Ishmael, An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit: Book Review

Quinn, Daniel (1992) Ishmael, An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit, New York: Bantam/Turner Books

Daniel Quinn’s award winning novel Ishmael is a compelling exposition of the author’s social and political perspective through the eyes of a gorilla.  The essential theme upon which the book is written is one that lays the blame of all our modern political and environmental perils squarely on the shoulders of the Neolithic agricultural revolution. The author’s reasoning is that agriculture is the beginning of human exploitation of the earth, other species and cultures.  Quinn further asserts that the world’s modern industrial agricultural society is unsustainable and destined to disaster. With these two premises established Quinn’s argument next follows that if the human race and the earth are to survive for much longer, industrial society will have to transform itself into a less exploitative culture. Ishmael­ has inspired an entire cult following of neotribalists desirous of bringing Quinn’s vision of a post-industrial society established on low impact kin based communities to life.

From its very first page Ishmael swiftly moves forward with a sense of purpose and profundity. As the story opens Quinn describes the unnamed narrator’s disgust at reading an ad in the personals section of the newspaper: “TEACHER seeks student. Must have an earnest desire to save the world. Apply in person.” The narrator expresses his sense of disillusionment at this presumptuous author whom he figures is just another charlatan marketing a worn out fashion statement as a social and spiritual revolution. This opening acts as a hook that catches the reader by the sensation of a social revolutionary disillusioned from the experiences of one flaccid effort after another, never truly offering or accomplishing anything substantially alternative to the status quo. Although skeptical of this self-appointed guru, our unnamed narrator still decides to investigate the charlatan he’s sure he’ll meet.  Surprisingly, the guru is not a man at all, but a gorilla named Ishmael capable of deep philosophical thought and communication. The lesson he seeks to impart is an accounting of the collision course upon which he sees the human race and that which he believes is the remedy for it.

The blurring of reality and absurdity is implicit in the author’s narrative bringing to life the remarkably believable character of Ishmael. The author’s deep use of metaphor begins at the title of the book and the gorilla’s name.  Ishmael stands as a representative, a spokesman of sorts for the natural order of the earth, flora and fauna.  While the gorilla had lived in a menagerie he began to became self aware and learned to recognize a certain sound as referring to him; Goliath.  The name is strongly indicative of the manner in which gorillas, great apes, wild animals and the natural world is typically viewed by modern humans; a degraded, threatening, crude philistine to be conquered by our heroic civilization. But when Mr. Sokolow upon encountering the animal announces to him “You are not Goliath,” he is making a profound statement about his rejecting the greater society’s perception of the world.  This statement is further expounded by the name which Mr. Sokolow instead chooses to bestow upon him. Transformed from the image of the hulk which tormented the Israelites Goliath is renamed Ishmael; the disinherited son of Abraham who through no fault of his own was cast out from the Israelite race, deemed as little more than “a wild ass of a man.”

Ishmael explains that all of the modern nations of the world whether England, Russia or China are descendents of these exploitative agriculturalists whom he designates Takers. Takers are acting out a myth that places them at the top of creation as the owners of the earth.  A different myth is being acted out by the few societies who exist in distant tribes and bands still living similarly to the pre-agricultural Mesolithic hunters and gatherers whom he designates Leavers.  Leavers do not see themselves as the masters of the earth, but as part of it. A society is always governed by a mythic theme and the difference between these two myths could not be more different.  The reason Ishmael says that all our social and political revolutions have failed to stop our eventual demise is because they have all failed to reject the Taker myth and simultaneously embrace the Leaver myth.

Ishmael explains that Nazi Germany was the inevitable result of the Taker’s myth being acted out and that this myth is still being acted out through the entire civilized world’s perception of, and behavior toward the natural environment. With the gorilla as instructor we are taught that the human race broke away from a sort of mystical interspecies ecological brotherhood, setting their selves and the world on a collision course to destruction by setting themselves up as gods who know the difference between good and evil, with the power to decide who should live and who should die.  Ishmael, the gorilla even uses the Genesis creation story as an example of a misinterpreted and incorrectly practiced narrative that has served to misalign the human race with the earth. The biblical fall in the garden, according to our gorilla mentor is really a story by which our pre-agricultural pastoralist contemporaries illustrated this severing from the natural order.  Once humans settled down and cultivated enough food to support a growing population they became warlike and expansive.

While generally well thought out and reasonable in his approach, there are several points in Ishmael’s interpretation of events that must be questioned.  He characterizes the farmers as the culture that victimizes the herding people’s and extinguishes all the other species, including the predators in their environment while completely exonerating herders for the destruction they also cause in the world.  Many forests have also been destroyed in order to create pasture land to feed the herds.  And there is after all a reason western folklore has always depicted the wolf as the antagonist of the shepherd.  Aside from this and a few other bits of artistic license taken by the author, Ishmael is a engaging book that stimulates deep reflection on our relationship with the earth now and throughout history.  To describe the course of our eventual demise Ishmael uses the image of a primitive, non-aerodynamic plane on its test flight plummeting toward the earth while the pilot looks down at the ground rushing up at him and says “well, it’s gotten me this far, no sense abandoning it now.”

Though classified as a novel, the majority of Ishmael takes the form of a dialogue between the unnamed narrator and the gorilla guru.  The message Ishmael hopes to impart to the world is that the human race’s only hope in continuing to survive lies in rejecting the myth of the Takers and embracing the myth of the Leavers.  The novel ends on somber tone, but one that imparts a motivating hopefulness and a sense of urgency.  Ishmael is an excellent book which should be read by everyone looking for real alternatives to the modern political and ecological turmoil engulfing the world.  We’re an inventive species.  It’s time to invent.

Gene Simmons, Profile of a Rockin’ Capitalist

Gene Simmons is best known as the fire-breathing, blood spitting demonic bass player of the record breaking rock and roll band KISS.  With multiple millions of fans the world over and across no less than three generations, Gene Simmons and KISS have experienced success that far surpasses that of the majority of eccentric musical acts that sprung up throughout the 1970s. Though many rock and rollers have come and gone in the years that KISS has rocked the earth, Gene Simmons is richer and more popular now than he ever during his band’s classic era.

Rock stars are typically not the best examples of financial wisdom; in fact they are usually the worst.  The unrelated natures of musical talent and financial wisdom detract from the music business as a viable path to wealth as it is.  Couple that with the unlikelihood of success and the well known frivolous spending habits and legal antics of those in the field.  This is why I get certain skeptical looks and responses when I cite Gene Simmons as inspiration for financial strategy.

There is a distinct line between Gene Simmons and most of the rockers that came before him or have shown up since.  This line is what has kept him and his partner in KISS, Paul Stanley on top for more than three decades.  While many millionaire rock stars squandered their wealth on extravagant lifestyles, Simmons conserved his money for future investments while slowly building the phenomenon that is KISS.

gene simmons photo: Gene Simmons e8f9f32c.jpg

Until the success of his hit show Gene Simmons Family Jewels, few people have had the chance to see just how financially savvy and down to earth the legendary rocker truly is.  Having taken the time to listen to Simmons’ message and philosophies, I have no doubt that even without KISS, rock and roll or a single musical note; Gene Simmons would have become a wealthy man one way or another.

Simmons was born in Israel in 1949 as Chaim Witz to Flora Klien, a poor holocaust survivor from Hungary.  In his book Sex, Money, Kiss, Simmons recounts the experience that would set the tone for his financial future.  At the young age of five, he decided to earn some money by selling cactus fruit.  He would go into the desert and gather the fruit, wash it, chill it in ice water and remove the spines.  He would then cart it to the bus stop in time to meet the afternoon bus and sell the fruit to the workers unloading after a hard day on the job.

The future superstar came to the United States at the age of nine.  Even as an impoverished immigrant who couldn’t speak English, nothing stopped him from finding creative ways to earn an honest living.  Whether playing in local rock bands, typing term papers in college, dealing in classic comic books, or running his own science fiction fanzines, Simmons always kept his best financial interests in focus.  He avoided drugs and alcohol and all the other vices on which young people are prone to waste money.  When it came time to form KISS, Simmons and his partner Paul Stanley were financially stable enough to walk away from a deal with their band Wicked Lester in order to pursue their dream of forming the world’s most legendary rock band.

After achieving international fame with KISS, Simmons didn’t just revel in the spotlight.  He worked the business end of his craft to the best of his abilities.  Even with millions of dollars coming in, he budgeted, cut his expenses and planned for future opportunities or possible misfortunes.  He expanded his horizons.  He managed Liza Minelli for a time.  He acted as a talent scout, discovering Van Halen and eventually founding Simmons Records.

Gene Simmons has never stopped learning about business and building his financial future.  He has continually found new avenues to keeping KISS relevant and advancing.  He has acted in feature films such as 1984’s Runaway and in 2010 he played the voice of the Spirit Dragon in The Last Airbender.  He created the animated series My Dad the Rockstar for Nickelodeon, Mr. Romance for Oxygen, and he starred in the UK series Rock School.  The hit series Gene Simmons Family Jewels is beginning its 5th season.  Now, in 2011 Gene Simmons is a co-founder of The Cool Springs Life Equity Strategy, an estate planning service.

So how exactly does Gene Simmons represent a lesson on success?  Starting with the cactus fruit; even when he had nothing to invest, he found something he could acquire for free, and with some work others would pay him money for it.  When he had some capital to invest he pursued avenues that he was truly interested in; comic books, science fiction, rock and roll, and eventually KISS.

Even with the success of KISS, he has always kept his eye out for other opportunities to expand his business and market his brand.  Some might say that Gene Simmons’ wealth was acquired by luck.  But Gene would probably say to them “the harder I worked the luckier I got.”  As a result of his discipline and tenacity, today Gene Simmons is amongst America’s wealthiest people.

A person does not need to come from established financial means to achieve wealth.  All one needs is an economic atmosphere that encourages entrepreneurs, and the internal wealth that provides the psychological resources required to act wisely, decisively, experimentally, and consistently.  From a poor Israeli child to an American citizen in the highest tax bracket, Gene Simmons is an example of how Capitalism Saves.

For more information visit GeneSimmons.com.

Larry Kernagis: Nashville’s Chief Leprechaun

Larry Kernagis is distinguished as the Chief Leprechaun of the Nashville based Celtic band cleverly named Def Leprechaun.  With a full repertoire of classic Irish folk and drinking songs, Larry also tours as a solo act.  I was fortunate enough to meet Larry at McGuire’s Irish Pub in Pensacola, Florida during this summer.

As a skilled performer, Larry’s rich personality shines through his stage show.  He’s friendly and personable, and interacts with the crowd brilliantly, accepting requests or limericks from the audience, bringing them into the show rather than keeping them as simple observers. I’ve even been fortunate enough to sit in with him on a couple different occasions.

Lojah_Larry2011a
Moody View author Lojah with Larry Kernagis at McGuire’s Irish Pub

Since many newcomers to the Irish music scene may not be familiar with the well known or regionally adapted responses to the classic ballads, Larry often takes a moment to bring them up to speed, making the evening a truly interactive experience. He also brings with him a set of “The Viking Pirate Captain’s DL Songbooks,” with the lyrics to over 100 of the world’s favorite Irish pub songs for use by the audience.

Larry is fluent on both banjo and guitar, switching between the two instruments frequently throughout the night, adding to the diversity of his style.  He plays to his crowd, and as the night progresses Larry might incorporate other well known American classics in the spirit of Jimmy Buffet and Elvis Presley, but he otherwise keeps the set tight with Irish tunes.

Larry Kernagis is originally from Chicago, but relocated to Nashville, Tennessee where he formed his band Def Leprechaun.  His performances make for an evening of ruckus and revelry.  Over the past few weeks, I’ve come to think of him not only as a great performer, but as a friend.

Don’t miss Larry Kernagis, whether he is in Pensacola, Nashville, or Las Vegas.  If you’re a little Irish or even just a fan, you’ll love Larry’s show.

Check out Larry’s band Def Leprechaun at their website here!

Karl Marx and the Communist Manifesto: A Review

Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto, 1964 (orig. 1884), Washington Square Press, New York

Marxism is the bedrock and foundation of communism.  This tyrannical philosophy did not meet its end with the demise of the Soviet Union.  It is still very much an active threat to liberty today.  Proponents of Marxism seek to undermine capitalism at all points and they have learned to use the political system expertly to achieve their aims. What are those aims?  To centralize all authority over your life and finances in the hands of an all-powerful and uncompromising state, seeking global domination.

Marxism and the theory of communism are rooted in the essay Bourgeoisie and Proletarians by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, found in the Communist Manifesto, first published in 1884.

Class Warfare

The primary theme of Marxism is class warfare.  Marx opens his essay with the bold and all-encompassing  statement that the entire history of “all hitherto existing society” [later revised to exclude traditional “native” societies] is characterized by class struggles.  In short, there is always, in all situations class antagonism between an oppressor and an oppressed.  Modern “capitalist” society, he says is no different from medieval society. Instead of titles like “lord” and “serf,” we now have a dichotomous class distinction between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat.  The only solution, Marx says is open and “violentrevolution.

bourgeoisie

The bourgeoisie is initially defined as “the class of modern capitalists, owners of means of social production and employers of wage-labor” (57), but is eventually revealed to also include the middle class property owner. The bourgeoisie are driven by economic and technological development.  The historical development in these areas created “industrial millionaires”—the bourgeoisie, successful business people responsible for toppling Feudalism and creating a society where technology and education are available to all. Instead of creating a more liberated society however, Marx claims the bourgeoisie have only created “new forms of oppression.”  Marx believed that Representative government only serves to manage the affairs of the bourgeoisie.

proletariat

The proletariat is defined as “the class of modern wage-laborers who, having no means of their own, are reduced to selling their labor in order to live” (57).  Marx presents the idea of an isolated working class, a people without hope of improving their lives.  Marx argues that workers are enslaved by the bourgeoisie, most especially the manufacturer.  Once the worker has been paid by his employer, “he is set upon by the other portions of the bourgeoisie, the landlord, the shopkeeper, the pawnbroker, etc.” (70).

The proletariat is supposed to represent the “immense majority” who own no property and supposedly have no power or control over their lives.  Their mission in life is to enviously destroy the property and wealth of those who do.  Marx explains that as wealth becomes concentrated in fewer hands, the bourgeoisie is shrinking in number.  Those who washout of the bourgeoisie, become proletarians (since Marxist theory only allows for these two “classes”).  These washouts “boost the intellectual acumen” of the proletariat.  Marx also recognizes that the “social scum” may be absorbed into the movement as a “bribed tool.”

Luddism

The bourgeoisie constantly strive for progress, causing older, less efficient methods of production to be replaced by newer, more advance technologies. Marx denigrates this, claiming that the economic value of labor is decreased because technological advancement makes jobs easier to perform.  Marx complains that this has caused women’s labor in bourgeois society to be worth as much or more than a man’s. He decries the fact that industrialism has put people on equal economic footing despite age or sex.  He also complains that technology has caused the world to become more integrated with disparate countries now sharing in each other’s cultures.

Modern industry offers commodities at such inexpensive prices that demand is created by the people’s  desire to obtain these inexpensive goods.  With the increase in industry, the proletariat grows and becomes concentrated in greater numbers.  Due to competition in the workforce, wages fluctuate, requiring worker’s unions to develop in order to keep wages at a fixed minimum.  On occasion riots are necessary to further the proletarian cause.

Technological advancement in the traffic of information has allowed the proletariat to interact to the degree that they can now more quickly and efficiently organize themselves into a political party.  Since the bourgeoisie has created an environment in which technology and education are available to all, the proletariat must now use those benefits against them to destroy the very source of those benefits.

Violent Revolution

The ultimate goal of Marxism is violent communist revolution.  The first goal of the proletariat is to stage a successful revolution in their own countries, and then unite throughout the world in order to create a communist world order.  Marx explained that the score can only be settled when “that war breaks out into open revolution and where that violent  overthrow or the bourgeoisie lays the foundation for the sway of the proletariat ” (p 77).  To accomplish this, the proletariat must first organize themselves into a class and “wrest all capital, by degrees, from the bourgeoisie,” and “centralize all instruments of production in the hands of the state” (p 93, emphasis added).

Statism

In order to support and maintain this statism, Marx planned to destroy the family by replacing home education with social education (p 89), and abolishing all personal property and inheritance.  He also planned to abolish countries,  nationality and all “eternal truths,” all religion, and all morality including Freedom and Justice (p 92, emphasis added).  In order to accomplish this goal: “Communists everywhere support every revolutionary movement against the existing social and political order of things” (p 116).

Conclusion

This is Marxism at its core: class warfare based on the politics of envy.  It looks toward an omnipotent state to manage the affairs of the people.  Marxism’s long-term goal is global communism, and the abolition of national identity.  It is anti-freedom and scoffs at ideas like justice, and  morality.  It views technological advancement as a detriment to society and ignores any concept of personal responsibility for the proletariat. This ideology is covertly and sometimes naively promoted under various liberal pseudonyms, often uncited in order to avoid the stigma of the word “Marxist.”  It is quite possibly the most dangerous philosophy at work in society today, especially for people who value freedom, independence, and justice.

The Communist Manifesto ends with these words: “Working men of all countries unite!”

What is Capitalism?

At the time that I originally wrote this, I was working toward my master’s degree in anthropology in college.  In a theory class we were discussing world systems theory, global economics and money.  At one point the professor made the point that there is profound difference between money and capital, and then posed the question “what is that difference?”  I was surprised to see that within a class of intelligent and well educated blooming social scientists, there was little clear understanding amongst my peers as to what exactly the word capital means.

This is particularly perturbing considering the fact that the idea of capitalism or “free market economics” as it also known, is often maligned within this sphere of academia.

Money and Capital

Capital is not necessarily money, but it’s usually spoken of in that context.  Money is a symbolic mode of exchange.  In our society the simplest form of money comes in dollars and coins.  People and governments agree that these particular bills and coins have a certain amount of value can be exchanged for goods and services that are perceived to be of a certain value in relation to money.  Of course it takes popular support and trust in the currency for it to be of any perceived value, and that calls for regulatory mechanisms from credible governing authorities.

Capital is money or any other resources used for investment and for production of goods and services in order to make a profit in a accordance with the law of supply and demand.  A portion of the profits are then reinvested in order to create even more profit.  To be sure, even somewhat abstract concepts like education, experience and time can be invested and can be thought of as a form of capital.  That old saying “time is money,” might better be thought of as “time is capital.”

Capitalism is a process or system that functions in terms of capital.

One of the biggest differences in the mindset of those who tend to succeed and do well financially and those who do not is that one of them thinks in terms of capital and the other thinks in terms of just money.  Baring radical improbabilities, a person’s net worth is going to be in large part reflective of their knowledge and understanding of economics and finance.

Language and vocabulary affect our thought processes which in turn affect our behavior.  Your life is your business.  If you plan to succeed financially in that business, you must think in terms of capital rather than in terms of just money.

Rich McDuff: Pioneer of the McGuire’s Music Scene

Rich McDuff is Northwest Florida’s most popular Irish folk music performer.  With a loyal and regular fan base, Rich helped build and define the music scene at McGuire’s Irish Pub while performing there for more than twenty years.


Although the moose-kissing tradition at McGuire’s predates Rich’s arrival on scene, he is responsible for writing the accompanying, and now entrenched “Kiss the Moose” song.  He explains “When I began playing here, asking a first-time patron of McGuire’s to kiss the moose might be met with a bit of confusion and resistance.  The traditional aspect was lost on them.  I figured if there was a song to go along with it, it would give the tradition a bit more validity for first-time visitors to the pub.  And it has worked out pretty well.”  Now every act that performs at McGuire’s plays this song, and the moose-kissing tradition has expanded to include not only the moose but a couple other McGuire’s fixtures as well.

Rich is also known or pushing the bounds of the debauchery which is naturally as part of McGuire’s slogan.  His “Dirty Limerick” song, played to the classic mariachi tune of “Cielito Lindo” contains rhymes that could even surprise a hip-hop fan.  Many of Rich’s regulars eagerly look forward to this point in the evening, awaiting their opportunity to share the stage with him and recite their own limerick specially prepared just for this song.  The best and most classic limericks are written on a scroll and tucked away in the secret archives, only to be taken out upon the performance of this tune.

Even more entertaining, energetic, and amusing is Rich’s version of “Seven Drunken Nights,” with extended responses – a wee bit too naughty to be written down here.  This point of the night is when you are likely to see the most crowd participation.  This rendition of the classic Irish song is memorable, if not for the increasingly lengthy responses, but the reactions and looks on the faces of new comers to the McGuire’s scene.

Crowd interaction is a major part of Rich’s act.  You never know just where the night will lead or how ridiculous the antics are likely to become.

Rich’s set also contains a set of American country, and acoustically played classic rock songs familiar to everyone.  As a classically trained guitarist, Rich McDuff’s musical talent becomes most apparent when he plays a traditional jig or reel or the occasional classical guitar piece.

Rich’s revolving schedule alternates between the pubs in both Pensacola and Destin, Florida.  While he is away, his regulars in Pensacola always look forward to his return.  Some will even make the drive to Destin to see him when he is performing there.

For more information on Rich McDuff, and dates visit his website here.

The Ability to Drink Milk is an Evolutionary Advantage

There is an interesting article making its way around the interwebs these days telling you to throw away the milk ‘cuz it’s baaad for you ‘cuz lotsa folks got the lactose intolerance.

This is inaccurate and misleading information.  It’s really a vegetarian activist and animal rights argument masquerading as a health warning, making use of fake science in an attempt to add credence to a false premise that milk is bad for us.  They probably made up their statistics, but only about 10% of Americans are lactose intolerant, though virtually all Chinese and “full-blood” Native Americans are.

In reality there is a fascinating evolutionary story in play here.  You see, most humans can only digest lactose (milk sugar) as infants and young children by producing an enzyme called lactase.  At a certain age after childhood the gene that promotes lactase production switches off.  There is no scientific evidence that this is because milk is bad for the adult human.  It’s just generally unnecessary and does not provide any benefit in pre-agricultural societies since their dietary requirements can be met with meats and other resources found in the environment.

Milk consumption was only necessary to keep the child alive long enough to begin eating the bodies of animals rather than from the body of their mother.  Since there is apparently not any need or benefit to be able to digest lactose beyond childhood, there was never a need or function for an adaptation that allows humans to produce lactase beyond childhood.  It didn’t help us live longer or have more sex in our nomadic hunter-gatherer environment.

That’s just kind of the way evolutionary adaptations work.  They typically only serve the function that is needed to keep the individual alive long enough to procreate as often as possible and create as many genetic replications as possible (also called babies).

Probably around 7,000 years ago amongst European and African cattle-herding populations there occurred in an individual a genetic mutation.  No big deal; everything that makes any life-form different from a single-celled organism is the result of a genetic mutation.  This particular mutation allowed for our bodies to continue producing lactase as adults.

This mutation provided an evolutionary advantage by increasing the “fitness” of the individual so that he lived longer than most others and produced more progeny than those without this mutation.  Since they were now herding cattle they had access to milk in proportions unlike you’d find while chasing wild antelope.  It is plausible that there may have been food shortages of some sort that helped these milk-drinkers to outlive and outbreed less healthy people without the mutation.  It could have just provided for a healthier person in general, without any starvation drama.  Regardless, the ability to derive nutrition from more places is an advantage that can increase the evolutionary fitness of the species.

All the numbers disparities and mumbo jumbo of the vegetarians is not so cleverly presented to look like drinking milk is some freakish and “unnatural” thing because most humans do not have the genetic adaptation to produce lactase beyond childhood.  In reality, people of European and African descent have a somewhat unique genetic adaptation that allows us to derive nutritional benefit from milk well past our childhood, and this is an evolutionary advantage.   Enjoy it.

Quick Reference: Berkley

Note: I will give the author at “I waste so much time” credit for one thing: growth hormones in milk are a genuine concern, but then again harmful chemical additives in our food is a problem even when discussing Brussels sprouts.  Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin and the Secret to Jewish Success

Lapin, Rabbi Daniel (2010) Thou Shall Prosper: Ten Commandments for Making Money, Second Edition, Hoboken, John Wiley and Sons Inc.

LapinThou Shall Prosper is a fascinating exploration into wealth creation among Jews and the values within Jewish communities that encourage financial success.  It is organized into 10 separate chapters, titled commandments in imitation of the Laws given to Moses.  Written by Daniel Lapin, an Orthodox Jewish Rabbi motivated by a desire to research and catalog the cultural traits that have contributed to this, making them available to all people.  The book promotes what Rabbi Lapin calls Ethical Capitalism.

I have always been fascinated by the subject of Jewish success.  It only takes a little attention to notice that Jews are disproportionately successful in business and finance than any other ethnic group in the United States, if not the world.  As Rabbi Lapin explains, this is not to suggest that there are no poor Jews.  But as the most consistently oppressed people throughout 3,000 years of history, the Jewish people could easily have been expected to cease existing altogether.  But they haven’t, and wherever Jews are afforded the slightest opportunity they tend to thrive.

Rabbi Lapin points out that Jews represent less than 2% of the American population, but in any given year may represent as much as 25% of the names on the Forbes 400 list of wealthiest Americans.  Jewish households are also twice as likely to be wealthy as those of non-Jews.  This is a remarkable phenomenon that deserves to be explored and hopefully explained.

Anti-Semitic conspiracy enthusiasts might see all this as evidence of Jewish misdeed in acquiring wealth.* However, genuine social scientists understand that a better explanation lays in some set of cultural values being perpetuated within Jewish communities.  Personally, I have always seen this as admirable, like a mystery to be unraveled.  That’s why, when I found this book on the shelf, I didn’t have to think very long before I happily handed the clerk $24.95 (plus tax) and walked out the door with the book under my arm, ready to read.

Foreseeing the anti-Semitic arguments, early in the introduction Rabbi Lapin debunks the idea of Jews operating jointly as some sort of cabal, plotting their dominance over society.  In fact, Rabbi Lapin explains that Jewish communities are typically just as dysfunctional and full of conflict as most others.

Rabbi Lapin makes many points along the way regarding wealth, Jews, and the world, all of which are worth some serious consideration.

Education is Key

Lapin illustrates early on that education is very important to being successful in business and finance.  Jews, though not necessarily any “smarter” naturally than non-Jews tend to place a lot of value on literacy and a love of books.  Conversely however, Rabbi Lapin suggests that people holding advanced degrees are not necessarily more likely to achieve wealth.  They tend to do poorly with money, and often seek employment at universities rather than focusing on financial independence.

Popular Culture Promotes Poverty

Rabbi Lapin tackles the fallacy embraced by so many in society that business, business people, and money are somehow bad.  He illustrates how “movies and television conspire to make you poor,” showing that since the 1970s, business people are portrayed as villains twice as often as any other demographic.  The constant pushing of this message has effectively brainwashed the viewing public into accepting the narrative.  He confronts this fallacy by explaining that most wealthy business professionals have actually made their wealth by enhancing the lives of consumers.

Lapin also explains that popular culture vilifies wealth, but admires immoral behavior.  He illustrates this last point by showing that many of People magazine’s “Greatest Love Stories of the Century” were in fact cases of marital infidelity.

You Are Already in Business

Perhaps the most valuable lesson in Thou Shall Prosper, is one that is also asserted by many other successful people: the importance of understanding that we are already in business.  By virtue of being alive and independent, our lives are our businesses, whether we realize it or not.  We may even have a board of directors, such as our friends or family whom we ask for advice or guidance in financial matters.  Moving forward with this logic, I suppose we can count our spouses, children, or other dependants as our shareholders so to speak.  By illustrating this, Rabbi Lapin further explains the importance of not being a wage slave.

Make Friends and Contribute to Charity

Wealth is created through human interaction.  In order to be successful in business it is imperative that one have a large network of friends that can help encourage you on your path to prosperity.  Rabbi Lapin does not suggest you should attend business oriented breakfasts and luncheons to make these acquaintances.  Such gatherings, he says are too full of self interest, yours as well as the other attendants.  Instead he recommends joining civic service organizations like the Rotary club.  He also recommends donating heavily to charity.  This sort of contribution raises your consciousness, and may contribute to a karmic increase in our own wealth.

Value the Wisdom of the Ancestors and Ancients

It is important to value ancient literature and history.  This helps you to see patterns in time and human nature, and to gauge the future in order to set goals.  This is not just a Jewish trait.  Many Asian businessmen also apply lessons learned from ancient Taoist, and Buddhist literature to their financial plans and aspirations.

Meditation and Reflection

Regularly disconnecting yourself from daily distractions like television, radio, and other external influences is imperative.  This allows you to clear your head and take notice of things that you might have otherwise overlooked or ignored.  These may be useful thoughts and fully formed ideas.  These are all things that can help you more accurately foretell and plan for the future.  Set aside a regular time and day for such activities during which you can be alone, away from distractions in order to do nothing but reflect on trends, ideas, and set goals.

These are only a few examples of the remarkable lessons that can be found in this profound book, but it only scratches the surface.

Thou Shall Prosper by Rabbi Daniel Lapin is not a typical book on business.  It’s much more than that.  This is a book of finance, philosophy, religion, history, sociology, and self-improvement.  Much like any classic work of philosophy, and like the Torah by which much of this book is inspired, Thou Shall Prosper is not just a one time read.  It’s the type of book that needs to be read, reread, thumbed through, and meditated upon multiple times over in order to get the fullest use out of it.  I highly recommend this book for anyone wanting to improve their life financially and spiritually.

For more on Rabbi Lapin, visit his website here!

* It is unfortunate that I or Rabbi Lapin would even feel a need to mention this, but due to the nature of the real world (and anyone who has spent any time on the internet will know), it must be addressed.

The Pine Hill Haints – Ghost Music in a Punk Scene

The Pine Hill Haints

The Pine Hill Haints are a bit of a modern rockabilly jug-band mixed with a punk rock spirit.  Though singer and primary songwriter, Jamie Barrier might call it “The Spirit of 1812.”

I first saw the Haints at Sluggo’s a few years back, and they have been all over the world and accrued quite a following since their 2000 debut.  Such an innovative musical concoction as the Haints has an appeal much broader than the “folk-punk” category they are often associated with.

The Haints describe their sound as “Alabama Ghost Music.”  It’s a mixed assortment of southern roots music from bluegrass, to ragtime, rockabilly and honky-tonk, upbeat and with eerie and supernatural themes. Named after the Pine Hill Cemetery, the Haints are inspired by local Alabama legends and ghost stories. A haint is after all a particularly deep southern term for a ghost or haunt.

But the Haints aren’t dreary and gothic.  To me, they have a sound that seems to just emanate from the ground of the American South, like the past 250 years of Southern history and culture has taken the form of band.  With songs like “Whisper in the Dark,” and “Tennessee River Rambler” you get a real sense of backwoods punkabilly that would make Buddy Holly proud, while tunes like “Bordello Blackwidow” and “Walking Talking Dead Man” could be Calypso numbers straight from the repertoire of the Mighty Sparrow.

A PHH show is a hootenanny, rowdy and with an anachronistic flair, with lead singer and guitarist Jamie Barrier energetically jumping and jiving behind a handmade wooden mic stand reminiscent of the Grand Ole Opry.

The whole show is reminiscent to a bygone era with an unmistakably modern twist. The sound texture developed by the hodgepodge of Jamie’s guitar, Matt Bakula’s washtub bass and banjo, Ben Rhyne’s snare drum, Katie Barrier’s mandolin and washboard can’t help but make you feel like you’re witnessing an old rock and roll show just upon the invention of electric amplification.

The Haints are a band to see, and hear with wide appeal and a timeless sound that can be appreciated by punk rockers and hillbillies alike, between the ages of 5 and 105.  They are one of those few musical acts that can truly bring different genres, generations and social groups together.


Freemason Albert Pike and the Luciferian Quote

Conspiracy theories are popular on the internet.  A simple web search on almost any government agency or religious organization is bound to turn up at least a few web sites dedicated to “exposing” some secret government agenda that’s all a part of the “illuminati” master plan.

Albert_PikeA favored subject for these conspiracy enthusiasts involves a man and Freemason by the name of Albert Pike.  The story goes; Albert Pike was the Head of Freemasonry in the 1800’s and that he wrote a book called Morals and Dogma which spells out the regulations of being a Freemason.  There is a passage that is recited over and over by conspiracy enthusiasts that “reveals” that the god of Freemasonry is none other than Lucifer himself!

The quote goes;

“That which we must say to the world is that we worship a god, but it is the god that one adores without superstition. To you, Sovereign Grand Inspectors General, we say this, that you may repeat it to the brethren of the 32nd, 31st and 30th degrees: The masonic Religion should be, by all of us initiates of the higher degrees, maintained in the Purity of the Luciferian doctrine. If Lucifer were not God, would Adonay and his priests calumniate him?

Yes, Lucifer is God, and unfortunately Adonay is also god. For the eternal law is that there is no light without shade, no beauty without ugliness, no white without black, for the absolute can only exist as two gods; darkness being necessary for light to serve as its foil as the pedestal is necessary to the statue, and the brake to the locomotive….

Thus, the doctrine of Satanism is a heresy, and the true and pure philosophical religion is the belief in Lucifer, the equal of Adonay; but Lucifer, God of Light and God of Good, is struggling for humanity against Adonay, the God of Darkness and Evil.”

When I first found this quote was I intrigued by it and wanted to look it up for myself.  Ever since my earliest college days I was taught to always double check my sources so this seemed natural to me.  The first thing I noticed was that although I could find the “quote” referenced in numerous places on conspiracy sites, always attributed to Albert Pike and Morals and Dogma, never once could I find a page number listed on any of these sites.  That’s because it’s not real.

Albert Pike was a Confederate General who led a brigade of Native American soldiers during the American Civil War.  He was credited as a crusader for justice for Native Americans, a prominent Washington lawyer and a philosopher.  He was also a Freemason.  He was not the head of Freemasonry.  For several years he was the head of one jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite, an organization subordinate to Freemasonry.  This was the was the Southern Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite, which includes most of the western United States as well as the South.  In 1871 he published a book called Morals and Dogma, in which he discussed a vast array of the worlds religions and tried to associate their mythic legends to the lessons taught in Freemasonry.  This book was given as a gift to Scottish Rite Masons in the Southern Jurisdiction for nearly 60 years.  It however, is not the “rule book” of Masonry as some people have claimed but rather the philosophical work of its author.  The infamous “Luciferian Quote” does not exist between its covers.

The origin of this “quote” is from a book entitles Woman and Child in Universal Freemasonry published by Abel Clarin de la Rive.  The “Luciferian Quote” in this book is credited in a foot note to a woman by the name of Diana Vaughan.  Diana Vaughan was a character introduced in the writings of a man named Marie Joseph Gabriel Antoine Jogand-Pagès who wrote under the pen name Leo Taxil.  For obvious reasons I shall use the pen name when referring to him from here on.

Taxil wrote what he called a history of Freemasonry, in four volumes which claimed to contain eye witness accounts of Masonic Satanic activity.  Another book written in 1894 by Leo Taxil and “Dr. Karl Hacks” was titled the Devil in the Nineteenth Century.  This is the book that introduced the character of Diana Vaughan who was supposed to have been involved in Satanic Masonry and an informant for Leo Taxil.

The “Luciferian” quote has ever since been repeated by anti-Masonic conspiracy enthusiasts even though its real creator Leo Taxil admitted his hoax.  That’s right!  On April 19, 1897 Leo Taxil called a press conference with the pretension of introducing Diana Vaughan to the public.  When the press was assembled, Taxil began a speech in which he admitted that he had in fact been perpetrating a hoax and that all of his secret information about Freemasonry was a fabrication.

For rational people, this ended the concern over the “Luciferian Quote.”  But the irrational and those who have a vested interest in hating Freemasonry still like to throw the quote around, attributing it to Albert Pike even though it is a well known fraud.  The myth has been perpetuated by the preacher Pat Robertson, and it has been republished by Jack Chick in his Christian comic books since 1991.  The quote can also be found splattered cross the internet on countless misinformed conspiracy sites.

An elaborate hoax, even when its creator confesses his misdeed carries on down through the generations by liars and imbeciles who’d rather believe in fantasy than take the time to investigate the facts.  It is no wonder they are so quick to condemn the hearts of others whom they don’t understand when they know full well the amount of deceit in which they themselves willingly participate.

It is important to remember that facts are things, things that are REAL.  They can be analyzed, scrutinized and proven.  They exist because they do, not because you want them to or because you believe they do.  So no matter how much they choose to believe otherwise and ignore the facts and the confession of Taxil, the infamous “Luciferian Quote”—often falsely attributed to Albert Pike is simply a fantasy.

UPDATE:

The image below was added in response to a commenter who claimed the quote exists on page 321 of Morals and Dogma.  As the reader can see, it does not.

Page 817 is offered too, because that was his initial (though admittedly wrong) page assertion.