic terminology used in the Old Testament. The reality, even today, is that we do not know what these terms mean in our own languages; and the irony is that we look back into ancient history for answers as to what soul and spirit really refer to. De Vito drastically, underestimates, the incomprehension between modern thought and Old Testament individual reality. De Vito seeks to link these disparate worlds to make ideological sense of Christianity, and its foundations. He concludes that we all should surrender and obey the will of Jehovah, as a morally correct and still applicable path to righteousness. There is, at the heart of this essay, a denial of the barbarity and intellectual contempt toward humanity, which the creators of this Bronze Age religion have clearly displayed in their history.

©Robert Hamilton

For More Roman and Greek History by Robert Hamilton

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Alexander, T. Desmond. Lot’s Hospitality – A Clue to His Righteousness, Journal of Biblical Literature, , Vol. 104 Issue 2, Jun1985, p289-291.

Bechtel. Lyn. M, “A Feminist Reading of Genesis 19.1–11,” in Genesis: A Feminist Companion to the Bible, Second Series, ed. Athalya Brenner (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1998), p -108–29.

Bible – New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, 1984.

Blenkinsopp, Joseph. “Two centuries of Pentateuchal scholarship” in Pentateuch: An Introduction to the First Five Books of the Bible , Doubleday, New York, London, 1992 , p -1-30.

Bimson, John. “Old Testament history and sociology” in Interpreting the Old Testament: A Guide for Exegesis , Broyles, C.C. ,Grand Rapids Michigan, 2001 , p -125-138.

Cullmann. O, “Immortality of the Soul or Resurrection of the Dead?” in Immortality and Resurrection (ed. K. Stendahl; Ingersoll Lectures; New York: Macmillan, 1965) p -9-47.

De Vito. R. A, Old Testament Anthropology and the Construction of Personal Identity, Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 61, 1999, p – 217-238.

 

Heard. Christopher, What did the mob want Lot to do in Genesis 19:9?, Hebrew Studies, Vol 51, 2010, p – 95-105.

Jaynes. Julian, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, Mariner Books, New York, 2000.

Kutz. Ilan, Revisiting the Lot of the first Incestuous Family: The Biblical Origins of Shifting the Blame on to Female Family Members, British Medical Journal, 331:7531, 2005, p – 1507-1508.

Low. Kathryn. B, The Sexual Abuse of Lot’s Daughters: Reconceptualising Kinship for the Sake of Our Daughters, Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, 26.2,  2010, p – 37-54.

Morschauser. Scott, Hospitality, Hostiles and Hostages: On the Legal Background to Genesis 19:1-9, Journal for the Study of Old Testament, 27,  2003, p – 461-485.

 

Miller II, Robert D. “Literacy and orality in preexilic Israel” in Oral Tradition in Ancient Israel , Miller II, Robert D. , Cascade Books, Eugene Oregon, 2011 , p -40-58.

Mowinckel, Sigmund. “‘I’ and ‘we’ in the psalms – the royal psalms” in The Psalms in Israel’s Worship: Translated by D. R. Ap-Thomas , Basil Blackwell, Oxford , 1967 , p – 42-80.

Noth, Martin. “The human figures in the pentateuchal narrative” in A History of Pentateuchal Traditions , Noth, Martin , 1972 , p -146-188.

Tajfel. Henri, “Social Identity and Intergroup Behaviour,” Social Science Information, Vol 13, April, 1974, p – 65-93.

 

Taylor. Charles, Sources of the Self, Harvard University Press, USA, 1992.

Tonson. Paul, Mercy Without Covenant, Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, Vol 26, No 1,Sage Publications, UK, 2001, p – 95-116.

 

Sternberg. Meir, Biblical Poetics and Sexual Politics from Reading to Counterreading, Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol 111/3, 1992, p – 463-488.

 

 

[1] Taylor. Charles, Sources of the Self, Harvard University Press, 1992, p -111-26.

 

[2] De Vito. R. A, Old Testament Anthropology and the Construction of Personal Identity, Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 61, 1999, p – 220.

 

[3] Noth, Martin. “The human figures in the pentateuchal narrative” in A History of Pentateuchal Traditions ,  Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs NJ, 1972 , p – 147.

 

[4] Mowinckel, Sigmund. “‘I’ and ‘we’ in the psalms – the royal psalms” in The Psalms in Israel’s Worship: Translated by D. R. Ap-Thomas , Mowinckel, Sigmund , Basil Blackwell, Oxford, 1967 , p -42.

 

[5] De Vito. R. A, Old Testament Anthropology and the Construction of Personal Identity, Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 61, 1999, p – 222.

[6] Hamilton. Robert, “The mob’s desires re-gang raping the messengers of god is what is traditionally understood but as with all these linguistic interpretations still open to scholarly debate.”

[7] Alexander, T. Desmond. Lot’s Hospitality – A Clue to His Righteousness, Journal of Biblical Literature, Jun85, Vol. 104 Issue 2, p – 291.

 

[8] Tonson. Paul, Mercy Without Covenant, Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, Vol 26, No 1,Sage Publications, UK, 2001, p – 99.

[9] Bechtel. Lyn. M, “A Feminist Reading of Genesis 19.1–11,” in Genesis: A Feminist Companion to the Bible, Second Series, ed. Athalya Brenner (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1998), p -108–29.

 

[10] Morschauser. Scott, Hospitality, Hostiles and Hostages: On the Legal Background to Genesis 19:1-9, Journal for the Study of Old Testament, 27, 2003, p – 461-485.

[11] De Vito. R. A, Old Testament Anthropology and the Construction of Personal Identity, Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 61, 1999, p – 223.

[12] De Vito. R. A, Old Testament Anthropology and the Construction of Personal Identity, Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 61, 1999, p – 223.

 

[13] Jaynes. Julian, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, Mariner Books, New York, 2000, p – 84.

[14] Jaynes. Julian, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, Mariner Books, New York, 2000, p – 84.

 

[15] De Vito. R. A, Old Testament Anthropology and the Construction of Personal Identity, Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 61, 1999, p – 229-230.

 

[16] Jaynes. Julian, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, Mariner Books, New York, 2000, p – 293-300.

[17] De Vito. R. A, Old Testament Anthropology and the Construction of Personal Identity, Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 61, 1999, p – 236.

[18] Tajfel. Henri, “Social Identity and Intergroup Behaviour,” Social Science Information, Vol 13 April, 1974, p – 65-93.

[19] Jaynes. Julian, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, Mariner Books, New York, 2000, p – 297.

 

[20] De Vito. R. A, Old Testament Anthropology and the Construction of Personal Identity, Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 61, 1999, p – 227.

[21] De Vito. R. A, Old Testament Anthropology and the Construction of Personal Identity, Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 61, 1999, p – 227.

 

[22] De Vito. R. A, Old Testament Anthropology and the Construction of Personal Identity, Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 61, 1999, p – 227-228.

 

[23] Heard. Christopher, What did the mob want Lot to do in Genesis 19:9?, Hebrew Studies, Vol 51, 2010, p – 95-105.

 

[24] Miller II, Robert D. “Literacy and orality in preexilic Israel” in Oral Tradition in Ancient Israel , Miller II, Robert D. , Cascade Books, Eugene Oregon, 2011 , p -41-42.

Sternberg. Meir, Biblical Poetics and Sexual Politics from Reading to Counterreading, Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol 111/3, 1992, p – 470.

 

[25] De Vito. R. A, Old Testament Anthropology and the Construction of Personal Identity, Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 61, 1999, p – 227.

[26] Cullmann. O, “Immortality of the Soul or Resurrection of the Dead?” in Immortality and Resurrection (ed. K. Stendahl; Ingersoll Lectures; New York: Macmillan, 1965, p -9-47.

 

[27] Kutz. Ilan, Revisiting the Lot of the first Incestuous Family: The Biblical Origins of Shifting the Blame on to Female Family Members, British Medical Journal, 331:7531, 2005, p – 1507-1508.

Low. Kathryn. B, The Sexual Abuse of Lot’s Daughters: Reconceptualising Kinship for the Sake of Our Daughters, Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, 26.2, 2010, p – 37-54.

 

 

[28] Bimson, John. “Old Testament history and sociology” in Interpreting the Old Testament: A Guide for Exegesis , Broyles, C.C. ,Grand Rapids Michigan, 2001 , p -133-136.

 

Art of Coffee Making an Oral Fetish

The Art of Coffee Making

by Sudha Hamilton

I stand before my three espresso machines like a conductor before his orchestra. Two are gurgling out hot black liquid and one is issuing forth vaporous steam. The aroma is sweet and aromatic. My hands move swiftly to cease the flow on my machine to the left, and then the one on the right, before bringing up my stainless steel jug of milk to froth at the spout of my central machine.  The air is pierced by a high pitch scream, as the steam meets chilled white milk, and then I plunge it further in.

Frothing is an Art form in itself, warming the milk with hand cupping my little jug’s posterior, to sense the temperature of the contents within. Here, I am seeking the Goldilocks moment – the not too hot, not too cold, but just right moment – to end the frothing process. Setting my cups before me, and visually appreciating the crema within each ceramic vessel, I begin to pour slowly the frothy viscous milk. As it tops each cup, forming involuntary heart shapes, I smile to see a job well done, and call out, “darling, your coffee’s ready!” The day has begun.

I often think back, to my dear old mum and dad, and their appalling Nescafe, instant coffee. Especially when I am carefully scooping espresso roasted Arabica beans into my grinder and then timing my grind to perfection, before tamping the grind into the basket of my hand held portafilter and locking it into place within the machine. Then taking my warmed cups I humbly set them beneath the dual orifices of my stainless steel portafilter and then switch on the pressured flow. Yes it is at this time I think about how mum would just unscrew the lid of the jar, take a teaspoon of granulated, disgusting instant coffee and drop it in the cup. Pour the boiled kettle of water over and then a slurp of cold milk, and bingo bango, it was all done. Dreadful concoction but a speedy birth just the same.

I suppose this contrast is at the heart of where we stand today – with the white good’s gadgets lined up,  before us, and processed, pre-packaged, fast foods decking the groaning supermarket shelves. An army of white coated, lab infesting, technical engineers, who are obsessively inventing time saving devices and’ just add water,’ developed at  NASA, meals.  You can have instant anything, but where do all these short cuts lead to? They lead to bland, unappetising, food, and ultimately to poor health.

So we turn back the clock and take the time to make something properly, like maybe our grandfathers did – maybe? We can embrace the central premise of the slow food movement, and lovingly grind our beans, froth our milk and warm our cups. For this is the Art of coffee making after all.

©Sacred Chef.

 For More Sacred Chef Secrets and Recipes by Sudha Hamilton

 

 

 

New Titles Published Amazon and Kobo

 

Sacred Chef’s New Cookbook “secrets and recipes”

NOW AVAILABLE on AMAZON Kindle and Kobo

Sacred Chef secrets and recipes.. my collection of recipes and writings, gathered over a lifetime of cooking and teaching.

I hope that you, will find some great recipes here to try and perhaps add to your own culinary repertoire. Recipes are like magic spells to incant with your hands, touching, inspiring, chopping, stirring and then serving. The dance of the kitchen, I call it, weaving wonder with saucepans and knives. Good cooking involves a flow of energy, as you engage with matter and time, coordinating the arrival of a number of different elements.

For some, this can be a stressful process and the memory of traumatic kitchen experiences permeates their appreciation of cooking. This collection of recipes, also includes some useful tips and suggestions about how these painful situations can be avoided. Of course the essential nature of the kitchen and cooking must be embraced; it is a place of earth, fire, air and water. Meaning that you need to be present in the moment, aware and ready to respond, not distracted and thinking of other things. You cannot daydream in the home of heat and steel.

Your cooking experience will ultimately be defined by your attitude towards it – I hope that this book will turn you on to the very satisfying pleasure that comes from sacred cooking, eating and drinking. May the cooking gods smile upon you!

Sudha Hamilton aka The Sacred Chef

Health Issues Govt Control & Big Business

by Sudha Hamilton

Our Health: Is the TGA helping or hindering our journey to better health?

Is protection, censorship & control the way?

Who will make the necessary investment in nutraceuticals & superfoods to satisfy the regulatory bodies?

Pharmaceutical corporations?

Governments?

I think to begin this topic we need to define what “health,” actually  is.

What is health?

“1.The state of being well in body or mind. 2. A person’s mental or physical condition. 3. Soundness, esp. financial or moral.” (Aust Concise Oxford Dictionary)

Health is most often defined negatively as an absence of disease & this is probably closer to the paradigm that encapsulates our modern health system in this country. I think we, as a community need to find a more comprehensive & sophisticated definition of health before we can actually move to a state of overall greater health. A better definition I came across is this one from the nursing dept at a training institute in the United States:

“Health is a unity and harmony within the mind, body and spirit which is unique to each person, and is as defined by that person. The level of wellness or health is, in part, determined by the ability to deal with and defend against stress. Health is on a continuum with movements between a state of optimum well-being and illness which is defined as degrees of disharmony. It is determined by physiological, psychological, socio-cultural, spiritual, and developmental stage variables.”

I particularly like the reference in this definition to the “uniqueness” of each person & the encompassing acceptance of health as a continuum moving between different states at various stages of our lives. The more that we can move to respecting & treating the health of each individual rather than basing our health policy on generalised statistical medicine the greater satisfaction that we all will draw from our health system. Our doctors & health administrators need to stop treating us like cattle or other so called dumb animals, we are not bodies without minds or souls. It is the narrowly defined “universality,” in the laws of science, which has, in my opinion, condemned modern western medicine to always treat the body not the person. Why does an effective treatment always have to be reduced down to what works for everybody or at least a majority of “bodies?” The lowest common denominator will always be precisely that – the lowest. Why can’t we look with more inclusive eyes at the amazing variety of people & their responses to various treatments, be they nutraceuticals, pharmaceuticals or so called superfoods?

The increasingly aggressive standpoint of the Australian government’s Therapeutics Goods Administration in challenging health claims made by those in the business of selling these natural substances can be partially understood as a means to protect certain vulnerable sections of the community, those who are sick with terminal & incurable conditions that do not readily respond to those treatments proffered by our doctors & hospitals, & who may be swayed by the testimonials of others who have cured themselves through diet & directly or indirectly through the consumption of a particular natural substance. Therefore, perhaps avoiding treatments recommended by the state in favour of a more natural approach, that may or may not shorten their life expectancy.

This protection for a small minority of people, through strictly enforced censorship based on the premise of science’s lowest common denominator, condemns the rest of the community to ignorance of the health benefits of these substances. Why? Because it is money in our capitalistic economies that drives information, education & research & if these natural health manufacturers & distributors cannot advertise their products then they cannot sell them & the information dries up. It also makes the task of sharing some new healthy discovery a lot harder now & the province of big companies, as it is often too expensive for the smaller player now to enter the commercial arena due to the onerous investment now needed. Do I personally think the majority of Australian business’ involved in selling health supplements genuinely believe that their products contribute to creating better health for those in the community that purchase & use them? In my experience I would say yes. Of course there are also always a small number of business people who exploit demand without a view to the totality of consequences in their pursuit of profits, like the owners of the Pan Pharmaceutical  Company who were suspended by the TGA in 2003. However one rotten apple does not make the whole apple industry shonky. We need to be careful that greater regulation does not choke the creativity out of the natural health industry & leave it in the hands of a few with enormous vested interests.

The current lack of definitive western scientific proof for many of the health claims made by many of the people involved in selling things like Goji juice & berries, is due I think to a combination of circumstances. Firstly it is a relative new phenomenon here in the west & there has not really been the time or the money that needs to be invested in these trials but I see signs that is now coming. Secondly, that inertia, has also been fuelled by a general disinterest by the medical/scientific fraternity in testing natural substances when there is far more money to be made in the development of artificial pharmaceuticals that can by copy righted for exclusive income generation. Who funds most tests = pharmaceutical companies. This lack of investment in nutritional science also leads to relatively poor levels of understanding about this field & question marks over whether the right queries are being framed in studies into these substances. Which brings us back to timing & the fact that we are on the threshold of an exciting new era of nutritional understanding & its impact on our quality of life.

Can we empower people to take responsibility for their own health? Does the existing established medical fraternity want people to take back that power? Is it happening anyway in some sort of quiet revolution? All questions that arise when I am faced with this ongoing conundrum about whether a superfood is really that or in fact more snake oil, as many of our health legislators would have us all believe. Lets be blunt, many doctors still think that taking vitamin supplements are a waste of time & money. Self- interest drives much of our world, be it in health or elsewhere, the question is who is driving the TGA? Is it medical experts who have had much of their research funded by pharmaceutical companies? Do we want to end up with a few vitamin giants supplying our supplement market, who are in fact owned by pharmaceutical corporations? Which is pretty much where we are now in this country. Is big business always going to sell us the “good oil?” And where are our passionate modern “shaman” going to put their healing knowledge & energy now? Lots of interesting questions,  that we all could be asking our elected representatives in the days ahead. It will be fascinating to see how things continue to unfold & where the power will reside in the ongoing maintenance of our health.

 

 

 

 

 

Excerpt from – House Therapy

 by Sudha Hamilton

House Therapy is now available online at www.housetherapy.com.au Kobo & Amazon Kindle

 

The Kitchen

 

The Ancient Greeks, who gave us many of the founding principles upon which we base our modern societies – democracy; logic; philosophy; literature and poetry to name but a few salient examples, had  a rich collection of gods and goddesses. Hestia was the goddess of hearth and home, older sister to Zeus and first born of the titan’s, Kronos and Rhea, perhaps not as well known today as her siblings Demeter, Hera, Haides and Poseidon.  This may have been due to the fact that she was swallowed first by her titan father Kronos, who in  a bid to avoid being overthrown by one of his children, as prophesied, ate all his children, she was thus the last to be regurgitated, once Zeus had forced his father to do so. Families and mealtimes are, as we all know, never easy.

The Romans also worshipped her in their homes and knew her as Vesta. The areas of responsibility for which Hestia was worshipped and sacrificed to, were most aspects of domestic life and in particular what we now call the kitchen. For it is around the cooking hearth, or kitchen, that a home, or house, builds out and up. Hestia was always toasted at the beginning of a meal in thanks for the hospitality proffered. She was probably where the early Christians appropriated their ‘saying of grace’ before dinner from.

Homeric Hymn 24 to Hestia (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C7th – 4th B.C.) :
“Hestia, in the high dwellings of all, both deathless gods and men who walk on earth, you have gained an everlasting abode and highest honour: glorious is your portion and your right. For without you mortals hold no banquet,–where one does not duly pour sweet wine in offering to Hestia both first and last. And you, Argeiphontes [Hermes], son of Zeus and Maia, . . . be favourable and help us, you and Hestia, the worshipful and dear. Come and dwell in this glorious house in friendship together; for you two, well knowing the noble actions of men, aid on their wisdom and their strength. Hail, Daughter of Kronos, and you also, Hermes.”

Interestingly Hestia was a virginal goddess and refused the suits of both Apollo and Poseidon. Perhaps this is where we get the separation of the sexual roles of the wife and mother in the home and the focus on providing nurture and hospitality instead. Hestia was seen as the giver of all domestic happiness and good fortune in the home and she was believed to dwell in the inner parts of every home. She was also the first god mentioned at every sacrifice, as she represented the hearth where sacrifices took place – this is the direct link to our kitchens today and the genesis of the sacred chef. There are very few temples of Hestia extant and this is thought to be because every home was her temple in the Hellenistic world. I think we can draw some intuition from this in our view of our homes being places of divine inspiration.

The kitchen has of late become a popular focus of interest, with TV chefs and groovy restaurants grabbing the public’s imagination. For House Therapy the kitchen represents our centre, our practical and instinctual selves. This is where we prepare food for family and ourselves. It is also often where food is stored in the refrigerator and pantry cupboards. Food is about survival and security. There is no bullshit about these things and the kitchen is a place where the elements of nature still regularly intervene. Fire on the stove and in your oven; water at the sink, earth in the bench tops and structure; and air in the extractor, fan forced oven and all around. You can be hurt in the kitchen if you do not pay attention to what you are about. Unlike the faux furies vented in the kitchens on TV, you can experience some real passions in these hot and pressurised places at home. You might be burning fingers and dishes, dropping scoldingly hot plates and crying bitter tears over chopped onions. The kitchen is where we show our real reactions to strong emotions, pressure in our lives, and our appetites and jealousies.

Have a look around now at your kitchen, the colour of the walls and general lay-out of things. What is your first impression? What does it say to you about your instinctive self? Are you clinical or passionate? Are the walls white/neutral or vivid/strong colours? Is it large or small? Is the instinctual, raw and pragmatic you an important part of your life? Or is it hidden away or missing? The trend in studio apartment architecture now, to build them without kitchens and have neutered mini servery’s instead, is a reflection of a missing essential in sections of our culture. Stripping away the practical ability to fend for yourself by cooking your own food and becoming dependent on pre-prepared meals is symptomatic of us having lost our way along the journey. Is your kitchen well equipped? Can you cook? Do you enjoy cooking for friends, family and yourself?

Returning to the rich historical connection our modern day kitchen has with Hestia’s hearth, as mentioned earlier it was the place where the highly necessary ritualised sacrifices took place. These sacrifices usually involved a calf, or some other domesticated animal, and those involved with the sacrifice would share in eating the meat of the roasted animal. So the power of the sacrifice would be in the ritualised slaughtering of the animal in dedication to the goddess for a particular purpose – to bring good fortune upon whatever was so desired, for example. Today the cook, or cooks, go into the kitchen, risking cuts, perspiration and burns, to prepare a celebratory meal for our friends and or family – Christmas, birthdays and other days of ritualised festivities. We may not consciously invoke Hestia, or any other gods, but the overall intention is the same – we wish to share good cheer with those we love and bring good fortune upon us all.

It is interesting to ask oneself what is true sacrifice and what does it mean in our lives today? When we think of sacrificing something, we tend to see it as foregoing, or missing out, on something so as to have something else. “You cannot have your cake and eat it too.” Which I have always thought was an incredibly stupid saying, because what is the point of possessing uneaten cake? A sacrifice I hear you say, perhaps a slice for the gods. Interestingly the Greeks and Romans would eat the cooked flesh of their sacrifice, offering the bones and fat to the gods and goddesses, but it was the life itself, that was the real sacrifice in my view. The word sacrifice means to make sacred, so whatever we offer up in dedication to the gods becomes sacred. Actually the word anathema, was the Greek word for laying-up or suspending something in wait for the gods, and it is has now taken on the meaning of something that is accursed, through its contact, down through the ages, with the jealous Hebrew  god, Yahweh; the Christian god. Our language, and lexicon of words, have taken an interesting journey over the last four millennia, and it is no wonder we are all a little confused at times. So we could make  a correlation between sacrificing something in our life and that thing, which  has been sacrificed becomes anathema to us or accursed. How do you feel about the things you have sacrificed in your life? A person’s love; a relationship; a career; types of food; alcohol; drugs; sex; lifestyle; freedom?  We do not live in a particularly sacrificial age, more of a ‘you can have it all’ age, but can you really enjoy it all and be present for entirely disparate things in your life? Do we appreciate things more when we make room for them in our lives? Perhaps sacrifice still has a part to play in our lives today, better sharpen those knives.

The kitchen is also a place of transformation, where base elements are turned into the gold of love and nourishment. Is your kitchen a space where magic like this happens, regularly or just on special occasions? Domestic kitchens have a great tradition throughout the West of being incredibly impractical, lacking preparation space and adequate and functional cupboards. This is now being addressed in more modern homes, as the passion is returning to the kitchen. I think that we suffered for a few decades from the ‘American wonder of white goods’ syndrome, where no home was complete without these wonderful space and time saving machines and that a mentality of faster was better grew up around them. Fast foods, sliced white bread, whipped cream in a can, all these travesties were accorded the haloed status of modernity and progress. When in actual fact they were soulless short cuts that ripped the heart out of good cooking. Yes we still do have a lot of gadgets in the kitchen but we also now understand that good food still needs dedication and application. Bread makers are great, but bread cooked in a wood fired oven tastes better, and if it is naturally fermented sour dough even better. Espresso coffee from your home machine tastes a lot better than instant coffee.

Your kitchen is a place where you can practically respond to the basic needs of living. Is your kitchen letting you do this? Is your kitchen supporting you in feeling centred and secure in dealing with the vicissitudes that life often throws up? Are your knives sharp and well balanced? Do you have enough bench space when preparing meals? Does your stove cook the way you want it to cook?  If not then you are letting yourself down and going around with a bloody great hole where your centre should be. As a member of the human tribe you need to be able to fend for yourself, and the kitchen can empower you to be grounded in the here and now. Not wafting around on the ceiling hoping for the crumbs of human kindness to drop your way.

Things we can do to transform our kitchen

 

As a chef, who has owned and managed a number of restaurants and cafes, I know all about kitchens and their design downfalls. First and foremost it is about space and in particular bench top space where most kitchens, especially older kitchens, are lacking. Storage space comes a close second and it is in these areas that a solid beginning can be made in transforming your kitchen from a frustration trap into a pragmatic pleasure dome. Cooking is never completely easy, if it is, it isn’t real cooking, in my opinion, there must be some blood, sweat and tears in every great dish but not too much. Unnecessary suffering is not on anyone’s menu by choice.

 

Buy an island bench if you lack bench top space and cannot easily create more, they are great and I have several of them, and you can take them with you when you move.

 

Sharp knives, that are also well weighted in the overall heft of the knife, can bring a smile to any good cook and I always say, “happiness is a sharp knife.”

 

Obviously kitchens need to be clean and cleaned regularly for all sorts of reasons, hygiene, health and happiness. Clutter in the kitchen causes chaos and calamity, food takes longer to prepare and the energy around it is bad.

 

Trapped dead energy, in the form of rotting and old produce in fridges and cupboards, does not augur well for happy kitchen gods and thus producing yummy healthy and nutritious food; so clean out and clean up.

 

©Sudha Hamilton www.housetherapy.com.au

 

House Therapy & Rediscovering the Secrets of You in a Non-Contemplative World

As adults in wealthy Western cultures what one material thing is valued more highly over all others? It is the home of course! A house or an apartment, of your very own, is seen as the great goal and or as an investment stepping stone to tremendous wealth, either way it is prized within our modern societies today. As many of us work frantically toward this Mount Olympus like achievement, paying off large bank loans with monthly repayments, often at the effect of capricious interest rates, we can lose sight of who we are and what makes us happy. The focus on the goal can overwhelm our sense of enjoyment in playing the game of life.

Why not use the very thing that taunts and teases us, the carrot dangling before us, the haloed home, as a device for getting to know ourselves and finding happiness? Discovering the secrets to what makes us happy, are found not in some exotic foreign clime or obscure ancient text but much closer to home. In fact the clues to who we are and what we truly want are all around us in every room of our living abodes. Welcome to what I call House Therapy.

Of course you do not have to own the home you live in to benefit from House Therapy, as your mere presence within your house or apartment defines it as yours. We all generally have some influence on the look and feel of the rooms within our home, and even for those uber minimalists out there your very non-doing defines your space just as much. There is a Taoist flavour to House Therapy, as it employs the ‘Isness of things’ principle being at work in our lives. The way things are – is the way things are – and that is  for a reason, if you just take the time to look.

You do not need to be an architect or an interior designer, although if you are you may still benefit from the insights offered by House Therapy, indeed we are all to some degree designers of our own lives. If not you, who else is the most influential person in your life, and who knows you better? Who else, in your life,  is defining themselves by every decision and choice made, as they make their way along their life pathway? Nobody but You!

There are several traditions, which employ some awareness about living circumstances and structures, Feng Shui is one from the Chinese culture, and Vastu Shastra is another from the Ayurvedic Indian tradition – these two philosophies share a concern with the lay-out and placement of your home in relation to the surrounding geography and the universe. I will be including some wisdom derived from both these sources in my House Therapy compendium, and this knowledge will be utilised in the form of things that you can do to help your situation. For example you may be advised to clear out old furniture which is connected to past relationships; or you might need to look at  rearranging patterns and room functions within your home; and if all else fails where and what to move into, when creating  a new home. www.housetherapy.com.au ©Sudha Hamilton 

Online Reflections

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REFLECTION

In my first chosen post I was inspired to recollect, and share, the experiences of my wife and myself, during and after the birth of our children. I particularly remember the passion, with which my wife embraced these online communities (Hamilton, Robert, Online Communities Post, Oct 19, 2010), and it was really my first conscious experience of the power of the Internet to forge and foster real communities. These online communities defied geography to bring together parents from all over Australia, to share their fears, excitement, opinions, knowledge and prejudices. I saw firsthand how the Internet serviced these community members by creating a portal, which uniquely provided for a subsection of society, who traditionally were often isolated by their condition – expecting mothers are often at home and out of the workforce. The 24/7 nature of the Internet and these website based forums – joyousbirth.org and naturalparenting.com.au – allowed members to share at any time of day or night, getting answers to questions about the health of expecting mothers and babies when they needed them.

The highlighted differences between the online community and the offline one in this particular section of our society were, I think, the bringing together of parents from all walks of life (Shafi. 2005). The Internet removed many of the usual barriers of class, economic status and the like, by its denuded nature – leaving content free of its dressing. People shared based on their need for knowledge rather than whether they were rich, beautiful or white.

Power was vested in those members who had and voiced natural wisdom (Liedloff, Jean, 1975), earth mothers who walked their talk when it came to having babies naturally and usually outside of the hospital system. The economy of these sites was more cottage industry through networking, with mum’s making cloth nappies and baby carriers out of hemp and other natural substances and selling them to other mums. Knowledge was the fore runner – teaching new mums about the natural way – and then merchandising followed.

I observed during this period that identity based on being a new parent and being a ‘natural parent’ was ‘über’ important to all the members of this online community. In fact it was a badge of courage or point of difference to most members in the face of the general apathy of the offline community of new parents.

In my second chosen post example I examine the innocence and naivety, through which the incredible burst of popularity has delivered an enormous amount of private information onto sites like Facebook, Amazon and MySpace (Hamilton, Robert, Online Behaviour post, 19 Oct 2010). Here we see people just not realising the consequences of their actions, when inputting personal information into these sites. Most people do not understand that these sites consider that they then own all the information and pages on their sites – these online diaries in the case of Facebook are not the individual’s diary but are actually owned by the provider of the technological medium.

With sites like Amazon it is simply one of the leading examples of online shopping sites, which are endlessly collecting and collating consumer information – so that every time you utilise the convenience of online shopping you are often, not knowingly, contributing data toward an ever increasing profile of yourself. This profile is quite likely being on sold to a variety of Internet interests, who are benefitting from the value of this information. The World Wide Web, having been created by Tim Berners-Lee as a basically free to user economic model- hence its massive popularity, forces providores of sites to generate income through secondary means. Examples of this are sites like Facebook and MySpace, who then sell advertising space and information to whoever will pay. Google, the search engine, has a similar economic model with AdWords  and AdSense.

Google (Mansell, Robin, 2004) in particular has revolutionised the advertising industry throughout the Western world, driving the incredible rise in online advertising dollars. Suddenly an advertiser can target his spend by having his ads appear in the search results list on the world’s most popular search engine. In this relatively new way of searching for consumerables, businesses who can supply the desired product or service can appear atop the page ranking list with a text ad, if they can afford the bid. This economic model has been abundantly successful Google and has provided in most cases cost effective advertising for advertisers.

In my third post I posit that the Internet is a boon for those seeking information regarding religion and a particular way of worshipping God. The Internet (Hamilton, Robert, Internet Religion Threat post, 1st Oct 2010) is all about freedom of information and the presentation of a multiplicity of views on any subject – when this set of conditions meets a topic like religion it breaks down much of the secrecy traditionally inherent in its offline reality.

Religion has a rich history of controlling access to its meta- data or the word of God. The dark ages in the Christian religion were characterised by the litany being only available in the Latin Language and with much of the general worshipping populace ignorant of this language it allowed the priest class to interpret the word of God without query. Further to this the Christian Church hierarchy controlled what texts or books were translated from the Greek into Latin, thus preventing much of the classical canon reaching the population until the Renaissance (Franklin, James, 1982) in the sixteenth century. This control of information, and thus power, has made the Christian religion a practised exponent in the art of secrecy.  The very nature of the Internet stands in stark contrast to this way of doing business.

I read with interest about ministers of religion purchasing sermons online (Van der Laan, J. 2009) and the Internet’s influence on the dispersion of inspirational texts to this online community of priests – I imagine that it would have an improving and yet homogenising affect upon these professional speech makers. Religions of all persuasions, being firmly rooted in an adherence to texts birthed in antiquity, are I think faced with great challenges being presented by the Internet and its unfettered access to knowledge. How to control your flock, if they are able to research the ‘so called’ word of God 24/7 and to discover conflicting information from other sources? Excommunication may have technological ramifications and I imagine the Vatican, for instance, probably has a pretty big IT department these days.

Having personally been a member of a religious cult – the ‘so called’ orange people, disciples of Osho Rajneesh, I know firsthand about reading online anti-cult information posted by disgruntled former devotees. In retrospect, I now see this freedom of information being a good thing, and a state of affairs which presents a balanced view of things. Religion is of course often a matter of the heart and objectivity is usually the last thing sort by those who classify themselves as true seekers.

In my fourth selection I shared my own experiences as a recent convert to Internet dating, after the cessation of my marriage. I must say I have really enjoyed the simultaneous studying and living out of an aspect of this unit – as it has given me a dual insight into an activity that I would normally be prone to be very subjective about in the circumstances. I have been able to see how the structure of the model itself is not conducive to the forming of relationships, as pointed out by Mike Kent (2010) in his lecture on the subject. It has been enlightening to see how the nature of the technological medium itself impacts on the desired outcomes of the participants in dating sites like RSVP. The site needs large numbers of people to be attractive to prospective clients and also to furnish its own economic model through advertising revenue, but getting people to form lasting relationships is not actually high up on its list of desired economic outcomes.

In conclusion I have found this unit and the processes involved – analysing the Internet through my own life experience and those around me – to be a fascinating and rewarding experience. It has brought a whole new level of awareness to what is happening around me and in the world today.

Internet Sex Study

 

 

‘Analysing the Internet & everyday life: looking at sex as a case study.’

by Robert Hamilton

In this essay I will be describing and explaining how everyday sexual experiences are now often accessed through the Internet by a broad cross section of community members in our developed western countries. I will be showing that the Sex Industry, in all its multitude forms, has embraced the Internet more fully and effectively than any other industry. I will also be illuminating the links that show the Internet to be an active agent in diminishing the power of sexual taboos by exposing more people to a greater variety of depicted sexual experiences and information. The Internet as a tool of communication and information has greatly increased accessibility to a much wider range of sexual choices and therefore fostered growing sub-communities, who base their exchanges on these shared peccadilloes and interests. Finally, I will be positing information which may suggest the Internet, and its visually arresting relationship to sex in our lives, has been a force for good in the reduction of sex crimes within our communities.

When looking at the Internet’s effect upon pornography, and its utilisation by the consumer, it is and has been clearly shown to be one of the most popular activities enjoyed online. The most recent research, by Online MBA (1), estimates that 12% of all sites on the World Wide Web are sexual in content. The amount of time and money being spent on Internet based sexual activity is simply huge. The technological leap, which has enabled the shift from pornography appearing in printed magazines to pornography displayed online, has clearly made explicit sexual content more accessible to a far greater percentage of the community. According to the 2008-09 Multipurpose Household Survey, by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 72% of Australian households had home Internet access(2).

The Internet makes pornography far more vivid, and also more importantly, brings the ‘dirty movie’ experience home into the privacy of your living room. This means that the consumer can enjoy the many Internet based pornography applications without having to obviously expose themselves as a pornography user –risking the clichéd identity of ‘dirty old men in raincoats.’ The rampant availability of sexual content on the Internet means that the use of pornography as a stimulant no longer needs to be supported by premeditated behaviour, like going to the newsagency to purchase sexually explicit printed material. Wanking has never been so spontaneously supported for so many thanks to technology, which for men has some health benefits – according to a study reported in the Journal of American Medicine(3).

In many cases Internet pornography is also now free (4) to the consumer; this is in contrast to the Sex Industries pre-Internet model, where pornography was relatively expensive for the end user, having to buy videos and magazines (5). This has provided an economic stimulus for the rise in pornography consumption among wealthier communities, with Internet access.

Feona Attwood (2007, 441-456) has also shown in her article No Money Shot? , that the Internet has broadened the public consumption of pornography, by servicing new sub-sections or niche categories. No longer is porn just ‘hard core’, showing images of genitalia and penile ejaculations into the faces of various ‘overly made-up’ models, stuff made for the more clearly defined, traditional, masculine porn consumer. It now encompasses softer porn images involving models, who display identification with certain sub-groups within the community; like emos, Goths and others who sport tattoos, dyed hair and piercings. This is fostering the enjoyment of pornography by members of the community who have traditionally shunned it. Lesbian pornography seems to be enjoyed both by homosexual women and by men, as can be seen by the content on many of these supposedly specialist sites (7). Other groups like vegans and vegetarians (8) have their own porn sites, demonstrating a far more natural or crunchy look in the way their models are portrayed. These sites share a disdain for the depiction of stereotypical models with are ‘blondes with big tits’, which are the ‘meat and potatoes’ of the more common porn sites (9).

These niche porn sites are usually membership based, charging a small monthly fee to access the full gamut of applications on offer. Members are also invited to submit sexual images of themselves to be paraded on the site, some sites offering rare financial inducements to do so (10). Many of these sub-genre type sites have ‘dating site’ like applications for their members, where they can post personal blogs and forum like comments about each other’s posts (11).  The Internet also offers sites that are more like, online magazines, but with a solid sexual orientation as well, bringing sex back into the fold, so to speak. Censorship laws (12) relating to the sale of printed media containing explicit sexual material would have contributed to the isolationist state of affairs that we had in the world of old media – where very few publications could afford to combine culture with sexually explicit images(13), as their sales were restricted to overage consumers and community attitudes to pornography have traditionally been very harsh – due to the ‘wowserish’influence of religious groups (14).

The rise in public consumption of Internet pornography has also shown, in certain studies, to have accompanied a decline in the incidents of reported rape (Kendall, Todd; 2006, 2). This correlation may show that consumption of Internet porn, by some likely transgressors of sexual criminal laws, may indeed satisfy their carnal appetites and prevent them from acting them out in ‘real life’. Of course conversely there are also numerous calls in the media linking the Internet, in particular to child sex offences, and there are studies which seem to indicate that the Internet is definitely a place where ‘grooming’ of potential targets happen (Wortley, Richard; 2006, 192). The commonly held idea, that for certain small sections of the community, repeated exposure to depictions of violent and degrading sexual activity encourages a dehumanising effect and may contribute to their involvement in carrying out real crimes of sexual violence, has not been clearly substantiated (15).

Drawing to a close, I would hope that I have, in the brief space so defined by this essay’s length, indicated and in places demonstrated the enormous level of sexual activity taking place over the Internet today, in our technologically advanced western societies.  Sex is big business within our communities, it is a major preoccupation for both individuals and societies, but it also has a great history of obfuscating itself and I would posit that the Internet is putting an end to that. Sex has been an activity, which traditionally took place behind closed doors and under the sheets, and now the Internet blurs the boundaries of private and public space. When sitting at home in front of your computer screen, perhaps masturbating to, sexually explicit images of someone else, being beamed around the planet from that person’s webcam – is that a private sexual experience or a shared public sexual experience? The Internet, I think, poses many questions that will ultimately change the way we view sex itself.

 

Notes

 

(1)  http://www.onlinemba.com/blog/stats-on-internet-pornography/

 

(2)  As of June 2009, just over five million households had broadband, according to figures released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

This is an increase of 700,000 households or 16% on the previous year – nearly two-thirds (62%) of all households now have broadband.

The Australian Capital Territory continues to have the highest proportion of broadband connections, with nearly three-quarters (74%) of ACT households now connected. Lowest is Tasmania, at just under half (49%).

There are 6.4 million households with a computer; 5.9 million of these have internet access. This is an increase of 4.8 million connected households since 1998.

The ABS also found that households with children under 15 were more likely to have broadband access (77%) compared to households without (56%).

Nearly three-quarters (73%) of children accessed the internet from home, and almost one-third (31%) had their own mobile phones.

Children used the internet for educational activities (85%) and playing on-line games (69%). About half of older children (48%) used the internet to visit social networking sites and a further quarter (24%) created their own on-line content such as blogs or websites.

An estimated 72,000 children experienced personal safety or security problems on the internet, while 28,000 children had similar problems while using mobiles.

Further details are available in Household Use of Information Technology, Australia 2008-09 (cat. no. 8146.0).

This page last updated 5 February 2010

 

(3)  ORIGINAL CONTRIBUTIONS: http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/search?fulltext=ejaculation+prostate&quicksearch_submit.x=13&quicksearch_submit.y=11
Michael F. Leitzmann; Elizabeth A. Platz; Meir J. Stampfer; Walter C. Willett; Edward Giovannucci
Ejaculation Frequency and Subsequent Risk of Prostate Cancer
JAMA, April 7, 2004; 291: 1578 – 1586.
……associated with risk of advanced prostate cancer. CONCLUSIONS: Our results suggest that ejaculation frequency is not related to increased risk of prostate cancer. | Division of Cancer…Adult Aged Aged, 80 and over Ejaculation Follow-Up Studies Health……

(4)  www.pornhub.com.au

(5)  http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/entertainment/your-brisbane/being-a-porn-star-aint-what-it-used-to-be-20100303-pj5m.html

(6)  http://www.law.stanford.edu/display/images/dynamic/events_media/Kendall%20cover%20+%20paper.pdf

(7)  http://www.lesbilicious.co.uk/  http://galleries.girlsfuckeachother.com/vids/couple-of-lesbian-pussies-for-pleasure/1777096-3.html

(8)  www.vegporn.com

(9)  http://www.redtube.com/

(10)              http://suicidegirls.com/model/

(11)              http://www.nerve.com/toolsofattraction

(12)              Playboy Magazine; Penthouse Magazine.

(13)              http://www.aph.gov.au/library/intguide/sp/censorship_ebrief.htm

(14)              http://www.porn-free.org/masturbation.htm

(15)              http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/57169/;jsessionid=7BB37434E9784C903CC2755600B0A580

References

Attwood, F. (2007). No Money Shot? Commerce, Pornography and New Sex Taste Cultures. Sexualities, 10(4), 441-456. doi: 10.1177/1363460707080982.

Todd D. Kendall (2006). Pornography, Rape, and the Internet. Clemson University, The John E. Walker Department of Economics.

Wortley, Richard; Stephen Smallbone (2006). Situational Prevention Of Child Sexual Abuse, Volume 19 of Crime prevention studies. Criminal Justice Press. p. 192. ISBN 1881798615.

Illicit Drugs Cultural Conflict Scapegoats

by Robert Hamilton

The banning of illicit drugs by governments, has, in a number of instances, involved measures  being taken against particular minority groups and racial subcultures, to limit or control their behaviour. The drugs have in fact become symbolic scapegoats for a law and order response to much more complicated social conflicts. It is often, an electorally popular move by governments, to focus on a possibly disturbing aspect of minority behaviour by a certain subcultural group, and to exaggerate this as a major problem, through the media and their own law enforcement policies. It seems that nothing garners  votes, as much as picking on unacceptably different behaviour, and demonising this behaviour through the press.

 

A keen example of this occurred in the United States of America, in the nineteen thirties, when itinerate Mexican labourers, who smoked marijuana, were depicted as violent criminal elements who became out of control on this, so called, ‘killer weed’ (Himmelstein:1983:13).  Himmelstein in his article, From killer weed to drop-out drug: The changing ideology of Marihuana, published in Contemporary Crises: Crime, Law, Social Policy, states that public discussion in the US in the nineteen thirties focused on the physically violent behaviours that marijuana was thought to engender (Gerber:2004:3). Cannabis, became more widely known as marijuana because this was its Spanish/Mexican name and through racial stereotyping of users it was associated in the public consciousness with poor, immigrant workers and their milieu. Remembering that the US was a prohibitionist state, moral crusaders were able to demonise poor people with darker skins, in their attempt to control the use of this recreational drug (Davenport-Hines:2004:14); (Hall; Pacula:1993:188). Racism and prejudice was also provided by upper class Mexicans, wishing to distance themselves from the poor, and by white North Americans of all persuasions.

 

Australia had a similar situation, during the Victorian gold rush of the eighteen eighties, where the proclivities of some Chinese immigrants toward smoking opium created a public backlash, based on barely disguised racism, with a report in the Australian Bulletin in 1886 labelling then dirty and smelly (Manderson 1995:801).[1] Australian’s did not want people from other countries taking their gold or jobs, and especially not people who looked, smelt and behaved so differently. Creating public condemnation for unacceptable behaviour allows for legislation like the White Australia policy to come into effect, masking the real reasons with a smokescreen of demonised villainy. Similarly laws against opium smoking were enacted in the US in the eighteen seventies, again specifically targeting the Chinese workers who had emigrated during their gold rush and railway boom (Hoffman:1990:57). Both these Australian and US drug policy changes were made despite the fact that the major user of opiates were white middle class females.

 

A more modern example, may be the legislative changes enacted by the Queensland government toward, so called, outlaw motorcycle gangs operating in their state. These prohibitive and restrictive new laws, are said, to be targeted at the bikies because of their dealings in the supply of illicit drugs and other illegal activities. Actual evidence of these activities are not usually forthcoming in the published media, rather spokespersons are quoted as saying, this is the case, but little proof is revealed. Perhaps the real reason behind this law enforcement action is the government’s desire to eradicate groups of powerful warrior type men from society. The fact that bikies sport tattoos is always front and centre with the media.

 

To conclude, there is substantial evidence to suggest that drug policies in countries like the US and Australia have, historically, been used to target racial subcultures. Mexicans in the US, and Chinese in both Australian and the US, have been vilified by these drug law enforcement policies, despite the fact that these two countries own majority white constituents have used other forms of these illegal drugs in far greater numbers. Perhaps a more modern example are the outlaw motor cycle gangs and the new laws targeting their activities, which supposedly are to limit their activity in the illicit drug trade. Illicit drugs, and their use, continue to be used to symbolise undesirable behaviour and to paint those users as undesirables.

 ©Robert Hamilton

 

 



[1] Himmelstein, Jerome L. “From killer weed to drop-out drug: The changing ideology of Marihuana”Contemporary Crises: Crime, Law, Social Policy , 7:1 , 1983. P – 13.

“We saw………rooms darker and more greasy than anything on the ground floor: rooms where the legions of aggressive stinks peculiar to the Chinaman seems ever to linger…. Yet the rooms are not naturally repulsive, nor would they be so when occupied by other tenants: but the Chinaman has defiled their walls with his filthy touch…”

 

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Carpenter, Lucas. “Enhancing the possibilities of desire: Addiction as postmodern trope” Southern Humanities Review , 35:3 , 2001.

Davenport-Hines, Richard Peter Treadwell. “Prologue” in Pursuit of Oblivion: A Global History of Narcotics , Davenport-Hines, Richard Peter Treadwell , 2004.

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Grund, Jean-Paul G.; Kaplan, Charles D.; De Vries, Marten. “Rituals of regulation: Controlled and uncontrolled drug use in natural settings” in Psychoactive Drugs and Harm Reduction: From Faith to Science , Heather, Nick; Wodak, Alex; Nadelmann, Ethan A.; O’Hare, Pat , 1993.

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Himmelstein, Jerome L. “From killer weed to drop-out drug: The changing ideology of Marihuana”Contemporary Crises: Crime, Law, Social Policy , 7:1 , 1983.

Hoffmann, John P. “The historical shift in the perception of opiates: from medicine to social menace” Journal of Psychoactive Drugs , 22:1 , 1990.

 

Krivanek, Jara. “Drug misuse, psychological dependence and addiction” in Understanding Drug Use: The Key Issues , Krivanek, Jara , 2000.

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Robson, Philip. “The consequences of drug use” in Forbidden Drugs: Understanding Drugs and Why People Take Them , Robson, Philip , 1994.

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