#Transformation

Episode 72 - Joel Bakst

Joel David Bakst is a teaching rabbi and scholar of Talmud and Kabbalah who, while living in Jerusalem for 20 years, studied and taught in Orthodox yeshivot.

Raised in a Southern California Conservative Jewish home, Joel became a ba’al teshuva (newly religious) at the age of 20 bringing full circle his lineage from a long line of rabbis.  Both his grandfather and uncle were Orthodox rabbis, his great grandfather was chief rabbi of St. Louis, MO and his great, great grandparents made aliyato Eretz Yisrael and are buried on the Mount of Olives.  He is the 8th generation of Rabbi Avraham Ragoler of Skhlov, the brother of Rabbi Eliyahu, the famed Gaon of Vilna, whose unique teachings and School of Kabbalah, have been a focus of Joel’s esoteric studies.

Joel’s spiritual search through comparative religions led him to Israel in 1971 where, upon enrolling in a traditional Eastern European style yeshiva, he became part of the original Ba’al Teshuva movement, the initial great wave of assimilated Jews returning to traditional Judaism.  For 10 years he pursued a path towards rabbinical ordination and studied Talmud, Halacha (Jewish Law) and mussar (Jewish Ethics).  During the next 10 years, while continuing his Talmudic studies, he also began a search into Hassidic and Kabbalistic literature.

He studied under Sephardic kabbalists (Moroccan and Tunisian) along with Ashkenazic teachers and colleagues versed in Kabbalah.  Uncommonly, Joel has had the honor of having immersed in all four of the great rivers of Kabbalah that flow from the holy Arizal (Lurianic Kabbalah): 1) R. Yisrael Ba’al Shem Tov (the Besht), 2) R. Shalom Sharabi(the Rashash), 3) R. Moshe Chaim Luzzatto (the Ramchal), and 4) R. Eliyahu ben Shlomo Zalman, the Gaon of Vilna (the Gra).

Joel continued his rabbinical education and continued on a path of intense Torah study and practice as well as teaching the traditions he received . He has lectured and taught in Israel, the United States and India. Joel is the author of numerous works on rabbinical methodology, esoteric Judaism, the prophetic confluence of Kabbalah with the new sciences and the messianic role of the maps and models pouring forth from modern technology. A guiding light for Joel’s stimulating approach to Torah teaching is stressed by the Gaon of Vilna, “There can never be a contradiction between the esoteric (sod) and the exoteric (pshat)”.

Concurrent with his traditional yeshiva training, Joel had also taken a deep interest in the Torah’s interface with world religions and Noahide movement. He has done extensive research into the Talmudic, Midrashic and medieval rabbinical sources concerning Noachides, Christianity and the “Seventy Nations”.  This investigation includes many obscure and little known Kabbalistic teachings about Yeshu HaNotzri (Jesus of Nazareth) , the role of Christianity and Islam as well as the role of Oriental religions in our “Final Generation” – the present period on the cusp of entering into the Messianic Era. “In the Torah world it has always been known that the non-Jew can best access his true essence and mission from an authentic Jewish perspective. As we are currently accelerating toward the Edge of Time the Torah and her ancient sages are beginning to reveal that a key to the mystery of Jewish existence is also to be found in the eternal mystery of Philo-Semites and especially wihtin the growing movement of Noahides”.

Continually evolving, the City of Luz web site is the culmination of over 35 years from the time he began a systematic study of Torah in search of a coherent interdisciplinary Torah-based system.  City of Luz offers the beginner, as well as the advanced talmid chacham (Torah scholar), a unique approach and collection of methodological tools that teach both conscious learning and direct experience.  The secret of Luz allows for a seamless interface between every field of Talmud, Halacha and Kabbalah.  The City of Luz also interfaces Torah itself with every school of science, theology and mysticism found among the Seventy Nations of the world, both ancient and contemporary. City of Luz is the ultimate interdisciplinary meta-tool for eveyone, regardless of religion or belief system.

Joel lives in Southern Colorado where he has been teaching in his yeshiva to a dedicated group of Jews and Bnai Noach for more than 10 years.

Episode 71 - Dan Merchant

Dan is many things including a radio host and the former voice behind “Sheila and Dan” in the morning at KINK.FM

He’s also an Emmy and Iris award winning television writer/producer/director who’s working on SyFy’s zombie hit Z Nation. Over the top, hilarious and scary, Z Nation is bringing fun and mercy to the zombie apocalypse with a fresh and surprisingly reflective approach to the current zombie craze.

In 2009 Dan made his debut as a feature film director with the theatrical release of his documentary, Lord Save Us From Your Followers.The critically acclaimed film was the result of an amazing three-year journey behind the front lines of America’s so-called Culture Wars. USA Today called Lord, Save Us… “Michael Moore-meets-Monty Python. A humorous and heartfelt examination of the culture wars.” Variety proclaimed: “Admirably bold…It would take a hard heart indeed not to be moved.”

Besides being a producer and writer for Z Nation, Dan is also known for Lord, Save Us from Your Followers (2008) and Strange Frequency (2001).

Dan's also a friend and a caring, transformative soul. He shows us that one doesn't have to choose between fun and faith. He is the embodiment of a necessary truth: anything is possible when we allow our creative forces to join together. With an open mind and a full heart, Dan Merchant is hungry to engage a dying world with his art, his passion and his perspective on our received wisdom.  

Episode 70 - Andrew Harvey

Andrew Harvey is Founder Director of the  Institute of Sacred Activism, an international organization focused on inviting concerned people to take up the challenge of our contemporary global crises by becoming inspired, effective, and practical agents of institutional and systemic change, in order to create peace and sustainability. Sacred Activism is a transforming force of compassion-in-action that is born of a fusion of deep spiritual knowledge, courage, love, and passion, with wise radical action in the world. The large-scale practice of Sacred Activism can become an essential force for preserving and healing the planet and its inhabitants.

Andrew was born in south India in 1952, where he lived until he was nine years old. It is this early period that he credits with shaping his sense of the inner unity of all religions and providing him with a permanent and inspiring vision of a world infused with the sacred. He left India to attend private school in England and entered Oxford University in 1970 with a scholarship to study history. At the age of 21, he became the youngest person ever to be awarded a fellowship to All Soul’s College, England’s highest academic honor.

By 1977, Harvey had become disillusioned with life at Oxford and returned to his native India, where a series of mystical experiences initiated his spiritual journey. Over the next thirty years he plunged into different mystical traditions to learn their secrets and practices. In 1978 he met a succession of Indian saints and sages and began his long study and practice of Hinduism. In 1983, in Ladakh, he met the great Tibetan adept, Thuksey Rinpoche, and undertook with him the Mahayana Buddhist Bodhisattva vows. Andrew’s book about that experience, Journey in Ladakh, won the Christmas Humphries Award.

In 1984, Andrew Harvey began a life-long exploration and explication of Rumi and Sufi mysticism in Paris with a group of French Sufis and under the guidance of Eva De Vitray-Meyerovitch, the magnificent translator of Rumi into French. Andrew has written three books on that subject: The Way of PassionThe Celebration of Rumiand Perfume of the Desert, an anthology of Sufi mysticism. With Llewellyn Baughn Lee, he founded the Sufi Conferences, which have played a prominent role in uniting Sufis of all persuasions during the past six years. He has close connections with great Sufi teachers in America, Africa, India and Pakistan, and a very clear, comprehensive grasp of the state of modern Sufism in both the west and the east.

In 1990, he collaborated with Sogyal Rinpoche and Patrick Gaffney in the writing of The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. In 1992, he met Father Bede Griffiths in his ashram in south India near where Andrew had been born. It was this meeting that helped him synthesize the whole of his mystical explorations and reconcile eastern with western mysticism.

Andrew has since lived in London, Paris, New York, and San Francisco, and has continued to study a variety of religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity. He has written and edited over 30 books. Other honors he has received include the Benjamin Franklin Award and the Mind Body Spirit Award (both for Mary’s Vineyard: Daily Readings, Meditations, and Revelations). Among Harvey’s other well-known titles are: Dialogues with a Modern MysticHidden JourneyThe Essential MysticsSon of ManThe Return of the Mother and The Direct Path.

Episode 69 - David F. Walker

David F. Walker is an award-winning comic book writer, author, filmmaker, journalist, and educator. His work in comic books includes Shaft (Dynamite Entertainment), winner of the 2015 Glyph Award for Story of the Year, Power Man and Iron FistNighthawkFurySecret Wars: Battleworld(Marvel Comics), Cyborg (DC Comics), The Army of Dr. Moreau (IDW/Monkeybrain Comics), and Number 13 (Dark Horse Comics). In 2015, he wrote the novel Shaft’s Revenge, the first new novel starring private detective John Shaft in nearly 40 years. He is also the creator of the critically-acclaimed YA series The Adventures of Darius Logan.

Recognized as a leading scholar expert of African-American cinema who has been interviewed by such news outlets as The Los Angeles TimesNew York Daily News, and BBC, Walker produced one of the definitive documentaries on the topic of Blaxploitation films, Macked, Hammered, Slaughtered, and Shafted. His publication BadAzz MoFo became internationally known as the indispensable resource guide to black films of the 70s, and he is co-author of the book Reflections on Blaxploitation: Actors and Directors Speak. Walker’s most recent book, Becoming Black: Personal Ramblings on Racial Identification, Racism and Popular Culture, was released in winter 2013.

In addition to Macked, Hammered, Slaughtered, and Shafted, Walker has also directed and produced five other films, including the award-winning short film Black Santa’s Revenge. He has been featured on A&E, VH1, AMC, and E!, and he worked to develop a documentary with HBO. His body of work was showcased and honored at the 2012 Oakland Underground Film Festival.

Walker has worked on projects with filmmaker Quentin Tarantino, Aaron McGruder (creator of The Boondocks), and director/producer Reginald Hudlin (House PartyDjango Unchained).

As a journalist, Walker served as screen editor and lead film critic for the alt-weekly Willamette Week for seven years. He was the 2003 recipient of the prestigious Society of Professional Journalists Award for excellence in writing. He has written cultural analysis and commentary for MSN, DVD Talk, Giant Robot MagazineSavvy, Cinephiled, and Rap Pages.

As an educator, Walker has taught courses such as documentary filmmaking, writing for comics, and film criticism to youth through the Pacific Northwest College of Art, Northwest Film Center, Documentary Northwest, and Project Youth Doc.

Episode 67 - John Voelz

John Voelz is a tamed rebel, artist, songwriter, painter, musician, writer, pastor, and aggravator. His love of all things creative in tandem with a severe angst towards mediocrity and religiosity has given him a unique platform as a voice in the church--local and worldwide. He is currently The pastor/curator at Lakeside Church in Folsom, California. He is also one of my oldest friends in the world. I have not known a man who is more invested in those riches which do not succumb to moth and rot than John. He is the embodiment of a supernatural grace that seeks to wrap the world in a relational embrace of sacrificial transformation. In other words, he loves fiercely and creatively because he feels we are all loved in this manner by the Ground of our individual and collective being. No matter where you stand on issues and ideology, I trust you will find a kind and kindred soul in his story...

Episode 66- Reema Zaman

Reema Zaman says this about her work: "Why else do we write or read but to invoke a loving voice in the dark, to alleviate our loneliness, to forge solidarity, to make sense of our inherent, stunning madness?"

Reema was born in Bangladesh, raised in Hawaii and Thailand, and moved to the US to attend college. She has a BA in Women's Studies, a BA in Theater, and a minor in Religion. After graduation, she worked as an actress and model in New York for 8 years. Now, she writes narrative nonfiction, is a life-coach and writes for "Dear Reema," where she responds to letters sent in by readers.

Her first memoir, I Am Yours, is written as though she's speaking to her imaginary best friend from childhood whom she never released. Some know their inner voice as God, a guardian angel, or a long deceased ancestor. Reema knows this as a presence she met when she was 3, a friend named "Love" - Love is her voice in the dark. "I Am Yours" is her story of stubborn perseverance through an unstable childhood, anorexia, disownment, rape, marriage, betrayal, divorce, the acting and modeling industry, racism, sexism, classism and more, with the help of ever loyal Love. 

For Reema, Life has not been simple but it has been full. I Am Yours is an intimate, comprehensive study in identity, loyalty, integrity, and authenticity. Zaman explore her past and present refracting selves: child, daughter, sister, wife, actress, Bangladeshi, immigrant, commodity, artist, woman.

On Dear Reema, the main intention is to serve others. She ceases being the main character and focuses on the reader's journey. Reema sources from her own life to explore similar topics as those found in I Am Yours: our connective, collective trials, childhood wounds, addiction, ambition, body image, sex, dating, love, relationships, self-empowerment, ownership, spirituality, recovery, healing, humility, purpose. For her, writing is service. Writing alchemizes our pain into poetry. Through it all, her mission is to be a conduit of love, a voice for those without one, to inspire and empower others to fill into their truest, boldest, brightest self. Reema believes we are one story and that all we truly need, we hold within.

"Pain, insecurity, trials, anger, confusion, the near-reckless desire to love and be loved deeply, these are our common specialties. Our fault-lines are where our paths intersect, where your shards align with mine. Reasons to never feel less or better than anyone. Reasons to never feel alone. How lovely that being human soothes the ache of being human.”

Episode 65 - David Jay Brown

David Jay Brown holds a master's degree in psychobiology from New York University (1986), and a B.A. in psychology from the University of Southern California (1983). He is the author of two science fiction novels, Brainchild (New Falcon, 1988) andVirus (New Falcon, 1999), and is co-author of two volumes of interviews with leading-edge scientists and artists--Mavericks of the Mind (Crossing Press, 1993) and Voices from The Edge (Crossing Press, 1995). He is also the author of The New Science of Psychedelics: At the Nexus of Culture, Consciousness, and Spirituality .

David's interviews have been translated into Japanese (Hachiman, 1995), Italian (Gruppo Futura, 1997), and Czechoslovakian (East Hauz, 1999). He was responsible for the California-based research in two of British biologist Rupert Sheldrake's books on unexplained phenomena in science: Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home (Crown, 1999), which was the bestselling science book in the world for several weeks in the Fall of 2000, and The Sense of Being Stared At (Crown, 2003). David has also made numerous contributions to other books, including having co-written a chapter in Terence McKenna's The Archaic Revival(Harper, 1992). 

He is currently working on two new books--a book with Annie Sprinkle about combining sex and drugs called Sex on Drugs, and a new book of interviews for St. Martin's Press entitled Renaissance of the Mind. David also teaches workshops with Annie Sprinkle on sex and drugs; to find out more visit:www.anniesprinkle.org

Episode 63 - Max Dashu

SHOW NOTE: This episode was originally scheduled to air on Christmas Day of this year but has been moved up for scheduling reasons. Some of the conversation is about Christmas and its role in our culture and in our understanding of religion. Apologies for the confusion. 

Max Dashu founded the Suppressed Histories Archives in 1970 to research and document women's history from an international perspective. She built a collection of 15,000 slides and 20,000 digital images, and has created 150 slideshows on female cultural heritages across human history. (For titles and descriptions, see the online catalog.) Read some of the enthusiastic responses to these dynamic presentations here. Her work bridges the gap between academia and grassroots education. It foregrounds indigenous women passed over by standard histories and highlights female spheres of power retained even in some patriarchal societies. 

For over 40 years, Max Dashu has presented hundreds of slide talks at universities, community centers, bookstores, schools, libraries, prisons, galleries, festivals and conferences around North America and in Mexico, Germany, Ireland, Britain, Italy, Switzerland, Netherlands, Bulgaria, Australia, Belgium, and Austria. She has keynoted at conferences (Feminism in London, 2015;Women's Voices for a Change at Skidmore, 2013; Association for Women and Mythology, 2010; Pagan Studies at Claremont University, 2008, and Domestic Violence Conference at Rutgers, 2005). 

Dashu is known for her expertise on ancient female iconography in world archaeology, women shamans, witches and the witch hunts, mother-right cultures, patriarchies and the origins of domination.

OTB has committed itself to forging relationships across ideological boundaries in the years ahead. We cannot truly understand one another if so much of our actual history has been buried, destroyed, co-opted or misunderstood. We applaud the work Max is doing to help bring us a fuller picture of human history and culture from which to weave the new tapestries of our shared becoming. 

Episode 62 - Paul Devereux

Paul Devereux is:

A Founding Co-editor of Time & Mind - Journal of Archaeology, Consciousness and Culture

A Research Affiliate at the Royal College of Art;

A Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts; 

A Senior Research Fellow at the International Consciousness Research Laboratories (ICRL) group at Princeton;

And an Honorary Member of the Scientific and Medical Network.

He's also a friend and one of the world's leading researchers in the emerging field of archaeo-acoustics. 

But Paul started out as a painter, having a degree in Fine Art. He participated in numerous group exhibitions in Britain such as John Moores, Liverpool, and the Royal Academy Schools, plus travelling shows under the auspices of the Arts Council. He also exhibited in Germany. His painting became increasingly inspired by the geometry and numinosity of ancient monuments and this began to lead him deeper into an interest in archaeology. This resulted in him turning more toward writing and research with the consequence that he slowly shifted from painting and gradually relinquished his formal teaching of painting, drawing and photography.

Paul’s research interests in archaeology focus especially on “cognitive” aspects, trying to “get inside” the prehistoric mind, and this has broadened into the study of anthropological themes, especially what is known as “the anthropology of consciousness”. This in turn led him to become involved more generally in what is loosely termed “consciousness studies”. He has frequently combined these themes – such as writing a prehistory of the use of mind-altering substances, andexamining anomalous phenomena of various kinds, especially supposed psi phenomena.

This mix of archaeological, anthropological and consciousness studies interests has led him to co-founding and co-editing a new peer-reviewed, academic publication, Time & Mind: The Journal of Archaeology, Consciousness and Culture.  For 20 years (1976-1996) he edited and published the legendary The Ley Hunter journal, eventually deconstructing the modern myth of “leylines”, for which he has not been forgiven in some quarters! But his authentic and documented research into spirit and death roads across archaic landscapes developed directly from his early ley interests (see SPIRIT ROADS in the On-line & Mail-order Book Sales pages). 

He has given a great many presentations on various aspects of his multidisciplinary range of subject matter to specialist, academic and general audiences in Britain, Ireland, the USA, Canada, Germany, Norway, Holland, Switzerland, Italy and France. Venues have ranged from Glastonbury New Age “fairs” to some of the most prestigious universities and institutions in England and America. His portfolio of written work includes 26 published English-language books (plus numerous foreign-language editions), many articles for popular and specialist magazines (including being archaeology columnist for Fortean Times magazine), plus a range of peer-reviewed academic papers. He has, additionally, conceived, co-produced, or appeared in television documentaries in the UK and the USA. He is currently a research affiliate with the Royal College of Art working on an audio-visual study of Mynydd Preseli,  the source area in Wales of the Stonehenge bluestones (see the Landscape & Perception pages on this website).

The world recently turned upside down. Regardless of what "side" you are on, the work Paul is doing helps to re-connect us to some longer, larger cycles of human activity. From this view, our differences fade into a rhythmic, shadowy dance of shamanic intuition and planetary consciousness. From Brexit to Trump, the old paradigms are starting to collapse. Perhaps we can look to even older models of human organization for some clues on how to move forward together with empathy, compassion and shared vision. One can only hope... 

Episode 61 - Joe Biel, Elly Blue & Joshua Ploeg (Dinner & Bikes Tour)

Well, well, well. What's been up in your lives, lately, America? Any news you'd like to discuss?

This week, we bring you a conversation with the members of The Dinner and Bikes Tour. The Dinner & Bikes is a month-long tour of the U.S. to bring people together to eat delicious food and get inspired about bicycle transportation. Here’s what happens at a Dinner and Bikes event:

As the audience arrives, they serve themselves from chef Joshua Ploeg’s seven-course gourmet vegan and gluten-free buffet spread. While the audience is eating, local advocates discuss their work and local issues and initiatives over the first fifteen minutes.

Then, Elly Blue and Joe Biel co-present a new interactive discussion and presentation including eight short films about Groundswell movements, incidences where people demand better neighborhood conditions and successfully implemented them. Stories include how Reading, PA came to be 13th on the East Coast for bike commuting without any advocacy or government spending, former gang members riding bikes to raise awareness about gang violence, Mexico City’s superhero of the streets, Peatonito, the story of the League of American Bicyclists’ equity council, how the City of Portland’s Sunday Parkways worked as a response to gentrification, and how cyclists are representing themselves and creating their own voices all over the world. Throughout the evening there are plenty of opportunities for discussion, questions, and browsing the Microcosm pop-up book and t-shirt store

Joe Biel is the co-producer/director of Groundswell, the director of the feature documentary Aftermass: Bicycling in a Post-Critical Mass Portland as well as over 100 short films.  He is also the author of half a dozen books, including Good Trouble: Building a Successful Life & Business with Asperger’s. He founded Microcosm Publishing in his bedroom closet in 1996 and has since published over 350 nonfiction books, zines, and movies. He lives in Portland, Oregon.

Elly Blue is the co-producer/director of Groundswell and the author of Bikenomics: How Bicycling Can Save the Economy and Everyday Bicycling: How to Ride a Bicycle for Transportation (Whatever your Lifestyle). When she isn’t writing, she is the marketing director of Microcosm Publishing, producing books and zines about all aspects of feminism, self-empowerment, and bicycle transportation. She lives in Portland, Oregon.

Joshua Ploeg is the the traveling vegan chef. When not touring the world, he is a personal chef and delighter of secret cafe goers in Los Angeles. His eighth and newest cookbook is This Ain’t No Picnic: Your Punk Rock Vegan Cookbook. He lives in California.

As the country and the world move into unprecedented and scary territory, we are heartened by the kinds of young people that Joe, Elly and Joshua represent. They are not looking for a savior or a political party to make the world a better place for them. They are hitting the ground and making it better themselves. They are building community and empowering marginalized voices and advocating for a world that does not constantly run itself adrift under the weight of its own hubris and apathy.