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Erik is a public policy professional and owner of the online training course in democracy and civic action: www.3ptraining.com.au The Blog …explores ways to create a sustainable and just community. Explores how that community can be best protected at all levels including social policy/economics/ military. The Book Erik’s autobiography is a humorous read about serious things. It concerns living in the bush, wilderness, home education, spirituality, and activism. Finding Home is available from Amazon, Barnes&Noble and all good e-book sellers.

Thursday, 10 September 2020

Simple Keys to Understand a Complex World

True, the world can be a confusing place. No wonder we search for simple models, maps of meaning, hueristics, to interpret the chaos around us. Why, for example, does everyone want to live in the USA yet there have been around 100 nights of arson, looting and riots in 48 of their 50 major cities? So I decided to put together a simple model:

[Group A]:

The source of our troubles is Group B.

Society cannot advance until they (Group B) are removed.

First we will label and vilify them.

Then we will confiscate their property.

Then we will drive them out.

To make that happen we will send our violent thugs into the street to intimidate those who oppose us. Once in power we will censor and remove all contrary narratives, books, and thinkers not aligned with us.

To understand the Medieval inquisition insert: ‘Roman Catholic Church’ for [Group A] and ‘witches, heretics and homosexuals’ for [Group B].

To understand the events of 1930ish – 1939 insert ‘Hitler’ for [Group A] and ‘Bolsheviks and Jews’ for [Group B].

To understand current events insert: ‘Marxist Left/Antifa/BLM/4th Wave Fem/LGBTQ+/Democrats’ for [Group A] then substitute: ‘White people, Conservatives, Christians, Republicans, normal people generally’ for [Group B].

Wednesday, 26 August 2020

Christchurch Mosque Shooting - moral comparisons and why we shouldn't censor


 

In sentencing Tarrant for the Christchurch Mosque massacre Justice Mander said:

"You slaughtered unarmed and defenceless people,"

"You maimed wounded and crippled many others, your victims included the young and the old, men women and children.

"Your actions were inhumane."

Hhmm, that’s interesting. Let’s consider for a moment some context…all the way back to 1991 and Gulf War 1. Back then US President and former CIA chief George Bush hired a PR firm to concoct a story about babies being pulled from incubators in order to get Congressional approval for a war of aggression. The mainstream media repeated these false claims uncritically and beat the war drums. Fast forward to Gulf War 2 and we saw another round of false claims repeated uncritically by the mainstream media about weapons of mass destruction. Those two wars and sanctions killed circa three million Muslims, nearly all civilians and most of them women and children. Actually the war never stopped because US forces are still being attacked in Iraq. Right now the genocidal US sponsored war in Yemen has killed perhaps a million Muslims so far, mostly children and mostly by starvation. Iran would be suffering the same treatment were it not for its long range missile deterrent. So we are up to four million of Abraham’s descendants murdered so far, or around 2/3 the number of Jews who by official estimates died in the holocaust.

Tarrant, believing in his own mind that he was defending his community from a foreign invading force, shot 60ish people in a Mosque.

OK, so the current moral schema for killing Muslims seems to be:

It is OK to slaughter Muslims in their countries if they nationalise their oil, refuse to sell it in US dollars, get in the way of Israeli expansion, or have an independent foreign policy.

However, if they come over here and rape local women, traffic children, take over entire suburbs, burn down churches, impose Sharia law, commit frequent acts of terrorism, corrupt our politics, reject democracy, and preach the overthrow of Western civilisation, we have to accept that as part of diversity.

A man like Tarrant (lots of testosterone no brains) could be forgiven for being confused.

If the 20th Century teaches us anything at all it is that government censorship/control of the narrative is far far more deadly than the rantings or actions of private citizens. How unfortunate then, that Tarrant’s manifesto was quickly pulled off the net and any meaningful discussion of his grievances shut down. Since his grievances are real and widely shared that approach will only encourage further violence. Better to have it out in the open. So here a securelink to his manifesto:


OK so I have probably just committed a felony in New Zealand, but that is a reflection on New Zealand not on me. Moving on….

Tarrant states in his manifesto that one reason for his actions was revenge for the killing of a disabled girl by a Muslim terrorist (this actually took place) together with a long list of grievances from Islam’s 1000 year military campaign against Europe including the kidnapping and enslavement by Arabs of white children (cf the barbary slave trade).
His other key claim is that liberal left governments in the West are following a policy of ‘replacement’ through encouraging birth rates below replacement among white people, together with mass immigration from the third world, and particularly from Muslim lands.


Is he right?

But wasn't it a terrible hate crime? Yes of course. So was the bombing of Dresden by allied forces in WWII. But it was also a love crime, a crime committed for love of ethnos and terros.
Virtue signalling is easy and cowardly. Actually working through the issues is hard, particularly when doing so can lose you your job and land you in jail. But that is what we have to do now if we really care.

NB: The study was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Wednesday, 12 August 2020

August COVID Report




Original Source: https://swprs.org/



Translated by Southfront: https://southfront.org/covid-19-facts-august-updates/



Banned by Facebook



Re-produced on my blog here:


Note: Southfront provided extensive links to support all statements in this post, and made extensive use of charts. I have not copied these over at this time. Please refer to links above.





The world continues to live in the conditions of the permanent media hysteria over the COVID-19 outbreak, with some sources even suggesting that a second wave of the spread of coronavirus is expected in the autumn. At the same time, more and more facts appear suggesting that the media hysteria over the current situation is no based on facts or even artificially created. While the coronavirus is an important factor influencing the situation around the world, the threat of the outbreak seems to be significantly overestimated. The July 2020 report can be found here. The June 2020 report can be found here.



Overview
According to the latest immunological studies, the overall lethality of Covid-19 (IFR) is about 0.1% to 0.3% and thus in the range of a severe influenza (flu).


For people at high risk or high exposure (including health care workers), early or prophylactic treatment is essential to prevent progression of the disease.


In countries like the US, the UK, and also Sweden (without a lockdown), overall mortality since the beginning of the year is in the range of a strong influenza season; in countries like Germany and Switzerland, overall mortality so far is in the range of a mild influenza season.


In most places, the risk of death for the general population of school and working age is in the range of a daily car ride to work. The risk was initially overestimated because many people with only mild or no symptoms were not taken into account.


Up to 80% of all test-positive persons remain symptom-free. Even among 70-79 year olds, about 60% remain symptom-free. About 95% of all people develop at most moderate symptoms.


Up to 60% of all persons may already have a certain cellular background immunity to the new coronavirus due to contact with previous coronaviruses (i.e. cold viruses). The initial assumption that there was no immunity against the new coronavirus was not correct.


The median age of the deceased in most countries (including Italy) is over 80 years (e.g. 86 years in Sweden) and only about 4% of the deceased had no serious preconditions. The age and risk profile of deaths thus essentially corresponds to normal mortality.


In many countries, up to two thirds of all extra deaths occurred in nursing homes, which do not benefit from a general lockdown. Moreover, in many cases it is not clear whether these people really died from Covid-19 or from weeks of extreme stress and isolation.


Up to 30% of all additional deaths may have been caused not by Covid-19, but by the effects of the lockdown, panic and fear. For example, the treatment of heart attacks and strokes decreased by up to 60% because many patients no longer dared to go to hospital.


Even in so-called “Covid-19 deaths” it is often not clear whether they died from or with coronavirus (i.e. from underlying diseases) or if they were counted as “presumed cases” and not tested at all. However, official figures usually do not reflect this distinction.


Many media reports of young and healthy people dying from Covid-19 turned out to be false: many of these young people either did not die from Covid-19, they had already been seriously ill (e.g. from undiagnosed leukaemia), or they were in fact 109 instead of 9 years old. The claimed increase in Kawasaki disease in children also turned out to be exaggerated.


Most Covid-19 symptoms can also be caused by severe influenza (including pneumonia, thrombosis and the temporary loss of the sense of smell), but with severe Covid-19 these symptoms are indeed more frequent and more pronounced.


Strong increases in regional mortality can occur if there is a collapse in the care of the elderly and sick as a result of infection or panic, or if there are additional risk factors such as severe air pollution. Questionable regulations for dealing with the deceased sometimes led to additional bottlenecks in funeral or cremation services.


In countries such as Italy and Spain, and to some extent the UK and the US, hospital overloads due to strong flu waves are not unusual. Moreover, this year up to 15% of health care workers were put into quarantine, even if they developed no symptoms.


The often shown exponential curves of “corona cases” are misleading, as the number of tests also increased exponentially. In most countries, the ratio of positive tests to tests overall (i.e. the positivity rate) remained constant at 5% to 20% or increased only slightly. In many countries, the peak of the spread was already reached well before the lockdown.


Countries without lockdowns, such as Japan, South Korea, Belarus and Sweden, have not experienced a more negative course of events than many other countries. Sweden was even praised by the WHO and now benefits from higher immunity compared to lockdown countries. 75% of Swedish deaths happened in nursing facilities that weren’t protected fast enough.


The fear of a shortage of ventilators was unjustified. According to lung specialists, the invasive ventilation (intubation) of Covid-19 patients, which is partly done out of fear of spreading the virus, is in fact often counterproductive and damaging to the lungs.


Various studies have shown that the main routes of transmission of the virus are neither long-range aerosols (i.e. tiny particles floating in the air) nor smear infections (i.e. on surfaces), but direct contact and droplets produced when talking or coughing. However, in some circumstances, indoor aerosol transmission appears to be possible.


There is still little to no scientific evidence for the effectiveness of cloth face masks in healthy and asymptomatic individuals. Experts warn that such masks may interfere with normal breathing and may become “germ carriers” if used repeatedly.


Many clinics in Europe and the US remained strongly underutilized or almost empty during lockdowns and in some cases had to send staff home. Millions of surgeries and therapies were cancelled, including many cancer screenings and organ transplants.
Several media were caught trying to dramatize the situation in hospitals, sometimes even with manipulative images and videos. In general, the unprofessional reporting of many media maximized fear and panic in the population.


The virus test kits used internationally are prone to errors and can produce false positive and false negative results. Moreover, the official virus test was not clinically validated due to time pressure and may sometimes react positive to other common coronaviruses.
Numerous internationally renowned experts in the fields of virology, immunology and epidemiology consider the measures taken to be counterproductive and recommend rapid natural immunization of the general population and protection of risk groups.


At no time was there a medical reason for the closure of schools, as the risk of disease and transmission in children is extremely low. There is also no medical reason for small classes, masks or ‘social distancing’ rules in schools.


Several medical experts described express coronavirus vaccines as unnecessary or even dangerous. Indeed, the vaccine against the so-called swine flu of 2009, for example, led to cases of severe neurological damage and lawsuits in the millions. In the testing of new coronavirus vaccines, too, serious complications and failures have already been reported.


A global respiratory disease pandemic can indeed extend over several seasons, but many studies of a “second wave” are based on very unrealistic assumptions, such as a constant risk of illness and death across all age groups.


In several places, nurses described an oftentimes fatal medical mis¬manage¬ment of Covid patients due to questionable financial incentives and inappropriate medical protocols.


The number of people suffering from unemployment, depression and domestic violence as a result of the measures has reached historic record levels. Several experts predict that the measures will claim far more lives than the virus itself. According to the UN 1.6 billion people around the world are at immediate risk of losing their livelihood.


NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden warned that the “corona crisis” may be used for the permanent expansion of global surveillance. In several parts of the world, the population is being monitored by drones and facing serious police overreach during lockdowns.


A 2019 WHO study on measures against pandemic influenza found that from a medical perspective, “contact tracing” is “not recommended in any circumstances”. Nevertheless, contact tracing apps have already become partially mandatory in several countries. In some countries, such “contact tracing” is carried out directly by the secret service.


Overview diagrams

Global Covid mortality compared to earlier pandemics

Worlwide “cases” versus deaths

Sweden: Predicted deaths vs. reality

Corona deaths: Sweden vs. New York

Corona deaths: Sweden vs. England

Sweden: All-cause mortality (Nov. to May) since 1990

US: Daily Covid deaths

US overall mortality 2020 vs. 2018

US: Age-adjusted death rate since 1900 (CDC)

US: Percentage of care home deaths

Percentage of care home deaths

US recessions in comparison

UK: Mortality 2020 vs. 2000

UK: Mortality 2020 (shifted) vs. 1999 and 2000

Switzerland: Mortality vs. expected value (2010-2020)

Germany: Mortality (2017 to 2020)



August 2020
A. General part
Pre-existing immunity against the new coronavirus
At the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, it was assumed that no immunity against the new coronavirus existed in the population. This was one of the main reasons behind the initial strategy of “flattening the curve” by introducing stay-at-home orders.


From March and April onwards, however, the first studies showed that a considerable part of the population already had a certain immunity to the new virus, acquired through contact with earlier coronaviruses (common cold viruses).


Further important studies on this topic were published in July:


A new study from Germany came to the conclusion that up to 81% of people who have not yet had contact with the new coronavirus already have cross-reactive T-cells and thus a certain background immunity. This confirms earlier studies on T-cell immunity.


In addition, a British study found that up to 60% of children and adolescents and about 6% of adults already have cross-reactive antibodies against the new coronavirus, which were created by contact with previous coronaviruses. This is probably another important aspect in explaining the very low rate of disease in children and adolescents.


In the case of Singapore, a study published in the scientific journal Nature concluded that people who contracted SARS-1 in 2002/2003 still had T-cells that were reactive against the new SARS-2 coronavirus 17 years later. In addition, the researchers found cross-reactive T-cells, which were produced by contact with other, partly unknown coronaviruses, in about half of the people who had neither contracted SARS-1 nor SARS-2. The researchers suspect that the different distribution of such coronaviruses and T-cells may help explain why some countries are less affected than others by the new corona virus, regardless of the political and medical measures taken.


Analysts have previously pointed out that many Pacific countries, and especially China’s neighbouring countries, have so far had very low Covid death rates, regardless of their population structure (young or old) and the measures taken (with or without lockdown, mass tests, masks, etc.). A possible explanation for this could be the spread of earlier coronaviruses.


Harvard immunologist Michael Mina explained that the “drop in antibody concentration” after Covid disease, dramatized by some media, was “perfectly normal” and “textbook”. The body ensures long-term immunity through T-cells and memory cells in the bone marrow, which can quickly produce new antibodies when needed.


See also: Immunological studies on the new coronavirus


Other medical updates
Wuhan: A Harvard modelling study in the scientific journal Nature came to the conclusion that even in the Covid epicentre Wuhan, up to 87% of the infections went unnoticed, i.e. remained without symptoms or mild. This means that the Covid19 lethality (IFR) in Wuhan may also fall to about 0.1% or below. The Nature study confirms an earlier Japanese study in the journal BMC Medicine, which calculated an IFR of 0.12% for Wuhan already back in March.


However, Chinese authorities couldn’t yet know this comparatively low lethality in January and February and therefore built additional clinics at short notice, many of which eventually remained mostly unused. Only the systematic test results from South Korea and the cruise ship Diamond Princess showed that the lethality of the new corona virus in the general population is indeed lower than initially feared.


Italy: The Italian health authority ISS published a new analysis of the cause of death in about 5000 corona patients. According to this analysis, Covid was the direct cause of death in 89% of the cases. In 11%, other diseases such as heart problems, cancer or dementia were the primary cause of death. Covid was the sole cause of death in 28% of cases. It is also known that in about 4% of the deaths, no medical preconditions were present.


Covid lethality: In May, the US health authority CDC published a cautious “best estimate” of covid lethality (IFR) of 0.26% (assuming 35% asymptomatic infections). In July, a new IFR of 0.65% was published. However, this new value is not based on own calculations or new studies, but on a meta-study in which the existing literature was simply searched for all previous IFR values.


Thus, the meta-study mainly consists of previous modelling studies as well as “raw IFR values”, which are much too high compared to the actual, population-based IFR values from antibody studies. With few exceptions, the real IFR values are between 0.1% and 0.4%, and when mucosal and cellular immunity are taken into account, they are approximately 0.1% or less.


However, the virus has spread much faster than anticipated, thus causing a temporarily high death rate in some places, especially if nursing homes and hospitals got affected.


Non-infectious virus fragments: The U.S. CDC points out that in most Covid patients, infectious virus particles are no longer detectable ten to fifteen days after the first symptoms. However, non-infectious virus fragments (RNA) can still be found up to three months after the first symptoms. This is likely to be a significant problem with regard to PCR tests, as many people who have long since ceased to be infectious still test positive, triggering far-reaching tracing and quarantine false-alarms.
Deaths with or by or without coronavirus: In England and some other countries it has been reported that all deceased persons who tested positive for the new coronavirus since the beginning of the year were counted as Covid deaths – regardless of the time of the test, a possible recovery, and the actual cause of death. In the US state of Colorado, it was found that about 10% of deaths were with but not from coronavirus. In other US states, further cases of “corona deaths” became known that in reality were test-positive homicide victims and motorcycle accidents.


Children and schools
It has been known since March that the risk of disease and transmission in children is minimal in the case of Covid19. The main reason for this is probably a pre-existing immunity due to frequent contact with previous coronaviruses (i.e. cold viruses). There was and is therefore no medical reason for the closure of primary schools, kindergartens and day-care centres and for special protective measures in schools.


In the meantime, further studies on this issue have been published:
The British epidemiologist Professor Mark Woolhouse stated that there is not a single confirmed case of infection of a teacher by a pupil worldwide.


Tracing pioneer Iceland found “not a single case where a child under 10 infected their parents.”
US CDC director Robert Redfield explained that additional deaths from suicides and drug overdoses by adolescents have been “far greater” than Covid deaths in recent months.


A joint report from Sweden (without primary school closure) and Finland (with primary school closure) concluded that there was no difference in infection rates among children in the two countries.


In the USA, three times more children up to 14 years of age have died of influenza than of Covid-19 (101 versus 31) since the beginning of the year, according to the CDC.
A Canadian study found that most of the children with “Kawasaki-like” inflammatory symptoms had no corona infection at all. The disease in children is “very, very rare”, the researchers said.
A German study came to the conclusion that children act epidemiologically “like brake blocks” and slow down the spread of the new corona virus.


Critical expert opinions
The German virologist Hendrik Streeck advocates a pragmatic approach to the new coronavirus and targeted measures for people at high risk. According to Streeck, the long-term suppression of the virus and the hope for a possible vaccine are not sensible strategies.


Professor Carl Heneghan, Director of the Oxford Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, explains in an interview that there is still no evidence for the effectiveness of masks in the general population. A permanent suppression strategy like the one in New Zealand is not sensible and causes high damage in the long term. The lethality (IFR) of Covid-19 is about 0.1% to 0.3% and is thus comparable to previous flu epidemics and pandemics.


The Swedish chief epidemiologist Anders Tegnell explains in an interview that eradication of the virus is not an option. In Sweden, the infections slowed down considerably even without a lockdown, and daily deaths now are close to zero. The evidence for the benefit of masks is still “very weak” and they might even be counterproductive. An introduction of masks at this point in time would make no sense. The lethality of Covid-19 is between 0.1% and 0.5% and does not “radically differ” from influenza.


The epidemiologist and systems biologist Professor Francois Balloux, Director of the British UCL Genetics Institute, explains in an article that Covid-19 is comparable to a pandemic (but not seasonal) influenza. The main difference is the age-risk distribution: while Covid-19 is mainly dangerous for older people, a pandemic influenza is also life-threatening for younger people and children. Professor Balloux points out that the “Russian influenza pandemic” of 1889 may have been triggered by the coronavirus OC-43, which is now considered one of the four typical cold viruses.


The Swiss chief physician for infectiology, Dr. Pietro Vernazza, pleads for a “controlled natural immunization” of society as an alternative to the “eradication strategy”. In most cases, Covid-19 is mild and the actual mortality rate is about 0.1%, which is in the range of a severe influenza. The Swedes “did nothing wrong” with their strategy, according to Vernazza.


The former director of the Institute of Immunology at the University of Bern, Professor Beda Stadler, also pleads for a controlled spread of the virus. The danger of the virus had been overestimated due to the false assumption of a lack of immunity. Professor Stadler is critical of compulsory masks and mass tests. Stadler, who is now emeritus, explains that many younger immunologists no longer dare to speak out publicly on the subject due to the extreme polarisation of the debate by politics and the media.


On the other hand, Professor Karin Mölling, the former head of the Department of Virology at the University of Zurich and one of the earliest critical voices on corona measures, has now partly changed her opinion: Due to the sometimes serious lung damage, the virus should not be underestimated and containment measures are important.


The clinical picture of Covid-19
The lower-than-expected lethality of Covid-19 should not hide the fact that the new coronavirus, due to its efficient use of the human ACE2 cell receptor, in some cases can lead to severe disease with complications in the lung, the vascular and nervous systems and other organs, some of which can persist for months.


While it is true that most of these symptoms can also occur in severe influenza (including thrombosis, heart muscle inflammation, and the temporary loss of the sense of smell), they are indeed more frequent and more pronounced in the novel Covid-19 disease.


In addition, even apparently “mild” disease (without hospitalization) can in some cases lead to protracted complications with breathing problems, fatigue or other symptoms. The US CDC came to the conclusion that after one month, about one third of the “mild” cases still showed such symptoms. Even in the 18 to 34-year-olds without preconditions, about 20% still had after-effects.


On the positive side, researchers at a German clinic recently reported good chances of recovery: “We can see that the lungs can heal well, even in patients who have had three weeks of intensive care”. After three months, 20% of the intensive care patients had healthy lungs again, and in the remaining patients a clear regeneration was visible. Nevertheless, the primary goal should be to avoid a progression of the disease.


On the treatment of Covid-19
Note: Patients are asked to consult a doctor.
Many countries adopted the strategy of imposing a lockdown during or after a wave of infection, thereby locking already infected high-risk individuals in their homes without treatment until they developed severe breathing problems and needed intensive care treatment immediately. Even today, test-positive high-risk persons are often simply quarantined without treatment.


This is not an ideal approach. Numerous studies and doctors’ reports have now shown that for people at high risk or with high exposure, early treatment immediately on onset of the first typical symptoms is crucial to avoid disease progression and hospitalization.


Studies and medical reports from various countries in Asia and the West recommend a combination protocol of zinc (which inhibits the RNA replication of coronaviruses), the antimalarial agent HCQ (which promotes the cellular uptake of zinc and has other anti-viral properties), and, if necessary, an antibiotic (to prevent bacterial superinfections) and a blood thinner (to prevent thrombosis and lung embolism).


Yale professor and physician Harvey A. Risch argues in a recent commentary that early treatment with HCQ and zinc as well as an antibiotic has proven to be “highly effective”. In the USA alone, according to Professor Risch, 70,000 to 100,000 deaths could have been prevented by the systematic use of HCQ. Risch is therefore calling for an immediate and prescription-free release of this medication, as is already the case in many other countries.


Meanwhile, a bizarre battle has broken out in western industrialised countries over the use of low-cost HCQ, which has been used successfully and safely for decades in the prevention and treatment of malaria and several other diseases. This battle appears to be driven in part by political and commercial interests and may produce a great many casualties.


Opponents of HCQ went as far as publishing falsified studies and using lethal doses during trials, as Dr. James Todaro explains, who uncovered one of these frauds that fooled top science journals, the WHO and health experts worldwide.


Many of these anti-HCQ activities are connected to pharmaceutical company Gilead, which wants to sell a drug that is over a hundred times more expensive (Remdesivir), but which is only used on intensive care patients and has some severe side effects.


In addition, a potentially effective early treatment stands in the way of the billion-dollar global vaccination strategy being pursued by numerous governments, pharmaceutical companies and vaccine investor Bill Gates. Directors of vaccine companies have already made about one billion dollars with stock and option gains alone, even without yet delivering a vaccine.


The hope for a safe and effective vaccine, however, remains questionable: Contrary to the positive media presentation, in the second test round of the RNA vaccine from the US company Moderna, 80% of the volunteers in the medium and high-dose groups (average age 33 years and healthy) reacted with moderate to severe side effects.


https://videos.files.wordpress.com/hXvThmiq/bill-gates-vaccines_dvd.mp4


The effectiveness of face masks
Various countries are discussing or have already introduced mandatory face masks in the general population. In the updates of June and July, however, it was shown that the evidence for the effectiveness of cloth masks in the general population is still rather weak, contrary to what is reported in many media.


In previous influenza pandemics, cloth masks had no influence on the occurrence of infection. Despite masks, Japan had its last flu epidemic with more than five million diseased just one year ago, in January and February 2019. Even the outbreak of the Covid pandemic in Wuhan could not be stopped by the widespread use of masks there.


Due to the significantly lower hospitalisation and mortality rates of Covid-19 (compared to the original assumptions), masks are not necessarily required to “flatten the curve”. Masking only makes sense – if at all – in the context of a vaccination strategy that aims to suppress the virus until a vaccine is available.


BBC medical correspondent Deborah Cohen explained in mid-July that the partial update of the WHO recommendation on masks was due not to new evidence but “political lobbying”: “We had been told by various sources WHO committee reviewing the evidence had not backed masks but they recommended them due to political lobbying. This point was put to WHO who did not deny.”
The “political lobbying” is likely referring to the group “Masks for All”, which was founded by a “Young Leader” of the Davos forum and which is lobbying authorities and governments for a worldwide face mask obligation.


In connection with masks, the question also arises as to whether the new coronavirus can be transmitted over large areas by aerosols. According to experts, true aerosol transmission even outdoors still seems unlikely – otherwise the spread of the virus would have a different dynamic and, contrary to reality, would often be untraceable.


However, an aerosol-like transmission indoors – especially with closed air circulation by fans or during intensive activities such as singing and dancing – seems increasingly probable or certain due to various incidents.


In the case of aerosol transmission, however, cloth masks are likely to offer even less protection than against droplets due to their pore size and inaccurate fit. This was demonstrated, for example, by the corona outbreak at the German meat processor Toennies, which occurred at an air-conditioned workplace over a distance of up to eight metres despite the requirement to wear masks.


On the question of “asymptomatic transmission”, it can currently be said that true asymptomatic transmission still seems to be rare (which may explain the very low transmission rate in children), whereas pre-symptomatic transmission in the days before the first symptoms appear (with already high virus load) is very likely and may explain the rapid spread of the virus.


Pre-symptomatic transmission is also known from influenza, but the incubation period of influenza is much shorter, so this may be somewhat less relevant.


The following expert reviews and articles critically examine the effectiveness of cloth masks in the general population:


Profs. Tom Jefferson and Carl Heneghan (Oxford): Masking lack of evidence with politics
Dr. Lisa Brosseau and Dr. Margaret Sietsema, Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, University of Minnesota: Masks-for-all for COVID-19 not based on sound data.


Professor Michael T. Osterholm, Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, University of Minnesota: My views on cloth face coverings for the public for preventing COVID-19


Naoya Kon: Cloth face masks offer zero shield against virus, a study shows


Eliza McGraw: Everyone wore masks during the 1918 flu pandemic. They were useless.


The Swedish chief epidemiologist Anders Tegnell recently stated that the introduction of masks at this point in time, and even in public transport, would be “pointless” in view of the rapidly decreasing number of cases in Sweden. The Dutch government has stated that it will not in general recommend masks because the scientific evidence for their effectiveness is weak.


On the other hand, face masks are not harmless, as the following evidence shows:
The WHO warns of various “side effects” such as difficulty breathing and skin rashes.
Tests conducted by the University Hospital of Leipzig have shown that face masks significantly reduce the resilience and performance of healthy persons.


A German psychological study with about 1000 participants found “severe psychosocial consequences” due to the introduction of mandatory face masks in Germany.


The Hamburg Environmental Institute warned against the inhalation of chlorine compounds in polyester masks as well as problems in connection with disposal.


The European rapid alert system RAPEX has already recalled 70 mask models because they did not meet EU quality standards and could lead to “serious risks”.


In China, two boys who had to wear a mask during sports classes fainted and died.
In the US, a car driver wearing an N95 (FFP2) mask fainted and crashed into a pole.


Conclusion: It is still possible that cloth masks can slow down the rate of infection in the general population, but the evidence for this is currently limited and the potential benefits are mainly relevant in the context of a long-term and still uncertain vaccination strategy.


Read more: Are face masks effective? The evidence.


Is Covid-19 a pure “test epidemic”? Certainly not.
Some particularly skeptical observers still seem to perceive Covid-19 mainly or solely as a “test epidemic”. However, this position has been untenable for months already.


The best known “test epidemic” is the so-called swine flu of 2009/2010, a rather mild influenza virus that only caused worldwide anxiety due to mass testing and media panic. A commission of the Council of Europe later called the swine flu a “fake pandemic” and a “big pharma fraud”.
What was noteworthy at the time was that a few months earlier, the WHO changed its pandemic guidelines and removed the criterion of increased lethality. In addition, pharmaceutical companies signed secret contracts worth billions with governments for a vaccine that later led to sometimes serious neurological damage and had to be disposed of for the most part. Finally, researchers discovered that the swine flu virus itself probably originated from vaccine research and was released through a leak (or worse).


On the other hand, due to its special characteristics – in particular the very efficient use of the ACE2 cell receptor – the new coronavirus is a dangerous and easily transmissible SARS virus which can cause severe damage to the lungs, blood vessels and other organs. The good fortune is that many people already have a certain immunity to the new virus or at least are able to neutralize it on the mucosal membrane.


Covid-19 is therefore a real and serious pandemic and comparable to the (still stronger) flu pandemics of 1957/58 (Asian flu) and 1968 to 1970 (Hong Kong flu). The comparison with the swine flu of 2009 is only possible because the deaths caused by swine flu were greatly exaggerated.
(On the other hand, it should be remembered that during the 1968/1970 flu pandemic – or rather in the summer between the two main waves – the famous Woodstock festival was held and social life mostly went on as usual).


However, it can be argued that the real Covid19 pandemic has been amplified by a “test pandemic” due to mass testing in the general population, causing additional panic and high costs.
Stanford Professor Scott Atlas argued already in May that mass testing in the general population is of little use and that testing should instead be limited to vulnerable institutions such as nursing homes and hospitals (including for visitors).


Daily mass testing is also not effective because, according to antibody studies, the virus is already much more widespread than PCR tests show, anyway. Moreover, the tests are susceptible to false-positive (and false-negative) results and non-infectious virus fragments.
Countries such as Japan, Sweden and Belarus have shown that the pandemic can be controlled without a lockdown and without mass testing – and in the case of Sweden and Belarus also without masks – as long as the sensitive facilities are protected.


Conclusion: Covid-19 is a real and serious pandemic comparable to the (still stronger) influenza pandemics of 1957 and 1968, but in addition to the real Covid-19 pandemic, there is indeed a “test pandemic” that causes unnecessary panic and high costs.


Covid-19: real pandemic and test pandemic
The origin of the new coronavirus
The origin of the new SARS coronavirus remains unclear. However, researchers with access to Chinese documents were able to show in May that the closest related coronavirus was found in a mine in southwest China, where six miners contracted Covid-like pneumonia in 2012 and three of them died.


The miners’ illness was clinically virtually identical to today’s (severe) Covid-19, which is why some analysts have proposed to call the disease Covid-12 instead of Covid-19.
The Virological Institute in Wuhan received virus samples from the mine as well as from the tissue of the deceased miners in 2012 and 2013. It is conceivable that this virus escaped from the laboratory in autumn 2019.


In addition to the Chinese institute, however, the US health authority CDC and the US Department of Defense have also been shown to be working with SARS-like viruses from bats. The US NGO “Eco Health Alliance” cooperated on this issue with both the US Pentagon and the Virological Institute in Wuhan.


Direct transmission by an animal is also still conceivable, although previous candidates such as the well-known animal market in Wuhan or the Pangolin theory have been ruled out by experts in the meantime.


Read more: Origin of Covid-19 Virus: The Mojiang Miner Hypothesis


B. Countries and regions
USA
The USA is one of the countries most affected by the new coronavirus so far. This could have political and medical reasons.


Medically, there are many relevant pre-existing conditions in the US population, such as obesity, heart problems and diabetes. Air conditioning systems could promote aerosol-like transmission indoors. Politically, there have been serious mistakes in dealing with nursing homes, misplaced incentives in the treatment of patients, and problematic back-and-forth with lockdowns.
The US already has over 150,000 corona deaths, putting it in the range of a pandemic influenza, comparable to the 1957 and 1968 pandemics.


45% of corona deaths occurred in nursing homes. Over 50% of all deaths occurred in the six states that actively placed Covid patients in nursing homes.


For people of school and work age (up to 65), corona mortality is comparable to mortality from other pneumonia diseases (e.g. influenza), according to the CDC. For children and adolescents, Covid is three times less dangerous than influenza.


A nationwide antibody study showed that the new coronavirus is 6 to 24 times more widespread than assumed on the basis of PCR tests, depending on the region. However, the antibody levels are still in the single-digit percentage range in most regions, indicating that exposure to the coronavirus is less much less than 50% in many places.


While the number of daily positive tests reached a peak in mid-July due to the high number of tests, the number of daily deaths was only half as high as in April, although recently with a slight upward trend again (see graph below).


In Florida there were reports of at times allegedly very high positivity rates. However, an analysis showed that various laboratories only reported the number of positive tests and thus an apparent positivity rate of 100%. The actual positivity rate in Florida was mostly in the single-digit percentage range. In terms of deaths per capita, Florida remains in the lower midfield compared to the other states.


The median age of Covid deaths in the USA is 78.5 years. This is higher than the median age of “other deaths”, but lower than the median age of Covid deaths in Europe (80 to 86).
Yale professor and epidemiologist Harvey A. Risch recently called for immediate over-the-counter availability of HCQ for the early treatment of Covid disease.


A group of doctors calling itself “America’s Frontline Doctors” held a press conference with the same goal of making HCQ available. The video of the press conference was seen by 20 million people within a day before it was deleted by Facebook & Co. as “misinformation”.



US: Age-adjusted death rate since 1900 (CDC)

US: Daily Covid deaths

Covid deaths: New York vs. Florida (Paul Yowell)

US: Percentage of care home deaths



Great Britain
In England and Wales there have been about 50,000 corona deaths so far. The overall mortality rate is thus still about 10,000 deaths below the strong flu epidemic of 1999/2000.
There has been no excess mortality among those under 45 years of age compared to the last five years.


The cumulative corona deaths since March correspond almost exactly to the cumulative influenza and pneumonia deaths since the start of the winter season in December 2019.
Since mid-June, England and Wales have been in relative under-mortality and daily corona deaths have been below daily influenza and pneumonia deaths since then.


By mid-April, 45% of NHS nursing staff had already been infected with corona. A significant proportion of patients may have been infected with corona in hospital. Corona patients were also transferred to nursing homes in England, which led to additional deaths.


England: Deaths in 2020 versus 2000 (InProportion)


France
France was relatively hard hit by the corona pandemic and registered about 30,000 corona deaths by the end of May according to the health authority SPF. About 50% of these deaths occurred in nursing homes, the average age of the deaths is 81.3 years. The median age of intensive care patients was about 67 years.


The region around Paris, eastern France and northern France were particularly hard hit, while large parts of western France and southwestern France were hardly affected at all (so far).


So although only part of France was affected by Covid, the cumulative excess mortality since the beginning of the year (compared to the baseline) is about 50% higher than during the seasonal flu waves of the past five years. In Greater Paris, the excess mortality rate is even around 500% or 10,000 people higher than in previous years (see graphs below).


Covid deaths accounted for around 16% of all deaths nationwide, but in Greater Paris, the figure was almost 40% of all deaths from early March to late May. The weekly peak mortality due to Covid-19 is comparable to the record hot summer of 2003 (see graph below).


Didier Raoult, a well-known professor of medicine and HCQ pioneer from Marseille, criticized the lack of early treatment and the ban on HCQ at a parliamentary hearing at the end of June. Until 2019, HCQ was available in France without prescription. At the beginning of the pandemic, however, its use was restricted to clinics and eventually banned altogether. The reason for the ban was the falsified Lancet study from the end of May (which was later retracted).


In his clinic, Prof. Raoult had been able to reduce the case fatality rate to a very low 0.9% by early treatment with HCQ, according to a published retrospective analysis.

France: Excess mortality 2015-2020

France: Excess mortality in Paris Region (IDF) and Eastern France, 2015-2020

France: Weekly mortality since 2003

France: Regional excess mortality, March to May 2020
Charts and report: Santé Public France


Germany
Germany counts only about 9000 corona deaths and has not experienced any significant excess mortality (in population-adjusted terms there was even a slight undermortality).


At the end of June, however, only 1.3% of blood donors had IgG antibodies against the new coronavirus. This value is very low. Even if non-blood donors (including children and sick persons), T-cells and mucosal (IgA) immunity are taken into account, exposure of the population to the virus is hardly more than 10% to 15%.


This means that the new coronavirus has not yet spread widely in Germany. The measures or – more likely – the anticipation of the measures by the population therefore seem to have been “successful” in this sense (see graph below).


On the other hand, this means that epidemiologically, Germany is essentially still where it was in April and that the risk of a new and stronger increase in infections and disease is indeed real. The comparison with France shows what this can entail.


The German government currently seems to be following a suppression and vaccination strategy. This strategy is socially and economically costly and its success remains uncertain. As an alternative or addition, an early treatment concept should be examined.


The political corona situation in Germany remains tense. Repeatedly, sanctions have been imposed on doctors, professors, lawyers and civil servants who are critical of corona, and in some cases serious attacks occurred against skeptical journalists and activists.


Since June, an extra-parliamentary committee of inquiry consisting of lawyers and medical experts has been dealing with the German Corona government policy. It should not be forgotten, however, that the corona pandemic in Germany is probably not yet over, given that by the end of June, only 1.3% of blood donors had IgG antibodies against the virus.


Germany: Covid ICU patients and deaths plus measures and events (Source: CIDM)


Switzerland
The Swiss annual excess mortality is currently close to zero (see graph), which is below most flu waves of the last ten years. This is due to the mild winter and the very high median age of the approximately 1700 corona deaths (84 years). About 50% of the deaths occurred in nursing homes. The effect of the lockdown remains questionable.


In the former hotspots Ticino and Geneva, IgG antibody levels in May were about 10%, about ten times higher than found by daily PCR tests. Taking mucosal and cellular immunity into account, exposure in southern and western Switzerland could already be around 50%. In German-speaking Switzerland, however, exposure is likely to be lower. The risk of a “second wave” is therefore real.
In principle, the Swiss government is pursuing a suppression and vaccination strategy, which it is supplementing with mass testing, contact tracing and compulsory masking. As an alternative, infectiologist Dr. Pietro Vernazza brought up the idea of controlled exposure with protection of risk groups based on the Swedish model.


Switzerland still has no early treatment strategy and thus risks an unnecessarily high hospitalisation and death rate.


Sweden and Belarus, both of which managed the corona pandemic without a lockdown and without compulsory masks, have been removed from the Swiss list of “high-risk countries” in mid-July. Sweden had previously put Switzerland on its own high-risk list. In fact, the increase in Swedish “cases” was solely due to an increase in tests.


A referendum was launched against the corona tracing app “SwissCovid”. The initiators are raising data protection and security concerns. Previously, Swiss Professor Serge Vaudenay published a critical analysis of the app, which isn’t as transparent as claimed, leaving Google and Apple in control, Vaudenay said.


A referendum is also being prepared against the Swiss “Covid-19 Law”, which extends the Corona emergency law until the end of 2022. In addition, a petition has been launched calling for an extra-parliamentary commission of inquiry into the corona measures.


A flyer campaign against the compulsory use of masks in public transport also caused a stir. The director of the BAG hastily called the arguments of the critics “fake news”.
Infosperber: The Covid-19 task force massively exaggerated the benefits of masks
For more current and critical corona analyses see corona-transition.org
Switzerland: Cumulative mortality versus expectation value (2010-2020)


Sweden
In Sweden, daily corona deaths are now close to zero. The overall mortality rate is in the range of earlier strong flu waves. Even the monthly peak mortality (in April 2020) remained below the strong flu waves of the 1990s.


The example of Sweden (and Belarus) shows that a lockdown was not necessary if the population and institutions were well prepared. However, from the perspective of many lockdown advocates – governments and the media – this is very difficult to admit.


Sweden is one of the few Western countries that – on the basis of the medical evidence – has not closed its primary schools. This decision was correct, too.


Sweden made two real mistakes, which ironically are not covered by most of the media: 1) The nursing homes in the Stockholm area were protected too late and caused over 50% of Swedish deaths. 2) Sweden had no early treatment strategy that could have reduced the hospitalisation and death rates.
Swedish cities showed an IgG antibody prevalence between 10% and 20% in July, which, together with mucosal and cellular immunity, indicates that the population was exposed between 50% and 100%. Sweden is therefore probably the best placed of all western countries to start the coming winter.


The following graphs compare the deaths in Sweden with those in England and New York.

Corona deaths: Sweden vs. England

Corona deaths: Sweden vs. New York
Charts: Paul Yowell


India
India, which relies on early treatment and even prophylaxis with the antimalarial drug HCQ, officially counts only about 35,000 corona deaths among its 1.3 billion people.
An Indian antibody study came to the conclusion that around 23% of the 20 million inhabitants of the Indian capital Delhi already have antibodies against the new corona virus. This is about 35 times more people than confirmed by PCR tests.


This means that Delhi (and some other major cities) could already be beyond or near the herd immunity threshold, taking into account mucosal and cellular immunity.


Latin America
Brazil has by now suffered 90,000 Covid deaths and thus ranges between the Netherlands and France in terms of deaths per population. In the meantime, Brazil has introduced an early treatment concept based on zinc and HCQ.


Chile and Peru currently have an even higher death rate than Brazil (based on population). With close to 20,000 deaths, Peru is in the range of Italy and Spain.


C. Political notes
The US economy contracted by an annualized 32.9% in the second quarter, the highest rate since 1947. The second highest decline was in 1958 (10%) – in the wake of the Asian flu pandemic.
In the US, up to 28 million people might lose their homes due to corona lockdowns and the economic downturn, which could trigger a new mortgage crisis.


The German economy contracted by 10.1% in the second quarter compared with the same quarter of the previous year – the biggest decline since 1970.


According to the UN, the corona lockdowns and the global economic depression could plunge up to 225 million people worldwide into a famine by the end of the year.


The EU Commission demands or plans the “networking” of national corona tracing apps.
The NGO Privacy International warns of a “looming disaster” with immunity passports and digital identity cards.


The authoritarian government of Turkmenistan apparently banned the use of the word “coronavirus”. Consequently, there are no coronavirus deaths in the country, at least officially. Those who wear a mask are arrested by police, Reporters without Borders said.


MORE ON THE TOPIC:
Covid-19 Facts July Updates
Covid-19 Facts June Updates




Friday, 19 June 2020

Spiritual Transformation - what it is and how to do it

This essay completes the requirements for a Graduate Certificate in Ministry (Biblical studies). It seems a shame to write so many 3000 word essays for three people to read; so for those who are interested in spiritual growth I have posted my final essay below:



School of Ministry 

JB404 Spiritual Transformation

Ps Andrew Staggs

Task 3: Research and Critical Reflection

Due 12 June 2020

Word Count (3,067)


Identify and critically examine: one role of the Holy Spirit; two personal factors; and one corporate factor in spiritual transformation and comment on their personal significance to your own life. 
Further, critically reflect on one hindrance to your transformation and how this may be overcome.



INTRODUCTION – Definitions of Spiritual Transformation

What is Christian Spiritual Transformation?

Howard (2018, p.13) distinguishes between spiritual formation in different religious and spiritual disciplines, and Christian spiritual formation. This essay considers only Christian spiritual transformation.

Whitney (2014, p.4) says: ‘Spiritual Disciplines are those practices found in Scripture that promote spiritual growth among believers…’ The earliest references are in the scriptures. The life story of Abraham and of Jacob serve as object lessons as they grow in spiritual maturity through trial. In Deuteronomy 30, Moses sets out the blessings and curses of the covenant at Mt Sinai. Later Isaiah speaks of spiritual renewal when he says: ‘Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them return to the Lord…’ (Isaiah 55: 7). Ezekiel promises national spiritual transformation when he says: ‘I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh’ (Ezekiel 11:19 and 36:26).

Picking up this theme in the New Testament the apostle Paul describes the outcome of spiritual transformation thus: ‘You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone [as at Sinai] but on human hearts’ (2 Corinthians 3:3). In the New Testament we find the process described using themes of childbirth (Galatians 4:19) and growing from babyhood (1 Peter 2:1-3) to fullness (Ephesians 4:13), to describe the process.  In that context Whitney (2014, p.5) notes that Jesus practiced spiritual disciplines of prayer, fasting and solitude, and corporate teaching.

All scriptural references state or imply a turning away from an old way of living/set of values, and experiencing an inner change as right relationship with God is restored. Howard (2018, pp.16-18)  picks up on this sense of movement, or process of change and transformation, where he defines Christian spiritual formation as …’a Spirit- and human-led process by which individuals and communities mature in relationship with the Christian God (Father, Son, sand Holy Spirit) and are changed into ever-greater likeness to the life and gospel of this God.’   This recalls Jesus’ own Trinitarian statement on the essential role of the Holy Spirit: …’the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things’ (John 14:26) and ‘..when he, the Spirit of Truth comes, he will guide you into all truth…’ (John 16:13). 

Perhaps the most comprehensive of the definitions Howard canvasses is by Jeffrey P Greenman: ‘Spiritual formation is the continuing response to the reality of God’s grace shaping us into the likeness of Jesus Christ, through the work of the Holy Spirit, in the community of faith, for the sake of the world’  Howard (2018, p.16). 
This definition builds on other definitions (Willard, D, Demerest, B, & Hull, B 2010 pp. 20-27)which have the following common elements:
·      a process of transformation from one condition to another that is
·      led/made possible by the Holy Spirit
·      in the context of community
·      facilitated by the spiritual disciplines
·      for the purpose not only of self-development and pleasing God, but directed towards fulfilling the great commission
The above therefore is my personal definition of spiritual transformation. However I would like to unpack it further. 

ONE ROLE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT - personal significance to your own life. 

One role of this Holy Spirit in my life has been to make real a connection with a Trinitarian God, that concept of God as a singular three in one community working together in mutual submission and cooperation (Citipointe Ministry College, 2020, p. 79). As truthful as that statement is, for me ‘God the Father’ is something of an abstraction since he dwells ‘in heaven’ and if he ever visited earth he seems not to have done so since Solomon’s dedication of the temple (1 Kings 8:10-11) . ‘God the son’ was the agent of creation (John 1: 1-3) but that was long ago. As the incarnate Christ he occupied a limited point in physical space and time 2000 years ago then returned to the Father. That is a matter of history but not of personal experience. It is only through ‘God the Holy Spirit’ that we have a personal and experiential connection to the Godhead. Without that connection I would not be a Christian today because I would not lay down my life on the basis of unprovable events (e.g. immaculate conception, divine ascension) alleged to have taken place 2000 years ago and prior. 

For that reason the role of the Holy Spirit in my life is intrinsically connected to the role of the Holy Spirit in the trinity thus:
The world is created through Jesus/Word/Logos. The Father sends Jesus on His redemptive mission. Jesus fulfils that mission by the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus reveals the Father. Jesus returns to the Father to intercede to the Father for us. Jesus sends the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit points to Jesus. The Holy Spirit is now the operative force in our spiritual lives and the Divine person that unites us mystically with Christ and with the Father per chapter 17 of John’s gospel.  
That is my summation of a great deal of theology. See for example (Willard, D, Demerest, B, & Hull, B 2010 pp.227-253). McKnight (2018, p. 78) puts it this way:
‘The absolute oneness of God (the Father) unleashes the Son, and the Father and the Son unleash the Spirit, and then the Spirit is unleashed into all Christians for the purpose of glorifying Jesus to the glory of the Father.’
In other words, without the Holy Spirit we have only a dry abstract theology and a set of principles and practices which, while excellent in themselves, make us not so different to Islam or any other faith ‘having a form of godliness but without the power’ (2 Timothy 3:5). In contra distinction, by the Holy Spirit we become ‘living stones’ build into a ‘spiritual house’ (1 Peter 2:5). 

The Holy Spirit has made real a connection with a Trinitarian God in the following specific ways:
·      conviction of sin
·      change in my affections away from sin towards righteousness
·      renewed compassion for others including those who have offended me
·      intercessory prayer based on revelation
·      speaking in tongues
·      sense of connection in worship
·      ‘uniquely Christian’ emotions (such as worship and conviction)
·      clear direction in life circumstances (largely recorded through journaling)
·      reminding of the good things of God and of life
·      helping integrate fractured part of my personality

TWO PERSONAL FACTORS - personal significance to your own life. 

Spiritual Disciplines

Whitney (2014 p.14) states that: ‘Holiness is not an option for those who claim to be children of the Holy One (1 Peter 1:15-16), so neither are the means of holiness – that is, the Spiritual Disciplines – an option.’ Throughout my Christian walk I have stumbled across the various spiritual disciplines in an ad-hoc way with little guidance. The various disciplines are discussed below, with specific focus on two.

Different Disciplines

Willard defines spiritual disciplines as ‘exercises unto Godliness’ undertaken to bring us into more effective cooperation with Christ and His Kingdom (Willard, 2010 p. 156). Without attempting further definition, spiritual practice is implied in all of the definitions of spiritual transformation discussed above. Howard (2018 p.101) lists a number of well understood practices which he categorises in a somewhat jumbled way under headings of inward, outward, and corporate disciplines, abstinence, engagement, and soul feast. 

Willard (1991, pp. 157-159 and 176) acknowledges the breadth of spiritual practices including lesser known and less practiced ones such as peregrination, but outlines key practices that are foundation for all believers which he divides simply into disciples of abstinence and disciples of engagement as follows:
‘Disciplines of Abstinence’
·      Solitude
·      Silence
·      Fasting
·      Chastity
·      Secrecy 
·      Sacrifice
‘Disciplines of Engagement’
·      Study
·      Worship
·      Celebration
·      Service
·      Prayer
·      Fellowship
·      Confession
·      submission
Abstinence is summarised as ‘giving up anything that comes between us and God’ such that abstinence makes way for engagement. In this way …’the disciplines of abstinence counteract tendencies to sins of commission, and disciplines of engagement counteract tendencies to sins of omission.’

The Holy Spirit in Spiritual Discipline

The picture that emerges from this collage is more clearly visible at a distance where a picture of a devout, fruitful and partly hidden life comes into focus.  
Surprisingly I have not found an author who attempts to link spiritual disciplines to specific aspects of spiritual transformation. That may be because of significant overlap, and too much categorisation risks becoming artificial. However, using my definition above, we could tentatively suggest the following associations:
A process of transformation from one condition to another that is:
Led by the Holy Spirit
In Community
In Relation to God
Directed Outwards
Study
Study
Solitude
Service
Prayer
Prayer
Sacrifice
Sacrifice
Worship
Worship
Chastity
Evangelism

Confession
Secrecy 


Fellowship
Fasting


Submission
Silence


Celebration



Of course, all of these practices can and should be led by the Holy Spirit. However, the Spirit is particularly operative in study (revelation), prayer (intercession) and worship. Note that ‘celebration’ in this context includes the Eucharist.  I have added ‘evangelism’ to Willard’s list since this arguably is also a spiritual practice (Citipointe Ministry College, 2020, pp.475 – 480 and 299).

Somewhat absent in the literature is a discussion of how focus on those disciplines change over life’s seasons. This can lead to individuals being held (or holding themselves) to an impossible standard. For example, a mother of a new born, or a person with chronic health issues, or someone in certain professions such as a trauma surgeon or ER nurse cannot be expected to invest in certain practices in the way that a monk or a single person or a priest might be expected to. For example, a new mother cannot responsibly fast. It is therefore particularly important to be sensitive to the Spirit’s leading in life’s different seasons and to know which practices to focus on at different times.

Two personal factors in spiritual transformation of particular significance to me have been study and silence.

The Discipline of Study

Growing up outside the church I read the Bible with fewer pre-conceptions than most, but as Ezra turned his heart to study the law of the Lord (Ezra 7:10) so did I, having now both read and studied it since I discovered concordances when I was 12. Having an acute awareness of issues in public life, partly as a consequence of growing up during the Cold War, I have been intentional about developing a Biblical world view with application to both private and public life. I pursued integration between ‘this world’ problems and theological concepts throughout university which led to me a career in environmental activism among other things (Peacock E, 2012). The need to integrate systematic theology with public policy with civic action across a range of issues has never been more urgent. To move forward in this I now need to be credentialed and undertake systematic theology - hence this course.

The Discipline of Silence

I have long practiced silence including spending time in the (literal) wilderness of South West Tasmania. When I practice silence I am positioned to receive a rhema word or other prompting. The practical application of the received word has built both practical life success and faith in God’s care and character. Over time a picture of life mission has emerged.  This is important because just as ‘without vision the people perish’ (Proverbs 29:18), so without a vision, faith is wont to atrophy. 



ONE CORPORATE FACTOR - personal significance to your own life. 

My corporate experience has been mixed, including spiritual neglect, authentic spiritual community, spiritual mentoring, and some less than positive experiences. Howard (2018, p. 198) notes that: ‘Christian spiritual formation is something many people do all the time often without knowing it….’ and asks who we are receiving spiritual formation ministry from and who are we offering it to. For me the most significant corporate factor in spiritual formation was living in authentic Christian community in share-houses for several years and attending daily prayer. It turns out that ‘iron sharpens iron’ (Proverbs 27:17) and God uses friends and conflict in our formation (Whitney, 2014 p. 10). In my experience spiritual issues of acceptance, forgiveness, assertiveness, compassion, and accountability were often worked out through conflict. Community living was formative not only in interpersonal relationships but also as it involved me discipling others, and involved the household providing accommodation and support to (at different times) two recovering schizophrenics (one recovered and one didn’t), a young man with addiction (who left), a reformed dealer who drifted in and out of his Christian walk, and an alcoholic who refused to reform and was eventually thrown out. These challenges proved less difficult than agreeing on housework, but all taught the necessity of group prayer for successful community living. It was in the end the Spirit of God that kept us together and when a commitment to corporate prayer petered out we lost the interdependence and mutual submission of the triune nature and the household petered out. Willard, Demerest, & Hull are correct in quoting Augustin: 
“The body of Christ can live from nothing else but the Spirit of Christ.”[1]

ONE HINDRENCE AND HOW IT MAY BE COVERCOME

The False Self

Mulholland (2006, pp. 30-38) writes of the true self as found in unity with God, creation, and others, and the false self as set alone as against God, creation and others.
‘The placing of ourself in radical separation from God, others and creation – which is the essence of the false self – becomes a pervasive reality that poisons our life with God with our self, with others and in the world.’ 
Mulholland lists consequences of the false self as being:
·      False self is a fearful self – hence also prone to anger 
·      False self is a protective self 
·      False self is a possessive self 
·      False self is a self-promoting self 
That largely describes me; so by this teaching the hindrance is my false self. That said, I have a caution regarding this kind of teaching, namely that duality is a foundational Christian concept without which we risk drifting into Eastern mysticism. We define ourselves with reference to others but relationship by definition requires duality and separateness. Authentic relationships also require choice. ‘I, thee’ relationships may create a synergy that is greater than the sum but they nevertheless require two individuals. There is no such thing as self-giving love without the self. However, the trusting of the self to God, and the uniting of the self with God, is the whole point. For me, that means addressing the points of pain that keep me from trusting or uniting with God.

The Four Levels of Desire

Fr Spitzer (2008, pp.159 – 166) addresses the self and its ‘affections’ in describing four stages of spiritual development (or ‘desire’ in his terminology) thus:
1.    the desire for externally stimulated or physical pleasures or possessions
2.    ego-gratification arising out of the displacement of the outer world toward the inner world, e.g. status, control, power, social standing, comparative advantage
3.    investment of the inner world in the outer world to make a positive difference to it e.g. community involvement, family, causes, and civic action
4.    the desire for the ultimate, unconditional or perfect in truth, love, goodness, beauty and being found only and ultimately in communion with God.
The objective of spiritual formation therefore is to be fully energised by the fourth level of desire and subordinate all other levels to it. Significantly this does not suggest the abolishment of the ego (per Eastern spirituality and some Christian teaching), but the re-orienting of its energies and affections to the ultimate. This is set out in the following diagram from page 160:



I oscillate between all levels to varying degrees but in my experience suppression of desire and ego has had very negative consequences. However, when I connect with God those things do not disappear but the significance and attraction of them falls away. I have been fortunate in my life to have fallen in love. It is an overwhelming obsessive experience that simply makes most other pursuits irrelevant. The pursuit of oneness with another person is a foretaste and type of oneness with God. As Teresa of Avila put it: ‘One can say no more  - insofar as can be understood – than that the soul, I mean the spirit, is made one with God’(quoted in Mulholland 2006, p. 19).


Bibliography
Citipointe Ministry College, School of Ministries of Christian Heritage College, 2020, ‘Spiritual Transformation Study Guide’ Lecture Notes

Fr. Spitzer, R, 2008, Five Pillars of the Spiritual Life – A Practical Guide to Prayer for Active People, Ignatius Press, San Francisco 

Howard, EB, 2018, A Guide to Christian Spiritual Formation – How Scripture, Spirit, Community, and Mission Shape Our Souls, Baker Academic, Grand Rapids Michigan

McKnight, S, 2018, Open to the Spirit: God in us, God with us, God transforming us, Waterbrook

Mulheran, B, 2017, Jesus Author and Finisher – Timeless Principles of Christianity, Synergy Publishers, Gainesville Florida 

Mulholland, R, 2006, The Deeper Journey, the Spirituality of Discovering your True Self, IVP Books

Peacock, E, 2012, Finding Home – An autobiographical account of a child migrant growing up on the edge of the Tasmanian Wilderness, AuthorHouse

Strong, J., Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, Massachusetts

The Holy Bible: New International Version 1998, New American Library, New York, NY

Whitney, D, 2014, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, Tyndale House Publishers

Willard, D 1991,  The Spirit of the Disciplines, understanding how God changes lives,HarperSanFrancisco

Willard, D, Demerest, B, & Hull, B 2010, The Kingdom Life – A Practical Theology of Discipleship and Spiritual Formation,NavPress







[1]Unfortunately the page number did not photocopy but this quote comes under the heading ‘Caught Up into the Trinitarian Life’ per Willard, D, Demerest, B, & Hull, B 2010, The Kingdom Life – A Practical Theology of Discipleship and Spiritual Formation,NavPress