Saturday, December 12, 2015


"Art loves chance and chance loves art." 
-Aristotle (Nicomachean Ethics, VI) --see Classical Wisdom Weekly

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Drug Fueling Syria's Bloody War

Sometimes what seems an obscure subject for a novel turns out to be strangely prescient. 
Five years ago I began writing a thriller called The Assassin Lotus about a present-day search through central Asia for the legendary elixir, soma. In the ancient Vedic hymns of India and the ancient Zoroastrian texts of Persia, the plant-derived drug was praised as a god, and was used by armies of marauding Aryan warriors to prepare themselves for battle. Soma was found to dissipate fear and give fighting men great courage. 

At the time I wrote the story, ISIS was not even a blip on the radar. Now news stories are pouring in about "the drug that's fueling Syria's bloody war."
Called Captagon, it is taken by Syrian militants who say it eliminates fear and fatigue, and "gives you great courage and power." 

Is Captagon a contemporary version of soma? Effects described by the militants seem identical to those described in the ancient Vedic hymns. An amphetamine, Captagon "stimulates the central nervous system, increasing alertness, boosting concentration and physical performance, and providing a feeling of well-being." 

This last effect, often described as a "euphoria," may seem inimical to war-fighting. Yet this is the effect that is most elaborately praised in the ancient soma texts. A feeling of euphoria, of bliss and unity, of oneness with the Divine--these were the most treasured of the ancient elixir's gifts. 

The Assassin Lotus explores the idea that soma not only gave courage to warriors, but that it gave insight into the source of courage itself.

Making permanent that inner state of fearless transcendence became the Holy Grail of India's first mystics, the yogic researchers who eventually developed many of the meditation practices still in use today. 

As Lord Krishna explained to the warrior Arjuna on the battlefield in the Bhagavad GIta, the field of war is only a hair's breadth away from the field of the divine Absolute. We can only hope the Syrians will tire of the first and finally give themselves over to the latter. 

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Altered States

"To live on a day-to-day basis is insufficient for human beings; we need to transcend, transport, escape; we need meaning, understanding, and explanation; we need to see over-all patterns in our lives. We need hope, the sense of a future. And we need freedom (or, at least, the illusion of freedom) to get beyond ourselves, whether with telescopes and microscopes and our ever-burgeoning technology, or in states of mind that allow us to travel to other worlds, to rise above our immediate surroundings."
- the late Oliver Sacks on "ALTERED STATES"