The Throw Away Society

In  our current society there is a tendency to throw things away and that includes people. Jacinda Ardern has resigned, worn out, perhaps utterly knackered. These days there is not only the job to do but endless harping to endure. In the “wise” western world people are measured by things like performance metrics, requiring one to achieve more, year after year. This is especially true in “sales”. People “burn out” and are jettisoned to gardening leave or early retirement. Perhaps all they need is a year away from the hamster wheel. But no there are the young up and coming cannon fodder to feed into the hungry cogs of the meat grinder. So, they must trot off into the sunset.

And now dishy Rishi is suggesting that we entice the over 50s back into the work place. What for, some more metrical idiocy? More pissing up against the urinal wall? Once one has said foxtrot this for a game of soldiers, would one look to re-join the madness?

To my eyes this phenomenon of “burn out” is a symptom of the idiotic growth paradigm. People talk about growth but they forget that cancer is also a growth of sorts. In our case the “growth” eats the planetary and human resource at a tremendous and unsustainable rate. If capable people cannot sustain the effort demanded and required of them in the workplace, is it their fault or simply a systemic inadequacy? Is the frantic frenetic world it is my postulate that the current paradigm needs a radical overhaul. Hundreds of millions of people suffer so-called mental health problems because they find themselves at odds with the apparent demands of the throw away paradigm. Life is stressful if one is for ever measured against some arbitrary ruler.

“Is my cock sufficiently big to work in this august and noble company?”

I have met many people in and around my age, who remain very able and capable. Yet they have taken or were forced into, early retirement. They are societal jetsam, though materially comfortably off. All the young guns are free to make exactly the same mistakes as those who have gone before and who learned the hard way. That advice is no longer available, it is out walking its Labrador and is a regular visitor to the garden centre tea shop.

So now the young and thrusting will have to work until they are ~70 in order to pay the pensions and health provision of those who have been jettisoned early. Smart move, methinks. Dishy Rishi is of the generation that got rid of the likes of me.

People throw away those who do not conform to some rigid person specification made up on a spreadsheet and laden with bullet points. I have sat in interviews watching people check things off a list. I was thinking that these dudes are wankers and there is no point throwing pearls before swine. They were complexly unaware as to what was transpiring in the moment, fixated on their check list and unable to listen properly. They had never written a business plan which raised £5 million yet they were judging me on my entrepreneurial ability as per their omniscient spreadsheet.  Doh…

I thanked them for giving me the opportunity, they had no idea as to what I meant by that. They were oblivious to my nuance of tone. Autoproctology had them.

So, not only do we throw away plastic, we throw away people and talent all in the name of “Growth” which is in many ways an oxymoron. Stagnation of paradigm is not growth or change, it is stagnation. People do not evolve if they do the same shit over and over again…

Dharma of the Day #3

do not see apparent adversity as bad

rather see it as doorway, a garland

with which to decorate the new

within every challenge can be found

a seed which might germinate

into new experience and knowledge

all seeds whilst they are rooting

need careful care and attention

and newly sprouted stems

need to be rotated else they acquire bias

the germination of knowledge

is an act of love

which when tended, brings bounty

it is an act of receptivity to the spirit

knowledge which arrives quickly

is not so profound as that which

takes longer to mature,

much like vintage wine aged in its cask

vintage wine has more nuance

than that fresh from the vine

it has more depth and a subtle aroma

when wisdom arrives

it is like an old slipper

familiar to the foot

and slightly battered around the edges

it is not possible to attain wisdom

in the absence of trial

for all things have a price

only this one seems to be of better value

in learning to tend a garden

one learns much about Dao

and rhythm and seasoning

it makes one a better cook

in the Zen of gardening

hurry and haste are soon found

not to have any place

complete absorption in the moment


in this manner one learns much

about the present

inherent in any gift of power

and all about, economy

better to tend a small garden well

than to take on a country estate

beauty in the small

heals the heart

in tending a garden

one tends one’s own heart

this teaches one

a sense of inner love

And what could be wrong with that?

The Thin Line of Escalation – Ukraine

Over the last few days many countries are contemplating sending tanks to aid Ukraine in its war effort. Tanks have an offensive capacity. Slowly munitions are getting more sophisticated and more costly. After tanks will it be aircraft?

If the USA sends tanks, then Putin might claim that the USA is directly engaged in war, even if the tanks are driven by Ukrainians. Getting a high tonnage of tanks from USA to Ukraine is not facile.

I guess the fear is that the newly mobilised Russian army will be finishing its training and ready to go into action.

In the second world war the Russian industrial behemoth ramped up tank production, to engage with the German Panther and Tiger Panzers. Some ~55,000 T34 tanks were built. Now Germany is being asked to allow Leopard tanks to engage.

Russia remembers and can start now to ramp up tank production before the West does, especially if it sees a long game. The West is unlikely to ramp up tank production anytime soon. It will be a slow starter.

There must be some latent memory of the tank battles on the Eastern front in German minds, which had a hand in the defeat of the Third Reich. There may be a sense of déjà vu.

Tank wars eat tanks.

The Israelis have perhaps the most recent experience of “meaningful” tank warfare. Losses are unavoidable. In the Iraq war the air superiority of the invaders was a more dominant factor.

Slowly, inexorably the West is getting dragged deeper into the conflict. We heard a lot about sanctions, not much is said of them now. Neither side is commenting publicly about military body bag count.

There could be a new Crimean war…

If the “new” Russian army starts to make significant gains into Ukraine, it seems likely that escalation in terms of munitions provisions by the West will occur.

Already there is war fatigue amongst not combatant nations. I don’t know if there is stomach for diverting resource away from car production to make military vehicles for free for the Ukraine.

Treading the tightrope, the thin line of escalation is risky. Thankfully Liz Truss and her gob are no longer in charge. One miscalculation could be very expensive indeed.

Sending your tanks as a “gift” can easily be seen as a justification and an engagement by proxy.

Do you ever get the feeling that the West {being so predictable} is getting drawn deeper into the trap of a chess player?

Looks dicey to me….

Mode of Approach Toward Externalization

(August 1946)

One of the most important things emerging from the theme of this amazing and imminent event (the reappearance of the Hierarchy on the physical plane) is the factor of the developments and the adjustments going on within the Hierarchy Itself in preparation for this happening. Incidentally, I would here point out that what will take place, and what is already tentatively taking place, is the externalization of the Ashrams. The great official departments, such as the teaching department or that of emerging civilizations, will not at this time reappear. Their activities will still, for a long time, be retained within the Hierarchy upon Its own plane. The first step is the appearance of certain Ashrams, controlled by certain Masters, upon the physical plane, evoking general recognition and guaranteeing to the public the fact of the Hierarchy and the restoration of the Mysteries. Later, if these steps prove successful, other and more important reappearances will be possible, beginning with the return of the Christ.

But in the meantime, great and momentous happenings are taking place within the Hierarchy and in relation to Its Membership. Disciples upon the periphery of any Ashram are apt to be unobservant of the training and attitudes of Those Who are senior to them in an Ashram; they frequently overlook the fact that They too – from the Christ down to the humblest initiate – are in process of steady and increasing hierarchical discipline, training and instruction. Because the senior disciples and initiates have reached a goal which has seemed for long quite unattainable to the average aspirant, it is assumed that they have attained; the fact that they have only passed a milestone upon the endless Way of Bliss is entirely forgotten. But, owing to the impulsion of life itself, progress ever continues; knowledge must ever be transmuted into wisdom; love must ever be accompanied by divine will; planning must ever give way to divine purpose; light must ever be succeeded by life; from the Hierarchy, the initiate must pass to Shamballa, and from Shamballa he will follow one or other of the seven Paths; the Path of Evolution gives place to the Way of the Higher Evolution; planetary recognitions eventually expand into solar contacts; the Christ-consciousness eventually unfolds into something so all-inclusive that we have as yet no word for it or any need of words; recognition of the Father and of monadic being causes all lesser recognitions to fade out, and soul-consciousness and progressive life in form are no longer goals but are left far behind.

In spite of all this, it is necessary to remember that the gain of all experience for ever persists, nothing is ever lost; that which life in form has conferred is still in the possession of the immortal spiritual entity; that which the soul-consciousness has enfolded and included is still the rich endowment of Being, centered now in the Monad; hierarchical experience is merged into the purposes of the Council Chamber at Shamballa, but ability to work in the Hierarchy ever lasts because the hierarchical constitution and institution condition all manifestation – for what reason this is so, no one knows, but so is the divine Will.

In synthesis and in the all-inclusive awareness of the great Life which enfolds all that is, everything (except what we know as evil) is persistent and for ever endures.

You will have noted (if you are true students of what I have given out to the world) that information anent the Hierarchy has fallen into three major categories:

  1. The work of the Hierarchy in relation to man and to the three worlds of human evolution.
  2. The interior constitution of the Hierarchy and its internal activity.
  3. Its superior relation to Shamballa and to extra-planetary livingness.

A great deal that has been conveyed to you in the two final categories has been merged by you into an interested but totally impractical realization that the Hierarchy apparently has a life of its own which proceeds independently of humanity and that it also has its own goals and objectives which are no concern of yours. These deductions are dependent upon your domination by the separative mind, for in reality the work and the activity proceeding in all three centers – Shamballa, the Hierarchy and Humanity – are merged, fused and interdependent; they are all mutually evocative and invocative.

The fact, for instance, that the Hierarchy is approaching closer to humanity and will eventually make an appearance upon the physical plane is due, not only to hierarchical intent, but to the demand of mankind and to the strong vibration and note which humanity has set up. To that extent, humanity controls some of the activities of the Hierarchy and thus precipitates action. At the same time, all that is happening can be traced to Shamballa, is inherent in divine purpose and is impulsed and impelled by Shamballa energy, distributed throughout the planet, via the Hierarchy in the majority of cases. Both the Hierarchy and Humanity are brought under the influence of extra-planetary forces which make their impact upon the planet, via Shamballa. Therefore, a great interdependence emerges, of which the head, heart and solar plexus centers in the individual man’s etheric body are symbols; their unified relation keeps the man functioning and demonstrating as a coherent whole at a particular level of consciousness. It is essential that students endeavor to grasp this, and so develop within themselves at least the rudiments of this synthetic unified grasp of living conditions and of a vital situation.

These instructions can aid all earnest aspirants and disciples to develop this type of understanding with as much speed and accuracy as possible. It is distinctive of the hierarchical type of mind: concerned with itself as a divine group, conscious of the pull and evocative power of the highest center, Shamballa, responsive to the demands of humanity, and sensitive to the “call” of that third major center through which the life of the planetary Logos expresses itself. The consciousness of the Master is therefore preoccupied with three main lines of responsibility, but only one of them is innate within the living organism of which He is a part; that aspect of His life is invocative in two directions: towards Shamballa and towards Humanity; to Him, the other two centers are evocative.

Today, human beings as a whole are so loudly invocative that the entire trend of the life of the Hierarchy and Its plans to date have been subjected to change, to postponement as far as certain interior and purely hierarchical determinations are concerned, and to a hastening of certain plans which were slated (if I may use such a word) to take place several centuries later than this but which – owing to the unexpected preparedness of humanity – can take place, not prematurely really, but securely and in the fullness of time; this fullness of time, as regards the particular planning with which we are dealing, is from now until the year 2025 A.D. – brief period of time indeed in which to see the consummation of the larger purpose of the planetary Logos, working through the three major centers within His body of manifestation. This purpose was threefold in nature:

  1. It involved the ability of Those in the Council Chamber at Shamballa to react to and absorb certain extra-planetary energies and to use them in an intra-planetary sense. It had not been anticipated by the Directing Agents of these forces that our planetary Logos would achieve a certain goal so early in time and space as He has.
  2. It involved a great expansion, numerically and in the consciousness of the Hierarchy. This predicates a great influx of initiates and disciples and a tremendous inflow of what is esoterically called “angelic essence” from the deva kingdom, under the direction of certain great Devas who have affiliated during the past two hundred years with the Hierarchy. This again had not been expected so early. The result of this happening has been that the door of initiation through which mankind passes stands wider open (symbolically speaking) than ever before, and at the same time, the Masters are passing with greater rapidity on to the Way of the Higher Evolution; this is due to the fact that initiates are fitting themselves so rapidly to take Their places, and disciples are moving on into initiate position so fast, that a great pressing forward has become legitimate.
  3. It involved, finally, a great awakening in the human family and a major spiritual reorientation. This again had been believed possible of accomplishment when the sun passed into Capricorn about 2300 years hence. But – it has already taken place and necessarily has brought about a basic adjustment in the plans of the Hierarchy and a renewed emphasis upon the purpose, as registered in Shamballa.

This, being factual, and the time ripe for decision, has caused an intra-planetary ferment and great activity in the three major centers. In the last analysis (and this is the factor of supreme importance) this development – this unexpected right absorption of spiritual energy, and this seizing of spiritual opportunity – is due to humanity itself; above everything else, it is the readiness of mankind for that which is new, and humanity’s determination to create a new and better world, adapted more adequately to their “renewed” spiritual nature, that is responsible for all the activity.

In this section of our training themes (if I may call them so) we shall deal primarily with the response and the subsequent activity of the Hierarchy in relation to humanity. This will take the form of a new Approach and a reappearance exoterically.

It would be wise, therefore, to keep the following ideas constantly in mind; I will enumerate them sequentially and for the sake of clarity:

1. The work of the Hierarchy, throughout the ages, has been fundamentally threefold in nature:

  1. A constant effort to set up a closer and more understanding relation with Shamballa. This involves:
    An unfoldment of the will aspect in conjunction with a full use of intelligent love.
    A constant adaptation of the developing Plan to the emerging, energizing Purpose.
    An increasing ability to transmit energy from Shamballa to the three worlds, from the cosmic etheric levels to the cosmic dense physical planes.
  2. To unfold – within the periphery of the hierarchical center – a life, a plan and a technique which will train all who find their way into an Ashram, which is in itself an aspect of the life of the Hierarchy. This ancient and intelligent effort has created and conditioned what you know as the Hierarchy. However, it is constantly subject to change in response to new situations and developments.
  3. To represent, finally, within the Hierarchy, the qualities of all the seven Rays, through the medium of the seven major Ashrams and their allied and subsidiary Ashrams.

There are many other aspects of the hierarchical constitution and objectives, but these three are the ones with which we are at this time the most concerned.

2. Today, the relation of Shamballa to the Hierarchy is closer than at any previous time, owing to the following factors:

  1. The one-pointed work and plan – pursued by the three great departments in the Hierarchy (the department of the Manu, that of the Christ, and that of the Lord of Civilization) – in which the three Leaders have unitedly acted as a Triangle of transmission between the Council Chamber of the Lord of the World and the Hierarchy. They are, all three, Members of the Council, though none of Them is yet working at the very center of affairs; in order to be of greater service in Their own sphere, They have taken Their stand upon the periphery of the Council’s influence.
  2. The invocative work carried out both consciously and unconsciously by humanity itself, which has been of such a potency that it has penetrated beyond the ring-pass-not (symbolically understood) of the Hierarchy to Shamballa itself, and has evoked response. This invocative work reached a high point of potency as a result of the world war (1914-1945) and its note and appeal are still persistent.
  3. The rapid development of integration among advanced people, which has forced many on to the Path of Discipleship, and therefore into certain of the Ashrams, and has likewise enabled many disciples to take initiation.

3. The recognition by a very much larger number of the general public of the fact of the Hierarchy; this has established a new type of relation between the Hierarchy and humanity. Hitherto the relation was dependent upon recognition, by advanced aspirants, of the nature of their position in relation to the Hierarchy; today, the recognition of thousands who are not in any way advanced aspirants or in any sense prepared for affiliation with the Hierarchy has created a new type of problem; it connotes to the Hierarchy a promising development, though at the same time an embarrassing one, requiring as it does a different mode of adjustment to human demands than that entailed by the admittance of disciples to Their Ashrams; it requires the attention of certain disciples and initiates in all the Ashrams and the ability of the Hierarchy to penetrate and dissipate the thick cloud of inchoate thought-forms which the bewildered, interested and curious public have created anent Them.

4. The use by the Hierarchy of the destroyer aspect of divinity, the first Ray, in such a manner that it is in fact a creative factor and one which, in the last analysis, not only releases the life from its previous limitations, but also calls in – under the Law of Balance – the building activity of the second Ray. The work of destruction is now practically accomplished and over, and the work of the Builders is beginning.

5. The new group of world servers has been created as an intermediate body between the Hierarchy and the general public. This group is divided into two lesser groups:

  1. Those disciples and workers who are already integrated into some one of the Ashrams.
  2. Intelligent and humanitarian aspirants and workers in world affairs and in all departments.

These two groups unitedly form a transmitting agency through which the Hierarchy can reach the mass of men with the new concepts, the techniques of the new civilization and the basic propositions under which humanity will move forward into greater light.

6. The recognition by humanity of its major problems, and the increasing ability of the general public to view these problems in terms of One Humanity, of the whole. This ability indicates to the Hierarchy the position of Humanity upon the Path at this time and the readiness of mankind for the new revelation – to be followed later by the restoration of the Mysteries.

7. The new orientation of the human family within itself to the concept of the One Humanity and the intensely alert spiritual demand which is today distinctive of mankind everywhere, and which has forced the Hierarchy to come to certain basic decisions and to readjust Itself to a much closer cooperation with the human center of life and purpose.

It is interesting to note (though it is of no immediate moment) that the work of destruction initiated by the Hierarchy during the past one hundred and seventy-five years (therefore since the year 1775) has in it the seeds – as yet a very long way from any germination – of the final act of destruction which will take place when the Hierarchy will be so completely fused and blended with Humanity that the hierarchical form will no longer be required. The three major centers will then become the two, and the Hierarchy will disappear and only Shamballa and Humanity will remain, only spirit or life, and substance as an expression of intelligent love will be left. This corresponds to the experience of the individual initiate at the fourth initiation, when the causal body, the soul body, disappears and only the monad and its expression, the personality (a fusion of soul and form) are left. This event of final dissolution will take place only at the close of our planetary existence, when the door to individualization is finally closed for a pralayic period and the Way of the Higher Evolution will be more closely trodden than the Path of Initiation.

Therefore, my brothers, the closer relation of the Hierarchy to Shamballa, the stimulation of its own interior life, and the readiness of humanity for revelation and for certain unexpected development, will condition the cycle into which we are now entering. This is, therefore, the most amazing period in the history of humanity. Added to this, it must be borne in mind that we are entering another greater round of the Zodiac, and this coincides with the lesser zodiacal activity because Aquarius governs the greater immediate cycle of 25,000 years and is also the sign into which the sun is now moving for a period of 2300 years – a most amazing happening and full of import in our planetary history; it is a coincidence of which our planetary Logos is well aware and of which He is making full and intelligent use. It is a cycle also wherein, for the first time, the three major planetary centers – Shamballa, Hierarchy and Humanity – are in direct and unimpeded relation, for today the alignment is correct and adjusted for the first time in planetary history. Even if this be only temporarily so, something has been initiated, the effects of which will never be lost. It is a cycle also in which the planetary Logos, having successfully taken initiation and thus affected His entire planetary life, has also established certain extra-planetary relationships which are necessarily incomprehensible to you and of no moment whatsoever to the individual human being, but which will eventually create a situation in which our planet will become a sacred planet. This process, as it unfolds and develops, will have a potent subjective and deeply spiritual effect upon every kingdom in nature and in the realm also of super nature.

Let us now proceed with our consideration of our theme, after our study of these basic premises.


Excerpted from “The Externalization of the Hierarchy – Section IV – Stages in the Externalization”.

By Alice Bailey and Djwhal Kuhl

The Karma of Secrets

The first thing to say abouts secrets is that they all in some way itch, they itch at being. The second thing to say is that secrets bind. Secrets also have a tendency to infect and cause fear in their purveyors. They nearly always generate new Karma to be worked with and sometimes, though not always, have a habit of surfacing at the most inconvenient of times. Some secrets are carried to the grave. Organisations, governments and people use secrets when they think it expedient. Avoiding a problem today often stores it up for tomorrow.

People are fascinated by secrets. Fascination binds.

This fascination is by way of a glamour and an attachment. Because most know that secrets are “naughty” they come with a certain salaciousness and a sense of privilege. Some how the possessors and purveyors of secrets are better than others, they are in the know, others are in the dark.

Exactly who is in the dark and who is in the light, is a moot point, often unconsidered.

From a point of liberation what is most germane is their binding conspiratorial nature. If you share a secret, you share the breath of that secret, you conspire and breathe it together. Whispers in the dark, keep you in the dark, for fear of light.

The two major cause of secrets are lack of impeccability and lack of courage. If you are impeccable there is never any need for secrets.

Anything, any act, which binds you, is not good for liberation.

I suspect that there is not a being alive who has never lied nor never held a secret, at some stage or another. It is the Karma, the Dharma, of holding a secret that needs learned from. There is nothing quite like real life experience to teach.

The cure for secrets is impeccability.

It is as simple as this. If you are utterly impeccable you will never feel the need to lie or hold secrets. You may not feel the urge to spill the beans on everything you know, yet if the time to speak on it comes, there is no secret, no attachment.

People are attached to secrets. Beings often cannot move past a secret. They are log jams in evolution.

Often the secret, held deep and hidden, is no way near as bad as people have built it up to be. Its revelation seldom causes a tsunami nor the explosion of the sun. Some secrets are bad and these eat and itch at the being all of their lives.

Secrets cause suffering!

It is a matter for each individual as to which secrets they keep. One could try airing a few of these to see if God strikes you down. Theory has it He knows in any case. Much of the suffering associated with secrets is SELF generated for the SELF is what keeps or shares secrets, so as to bolster its SELF IMAGE.

As I have mentioned before, Karma is for learning by and from.

Have I ever kept a secret? Have I shared secrets about others? What have I learned through this? What am I still learning from this?

Karma and Punishment

It is a peculiar fascination of humanity, punishment. Where exactly this fascination has come from is difficult to say, yet it stretches back a very long way. People want to see misdemeanour punished and often severely so. This fascination is crowd pleasing and public punishment, a popular spectator sport. The concept of punishment ranges from the gruesome and capital down to the petty and malicious. The more public someone’s punishment, the better. Humans seem to like to humiliate each other.

Punishment can be corporeal, financial, sexual and psychological. Rarely is it motivated solely to educate. More often than not the motivation is wrathful and vengeful. Humans want to “teach someone a lesson!”. They want to get even and go one better for any imagined slight. People hold grudges for very long times and often wait to strike. Festering thus, they do not live.

So precious are some that even a hint of disagreement or differing opinion, calls forth punitive reactions. People are punished as a deterrent to relating, the hot oil is poured from the ramparts. They are punished for not doing exactly what someone wants. They are punished for doing exactly what someone wants. Some people simply punish life because they are pissed off about ever being born. Punishment takes on a myriad of forms, its basis is to hurt or wound another being. How this makes the world a better place, I do not understand.

The world has a big hang up about punishment.

Perhaps this harkens back to the Old Testament and wrathful Jehovah, but I suspect it predates that. Some people like to get punished because it then allows them to justify wrong doing. Some people enjoy being punished! People are odd…

Because people enjoy punishing others they project their fascination upon others. They think that others want to punish too. They cannot believe that other people do not act from the same orientation as them. Perhaps they project their punishment hang up onto God and even Karma.

Karma does not punish it simply shows cause and effect.

The emotional colouration that Karma is punishing people for past deeds, is a human invention. There is simply cause and effect. The universe is not an emotional punitive thing. It does not hold grudges, nor does it sulk.

Strangely being punished can cause a sense of camaraderie amongst the “victims” of punishment. It can bind people together against the “punisher”. People can bemoan that the universe, luck or fortune, has it in for them. They could also try to understand how they caused their present circumstance.

Many who are “punished” seek to pass this on. Punishment can cause more punitive behaviour. This is a part of the Karma of punishing, it is cyclic.

If one does not engage in tit-for-tat cycles of punishment this can cause bewilderment and an escalation of “punishment” until retribution is triggered. Bonkers!!

Justice, I hear you cry. Killing a murderer is a tad hypocritical.

I am not going to get drawn into social methods of government and law. What I wish to point at are the motives for punishment. People justify punishing yet this hides some pretty murky, often base and cruel, motivations. Behind the facade there is nasty stuff motivated by ire and bitterness. In order to be free people need to address and transcend this suffering which they have inside. That way they will cease to want to propagate it.

In many cases the punishment rebounds upon the punisher in some way or other. This is due to the intent behind punishment.

This is because the universe works via intent. If you intend harm with malignant motive, it reflects back. This way the universe balances itself. The universe is more often than not, simply a mirror. It does not colour what impinges upon it, it simply reflects it. The universe and Karma do not punish. The being, in effect, punishes itself.

In all journeys towards liberation, understanding motive, whether pleasant or otherwise, is a key to progress. If you can unpick and transform malignant motive, the world will be a better place and you will suffer less.

Do I like to punish others? What are my motives for that? In reality what have I ever learned through punishing?

When the Fruit of Karma Ripens

King Cnut allegedly tried to deter the tide and the waves. He was by legend unsuccessful in his endeavour.

When the fruit of karma ripens it can do so over a protracted period or very quickly. The fruit of karma can turn sour and maggot filled rather quickly. Its taste can be perceived as being bitter.

Karma is often symmetric. In that the time taken to build the karma may be reflected in the time of its ripening. Karma built up over years can unwind slowly, inexorably, and painfully.

Sometimes karma unravels the clever and cunning plans of mankind over a very short time leading to an apparent crisis in the lives around which the karma is wrapped and wound. The ripening karma can move like a rip tide through the lives of those who seek to ward off the ripening. Those who try to get away with it can find karma unsympathetic to their desires.

The only sure thing is that when the fruit of karma starts to ripen, it is an irreversible process…time’s arrow only goes one way…

Karmeleon – Vis Viva Chapter 7

For a heterosexual man there are two things that can cause great fear and strike blows to the core, they are linked to his ability to function sexually. Those are to question his sexual orientation and the parentage of his children. These things strike deep at something in him, because perceived masculinity is so often linked to sexual performance.

In one sense one’s children are one’s legacy of sexual activity on the physical plane; in a more metaphorical sense when a man is being creative he fertilises the world through his actions hopefully sowing seeds of positive endeavour, his accomplishments.

The challenge for the cuckold to his sense of masculinity is immense particularly so if he discovers this many years down the line. He has in effect and affect been living a lie for most of his adult life. The statistics suggest that as many as one man in ten is unknowingly raising someone else’s child; in these days of multiple divorce and remarriage the raising of another man’s child is overt as well as covert.

In another sense a child can metaphorically re-present a man’s purpose and its nurturing. Eric reckons that a man nurtures with his heart, it is male love and male warmth which gives a child security to grow and to test the boundaries. He says that this is so important and the absence of this is what causes harm, unfortunately though this lack is self-propagating in that the sins of the fathers are visited on the sons, cold insecure men raise cold insecure boys.

Eric reckons that this phrase has other meanings than the genealogical sense and that it relates to fate and karma. He says that we should be careful about using the concept of fate and karma because these words have been bandied about by so many on the dharma trails from Katmandu to Goa and back again. He does believe that the quotation below from the works of Alice Bailey is a particularly good springboard from which to do a double twisting back somersault into the topic though.

The Cup of Karma

There is a cup held to the lips of those who drink, by four great Lords of Karma. The draught within that cup must all be drained, down to the nethermost drop, e’er it is possible to fill the cup with a purer, sweeter one. The seven Lords of cosmic Love await the hour of filling.

The cup is naught. The draught within distils forth drop by drop. It will not all be drained until the final hour wherein the Pilgrim takes the cup. He lifts it from the hand of those Who, bending, hold it to his lips. Until that day the cup is held, and in inner blind dismay the Pilgrim drinks. After that hour he lifts his head; he sees the light beyond; he takes the cup and, with a radiant joy, drains to the very dregs.

The contents of the cup are changed; the bitter now becomes the sweet; the fiery essence then is lost in cool, life-giving streams. The fire absorbed within has burned and scarred and seared. The draught now taken soothes the burns; it heals the scars and permeates the whole.

The Four bend down and see the work. They release the cup of Karma. The tender Lords of Cosmic Love then mix another draught, and – when the cup is empty seen (emptied by conscious will) – they pour within that which is needed now for broader, larger living. Until the cup has once been used, filled, drained, and seen as naught, it cannot safely hold within that which is later given.

But when to utter emptiness the Pilgrim drains the cup then to the world in torment now he turns. With cup in hand (drained once, filled again, and refused to selfish need) he tends the need of struggling men who tread the way with him. The draught of love, of sacred fire, of cool, health-giving stream he lifts not towards himself but holds it forth to others. Upon the road of weary man he becomes a Lord of Power – power gained through work accomplished, power reached through conscious will. Through the cup of Karma drained he gains the right to serve.

Look on, O Pilgrim, to the goal. See shining far ahead the glory that envelops and the light that naught can dim. Seize on the cup and swiftly drain, delay not for the pain. The empty cup, the steady hand, the firm and strong endeavour, lead to a moment’s agony and thence to radiant life.

Alice Bailey; “The Rays and The Initiations” Page 762, Lucis Publishing Company, New York. ISBN 0-85330-122-0

The vis viva then picks an aspect of awareness to animate, from time to time this awareness incarnates and the power within has the chance to eke out a physical plane existence and face the challenges therein. Because of the deeds and actions in previous incarnations the awareness of the power within has evolved and it chooses a circumstance, a fleeting moment in the evolution of space-time to incarnate such that it can live out the challenges as a fate, within the context of an overall destiny. Eric finds it interesting that the etymology of sin may have a root that is of the verb to be or être, that as a consequence of being in carnation sins result.

He also notes that fate has an air of fatality about it, a sense of death. Sin and Fate are together. They are existence and death, being and not-being and he reminds me that death is both the end of physical plane carnation and more generally transformation through death of the old. Here in the sense of old perceptions and ways of being.

He says that he doesn’t like these two words ( fate and karma) much and that challenges are better, because these are much less judgmental and finger pointy, they have less baggage. The power within sets things up for it to experience whilst in the form side of life, it chooses the circumstance of birth, the country of birth and the potential capacities and abilities. As a direct result there will be sin, or being, as the aspiration and intent of the power within seeks to further develop its awareness through the process of life. He says that a Warrior treats his death as an advisor because by keeping death present it encourages one to live in what he calls the eternal now and to act to the best of ones capacity and ability at any given time, he says that this is impeccability. So in this sense death is his fate and it is to transmute, transform and transfigure.

This transmutation then is when the power within recognises that it has gaps in its knowledge and goes about finding this missing knowledge, it sets itself up with challenges in order to learn. In a very simple sense, the first acts of transmutation are to find out what those challenges are and then welcome them, to literally live them bearing in mind that they are gifts and not tortures.

The next stage is transformation, which is changing the shape of a life so that finally the power within has the island of existence in roughly the shape it originally intended so as to live out its fate for a given lifetime. He reckons that most people have forgotten what it is that they are meant to be doing and live in a dream. All one has to do is to wake up in the dream and then get busy.

The Greek word hamartia (ἁμαρτία) is often translated as sin, this means miss the mark. If one is missing the mark in living out a life that is not in accord with fate then that is a sin, or transgression against the purpose of the vis viva and one’s own power within.

The nature of one’s challenges called forth in a given lifetime, are karma, there is no such thing as good karma or bad karma, only karma. There is not a direct and linear cause and effect here, karma is more cyclical than that, though there are sequences and when mixed with others con-sequence. Eric sees karma as much more of a pattern woven together with challenge threads and themes running through a life, the circumstance for which may be set up over a number of lifetimes, there are many twists and turns in this as the vis viva goes about its business of evolving awareness as a whole. It is difficult to account for the hubris of mankind against the backdrop of cosmic Manvantaras and Kalpas outlined in the Vedic scriptures.

If then as an aspirant for self discovery one drains the cup of Karma, one is actively taking part in the act of transformation by conscious will, by grasping the challenges in a life one makes way for a wider living both in a current life and those that follow.

Eric says that his fate must encompass things that challenge his sense of masculinity to the core and that in overcoming these he will be exploring masculinity. He says that by choosing a father who was emotionally distant and later physically distant during a traumatic period of his life; he had no one to learn from. In a very real sense then he was making it up as he went along. The ability to cope with extended periods of bullying has given him a sense of determination and self reliance which he can draw on in times of trouble. It is his opinion that if one looks back at the sort of challenges and themes that appear relatively early on in a life you can get a picture of some of the scope of a fate.

Eric says that I should now talk in first person about the events of my second year in boarding school; I am a little hesitant to provide full details. A boy asked me to do something and I guess it was and is not, that unusual a thing to ask, but we were caught in the act. He had asked me to play with his balls. We were hauled up in front of the housemaster and asked to account for ourselves. The other boy was quite clearly nervous because it was he that had asked. He asked me to cover for him and make something up so that he came out of it looking better. I could see that he was in trouble. So I took the blame for something that wasn’t really all that bad; though at the time it was catastrophe.

The whole school soon knew about it and so, “Ali-homo” was born. Can you imagine how young boys might chant that at each other and how after not very long a time this began to wear a little thin? As it happens I was put up a dorm in my second year and there the taunting continued en masse. So I waited and waited, in the end I ended up setting things up so that I fought with each boy in turn, when I had them on their own. This strategy seemed to work.

Ultimately, I got Morris, alone, and actually messed him up to such an extent that the housemaster warned me about exclusion. How strange to be bullied and then punished for fighting back. Needless to say I did not want to discuss this bullying with my parents, most especially my dad.

“How is school?”

“Just fine. Did you know I might be playing rugby for Colts next year?”

Later that year we were on a family holiday in the Kafue national park, this is a game reserve in Zambia. We were staying in some rondavels that were quite luxurious, close by the Kafue River. The Kafue River at Kwafala camp is very broad with some fast flowing water and many large islands. It was great. I could go fishing. We did various game drives and I got to go fishing in small boat with one of the guides. They liked doing this as, should we be lucky, they had some food for their families too. I can’t even remember his name but he was a small man and my parents have a picture of him somewhere.

We worked our way upstream across the fast flowing part to an area of more gentle flow going along the sides of a large island across an open expanse of water to the big reed bed. There we started fishing with spinners in search of bream and pike. Together we caught four bream and five pike. It was fantastic my best ever days fishing. The bream he caught were good sized around four pounds each and would be great to eat. As we rowed back he pointed to the signs of hippos making progress underwater, small rings of bubbles and said that is best to watch out for them. We got back and showed off our spoils, the other guides were excited as was my sister and the son of other guests at the camp. A trip was planned for the next day.

Then we had bream, fresh from the brai, magic, true magic.

The next day we set off, my sister, this other slightly younger boy, myself and three guides, the short man, Richard and a taller older man. The boat was quite full with all of us, the fishing tackle and the big slab of concrete that acted as anchor. We rowed across the fast flowing section and then to the more open space of water heading towards the fishing fields near the reeds.

As I am remembering all this, I stepped outside our house and a squadron of nine biplanes flew over head, making quite a noise. They are probably from the nearby RAF base and practising for an air show, harkening back to a time of white silk scarves and handlebar moustaches, crying tally-ho and let’s get after the Hun. Quite a contrast the English countryside to the depths of the African bush!

Then it happened, we saw the edges of some of those bubble rings and the edges of one by the side of the boat. Next thing we were all in the water and the boat had overturned. I was a good swimmer then but only eleven years old. The older man was close to me and he tried to get hold of me, I pushed him away. He tried again and I swam away. I saw him drift off in the current. He was drowning. Calling this back to memory is hard, because after the event I was wracked with guilt that perhaps I could have saved him, I had a bronze medallion life saving badge after all!!

I am crying slightly now at the thought of it all. Seeing someone drift away is not easy. We all swam to the boat; there were now five of us. Together we tried to right the boat and got it about halfway, it then bounced back and I was hit on the head. This made me a little dizzy. We tried again but that anchor was now holding the boat in place. I said to the guides that we weren’t really helping and that if we swam to the nearby island we would wait there whilst they tried righting the boat without hindrance. They sort of agreed but it was difficult to know who was in charge. So we swam towards the island. I remember thinking it strange that swimming was a lot harder in my new Clark’s Attackers, but that I might need my shoes later. As we neared the shore my sister and the other boy headed for a different landing point than mine. We got to the shore and hauled ourselves up onto land and into the bush.

We watched as they tried to right the boat a number of times, the sun now lowering across the water. They were getting tired. They gave up and came to join us on the island. Richard was the stronger swimmer of the two and headed towards where my sister had landed. The shorter man followed, my shorter route, splashing quite a lot as he swam. All of a sudden he was pulled under the water, he started thrashing about a little more wildly, surfaced once and then the water was silent. I knew what had happened; there are crocodiles in these parts. He had followed the path that I had taken just a few moments earlier. The four of us stood dumbstruck looking west at the empty river with the upturned boat and the now setting sun.

For an eternity we stood and stared. Richard seemed to be very, very far away. I said that we needed to do something because they could not hear us back at camp from here. We needed to let them know and that we must get moving soon as it would soon be dark. The only way was to make our way between the islands until such time as we were close enough to shout for help. So we began. Some of the islands were separated by shallow water, some were waist deep and others we had to swim a little in between.

So we did it, each entrance into the water tinged by the memory of what had just happened and the fear. I don’t to this day know whether the two other children knew what had happened, they were just glad to be on the move. We got to a small uncovered island about two hundred metres from camp, nearby the fast flowing section. We reckoned that there wouldn’t be hippos or crocs there and shouted across to the camp for help. We told them what had happened and it began; the ululation of an African woman at the loss of her man; such a haunting sound to accompany the swift and velvet fall of an African dusk.

There we were, then, cold and wet, in complete darkness on a small island in the middle of a game park, stranded. There was no other boat at the camp. The bush is alive at night. All we had for comfort was each other and the lights of the camp distant across the water and that terrible ululation. We heard that my father was going to drive to one of the other camps in search of a boat and that they would try to get to us, they had heard of a canoe and transporter some distance away.

I think soon after mid-night my father and the other boy’s father got in the canoe and made their way towards our shouts across the water to us with some food and clothing. It wasn’t an easy trip but it was with the current. It would not be wise to go back at night. They landed and we ate. We had a gun now. I remember that dawn very well, the mist rising off the river and that grey, grey stretching your arms and legs, yawning beginning to the day. We saw the canoe and were not quite as reassured as we once were. In the past a hippo had taken a bite out of it. We were ferried across and boy, were we glad. They took the thorn out of my sister’s foot and we were soon to leave. For some reason my mother was no longer keen on game parks. We would have to report the incident to the police and as we would reach the game park borders first, it was down to us to do that.

We got to the gate and went in to explain what had happened to the African policeman there. The dry mud brick hut was both gate house for the game park and police station. I had to give a statement. As I began to talk it was noticeable that the man could not really write. So I gave my first statement to the police in my scruffy handwriting all the while thinking that they might lock me up for not saving that man and thinking that it was weird that here I was writing, what were the grown ups doing why weren’t they doing all this? It was down to me I had to do it. Like a good public school boy I owned up. Nothing happened to me.

When we got back to Kabwe the story quickly did the rounds of the expat community and filtered down to the children. For a while we were quite famous locally, the grown ups though all had a shudder when they thought of it.

Eric says that it was my fate to be in that place at that time and to see that males who are the masculine expression of the vis viva cannot always be relied on and that I as a proto male would have to take charge from time to time. This was a part of my karma which left me with a great fear of swimming in open water and the sense that something unseen and terrible was lurking there. He reminds me that I nearly had a heart attack when that small fish followed me in Italy and that it took nearly twenty years before I could swim out of my depth in tropical waters.

He says that the burden of guilt for letting that man drown stayed with me for many years, unspoken, leaving me with a sense that I could have and should have, done more to save him.

Soon it was time to go back to school and I was dropped back into my original dorm. It was much better here and there was less bullying and conflict.

Trying to Get Away with It and Karma

In the past the Roman Catholic Church and the Pope in particular had a nice little side hustle. This was to sell indulgences to rich people who were filling their pants at the prospect of purgatory and hell because they had not adhered to creed and had been naughty boys and girls. The logic was pay some money and get away with your sins, have a better time in the afterlife for quite a few quid. Nowhere in scripture is a papal get out of jail free card mentioned. It certainly showed some business acumen. The geezer who bought the indulgence could not exactly come back and complain asking for his money back.

This “trying to get away with it” mentality is pervasive in our times. Whilst we may not be held to account by other humans and thereby appear to have gotten away with it {phew}. Have we fooled the universe, have we outsmarted karma? Trying to outsmart karma is like raising one’s middle finger to karma and saying, “look at me I am way cleverer than you are, you imaginary thing. You, karma, do not exist. Only brown people, Asians and hippies believe in you! I can have life on my own terms. I am in control of this life!”

We each of us place our bets as to which world model applies. When the croupier calls time and death taps us on the shoulder pointing at his diary to the slot with our name on it, we get to find out if we backed the right horse.

In our times passing the buck and pointing the finger of blame are ways of trying to refuse responsibility for our own actions. Trouble is if that works once, it becomes habitual, and  we sink deeper into the mire of excuse. Our spine shrivels and we can no longer walk tall. Excuse never changes deed, even if we pull the wool over the eyes of our fellow humans. Shabby remains shabby in the all seeing eyes of karma and the universe. There can be desperation as the onion layers of excuse start to unravel. Moral compasses these days are not as reliable as they once were.


Do you own and take responsibility for your own words and deeds?

Or do you have a trying to get away with it mentality?

Waste Strategy for England 2007 – Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee

Prompted by a news item on Sky which mentioned Dioxins produced by incinerators here is an article I wrote which was perhaps a tad prophetic especially concerning very small particles.

Many of the hyperlinks probably no longer work

Memorandum submitted by Dr Alan Taylor (Waste 33)

Yesterday’s Solution.

Executive Summary

Municipal Solid Waste-Energy from Waste Incinerators are an outdated technology that acts in direct opposition to the basic intent of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants because, they generate these. Alternative technologies such as plasma gasification now exist and the technology cycle for the development of these is now approaching maturity, perhaps providing a safer more local and hence lower transport burden solution. The in-situ monitoring of waste treatment and its pollution lags behind the technological need. Implementation is nearly always retrospective and stimulated by external legislation. This situation represents a commercial opportunity for the UK to provide a lead.  Should central government invest in research into, the development and commercialisation of high quality monitoring technology, then a business opportunity exists. Rather than looking to European technology providers central government could learn from the novel treatment methods currently being developed in the USA and Japan, by commissioning full scale plasma gasification plants. The lessons learned here would enable the UK to compete as a supplier in the international market place for waste management technologies rather than being a consumer.

The current climate represents an opportunity for the UK to provide a lead through, for once, legislating ahead of the EU. In the learning process of this it could create a long term commercial advantage.

Yesterday’s Solution

1.0 Background

In response to Buckinghamshire County Council’s waste strategy consultation a local campaign group was formed; the Aylesbury Chilterns Resistance to Incinerator Development (ACRID). A grouping of local individuals came together to raise local awareness of the implication of municipal solid waste-energy from waste incinerators (MSF-EfWI) and the citing of such a reactor in the beautiful Aylesbury Vale. Local people revisited the published literature on EfW and EfWI in particular. This submission is as a result of this research and addresses items 1, 2 and 9 of the Terms of Reference for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee examination of the DEFRA Waste Strategy for England document May 2007.

The author, Dr Alan Taylor is a former Senior Lecturer in Physical Chemistry at Imperial College and a founder of the high technology laser company Powerlase Ltd.

This submission is written on behalf of ACRID in his capacity as head of technology investigations for the ACRID committee and does not represent the views of either Imperial College or Powerlase ltd.

The committee’s attention is drawn to the following quotations:

The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants. [1]

Article 1


“Mindful of the precautionary approach set forth in Principle 15 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, the objective of this Convention is to protect human health and the environment from persistent organic pollutants.”

Baseline Scenarios for the Clean Air for Europe (CAFE) Programme.

Final Report (2005) [2]

“New Studies show that exposure to small particles (below a diameter of 2.5mm, PM2.5) is associated with substantially increased mortality, especially from cardio-vascular and cardio-pulmonary diseases. Present levels of PM2.5 in Europe are now estimated to reduce the statistical life expectancy in European population by approximately nine months, comparable to the impacts of traffic accidents. Thus, these newly identified impacts of fine particles by far exceed those identified earlier for ozone.”

2.0 Context

This document looks at one aspect of  the Waste Strategy for England, namely the use of municipal solid waste incinerators for energy recovery. Further it suggests that alternative and better technological solutions are already available and that, at last, high quality monitoring technology is becoming available and in a sane world needs to be implemented. Further, the need for the management of waste will continue and represents a commercial opportunity for the UK, should it choose to develop new technological solutions for in-situ monitoring of waste processing and waste management methodologies. As things stand the provision of large scale waste treatment plants is by non UK corporations who have a vested interest in supplying their own (out dated) solutions, thereby driving the waste management agenda in a direction that is favourable to their own commercial needs.

3.0 Background

We cannot simply keep burying our own waste and hoping it will go away, nor can we sacrifice valuable resources bolstering up the immediacy of our convenience culture; new ways of being are required.  In the limit of this, there can no longer be any waste. From a philosophical stand point any waste mitigation strategy that actively prolongs the production of waste, by assuaging the public consciousness; “Look we are reclaiming the energy from your waste so that we can all collude in its further production;” is bankrupt and at best mitigating and disingenuous.

World wide there has been great effort exerted into looking at solutions, with research in a great many countries highly active; looking at ways of improving waste management, environmental and health impacts. Anyone who expresses an opinion that all the parameters of MSW-EfWI are known, is making an assertion that is not based in fact. Quite simply the data set on the emission characteristics, process development and ecological impact, is incomplete. Further, governments do not get together to draw up legislation, specifically global legislation, unless there is a need.

Lest we forget, legislation is drawn up not to provide a safe limit for pollution, rather to lessen the impact through legislative limitation [3]. It is not a guarantee of safety, whether of not people choose to “spin” that it is; is rather, a matter of business expediency. Historically, the United Kingdom has always dragged its feet in respect to the implementation of such legislation either for incineration [3] or landfill [4], favouring short term business profitability over responsible world citizenship. Nevertheless, EU legislation is legally binding on partner states and more is on its way [5]. Retrospective implementation in order to comply with incoming and stricter air quality standards will have financial implications for those selecting out-dated technological solutions for the purposes of short term political gain. 

MSW-EfWI, a now ageing technology, always produces a spectrum of organic chemicals that are not present in the waste that is their feedstock; in addition it produces fine particulate matter. Thus these are man made or anthropogenic sources, which add to the local and global ecosystems and, damage them. MSW incinerators generically have a chequered history.

4.0 Legislative and Inter-Governmental Documentation

There are both European Union [4] and UK governmental directives [6] to reduce the usage of land fill, these are to be enforced by the introduction of land fill taxes. It is safe to say therefore there is international consensus that landfill is a bad idea. Therefore any process that adds to a landfill burden is suspect. MSW-EfWI still needs landfill.

The UK is a signatory to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) essentially requiring it to cease production of these.

Because of the nature of the Chemistry of MSW-EfWI (discussed below) plants it is a simple fact that they produce poly-chlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and dibenzofurans (PCDD/Fs), poly-aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and various other volatile organic compounds (VOCs). A great many of these are known to have highly toxic effects, some of which are long term and hence difficult to detect. As long ago as 1995 the US agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) published a detailed toxicology [7] for PAHs and in 1998 for Dioxins [8].  These documents began to establish a toxicological framework for ongoing discussions in these areas.  For comparison purposes they established a series of toxic equivalencies (TEQs) based on 2,3,7,8-tetrachloro-p-dioxin which is the most widely studied congener. It is very easy to get caught up in the detail of looking at which compound has which TEQ and in doing so forgetting that one is talking about toxic equivalency, the language is explicit. This document [8] is the basis of many subsequent discussions and in the opinion of the author could benefit form revision and updating, it extrapolates from data and makes many generalisations the US Environment Protection Agency (EPA) agrees that it is based upon assumption and yet is has become “gospel”.

Incineration produces POPs.

Within the island context of the UK, the government has drawn up, through the Department for the Environment  Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) a waste management strategy document [9] in deed offering a position statement that incinerators are safe [10]. A close examination of this demonstrates that it glosses over the safety implications of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) incineration. Presumably these position statements are based on a health report by Enviros Consulting (a part of the Mc Alpine Group). It is not surprising that third parties question the impartiality of such a report, given the links to the construction industry. This extensive document [11] published in 2004 discusses many aspects and in places also notes that the quality of the available data set is poor. The Royal Society review of this document is not entirely complimentary.

The DEFRA air quality guidelines [12, 13] (more recently published July 2007) is in a number of ways in conflict with the prior waste management document. This document cross references the World Health Organisation Guidelines [14, 15] and refers to the European initiatives mentioned earlier. It extends discussions into the realms of the environmental impact of particulate emissions, acknowledging the enhanced mortality such emissions engender.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) establishes that particulate matter PM10s, PM2.5s and ultra-fines (cause disease and enhance early death, there is evidence of growth defects and reduced IQs) [14, 15].There is world wide research effort into the impact of PM2.5s covering chemical nature, source identification and distribution patterns of same. The ultra-fines contain particles that are nano-metre in scale. The whole field of nano-toxicology is emergent and under-developed [17, 18, 19] as such represents the unknown.

What is clear is that this is a matter of ongoing research, worldwide.

5.0 The availability of information and governmental strategy.

Since the advent of the World Wide Web, we live in an age where information is, in principle, more widely available.  As such governments and large corporations are ever more careful in what they publish. In effect this negates any real dialogue; DEFRA itself in its own strategy document outlines the need to “handle” public perceptions. Protest organisations, at least in Western countries are free to publish whatever they wish. This proliferation (or deliberate non-proliferation) of information has lead to a situation where there is an acceleration of bytes (some of them sound) about the “facts”, and where consciousness is manipulated to fulfil other objectives. Not all the information published on the web is well researched and factual.

There are even conferences aimed at overcoming the negative perceptions of Energy from Waste [16]. This, under the guise of true consultative approach seems a little out of place. In effect unless one has access to recent research articles via a university library the general public is left to rely upon information provided {research articles cost as much as £30 each} as and when the government chooses, a rather strange implementation of the nanny-state in overdrive.  Further the detailed technical papers published by governmental organisation are written in such a manner as to obfuscate and cause loss of “will to live” in the reader, more specifically the lay reader. Jargon is as ever the coat of the chameleon seeking to hide half truths.

6.0 What is MSW incineration and hence EfW(I)?

In their simplest form incinerators are large ovens where waste is burned in an oxygenated environment. The chemical reaction between waste and oxygen is exothermic (produces heat) that can be used to heat water to drive turbines.  The feedstock for such incinerators is very mixed (heterogeneous) in nature, with varying calorific value. The waste contains organic matter and what chemist terms organic chemicals. These organic (carbon based) materials when completely oxidised make CO2 and H2O, incomplete oxidation creates CO. Unfortunately the reaction chemistry is not quite that simple, in that as a product of combustion various ashes are produced.

These ashes still need landfill and because of the concentration of toxic materials that results from these processes this ash needs to be treated as hazardous waste, requiring separate landfill or further treatment. Incineration produces POPs that were simply not there in the first place. Amongst these POPs, the PCDD/Fs are known to be highly toxic acting inter alia as carcinogens (they cause cancer) [8] and even gene switches. Because they are large aromatic molecules they are not water soluble, they localise in fats or lipids. They are subject to bio-accumulation (they get more concentrated in living things) and bio-magnification (when animals eat others with high concentration their own chemical concentration goes up, this can include humans). They are chemically quite stable and long lived. Governmental doctrine assuages public opinion by presenting statistics comparing the very locally produced pollution to overall national averages, in so doing denying any possible affect of localised clustering.

The track record of incineration is poor, the large scale production of polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and polychlorinated dibenzo-furans (PCDD/Fs) was determined only in retrospect and reactor design has since improved to reduce flue gas emissions of same [20, 21, 22]. Some key factors have been identified and at certain temperatures the 300-450 °C these compounds are more easily made [23]. Very high temperatures are therefore needed to effectively reduce the content of these. They, POPs, are always produced. If process temperature is increased they are removed form the exhaust gases but concentrate in the resultant ashes. The presence of chlorine is needed [23] to make PCDDs, and all MSW has this and the content will depend upon the feedstock.

Because of new legislation emission limits on PM10s have been set and this has caused incinerator operators to put in place more rigorous filtering regimes. However this does not catch the PM2.5s and ultra-fines. A recent study [24] has shown that the particle size distribution depends on process temperature, with higher temperatures producing particles that range in size from a few nanometres to a few microns. The peaks in the particle distributions occur at ~40nm and ~2 microns. As a rule of thumb the smaller the particle the more likely it is that it is transported further and absorbed into our body.

These toxic chemicals and particles enter our body through three main pathways, we breathe them in, we eat or drink them and they are absorbed through our skin. The whole area of particulate emissions and their affects remains very much a hot topic [25-31], yet consensus remains that they cause morbidity and mortality.

7.0 Monitoring

The data set on true emission characteristics of MSW incinerators, Energy from Waste (EfW) incinerators being a sub set of these, are not readily available. In fact there is consensus that this is incomplete.  There has been progress in developing new on line monitoring capabilities [24, 32, 33, 34].  This is still research. In the absence of stack top monitoring and chemical assay of incinerator ashes, any quoted values are at best projections and at worst guesses. Surely, it is a simple requisite that such monitoring must be in place.

The quantification of human body burdens is limited in live beings and is only ever a snapshot at a given time, because living organisms absorb things and then after a time change them or pass them from the body.  Measurements of in vivo body burdens for humans is perhaps limited to blood sampling from live volunteers[35], the fat soluble PCDD/Fs/PAHs are found in assay, presumably from the lipids in cell membranes only. The author is not aware of any current methodology to measure particulate body burdens. Post mortem studies may yet provide an evidence base, by their very nature concentrations are static upon death and exposure histories can only (currently) be gained from indirect sources and via extrapolations.

Some indirect methods of monitoring are however proving helpful in clarifying long term exposure patterns. Researchers have recently looked at the possibility of micro-evolution due to toxic stress [36], bio-monitoring with lichens [37], genotoxicity with Tradescantia micronuclei [38] and uptake in peregrine falcon eggs [39]. Direct transferability of these to the human condition also remains somewhat of an extrapolation, though the long term natures of these bio-markers are proving insightful.

Governmental safety assurances are based on retrospective epidemiological studies from a number of localities for example [40-44] and are assumed to be directly and globally transferable.  Little acknowledgement is made of differing climatic conditions between sites and the absence of such studies in the UK, is very noteworthy.

Risk analysis[45,46] is based on average body exposures / loadings and putative emission characteristics quoted in comparison to mass burdens using the TEQ scale mentioned earlier and the whole  area is still generating research[45,46], whilst acknowledging uncertainty in the toxico-kinetic and toxico-dynamic models [47,48,49].What is safe to say is that the area is very much one of research and may lead to the development of a new area of human pathological endeavour in years to come, when the long term exposures effect in the population at large.

8.0 Technology Choice

Weber et al[50], discuss at length the concept of POP destruction technology in line with the intent of the Stockholm convention suggesting that PCB(Poly-chlorinated biphenyl) destruction facilities operating at 1100º C with residence times in excess of 2 seconds. Plasma gasification technologies operate in this domain rather than at the temperatures that synthesise POPs. They are used to treat POP rich waste from other sources.  Like all developing technologies there is a time lag between conception and inception; see for example [51, 52]

In a fast changing world it is interesting that there is so much emphasis(in the UK) on incineration, particularly so when facilities to produces fuel gases from waste are already operational around the world, for example the plasma gasification plant at Utashinai in Japan.  Secondary gas combustion is much easier to control (being of a homogeneous nature) and the high temperature processes do not create POPs; in fact such methods are used to treat incinerator waste prior to landfill. The technology cycle has now advanced. Perhaps it is time for the UK to look to the USA and Japan for guidance on how to handle waste for the future.  Arguments can be made about the volume handling of such gasification plants in comparison to MSW-EfWI, however might it not also reduce the transport burden if smaller more local facilities were built to handle local waste?

There is much development in the area of gasification (including plasmas) as evidenced by a recent conference [53], perhaps agreeing with the title of the document that incinerators are… Yesterday’s Solution. 

 Appendix 1 References

















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