Our inner emotional life, the place where our moment to moment conscious truly exists, is often regarded as pure mystery.  And certainly I would be the last one to conclude that science will ever totally understand the complexity and uncertainty of the mind.

Yet my experience working with anesthesiologists and researching the 'biology of belief' as Candace Pert, Ph.D has noted, is significance.  Neurons within the brain respond to external chemicals, hormones, proteins, herbs and pharmaceutical drugs by  what are known as receptor sites.  Without receptor sites these substances could never bind to any part of the neuron and therefore have no effect whatsoever.

Alcohol could never make us drunk, xanax could never calm us down, zoloft could never reduce our depression, anesthetics could never put us to sleep.

One moment's speculation on the topic leaves one rather perplexed–where do these receptors originate?  And more important–why?

The only answer is clear–our brains evolved over millions of years with receptors to respond to our OWN endogenous [internal] chemical compounds which act like these exogenous [external] substances.  The most well-known opiate like substances produced by our own bodies are known as endorphins. Even the sensitivity of our minds to placebos may reflect the internal binding of our own proteins to such sites.

The conclusion can only be this–we evolved with the capacity to calm our own anxieties, treat our own depression, reduce our perception of pain, produce our own anesthesia.  Clearly our bodies have not evolved to the extent that pharmaceuticals are not needed–they have done much to alleviate emotional pain and suffering.

But ponder the miracle of our bodies–our capacity to heal ourselves on an emotional level is often overlooked.


A quick posting before returning to USA– I´m pondering the relationship between the meaning of words and how our minds create our own realities.  It is clear to me that our language does effect our thoughts and our thoughts effect our feelings, our perspective on reality.

Take the four letter world EASE.  The word sets up a feeling, a connotation of peace, harmony even happiness within our mind. We believe that to live in a state of EASE would be desirable. The lack of EASE becomes what Buddhists call suffering.  DIS–EASE is another term for suffering.  We can visualize the etymology of the word DISEASE as being associated with suffering on multiple levels besides physical illness–emotional, mental and spiritual as well.

Yet life is undeniably filled with DIS–EASE as well as DISEASE.  Suffering is universal, but not inevitable. It does not have to be seen as punishment or part of a nihilistic and pessimistic world view.

There is power in the capacity to CHOOSE how you interpret your own individual life, how you regard the suffering and DIS–EASE as well as the DISEASE.  Many individuals have gained wisdom and understanding, not by choosing to suffer but by their choice on how to view their suffering.

DIS–EASE  and how we deal with it can teach us compassion for other beings–a powerfully healing perspective to choose.

Once again, language can help.  If EASE and DIS–EASE are connected.  Why not convert DIS–EASE back to EASE via adding the letters REL as a prefix.  REL–EASE the painful attachments that lead us from EASE to DIS–EASE.  Choose to see suffering as part of the learning and growth that effects all living beings. 

Of course few of us seek to suffer.  There is no shortage of that commodity.  We can choose how attached or trapped we become. We can choose to REL–EASE the suffering after we have learned what lesson and challenge it has offered us.


Drove my daughter back to NYC from NJ and took West Street past the World Trade Center site.  Began to see some construction from the corner of my left eye. Seemed to be some kind of skeletal metal structure.  Still have trouble really looking there [even if I wasn't driving].

It has been 7 1/2 years post 9/11.  I still wonder to what extent the trauma of that day effects many of us who were 'there' back then.  I know my two children were living in NYC on that day.  They refused to abandon the City for New Jersey.  I still wonder what effect that experience has had on their lives.

I ponder the effect that day has had on the lives of many young people who lived through it.  And were its effects working on a subconscious level ?  To what extent has it formed who they are today? 

I just discussed this concept with my son who is fascinated by cultural phenomenon from a historical, philosophical perspective.  As the City moves toward the decade memorial on 9/11/11, it may be better able to retrospectively examine the phenomenon.

It is fascinating that Holocaust studies are entering a new phase of understanding nearly 65years after the end of WWII. 

Perhaps time is the most consistent healer–at least it offers new opportunities to re-visit old traumas.


My lecture on The Jewish View of the Afterlife on March 11th went rather well.  That was my personal feeling as well as the feedback I received from those I know and respect.  The most interesting part for me, however, was when I had the opportunity to ask the audience what their beliefs were and WHY they had them.  I was essentially 'fishing' for those precious EEAs [extraordinary experiences of awareness].  These are the ADCs [after-death communications] or even NDE's, revelatory dreams and epiphanies.

I was not disappointed.  The most powerful EEAs are known as veridical.  That means that information is obtained which could not have been know about by any other means.

 Critics and/or analysts  of a belief in the afterlife [survival of consciousness, a soul] will point to the ability of mediums and psychics to offer information that could not possibly be known as representing 1] true communication with a spirit OR 2] some kind of [as yet unexplained or even proven] super ESP known as super PSI. 

The accuracy of mediums is clearly beyond 'guess work' and has been studied extensively.  The so-called 'hot or cold' readings phenomena which imply either client naivete or actual illicit information given to the medium cannot be invoked anymore [the evidence is clear in many readings that neither situation applies]. The suggestion that mediums do not connect with such spirits but instead either do 'mind reading' of the subject or tap into some universal memory bank is a weak explanation in my opinion.

Professor Stephen Braude and others has analyzed the issue and the evidence and ultimately comes down on the side of believing that mediums DO what they have always claimed to do, namely connect with disembodied intelligences.

The issue of the metaphysical existence of an after life and souls is less easily turned into a similar argument when it comes to ADC's involving dreams.  In such cases there is no 'middle man' [ie psychic / medium] who can possibly interfere or intervene in an such communication.

Now–finally to tell the story  the entire assembled group heard on Wednesday from the woman herself.  I'll call her Laverne.   I'll paraphrase,….My Mother died.  I few months later she came to me in a dream.  Very realistic.  I knew this was a real communication.  I asked her why she was 'bothering' me.  She did it in life so I"m not surprised she's doing it it death.  She seemed agitated and told me to tell my Father to look into the back of her closet and find her white pocketbook.  She was quite insistent that he do this.    The next morning I called my Father and told him of the dream.  He said he had looked through ALL her stuff–clothes, drawers, pocketbooks–everything.   He said he found nothing and was about to give it all away to charity.
I asked him to look again, deep in the back of the closet for the white pocketbook.  He agreed to do so.  He called me back a few hours later.  His voice was quivering.  'I found it—-there was $50,000 in it !!

To the reader of this blog posting–do you believe this story ?  I would probably understand any skepticism you might be feeling.  If I hadn't heard it from 'the horse's mouth' I might be with you.
I fact this phenomena which I have called the Credibility Quotient is unavoidable and undeniable.
The truth is this–the closer anyone is to the actual experience, the more credible it is.

There is no doubt in my mind that everyone in the room, who heard Laverne tell the story herself KNOWS it was true.  However, once the story is re-told, as in this blog, or verbally, it looses its potency.  There is no way to retrieve the power of that first-hand experience of being present, feeling the emotion, the power of the words, realizing there is nothing to be gained by fabricating any of it.

So take this dream as more than a dream.  I firmly believe it is an afterlife communication.  There is no other reasonable explanation in my judgment.  But I do suggest that all metaphysical seekers do their own 'homework'.  Seek to find those you know, can be in their presence when they do describe their EEAs. 

You decide.

SANTINO RULES!!–What a Rock Throwing Chimp Can Really Teach Us

The New York Times and many other media outlets reported the story of a mature alpha male chimpanzee named Santino who was 'living' at a zoo in Sweden.  His claim to fame was his habit of collecting rocks and bits of building debris, storing them for the appropriate moment, then lobbing them at visitors.  He was apparently clearly annoyed by those human beings who gawked at him from beyond the protective walls of his compound.

Scientists and evolutionary behaviorists have been particularly impressed by Santino's ability to anticipate and plan for his bombardment of human interlopers.  This represents a new understanding of primate consciousness which was unexpected and speaks to the evolution of human awareness.

Of course it is also pointed out that Santino is not a very good shot, that he tosses the rocks underhand and hasn't hit anyone.  He apparently does this, however,  with a sense of rage and
 frustration–the human visitors keep coming back.

The scenario brings to mind some scenes from the classic film Planet of the Apes.  We, human beings, still tend to regard the world as our play box and its nonhuman inhabitants as objects of  amusement.  That is the origin of zoos and the reason  they still exist.

Perhaps the lesson we should be learning from Santino is less about how human beings have evolved to plan and think, and more about how we have abused our fellow creatures.  Perhaps Santino is expressing a desire which we humans hold to be "God-given", the right to self-determination, freedom from the oppression of others.

Perhaps it is time to learn what our fellow living beings are trying to teach us–the Golden Rule applies to all living beings.  Perhaps it is time to relegate zoos to a  historical curiosity.  At least let us be far more sensitive as to how and why we take creatures away from their natural habitats, alter their natural life cycles and turn them into objects of human  entertainment.

Perhaps if Santino could throw like a major league pitcher, we'd get the message a lot sooner.


This is probably a fictitious story, but one that I would sincerely hope might be true.

There is a nondescript young man who immigrated from a Middle Eastern country which shall remain nameless.  He came to the United States, filled with rage at the American way of life and particularly New York City which, he understood, was the home of the infidel, of  brazen, immoral women, of numerous members of other religions and beliefs.

His rage was to be channeled into some act of terrorism–the details of which were to be worked out in time.

He began his assessment of the situation by riding the subways. At first he felt anger and disgust at the mixed group of individuals he encountered on the train–young women who seemed rather licentious in their dress and make-up, Blacks, Asians, Latinos and especially Jews.  He secretly stared at their wide-brimmed hats and strange sidelocks.  He could barely subdue his seething  wish to destroy them all.

He communicated carefully with some other individuals of a similar mindset.  They talked about how to wreck havoc with such a city of sinners and infidels.

He rode the subways for days, observing, planning, plotting.  He expected his anger to build further, to be difficult to hide and control. 

But something strange was beginning to occur within him.  He began to observe how tolerant each individual seemed of such diversity.  Each rider on the subway seemed to be rather oblivious to those around them.  No one stared, or looked surprised, angry of even agitated.

Day by day he witnessed the multiplicity of races, colors and backgrounds.  And slowly, to his chagrin, he began to understand what he was observing. He stopped contacting his former associates.   People were tolerant of the diversity around them.  They were content to 'live and let live'.  They seemed only to desire to get from one place to another.  They lived within their own universes and did nothing to interfere with anyone else.

Slowly and steadily he lost his anger.  He found himself actually enjoying the diversity, the richness that formed the tapestry that was present within the subways and in New York City itself.

He came to understand that the Golden Rule was one he could live with–and one that would allow the grand melange of humanity who comprised New York City  to live as well.

And so a grand  fantasy– -a subway epiphany, a healing, a ray of hope.


No one can deny the effect this weekend in the Northeast has had on our individual and collective psyches.  The balmy weather coupled by that gift of one more hour of sunlight can offer more healing than a multitude of aphorisms, prayers and meditations.

That statement is not meant to diminsh the benefit of those metaphysical healing tools.  But in truth, our experiences in life, many of which are difficult to verbalize or even conceptualize, can influence us in deeply powerful ways.

Clearly the external events of the day–the economy in particular–has been a heavy weight on almost all of us.  The relentless  barrage of 'bad news' via our constant exposure to the media effects us on the subliminal level.  Coupled with the darkness, cold, ice and snow—a recipe for a smothering  sadness if not outright depression.

Our rational minds tell us that "this too shall pass"  and that we should ascribe to the Serenity Prayer's wisdom "to accept what I cannot change".   But we often find that our rational and emotional sides are not speaking to each other.

So on this 'pre-spring' weekend, let us stop thinking and just feel.  What we are experiencing is the healing  gift of warmth, light and hope.


I am told that today's talk KABBALAH 101 went well.  It is always difficult for me to know how clearly the material is being delivered and whether it resonates with the audience.
I definitely find this mystical, esoteric perspective on Judaism to be fascinating.  It is quite different from the 'religion' I was educated into all those years ago.  It is compelling because it offers a perspective on the metaphysical nature of reality which is not clearly 'rational'. 

The mystical experience is essentially an altogether 'unworldly' one.  It defies easy description with language.  I joked with the audience that there is a word to describe something which cannot be described in words, 'ineffable'.  Certainly this must be the case.  It would strange if the world were totally comprehensible by the human mind.  It would imply that we were the ultimate highest form of consciousness in the universe.  That just doesn't seem likely.

But I also touched on the aspect of Kabbalistic teaching which has meant the most to me personally.  It is a perspective which states that the universe was created with a defect.  According to Rabbi Issac Luria, the 16th century mystic, Ein Sof [the endless, indefinable aspect of God] emanated a ray of light into the primordial vacuum.  The light could not be held by the primitive 'vessels' that existed and the result was a 'shattering of the vessels'.  The consequence was that divine light 'fell' into the physical world, was covered by shells of matter and exist that way until the present moment.

Mankind's role in the universe is to heal the fractured, damaged universe by liberating the holy sparks that reside within matter.  We, too, are beings whose inner substance is divinity, the soul.  We can assist in this rectification, this repair and healing through the performance of good deeds– kindness, charity, compassionate acts.  We can also do so by performing religious rituals.

Personally, I believe that the acts of compassion are more important but I acknowledge that for some, the performance of religious ritual and duties are essential  for spiritual growth.

Kabbalah has reminded me that all human beings have an essential role to play in the spiritual evolution of the planet.  In this physical plane of existence, known as ASSIYAH,  we are 'God'.  The universe depends upon our performing acts of healing known as TIKKUN.

We know the truth of such actions by how we feel afterwards.  That is the feedback we seek. It is the true meaning of healing.

UPCOMING LECTURES–March 4th & 11th

I have nearly forgotten to inform some of my blog readers that I will be giving two lectures.
The first is this Wednesday, March 4th, 11:15 AM  at Congregation B'nai Israel in Rumson, NJ.  I believe it is open to anyone interested.  No charge whatsoever.  The topic is KABBALAH  101.  It will be a rather informal  introductory hour lecture with Q & A  afterwards.

The following Wednesday, March 11th, same time and location, I  intend to continue the topic of KABBALAH/JEWISH MYSTICISM by speaking on THE JEWISH VIEW OF THE AFTERLIFE.  It is a fascinating topic which is poorly understood by Jews and non-Jews alike.

Steve Hodes