Rebirth red tape, dream science, Siberian shamans, ancient America, and the way we dowse.

Monday April 10th - Sunday April 16th
Stories from Hindustan Times, The Guardian, Russia Beyond the Headlines, IFL Science, and Spiral Nature.

Greetings y'all divine sparks,

Thanks very much for all the encouraging responses! This is a big step forwards for me in terms of writing about, even in a small way, the themes and issues that I find deeply meaningful. Getting dem replies got me a happy couple days of feeling like this a real thing! It's a real thing! Anyway, I intend to keep it a little snarky, and while some selections are a little oddball and even silly, I think it's in the accumulation that the color and depth starts to emerge. Also, this edition is around 1600 words so I decided to skip the "Quick Profile" section to keep it from getting too long. What do you think about that? Ideal length? And now, the stories:


China wants the Dalai Lama to be reborn in Tibet.

The Dalai Lama is 81, which means slowly but surely, the fraught issue of succession is on the horizon. The Communist Party of China announced that the 15th Tibetan spiritual leader will be chosen in the traditional way by drawing lots from a sacred urn at the Jokhang monastery in Lhasa, followed up by mandatory approval from Beijing.

"The reincarnation of the Dalai Lama must be conducted according to religious rituals and historical conventions," the Chinese foreign ministry told Hindustan Times, and "not by what the 14th Dalai Lama has said." The ministry cited a 1793 rule, the 29-Article Ordinance for More Effective Governance of Tibet, passed by the Qing dynasty, as the basis for this policy. Having the next Dalai Lama born in Tibet would allow China to more easily prevent any future uprising.

Last week, the Dalai Lama visited Arunachal Pradesh, which China claims is part of Tibet, and made some comments which have inflamed tensions between India and China. He said that it was up to the Tibetan people whether the "institution of Dalai Lama should continue or not." This follows from remarks made in the Himalayan Indian town of Tawang where the Dalai Lama hinted that he might return as an Indian woman so as to evade Chinese control. This echoes his controversial 2015 remarks that "that female must be very attractive."


Scientists identify brain region involved in dreaming, disproving connection to REM.

Dreams have long been associated with rapid eye-movement (REM) sleep where the brain is highly active and resembles waking consciousness. While dreams have been reported during non-REM sleep, scientists have been baffled about why. But a study in the journal Nature Neuroscience changes all that. The study, "The neural correlates of dreaming," reveals a part of the brain, dubbed the "posterior cortical hot zone" which is highly active during dreaming.

The researchers attached an electroencephalogram (EEG) to 46 participants who were awoken throughout the night and asked what they had been dreaming about. The experiment included over 1,000 awakenings and the scientists found correlations between the content of the dream and the parts of the brain most active. Dreaming about faces involved the region of the brain associated with face recognition; dreams about spatial perception and movement activated parts of the brain similarly active during wakefulness.

"Maybe the dreaming brain and the waking brain are much more similar than one imagined," Francesca Siclari, on of the study's co-authors told The Guardian. Siclari highlighted that this is definitive proof that dreaming happens during sleep, countering the assertion by some researchers that dreams are invented upon waking.

“The importance beyond the article is really quite astounding,” Mark Blagrove, a sleep researcher not involved in the study told the newspaper. “It is comparable really to the discovery of REM sleep and in some respects it is even more important."


How to become a shaman on the shores of Lake Baikal.

Julia Rybina and Anastasiya Karagodina, reporters for Russia Beyond the Headlines, went to the shores of Lake Baikal to learn how one becomes a Siberian shaman. The term "shaman" actually likely comes from the Evenki word "šamán." Evenki is part of the Tungusic language family, and the term was adopted by Russians interacting with indigenous Siberians.

Despite the geographical separations, shamanism is remarkably similar across the globe. Those chosen, the reporters write, are called by the Sky Father with a prophetic dream, a fallen meteorite, a domestic animal death, a six-fingered hand or the "shamanic sickness" which can manifest as antisocial behavior, chronic ailments, bad luck or alcoholism.

"When I moved back here to my homeland, I didn’t know anything about shamanism; in my native village all the shamans had died," shaman Viktor Motoshkin told RBTH. "Then suddenly I had a dream. Five shamans were sitting in front of me. One of them says: 'You have to start doing this.'"

Mikail Ogdonov explains shamanism is a gift from the ancestors, who are known as ongons. "Shamans choose people who are physically strong and wise, and test them," he said. "A shaman must be a spiritually strong person."

Valentin Khagdaev was born with six fingers. A Mongolian shaman told him that shamans with an extra bone are only born once a century. "It’s like a diploma from the Sky," Khagdaev said.

Matvey Bartsev got sick, losing his speech and fainting often. After visiting a shaman, now his teacher, Bartsev got the feeling that this was his life. "I was buzzing with joy and happiness that I’d finally found my calling," he said.


14,000-Year-Old First Nations settlement discovered in British Columbia.

A team of archeologists from the Hakai Insitute, University of Victoria, and local First Nations excavated a site on Triquet Island, along the Central Coast of British Columbia. They found remains of charcoal, tools, fish hooks, spears for hunting marine mammals and a hand drill for lighting fires. According to charcoal analysis, the settlement is 13,613 to 14,086 years old, which makes it one of the oldest sites on North America.

The discovery provides the Heiltsuk Nation with proof of their ancient past. "Heiltsuk oral history talks of a strip of land in that area where the excavation took place," Heiltsuk William Housty told CBC. "It was a place that never froze during the ice age and it was a place where our ancestors flocked to for survival."

This find also refutes a key part of the common archeological theory which holds that early habitation of the Americas occurred by crossing an ice-free land bridge across the Bering Strait. "The alternative theory, which is supported by our data as well as evidence that has come from stone tools and other carbon dating, is people were capable of travelling by boat," archeologist Alisha Gauvreau, a scholar with Hakai Institute told CBC. "From our site, it is apparent that they were rather adept sea mammal hunters."

Having this proof of their continued presence in the area for 14,000 years will help Heiltsuk in their ongoing and future battles over land rights. "Now we don't just have oral history, we have this archeological information. It's not just an arbitrary thing that anyone's making up," said Housty. "We have a history supported from Western science and archeology."


Query the universe at any moment using pendulum-free dowsing.

Charlz dela Cruz writes about how he felt dependent on his pendulum and wanted to free himself from the limitation of always needing it. After months of experimentation, Cruz settled on using a two finger method.

Dowsing is a form of divination most commonly using a pendulum, which is any weighted object suspended from a string. Pendulums range from just a needle and thread to elaborate creations with crystals and ornate chains. Dowsing was originally used to locate water sources and historical records show use in ancient Egypt, depictions in cave paintings and references by Confucius. Answers always come in a yes or no format with the pendulum swinging side-to-side or in circles to indicate a reply. Views on how dowsing works, or doesn't, are often heated.

Since it's often not practical to pull out a pendulum and dowse, Cruz developed the idea. He put his hands on the table a thought a yes mantra until one finger rose off the table, then repeated the process for no. After a few months of daily practice, Cruz started checking with simple tests like dowsing coin flips. Once he moved on to playing cards, Cruz felt confident enough to dowse with his hands on his lap or in his pockets. "I could do it anywhere and nobody would even notice it," he writes.

While there are some practical advantages, Cruz is not abandoning his favorite tools anytime soon. But he "realized that we do not need to depend on material objects."

"The whole universe is alive and is listening to us," he writes.


"Between these two extremes of traditional faith and militant rationalism, every conceivable shade of opinion about this great problem of humanity's next step in psychic evolution is to be found. It may be said that the middle position is held by those people who know that they have outgrown the Church as exemplified in Christianity, but who have not therefore been brought to deny the fact that a religious attitude to life is as essential to them as a belief in the authenticity of science. These people have experienced the soul as vividly as the body, the body as vividly as the soul. And the soul has manifested itself to them in ways not to be explained in terms either of traditional theology or of materialism."
— C.G. Jung,
Modern Man in Search of a Soul (1933)

That's all for this week. Look out next Monday morning!