Recently my wife and I were driving back from Seattle to the island of San Juan where we live. To reach the island you must take a ferry from the small port town of Anacortes, some two hours north of Seattle, once the famed capital of Grunge. Now the stomping ground of Yahoo, Google, Amazon and Microsoft, this new Seattle is in constant motion… but not the motion of people walking about, conversing and interacting.
As in so many places around the world today, Seattlites’ gaze is increasingly dug into their smart phones, a ceaseless thumb twirling, the last vestige of the bodily urge to move. Except, that is, for the hordes of Lance Armstrong lookalikes speeding by on their bicycles, the same look in their eyes, the same expression on their faces.
Around this digitised social mass there is only an inexorable motion upwards: everywhere you look you see scaffolding rising to support the mutating species of tech-humans required to run this ultimate software machine. Glisteningly boring architecture wraps its soulless coils around the tree-lined communities with their famed water views, slowly asphyxiating them as might a giant python its prey. This brave new world emanates a distinct whiff of Singularity as technology continues its phallic and parabolic rise against the dwindling forces of nature.
Or perhaps not. Nature is also uprising, with an unstoppable force of its own. As TS Eliot once wrote, the centre no longer holds. From the relative calm at the eye of the storm, we are now being spun out into the concentric rings of tempest that surround it. The centre is collapsing as the outer rings unleash the hounds of chaos.
A perfect storm? Loss of faith in government, in religion, in financial regulation, in science, in our humanity; even loss of trust in our species capacity to prevail against self-administered adversity. Shadows are building around the glib optimism spouted by governments with their sycophantic media vomit and cherry-picking disregard for scientific consistency.
As we shall see, this entropy at the centre need not always mean death and destruction. It could mean exactly the opposite. In fact, it is this very same dynamic (implosion at the centre, explosive growth at the periphery) that allowed larrea tridentate – humble creosote bush and longest living species of plant yet discovered – to endure for over eleven thousand years, outliving all the multicoloured empires man has sought to erect on this Earth.
Elsewhere, in the deeps, swim arctic whales in whose flesh lie embedded ivory tips of harpoons aimed at their flanks by whalers of the early nineteenth century. Deeper still, close by the vents on ocean floors through which rise intense heat from beneath the planetary crust, delicate tube worms called lamellibrachia stack upwards like surreal, futuristic skyscrapers of the forgotten depths. These subluminous creatures can easily live out a quarter of a millennium. And if we go deeper still, under the very bottom of the basins of the great oceans, we encounter the largest biomass on Earth, that composed by archaea – tiny, ancient, unicellular creatures not to be confused with their later evolutionary relatives, the bacteria. We know that archaea metabolise time far more slowly than we do. How long can one of them survive? It has been posited that the answer may lie well north of one million years.
And strange as all that may sound, it is not the strangest of all. That prize must go to turritopsis nutricola, the so-called immortal jellyfish. But we’ll get to him, or her, a little later.
Longevity in a World Gone Mad
Let me return for a moment to our drive back from Seattle. The whole day there had been a misty pall hanging over the entire region, giving it a sort of milky humidity through which the sun could not penetrate. By evening, as we drove in towards the harbour, the sun had broken through and hung above the horizon, a vermilion acrobat of astonishingly beautiful elegance, in slow motion descent. Just beneath it, waves of scorched yellows and ochres etched themselves between the far horizon and the lowest hanging cloud, suggesting that above the entire Pacific Ocean a great fire was raging. We drove slowly in our car, mesmerised by the bizarre beauty. From the CD player, tracks from Laurie Anderson’s album, Bright Red, played out softly:
and when you think you’re swimming to the surface,
you’re swimming right down,
down to the bottom, all the way to the bottom…
The entire landscape had become a dreamscape. There was a simple reason for this: fire. Five of the westernmost states of the US had caught flame: California, Idaho, Oregon, Montana and now eastern Washington. At this time of writing, the fires are officially “out of control.” Unable to quell them even after bringing in the army, the US government has requested the assistance of special crews from Down Under. Trained forest firefighters from Australia and New Zealand are due to land in Boise, Idaho.
At around this same moment, a foiled terrorist attack has just taken place in Europe aboard the Arras-to-Paris train. A Moroccan man, naked to the waist, wielding an AK 47 and carrying nine magazines, a hand gun and a boxcutter knife is wrestled down by three Americans and a Briton just before he is able to unleash multiple rounds from a temporarily jammed barrel. That fire was stopped, just.
Fear of death by fire, fear of death by water. These terrors lurk within the recesses of our unconscious, and for good reason they are now welling up. Just as parts of the rapidly desiccating land masses are catching flame and the ocean levels growing taller, and more menacing.
So here we get to my point, or my $64,000 question: does it make sense for us to talk about longevity in a world that has become so precarious? Is it not rather like planning for retirement when we all know that the shadows of deflation and hyperinflation stalk the countries we inhabit, and especially those of the West, which are functionally bankrupt? When we see that the dying fiat currencies are being kept alive on inhalers called QE, the stock markets pumped full of steroids swollen anabolically by corporate buybacks to distract the eye from dwindling price-to-earnings ratios, the militarisation of police forces and all the other aggressive control reactions the authorities are throwing at a global situation they sense is fundamentally spinning out of central control? Is there a place amongst these madding crowds to hunker down and cultivate a long, happy and healthy life?
How Long to You Choose to Live
About ten years ago I read a book entitled How Long Do You Choose to Live? The name of the author is Peter Ragnar. Known for his unbridled pursuit of physical immortality and record beating feats of physical strength, Ragnar is also a successful businessman and New Age guru. Is it a sign of mental illness to believe that one can live forever? Not necessarily, although it might be a sign of mental illness to want to live forever. But we will get into that later. For now, let’s look at Ragnar’s basic premises, and then let’s see what he is doing to remain “forever young.”
Ragnar notes that the Bible speaks about individuals living to immense ages. Noah was the last of the batch of early patriarchs who lived to be a thousand years (Noah himself died a little prematurely at age 950). After Noah, lifespan shortened dramatically. Less than three hundred years after Noah’s passing, Moses would only live to be 120, although most people today would agree that, with all that Moses had to live through, he went through a great deal of what we would now call stress, both personal and professional. Even back then, stress can’t have been good for you.
In China and in India too, there are tales, whether fiction or fact, of tremendous longevity. Taoism in particular developed an esoteric cult of longevity which aimed at transcending death altogether. This was by dint of becoming a Taoist Immortal, or Cloud Wanderer. Such a path entailed diligent self-cultivation practices, and not only at a physical level of health. The fundamental concept is alchemical: which is to say that it is possible not only to slow down the processes of cellular decline and live a long life, but also in-so-doing to gradually spiritualise the body’s core energies in such a way as to build a sort of special energy vehicle (or capsule) for the self to survive intact in the worlds to come.
Ragnar’s interest is not focused on that, however. It is purely focused on extending his physical life indefinitely. Or at least, he suggests, giving it a good try. Seeing whether it is in fact possible. One of Ragnar’s favourite texts is As A Man Thinketh by James Allen. Here is one sentence from Allen’s famous book:
You are today where your thoughts have brought you;
you will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you.
Taking this literally, we are presented with a simple but radical notion: our thoughts precede our material circumstances. Is it possible to infer from this that if we change the way we think about aging (and dying) we can literally control the rate at which we physically decline; even, in theory, postpone death by refusing to accept the inevitable arrival of that cloaked and hooded figure with his sickle (the Ultimate Terrorist)? Is this an outrageous act of stupidity, or at least of hubris? Or does it merit closer attention? Ragnar, to his credit, is giving it a go and doing pretty well so far.
Longevity & States of Mind
Let’s switch gear to a recent study. A paper just published in JAMA in February 2015 describes a twelve-year study conducted by researchers at the University of London on a group of 6,489 people. What the research team was trying to find out was whether perceived age has any influence on mortality. In other words, say you are aged 60 but in your mind you perceive yourself to be 50, could that conceivably affect your lifespan? The research team concluded very clearly that it does. Those people who perceived themselves to be younger than their actual age lived longer (or died later) than those people whose self perceived age was identical to their biological age. People whose perceived age was greater than their biological age died the soonest. Mortality rates were 24.6% in the last group and only 14.3% in the first, almost double. Well, well, well. Perhaps there is something to this after all.
In my previous article on longevity for New Dawn (see Nov-Dec 2014 issue), I mentioned how in some cultures you aren’t expected to behave like an adult until well into middle life. These cultures (I was referring to the people of the South Caucasus) lived typically into what we would today call extreme old age (120+).
Are there any examples currently of people who have attained an extraordinary age, and also managed to remain vital and healthy? If so, how important is mental attitude in all this, and what other factors may be involved?
Officially, the two oldest living persons in China and possibly the world are both Uyghurs from Xinjiang province. Alimihan is 127 and can still thread a needle without glasses. Her blood pressure and appetite are those of person one-third her age. Yakup is 120 and looks like a very fit 60 year old. He bends and squats without no obvious signs of arthritis or weakness. He walks around all day long tending to his five sheep and helping to feed the family’s other animals. His son in law attributes Yakup’s longevity to the fact that “he never stops moving.”
Okay, so we know exercise is good and if you don’t use it you lose it. But, surely there would have to be some special water, herbs, diet (or perhaps esoteric spiritual practice) that has kept Yakup supple, strong and vital all these years. No: corn naan (a kind of flat bread) and tea are the only things he consumes each and everyday. No proteins, no antioxidants, no alkaline water, no blue-green algae, no super-raw-food diet, no human growth hormone, no special anything. Just corn bread and tea.
If you check out those centenarians from the Greek island of Ikaria from my previous New Dawn article, you will see that most of them are not too politically correct when it comes to diet. Smoking, drinking copious amounts of wine, even Coca Cola are mentioned by numerous 100 year-old residents as daily pleasures which enhance their wellbeing and thus their longevity. On the other hand, they consume a diet rich in local greens, herbs, fruits and vegetables, little meat, and very little if any WiFi. Instead of sitting (as I am at this moment) glued in front of a computer, they are clambering over the windblown cliffs on their way to visit a neighbour or friend, and perhaps share a glass or two, or maybe even three. Women from Spain are, after the Japanese, the second longest living women in the world. Why? No doubt similar reasons apply as do in Greece. These Spanish women live more communally, are more expressive, more spontaneous, less pent up than many of their Anglo-Saxon counterparts, and do not refrain from drinking some wine with their meals, but not in a way that exhibits immoderation or alcoholic tendencies.
But let’s get back to what Peter Ragnar recommends in his book How Long Do You Choose To Live?
I would say he breaks things down to the following factors:
1) Make sure you get regular, direct exposure to sunshine
2) Actively focus your powers of positive belief, keep your mind open, and tap into limitless potential
3) Keep your body fluids running clear and clean like a mountain stream so that your cells do not accumulate toxins and thus degrade
4) Avoid three things like the plague: Stress, Drugs and Doctors
5) Learn how to breathe deeply. Always oxygenate yourself well with fresh air and detox thoroughly with powerful exhalations
6) Learn how to do “electric breathing” practices (that is, Qigong or Pranayama)
7) Avoid noise pollution as much as possible (including the silent noise within from negative states of mind)
8) Avoid electromagnetic pollution as best you can (including radio towers, WiFi and the proximity of smart phones)
9) Drink only clear, clean, energised water and keep your PH alkaline
10) Become a vegetarian. Eat raw food
11) Exercise diligently and keep your muscles strong and primed
12) Use hydrotherapy and dry skin brushing regularly: take hot/cold baths or showers
These suggestions, simple as they might seem, are not so easy to put into practice as we all know. Not all of us can retire to a mountain retreat, have access to (or afford) garden-fresh organic produce, or drink vibrationally charged, purified water let alone breathe in uncontaminated air. By contrast, most of us are submerged in thickening seas of electrosmog. Before too long there will likely be class action suits about a slew of deaths caused by this invisible electrical pollution, just as there have been huge class action suits about deaths from smoking tobacco.
How Can I Minimise the Damage?
Realistically speaking, most of us tend to think: “How can I minimise the damage?” rather than “How can I maximise my potential?” We are playing catch up. The big irony is that the mainstream keeps assuring us people’s lives are manifestly getting longer. This is true, at least in developed parts of the world. But people’s bodies (and minds) are also growing weaker, fatter, slower and disturbingly disconnected. Our DNA is degrading, our robustness and vitality diminishing.
Chronic degenerative disease is the new normal. And it is happening by stealth: no-one in a position of authority is willing to admit what is going on. The human being is morphing into a defenseless blob. Health, without the “QE” of more and more drugs and prosthetic interventions, is sliding on a downward trajectory. But this situation is actually perfect for big business interests. And perfecter still for those who want to fast-forward us into a post-Singularity world: a world where human and machine have finally fused. The ultimate makeover. The ultimate transgender wet dream fantasy: conquest of death by technology.
On 18 August, scientists at Ohio State University announced they had grown a human brain in the lab. Their miniature brain, about the size of a pencil eraser, is not conscious and supposedly resembles that of a five-week old fetus. It has been engineered from adult skin cells. Interestingly, the research work and its fruit (if that is the right word) were presented to the Military Health System Research Symposium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
The research team claims their brain is connected to a spinal cord, and even a retina. This work was accomplished by turning initial adult stem cells into pluripotent cells, which were then programmed to become central nervous system cells in the lab grown brain.
What the heck are pluripotent cells, you may well ask? Actually, they are a kind of stem cell that can develop any which way. That’s why they are called pluripotent cells: they have plural powers, archetypal, magical powers of transformation and metamorphosis. And we are full of them. Nor are these cells only responsive to secretive scientists working on semi-classified projects. One of the most powerful remedies I use in my clinic is made from the aloe arborescens leaf. This leaf contains multiple factors including special sugars (polysaccharides) which can dramatically transform macrophages (human white blood cells) into pluripotent cells. There is an interesting documented case about a young girl who was born without an esophagus. After being given a preparation of the aloe formula, her body was able to grow one. Conclusion: nature still has the upper hand when it comes to technology.
The Immortal Jellyfish
Let’s get back to our friend turritopsis nutricola, the Immortal Jellyfish. How does this bizarre creature manage to defeat Father Time? It’s by a process known as transdifferentiation. When the adult, medusa shaped jellyfish senses danger, it has the option of floating back up to the surface of the ocean and simply reverting back into a blob. That is, its cells go backwards in time, from highly differentiated adult ones to cells which are essentially primitive stem cells. It hangs close to the surface until the danger has past. Then it re-morphs back into a medusa with tendrils, stomach, sense organs and so on. Of course, whilst in the blob state it could always get eaten. This is a risk it has to take. But if it escapes the marauding jaw of a fish, it returns to its fully fledged form as though nothing had ever happened. Thus, it does not age, it simply regroups, refreshed and revitalised. And it isn’t homo sapiens with all his superior intellect and technological prowess. It’s just a “stupid” jellyfish. Conclusion: when the going gets tough, simplify. Get rid of what you don’t need. Hang for a while and cling only to the essentials. Bide your time and then return, stronger than ever.
Nature shows us many other examples of great intelligence and adaptability in supposedly primitive micro-organisms such as amoeba, which move around by means of limbs called pseudopods that they can sort of “haul in” and compress back into their blob-like core as they move fluently through pond water or through the extracellular fluids of your body. My own longevity system, which is called the Infinite Body SystemTM, was developed by studying creatures such as the amoeba proteus, and in fact by studying the precise movements of many diverse things in the universe, from nebulae to single molecules of water. We should remind ourselves that since the planet first began to sustain forms of life, there have been multiple extinctions and those species that found themselves over-specialised in a rapidly changing environment were the first to go. There is a lesson in that.
Longevity & Reincarnation
But we have one more twist of the puzzle to ponder over. When we speak of longevity, are we assuming that we live only once?
In Old Souls by Tom Schroder, the author sets out to explore whether there is any hard evidence for reincarnation. He is a sceptic for whom lack of convincing proof would mean that the idea of rebirth is pure fantasy. A seasoned journalist, Schroder is allowed to accompany physician and psychiatrist Dr. Ian Stevenson on his field work in search of proof of reincarnation.
Stevenson’s field work spans three continents, three cultures and three languages: Lebanon, India, and the USA. By the end of his travels with Stevenson, Schroder’s scepticism has been shaken to the core. It has become conviction, so mind-blowing is the evidence: concrete, compelling recollections of past life by children. These detailed accounts are not hazy. They consist of precision-sharp references to life information (inner and outer) of biographically identifiable individuals whose deaths occurred only months, weeks and, in some instances, just hours prior to the birth of the child in whom they “re-incarnate.”
The documentation in Schroder’s book is of paramount importance to our interest in longevity. Why? Because if we only live once, then it makes sense to approach life as a private business: a precious, personal stretch of time. It is “our” time” and “our” life to live out as we see fit. If we wish to burn the candle at both ends, so be it. If we wish to “stretch” our bit of fabric so as to live a little bit longer, we will need to practice longevity. If we follow Ray Kurzweil and the other prophets of Singularity, we can go down that synthetic yellow brick road. But what if we live more than once? Does it still make sense to focus so much on longevity, or are we missing the point?
I am sure that New Dawn readers from Australia all remember Kerry Packer, that brash, outspoken entrepreneur of the late twentieth century. In terms of personality, Kerry Packer had more than a few things in common with Donald Trump and Rupert Murdoch, another Australian! In 1990, Kerry suffered one of his four major heart attacks whilst playing polo. The attack left him clinically dead for a total of six minutes. Later on at a press conference he referred to this experience: “I’ve been to the other side and let me tell you, son, there’s f*cking nothing there… there’s no one waiting there for you, there’s no one to judge you so you can do what you bloody well like.”
Packer’s conviction that “there’s nothing f*cking there” on the other side and that thus you can (and should) do what you like has to be one of the best tools we possess for understanding the way the world works today. The so-called elites, with their protective fatty membrane of politicians, media sycophants and rigged judiciaries, operate from the same belief system as Packer: we only live once, the world is up for grabs and may the best man (or rather, the worst man) win. There’s nothing to worry about except winning and holding on to what you’ve got. The rest is just empty background space, cannon fodder and raw materials to be exploited.
They are convinced that they are right in this. They feel superior to everyone else in understanding the basic facts better and therein lies their right to the winnings. To remain undisturbed in their hegemony, they airbrush over their nihilistic beliefs, hiring legions of liars (politicians and media) to spread illusions of ethical governance to conceal the boundless predation and depredation in which they are so invested.
The world we inhabit today is increasingly unstable. Geopolitical tensions between nation blocs are intensifying. Conflicts in the Middle East and elsewhere are threatening to spill out into the greater, perhaps even global, arena. War is now being increasingly spoken about in alternative media as a deliberate tactic to distract Western populations from the financial crimes of banks, corporations and corrupted government. The general awareness today, albeit a semi-conscious one, is of an Orwellian drift in government.
At the same time we are witnessing an unravelling of natural balances involving weather patterns, symbiotic relationships between plants and insects, magnetic currents and polar fluctuations, sudden decreases in solar activity and so on. The spirit of our times is far from one of calm and predictability.
So what to do? I’d like to suggest there is a way to consider the pursuit of longevity that is more real – and more meaningful – than simply trying to live for a very long time, and stay healthy. That way of thinking seems almost narcissistic unless, that is, our goals are greater and deeper than that. I would like to point out that often people who have a strong sense of integrity and truth live longer, healthier lives than their less awakened contemporaries. Their very strength of character seems to sustain their bodies and keep them vital.
I will end this article by stressing that, as I see it, longevity in our times must involve both courage and generosity of spirit. Now more than ever we see how all life is profoundly interwoven and interconnected. Decades ago, Einstein pointed out that if bees suddenly vanished, we too would be gone in a few short years. A sobering thought back then. How much more so today? Our longevity as a species is utterly dependent upon the longevity of other species, just as our longevity as an individual is utterly dependent upon the fellowship and support of our companions. We cannot allow the threads of life to unravel. Living in support of ethical and spiritual values invites a powerful life force into the human heart. Living from the heart with steadiness and courage may be the best recipe for longevity there is. In the end, it is not the quantity of years that count, it is the quality of experience and how your life was lived, no matter what the circumstances.
© New Dawn Magazine and the respective author.
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