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Tag Archives: power
Posted: August 21, 2016 at 11:12 am
Over the past decade, governmental agencies, medical schools, influential voices in the media, and the public at large have seen a remarkable surge of interest in alternative medicine in the United States. While many therapies focus on unproven but otherwise spiritually neutral approaches (for example, nutritional supplements), others arise from or validate worldviews especially the monism (All is One) of the New Age movement that are hostile to the teachings of Scripture. The cultural developments that have brought alternative (still often called holistic) therapies into the cultural mainstream are complex and often understandable. However, a number of general cautions are still in order regarding this movement.
Twenty years ago a nurse tending to pediatric patients at Santa Monica Hospital handed me a rather unassuming publication bearing the title, Journal of Holistic Health. Along with more than 2,000 health-care professionals and other interested parties, she had just attended a conference in San Diego entitled, The Physician of the Future. In more ways than one, she had got religion at this meeting, and spoke with great enthusiasm about the new paradigm that would soon revolutionize our understanding of health and disease.
The future of health care, she explained, lay in the concept of holism, understanding the whole person body, mind, and spirit who was in fact a great deal more than the sum of several organ systems. It would become much more important to understand the patient who had the illness, not merely the illness that had the patient. Prevention, lifestyle, stress reduction, and self-awareness would displace the invasive and often destructive approaches specifically, drugs and surgery that had for so long dominated Western medicine. Eventually, we would begin to define health in more uplifting terms: not merely as the absence of disease, but as a state of increasing energy, productivity, insight, and personal transformation.
RISE OF HOLISTIC HEALTH
It sounded intriguing. After all, I was training as a resident in family practice the specialty whose interest extended not only to the whole patient, but also to her or his family, work, relationships, and even the community where she or he lived. I glanced through the articles in this home-grown journal (which actually was a transcription of the previous years conference), and then began to read more carefully, with increasing concern. This movement appeared to have more on its mind than changing dietary habits, encouraging exercise, and coping with stress.
The conference director, David J. Harris, who bore the title Founder and President of the Association for Holistic Health, had rhapsodized in his opening remarks that this gathering is part of a process that is bringing about a new way of thinking, a new science merged with religion. James Fadiman, Ph.D., at that time Director of the Institute of Noetic Sciences at Stanford University, declared that we are not primarily physical forms. We are primarily energy around which matter adheres. Richard Svihus, M.D., President of the California Academy of Preventive Medicine, proclaimed that the holistic health movement is desired by higher forces and consciousness within the universe. Harold Bloomfield, M.D., a psychiatrist who had written the best-selling TM: Discovering Inner Energy and Overcoming Stress, extolled the benefits of Transcendental Meditation. Dr. Elisabeth Kbler-Ross, widely recognized as the worlds authority on the dying process, stated unequivocally that death does not exist, and that after transitioning from this life, you will have the opportunity not to be judged by a judgmental God, but to judge yourself. Many others with strings of initials after their names and impressive titles used engaging anecdotes that described healing through aligning the bodys invisible energies, developing psychic abilities, and most important altering, expanding, and transforming consciousness.
The pediatric nurse really had gotten religion but not a gospel that would set well with Luke, the doctor who followed Jesus. It was, instead, a gospel better suited to Luke Skywalker, master of the Force, the impersonal energy allegedly pervading the universe. The holistic health movement, it turned out, appeared to be yet another banner under the We are all energy / All is One / I am God / You are God / We are all God / Aint that great? spirituality of the New Age movement. Such spirituality was storming the gates of Western culture and hoping to be welcomed with open arms.
In my subsequent explorations of the holistic phenomenon I attended two of the annual Association for Holistic Health conferences in San Diego. For the most part, the speakers were interesting, energetic, and sincere in their desire to promote health and healing, while the audiences were far more attentive than many I had observed at other medical conferences. These total immersion experiences left no doubt in my mind that the spiritual agenda of the new medicine at least as presented by its most active proponents was of utmost importance. Furthermore, a few direct questions to some of the speakers made it abundantly clear that this spirituality, which presented itself as generously inclusive of all religious traditions, did not in fact harbor warm and fuzzy feelings about such concepts as the sinfulness of humankind, Christs atoning death on the cross, or our need for individual repentance.
Ask a speaker about Jesus, and you would hear He was a Master Teacher, Enlightened Healer, Bearer of the Christ Consciousness, and so forth. Mention atonement, and you would be gently corrected, for Jesus demonstrated at-one-ment an understanding of His (and our) unity with God. Bring up repentance, and you would be told that what we really need is enlightenment a direct experience of our own divinity. Bear down on that distasteful event at Golgotha, and the air would suddenly become rather chilly.
Over the next several years, I both wrote and spoke of my concerns about the holistic health movement in a variety of settings, and while doing so, made a few observations:
First, a number of conventional medical practitioners were miffed over the idea that unorthodox healing systems were promoted as treating the whole person more effectively. Indeed, even the most narrowly focused subspecialist could truly keep the patients entire life in focus, attending to the mind and spirit as well as the body. Furthermore, there was no guarantee that an unorthodox practitioner might not see a patient as little more than a tangled wad of energy fields needing to be balanced through some esoteric formulation. (Take these supplements/herbs that I have chosen for you through the most inscrutable and subjective criteria, and call me in the morning.)
Second, many people including committed Christians who would go to the mat over the interpretation of a grammatical detail in a passage of Scripture appeared quite willing to lay critical thinking aside while dealing with unorthodox healing methods. Does it work? or, more specifically, Does it make me feel better? were often far more important questions than Does it make any sense? or Is there any empirical proof? or On what world view is this healing system based?
Third, the holistic health movement appeared to be having little impact on the practices of mainstream physicians. It had somewhat greater success among nurses, particularly with a specific healing technique known as therapeutic touch (see below).
Fourth, the new medicine also seemed to be making little headway within medical schools, government bodies, and insurance companies. Holistic health proponents repeatedly expressed a desire to leave the fringes and enter the cultural mainstream via research, public policy, and finance, but for many years this goal proved elusive.
Indeed, the persistent inability of holistic practices to gain widespread acceptance by the powers that be was undoubtedly a sore point for this movement for a number of years. Despite the grandiose optimism expressed during the San Diego conferences and others during the late 1970s and early 1980s, holistic health seemed to sputter through the 1980s, keeping itself alive primarily through paying clients who beat a path to the doors of unconventional practitioners. I concluded that there would always be holistic voices crying in the wilderness, but that our culture would probably keep them there.
My unspoken prediction, however, was proven wrong by some startling developments over the past few years. A dramatic turnabout has brought the gamut of holistic therapies including those with New Age and Eastern mystical flags fully unfurled squarely into the mainstream of American culture under a new banner: alternative medicine. Some proponents prefer the more conciliatory term complementary medicine, while a few describe themselves as promoters of integrative medicine, seeking to unite all forms of health care into a coherent system. Alternative medicine, however, is the most widely used term.
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE TODAY
It is difficult to pinpoint when or how this reversal began. Promoters of alternative health care would likely argue that this movement hasnt actually enjoyed a revival, but that it has been alive and well all along, and that the power elites of the press, government, and medicine have only recently noticed. This idea is supported to some degree by a now-famous 1993 article in the New England Journal of Medicine, a publication not exactly known for tabloid excesses.
The report detailed the findings of a 1990 survey of health care utilization in the United States, suggesting that more than 30 percent of American adults availed themselves of at least one form of alternative therapy that year, paying an estimated 425 million visits to providers of such treatments about 40 million more than the number made to primary care physicians! The tab for this care was nearly $14 billion, of which more than $10 billion was not covered by insurance and thus was paid out of pocket. The survey indicated that unconventional therapies were used mostly for chronic rather than life-threatening conditions, that most people using these alternatives didnt discuss them with their physicians (no great surprise since conventional practitioners tended to dismiss such options with eye-rolling disdain), and that the elderly represented a significant proportion of the clientele.1
A RECENT SURGE IN PUBLIC INTEREST
It would not be surprising if a survey taken today showed even more widespread involvement in alternative practices. Recent indications of a surge in public interest include the following:
A Time cover story entitled Faith and Healing (24 June 1996) painted its subject with broad strokes, encompassing traditional faith in God, meditative techniques, and biochemistry. It described controlled studies designed to determine whether patients who were the recipients of prayer defined in a variety of ways fared better than others.
A bumper crop of books on alternative therapies now line the shelves of the Health and Medicine section of the typical neighborhood bookstore. No longer limited to the off-label and self-published material that was once the staple of New Age outlets, the newer titles come from mainstream publishers, and place unconventional treatments on equal footing with Western medicine. One prominent example is The Medical Advisor: The Complete Book of Alternative and Conventional Treatment,2 published last year by Time-Life Books. This handsome volume describes health problems in encyclopedic detail, noting for each the conventional medical approach and then listing several alternatives: ancient Chinese, homeopathic, herbal, and so on.
The Public Broadcasting System (PBS) has repeatedly broadcast presentations of alternative healing. Bill Moyerss 1993 series, Healing and the Mind, attracted almost twice the normal PBS viewing audience. Andrew Weil, M.D., a popular author who now teaches Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona School of Medicine, has offered articulate distillations from his book Spontaneous Healing on a program of the same name. Deepak Chopra, M.D., a publishing hot-ticket and Americas foremost purveyor of Indias ancient healing system known as ayurveda, captivated viewers in the PBS specials, Body, Mind and Soul: The Mystery and the Magic and The Way of the Wizard.
Websites devoted to alternative therapies abound on the Internet. If one tells the Yahoo search engine to look for alternative medicine, he or she will be escorted to more than 200 sites, many of which provide links to dozens of others. On the other hand, cautionary notices and critical analyses by organizations such as the National Council against Health Fraud and the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP, a humanist think tank that publishes Skeptical Inquirer) are few and far between.
Periodicals promoting alternative therapies are now available both for the general public (for example, Natural Health) and health care providers. The monthly journals Alternative and Complementary Therapies and Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine contain articles and studies of variable quality, which in some cases (unlike standard medical journals) freely wade into metaphysical and promotional material.
The most striking foray into the realm of conventional medicine occurred last November when American Family Physician, the official journal of the American Academy of Family Physicians (normally a reliable resource), published as its cover article, Alternative Medicine and the Family Physician.3 Authored by James M. Gordon, M.D., who directs the Mind-Body Center in Washington, D.C., the article offered a bland overview of alternative care, admonished family physicians to convey a sensitive acceptance and an openness to.their patients interest in alternative therapies, and encouraged practitioners to explore this realm themselves starting with Gordons own book, Manifesto for a New Medicine. An accompanying editorial strongly endorsed physician involvement in alternative therapies, and a duplicable information sheet did likewise for patients. Nowhere in these materials was there a note of caution or concern about any of the approaches mentioned.
NEW LINKS WITH CONVENTIONAL MEDICINE
Manifestations of increasing interest in alternative health care have not been limited to the general public and news media. In 1991, Congress mandated the formation of the Office of Alternative Medicine (OAM), now permanently established within the National Institute of Health (NIH). OAMs mission is to encourage and support the investigation of alternative medical (AM) practices, with the ultimate goal of integrating validated alternative medical practices into health and medical care (emphasis added).4 To this end, 10 exploratory centers have been established at institutions such as the University of Minnesota Medical School, Stanford University, and Columbia Universitys College of Physicians and Surgeons. NIH guidelines for these centers call for a systematic analysis of alternative treatments and their effect on major diseases, health, and wellness.5
It remains to be seen whether the centers, each of which will focus on a specific health care issue, will approach alternative therapies with open arms along with open minds. Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, for example, has already established the Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, the first of its kind at an American medical school. A quote in the Rosenthal Centers brochure from Woodson Merrell, M.D., sounds less than dispassionate: The fact that medical schools are beginning to incorporate alternative modes of healing into their curriculum is a major step in medical education. It is very exciting.
The enthusiasm for alternative medicine displayed by those involved with OAM certainly raises some doubt that its programs will provide evenhanded analysis of the therapies they study. Representative John E. Porter (R-Ill), Chairman of the Labor, Health and Human Services Education Subcommittee, which oversees funding for NIH, not only supports OAM but also sees it as fulfilling a specific mission: As I see it, the most important contribution the OAM can make to the practice of medicine is to provide that link between alternative and conventional medicine.Therefore, it is important to continue making contacts on Capitol Hill and to deliver the message: alternative medicine is integral to biomedical research, provides effective results, and is a priority for spending decisions.6 James Gordon, M. D., who wrote the above-noted Manifesto for a New Medicine, also serves as Chairman of the Program Advisory Council for OAM.
WHY THE INTEREST?
What might explain this surge of interest in alternative therapies? There are many possible reasons, but the heart of the matter is this: for all of its technological prowess, especially with acute and critical conditions, Western medicine continues to bump against the limits of its effectiveness when dealing with many disabling chronic conditions especially those related to aging, such as degenerative arthritis as well as complex diseases, such as cancer and HIV/AIDS. A massive tide of baby boomers is now facing mid-life and menopause, and, having challenged the status quo at every stage of life, this generation is not about to accept a just deal with it approach to the health problems of its golden years.
Moreover, stress and common lifestyle-induced problems, such as chronic fatigue and depression, do not always find sympathetic ears and definitive solutions in the doctors office. Many conventional practitioners drive large numbers of people to alternative therapists by spending as little time as possible with their patients and by clinging to outmoded authoritarian roles (I know whats best for you, so dont ask me those irritating questions.). Alternative practitioners may listen more attentively to their patients, and they frequently promote themselves as encouraging a more collaborative relationship.
Yet encouraging mutual respect, open communication, and informed decision-making are not the exclusive province of alternative therapies. In fact, many conscientious doctors within the conventional model have inadvertently contributed to the popularity of alternative therapies by candidly admitting the limits of their capabilities and carefully explaining the pros and cons of treatment options. Maintaining this evenhanded approach requires using words such as might, maybe, and I dont know. Furthermore, an increasing and appropriate emphasis on informed consent over the past few decades requires physicians to present both the risks and the benefits in connection with a given medication or surgery.
As a result, in many situations a physician may not be able to bring the power of positive expectation to bear on the patients problem. Alternative therapies, on the other hand, are typically brimming with optimism, often inversely proportional to their ties to reality. After hearing more than one doctor say, I dont know what is causing your problem or what we can do about it, someone with a complex illness may feel a breath of hope when the alternative practitioner announces, I can find out why you feel so poorly, and I have a specific plan that will get you on the road to recovery.
Other reasons for the rising interest in alternative therapies include:
1.) The appeal of natural approaches often touted as helping the body to heal itself over drugs and surgery. There is no question that ounces of prevention are better than pounds of cure, and positive lifestyle choices (regular exercise, prudent eating habits, and avoidance of harmful substances) are very likely to reduce medical problems in the future. But all too often the term natural is misapplied to bizarre, illogical treatments or the use of huge (and unnatural) amounts of vitamin and mineral supplements. Eating a variety of wholesome foods every day is natural; taking a tackle-box full of supplements is not.
2.) The current cultural enthronement of choice the need to have options, to have it my way has become a national credo. The word alternative implies that there is a choice to be made regarding health care, as opposed to simply following doctors orders.
3.) Skyrocketing costs, especially related to high-tech procedures and expensive medications, continue to plague the conventional health care system. Because alternative therapies tend to be relatively lowtech and often stress activities that the individual can do for himself or herself, some managed care/HMO systems are investigating their potential for lowering health care bills.
4.) A deep and widespread spiritual hunger. A number of therapies serve as a gateway to spiritual technologies and world views that address needs for meaning, knowledge, and power.
So what is the problem with alternative medicine? Before addressing that question, it is important to state what is not at issue.
1.) Turf battles. As a conventional, Western-trained practitioner, I can readily affirm that any concerns that I or others raise about alternative practices are not driven by possessiveness for patients or the income derived from them. Furthermore, it is important to counter an allegation that circulates with variable fervor in alternative circles: The A.M.A., the medical establishment, the pharmaceutical industry, or some other nefarious conglomerate is suppressing effective alternative treatments especially for cancer as part of an evil scheme to keep people sick so that billions of dollars can be made treating them. This paranoid delusion has as much basis in reality as a Stephen King novel, and begs the obvious question: What do these plotters do when any one of them or a loved one develops cancer? This rumor needs to be given a decent burial.
2.) Optimizing lifestyle. Many alternative devotees pay close attention to their daily living habits and make wise decisions (although sometimes for odd reasons). Primary care physicians are always delighted to have low maintenance patients who make wholesome dietary choices, exercise regularly, shun harmful substances, and deal effectively with lifes stresses. If this were the sum of alternative or holistic health, there would be little to be concerned about and much to applaud.
3.) Effective treatments based on rational thinking and solid research. One of the potential benefits of the Office of Alternative Medicine is the sponsorship of studies to separate alternative wheat from chaff. For example, the Rosenthal Center is conducting a double-blind, randomized study to determine whether a specific Chinese herbal preparation is effective in treating menopausal hot flashes. If such research validates this particular herbal remedy as a useful therapeutic tool and provides guidelines for its appropriate use, many women will be grateful beneficiaries.
4.) Recognizing the spiritual dimension to health. Human beings are indeed more than a collection of complex biochemical reactions, and their spiritual values can play an important role in both health and illness. Research psychiatrist David Larson, M.D., at the National Institute for Healthcare Research has collected a large number of studies that indicate that regular churchgoers are, among other things, more likely to have a reduced risk of coronary artery disease, lower blood pressure, less depression, and fewer anxiety-related illnesses. Furthermore, these benefits appear to be independent of lifestyle decisions (such as abstaining from smoking) that might arise from spiritual commitments. However, a number of alternative therapies and conceptions of health embrace metaphysical orientations overtly hostile to the teachings of the Old and New Testaments.
PROBLEMS WITH ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Presenting a detailed critique of even a sampling of alternative therapies is beyond the scope of this article. The following basic problem areas are presented, however, as a caution to those involved in this realm.
Excessive promoting. To say that the realm of alternative medicine is characterized by optimism is an understatement, and undoubtedly much of its success is due to its unabashedly positive outlook. Unfortunately, this buoyancy tends to pervade even its serious journals, such as Alternative and Complementary Therapies, raising doubts about the willingness of alternative practitioners to engage in any serious form of peer review. For all of its faults, Western medicine has progressed by honoring skepticism and doubt, and by demanding that the efficacy of its interventions be validated by controlled studies. Even the extensive advertising to physicians and patients by the pharmaceutical industry is governed by strict guidelines regarding claims that can be made about a given product.
There is no similar oversight for the myriad of herbal formulations, supplements, homeopathic remedies, and other concoctions heavily promoted in magazines, health food stores, and infomercials. (On weekends, some Christian radio stations literally transform into alternative therapy flea markets, without any apparent regard for the credibility of the material emanating on their airwaves.) Expansive claims abound for restoring energy, improving digestion, and solving a variety of poorly defined ailments (heart problems, kidney disease, etc.), all unspecified. Testimonials and anecdotes serve as proof positive, and any attempt by the Food and Drug Administration to bring some order to this Dodge City are met with howls of protest from merchants and buyers alike.
Everything you know is wrong. A number of alternative therapies also postulate alternative realities convoluted explanations of how things work in the human body (or the universe in general) that are totally at odds with the most basic facts of physiology. These are politely referred to in OAM literature as traditional and ethnomedicine therapies, and include such far-flung systems as ancient Chinese medicine and its offshoots (classical acupuncture and acupressure, among others), ayurvedic medicine from India, and homeopathy. Each operates as a self-contained system with its own internal logic, and while they seem to coexist happily under the big tent of alternative medicine, each is quite incompatible with the others. Questions about the validity of each systems basic assumptions are usually deflected with references to the accumulated wisdom of thousands of years of careful observation or the hundreds/ thousands/millions of treatment successes/satisfied customers or (best yet) the many scientific studies documenting the effectiveness of _____ . What proof is there, for example, for the ancient Chinese notion that invisible energy called chi circulates in equally invisible channels called meridians, and that disease results from disturbances in that flow?
The reference to many scientific studies is the most ironic because the methodology of modern scientific inquiry clearly came up with an understanding of health and disease that bears absolutely no resemblance to the precepts of these systems. For a quick reality check, imagine for a moment the reception that would greet an alternative system of mechanical engineering, aeronautics, or navigation based on ancient Eastern mysticism. Imagine, for that matter, an effort by your local emergency room to revive Hippocratess doctrine of the four humours as the basis for diagnosis and treatment.
Postmodern thinking. The fact that fanciful healing systems thrive in industrialized nations is partly due to the fact that postmodernism has penetrated Western cultures to a significant degree. This world view rejects both scientific rationalism and biblical notions of absolute truth, and substitutes for them intense subjectivism: Truth is defined by my experience/my feelings/my understanding. The scientific method and all that it entails rational hypotheses, logical deductions, controlled studies, and revising ones opinions based on this arduous process are seen as no more valid a way of understanding the world than any individuals mystical experiences or intuitive hunches. Any claim that one approach to obtaining knowledge might, in fact, be better than another, or that there is any absolute truth especially a transcendent God who is the truth is viewed as a power play, an attempt by one person to suppress and oppress someone else.
One alternative well suited to a postmodern culture is therapeutic touch, a practice that has continuously gained in popularity among nurses since its introduction in 1975 by New York University Professor Dolores Krieger, R.N., Ph.D. Now taught at more than 80 universities and hospitals, therapeutic touch purports to detect and adjust invisible energies supposedly flowing within and emanating from the human body. This involves entering a meditative state, moving the hands slowly about two inches above the patients skin in an effort to detect subtle sensations such as tingling or heat, using the hands to sweep away excess energy that might have been detected, creating mental images of desirable energy states, and then directing these images to the patient through the hands.
Aside from its misleading title (it should be therapeutic nontouch), the utter lack of objective validation for an invisible human energy field and the spectacular subjectivism of its technique (how in the world can anyone tell whether someone is doing it correctly?), therapeutic touch possesses a mystical heritage that should chill any practitioner who possesses even the faintest belief in the veracity of Scripture. Dr. Kriegers book The Therapeutic Touch makes it clear that she views Eastern mysticism and the Hindu concept of a universal energy called prana as the cornerstone for her therapy. She writes, The idea that prana might be transferred from one individual to another may not be so readily apparent to us unless we have gotten into the practice and literature of hatha yoga, tantric yoga, or the martial arts of the orient.7
Whenever therapeutic touch is called into question, a chorus of protest even from some Christian nurses who embrace this technique (often erroneously equating it with the laying on of hands in the New Testament) is a virtual certainty. But regardless of the benign intentions of its practitioners and its frequent proclamations of validation by some scientific studies, this technique represents a florid invasion of Eastern mysticism into the corridors of Western medicine.
The hijacking of prayer. Alternative medicine has embraced prayer as a healing modality, and in doing so, it has repeatedly fooled even mature Christians. This has occurred in two ways. One is exemplified by a 1988 study reported in the above-noted Time article, Faith and Healing. Nearly 400 patients in the coronary care unit at San Francisco General Hospital were randomly assigned to two groups. Patients in the experimental group were prayed for by born-again Christians, while those in the control group were not. Neither group of patients knew this was being done. Lo and behold, the prayed-for group had one-third the number of complications. Some Christians who become aware of such studies are thrilled: Finally science is validating what the Bible says about prayer.
But is God Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, an appropriate subject for a controlled study? Is the potter going to be subject to a randomized protocol of the clay? Is prayer merely a form of spiritual technology? This type of experiment encompasses the worst of both worlds misdirected science and presumptuous theology and indirectly validates the misguided assumption (prevalent even among many Christians) that prayer is a cosmic call button, in response to which an omnipotent butler automatically fulfills human desires.
The other fake-out, involving some inventive verbal sleight of hand, is exemplified by the writings of Larry Dossey, M.D., author of the bestselling Healing Words and the more recent Prayer Is Good Medicine. Dossey is widely quoted even in reputable Christian publications because of his encouraging thoughts about the role of prayer in healing. But his notions of prayer extend well beyond the basic concept of communication between a human being and the omniscient, omnipotent, and loving Creator. He views prayer as a nonlocal extension of human consciousness: Prayer actually enlarges the reach of human consciousness. It is a way for us to transcend our physical limitations to be nonlocal, like gods.8 It doesnt matter much whether one prays to Jehovah or to the entire universe, or merely extends positive thoughts in another persons direction. To him its all prayer and its all good.
In the Bible, however, the importance of worshiping and honoring the one true God is of paramount concern. It does matter to whom we pray, and with what attitude. Furthermore, doing so requires that we have a clear understanding that God is God, and we arent which brings us full circle to the last and most serious problem with alternative medicine.
Health is godhood. As noted at the beginning of this article, the holistic health movement of 20 years ago embraced a concept that was in fact deeply embedded in many of its therapies: Matter and energy are different forms of the same reality. We are all congealed energy the same energy that fills the universe, which some call God. Therefore we are God. Alternative medicine in the 1990s has in no way distanced itself from this world view.
Perhaps the most successful proponent of this philosophy in the United States is Deepak Chopra, M. D., author of numerous best sellers including Ageless Body, Timeless Mind and The Way of the Wizard, ubiquitous endorser of other alternative medicine books, and favorite of PBS viewers and movie stars. Originally trained in Western-style endocrinology and once the prime promoter of Maharishi Mahesh Yogis foray into health care, Chopra is now in command of his own Chopra Center for Well Being in La Jolla, California.
Chopra shouts the virtues of ayurveda from the media housetops. He promotes the notion that we are all local nodes in the infinite, universal energy field (call it God if you wish): All of us are connected to patterns of intelligence that govern the whole cosmos. Our bodies are part of a universal body, our minds an aspect of a universal mind.9 So when the physical body dies, we have nothing to fear. As he explains in a recent column in Natural Health, Once our physical body disintegrates, we go through a period of deep slumber as an astral body.after which we gradually awaken to experiences that we need to work out. Eventually we get in touch with our karmic software and then re-emerge on the physical plane with a higher level of awareness. With each cycle of life and death we move into a higher or more refined vibratory frequency of consciousness.10
THE SAME OLD LIE
This is, of course, the old reincarnation shuffle, presented to reassure readers of this alternative health magazine that all will be well during their next several appearances on earth, until ultimate health a final unity with the universal mind takes place. Obviously, in such a scenario there is no need for God to have become a man to become a ransom for many, and no need for repentance, but only a need for each of us to experience our godhood.
These are yet another presentation, in all of their primal seduction, of the two most basic lies ever told to human beings: You shall be as gods, and you will not die. Unfortunately, despite an abundance of optimism and good intentions, many who are involved in alternative medicine especially those who claim to detect and manipulate invisible energies are unwittingly distorting Gods true identity as creator and Lord, and our true identity as creatures who need first to be saved by Him and then to serve Him.Paul Reisser, M.D., is a family physician in private practice in Southern California. He is the coauthor of several books, including New Age Medicine (InterVarsity Press, 1988) and the upcoming Focus on the Family Complete Book of Baby and Child Care (Tyndale). He is a member of the Focus on the Family Physicians Resource Council and medical commentator for the radio broadcast Family News in Focus.
1D. M. Eisenberg, R. C. Kessler, C. Foster, F. E. Norlock, D. R. Calkins, and T. L. Delbanco, Unconventional Medicine in the United States: Prevalence, Costs and Patterns of Use, New England Journal of Medicine 328 (1993): 246-52.2The Medical Advisor: The Complete Book of Alternative and Conventional Treatment (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1996).3James M. Gordon, Alternative Medicine and the Family Physician, American Family Physician 54,7 (1996): 2205,124Exploratory Centers for Alternative Medicine Research, NIH Guide, vol. 23, no. 15 (RFA: OD-94-004), 15 April 1994.5Ibid.6John E. Porter, OAM Funding: A Shared Responsibility, Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine 1,3 (1995): 80.7 Dolores Krieger, The Therapeutic Touch: How to Use Your Hands to Help or Heal (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1979), 13.8 Larry Dossey, Prayer Is Good Medicine (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1996), 79.9Emperor of the Soul, Time, 24 June 1996, 68.10Deepak Chopra, Soul Searching, Natural Health, January/February 1997, 192.
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Posted: August 16, 2016 at 4:30 pm
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Withthe Orgone machine, I am focusing more on Love than Power. As a result of that; I am including flower essences and aromatherapyand actual flowers; such as Lillies, Rose and Orchids.Layered into the Orgone are the symbols from the bio-resonance machines as well as gold, platinum and Silver flake. There is of course the traditional steel as well as numerous crystals such as quartz points, tiger, Amethyst, jade, tourmaline, topaz andturquoise.On top of the Orgone will be a bed of Peat Moss, about 4 bags full and a massive amount of Silver. Peat moss has the remarkable ability to hold charge or energy; it is perhaps the ultimate capacitor.You can see the preservative effects of peatin the story of the bog man. Adead man that wasfound in a peat bog that was mistakenfor a recent murder victim that was well over 2000 years old!Silver is the metal that has been traditional associated with the Feminine and the moon. It reveals the shadow side of our personality which is where the latent power is. Silver also has remarkable abilities for regeneration, not to mention the accumulation of wealth. If you want to get out of debt; start to buy some silver. There is a real metaphysical powerin holding the metal. The world is in the state it is, because of the use of paper currency.All the religious books from theKoran to theOldand New Testaments talk about the use of Silver and Gold as money.We have been hoodwinked into the use of paper as money, which it is not.
Jennifer my assistant is helping me build the device to add moreof a feminine touch.There needs to be a balance between, Love, Power and Knowledge. I have noticed we are a bit too top heavy onmale energy.Finding that balance takes time and is the actual purpose of the spiritual journey. We are not perfect, but striving towards perfection, whatever that is.Radionic machines are influenced by the operators; which in this case is Bill and now me with the Orgone device. You cannot separate the machines from the people, as technology becomes more sophisticated it becomes somewhat sentient. I noticed this very profoundly with the Dotto Ring, when I had the original prototype for a scant few months before I blew out the Amps. I am still in the process of building the Orgone machine and most likely will be till the end of the summer, however it is functional now.
My apartment is a massive portal due to all the Orgoneand the hoursof prayer and meditation that I have done over the years. My meditation of choice is pure contemplation. Radionicmachines can be driven by the operators which I did over the end of last summer with the experiment with the NY Yankees. I plan on holding group meditations in my apartment to accelerate the spiritual progress of the members of the AscensionEnergyProgram.com.Machines are good, but human beings themselves are the ultimate radionic device. As the machines clear the human, they become a representation of the divine on earth; as above so below. We resonate divine qualitieswith the higher dimensions as we clear. Engaging the members in the active use of their spiritual power will move people beyond the passive stage into the realm of the magician. It will also help you evolve; use it or lose it. If you do not learn towield your power, I guarantee it will be used against you. Youcannot remain a victim if you expect to ascend. Ascension does not start with the couch and the TV.You have a tremendous effect on reality; now is the time to begin consciously directing your life with your mind, heart and will. It is the synchronization of these three elements that completes the circuit and makes one a shining example to the rest of mankind. To be included on the new Orgone radionic machine, you need to send me an email. If you would like a stronger connection to the machine, I will be accepting signatures to beplaced on the machine. Email me and I will reply with my mailing address.
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Originally posted here:
Posted: August 14, 2016 at 7:10 pm
Question: “What is Christian Rationalism?”
According to the Christian Rationalism website, thousands of years ago great men driven by ideals of reform tried with their teachings to enlighten humanity. Men such as Jesus, Buddha, Confucius and Mohammed taught similar spiritual principles; however, they were not truly understood and ended up being deified by the illiterate masses. Once the idea of divinization took hold, the respective religions were created, each preaching a different form of speculative worship, and the followers of each flocked together. All of them taught the principles that Christian Rationalism now teaches and thus, despite their name, they have nothing to do with the biblical Jesus Christ.
According to its adherents, Christian Rationalism deals with physical and psychic phenomena, philosophical and psychological issues, reincarnation, incorporeal life, space and the universe, the power of thought, evolution, gods and religions, force and matter, the aura, ethics, family and children. Quite a vast array of topics are incorporated into Christian rationalism, many of which are clearly occult in nature, in particular psychic phenomena and reincarnation.
The basic beliefs of the Christian Rationalists are contrary to Scripture, beginning with their concept of God as a universal spiritual force, or a universal intelligence, not a Person. CR adherents see God as made up of billions and billions of intelligent spiritual particles, of which man is part. That means that each one of us is a particle of that universal force which is God. This philosophy is rampant among New Age cults and false religions. The belief that man can be God is very appealing to our fallen nature, originating in the Garden of Eden with the first lie told by Satan: you shall be as God (Genesis 3:5). Jesus, according to the Christian Rationalists, was not God incarnate as Scripture states, but simply a good, moral man who said good things. He is not the one and only Savior of the world, despite His own claims to be the only Way, the only Truth and the only Life and the only access to the Father (John 14:6). To the adherents of CR philosophy, a Christian is not one who believes in the biblical Jesus for salvation, following and obeying Him. Rather, a Christian is one whose behavior lines up with Christian morality, but the word non-biblical is added to the statement, causing one to wonder where they find the morality they call Christian, if not in the Bible.
Christian Rationalism is just another part of Satan’s attempt to deceive people into thinking that they are gods and can find their own identity and meaning through his pseudo world. It is, of course, completely against the teaching of the Bible and the God-man, Jesus Christ, the Redeemer, and coming King of the world, and the One whom true believers will worship and serve for all eternity.
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Posted: at 9:08 pm
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump raised eyebrows Tuesday when he suggested there is “nothing” that can be done to stop Hillary Clinton’s Supreme Court picks, except “maybe” the “Second Amendment people.”
“Hillary wants to abolish, essentially abolish the Second Amendment,” Trump said to the crowd of supporters gathered in the Trask Coliseum at North Carolina University in Wilmington. “If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks.
“Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is. I don’t know.”
After the speech, Clinton’s campaign seized on the remarks.
“This is simple what Trump is saying is dangerous,” read a statement from campaign manager Robby Mook. “A person seeking to be president of the United States should not suggest violence in any way.”
ABC News reached out to the Secret Service for response to Trump’s comment, and the agency said it was aware of the remarks.
The Trump campaign insisted the candidate’s words referred to the power of “Second Amendment people” to unify.
“It’s called the power of unification 2nd Amendment people have amazing spirit and are tremendously unified, which gives them great political power,” read a statement, titled “Trump Campaign Statement Against Dishonest Media,” from senior communications adviser Jason Miller.
In a tweet Tuesday night, Trump tried to explain his remarks.
And in an interview with Fox News Tuesday night, Trump told the network: “This is a strong, powerful movement, the Second Amendment” and called the NRA “terrific people.”
“There can be no other interpretation,” he said of his earlier remarks. “I mean, give me a break.”
Trump’s running mate Mike Pence rose to the candidate’s defense and said Trump was not insinuating that there should be violence against Clinton.
“Donald Trump is clearly saying is that people who cherish that right, who believe that firearms in the hands of law-abiding citizens makes our communities more safe, not less safe, should be involved in the political process and let their voice be heard,” Pence said today in an interview with NBC10, a local Philadelphia TV station.
Clinton’s running mate, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine told reporters today in Trump’s comments “revealed this complete temperamental misfit with the character thats required to do the job and in a nation.”
“We gotta be pulling together and countenancing violence is not something any leader should do,” Kaine said.
Connecticut Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy, who led a 15-hour filibuster in June to force a vote on gun control measures, took to Twitter to voice his displeasure with Trump’s comments.
“This isn’t play,” wrote Murphy. “Unstable people with powerful guns and an unhinged hatred for Hillary are listening to you, @realDonaldTrump.”
And Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., who wrote in a tweet that because he believed Trump “suggested someone kill Sec. Clinton,” called for a Secret Service investigation.
See the rest here:
Trump: Maybe ‘2nd Amendment People’ Can Stop Clinton’s …
Posted: at 9:08 pm
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses the audience during a campaign event at Trask Coliseum in Wilmington, N.C., on Tuesday. Sara D. Davis/Getty Images hide caption
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses the audience during a campaign event at Trask Coliseum in Wilmington, N.C., on Tuesday.
Updated at 9 p.m. ET
Donald Trump has been saying for months that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton wants to “abolish the Second Amendment,” but now the Republican presidential nominee has gone even further.
At a rally in Wilmington, N.C., on Tuesday afternoon, Trump repeated that charge and then appeared to many observers to suggest taking up arms against his rival.
“Hillary wants to abolish essentially abolish the Second Amendment,” Trump said. “If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is. I don’t know.”
You can watch that portion of Trump’s speech here:
The response from Clinton and her supporters was swift. In an interview with the public radio program Texas Standard, Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine said, “There is absolutely no place, there should be no place in our politics for somebody who wants to be a leader to say something even in an offhand way that is connected to inciting violence.”
Almost immediately after Trump spoke, the pro-Clinton superPAC Priorities USA Action emailed out a clip of Trump’s comments with the subject heading, “Donald Trump Just Suggested That Someone Shoot Hillary Clinton,” plus a one-sentence message: “THIS IS NOT OK.”
Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook said in a statement, “This is simple what Trump is saying is dangerous. A person seeking to be president of the United States should not suggest violence in any way.”
But the Trump campaign was quick to dispute that interpretation. In an emailed statement with the subject line, “Trump Campaign Statement on Dishonest Media,” Trump spokesman Jason Miller said:
“It’s called the power of unification 2nd Amendment people have amazing spirit and are tremendously unified, which gives them great political power. And this year, they will be voting in record numbers, and it won’t be for Hillary Clinton, it will be for Donald Trump.”
Trump reiterated that explanation in an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity on Tuesday: “This is a political movement. This is a strong, powerful movement, the Second Amendment. You know, Hillary wants to take your guns away.”
CNN commentator and Trump supporter Kayleigh McEnany explained it this way:
“I think he’s referring to the fact that the National Rifle Association is the most powerful lobby, hands-down, in the United States. So if anyone can stop a very anti-Second Amendment agenda, it would be the NRA and the Second Amendment folks.”
Clinton has not called for abolishing the Second Amendment. What she has called for is tougher gun regulations including expanded background checks and allowing families of victims of gun violence to sue gun manufacturers or dealers.
Hillary Clinton’s Twitter account sent out a message from former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was badly injured in a shooting at a constituent outreach event she held in Tucson, Ariz., in 2011 that killed six people.
The U.S. Secret Service, charged with protecting both nominees, said on Tuesday evening that it was “aware” of Trump’s comments, but the agency did not comment further.
Trump: ‘2nd Amendment’ Could Stop Hillary – npr.org
Posted: at 9:05 pm
A man wakes up one morning to find himself slowly transforming into a living hybrid of meat and scrap metal; he dreams of being sodomised by a woman with a snakelike, strap-on phallus. Clandestine experiments of sensory depravation and mental torture unleash psychic powers in test subjects, prompting them to explode into showers of black pus or tear the flesh off each other’s bodies in a sexual frenzy. Meanwhile, a hysterical cyborg sex-slave runs amok through busy streets whilst electrically charged demi-gods battle for supremacy on the rooftops above. This is cyberpunk, Japanese style: a brief filmmaking movement that erupted from the Japanese underground to garner international attention in the late 1980s.
The world of live-action Japanese cyberpunk is a twisted and strange one indeed; a far cry from the established notions of computer hackers, ubiquitous technologies and domineering conglomerates as found in the pages of William Gibson’s Neuromancer (1984) – a pivotal cyberpunk text during the sub-genre’s formation and recognition in the early eighties. From a cinematic standpoint, it perhaps owes more to the industrial gothic of David Lynch’s Eraserhead (1976) and the psycho-sexual body horror of early David Cronenberg than the rain-soaked metropolis of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982), although Scott’s neon infused tech-noir has been a major aesthetic touchstone for cyberpunk manga and anime institutions such as Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira (1982-90) and Masamune Shirow’s Ghost in the Shell (1989- ).
In the Western world, cyberpunk was born out of the new wave science fiction literature of the sixties and seventies; authors such Harlan Ellison, J.G. Ballard and Philip K. Dick – whose novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968) was the basis for Blade Runner – were key proponents in its inception, creating worlds that featured artificial life, social decay and technological dependency. The hard-boiled detective novels of Dashiell Hammett also proved influential with regards to the sub-genre’s overall pessimistic stance. What came to be known as cyberpunk by the mid 1980s was thematically characterised by its exploration of the impact of high-technology on low-lives – people living in squalor; stacked on top of one another within an oppressive metropolis dominated by advanced technologies.
Live-action, Japanese cyberpunk on the other hand, is raw and primal by nature, and characterised by attitude rather than high-concept. A collision between flesh and metal, the sub-genre is an explosion of sex, violence, concrete and machinery; a small collection of pocket-sized universes that revel in post-human nightmares and teratological fetishes, powered by a boundaryless sense of invasiveness and violation. Imagery is abject, perverse and unpredictable and, like Cronenberg’s work, bodily mutation through technological intervention is a major theme, as are dehumanisation, repression and sexuality. During the late eighties and early nineties, it was a sub-strain characterised largely by the early work of two directors; Shinya Tsukamoto and Shozin Fukui.
These directors made films that were short, sharp, bludgeoning and centred on corporeal horrors that saw the body invaded, infected and infused with technology. Tsukamoto’s contributions are perhaps the most famous; Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989) and Tetsuo II: The Body Hammer (1992). Both films present the nightmarish situation of their protagonists (played by actor Tomorowo Taguchi in both) undergoing a bizarre metamorphosis that sees a humble salaryman turn from a human into a hybrid of flesh and scrap metal.
Although not as well known to western audiences, Fukui’s work is also important. Stylistically similar to Tsukamoto but sufficiently divergent so as not to be a mere copy, Fukui opened up the sub-genre’s pallet by incorporating Cronenberg like scientific experiments that impact on the body through technological augmentation as evidenced in his contributions Pinocchio v946 (1991) and Rubber’s Lover (1996). These films focus on the venerability of the human mind and how such alteration can cause more than a physical change in appearance, but create a completely new mental state and thought processes that are beyond human.
Tsukamoto and Fukui eschewed many of conventions crystallised by Gibson’s archetypal Neuromancer. There are no mega-conglomerates or incidences of virtual reality and the power struggle between high-technology versus low-quality of life is replaced by low-technology versus low-life. The technology in their vision of cyberpunk consisted of industrial scrap – Tetsuo – and makeshift laboratories built from crude and dated equipment – Rubber’s Lover – lending a DIY aesthetic to their overall ethos. These were, after all, films made with little or no money and as a result, were not set in gargantuan, near-future metropolises but the present-day, real-life cyberpunk city of Tokyo, suggesting that anxieties over rapid modernity are not some far-off venture but something that should be worried about now. Both filmmakers also had a fixation with post-industrial landscapes; using scrap yards, boiler rooms, abandoned warehouses, compounds and factories as decaying playgrounds for their ideas.
However, this new and defiant take on the sub-genre did not come about overnight. There are many precursors to both Tsukamoto and Fukui’s work that also need to be addressed. Some are quite well known to western audiences whilst others have yet to get the recognition that they deserve in helping to create one of the most fascinating and philosophical phases in contemporary Japanese cinema.
Whilst the ideas of cyberpunk in the West were born out of literature, Japanese cyberpunk, it could be argued, was born out of music. During the late seventies and early eighties, Tokyo was enjoying an incredibly vibrant underground punk music scene. An ethos that later branched out into art and cinema thanks largely to one individual: Sogo Ishii.
Born in 1957, Ishii quickly built a reputation of being somewhat of a maverick and grew to be a prominent figure of the Tokyo underground filmmaking scene. Operating within the gathering rubble of a collapsing studio system, Ishii turned out a variety of zero-budget 8mm film projects at a time when former international filmmaking heavyweights such as Akira Kurosawa were struggling to find financial investment.
Early feature film efforts such as Panic High School (1978) and Crazy Thunder Road (1980) encapsulated the rebellion and anarchy associated with punk and went on to become highly influential in underground film circles. Crazy Thunder Road in particular pointed the way forward with its biker-gang punk aesthetic; a style that would be explored later in Otomo’s highly influential Akira. Originally made as a university graduation project, it was picked up for distribution by major studio Toei, making Ishii the first of his generation to move from amateur filmmaking into the professional industry while still a university student [ 1 ].
After Crazy Thunder Road, Ishii made the frenetic short film Shuffle (1981) – interestingly, an unofficial adaptation of a Katsuhiro Otomo comic strip – as well as a slew of music and concert videos for a variety of Japanese punk bands. However, Toei soon returned, offering Ishii studio backing for his next feature film project. This new financial investment resulted in Ishii’s most influential work to date; Burst City (1982), a film that encapsulated and epitomised his favourite subject matter: the punk movement.
No other film captured the intensity, pessimism, delinquency and the do-it-yourself bravado of Japan’s punk movement like Ishii’s Burst City; a bold, brash and anarchic time-capsule of early eighties zeitgeist. However, despite its overwhelming influence – not only did it shape the conventions of Japanese cyberpunk, but the future of contemporary Japanese cinema as a whole – Burst City remains largely unappreciated. It is frequently overshadowed by its higher profile, more internationally renowned followers: Tsukamoto, Takashi Miike and Takeshi Kitano among others, all of whom are indebted to Ishii’s work in some shape or form.
However, Ishii has always played the rebel: attending his filmmaking class at Nihon University only when he needed to borrow more equipment; dropping off the filmmaking radar for long stretches of time; making films of a commercially unviable length such as the 55-minute Electric Dragon 80,000V (2001) and challenging conventional moviegoers with his early punk films only then to defy the fans of that work with calm, hypnotic efforts such as August in the Water (1995) and Labyrinth of Dreams (1997). It is this ethos that drives Burst City; steering it through the deserted Tokyo highways and barren industrial wastelands that make up its initial exposition and into the anarchic meltdown of its closing act.
The visual aesthetic of Burst City is an eclectic mix of punk, industrialisation and post-apocalyptic wasteland imagery reminiscent of the first two Mad Max films (1979 & 1981), with some science fiction trimmings; the futuristic cannons used by the Battle Police to disperse riots for instance. However, Burst City acts beyond the usual genre trappings. It has the immediacy and atmosphere of a documentary, chronicling both the people and the music, whilst using the surrounding dystopian backdrop as a metaphor for the anxiety, haplessness and alienation as experienced by Japan’s youth at the time. This documentary feel is further enhanced by Ishii’s groundbreaking use of camera. His highly dynamic, handheld, almost stream-of-consciousness style shots interwoven with equally aggressive, machinegun editing not only captures the energy and restlessness of the music – which is very prominent here – but would highly influence Tsukamoto and the execution of his work.
The film’s industrialised environments – the abandoned warehouses and run-down boiler rooms where the biker gangs and punk bands reside – would become a key aspect for the Japanese cyberpunk look as well as depicting Tokyo as little more than a concrete slum. The notion of the metropolis as oppressive entity starts to become apparent here and it’s interesting to note that this film was made in the same year as Blade Runner, which again, displays similar connotations [ 2 ].
Ishii’s prior involvement with the punk movement allowed him to gather an impressive ensemble of real-life Japanese punk bands – The Rockers, The Roosters and The Stalin among others – as part of the cast, as well as 1970s folk singer/songwriter Shigeru Izumiya. Interestingly, Izumiya was also credited as a Planner and the film’s Art Director, suggesting that he had a strong involvement in shaping Burst City’s influential aesthetic. This serves as a vital link as Izumiya would go on to write and direct his own film; a film that would go on to crystallise many of the conventions and ideas of Japanese cyberpunk that would later be explored by Tsukamoto and Fukui.
Shigeru Izumiya’s Death Powder (1986) introduces the unorthodox visuals and abstract delivery that would prove instrumental in future Japanese cyberpunk execution. Like Burst City, sound also plays a vital part here; further laying the foundations for the sensory assault aspect of the movement that would later be championed and refined by Tsukamoto. Izumiya, like Ishii, is from a musical background; a popular folk singer/songwriter as well as a film composer – he wrote the music for Ishii’s breakthrough feature Crazy Thunder Road.
Lost in public domain purgatory for decades, Death Powder barely exists, available on bootleg DVD and only recently as video segments on the internet [ 3 ]. Western understanding of the film has been largely incoherent and underwhelming due to bad and partial translation into English and as a result, Death Powder is frequently overlooked. However, its influence is unmistakably clear and it’s arguably the first film of Japan’s extreme cyberpunk movement, exemplifying the invasive, corporeal surrealism that would follow over the next ten years.
Set in present or near-future Tokyo, the film follows a group of researchers who have in their possession Guernica; a feminine, cybernetic android capable of spewing poisonous dust from its mouth. Karima (played by Izumiya) is left to guard the android but appears to lose his mind, attacking the other two – Noris and Kiyoshi – when they return. Kiyoshi inhales some of Guernica’s powder and starts to mutate as a result. He also starts hallucinating as their subconscious starts to merge. One sequence entitled “Dr. Loo Made Me” – which suggests that the android is trying to communicate with Kiyoshi – sees the Guernica project in its early stages featuring the three researchers as well as the eccentric Dr. Loo, the guitar wielding head of the operation. The hallucinations provide Kiyoshi with further omniscience, detailing Karima’s apparent love for Guernica as well as the research group’s ongoing struggle with the ‘scar people’; men disfigured as their flesh deteriorates uncontrollably.
The subject of flesh, the boundary between life and death and the notion of what it means to be human come into play regularly as the film drifts from one surrealist situation to another. Death Powder poses the question: if you cease to have flesh, do you cease to be human? This is an idea that is routinely explored in cyberpunk but while western examples such as Blade Runner and Neuromancer focus on larger-scale implications, Death Powder – and most of Japan’s subsequent cyberpunk output for that matter – looks at the changes within the individual. With the former; invasive technologies are not only fully realised, but have been successfully integrated into society, thus becoming common practice. The technologies explored in the latter however, are still in their primordial stages; they are works in progress and extremely esoteric, and as a result, extremely volatile and unpredictable.
Death Powder also establishes Japanese cyberpunk’s tendency to place imagery ahead of its narrative, a fundamental aspect of the no-holds barred sensory assault style that they exhibit. As a result, story and purpose are evinced from what is seen as opposed to what is told, allowing subsequent films a tonal and philosophical quality. Like many similar spirited films that would follow, Death Powder highlights the destructive and dehumanising nature of technology. A big clue comes in the form of the android Guernica sharing the same name as Pablo Picasso’s famous 1937 painting that depicts the bombing of Guernica by Nazi warplanes (in support of Franco) during the Spanish Civil War. Picasso’s mural shows an orgy of twisted bodies, animals and buildings, deformed by war, or more broadly, the deviant technologies that power it. The film’s end sees the cast fused and writhing in an ocean of monstrous flesh; the human form consumed and destroyed at the hands of intervening science.
Despite Death Powder’s aesthetic and thematic influence, it went by with little fanfare and was never seen outside of Japan until years later. The subsequent, similar minded Android of Notre Dame (Kuramoto; 1988) fared slightly better, partly due to the infamy that surrounded the film series it was part of, a seven-film collection known as the Guinea Pig Series; short exploitation features that focused on torture, murder and other destructive processes, designed to appear realistic and snuff-like [ 4 ]. Android of Notre Dame failed to strike a chord with wider audiences and has since wallowed in cult obscurity along with its filmic brethren. However, this all changed as Japanese cyberpunk began to creep into the international spotlight with the anime feature film adaptation of Katsuhiro Otomo’s popular manga series, Akira (1988).
Although this writing focuses mainly on live-action cyberpunk output, Akira’s arrival was so important and influential to the sub-genre that it needs to be acknowledged. Akira achieved two things: first; it opened up and, almost single-handedly, popularised anime and manga for global audiences (especially in the UK and US) and second; it perpetuated the cyberpunk ethos on perhaps the largest scale to date – combining the neon-lit, high-technology/low-living metropolis of Blade Runner and Neuromancer with body horror overtones. The film condensed the vast narrative of Otomo’s gargantuan, six-part magnum opus into a streamlined, two-hour feature directed by Otomo himself. It is a milestone within Japanese cyberpunk as it was the first of the sub-genre to not only have commercial success domestically, but also managed to find an audience overseas.
Set within the destitute overcrowding of futuristic Neo Tokyo, the story revolves around juvenile biker thugs and best friends Kaneda and Tetsuo. During a turf spat with a rival gang, Tetsuo crashes but is mysteriously taken away by military and scientific officials. They experiment on him with chemically altering drugs, turning Tetsuo into a psycho-kinetic demigod with uncontrollable power. He goes on a destructive rampage through the city to seek an audience with Akira, a highly powerful entity that destroyed the old Tokyo decades before.
Part of Akira’s success inevitably lies in its attention to detail and vaulting ambition. The budget was astronomical for an anime feature at the time – around 1,100,000,000 [ 5 ] – acquired through the partnership of several major Japanese media companies including Toho and Bandai. It avoided the corner cutting of anime projects in the past, producing hundreds of thousands of animation cells to create fluid motion – particularly in its many action set-pieces – and capture nuances that would’ve otherwise not existed. Otomo also went to the trouble of doing lip-synched sound recording; a first for anime, resulting in extremely high and rich production values. The film set box office records for an anime in Japan during its summer 1988 release, grossing over 6,300,000,000 [ 6 ]. Internationally, it got a limited theatrical run in America and the United Kingdom soon after – sowing the seeds for the immense western cult fanbase that it enjoys to this day – but failed to get home video distribution until the early nineties.
Themes of mutation, modernity and social unrest are rife. Kaneda and Tetsuo’s biker gang are like a revved up version of the delinquents seen in Ishii’s Crazy Thunder Road and Burst City, while Tetsuo’s ESP and subsequent transformation sets the film firmly in Cronenberg’s body horror territory. His eventual fusion with metal – resulting in a horrific man-machine hybrid that sees Tetsuo become the master of a newly formed universe – not only is evocative of the cyberpunk notion of technology corrupting the human form (in this case literally) but also serves as an important visual precursor to the movement’s next breakthrough, live-action work.
Often revered as the definitive example of extreme Japanese cyberpunk and a vital cornerstone in the rebuilding of contemporary Japanese cinema, Tetsuo: The Iron Man was a baffling international success story, prompting many a sceptic on Japan’s future cinematic involvement to turn their attention eastward. Barely over an hour in length, Tetsuo was a breath of fresh air; a no-holds-barred sensory assault that gave Japanese cinema a major image renovation and launched the career of its director, Shinya Tsukamoto, who has gone on to become one of the country’s most respected and treasured auteurs.
During its unprecedented and lengthy tour of international film festivals, Tetsuo not only pointed towards exciting new possibilities for contemporary Japanese cinema but was able to fit ‘snugly into a pantheon of genre works that included Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, James Cameron’s The Terminator, David Lynch’s Eraserhead and the work of David Cronenberg, Sam Raimi and Clive Barker'[ 7 ], which no doubt broadened its appeal. Its use of kinetic cinematography, rapid-fire editing and DIY, zero-budget special effects served as an invitation; a call to arms if you will, for independent filmmakers everywhere to produce unique and challenging cinema.
However, the majority of the film’s innovative style is, for the most part, lifted from elsewhere, promoting the fusion of a variety of influences including the hyperactive camerawork of Ishii’s Burst City; the body horror of Cronenberg’s Videodrome (1983) and The Fly (1986); the biomechanical perversions of artist H.R. Giger; the literature of J.G. Ballard – particularly Crash (1973) – and the stop-motion animation of Jan Svankmayer. There is also a sense of strange nostalgia for the old kaiju (monster) movies and television serials that Tsukamoto watched when growing up in a Tokyo experiencing post-war re-construction as well as major expansion and modernising in preparation for the Japan hosting of the 1964 Olympic Games.
Like Ishii, Tsukamoto’s early development stemmed from making 8mm films as a teenager during the 1970s, using his younger brother and friends as cast and crew members. As he reached adulthood, Tsukamoto abandoned filmmaking and turned his attention increasingly towards the stage, forming a theatre troupe with like minded university students and directing plays [ 8 ]. One of the plays that Tsukamoto wrote would subsequently be adapted into a film; The Adventure of Denchu Kozo (1987) with the assistance of his theatre cohorts – christened ‘Kaiju Theatre’. It was this same group that also made Tetsuo, along with a revolving-door line-up of other helpers, most notably fellow filmmaker Shozin Fukui who would go to make his own cyberpunk features during the nineties.
Tetsuo’s chief concern is the impact of technology on society and subsequently – and more specifically – the human form. Tsukamoto suggests that technology is a disease, bursting forth unannounced and unexplained as evidenced in the salaryman’s transformation – simultaneously reminiscent of Cronenberg’s The Fly and Otomo’s Akira – where a shard of metal lodged in the protagonist’s cheek is the starting point for further mutation. Like Seth Brundle of The Fly, the salaryman is both repulsed yet intrigued by what he is turning into and, coincidently, his evolution shares the namesake of the transforming character of Akira: Tetsuo; meaning ‘iron man’ or ‘clear thinking/philosophical man’. Tsukamoto embraces both interpretations of his film’s title. On one hand is the literal transformation of flesh to iron and on the other, a philosophical enquiry on technology’s consuming nature and the symbiosis between city and citizen.
However, closer inspection reveals further concerns, as evidenced by Steven T. Brown, author of the groundbreaking Tokyo Cyberpunk: Posthumanism in Japanese Visual Culture, in which he says: ‘the mixing of flesh and metal in Tetsuo is not only intensely violent but also darkly erotomechanical and techno-fetishistic, evoking sadomasochistic sexual practices and pleasures, as well as fears of both male and female sexuality out of control'[ 9 ].
In this regard, Tsukamoto gives horror and eroticism equal attention: the salaryman has a nightmare involving his girlfriend (played by Kei Fujiwara) sodomising him with a mechanical, snakelike appendage strapped to her crotch. This gender-reversal is not only representative of one of David Cronenberg’s favourite thematic stomping grounds, but also shares the Canadian director’s Ballardian [ 10 ] allusions, hyper-masculinity and homoerotic undertones. When the film’s antagonist, Yatsu (meaning ‘Guy’) – a metal fetishist (played by Tsukamoto himself) suffering from the same man-machine affliction – arrives at the apartment, he turns up ‘presenting flowers to the salaryman in a parody of courtship'[ 11 ] that ends with physical assimilation.
This mechanical eros continues when, in an early stage of his transformation, the salaryman’s penis turns into a rapidly oscillating drill which he then uses on his girlfriend with graphic results. By the film’s end, he does battle and fuses together with the metal fetishist; the result is a large tank-like monstrosity with the suggested goal of world domination. His newfound unrepressed nature effectively destroys his heterosexual relationship, only to start a new one with someone – another male – experiencing similar changes to their body.
The film’s metaphorical capacity is achieved primarily through its abstract and surrealist execution that bears similarities to Luis Buuel’s Un Chien Andalou (1929) – as noted by Brown in Tokyo Cyberpunk (p.60-64) – and David Lynch’s Eraserhead. The latter is a popular comparison, prompting many to refer to Tetsuo as a “Japanese Eraserhead”. Whilst both films share an allegiance to post-humanism and industrialised iconography, Eraserhead takes a slower burning, atmospheric approach. Tetsuo on the other hand, takes a startlingly aggressive stance from the outset; combining hand-held camerawork, rapid fire editing and a pummelling, industrial music score by composer Chu Ishikawa – who would serve as composer for future Tsukamoto projects – to create a battering and invasive sensory assault. It was an ethos that would carry over into the next decade of underground filmmaking.
After completing his second feature, the manga adaptation Hiruko the Goblin (1990), Tsukamoto returned to the world of mutated scrap with a second Tetsuo film. Tetsuo II: The Body Hammer (1992) serves more as a companion piece than as a straightforward sequel or remake. It is a new interpretation of the same basic premise – man-machine transformation – but played out on a larger scale. Tomorowo Taguchi reprises his role as a (different) salaryman. This time, he lives in a sterile, high-rise apartment with his wife and young son. His metamorphosis is triggered when his son is kidnapped by an underground faction of skinheads who want to harness the salaryman’s cyber-kinetic powers so that they can augment their bodies into organic weaponry in order to bring about mass destruction.
If the ethos of the first Tetsuo was related to The Fly, the second film perhaps bears more of a similarity to Cronenberg’s Scanners (1981) as the salaryman comes to blows against his mutated brother (played by Tsukamoto), the leader of the skinhead group. In doing so, Body Hammer moves away from the surreal macabre horror of its predecessor and more towards an action/science fiction movie template; although plenty of avant-garde trimmings still remain to bridge, connect and embellish ideas. As a result, Tsukamoto operates within a somewhat more conventional and ultimately, more accessible narrative structure, and the inclusion of a larger budget means that he is able to fully realise the end-of-the-world scenario suggested in the closing moments of the first film. As per Tsukamoto’s wish, Tokyo is razed to the ground.
Like the first film, Body Hammer blurs the distinction between form and content. It also re-imagines concepts that were given little attention the first time around; the metal fetishist’s obsession with physical perfection as suggested by the photos of successful athletes that adorn his shack like abode is ‘brought very much to the foreground in the shape of the skinhead cult, which consists of athletes, bodybuilders and boxers who push their training regimen to the extreme’ [ 12 ] – a topic that would dominate Tsukamoto’s subsequent film project. It’s a possible indictment of the obsessive, body culture phenomenon that came about in the 1980s that saw more and more people going to the gym and taking advantage of artificial enhancements such as plastic surgery; a time when there was a strong emphasis on physical perfection and beauty.
The film also hints at the direction Tsukamoto would start to take with future productions: the environmental focus has shifted ever so slightly from the decaying urban sprawl to the sterile functionality of the metropolis centre, and more of an emphasis has been placed on the relationship between the salaryman and his wife; a marriage torn apart by invasive elements. The catalyst for transformation this time is not from infection or a curse as suggested in the original, but from demonstrative rage. The prospect of the salaryman’s son being killed by the skinheads provokes the first instance of transformation, which occurs again when his wife is kidnapped, causing multiple gun-barrels to erupt from his chest and limbs. Rage would go on to transform Tsukamoto’s protagonists in future films Tokyo Fist (1995) and Bullet Ballet (1998), albeit figuratively instead of literally.
In the wake of Tetsuo’s startling domestic and international success, one would think that it would have acted as a catalyst to trigger a wave of similarly styled films. In retrospect, this wasn’t the case as very few filmmakers decided to follow the path forged by Tsukamoto’s breakthrough work. However, former colleague Shozin Fukui was one of the few to accept the challenge.
Like Tsukamoto and Izumiya before him, Fukui is a disciple of Sogo Ishii’s breakthrough independent filmmaking during the late seventies as well as the music that inspired it. Born in 1961, and upon moving to Tokyo in the early eighties, Fukui quickly became infatuated with the burgeoning underground punk music scene and set about forming his own band with friends. These same friends would serve as Fukui’s cast and crew on early forays into filmmaking such as Metal Days (1986) and the short films Gerorisuto (1986) and Caterpillar (1988) [ 13 ].
After serving as assistant director to both Tsukamoto and Ishii – on Tetsuo: The Iron Man and the short film The Master of Shiatsu (Shiatsu Oja, 1989) respectively – Fukui started to write and direct his own feature films. His first was Pinocchio 964 (1991), and while it did not share the same philosophical leanings that Tetsuo did two years before, it was an effective manifesto for Fukui’s thematic preoccupations nonetheless; how technological augmentation impacts on the fragile and potentially volatile nature of the human mind. The story focuses on the titular protagonist, a brainwashed individual who has been scientifically modified to operate as a sex slave. Upon being thrown away by his sexually demanding female owners, Pinocchio wonders the streets of present-day Tokyo where he meets Himiko, a fellow destitute. She takes Pinocchio under her wing whereby he begins to fall in love with her, prompting the return of previously erased memories. When Pinocchio realises what has happened to him and knows who’s responsible, he plans revenge. Meanwhile, the corporation in question organise a search party to reclaim their missing product.
Pinocchio 964 is frequently compared to Tetsuo by cyberpunk enthusiasts and academics alike. Both films represent the feature length debut of Fukui and Tsukamoto respectively and both films exhibit a similarly energetic and manic execution. It can be argued that Fukui’s style is indebted to Tsukamoto due to his serving as assistant director for a period of Tetsuo’s filming. Fukui’s previous short, Caterpillar – made at around the same time as Tetsuo – features similar techniques including hyperactive, hand-held camerawork and stop-motion animation as well as similar imagery: mounds of scrap, ubiquitous urban living and flesh merged with machinery.
However, there are some major differences. The most apparent is inherent in the film’s mise en scene: Pinocchio 964 is in colour (except for its opening sequence) whereas Tetsuo is black and white – though its sequel was in colour. Thematically, unlike Tsukamoto’s notion of technology as an organic, mutating disease, Fukui’s film depicts the body transformed as the direct result of man-made augmentation similar to early Cronenberg – Shivers (1975) and Rabid (1977) for example – as well as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818). Like the monster in Shelley’s seminal work, Pinocchio is at first oblivious to his condition, but time spent in the real world causes him to realise his artificial existence and he seeks revenge against his creator. However, unlike Frankenstein’s monster, Pinocchio was not constructed from scratch; he is his namesake in reverse – a human turned product through neuro tampering and memory wiping. Fukui seems to suggest that modernity is programming the populous to concern themselves with nothing but sex; a sentiment that’s readily apparent in the media and advertising industries.
It could be argued then, that Pinocchio 964 is the more precise cyberpunk text, offering a speculative stance on potential future technologies i.e. altered living through cybernetic assistance. As suggested in Tetsuo, these technological changes have a perverse impact on sex; Pinocchio is compelled to suckle on Himiko’s breasts in a brain-damaged, baby like stupor – not knowing any better – whereas the salaryman’s girlfriend is enticed and drawn to ride her lover’s newly developed drill-penis.
The conclusion of Pinocchio 964 sees further transformation beyond the esoteric boundaries as previously established. Like the salaryman and metal fetishist, Pinocchio and Himiko – both of whom are victims of the corporation’s scientific dalliances – merge together in a manner and style reminiscent of Peter Jackson’s first lo-fi feature Bad Taste (1987), suggesting the start of a new, technologically altered meta-race in keeping with Cronenberg’s corporeal philosophy of the “New Flesh” [ 14 ].
Thanks to Tetsuo’s worldwide success – along with other newly emerging work like Takashi Kitano’s gritty police caper Violent Cop (1989) – Pinocchio 964 enjoyed a modicum of cult success as international demand for strange and ultra-violent Japanese cinema began to increase. Film companies such as Toho started to cater to this newfound interest by introducing direct-to-video distribution lines that specialised in outputting low-budget, sensationalist material. One such entry was Tomoo Haraguchi’s specifically titled Mikadroid: Robokill Beneath Disco Club Layla (1991), a cyber/steampunk horror about a buried, technologically augmented, super-soldier – built by Japanese scientists during the second world war – being re-activated and going on a murderous rampage. Largely unheard of, the film is perhaps most notable for featuring a (brief) acting turn from a then little-known Kiyoshi Kurosawa, who would later go on to direct internationally renowned works such as Cure (1997), Pulse (2001) and Tokyo Sonata (2008).
Both Pinocchio 964 and Mikadroid would be overshadowed by Tsukamoto’s higher budget and higher profile Tetsuo sequel, which arrived the following year. In the meantime, Fukui was already planning the next project; one that would take almost five years to gestate and execute.
The result was Rubber’s Lover (1996), Fukui’s second and, at present, last feature; a subterranean post-industrial nightmare of human experimentation and bodily destruction. A clandestine group of scientists experiment on human guinea pigs pinched from the street to unlock psychic powers. This is achieved through a combination of computer interfaces, sensory depravation and regular injections of ether, usually resulting in the subject dying a gruesome and explosive death.
Often interpreted as a lose prequel to Pinocchio v946, Rubber’s Lover, despite similarities to its predecessor also represents a distinct contrast. The most readily apparent differences are the film’s use of monochrome photography – a decision made by Fukui when he disliked the look of the S&M flavoured costumes when filmed in colour – and the film’s comparatively subdued pace; favouring atmosphere over propulsion. However, his pre-established tropes still remain: invasive technologies; bizarre sexual practices as a by-product of such technologies; retrograde/outdated equipment; mutation; and a fetish for bodily fluids – pus, blood, vomit etc.
Like Tetsuo, Rubber’s Lover depicts the establishment of a new world order through corporeal and technologically informed symbiosis: the biological co-existence between flesh and metal and the destruction of mental and physical barriers respectively. Rubber’s Lover also takes great pleasure in distorting the boundaries and exploring the grey area between sex and violence; much more so than Pinocchio 964. One scene sees a frenzied character tearing the flesh off another, mid-coitus on a hospital bed whilst a corporate scumbag laughs in the corner of the room. The researcher’s successful test subject, Motomiya – a former member of the team who has since become addicted to ether – is made to wear a strange, rubber S&M bodysuit, further augmented with makeshift technological add-ons of monitors, wires and outdated gizmos. Their nurse’s rotating, ether injector is especially phallic and is used on their subjects rectally for “immediate effect”, suggesting a notion of perversion that transcends sex and violence and into the realms of science and technology.
Rubber’s Lover’s perverted view on science not only echoes some of the imagery and themes from Izumiya’s Death Powder (and to a lesser extent, Haraguchi’s Mikadroid) but the real-life, deranged human experiments carried out by the Japanese military’s infamous Unit 731 on Chinese prisoners of war during the 1930s and 40s [ 15 ]; depicting a doomsday scenario that sees the human race tear itself apart in the pursuit of scientific understanding and technological superiority. Motomiya’s ether addiction is caused by one of his research colleagues. The same colleague later kidnaps and rapes a representative of the project’s benefactor sent in to oversee its shutdown. She is also subjugated to D.D.D (Direct Digital Drive), the apparatus used in the project’s testing.
Fukui’s fascination over the frailty and destructibility of the human mind comes to fruition as Motomiya quickly turns mad; burdened with newly unlocked psychic powers that he can’t control. Like Pinocchio 964, Rubber’s Lover examines the mental transformation that invasive technologies incur on the human condition. This is in stark contrast to Tsukamoto’s Tetsuo films that focus primarily on the physical transformation caused by the same factors, which perhaps serves as the key difference between their otherwise similar films within the sub-genre.
By the mid-to-late 1990s, Japanese cyberpunk cinema was starting to wane; having been overtaken by the blood-stained yakuza films of Kitano and Miike in terms of international prominence, who would in turn be overshadowed by the new wave of supernatural, J-Horror films that emerged at the turn of the century including Hideo Nakata’s The Ring (1998) and Ring 2 (1999).
Fukui’s Rubber’s Lover was the last underground cyberpunk film of the nineties and arguably the last ever. Upon its completion and after getting a limited video release, Fukui put filmmaking on hold to join a video production company; he worked there for the best part of ten years. Tsukamoto had moved on also, continuing his exploration of the symbiosis between city and citizen with a matured pallet. His films Tokyo Fist (1995) and Bullet Ballet (1998) eschew virtually all of the science fiction and horror imagery that had characterised his work previously.
Cyberpunk was kept alive within Japan’s anime and manga industries but it wasn’t until the turn of the millennium when it returned to cinema. The year 2001 saw the release of two films that would give the genre a new lease of life. Mamoru Oshii made Avalon, a live-action Japanese/Polish co-production about an addictive virtual simulation game. It was Oshii’s first film since his internationally successful anime feature film adaptation of Ghost in the Shell (1995) – he would go on to direct the sequel; Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (2004).
Shot in Poland with Polish actors and a Japanese crew, Avalon’s themes of virtual reality places it in the same territory as a lot of American produced cyberpunk that surfaced during the nineties: The Lawnmower Man (1992), Strange Days (1995), The Thirteenth Floor (1999), The Matrix (1999) and Cronenberg’s similarly concerned eXistenZ (1999) for example. It was also redolent of many similarly themed anime releases – both theatrical and televised – that emerged during the same decade as the real-life phenomenon of the internet started to make the world seem even smaller; Oshii’s own adaptation of Ghost in the Shell and Ryutaro Nakamura’s Serial Experiments: Lain (1998) series were particularly indicative of these technological and cultural changes. Another notable example and precursor to much of the VR-centric work that would appear in the 1990s is the four-part anime series Megazone 23 (1985-1989), which explores the idea of a post-apocalyptic Tokyo existing as a futuristic virtual simulation.
The second film from 2001 was Sogo Ishii’s Electric Dragon 80,000V, which not only served as Ishii’s return to punk cinema after a decade of more meditative output but, like Burst City, spearheaded a new generation of like minded filmmaking that has evolved Japanese cyberpunk into a new and strange beast. As with the sensory assault cinema favoured by Tsukamoto and Fukui, Electric Dragon is a film that is experienced rather than watched, stimulating the most primitive parts of the brain in a tsunami of sound and image.
The premise is simple enough; a young boy contracts the ability to channel and wield electricity, acquired from a childhood accident whilst climbing some power lines – an ability further enhanced by receiving multiple jolts of electro-shock therapy for violent behaviour. Now an adult with megawatts of power coursing through him, Dragon Eye Morrison is a professional reptile investigator, searching alleyways for lost lizards. Equilibrium is disturbed by the arrival of Thunderbolt Buddha, a TV repair man turned vigilante whose electro-conductive talents are the result of mechanical wizardry. The two meet and battle for supremacy on Tokyo’s rooftops.
As was the case with Burst City, Electric Dragon leans less towards the cyber and more towards the punk aspect of the sub-genre, with Ishii following the train of thought he employed with his music videos and concert films during the 1980s. The film’s title also makes reference to the old days, partly derived from ‘Live Spot 20,000V’, the concert venue that plays a pivotal role in Burst City and one of Ishii’s early shorts, The Solitude of One Divided by 880,000 (1978). Electric Dragon is less about the nightmare and more about anarchic expression at odds with the post-modern universe.
However, some cyber signifiers do remain; the oppressive Tokyo setting realised in stark monochrome; the fetishist attitude towards power lines, aerials, ventilation ducts and other ubiquitous technological appliances; the hyperactive and frequently expressionist delivery; its low-budget, guerrilla-like execution and, like Tetsuo, the concept of two characters augmented through technology, giving them powers that they can’t fully control, coming to blows. Dragon Eye Morrison has to clamp himself to a metal bed frame at night whilst Thunderbolt Buddha’s penchants for electronic devices to assist in his nocturnal excursions sometimes get the better of him as he fights for control of his own body.
The psycho-sexual themes that dominated past Japanese cyberpunk have been replaced with an equally primal notion of animal magnetism. Morrison’s electric power is derived from the ‘Dragon’ that’s embedded in all living things. His rage unlocks the strength of the dragon, meaning that he can harness more energy by sucking it out of household appliances or by creating a non-melodic racket on his electric guitar; a high-voltage cacophony of noise and expression announcing that Ishii’s punk spirit is still alive and well. Indeed, lead actor Tadanobu Asano occasionally guests in Ishii’s industrial noise-punk ensemble Mach 1.67, which provided the film’s propulsive soundtrack. The film would later be used to accompany the group’s live shows, a strategy Ishii pioneered back in 1983 when he made the short film Asia Strikes Back – a little-known cyberpunk piece that provided the template for Shozin Fukui’s preferred set-up of underground experiments gone haywire – to back up the album and tour of the short-lived punk supergroup The Bacillus Army.
Similar to Tsukamoto’s Tetsuo, dialogue in Electric Dragon 80,000V is minimal thus the narrative is powered mainly by image and follows a similar template; the protagonist is seen acquiring his power; the antagonist then challenges the protagonist to combat and the final act sees them clash. All of this is wrapped up in a high energy, fatless sixty-minute package. Ishii’s film is not only is a throwback to the eighties cyberpunk manifesto but reminds us that rather than being characterised by heavy, science fiction concepts, as was the case in the West, it was defined by its independence, attitude and the will to create something out of nothing.
In the years following Electric Dragon 80,000V, a new wave of low-budget horror/science fiction began to surface largely thanks to increased DVD distribution channels, cheaper production techniques and the ever increasing reach of the internet. Films like Hellevator: The Bottled Fools (Hiroki Yamaguchi, 2004), Meatball Machine (Yudai Yamaguchi & Junichi Yamamoto, 2005), The Machine Girl (Noboru Iguchi, 2008) and Tokyo Gore Police (Yoshihiro Nishimura, 2008) have ushered in a new era of cyberpunk informed, gore-centric movies that have since been termed ‘splatter-punk’.
These splatter-punk movies share the same independent spirit of their precursors, substituting 8mm and 16mm film methods for cheap DV technology, retaining as much budget as possible for make-up, costume and practical effects. Many of the effects in these films depict mutation and body alteration; splatter re-imaginings of the flesh-metal fusions of Tetsuo, and the perverse, organic weaponry of Tetsuo II. Similar to the “splatstick” horror of early Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson, the effects and transformations lean towards the ridiculous for comedic effect. One mutated character in Tokyo Gore Police wields an oversized cannon made of contorted flesh, protruding from his crotch much like an erect penis, suggesting – in a very tongue-in-cheek manner – the blur between sex and violence that was posited by Tsukamoto and Fukui. Yamaguchi and Yamamoto’s Meatball Machine is perhaps the closest to the Japanese cyberpunk of old; parasitic aliens infect unsuspecting people, which promptly turns them into macabre man-machine teratoids that fight it out.
In many ways, this ‘splatter-punk’ phase is also reminiscent of the special-effects race that occurred with American horror movies during the 1980s; Cronenberg included. As practical effects became more advanced, a seemingly never-ending slew of films were produced, trying to out-shock one another with advancing exercises in gore. The same can be said here; the ante seems to be continually raised as each new release contorts and morphs the body in increasingly elaborate and grotesque ways.
A reason for this is that many of these film’s directors initially came from special effects backgrounds: Tokyo Gore Police director Yoshihiro Nishimura for instance, has supervised the special effects for many modern gore productions including Noboru Iguchi’s The Machine Girl and Robo-Geisha (2009). In fact, many of these films are made through Fundoshi Corps, a production company founded by Nishimura, Iguchi and film producer Yukihiko Yamaguchi, that specialise in cheaply produced, over-the-top movies of this ilk. It has proven to be a successful business model as their output is continually building a strong international fanbase, looking for perverse and outlandish content.
The recurring touchstones of combining eroticism and perversion are also present. However, they for the most part forego subverted techno-fetishism in favour of contemporary V-Cinema and Pink Film preoccupations. The Machine Girl for instance, uses typical imagery such as the Japanese schoolgirl – a popular conceit in a lot of the nation’s anime, manga and pornography industries – and takes it to new abject levels, connecting bullet spewing hardware to her severed limbs and even granting her the ability to grow weaponry from out of the small of her spine; skirt raised of course.
Unfortunately, it would appear that live-action Japanese cyberpunk cinema has moved on from the daring, experimental underground from whence it came. The remnants of its ideas are now utilised in violent gore shockers that are bereft of the immediacy and philosophical potential of their progenitors. The movement, once an expression of attitude, concerns and frustration with the world, the way it’s structured and the technology used – not just an exploration of the grey area between science fiction and horror – seems to have disappeared.
However in 2009, Shinya Tsukamoto announced his return to the world of cyberpunk with a third Tetsuo project. Tetsuo: The Bullet Man is not only a return, but a new beginning for Tsukamoto as it is his first English language film; an attempt to expose the demented world of Tetsuo to a wider audience. It premiered at the 2009 Venice Film Festival to mixed fanfare, prompting Tsukamoto to continue working on it. Subsequent showings – the 2010 Tribeca Festival for instance – have found greater critical favour, but a vital caveat still remains
Like the punk scene that it emulated, Japanese cyberpunk was pertinent and inextricably linked to a specific time and place. More than a sub-genre, it tackled the anxieties of the period in ways that conventional expression would fall short. But now that we’re in the technologically dependent twenty-first century – the post-human nightmare now a grim reality – can it still be relevant?
Midnight Eye feature: Post-Human Nightmares The World of …
Posted: July 31, 2016 at 5:48 am
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The Manifesto of Futurism, Italian: Manifesto del Futurismo, written by the Italian poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, initiated an artistic philosophy, Futurism, that was a rejection of the past, and a celebration of speed, machinery, violence, youth and industry; it also advocated the modernization and cultural rejuvenation of Italy.
Marinetti wrote the manifesto in the autumn of 1908 and it first appeared as a preface to a volume of his poems, published in Milan in January 1909. It was published in the Italian newspaper Gazzetta dell’Emilia in Bologna on 5 February 1909, then in French as Manifeste du futurisme (Manifesto of Futurism) in the newspaper Le Figaro on 20 February 1909.
The limits of Italian literature at the end of the “Ottocento” (19th century), its lack of strong contents, its quiet and passive laissez faire, are fought by futurists (see art. 1, 2, 3), and their reaction includes the use of excesses intended to prove the existence of a dynamic surviving Italian intellectual class.
In this period, in which industry is of growing importance in all Europe, futurists need to confirm that Italy is present, has an industry, has the power to take part in the new experience, and will find the superior essence of progress in its major symbols: the car and its speed (see art. 4). (Nationalism is never openly declared, but is evident).
Futurists insist that literature will not be overtaken by progress; rather, it will absorb progress in its evolution, and will demonstrate that such progress must manifest in this manner because Man will use this progress to sincerely let his instinctive nature explode. Man is reacting against the potentially overwhelming strength of progress, and shouts out his centrality. Man will use speed, not the opposite (see art. 5 and 6).
Poetry will help Man to consent his soul be part of all that (see art. 6 and 7), indicating a new concept of beauty that will refer to the human instinct of aggression.
The sense of history cannot be neglected: this is a special moment, many things are going to change into new forms and new contents, but Man will be able to pass through these variations, (see art. 8) bringing with himself what comes from the beginning of civilization.
In article 9, war is defined as a necessity for the health of human spirit, a purification that allows and benefits idealism. Their explicit glorification of war and its “hygienic” properties influenced the ideology of fascism. The Futurist Party, for example, became part of the Combatto Fascisti before the latter’s assuming power. F. T. Marinetti was very active in Fascist politics until he withdrew in protest of the “Roman Grandeur” which had come to dominate Fascist aesthetics.
Article 10 states: “We want to demolish museums and libraries, fight morality, feminism and all opportunist and utilitarian cowardice.”
This manifesto was published well before the occurrence of any of the 20th-century events which are commonly suggested as a potential meaning of this text. Many of them could not even be imagined yet. For example, the Russian Revolutions of 1917 were the first of the sort “described” by article 11, yet the first of those occurred eight years after the Manifesto’s publication.
The effect of the manifesto is even more evident in the Italian version. Not one of the words used is casual; if not the precise form, at least the roots of these words recall those more frequently used during the Middle Ages, particularly during the Rinascimento.
The founding manifesto did not contain a positive artistic programme, which the Futurists attempted to create in their subsequent Technical Manifesto of Futurist Painting (1914). This committed them to a “universal dynamism”, which was to be directly represented in painting. Objects in reality were not separate from one another or from their surroundings: “The sixteen people around you in a rolling motor bus are in turn and at the same time one, ten four three; they are motionless and they change places… The motor bus rushes into the houses which it passes, and in their turn the houses throw themselves upon the motor bus and are blended with it.”
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Manifesto of Futurism – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Posted: July 25, 2016 at 3:58 pm
The Principality of Sealand (not to be confused with SeaWorld, who ignores our annexation requests) is a glorious country off the coast of England that is loved by many, and feared by all; at least it would be if not for the fact that no other nation recognizes its true sovereignty, probably out of envy. This land of hope and glory conveniently occupies the space of an abandoned sea fort, standing above the English Channel, and is ruled by the honorable Bates family. Prince Roy and Prince Regent Michael Bates shield the young nation from dangers foreign and internal alike. Though the Principality of Sealand has experienced innumerable hardships and trials, it has since emerged as a powerful and respected governmental entity, despite what everyone else says. They’re just jealous, the overbearing twits.
Not pictured is the massive, sprawling underwater city home to thousands of royal servants and citizens.
It isn’t proven that the Principality of Sealand didn’t originate from the very nethers of Venus herself, so we have to presume that this is so. History says that Sealand was originally an old WWII sea fort that was occupied by a less than sane Pirate Radio broadcaster in the late 1960’s, but we all know that history is a confusing, unclear subject, and any dissenter could fabricate fallacies to discredit others. It is in fact well known that Sealand was the true homeland of its now prince Paddy Roy Bates .
For several years, the nascent nation prospered, bringing in an era of peace and prosperity within all 0.55km2 of its land. Other than a few ramblers foolish enough to trespass its borders to spy under the guise of “fishing” or “buoy repairs”, Sealand was peaceful, thanks to the rule of the Bates family, and the hard work of its citizens (all two of them). Sadly, this peace was to be short lived; it was only a matter of time before someone tried to invade the country. While the Bates family was in a diplomatic trip in London, a group of German and Dutch mercenaries, led by the generally unpleasant Alexander Achenbach, self proclaimed Prime Minister of Sealand, temporarily occupied the fort, and took Roy Bates’ son Michael hostage. Through what we can only assume as a daring rescue mission involving spectacular heroics, Roy Bates retook his land and saved his son. To this day, the vile invaders still wait patiently for the day when Roy Bates dies, running their government-in-exile in their mother’s basement.
After the Achenbach Debacle of ’78, Sealand was again at peace. Benefiting from the lack of dirty foreigners poisoning the mother land with their “hopes” and “aspirations for the future”, the Principality expanded, eventually reaching the dark underbelly of Cyberspace! HavenCo, which was co-owned by Prince Regent Michael Bates and Ryan Lackey, was a titular haven of unregulated data and other technobabble terms, free from the chains of rules and petty morality. Where the great would not be constrained by the small. And with the sweat of your brow, HavenCo could’ve became your Data Haven as well if not for its sudden closure in 2008.
A large number of counterfeit Sealand passports were in circulation, used by criminals to aide in their crimes and, worst of all, not serve the motherland. Because of this, the Royal Bates family had to revoke all Sealand passports, including ones officially issued by them over the past twenty two years.
On July of 2006, a fire which was allegedly caused by an electrical failure, almost threatened the existence of the young nation. The situation got so bad that a helicopter was needed to ferry citizens to safety. Luckily, the fire was stopped, and the fort was completely repaired by November of that year. Some fishermen were found within a mile of the fort right before the fire, and were executed following a thorough, one-hour investigation.
Unbeknownst to most, the Magna Carta was actually based on Sealand’s constitution, despite the mild time differences.
The Principality of Sealand is ruled by the Royal Bates family under a constitutional monarchy. All of the power is vested on the Royal Family and their associates. Anyone who says otherwise will be thrown off. Though this system of government may be somewhat similar to another certain island nation to the north, Sealand actually invented the concept of monarchy, and anyone using it owes Sealand large amounts of money. Claims that the Principality of Sealand is a fascist state are unsubstantiated and will be met with severe punishment from the police force. Currently, Michael Bates is Prince Regent, the head of state and the de facto ruler of the Principality, although Roy Bates still holds the title of Prince. The fact that Roy Bates would name himself “Prince” instead of “King” shows that he still considers humility a principal virtue, as do all of subjects that bask in his glory.
The Sealand Royal Family is to be addressed with utmost respect, and any signs of disrespect, such as not calling Roy Bates’s wife, Princess (she likes that, you know) will be met with deportation via defenestration.
No government has recognized Sealand’s state as a country. In fact, they believe that the Principality is merely a micronation run by a deranged pirate broadcaster that managed to evade the law by living in international waters, despite the fact that these claims are extremely silly and not-at-all true.
Since the only thing that Sealand has an abundance of is patriotism and sea watertwo things most people already have too much ofthe Principality of Sealand currently has nothing to export; the only things Sealand imports is porta-potties and food, and both items are only to be used by the royal family (royal servants are fed barnacles and sea water). Despite the setbacks in the economy (or lack thereof), the Principality of Sealand still issues currency for use in buying and selling goods within the country’s borders.
To help with the monetary costs of the maintenance needed to support the Principality, Sealand has recently begun selling T-shirts, mugs, pens, and other trinkets to online buyers. While supplies last, see store for details. The country has also started selling the titles of Lord, Lady, Baron, and Baroness to people, to fill the high demand of internet users wanting to be part of royalty. Tourists are occasionally welcomed into the motherland, mostly for sightseeing and good PR. Other times, we allow certain allies into the fort, but due to the Achenbach debacle, Sealand has much more strict immigration laws than other countries. Sealand has been attacked by terrorists before, and if the rest of the world had followed Sealand’s example, the Earth would’ve been completely free of suspicious foreigners.
Sealand has had amicable relations with its allies all around the world: all two of them!
Sealand has had a long and complicated history with the motherland, ranging from mild annoyance to unsympathetic apathy. Like all other nations, it does not recognize Sealand as a true country, but it does make sure not to trifle with Sealand’s business: the country lies in international waters, and it is much easier to ignore someone than to be completely hostile with them if they don’t directly antagonize you. The Royal Bates family originally hailed from England, and still has citizenship there, but during diplomatic visits to their previous homeland, they don’t seem to be treated with the same dignity and respect as other diplomats. Yes, it’s true that being a diplomat allows you free food at any restaurant franchise for life, regardless of what the manager says.
Sealand has had a somewhat complicated history with Germany: Alexander Achenbach came from Deutschland, and so did a lot of his cronies. On the other hand, Germany did send a diplomat to Sealand to petition for Achenbachs’ release, so according to rules set by Sealand, this was a diplomatic mission, and counts as a recognition of Sealand’s nationhood, right?
Russia scares us. No further comments.
The future is one thing that most Sealanders are quite wary of (not Prince Roy though, he can smell time), but uncertainty has never stopped the Principality of Sealand from reaching its lofty goals. Sealand already has a film in the works, and the space program is already burgeoning, despite minor setbacks involving catapult malfunctions. Though some might cower at the face of tomorrow, we spit in tomorrow’s face, tell it to cry to its mother while making an effigy of tomorrow, and then lighting it on fire with the decomposing stomach gases of tomorrow’s close relatives.