Graham Hancock investigates the mysterious religious texts of the Zoroastrians of ancient Persia and the ‘underground cities’ of neighbouring Turkey. Both, he argues, are far older than is presently taught and date back to cataclysmic events near the end of the last Ice Age that destroyed, and all but wiped from human memory, an advanced civilization of prehistory. Below is an excerpt form his work, which you can find HERE. ( A link to his new book, “Magicians of the Gods”)
You can also check out our extended interview with him here.
Exactly how old Zoroastrianism is has not yet been satisfactorily established by scholars, since even the lifetime of its prophet Zarathustra (better known as Zoroaster) is uncertain. Indeed, as Columbia University’s authoritative Encyclopedia Iranica admits: ‘Controversy over Zarathustra’s date has been an embarrassment of long standing to Zoroastrian studies.’[i]
The Greek historians were amongst the first to address themselves to the matter. Plutarch, for example, tells us that Zoroaster ‘lived 5,000 years before the Trojan War’[ii] (itself a matter of uncertain historicity but generally put at around 1300 BC, thus 5,000 plus 1,300 = 6300 BC). A similar chronology is given by Diogenes Laertius, who relates that Zoroaster lived ‘6,000 years before Xerxes’ Greek campaign’[iii] (i.e. around 6480 BC). More recent scholars have proposed dates as far apart as 1750 BC and ‘258 years before Alexander’[iv] (i.e. around 588 BC). Whatever the truth of the matter, it is agreed that Zoroaster himself borrowed from much earlier traditions and that Zoroastrianism, therefore, like many other religions, has roots that extend very far back into prehistory.
In the Zoroastrian scriptures known as the Zend Avesta certain verses in particular are recognized as drawing on these very ancient oral traditions.[v] The verses speak of a primordial father figure called Yima, the first man, the first king, and the founder of civilization, and appear in the opening section of the Zend Avesta, known as the Vendidad. There we read how the god Ahura Mazda created the first land, ‘Airyana Vaejo, by the good river Daitya,’[vi] as a paradise on earth and how ‘the fair Yima, the great shepherd… was the first mortal’ with whom Ahura Mazda chose to converse, instructing him to become a preacher.[vii] Yima refused, at which the god said:
Since thou wantest not to be the preacher and the bearer of my law, then make my world thrive, make my world increase; undertake thou to nourish, to rule and to watch over my world.[viii]
To this Yima agreed, at which the god presented him with a golden ring and a poniard – a long, tapered thrusting knife – inlaid with gold. Significantly, for we will see in Chapter Seventeen there are close parallels to this story as far away as the Andes mountains of South America, Yima then:
‘pressed the earth with the golden ring and bored it with the poniard.’[ix]
By this act, we learn he ‘made the earth grow larger by one third than it was before,’ a feat that over the course of thousands of years he repeated twice more – in the process eventually doubling the land area available for ‘the flocks and herds with men and dogs and birds,’ who gathered unto him ‘at his will and wish, as many as he wished.’[x]
Anatomically modern humans like ourselves have existed, so far as we know, for a little less than two hundred thousand years (the earliest anatomically modern human skeleton acknowledged by science is from Ethiopia and dates to 196,000 years ago).[xi] Within this timespan there has only been one period when those parts of the earth that are useful to humans increased dramatically in size, and that was during the last Ice Age, between 100,000 and 11,600 years ago. Indeed, previously submerged lands totalling 27 million square kilometres – equivalent to the area of Europe and China added together – were exposed by lowered sea-levels at the last glacial maximum 21,000 years ago. While it is probably far-fetched to suppose that it is this very real increase of useful land that is referred to in the Yima story, or that it has anything to do with the golden age that Yima’s benign rule supposedly achieved in Airyana Vaejo,[xii] it is interesting to note what happened next.
After another immense span of time, we read, Yima was summoned to ‘a meeting place by the good river Daitya’ where the god Ahura Mazda appeared to him bearing an ominous warning of sudden and catastrophic climate change:
O fair Yima, upon the material world the fatal winters are going to fall, that shall bring the fierce, foul frost; upon the material world the fatal winters are going to fall that shall make snowflakes fall thick, even on the highest tops of mountains…
Therefore make thee a Vara [a hypogeum, or underground enclosure] long as a riding ground on every side of the square, and thither bring the seeds of sheep and oxen, of men, of dogs, of birds, and of red blazing fires… Thither thou shalt bring the seeds of men and women of the greatest, best and finest kinds on this earth; thither shalt thou bring the seeds of every kind of cattle, of the greatest, best and finest kinds on this earth. Thither shalt thou bring the seeds of every kind of tree, of the greatest, best and finest kinds on this earth; thither shalt thou bring the seeds of every kind of fruit, the fullest of food and sweetest of odour. All those seeds shalt thou bring, two of every kind, to be kept inexhaustible there, so long as those men shall stay in the Vara. There shall be no humpbacked, none bulged forward there; no impotent, no lunatic… no leprous.[xiii]
So… you get the idea? This underground hideaway was to serve as a refuge from a terrible winter that was about to seize Airyana Vaejo – a winter not of a single season but of a millennium, at the onset of which, as the Bundahish, another Zoroastrian text, informs us:
the evil spirit… sprang like a snake out of the sky down to the earth… He rushed in at noon, and thereby the sky was as shattered and frightened by him as a sheep by a wolf. He came onto the water which was arranged below the earth, and then the middle of this earth was pierced and entered by him… He rushed out upon the whole creation and he made the world quite as injured and dark at midday as though it were dark night.[xiv]
Studying these accounts I couldn’t help but be reminded of the two millennia of gentle global warming that began about 15,000 years ago in the closing millennia of the last Ice Age – a sustained, balmy period of warm, fine weather – before the sudden lethal onset 12,800 years ago of a period of dramatic climate instability that geologists call ‘the Younger Dryas.’ This epoch has long been recognized as mysterious and tumultuous and it is only in the last decade that scientists have been able to pinpoint its cause. To cut a long story short, what the science indicates is that 12,800 years ago a comet travelling on an orbit that took it through the inner solar system broke up into multiple fragments, and that many of these fragments, some more than a mile (2.4 kilometers) in diameter, hit the earth with globally cataclysmic effects. An area of more than 50 million square kilometers, stretching from North America in the west to Syria in the east, was affected and a vast cloud of dust was thrown into the upper atmosphere that enshrouded the earth, preventing the sun’s rays from reaching the surface and thus initiating Younger Dryas.
At that point, 12,800 years ago, the earth had been emerging from the Ice Age for roughly 10,000 years, global temperatures were rising steadily, and the ice caps were melting. Then came the comet impacts, bringing a sudden catastrophic return to colder conditions – even colder than at the peak of the Ice Age 21,000 years ago. This short, sharp deep freeze lasted for 1,200 years until 11,600 years ago when the warming trend resumed, global temperatures shot up again, and the remaining ice caps melted very suddenly, dumping all the water they contained into the oceans.
When the Zoroastrian texts speak of a ‘fierce, foul frost’ and of ‘a fatal winter,’ is it possible that they are describing conditions during the Younger Dryas? The texts attribute the shocking change of climate to a supernatural agency – Angra Mainyu, the demon of darkness, destruction, wickedness, and chaos who stands in opposition to and seeks to undermine and undo all the works of Ahura Mazda, the God of Light. Zoroastrianism is a profoundly dualistic religion in which human beings and the choices we make for good or evil are seen as the objects of an eternal competition, or contest, between the opposed forces of darkness and light. And in this contest the darkness sometimes wins. Thus the Vendidad reminds us that although Airyana Vaejo was ‘the first of the good lands and countries’ created by Ahura Mazda, it could not resist the evil one:
Thereupon came Angra Mainyu, who is all death, and he counter-created by his witchcraft the serpent in the river, and winter, a work of the demons… [Now] there are ten winter months there, two summer months, and these are cold for the waters, cold for the earth, cold for the trees. Winter falls there, with the worst of its plagues.[xv]
In other translations the phrase ‘the serpent in the river, and winter’ is given as ‘a great serpent and Winter’ and, alternatively, as ‘a mighty serpent and snow.’[xvi]
Again… you get the idea. The metaphor that is being repeatedly driven home here is that of the mighty serpent who springs from the sky down to the earth, who penetrates the earth, and who brings a prolonged winter upon the world so severe that it is ‘dark’ (‘most turbid, opaque’ according to some translations[xvii]) at midday, and even the fleeting summer months are too cold for human life. Once again, the whole scenario seems very accurately to describe the terrible conditions that would have afflicted the world after the Younger Dryas comet spread its trail of destruction across 50 million square kilometers, brought on ‘a vehement destroying frost’ and threw such quantities of dust into the upper atmosphere, together with smoke from the continent-wide wildfires sparked off by airbursts and superheated ejecta, that a turbid, opaque darkness would indeed have filled the skies, reflecting back the sun’s rays and perpetuating something very like a nuclear winter for centuries.
The Zoroastrian texts leave us in no doubt that these conditions posed a deadly threat to the future survival of civilization. It was for this reason that Ahura Mazda came to Yima with his warning and his instruction to build an underground shelter where some remnant of humanity could take refuge, keeping safe the seeds of all animals and plants, until the thousand-year winter had passed and spring returned to the world. Moreover the account reveals very little that seems ‘mythical,’ or that obviously derives from flights religious fancy. Rather the whole thing has about it an atmosphere of hard-headed practical planning that adds a chilling note of veracity.
For example the admonition that deformed, impotent, lunatic, and leprous people should be kept out of the Vara sounds a lot like eugenics, a distasteful policy to be sure, but one that might be implemented if the survival of the human race was at stake and there was limited space available in the refuge. For the same reasons it is not surprising that only the seeds of ‘the greatest, best and finest’ kinds of trees, fruits, and vegetables, those that are ‘fullest of food and sweetest of odour,’ are to be brought to the Vara. Why waste space on anything but the best?
Also, although it is certain that a number of carefully selected people were to be admitted to the Vara, perhaps as caretakers and managers of the project, and as future breeding stock, the emphasis throughout is on seeds – which in the case of human beings would be sperm from the males and eggs from the females. So when we read that the Vara is to be constructed in three subterranean levels, each smaller than the one above, each with its own system of criss-crossing ‘streets,’ it is legitimate to wonder whether some kind of storage system, perhaps with ranks of shelves arranged in cross-crossing aisles, might not really be what is meant here:
In the largest part of the place thou shalt make nine streets, six in the middle part, three in the smallest. To the streets of the largest part thou shalt bring a thousand seeds of men and women; to the streets of the middle part, six hundred; to the streets of the smallest part, three hundred.[xviii]
If it seems fanciful to imagine that we might, in an almost high-tech sense, be looking at the specifications of a seed bank here, then how are we to assess other ‘technological’ aspects of the Vara – for example its lighting system? As well as making a door to the place, and sealing it up with the golden ring already given to him by Ahura Mazda, Yima is also to fashion ‘a window, self-shining within.’[xix] When Yima asks for clarification as to the nature of this ‘self-shining’ window Ahura Mazda tells him cryptically ‘there are uncreated lights and created lights.’ The former are the stars, the moon and the sun, which will not be seen from within the confines of the Vara during the long winter, but the latter are ‘artificial lights’ which ‘shine from below.’[xx]
Yima did as he was instructed and completed the Vara which, thereafter, ‘glowed with its own light.’[xxi] That accomplished, he then:
made waters flow in a bed a mile long; there here he settled birds, by the evergreen banks that bear never-failing food. There he established dwelling places, consisting of a house with a balcony, a courtyard and a gallery…[xxii]
There, too, we are reminded, in accord with the commands of the god,
he brought the seeds of men and women… There he brought the seeds of every kind of tree [and]… every kind of fruit… All those seeds he brought, two of every kind, to be kept inexhaustible there, so long as those men shall stay in the Vara…[xxiii]
Finally, we learn that:
every fortieth year, to every couple two are born, a male and a female. And thus it is for every sort of cattle. And the men in the Vara, which Yima made, live the happiest life.[xxiv]
Interestingly the translator explains, in a footnote drawn from various ancient learned commentaries on the text, that the human inhabitants of the Vara ‘live there for 150 years; some say they never die.’[xxv] Moreover, and particularly intriguing, the births of offspring to every couple do not result from sexual union but ‘from the seeds deposited in the Vara.’[xxvi]
Other hints of a mysterious lost technology connected to Yima include a miraculous cup in which he could see everything that was happening anywhere in the world and a jewelled glass throne (sometimes described as ‘a glass chariot’) that was capable of flight.[xxvii]
Flood & Rain
As well as a climate catastrophe in the form of an overnight reversion to peak Ice Age cold, we also know that the Younger Dryas involved extensive global flooding, as a large fraction of the North American ice cap – directly impacted by at least four of the comet fragments – melted and poured into the world ocean. It is therefore noteworthy that the Zoroastrian texts speak not only of the ‘vehement, destroying frost’ of a global winter but also of a subsequent flood accompanied by heavy precipitation, in which ‘every single drop of rain became as big as a bowl and the water stood the height of a man over the whole of this earth.’[xxviii]
On the other side of the world and much closer to the North American epicentre of the cataclysm, the Popol Vuh, an original document of the ancient Quiche Maya of Guatemala, based on pre-conquest sources, also speaks of a flood and associates it with ‘much hail, black rain and mist, and indescribable cold.’[xxix] It says, in a remarkable echo of the Zoroastrian tradition, that this was a period when ‘it was cloudy and twilight all over the world… The faces of the sun and the moon were covered.’[xxx] Other Maya sources confirm that these strange and terrible phenomena were experienced by mankind ‘in the time of the ancients. The earth darkened… It happened that the sun was still bright and clear. Then, at midday, it got dark…’[xxxi] Sunlight was not seen again ‘until the twenty-sixth year after the flood.’[xxxii]
Returning to the Middle East, the world famous account of the Hebrew patriarch Noah and the great Ark in which he rides out the flood, commands attention. It is obvious that there are many parallels with the story of Yima and his Vara. The Vara, after all, is a means of surviving a terrible and devastating winter which will destroy every living creature by enchaining the earth in a freezing trap of ice and snow. The Ark, likewise, is a means of surviving a terrible and devastating flood which will destroy every living creature by drowning the world in water. In both cases a deity – Ahura Mazda in the case of the Zoroastrian tradition, the God Yahweh in the case of the Hebrew tradition – intervenes to give advance warning to a good and pure man to prepare for the coming cataclysm. In each case the essence of the project is to preserve the seeds, or the breeding pairs, of all life:
And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the Ark, to keep them alive with thee; they shall be male and female.
Of fowls after their kind, and of cattle after their kind, of every creeping thing of the earth after his kind, two of every sort shall come unto thee, to keep them alive.[xxxiii]
Easily missed, but noteworthy, is the fact that Noah’s Ark, like Yima’s Vara, is to have a ‘window,’ is to be closed with a ‘door,’ and is to consist of three levels:
A window shalt thou make to the Ark, and in a cubit shalt thou finish it above; and the door of the ark shalt thou set in the side thereof; with lower, second, and third stories shalt thou make it.[xxxiv]
Last but not least, there are hints of a lost lighting technology in Noah’s Ark that parallel the references to the ‘artificial lights’ in the Vara. In the legends of the Jews we read that the whole journey of the Ark, ‘during the year of the flood,’ was conducted in darkness both by day and by night:
‘All the time it lasted, the sun and the moon shed no light…’[xxxv]
However just like ‘self-shining window’ of the Vara:
‘The Ark was illuminated by a precious stone, the light of which was more brilliant by night than by day, so enabling Noah to distinguish between day and night.’[xxxvi]
Noah’s Ark, as is well known, is said to have ended its journey on the slopes of Mount Ararat, the symbolic heartland of ancient Armenia but now, as a result of wars in the early twentieth century, located within the modern state of Turkey. Turkey, in turn, shares a border with Iran – ancient Persia – from which the accounts of Yima’s Vara come down to us.
It is therefore intriguing that Turkey’s Cappadocia region has a very large number of ancient underground structures hewn out of solid rock and usually, like the Vara, consisting of multiple levels stacked one above the other. These underground ‘cities,’ as they are known, include the eerie and spectacular site of Derinkuyu, which I was able to visit in 2013. Lying beneath a modern town of the same name, eight of its levels are presently open to the public, although further levels remain closed off below and, astonishingly, a subterranean tunnel several kilometres in length connects it to another similar hypogeum at Kaymakli.
Entering Derinkuyu was like crossing some invisible barrier into an unexpected netherworld. One minute I was standing in bright sunshine; the next, after I had ducked into the cool, dank, dimly-lit system of tunnels and galleries (no self-shining windows now; only low wattage electric light), I felt I had been transported to a realm carved out by mythical dwarves at the dawn of time. In places the tunnels are low and narrow so that one must stoop and walk in single file between walls stained and blackened with ancient smoke and overgrown here and there with green mold. At regular intervals, slid back into deep recesses, I passed hulking megalithic doors, shaped like millstones, 5 to 6 feet (1.5 to 1.8 meters) in diameter and weighing close to half a ton. These were clearly designed to be rolled out to block access. Stairways and steep ramps led down from level to level and, although all the levels were interconnected, the rolling stone doors could be used to isolate them from one another when needed.
I noticed a remarkable system of plunging, sheer-sided ventilation shafts connecting the deepest levels with the surface – and doing so to such good effect that the gusts of fresh air were still palpable 80 meters (260 feet) or more beneath the ground. In some places the passageway I was following would debouch into a junction where tunnels branched off in several directions and more stairways led down to even lower levels. And here and there, now to one side of the passageway, now to the other, sometimes accessed by means of holes cut in the wall, sometimes through full-sized doorways, lay small low-ceilinged grottos in which even a few people sitting together would have felt cramped. But sometimes those doors would lead into interconnected networks of chambers and passages and sometimes they would open out suddenly into lofty halls and spacious rooms with barrel-vault ceilings looming high overhead supported on monolithic columns hewn from the living rock.
The whole place, in short, is a complex and cunning labyrinth on an immense scale – a work of astonishing architectural complexity that would be impressive if it had been built above ground but that is utterly breathtaking when one considers that it all had to be mined, chiselled, hammered, cut and gouged out of the volcanic bedrock. Later, studying a plan, I realised that this vast hypogeum, looking in cross-section like a gigantic rabbit warren, lay underfoot wherever one went in the modern town of Derinkyu; streets beneath streets, rooms beneath rooms, a secret antipodal city of unknown antiquity and of unknown purpose but certainly the produce of immense ingenuity, determination, and skill.
And Derinkuyu is just one of two hundred such subterranean complexes, each containing a minimum of two levels (with around forty containing three levels or more) that have been identified in Turkey in the area between Kayseri and Nevsehir.[xxxvii] Moreover, new discoveries are constantly being made. Derinkuyu itself was found in 1963 after builders renovating the cellar of a modern home broke through to an ancient passageway below. And most recently, in 2014, workers preparing the ground for a new housing project at Nevsehir, an hour’s drive north of Derinkuyu, stumbled upon yet another unsuspected hypogeum. Archaeologists were called in and it was quickly realised that this one was bigger than any others so far known. As Hasan Unver, Mayor of Nevsehir, put it, Derinkuyu and Kaymakli are little more than ‘kitchens’ when compared to the newly-explored site. ‘It is not a known underground city,’ added Mehmet Ergun Turan, head of Turkey’s Housing Development Administration. ‘Tunnel passages of seven kilometres are being discussed. Naturally, when the discovery was made, we stopped the construction we were planning to do in the area.’[xxxviii]
Several commentators immediately speculated that the newly discovered site might be ‘5,000 years old,’[xxxix] but there is no basis for this – or really for any date. All we can say for sure is that the earliest surviving historical mention of Turkey’s underground cities is found in the Anabapsis of the Greek historian Xenophon written in the fourth century AD[xl] – so they are older than that.
But the question is, how much older?
There is no objective way to date structures made entirely of rock. What archaeologists look for, therefore, are organic materials that can be carbon dated. To be useful, however, these organic materials must be excavated from locations – under a megalith that has never been moved, for example, or in the original mortar in a joint between two stone blocks – that allow reasonable deductions to be made about the date the associated structural elements were put in place. In many sites, however, there is the possibility that the intrusion of later organic materials will give a falsely young date, and in some – the underground cities of Turkey being a prime example – no reliable dating can be done. This is because the sites were used, reused, and indeed repurposed, many times down the ages by many different peoples, with organic materials being introduced on every occasion, thus making it impossible to draw any inferences about the epoch of their original construction.
The general view of archaeologists is that the underground structures were originally developed in the 7th or 8th centuries BC by an Indo-European people called the Phrygians who lived in Cappadocia at the time. The theory is that the Phrygians began the project by widening and deepening natural caves and tunnels that already existed in the volcanic rock, making use of the spaces they created for storage and possibly as places of refuge from attackers. By Roman times, with the Phrygians long gone, the inhabitants of the area were Greek-speaking Christians who further developed and expanded the underground caverns, rededicating some of the rooms as chapels and leaving inscriptions in Greek, some of which survive to this day. In the Byzantine era, from the eighth to the twelfth centuries AD, the Eastern Roman Empire was locked in wars with newly Islamicised Arabs and the underground cities became places of refuge again – a function they continued to serve during the Mongol invasions of the fourteenth century AD. Later still, Greek Christians used the cities to escape persecution at the hands of Turkish Muslim rulers, and this practise continued into the twentieth century when the structures finally fell into disuse after the truce and population exchange between Greece and Turkey in 1923.[xli]
With such a chequered history it is easy to see why the underground cities cannot be dated using objective archaeological techniques. Moreover the vast effort that went into their excavation out of solid rock, and their sophisticated ventilation systems, speak of powerful long-term motives far beyond the limited and temporary need for shelter from attackers. With this in mind let us consider a scenario in which the Phrygians, favoured for no good reason by archaeologists as the first makers of the cities, were themselves just one of the many later cultures to make use of them. It is perfectly possible that this is the case and, if so, then it is also possible that these extraordinary underground structures might date back to a time long before the Phrygians – perhaps even as far back as the ‘fatal winters’ of the Younger Dryas that set in around 12,800 years ago.
There is no proof of this, of course. Nonetheless Turkish historian and archaeologist Omer Demir, author of Cappadocia: Cradle of History, is of the opinion that Derinkuyu does in fact date back to the Palaeolithic.[xlii] His argument is based partly on the notion that it already existed in Phrygian times,[xliii] partly on stylistic differences between the upper (older) levels and the lower (younger) levels,[xliv] and partly on the fact that marks of the implements used to cut the rock have worn completely away in the upper levels but are still visible in the lower levels:
It is necessary for a long period of time to pass for the chisel marks to disappear. This means that there was quite a time difference between the years of construction of the first stories and the last stories.[xlv]
Demir also suggests that the huge quantities of rock excavated to make the underground city – which are nowhere in evidence in the vicinity today – were dumped into local streams and carried off.[xlvi] In one of these streams, the Sognali, at a distance of 26 kilometers (16 miles) from Derinkuyu, hand-axes, rock-chips, and other Palaeolithic artefacts were found.[xlvii]
The evidence is suggestive at best. I would not want to bet my life or my reputation on it! Nonetheless the scenario that sees Derinkuyu and the other underground cities constructed in the Upper Palaeolithic around 12,800 years ago at the onset of the Younger Dryas has the great merit of no longer leaving us casting about for a motive commensurate with the huge effort involved. We are informed of that motive quite explicitly in the story of Yima. Stated simply the cities are Varas, cut down into the depths of the earth as places of refuge from the horrors of the Younger Dryas which were not limited to the ‘vehement destroying frost’ but – as we know from the cosmic impact spherules and melt-glass found in sediment samples at nearby Abu Hureyra in Syria – also included the terrifying existential threat of bombardment from the skies.
Don’t forget to check out our extended interview with Graham here.
[i] Encyclopaedia Iranica, ‘Zoroaster ii. General Survey’, http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/zoroaster-ii-general-survey
[v] R.C. Zaehner, The Dawn and Twilight of Zoroastrianism. Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London, 1961, e.g. see page 135: ‘The whole story of Yima’s golden age, his excavation of the Vara, or underground retreat, and his re-emergence to re-people the earth (the last episode occurs only in the Pahlavi books) must belong to a very old stratum of Iranian folklore wholly untouched by the teachings of Zoroaster.’
[vi] J. Darmetester and H.L. Mills, Trans, F. Maz Muller, Ed, The Zend Avesta, Reprint edition by Atlantic Publishers and Distributors, New Delhi, 1990, Part I, p. 5
[vii] Ibid, p. 11
[ix] Ibid, p. 13
[xi] Reported by Frank Brown and John Fleagle in Nature, 17 February, 2005. And see Scientific American, 17 Feb 2005, http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/fossil-reanalysis-pushes/
[xii] A golden age in which ‘fields would bear plenty of grass for cattle: now with floods that stream, with snows that melt, it will seem a happy land in the world…’ J. Darmetester and H.L. Mills, Trans, F. Maz Muller, Ed, The Zend Avesta, op.cit., p.16 See also the following passage from the Yasna, cited in R.C. Zaehner, The Dawn and Twilight of Zoroastrianism, op.cit., pp. 92-93: ‘Kingly Yima, of goodly pastures, the most glorious of all men born on earth, like the sun to behold among men, for during his reign he made beasts and men imperishable, he brought it about that the waters and plants never dried up, and that there should be an inexhaustible stock of food to eat. In the reign of Yima the valiant there was neither heat nor cold, neither old age, nor death, nor disease…’ ‘Yima’s golden reign, in which all men were immortal and enjoyed perpetual youth, lasted a full thusand years.’
[xiii] J. Darmetester and H.L. Mills, Trans, F. Maz Muller, Ed, The Zend Avesta, op.cit., pp 15-18
[xiv] E.W. West Trans, F. Max Muller, Ed., Pahlavi Texts, Part I, Reprint Edition, Atlantic Publishers and Distributors, New Delhi, 1990, p. 17
[xv] J. Darmetester and H.L. Mills, Trans, F. Maz Muller, Ed, The Zend Avesta, op.cit., p. 5
[xvi] Cited in Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak, The Arctic Home in the Vedas, Reprint edition by Arktos Media, 2011, p. 254
[xvii] E.W. West Trans, F. Max Muller, Ed., Pahlavi Texts, op.cit., p. 17, note 5
[xviii] J. Darmetester and H.L. Mills, Trans, F. Maz Muller, Ed, The Zend Avesta, op.cit., p. 18
[xx] Ibid, p. 20. See also the US (1898) edition of Darmetester’s translation of the Vendidad, reprinted 1995, edited by Joseph H. Peterson, page 14, Note, 87
[xxi] R.C. Zaehner, The Dawn and Twilight of Zoroastrianism, op.cit., p.135
[xxii] J. Darmetester and H.L. Mills, Trans, F. Maz Muller, Ed, The Zend Avesta, op.cit., p. 20
[xxv] Ibid, note 5
[xxvi] Ibid, note 4
[xxvii] Encyclopaedia Iranica, op.cit. ‘Jamshid i’ (http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/jamsid-i) and ‘Jamshid ii’ (http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/jamsid-ii)
[xxviii] E.W. West Trans, F. Max Muller, Ed., Pahlavi Texts, op.cit., p. 26
[xxix] Delia Goetz, Sylvanus G. Morley, Adrian Reconis, Trans., Popol Vuh: The Sacred Book of the Ancient Quiche Maya, University of Oklahoma Press, 1991, p. 178.
[xxx] Ibid, p. 93
[xxxi] John Bierhorst, The Mythology of Mexico and Central America, Quill/William Morrow, New York, 1990, p. 41
[xxxii] J. Eric Thompson, Maya History and Religion, University of Oklahoma Press, 1990, p. 333
[xxxiii] Genesis 6: 19-20
[xxxiv] Genesis 6: 16
[xxxv] Louis Ginzberg, The Legends of the Jews, The Jewish Publication Society of America, Philadelphia, 1988, Vol I, p. 162
[xxxviii] Hurriyet Daily News, 28 December 2014 (http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/massive-ancient-underground-city-discovered-in-turkeys-nevsehir-.aspx?PageID=238&NID=76196&NewsCatID=375), The Independent, 31 December 2014 (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/vast-5000-yearold-underground-city-discovered-in-turkeys-cappadocia-region-9951911.html).
[xxxix] E.g. see report in The Independent 31 December 2014, op.cit.
[xl] Turkey, Lonely Planet, 2013, p. 478
[xlii] Omer Demir, Cappadocia: Cradle of History, 9th Revised Edition, p. 61
[xliii] For example in Proto-Hittite times up to 2,000 years earlier. See Omer Demir, op.cit., p. 70
[xliv] Ibid, p. 60
[xlv] Ibid, p. 60
[xlvi] Ibid, p. 59
[xlvii] Ibid, p. 61
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Bras Cause More than Breast Cancer: Preliminary Results of the International Bra-Free Study
- The Facts:
Written by Sydney Ross Singer, a pioneer of the field of Applied Medical Anthropology, author, & Director of the Institute for the Study of Culturogenic Disease. Originally published at Greenmedinfo.com, it is shared here with permission.
- Reflect On:
Is it time to ditch the bra?
If you are a woman, then there is important information you need to know to keep healthy and avoid disease. This is information that you should be told by your doctor and other health professionals, but many of these professionals simply don’t have this information.
The issue pertains to the wearing of tight clothing. Studies, and common sense, tell us that wearing anything tight is bad for health. Tight clothing compresses our soft body tissues, impairing the function of blood vessels, lymphatic vessels, nerves, and more. Research shows tight neckties, tight pants, girdles, corsets, bras, and other compression garments can cause serious harm.
The purpose of the International Bra-Free Study is to assess the changes a woman experiences once she stops using bras. The study began in 2018 and is still recruiting participants from around the world. Participants pledge to stop using bras and their progress is followed through open and closed-ended questions. The study is ongoing, but we have seen some amazing patterns in the experience of women who stop wearing bras. We believe it is extremely important to share these preliminary findings with the public at this time, hoping to warn as many women as possible about the effect of bra usage on health.
We started our study considering the effect of bras on breasts, and expected improvement in breast pain, cysts, and reduced cancer incidence in our group of bra-free women. What we discovered was that, in addition to the above, we also found that women recovered from many other bodily ailments that seemed completely unrelated to bra usage.
We are discovering the many ways tight bras harm health, including every part of the body. As you will see, bras cause more than breast disease.
Much of fashion is about altering the body to achieve a culturally-defined shape. When tight garments cause disease, the fashion industry opposes the research revealing the disease, and the medical industry gets caught in the middle. Medicine is a business that profits from the detection and treatment of disease, and makes money when people are sick, not well. This conflict of interest helps perpetuate harmful cultural practices, such as wearing tight clothing, since medicine, and the culture in general, are influenced more by industry and money than by health.
Bras have been shown in numerous studies to contribute to breast cancer incidence. While the link between breast cancer and bras has been recognized by doctors since bras became popular, in the early 20th Century, cultural acceptance1 of the bra and extensive promotion by the fashion and lingerie industries have eclipsed information that bras pose a significant threat to health.
When cultural influences from industry and social practices bias human behavior and cause disease, the resulting disease can be called “culturogenic”. Breast cancer is mostly a culturogenic disease, with a small (less than 10%) genetic component, and a large cultural-environmental component. These non-genetic causes of breast cancer include exposure to environmental carcinogens and x-rays(including mammograms), along with direct inhibition of the breast lymphatic system by tight bra usage.
How Bras Cause Breast Cancer
Impaired lymphatics is central to the etiology of breast cancer. The lymphatic system is part of the immune system, and is responsible for the circulation of interstitial fluid. This fluid develops from the bloodstream, delivering nutrition and oxygen to the cells, along with toxins that are in the bloodstream as a result of contaminants in our air, water, and food. The lymphatic system consists of microscopic vessels with one-way valves that lead to lymph nodes. Lymph fluid passively passes into lymphatic vessels to be eliminated from the tissue, inspected by the lymph nodes, and returned to the bloodstream.
Waste products from cellular metabolism, along with toxins delivered to the cells from our petrochemically-polluted air, food, and water, are removed from the tissues by the lymphatic system. In addition, pathogens and cancer cells are also swept through the lymphatic, to the lymph nodes, where an immune response is elicited.
However, when the tiny, easily-compressed lymphatic vessels are constricted by tight bras, this fluid channel becomes restricted, causing a variety of problems. Most women who wear bras experience breast pain and cysts as a result of this lymphatic impairment. In addition, the resulting lymph-stasis and lymph congestion of the tissue results in reduced toxin elimination, causing the progressive toxification of the breasts. The local tissue environment becomes low in oxygen, reducing the body’s ability to process free radicals. The resulting accumulation of endogenous and exogenous toxins increases cancer risk significantly.
According to our 1991-93 US Bra and Breast Cancer Study, published in our book, Dressed to Kill: The Link Between Breast Cancer and Bras, the bra-cancer link is the major cause of breast cancer. This study concluded that bra-free women have about the same risk of breast cancer as men, while the tighter and longer the bra is worn the higher the risk rises, to 125 times higher for a 24/7 bra user compared to a bra-free woman.
This was the world’s first study that looked directly at the bra-cancer link. A 1991 study from Harvard found pre-menopausal bra-free women had half the risk of breast cancer compared to bra users, but this finding was incidental to the main focus of the study, which was on breast size, handedness, and breast cancer incidence.
Since the release of Dressed to Kill in 1995, there have been dozens of other bra-cancer studies performed internationally that show a significant link. However, this issue is considered “controversial” due to its potential cultural and economic impact, similar to resistance to the tobacco-cancer link back in the mid-20th Century. Current opponents of the bra-cancer link include thought leaders such as the American Cancer Society2 and Susan G. Komen Foundation3, which have publicly called the link scientifically implausible.
Figures Don’t Lie, but Liars Figure
Critics of the bra-cancer link refer to a 2014 study that was commissioned by the National Cancer Institute, which has been denying any possibility of a bra-cancer link since the release of Dressed to Kill. Due to public acceptance of the link, NCI felt it necessary to counter the studies showing a link by funding a study to oppose the link. This study was done at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, which raises money for breast cancer research through promoting “Bra Dash” events4. The study was done on post-menopausal women only, and none of the women were bra-free, so there was no control group. The author of the study, who is a female graduate student who also wore bras, unsurprisingly found no bra-cancer link in her selected group of bra users.
This single, un-reproduced, flawed study has been used by the ACS and Komen Foundation, and others who follow them, as final proof of no bra-cancer link. While conflicting studies are typical of scientific research, this one study has been considered the first and last word on this issue by the cancer “experts” who deny the bra-cancer link. This study clearly serves the interests of the cancer detection and treatment industry, as well as the lingerie industry which fears class action lawsuits for the harms caused by bras.
Nevertheless, since that attempt to stop interest in the bra-cancer link in 2014, there have been many newer studies that show the link. And a recent trend5 in breast cancer research is asking about bra usage as a standard question, just like asking about family history. In fact, a recent study from Iran shows bra usage is a bigger factor in causing breast cancer than family history.6
Culturally, bra usage has been questioned as a result of the #MeToo movement that has been challenging sexism and abuse in the workplace. Many women are now opting for being comfortable and bra-free at work, as well as in their everyday lives. Girls in high school are objecting to dress codes that require bras. And the general legal consensus is that women at work cannot be forced to wear sexualizing clothing, including high heels, short skirts, and bras.7 These trends are making it easier for the culture to accept the fact that bras are causing disease.
Perhaps the biggest impediment to this potentially lifesaving information is the resistance from the medical field, such as the ACS and others who follow their lead. We discuss in the 2018, updated, second edition of Dressed to Kill why we believe there is this resistance to this information, instead of a call for further research. Regardless of the reason, this unscientific, biased opposition to the bra-cancer link is a public health threat.
It is to combat this threat to health that we began the International Bra-Free Study in 2018. This study, which is free to join, is designed to create a cohort of bra-free women in order to see what happens to their breast health over time. While the study accepts women who have been bra-free for years, most of our participants have been bra users, allowing us to see what changes happen to their breasts and overall health once they stop using bras.
While this study is expected to help women avoid breast cancer and other breast disease associated with bra usage, the women in our study could also be available for other breast studies which require bra-free women. One big flaw in breast cancer and other breast disease research is that bra usage has been ignored as a factor. This is as scientifically flawed as ignoring smoking when doing lung disease research, which was the case prior to the acceptance of the tobacco-cancer link.
The 2014 Hutchinson study did not include any bra-free women as a control group, which that study admits is a flaw. They rationalize that flaw by saying that it was nearly impossible to find bra-free women for their study. Of course, you cannot do a valid breast cancer study looking at the bra-cancer link without including a control group of bra-free women for comparison. So instead of conducting poor breast cancer research without control groups, we hope to offer our study participants for possible inclusion in their future studies.
The response from the medical industry was swift after we announced our International Bra-Free Study. The American Council on Science and Health, a public relations firm that aims to dismiss and discredit all those who challenge the interests of the drug industry, published a hit piece against me and the study. Ironically, they claimed8 the study is flawed by not including a control group of bra users.
Nevertheless, despite the resistance by the medical industry over the years, many women have heard about the bra-cancer link and have stopped wearing bras. Many have joined the International Bra-Free Study. We expect that this group of women will have a lower incidence of breast cancer than the general public, which is our control group.
However, we have discovered something unexpected in the study. There have been some definite health changes following the elimination of bra usage, and while the study is ongoing, we felt it important to report these surprising findings.
Bras Constrict More Than the Lymphatics
First, we must explain that tight bras compress more than just the lymphatics. They also compress nerves and muscles. In fact, research has shown that wearing tight bras impairs the autonomic nervous system, leading to a host of problems.
For example, researchers have found that tight bras essentially create a full-body stress response. According to one study9, “The main results can be summarized as follows: (1) urinary excretion of adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol was facilitated, and the amounts of urinary excretion were significantly higher when TC (tight clothing) were worn. Heart rate was significantly higher in the TC group; (2) nocturnal urinary melatonin excretion was significantly greater in the TC group. These results are discussed in terms of an enhancement of diurnal sympathetic nervous system activity caused by pressure on the skin produced by tight clothing.”
Another study of tight bras found that constipation is a result10, presumably due to suppression of the parasympathetic nervous system and intestinal mobility.
Another study11 found that women who were bra-free had shorter menstrual cycles, averaging 30 days, compared to bra users, whose menstrual cycle averaged 45 days.
A study also found that tight clothing hampers breathing12, reducing lung expansion, inhalation volume, and deep breathing.
Research has also shown that breasts lift and tone once the bra is no longer worn.13 The study author concluded, “Medically, physiologically, anatomically – breasts gain no benefit from being denied gravity. On the contrary, they get saggier with a bra.” While this scientific finding stands in contrast to bra-industry propaganda claiming that bras prevent droop, the science behind the bra-causes-droop effect is that reliance on the bra results in weakened suspensory ligaments and more droop. Once the bra is no longer worn, the ligaments strengthen and the breasts lift and tone. In addition. bras make the breasts heavy with excess fluid due to lymphatic impairment, resulting in more pendulous breasts.
Surprising Results of the International Bra-Free Study
I must admit that before we started the International Bra-Free Study in 2018, we thought we already knew what to expect when women stopped wearing bras. Since we first announced the results of our research in 1995, women have stopped wearing bras and have reported to us that their breast pain and cysts disappeared. In fact, this surprising recovery was rapid, within a month of no longer wearing bras. Many times, women felt a big improvement in pain and cysts within days of ending the bra-caused constriction of their breasts. Indeed, this tangible self-demonstration of the harm caused by bras has kept this issue alive despite denials of any ill effects from bras by the cancer industry.
But we had no idea how many other problems would improve by not wearing bras, until we started the International Bra-Free Study. While the study is ongoing, we feel that it is imperative that women learn how bras can interfere with their health, to take proper precautionary measures.
From the hundreds of women who are part of this study, with more joining daily, it has become clear that bras cause more than breast disease.
Everyone has reported reduction of breast pain and cysts, if they had them before starting the study. In no case has breast pain or cysts worsened.
Most report that their breasts are less saggy, and are rounder. Some report that their nipples now have more feeling than when they wore bras.
Every woman reports that she breathes easier without a bra.
Most women report that their digestion has improved.
Women who had shoulder pain with a bra report loss of that pain once being bra-free.
Many women report loss of headaches since being bra-free.
Most women report having more confidence in public without a bra, and a greater sense of confidence and empowerment.
Women in the study report they have no problem being bra-free at work, and appreciate the comfort.
Most women report that they like their breasts more since being bra-free.
Most report friends and family supporting their decision to be bra-free.
Surprisingly, being bra-free does not seem to alter these women’s sex lives.
Some women reported that their menstrual cycles became shorter and normalized after being bra-free.
Importantly, not one participant has experienced any negative effects of being bra-free.
We also found that once women freed themselves from bras, they began to free themselves from other oppressive aspects of their lives. As one participant explained, “I am more confident, I like my breasts now, and I want to advocate for girls and women to understand the link between bras and cancer and how easy, rewarding and healthful it can be to feel this comfortable. I am more empowered now, too.”
To Be Continued…
It should be clear that when you use a garment that compresses and constricts the lymphatic system and the autonomic nervous system, you are potentially altering the physiology of the breasts and of the entire body. Breast cancer may be the end disease for the breasts, but there will also be other disease conditions caused by tight bras, and other tight clothing, that can lead to nervous, hormonal, and circulatory problems.
When we first researched the bra-cancer link, we were surprised at how little research there was on the subject. Many people assume there can’t be a bra-cancer link, or they would have heard about it. People assume that the American Cancer Society would be warning women about bras if there was research that linked bra usage to cancer, just like the ACS finally got to warning people about smoking (after taking decades to finally accept the link.) But we are not just dealing with smoking. When we talk about bras, we are talking about breasts. And in our breast-obsessed culture, breasts are sexualized, objectified, molded, squeezed, sucked, compressed, constricted, pushed-up, tattooed, pierced, implanted, cut off, and framed in a lacy bra. It’s a cultural package that interferes with science and common sense. And even as doctors smoked cigarettes in the 1950s and promoted their use, doctors today wear bras and promote their use, oblivious to the obvious.
We are all victims of a bra-using culture. As a result, there is an epidemic of breast pain and cysts than affects more than half of women who use bras. Most of this is caused by the bra and improves rapidly once bra usage ends.
Some women will develop breast cancer as a result of a bra-constricted lymphatic system and exposure to cancer-causing chemicals, which consequently become concentrated in their breasts.
Radiation damage and other harmful impacts, such as trauma, to the breasts cannot be as effectively repaired when the lymphatics are constricted by bras. And the immune system cannot as effectively fight developing cancer cells without good lymphatic circulation.
Through the International Bra-Free Study, we have also seen confirmation of other research into the effects of tight clothing, including bras, on various bodily functions, due to impacts on the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. This means that women are suffering from constipation, shallow breathing, increased stress, menstrual abnormalities, and other possible problems because of their bras.
How tight is tight? If it leaves a mark in the skin, then it is too tight.
While the impact of bras on the autonomic nervous system has been known for decades, it has been largely ignored, along with research showing the other health hazards of bras. When a carcinogen is part of the fabric of the culture, it takes ripping the culture apart to remove it.
Denial is a much easier and profitable strategy for the industries that sell bras, and sell disease detection and treatment services.
We encourage women everywhere to join the International Bra-Free Study and see for themselves, on themselves, how chronic health problems that plagued them for years could be related to the cultural practice of wearing tight bras and other tight clothing. You have nothing to lose but your discomfort and chronic health problems, and this almost certainly will help you prevent breast cancer.
Join the International Bra-Free Study at https://brafreestudy.com.
SOME STUDIES THAT SUPPORT THE BRA-CANCER LINK14
• 1991 Harvard study (CC Hsieh, D Trichopoulos (1991). Breast size, handedness and breast cancer risk. European Journal of Cancer and Clinical Oncology 27(2):131-135.). This study found that, “Premenopausal women who do not wear bras had half the risk of breast cancer compared with bra users…”
• 1991-93 U.S. Bra and Breast Cancer Study by Singer and Grismaijer, published in Dressed To Kill: The Link Between Breast Cancer and Bras (Second Edition, Square One Publishers, 2018). Found that bra-free women have about the same incidence of breast cancer as men. 24/7 bra wearing increases incidence over 100 times that of a brafree woman.
• Singer and Grismaijer did a follow-up study in Fiji, published in Get It Off! (ISCD Press, 2000). Found 24 case histories of breast cancer in a culture where half the women are bra-free. The women getting breast cancer were all wearing bras. Given women with the same genetics and diet and living in the same village, the ones getting breast disease were the ones wearing bras for work.
• A 2009 Chinese study (Zhang AQ, Xia JH, Wang Q, Li WP, Xu J, Chen ZY, Yang JM (2009). [Risk factors of breast cancer in women in Guangdong and the countermeasures]. In Chinese. Nan Fang Yi Ke Da Xue Xue Bao. 2009 Jul;29(7):1451-3.) found that NOT sleeping in a bra was protective against breast cancer, lowering the risk 60%.
• 2011 a study was published, in Spanish, confirming that bras are causing breast disease and cancer. It found that underwired and push-up bras are the most harmful, but any bra that leaves red marks or indentations may cause disease.
• 2015 Comparative study of breast cancer risk factors at Kenyatta National Hospital and the Nairobi Hospital J. Afr. Cancer (2015) 7:41-46. This study found a significant bracancer link in pre-and post-menopausal women.
• 2016 Wearing a Tight Bra for Many Hours a Day is Associated with Increased Risk of Breast Cancer Adv Oncol Res Treat 1: 105. This is the first epidemiological study to look at bra tightness and time worn, and found a significant bra-cancer link.
• 2016 Brassiere wearing and breast cancer risk: A systematic review and metaanalysis World J Meta-Anal. Aug 26, 2015; 3(4): 193-205 This systematic review and meta-analysis aimed to evaluate the association between 8 areas of brassiere-wearing practices and the risk of breast cancer. Twelve case-control studies met inclusion criteria for review. The meta-analysis shows statistically significant findings to support the association between brassiere wearing during sleep and breast cancer risk.
• 2018 Lymph stasis promotes tumor growth Journal of Dermatological Science “(t)hese findings come as no surprise to us who for a long time have been aware that alterations in regional lymphatic flow may produce dysregulation in skin immune function and consequent oncogenesis. In fact, since 2002, our team has held the view that lymphedematous areas are immunologically vulnerable sites for the development of neoplasms as well as infections and immune-mediated diseases. In recent years, increasing evidence has confirmed this assumption.”
1 For example, Dr. John Mayo, one of the founders of the Mayo Clinic, wrote in the article “Susceptibility to Cancer” in the 1931 Annals of Surgery, that “Cancer of the breast occurs largely among civilized women. In those countries where breasts are allowed to be exposed, that is, are not compressed or irritated by clothing, it is rare.” A bra patent in 1950 stated, “Even in the proper breast size, most brassieres envelop or bind the breast in such a fashion that normal circulation and freedom of movement is constricted. Many cases of breast cancer have been attributed to such breast constriction as caused by improperly fitted brassieres.” (Taken from the 2018 edition of Dressed to Kill.)
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Parables For The New Conversation (Chapter 5: The Sculptor)
The following is a chapter from my book ‘Parables For The New Conversation.’ One chapter will be published every Sunday for 36 weeks here on Collective Evolution. (I would recommend you start with Chapter 1 if you haven’t already read it.) I hope my words are a source of enjoyment and inspiration for you, the reader. If perchance you would like to purchase a signed paperback copy of the book, you can do so on my production company website Pandora’s Box Office.
From the back cover: “Imagine a conversation that centers around possibility—the possibility that we can be more accepting of our own judgments, that we can find unity through our diversity, that we can shed the light of our love on the things we fear most. Imagine a conversation where our greatest polarities are coming together, a meeting place of East and West, of spirituality and materialism, of religion and science, where the stage is being set for a collective leap in consciousness more magnificent than any we have known in our history.
Now imagine that this conversation honors your uniqueness and frees you to speak from your heart, helping you to navigate your way more deliberately along your distinct path. Imagine that this conversation puts you squarely into the seat of creator—of your fortunes, your relationships, your life—thereby putting the fulfillment of your deepest personal desires well within your grasp.
‘Parables for the New Conversation’ is a spellbinding odyssey through metaphor and prose, personal sagas and historic events, where together author and reader explore the proposal that at its most profound level, life is about learning to consciously manifest the experiences we desire–and thus having fun. The conversation touches on many diverse themes but always circles back to who we are and how our purposes are intertwined, for it is only when we see that our personal desires are perfectly aligned with the destiny of humanity as a whole that we will give ourselves full permission to enjoy the most exquisite experiences life has to offer.”
5. The Sculptor
In the middle of the night a thunderstorm came over the island of Allandon, and a lightning bolt struck down the exquisite statue that stood in the very center of the village square. A crowd of villagers gathered around in the morning, and sent word to the sculptor that his defining work had been destroyed.
When the sculptor arrived he fell upon the pile of rubble and cried out, “Oh the suffering! The anguish! My legacy has been ruined!”
Many of those gathered around tried to console him. Meanwhile, an old woman whose job it was to keep the village square clean started picking up the rubble and tossing the pieces unceremoniously into her cart.
“Old woman,” said the sculptor, “have you no reverence? This was my work of art!”
“Then why are you here?” asked the old woman. “You should be off making a new statue.”
The crowd began to laugh. Fearing that he was losing their sympathy, the sculptor said, “Pay her no heed, she is a simple woman. She knows nothing of the suffering of an artist.”
“The suffering of an artist? Or a man who fancies himself special?” she asked the crowd. “After all, are we not all artists?”
A few nodded in agreement.
“And do artists not know that in our impermanent world everything that is created is ultimately destroyed?” she added.
“Yes,” said one.
“Perhaps he has forgotten,” said another.
“Then for this reminder he should be grateful,” the old woman said as she turned to the sculptor. “Now off with you to do your work. We can only hope that you won’t identify yourself so much with the next piece you create.”
Who we think we are really dictates how we experience life. When we look through the lens of the Ego Self, we appear to ourselves as small, separate, and vulnerable beings in a vast and daunting world. Our Ego Self encourages us to ‘keep it together’ by building a fixed and stable identity, one that we can rely on and feel secure with. Of course the Ego Self has its own agenda: the more solid and permanent our identity is, the more it ensures its own survival.
As the Ego Self is focused on the physical world of sense perception, we are soon directed to see ourselves as walking, talking bodies apart from one another. We know it has been this way ever since our first breath of life when we were physically separated from our mother. “This is me,” we might say, tapping ourselves solidly on the chest. And it does seems natural to see ourselves primarily as physical bodies that can somehow think.
Next we may look at our gender or race as important attributes, or extend our identity to involve our family history, our social class, our culture, our language, or our religion. We could also look at some of the many roles we take on: we could identify with the fact that we are a parent or a child, a boss or a subordinate, a small business owner or a doctor or a writer.
Then of course there is what we call our personality, which for many of us is the central core of who we think we are—our values, habits, tendencies, our strengths and weaknesses, our likes and dislikes. With simple statements like “I’m not good with instructions,” “I value honesty above all else,” or “I don’t like roller coasters and I never will,” we constantly reinforce who we think we are. And for aspects of our personality that are hidden from us, there are a growing number of psychological processes and personality type indicators that can help us to define ourselves more precisely and thereby get to know ourselves better.
Now I am all in favor of us getting to know ourselves better. In fact I would go so far as to say that gaining self-awareness is what we are really here on the planet to do. The more we come to know who we are, the more we are able to bring our unique perspective and creative vision to the world. However! There is a treacherous trap that each and every one of us has to be very careful about when it comes to the business of who we are. That trap is the tendency to identify exclusively with our identity as unique individuals, and believe there is nothing more to us. This is what happens when our Ego Self is given full reign. We end up working to reinforce and validate the identity we have created. Our sense of self-worth becomes dependant on maintaining our identity, making us resistant to the changes that life will inevitably throw at us.
For example, if our identity is founded in our body, it is likely that we will struggle with growing old, and will do anything to try to preserve a youthful look. We will naturally fear our physical death, because it means our total extinction. The only way we can escape the niggling dread of mortality is to avoid thinking about death altogether and act as though we will live in the world forever.
The problem with trying to maintain a stable identity vested in our body is obvious: our body changes over time. And I don’t just mean that it doesn’t last. I mean that we are literally a different physical being in every moment. With every breath, we take in ten billion trillion new atoms that become part of our body and breathe out ten billion trillion atoms that are removed from every organ, tissue and bone that we have. Over the course of a year almost every atom that was once our physical makeup has been released into the universe. In reality our body is one of the least permanent things about us.
Now if we identify too strongly with one of the roles we have taken on in life, we restrict much of what is possible in our lives. We move more in the direction of what we think we are supposed to do, what is expected of us, while ignoring an inner voice that may be trying to bring us in a different direction. We neglect to notice that these roles do not even touch our inner being. If we are what we do, for example, that would mean that when we don’t, we aren’t!
And no matter how enduring we think our personalities are, it might serve us to be open to the idea that they too can change over time. Otherwise we may get trapped into limiting our freedom to act. “That’s just the way I am,” we might say, diminishing our responsibility and the possibilities for our lives in the process. We can get so protective of our identity that we will unconsciously struggle to conform to it rather than flowing with our lives as they are unfolding.
For example, let’s say I consider myself a reliable person—which I do. You could say that it’s part of the way I define myself. I keep my word, I’m on time for my appointments, if I say I will be there then I will be there. A few years ago I was running a bit late on my way to an appointment with a client. As I got on the highway I figured I would simply need to speed down the fast lane the whole way to get there on time. When I saw the traffic on the highway was a little heavy, I could already feel some frustration building. As the traffic got heavier I began to grip the wheel tighter, cutting in front of people here and there trying to inch my way forward a bit faster. Why this traffic now? I asked myself. Eventually it became obvious that I was not going to get to the meeting on time. Not even close.
I chastised myself for not having left home earlier. I started thinking up excuses to explain to my client how I could possibly be late—me, a person who prides himself on always being on time. My mind was going back and forth from excuses to regret, denial to rationalizing, all while weaving in and out of traffic recklessly, silently cursing the cars that stood in my way. Finally I had to give up, and could not prevent a certain repulsive thought from surfacing, one that I had pushed down several times before: maybe I was not such a reliable person. Maybe I was not always on time. I had to admit that this was not the first time this had happened.
Over the next few moments, to my surprise, I suddenly felt a huge shift in the way I was feeling, like a pressure-filled balloon that was losing air. With only a change of perspective, peace came over me. The traffic jam was no longer a problem. I was able to be with the traffic jam. I saw that it was just a collection of cars on a road moving slowly. It was neither good nor bad. I even admitted to myself that the traffic was not unusual for that time of day—it was just my excuse. The traffic clearly wasn’t the real cause of my suffering. And neither was my client—I knew she would be OK with me being late. All my suffering came from clinging so tightly to how I had defined myself. My repulsive thought turned out to be an epiphany. How I was to experience the car ride on the way to meet my client was all up to me. I didn’t owe it to anyone to feel guilty. I didn’t have to suffer through it. And so I didn’t—I actually enjoyed the ride.
When we see that our whole life is like one big car ride, we realize that we can make the choice to let go of whatever we’re hanging on to any time there’s traffic. We will always get to where we’re going, so it really makes no sense to struggle with ourselves along the way.
You’d think this would become more obvious to us as we get older. Yet despite mounting evidence that our identity is like a soft lump of clay that can always be shaped and molded by our ongoing experiences, we tend to increasingly see our identity as a statue, hardened in time and space. Perhaps it is because our bodies become ever more rigid and inflexible that we feel compelled to follow suit. Or maybe we become weary and tired of not knowing and feel we deserve the security of having a clear compass to tell us which way to act. The problem is that when we do this, we become less capable of dealing with situations that challenge the fixed position we have taken up. We lose our sense of adventure and our ability to be spontaneous. Things will annoy us more, we will judge our world to be wrong, and real peace of mind will elude us at every twist and turn.
Fortunately, we have in our world a cure for what ails us. It is each other. It can be a rather simple affair to rise out of the throes of rigidity when another person is given the authorization to step in and challenge us. In The Art of Possibilities, Ben Zander shares the following parable:
Two prime ministers are sitting in a room discussing affairs of state. Suddenly a man bursts in, apoplectic with fury, shouting and stamping and banging his fist on the desk. The resident prime minister admonishes him: “Peter,” he says, “kindly remember Rule Number 6,” whereupon Peter is instantly restored to complete calm, apologizes, and withdraws. The politicians return to their conversation, only to be interrupted yet again twenty minutes later by a hysterical woman gesticulating wildly, her hair flying. Again, the intruder is greeted with the words: “Marie, please remember Rule Number 6.” Complete calm descends once more, and she too withdraws with a bow and an apology. When the scene is repeated for a third time, the visiting prime minister addresses his colleague: “My dear friend, I’ve seen many things in my life, but never anything as remarkable as this. Would you be willing to share with me the secret of Rule Number 6?” “Very simple,” replies the resident prime minister. “Rule Number 6 is ‘Don’t take yourself so g—damn seriously.’” “Ah,” says his visitor, “that is a fine rule.” After a moment of pondering, he inquires, “And what, may I ask, are the other rules?”
“There aren’t any.”
When we are taking ourselves too seriously, there is usually a defiant arrogance within us that we are probably not aware of. It tries to protect our identity from the threat of a change of perspective, when all along the change of perspective is what we need the most. Taking ourselves too seriously is the surest way to a life of suffering. Our smallest problems are magnified into tragedies of epic proportions as the gateway to a life of fun gets shut and padlocked. This is why my greatest ambition is to take myself, and my life, less seriously. I know that when I get filled with self-importance, I isolate myself from the people and things that are around me. And what’s worse, I usually can’t see that I’m doing it.
But while it is difficult for me to see what I’m doing in those moments, it is not at all difficult for others to spot it. In the space of trust that is created in the new conversation, it becomes possible for us to remind each other of how we’re being, just like the prime minister does with such eloquent brevity. The friends of mine who engage with me in conversation have been put on alert to bring it to my attention when they see me taking who I think I am too seriously.
Now true, to a certain extent we need to carry a rough working definition of ourselves as individuals in order to function in the world. However, we are always at choice as to how much importance we give to this identity. We have to be careful that it doesn’t rule our lives. Otherwise we might spend our every breath and ounce of energy proving that we are exactly as we’ve defined ourselves. The more we operate this way, the more we dry up the well of life’s very essence: exploration and discovery.
In life, the question ‘Who am I?’ endures because it never fully gets answered. All of life can be seen as a process of slowly becoming aware of who we are. We see glimpses now and then through our thoughts and actions, small pieces of an enormous puzzle. To think that we get to complete this puzzle during our lifetime is to misunderstand life. There will always be another dark and mysterious piece of ourselves for us to try to shed some light on.
I believe that in the depths of our hearts none of us want a life that is stilted and predictable. I think we really want to keep our idea of who we are open, so that we can be spontaneous and move beyond any limitations we may have placed on ourselves. We want to experience peace in the middle of our traffic jams. We want to flow with change. Most of all, I think we want life to be fun. All this becomes possible when we start to look past our Ego Self and into the true depth of our being.
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Is Doctors’ Cash Incentive Sidelining the Hippocratic Oath?
California likes to brag about its “outsized influence” on the rest of the United States and its vaunted tendency to “experience the future earlier than other parts of the country.” However, having just passed the most draconian vaccine law in the nation—one that decimates the doctor-patient relationship and tells medically fragile children that they have no right to bodily integrity—it would appear that the state’s lawmakers and the medical trade groups that were only too happy to co-sponsor the legislation think it is trend-setting to model medical tyranny and the overthrow of the Nuremberg Code.
Within hours of the California Assembly’s 48-19 passage of SB 276, California Senators followed with their approval (28-11)—with all “ayes” in both chambers being Democrats—and the Democratic governor signed it along with last-minute companion bill SB 714. Illustrating the arrogant attitude prevailing among officialdom, the state health director (who recently resigned) casually dismissed the thousands who showed up to oppose the bill as “flat-earthers” and “booger-eaters.”
The editor of the independent news website California Globe called attention to the unseemly haste with which antidemocratic lawmakers “jammed through” legislation that essentially eliminates vaccine medical exemptions, quoting one dissenting Republican Senator as saying, “This Legislature is even scaring our medical community.” Is the Senator right? Just what doCalifornia doctors think about the unprecedented legislation that disses their sacrosanct relationship with patients and allows state bureaucrats to “illegally practice medicine over the top of the doctors”?
Some physicians were clearly concerned, turning out to testify against SB 276 or writing letters to ask the governor to veto the legislation. One physician wrote that the two bills “have created a climate of fear and anxiety,” leaving practicing physicians “afraid to speak up for fear of retribution, of being targeted by the state, for public censure and loss of professional respect.” Another doctor agreed that the legislation imposes “tremendous risk and liability—personally, professionally and financially”—on physicians who write valid medical exemptions, yet physicians bear “NO liability for giving contraindicated vaccinations, even if they cause foreseeable yet preventable harm.”
The climate of intimidation is one consideration. However, vaccination also offers doctors numerous financial incentives to toe the line. In fact, the majority of physicians appear to be willing participants in the U.S. vaccine program, no matter how many vaccines the CDC tells them to administer and no matter the evidence of vaccine damage that may be playing out before their eyes. Why not, when—as a private-practice physician affiliated with the CDC wrote a few years ago—nationally recommended vaccinations not only furnish “steady revenue” but can also improve a practice’s “financial viability.”
Follow the money
In 2015, the physician then serving as liaison to the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) on behalf of the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) wrote an article reminding fellow AAFP members that “minimizing costs and maximizing reimbursement can make immunizations profitable.” In addition to offering tips on how to be a “savvy vaccine shopper” and obtain manufacturer discounts for ordering multiple vaccines, the doctor discusses how physicians can make money on administration fees for pediatric vaccines by “properly coding for the service.”
Every two-year old is worth $400 if they meet the “Combination 10 Criteria” (View full size graph.)
As he explains, “proper coding” involves not just billing for the vaccine itself (and including a diagnostic code that “reminds the insurance company that this is part of the routine immunization schedule”), but also billing for the fee that “is supposed to cover the time, energy, and supplies required to administer the vaccine as well as the overhead associated with managing the vaccines.”
The good doctor then goes on to describe the pediatric vaccine administration codes that he considers the “most important” from a “financial point of view”:
These codes, which include a counseling component…can be used only for patients 18 years old or younger. The reason these codes are so valuable is that they pay per vaccine component. For example, if you administer an MMR vaccine, you may bill for three components (measles, mumps, and rubella). If you administer a DTaP/IPV vaccine (Kinrix) you may bill for four components (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, and polio).
He notes that the codes were new as of 2011; prior to that year, combination vaccines actually resulted in lower rather than higher physician reimbursement.
Giving a “real life” example and again emphasizing that “the results are most dramatic for vaccines with multiple components,” the AAFP member describes billing for a two-month well-child visit at which the baby receives a five-component combination vaccine (DtaP/IPV/HepB) as well as three other vaccines—Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), pneumococcal conjugate (PSV13) and rotavirus.
Without any vaccine counseling, the practice would only be able to bill for $125 total, but with additional billing codes for “brief counseling,” the total reimbursement (as of 2015) would shoot up to $300—an extra $175 for a few minutes’ effort. Noting that the counseling codes do not cover counseling provided by nurses, he adds that he can also make the extra $175 by providing “a short vaccine-counseling visit” himself, when possible, in lieu of scheduling a nurse visit. Proudly, he notes that vaccine reimbursement often exceeds reimbursement for the rest of the visit.
When it comes to the number of vaccines, the sky’s the limit
The Immunization Action Coalition (IAC) is a leading vaccine front group that receives significant funding from both vaccine manufacturers and the CDC and lobbies for the removal of vaccine exemptions. On its “Ask the Experts” webpage, the IAC tells physicians, “There is no upper limitfor the number of vaccines that can be administered during one visit.” Even though researchers have never tested this assertion—with zero studies on the safety of the full vaccine schedule or the effects of so many simultaneous and cumulative vaccines—the AAFP rep’s description of the financial benefits accruing from “proper” coding provides one reason why so many physicians may be willing to pile the vaccines on without question.
At a time when Medical Boards are going after doctors who overprescribe opioids, one might expect doctors to have concerns about inflicting vaccine injuries through over-administration of vaccines. Not to worry, says the IAC, which reassures doctors (on the same “no upper limit” webpage) that the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program confers medical professionals with liability protection for “all vaccines that are routinely administered to children.”
Bolstered by the Hippocratic oath, patients generally “trust that the physician will act in their interest, or at least will do no harm.” The first principle of the Nuremberg Code emphasizes voluntary consent and interventions free of “any element of force, fraud, deceit, duress, overreaching, or other ulterior form of constraint or coercion.” As Children’s Health Defense General Counsel Mary Holland writes, “SB 276 is a clear example of government overreach.” However, while doctors who support compulsory vaccination and the revocation of vaccine exemptions are on the wrong side of history where the Nuremberg Code and their Hippocratic oath are concerned—clearly the case for the physician-author of SB 276 who has never acknowledged vaccine-injured children—for many, the absence of liability and the financial payoffs appear to be acceptable tradeoffs.
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