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Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Ugly Truth Behind The Self Development Industry

It's Not All Just Hype And Excitement


Justin (not his real name) bounced into my office one Monday morning with a completely changed appearance. Gone was the rather scruffy-looking and inconspicuous former manager from the Defence Department and in his place stood Sydney’s answer to Gordon Gekko. He sported a sharp suit and pin-stripe business shirt, shiny new leather brief case, topped off with a pair of eye-popping red braces.

He appeared a changed man too. No longer unsure about his next position or indeed if he would get one, he was imbued with a dauntless zeal to open his own management consulting business and call it ‘Pygmalion Enterprises’ with the banner phrase ‘We do anything for money’. He eagerly showed me how he had spent a sleepless night filling an exercise book with ideas and illustrations and then announced he was going to take out display advertising in the business classified section of the phone book in every state in the country. I became aghast at this point. Just what the hell was going on I said to myself.

What indeed? Why had he suddenly acquired this massive ego trip? Did he have a bi-polar personality disorder? Unlikely, as he had no former episodes of this nature. Then we got to the answer :- “He’d just attended an NLP (that’s ‘Neuro-Linguistic Programming’ to the uninitiated) weekend seminar.” This totally discredited Self Development movement (which co-incidentally is the basis of Tony Robbins’ doctrines) is designed to imbue participants with almost boundless self worth and a sense they can 'conquer the world'. And here was my very own brush with what it can do.

Poor Old Justin Thought He Was Gordon Gekko

So, what do you think happened to poor old Justin? Did he indeed launch a successful national management consulting practice based on nothing more than running an ad in the phone book?…….Unfortunately not. He stopped coming to my outplacement counselling sessions, but was seen by a fellow participant wandering about a local shopping mall during the day, looking more dishevelled than ever. You see, not only was he depressed and unemployed, but he had commuted his guaranteed lifetime pension as a lump sum and had spent a reasonable amount of it on this failed venture. Just another victim of the $10 billion a year (in the US alone) Self Development industry.

Want more of this reality check material? Try these :-

  1. Rebekah Lawrence, after attending the Turning Point seminar, has a "psychotic episode” and kills herself though she had no history of mental illness;
  2. Lesley Grogan adopts the training of Marianne Williamson ("A Return to Love") and becomes so confused about her identity that she uproots her life and abandons her family;
  3. Michael Scinto attends the ManKind Project's New Warrior Training Adventure and becomes so appalled by the sexualized peer pressure and psychological abuse that he kills himself.
  4. This is not to mention the three people who died and the 20+ people who were injured in James Ray’s Sedona sweat lodge and many, many others.

The Three People Killed In The 2009 Sedona Sweat Lodge Incident

Getting the message? Just Google <self development is dangerous> if you don’t. It’s chock full of misery stories. These hyped-up large group presentations, in prices ranging from $500-00 one day workshops to Robbin’s $5995-00 Date With Destiny seminar, might have some satisfied customers (after all, if you pays your money you’ve got to feel it was worth it), but it has way more potential for personal harm or just a general lack of satisfaction with your own life (which is only alleviated by buying into the next book/tape/seminar). If you don’t believe me try reading SHAM (stands for Self Help and Actualisation Movement)  : How The Self Help Movement Made America Helpless by Steve Salerno Crown Publishing Group, 2005. He should know, he was a former insider - a self-help book editor.

He says :- “Extensive market surveys revealed that the most likely customer for a book on any given self help topic was someone who had bought a similar book within the preceding eighteen months.”  The irony of ‘the eighteen-month rule’ for this genre, Salerno says, is this: "If what we sold worked, one would expect lives to improve. One would not expect people to need further help from us--at least not in that same problem area, and certainly not time and time again."

Now let’s visit the murky world that underpins the self help movement. Let’s go to the fancy and very scientific sounding term - ‘Neuro-Linguistic Programming’. This was created by Richard Bandler and John Grinder in California in the 1970’s. It claims a connection between neurological processes (‘neuro’), language (‘linguistic‘) and learned behavioural patterns (ie. learned by ‘programming’). In other words if you can “model” the skills of exceptional people, then they can be learned by anyone (ie. as long as you learn it by attending one of their fee-paying seminars). Not only that, but you can use it to treat phobias, depression, allergies, the common cold etc. etc. Oh yes, I almost forgot the truth in a wave of faux-enthusiasm - it is also rejected as a failed pseudo-science, that contains numerous factual errors and doesn’t support the results asserted by Bandler and Grinder.

Neuro-Linguistic Programming Certainly Sounds Scientific

Bandler and Grinder openly boast of being unqualified in a science discipline, although they do hold psychology degrees (saying that this is, in fact, beneficial). They proceed to pinch ideas from many prominent academics (like the well-known linguist Noam Chomsky) and misapply it to their own ends. See articles such as ‘Not-so Linguistic Programming’ by Karen Stollznow. Tony Robbins trained under John Grinder and began his career as a teacher of NLP. In his book Unlimited Power 1986, he asserts that by using NLP :- “anyone can become successful at almost anything.” Look the stark reality is that the whole industry is based on little more than failed pseudo-science and quackery.

This isn’t just me asserting this. Try this :- “ A systematic review of experimental studies by Sturt et al (2012) concluded that "there is little evidence that NLP interventions improve health-related outcomes."  In his review of NLP, Stephen Briers writes, "NLP is not really a cohesive therapy but a ragbag of different techniques without a particularly clear theoretical basis...[and its] evidence base is virtually non-existent." Eisner writes, "NLP appears to be a superficial and gimmicky approach to dealing with mental health problems. Unfortunately, NLP appears to be the first in a long line of mass marketing seminars that purport to virtually cure any mental appears that NLP has no empirical or scientific support as to the underlying tenets of its theory or clinical effectiveness. What remains is a mass-marketed serving of psychobabble (you know, in other words ‘rubbish‘)." I mean how can these dudes lie straight in bed at night? Unfortunately I imagine that they sleep very soundly on their expensive bedding in the surrounds of their luxury homes….

"Anyone can become successful at almost anything" !? Oh yeah? Many will beg to differ.

This brings me to own story about the Self Development book industry. When I completed my first book Life Cycles (2008), I naively thought it best belonged in the Self Development category. I spoke with an agent, who had been associated with The Secret (then a best seller) and sent her several chapters. She said it was interesting, but wasn’t presented like a typical Self Development book ie. no exercises at the end of the chapters and no specific advice on how to improve your life. I took this feedback seriously and even included a chapter in The Life Cycles Revolution on the “10 Ways To Use Life Cycles In Your Life”. I had my book read by one of the major international publishing houses (through a networking contact, they usually don’t let this happen). I was told my book was fascinating and well written, but that they wouldn’t publish it, because it wasn’t ‘Self Help’ enough. I now wear these rejections as a badge of honour. The simple truth is they’re right Life Cycles is NOT like Self Help.

You want to know why? Well it’s because I don’t offer any panaceas for people’s lives. The sad truth is change is difficult - very difficult - in whatever sphere of activity you look at and the more water under the bridge of life (so to speak), then the harder it may be to effect real change. Why do I make this seemingly dismal assessment (after all the news is full of stories of momentous deeds and successful decisions to change one habits)? It’s because I study whole lives (often just after people have died) and what do I find consistently? I find the patterns of a lifetime are well ingrained in most cases. Not always, I grant you, and that certainly means you should try and swim upstream if you can. But it’s not easy.

The second and even more powerful reason, that Life Cycles has nothing to do with the Self Development industry, is money. The Self Development industry focuses to a large extent on promising you a better life and that usually means getting richer. To do this you have to pay them rather exorbitant amounts of money to buy their books/tapes/seminars etc. Participants should really question just who is getting richer; them or the demagogues who lead them. Just Google <Tony Robbins Sued Over Franchise Fees> to get the real picture. Why the big boys even sue each other :- try <“Robbins Sued For $2 Million By NLP Inventors Bandler and Grinder Over Ownership”>. It’s avaricious and unseemly at the top isn’t it?

I give my research to a small web audience freely and I occasionally do live presentations, but I’m not in this to suddenly become rich. You see the value of what I have uncovered is not just measured in commercial terms.  I keep doing what I do every day, because I acknowledge getting any new idea/philosophy understood is difficult - very difficult. It will take time, patience, diligence and a willingness to tolerate ambiguity (ie. as I encounter an indifferent response I learn to ignore it). Still I have a very long term perspective and part of the process is showing how easy it is to be blinded by false advertising and slick marketing campaigns, that seek to demand your attention.

Do yourselves a BIG favour - DON’T SUPPORT THE SELF HELP INDUSTRY! Don’t buy the books and listen to the tapes and pay way too much to attend the expensive seminars. Instead as you wake up each day, make a promise to yourself that whatever it is you seek to do in life, you will do some activity towards it this very day. Only you and you alone can set this in motion. This folks is real SELF DEVELOPMENT and it’s FREE. 

Saturday, December 5, 2015

When Dick Became Tricky - The Life Cycles Of Richard Milhous Nixon - Part 1

How Nixon Earned His Nickname
This is a kind of warm-up linked post considering next year's election. It also happens to feature just about the most controversial President in US history. The only President to resign while in office. The man whose pursuit of power ultimately destroyed him. But we won't be going to Watergate just yet. You see there's a fair bit of his earlier story, which will help fill you in on this complex character. We'll just touch on some highlights and of course that's my cue to say we'll be having a look at his Life Cycles significant years (ie. 24/31/36/43 etc.). They'll tell you just about all you'll need to know, as they seem to do time after time after time. That's why I call what I do :- Psycho-Biography With a Twist

Richard Milhous Nixon was born 9th Jan. 1913 and despite coming from a poor family managed to succeed through hard work. He was noted as a strong debater even at school. We'll begin by going to his first adult age 24 Year of Revolution (Jan 1937-Jan 1938). In June he graduated with a Law degree from Duke University. He wanted to join the FBI, but received no response and so joined a law firm near his family home in Whttier, California. Years later he was told he had, in fact, been hired by the FBI, but the appointment was cancelled soon after due to budget cuts. So Nixon showed his determination to be successful and established his adult career identity as a lawyer. Something else happened to him in early Jan. 1938, that was to alter the course of his life. He met his future wife (and first lady) Pat at an amateur theatrical group and he described it as  :- "a case of love at first sight".

Let's now wind the clock forward for 7 years (as we always do with Life Cycles) and ask what events in the year Jan. 1945 to Jan. 1946 (ie. his age 31 Year of Broken Pathways according to Life Cycles theory) happened to alter his direction and present him with a new and challenging environment? It's the same question for everyone each time. How easy is that? No messing around with complex charts, or peering into a crystal ball or studying a detailed biography. That my system works at all is a complete mystery to me. OK, here we are and of course this time (somewhat conveniently) coincides with the end of WWII. Nixon had served in the Navy reaching the rank of Lieutenant Commander and received a commendation for duty (although he saw no actual combat). In Jan. 1945 he got transferred to the Bureau of Aeronautics Office in Philadelphia and helped negotiate termination of war contracts.

The 1946 Campaign Flyer For Nixon

However, at the same time, back in Whittier, Republicans from California's 12th congressional district were seeking a consensus candidate to run against Democratic Congressman Jerry Voorhis. After failure to attract a high-profile person, local Bank Manager Herman Perry suggested Nixon (a family friend). Can you see the element of fate/destiny at work here? When Nixon heard this news he accepted straight away and on Jan 1st. 1946, he began a year of intensive campaigning. Was this a challenge and uphill struggle? You betcha! So, what did young Richard Nixon do? He attacked his opponent. He contended Voorhis had been ineffective as a Congressman and (more importantly) that he had endorsed a group linked to Communists (which meant he must also have radical views). This was actually not correct, as Voorhis was a staunch anti-communist and once voted by the press corps as "the most honest congressman'- but the mud stuck. Nixon won the election and this set in train a legacy of 'winning at any cost'. Not yet labelled "Tricky", but well on his way.

Nixon's main collaborator was Senator Joseph McCarthy, as both men seized on anti-communist attacks and investigations, being both a national duty and a way to enhance their own political careers. Nixon became a prime mover in the well-known House Un-American Activities Committee, which was established in 1945. Let's now go to his central and often life and career-defining age 36 Year of Revolution (Jan.1949-Jan.1950). Did this universal formula work for him? This period saw the culmination of the anti-communist trial of Alger Hiss for the serious charge of espionage (reduced to perjury because the statute of limitations period had run out).

You've probably never heard of this guy, but he's the guy who most helped to make the names and careers of Nixon and McCarthy. Mind you he wasn't your typical shadowy spy. He was a well educated and highly connected government official from an old American family. He was a member of the US delegation at the historic Yalta Conference (where the US/UK/USSR discussed the division of Europe) and a personal friend of Secretary of State Dean Acheson. He denied the charges till his death many years later, in spite of being found guilty in Jan. 1950 and spending several years in prison. It was Nixon who led the investigation in 1948, even though the House Un-American Activities Committee was under fire from both Democrat President Harry Truman and the press for investigating so eminent a man. It was Nixon who eventually saw him face two trials for perjury in 1949 (the first had a hung jury). Please see the side column for fascinating details of this very high-profile case and yet more evidence of how it fits with Life Cycles Theory.

Nixon With The Hiss Headline
So here you have the central defining age 36 Year of Revolution for Nixon producing national publicity and providing him with the springboard to move to the Senate in 1950. This was seen as a major victory by the Republicans and very important in reviving their hopes of a comeback at the 1952 elections. It also helped to make Joseph McCarthy virtually untouchable. The story, however, does not end here. It really begins. It was stated that in 1949 (when he was 36) Nixon began to consider running for the Senate against Democrat Sheridan Downey and entered the race in Nov. 1949. His opponent, however, wasn't to be Downey, he was beaten in the primaries by Helen Gahagan Douglas in Mar.1950. As part of a no-holds-barred type campaign Nixon distributed a "Pink Sheet" suggesting she voted the same and therefore must hold the same views as a New York congressman -Vito Marcantonio - believed by many to be a communist. Nixon won by 20 percentage points, but during the campaign he began to be called "Tricky Dick" by his opponents. They'd woken up to him a little late you see.

Wasn't he doing more or less exactly what worked for him back when he entered political life at 31 with Voorhis? What had also worked for him spectacularly well with the Alger Hiss trial? Gain as much traction as you can with an anti-communist slur, regardless of whether it's true. It was a fearful time in world history and just perfect for those who could ruthlessly exploit it. And Richard Nixon was ruthless. Gahagan Douglas developed a life-long dislike (probably putting it mildly) for Nixon as a result of her ignominious defeat. She was born  25th Nov. 1900 so she was strongly (almost 11/12 months) Confluent with Nixon. This is a modern day re-run of the Hannibal Barca/Scipio Africanus saga. They were each others worst nightmares.

Douglas, a former actress turned politician, was warned not to contest Downey's seat and split the party vote. When Downey withdrew he endorsed Nixon, along with congressman John F. Kennedy (can you believe this!). Downey's preferred replacement, Manchester Boddy (owner of the Los Angeles Daily News), called her "the pink lady" and that she was "pink right down to her underwear". Nixon only had to latch onto this rhetoric. It was all handed to him on a plate wasn't it? At 36, he became a right-wing hero with the Hiss trial and then his path to the Senate and the Vice-Presidency two years later followed naturally. Like so many other cases I study his age 36 Year of Revolution was indeed "the ushering in of his Golden Age." Douglas left politics, but campaigned for Kennedy in the 1960 election and for McGovern in 1972 and spoke out during Watergate. She would, no doubt, have cheered when Nixon finally quit as President.

The Election Sticker For 1956

We're finally going to explore what happened next to 'Tricky' Dick after his journey of seven years of forward momentum on to his age 43 Year of Broken Pathways (Jan. 1956-Jan. 1957). Life Cycles theory is simply mathematical in nature and so simple a child could grasp it. Of course, much did happen to now Vice President Nixon in these busy years, and I am being deliberately selective, but the real question is and remains :- "Did the 'so-called' Year of Broken Pathways contain any measurable changes to Nixon's career?" In other words - what did happen? This period marks a pivotal time in Nixon's ultimate quest for the presidency - the question of President Dwight David 'Ike' Eisenhower's health, which would determine whether he ran for a second term at the 1956 elections. He had already suffered a massive heart attack in Sept. 1955 and not returned to office until Nov. There was much speculation at the time of who would get the Republican nomination and many names were put forward (including Eisenhower's brother Milton). Nixon, of course, was one, but he was seen as a polarising figure and disliked even by some sections of the GOP.

On 8th Jan. 1956 (so when Nixon was 43) Eisenhower held a press conference and White House correspondents said by a 5-1 margin he would not run. However, after a positive medical test in Feb., he said in early Mar. that he would run. Then his health problems continued and in June he suffered from a blocked intestine and had to undergo major surgery. Once again, at least half a dozen replacements were nominated (including Nixon). Once again, he recovered and decided to run. This time, however, was different for 'Tricky' Dick. There was a serious move made against Nixon as a running mate, because it was felt he was too controversial, too divisive. Another candidate was put forward and they thought even Ike would support a dump-Nixon move, because he had suggested to Nixon, that he consider a cabinet position, as this would be a better launching pad for a 1960 presidential candidacy.

Ike and Nixon Re-Elected

Nixon was furious at this and would have none of it. He thought it would mean the end of his political career. He prevailed at the time and in the end even the replacement candidate, Christian Herter, ended up nominating Nixon for the vice presidency. This major hiccup caused Nixon to reflect and to alter his style to a smoother, more unctuous and careful approach. For instance, he stopped criticising foreign aid and became a card carrying member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. His inner ruthless ambition for power was undimmed, but he learned the hard way how to gather some popularity both within and outside of his own party. This was his own personal "Broken Pathway moment". He put 'Tricky' Dick in his back pocket and became 'Slick, almost Bland' Dick for the 1956 election. But we all know it wasn't destined to last..............

So now we are almost at the end of Part 1, let me summarise the evidence for Life Cycles theory applying to Richard Milhous Nixon. Note, we have covered a range of public record material on events when he was aged 24/31/36/43. What have we found?

1. At 24, Nixon tries to join the FBI, but becomes a lawyer instead. In early Jan., meets and falls in love with future wife Pat.
2. At 31, he enters politics in early Jan., because he is a surprise nomination in a California district. Beats incumbent Frank Voorhis through false allegations.
3. At 36, makes his name in right-wing politics, in mid-Jan., when he gets a conviction of top Government official Alger Hiss for  perjury. Leads on to winning Senate seat by another slur campaign and then the Vice Presidency.
4. At 43, almost dropped as running mate for President Eisenhower's second term. Learns to soften his image. 
Can you see the pattern here? These are all distinct direction-setting or altering years. Lawyer, politician, national profile over Hiss trial (then Senator) and finally a crisis over a second term as Vice President. Can you also see how his underlying character was unchanged throughout? His steely determination, his ruthless streak. Also, can you see how I have highlighted the fact (and underlined the text mentioning it) that the very end of three of these Life Cycles significant years contains an important event, just before his following birthday ie. in early (and middle for Hiss) Jan. This is a phenomenon I have observed before and one that I study. The same was true in the profile I did on President Obama. His critical dates all seemed to be at the one time of year as well. I have called this simply:- the alignment of the dates. Like every other new term I use, it is completely self-explanatory. It also adds an extra dimension to my research:-

"What if your life path was not only determined in particular by events in certain recurring cyclical years, but even down to the same time of year?" 

In my own life, I have observed this weird correlation right down to the same day! It's all in The Life Cycles Revolution. Check it out sometime. You'll never get any of this anywhere else!

                                                       END PART 1

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Life Cycles And Hannibal Barca and Scipio Africanus - Part Two

We last left our two mortal enemies waging their own separate campaigns to adapt to the new status quo following on from the momentous Battle of Cannae. Hannibal was slowly becoming a diminished presence outside of Rome, as the Romans did not engage him in a full-scale war.  He wanted to make a statement, that he could still get the Roman army to meet him in battle and turn things around. Meanwhile Scipio was gaining kudos by becoming a Quaestor (junior Magistrate), but upsetting some Senators because of his young age. They were both headstrong and ambitious you see and neither had fulfilled his true potential. So, we have now journeyed to the time of their shared lives when they were both in, what I call, important adult Years of Revolution (according to Life Cycles theory the first year of every 12 year cycle can be marked by the beginning of a new age/direction set to last for many years). Scipio became 24 most probably in the latter part of 212 BC and included a large part of 211 BC, whilst Hannibal was in his very important age of 36 at the same time.

It is interesting that even though they didn't meet in battle (that would come much later), their lives were even more inextricably linked by separate events, which determined the shape of their whole futures. Firstly let's take Hannibal. He had been using the ancient (and second most important after Rome) city of Capua (16 miles north of modern day Naples) as his winter headquarters. It has been reported that his men had become used to a lifestyle of soft living there and weren't as tough as they used to be.  Whenever they were in the countryside for a period, Roman tactics were to march up to the vicinity of the city walls, wherein Hannibal was alerted and came straight back to defend home base. He decided that he needed a tactic that would copy this with Rome.  He would instead lay a siege causing the Roman army outside Capua to come back to defend it and so meet them in the open.  

These two scenarios played out in the exact period of study (212 BC-211 BC).  In 212 BC the recent attempt by the Roman forces to march on Capua resulted in the two groups meeting in the Battle of Herdonia. This resulted in the loss of 16,000 Roman soldiers, so it was back to the drawing boards for the Roman generals. In the summer of 211 BC Hannibal was busy in the south of Italia and so the Romans were ready to try again, banking on taking Capua before he could return. Hannibal feared that if he approached Capua the Romans would simply withdraw, as they had done numerous times, only to return and lay siege when he had left. He tried to break this pattern by marching on Rome itself, laying siege and hoping the Roman army would return so he could meet them in open battle and win. Once again, things were in the balance during this time - the very time that most probably correlates with his being in his age 36 Year of Revolution (late 212 BC-late 211 BC). 

Roman Forces At The Battle Of Capua 

So he camped outside the Roman city walls for the first and only time in his life. This, however, was not on his terms. Not a true siege, for he lacked effective weapons and supplies for a lengthy encounter and planned it only as a feint. Not nearly the same as it would have been after the devastating Battle of Cannae, with the Roman army decimated. In 216 BC, with or without siege weapons, he would have created wholesale panic and exerted much psychological pressure. Now some five years later it was reported that Roman Patricians, far from being frightened, were openly selling the land he occupied for real estate purposes. Can you imagine this? They were making a mockery of him. One thing the last five years had taught them and that was resolve and patience to wait this warrior out. Word of his ineffective siege got back to the besiegers of Capua and they simply continued. On hearing this Hannibal had to retreat back to the south and Capua fell to the Roman forces soon after (shown in the drawing above).

So, for Hannibal, his central and often life and career-defining age of 36, did not contain a magnificent victory, only a humiliating defeat and with it the loss of much prestige throughout the whole region. Cities that had defected to him after Cannae, were switching back their allegiance to Rome. He no longer had Capua as his home base and the Romans knew that from this point onwards, they had the upper hand. He would now be the one pursued, rather than the pursuer. This unfortunate turn of events was to set in train a pattern of repetition throughout the rest of his life. He would continue to be persecuted by Rome, in one form or another, till his death many years later.

Now let's switch to Scipio. His age 24 Year of Revolution contained a major setback, that preceded a bold endeavour, which defined the rest of his life. His was the veritable definition of Life Cycles Theory in action. Firstly tragedy struck his family in 211 BC when both his father Publius Scipio and his uncle Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio Calvus were killed in battle in Hispania (Spain) by Hannibal's brother Hasdrubal. At the election of a new Proconsul, for a new army to be sent to Spain, only one candidate put himself forward to the Senate for consideration - Scipio. The reason for this was because it was regarded as a virtual death sentence by others, but Scipio wanted to avenge his family's honour even more than the risks incurred. Again, in spite of his youth, his demeanour and enthusiastic language made so great an impression that he was elected unanimously. So, his crowning achievement was to become a General and a Proconsul and to go after Hannibal's family who were responsible for the death's of his father and uncle. This was to be stage one in his personal war with Hannibal. Not a showdown just yet, more a platform to begin his ultimate quest.

Scipio Was Elected Proconsul and General of the Roman Army in Hispania

Can you see for yourselves how Scipio and Hannibal were so similar they were almost the same? Hannibal's father died in battle at Rome's hands, giving him a lifelong mission to avenge this and now Scipio's father had died in battle at Carthage's hands, giving him his lifelong quest. Now to another well recorded moment early in his campaign in Hispania. Because of arguments between the commanders of the three Carthage armies in the region, Scipio was able to make a surprise landing near Carthago Nova (New Carthage), the Carthaginian headquarters, and take it by surprise (still within 211 BC). So already, just at the beginning of his campaign, the tide was turning in his favour. Because of his humanitarian acts towards his prisoners, it caused the locals to perceive Romans as their liberators not their oppressors.

This is exemplified by his release of a beautiful woman who was betrothed to a Celtiberian Chieftain named Allucius. She was returned to him along with the money that had been offered by her parents to ransom her. Allucius soon married her and, in turn, brought his tribe over to support the Roman armies. This event was the subject of a famous painting by Nicholas Poussin called The Continence Of Scipio. It is shown to you below. 

The Continence Of Scipio

Let's summarise now and show the pivotal, but quite opposite, nature of events in each man's shared Year of Revolution. 
At 36 Hannibal suffered a humiliating defeat and loss of prestige within enemy territory (ie. Italia). This led on to other losses and banishments.
At 24 Scipio lost his father in battle, but got himself promoted to Proconsul in Spain and had a surprise victory. This was to lead on to a final victory and further promotion and fame. The victory resulted in gaining much prestige in enemy territory by his humanitarian acts. 
The essence of this is that for a second time each man had his fate sealed decisively in their shared Year of Revolution. I would still contend that though they did not meet in battle, each man was sealing the mutual fate of the other in separate arenas. Hannibal's loss of Capua meant the tables were turned and he was now a hunted man in Italia. There must have been a sense of unease, that one day in the not too distant future, he would have to decide whether to return to Carthage. Meanwhile Scipio's surprise capture of Carthaginian headquarters in Spain, meant that he was now on his way to drive them back to Africa and then go after his real target - Hannibal.

I'm done now and I won't use this main blog for any further parts of this fascinating story, but if you leave me a positive comment I will do a final post on this. I can almost hear some readers saying :- "...but you can't leave it at this! I want to know how it ended!" Of course you do and it involved a history-making meeting between these two great warriors. What did they have to say to each other? How did the final battle proceed? Yes, it's all a wonderful true story, so stay tuned.

Next month I am going to do a unique analysis of one of the most controversial world leaders of the 20th. Century. I am going to use Life Cycles Theory to delve into some unusual aspects of this very well known event and include a Life Cycles Families element, as well as another 'sworn enemies' encounter. I know you will enjoy it. Till then :- "may the cycles always bring you good fortune".

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Life Cycles and Hannibal Barca and Scipio Africanus - Part One


This is a 2-part post featuring one of the most famous duos in all of military and ancient history:- Hannibal Barca and his nemesis Scipio Africanus. It will be told in terms of two of the most celebrated father-son pairings as well:- Hannibal and his father Hamilcar along with Scipio Africanus and his father Pubilius Cornelius Scipio. As always, there is an added twist, because I will be using the unique Life Cycles method of analysis to focus on events in just some of their adult significant years (ie.19/24/31/36). Is this a theoretical challenge? Yes, it is by far the most complex set of interrelationships I have attempted. Why did I decide to try to link these two mortal enemies? The answer as always with me is Life Cycles. That's why I call what I do:- 'psycho-biography with a twist'.

So without further ado I'll explain how this link came about. I have previously featured the life of Hannibal Barca in both Books ONE and TWO, such is my fascination. I planned to just feature him and his illustrious father Hamilcar (you must admit they are very impressive-sounding names). Then I accidentally noticed a coincidence, that both Hannibal and Scipio Africanus are said to have died in the same year (bit like I did with Omar Sharif and Faten Hamama). I also remembered a key fact from a BBC documentary on Hannibal (I have watched several and read extensively). When Hannibal laid siege to Rome in his only failed attempt, Scipio was said to have been 24 and my best approximation is that this took place in Hannibal's 36th year. Then it hit me! These two warriors were Confluent and that means their mutual fates were sealed together.


Now let's wind back the clock to when a young Hannibal begged his father to let him accompany him on his campaign in modern-day Spain. His father is reported to have held him close to a burning fire and make him swear to:- "never be a friend of Rome". Hamilcar had experienced the bitterness of defeat by Rome in the First Punic War and set about raising an army to strike back, which he did successfully. However, most probably in 228 BC, he died in battle. When surrounded by enemy troops he was said to have thrown himself into the Jucar River in Spain. His unyielding hatred of Rome, however, was already deep in Hannibal's veins. This traumatic moment is very likely to have occurred within young Hannibal's age 19 Year of Broken Pathways.

Let's now move forward to the first year of shared destiny for Hannibal and Scipio :- the year 216 BC, which was when Hannibal was in his age 31 Year of Broken Pathways and a 12 years-younger Scipio was only in his age 19 Year of Broken Pathways. This was the year of the momentous Battle of Cannae - Rome's most catastrophic defeat and one of the bloodiest battles in all of human history. Much had happened to Hannibal by this time. He had become, like his father, a military commander and when the leader of the Carthaginian army, his brother-in-law Hasdrubal the Fair, was assassinated in 221 BC, Hannibal took over. I'll mention a quote by the Roman historian Livy, regarding his appointment at the time :-
"No sooner had he arrived...the old soldiers fancied they saw Hamilcar in his youth given back to them; the same bright look; the same fire in his eye, the same trick of countenance and features. Never was one and the same spirit more skillful to meet opposition, to obey, or to command..."
So Hannibal was his father incarnate. He was going to be the one who finished his father's business by attacking and destroying Rome itself, in what is known as the Second Punic War. Let's switch now to the upbringing of young Scipio. He was born into one of Rome's most distinguished families, with a record of service in the highest offices stretching back to the early Roman Republic. His father was a noted military commander and Scipio joined him in the army at a young age, before the start of the Second Punic War. Unbelievably he was said to have made a similar vow to his father:- "that he would continue the struggle against Carthage all his life."


In short he was Patrician (ie. a member of Rome's ruling class) to his bootstraps and was also the son of a famed military father, who had vowed lifelong vengeance on his sworn enemy. I mean, never a greater similarity of two monumental rivals. Let's now pick up the threads of when Hannibal crossed the alps and arrived in what is modern northern Italy. Scipio's father led the force sent to intercept him. He was surprised to even be fighting Hannibal in this region, because he expected to face the Carthage army in Iberia (Spain). During what would become the start of the Second Punic War, at the Battle of Trebia in 218 BC, a young Scipio saved his father's life when he was wounded. He bravely rode back into the field of battle to rescue him, even though he was surrounded by enemy horsemen. So there is another shared pivotal moment  between father and son a young age for both men, which was a paramount feature of their lives, as well as their daring and bravery in battle. The overall Battle of Trebia, however, was decisively won by the Carthage army, echoing Hamilcar being surrounded by enemy troops, resulting in his death at his own hand.

More successful battles followed for Hannibal until the 'big kahuna' in the spring of 216 BC, when he seized the main supply depot for Rome at Cannae. The Romans dispatched a huge force in response, but by using brilliant tactics, he managed to totally defeat the much larger Roman army, resulting in estimates of 50-70,000 Romans killed or taken prisoner. It was Rome's most humiliating defeat and it took place in one day. This also affected young Scipio directly, as his future father-in-law died in the battle. Somehow though, Scipio survived this total bloodbath, as well as all the prior battles and of course this only intensified his desire to prevail over the Carthage army.

One of the most often debated topics between both academics and history buffs in general is whether Hannibal should have taken advantage of Rome's weakened state and immediately laid siege to the city. The consensus seems to be that he wouldn't have been successful (he lacked effective siege weapons, his soldiers were exhausted and not ready to attack and he was expecting a Roman surrender anyway), but there are always those (like myself), who think it possible even without directly launching an attack ie. just by massing an impressive army outside the walls to instill fear and panic. If successful this would have forever changed European history. Hannibal decided to go against the advice of his head of cavalry (which was to attack Rome) and took the second city of Capua (modern day Naples, who along with some other regional areas had defected to him) as a base instead. He then continued to ravage the countryside relatively unchecked for the next several years, as the Roman tactics were not to face him in a major battle. Instead they used guerrilla tactics of skirmishes and pursuing a 'scorched earth' policy (ie. burning farms and any sources of food), resulting in a strategic stalemate.


If you are well versed in Roman history you may know some or all of this. However here's what you probably don't know!
According to legend, after the disastrous Battle of Cannae, and on hearing that Lucius Caecilius Metellus and other politicians were at the point of surrendering Rome to Hannibal and the Carthaginians, Scipio and his supporters stormed into the meeting, and at sword-point he forced all present to swear that they would continue in faithful service to Rome. Fortunately, the Roman Senate was of like mind and refused to entertain thoughts of peace, despite the great losses Rome had taken in the war: approximately one-fifth of the men of military age had died within a few years of Hannibal's invasion."
So it may have boiled down to a simple matter of a battle of wills in the end. If this was true (and I suspect it might be), then Hannibal never even knew what an opportunity he missed. His bitter rival however, 19 year-old Scipio (think about his nerve for his age), knew exactly what Hannibal could potentially do and sealed his fate with his daring actions. Never a better illustration of Confluence between close rivals, in this case resulting in their mutual fates being settled in their combined Years of Broken Pathway.

Curiously I am reminded of this very phenomenon, when I did an extensive analysis on the similarities between bitter rivals Napoleon Bonaparte and the Duke of Wellington (born in the same year), as well as political rivals Abraham Lincoln and General John J Hardin (born in the same year. See my post ). But this is by the way.

Hannibal and Scipio, both had their challenges made manifest in their combined Year of Broken Pathways, so let's conclude Part One by asking what did the ensuing years of their uphill journeys have to hold? The theory says that your path gets altered and it usually involves some type of personal challenge that requires effort on your part to come to terms with. These challenges can be both positive and negative, depending on how things went beforehand. The lives of Scipio and Hannibal perfectly illustrate this point, which is just so textbook Life Cycles, I'll now spell it out.

1. Firstly for Hannibal it involved several years of frustration, following his momentous victory at Cannae. He never faced the Roman military in a major battle again and he was stymied by their failure to surrender and their brush warfare tactics. It caused one commentator to say :- "Hannibal you know how to gain a victory, but you do not know how to use one." His army were progressively weakened by all this and he pursued relatively small campaigns.

2. Secondly for young Scipio it meant several years of struggle to obtain the post of quaestor (the most junior magistrate role, but there was an age requirement of being 25 years). It was regarded as the first step in the so-called "cursus honorum" (path of honour). In 213 BC, in spite of opposition by the tribunes he was elected unopposed, because of his record of bravery and patriotism.

Now this builds up to their next combined significant year when Scipio would be at his age 24 Year of Revolution at the same time as Hannibal was at his important and often career-defining age 36 Year of Revolution. What is going to happen to them both that will markedly affect their futures? That will, in a sense again mutually "seal their fates"? Can you see the wonderful intricacy of Life Cycles, as it builds all this from only three basic theoretical concepts? Strange but true, I am the first and only person in all of history to make these observations and you, dear reader, are among the first to see them unveiled.

But enough of this self-congratulatory rhetoric. You really want to know what happens next don't you? Well I promise to deliver you a great story, but you'll have to read it in Part Two, because I'm done now........

                                                           END PART ONE

NB. My birth data is based on a consensus of historians, who place Hannibal's year of birth as either 248 or 247 BC. They also place Scipio's year of birth as 236 or 235 BC. There was almost certainly a degree of overlap between the periods covering their first 12 months of life, which provides the basis of Confluence. Judging by the incredible series of coincidences between their lives, I suspect this period of overlap to have be a good proportion of a total possible period of 12 months (ie. if they were born on the same day).

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Omar Sharif and Faten Hamama and Life Cycles

Omar and Faten - They Had It All And Lost It Within 7 Years

Recently the much-loved famous Hollywood actor and world-class bridge player, Omar Sharif, died at the age of 83 from Alzheimer's Disease. This is something I only became aware of through a Facebook comment, because I was travelling and not keeping up with the news. So this whole tribute article is an excellent example of a blind analysis. I didn't select the subject and I had no prior knowledge of his life - save the usual Lawrence of Arabia and Dr. Zhivago movies and the fact he was a very good bridge player. I might add that neither movie lines up exactly with a Life Cycles significant year, so I have to really examine what did happen in some of his main adult significant years (like 24/31/36 etc.) to see what I get.

One of the chief pieces of information came to me quite late and that is the death of his one and only wife Faten Hamama, at the same age, earlier this year. He has described her as :- "his one true love". Although they officially divorced in 1974, they had been living apart for around a decade beforehand. Omar was not just separated from his 'one true love' by his own actions either, he was also separated from his beloved country of birth, Egypt, for most of his life (although he did spend some of his time there when his son settled in 2003). He largely lived out of hotels in wherever his latest movie was being shot. He was an international upmarket nomad if you will and has expressed his loneliness at this existence many times. Others have also commented that his roles often portray him as a "stranger in a strange land", so art imitates life again.

Let's examine both Omar (or Michel Chalhoub, which was his birth name) and Faten together, because their lives were inextricably linked, whether they spent most of it apart or not. Michel Chalhoub was born 10th April, 1932 in Alexandria, to a Melkite Greek Catholic family of Lebanese descent (so he was a mixture of influences even at birth). Faten Hamama was born 27th May, 1931 to a lower-class Muslim family in Mansoura, Egypt, though she claimed to have been born in better circumstances in Cairo. She was determined to become an actress when just a child and indeed appeared in her first movie role at the age of 8, becoming known as "Egypt's Shirley Temple". In Life Cycles terms they were Confluent for around 6 weeks (not really a large time, but then again it applied in every significant year).

They met in 1954 when Michel was selected for a part in the movie that would launch his career - Struggle In The Valley. By then Faten was a big star in Egypt and though she was married at the time, she agreed to share an on-screen kiss with Michel, who became known as Omar Sharif. This spilled over into real life and they fell in love and she managed to initiate an amicable divorce from her older husband. She was a very strong, independent woman, who later championed the rights of Muslim women to do this. Omar, in turn, agreed to convert to Islam. This was in 1955, so within Faten's age 24 Year of Revolution (May 1955 to May 1956). This was a moment of personal triumph for her, one of defying conventions. At this time she would have "had it all".

Then in Omar's age 24 Year of Revolution (April 1956 to April 1957) Faten became pregnant and their only child Tarek was born in March, 1957. Thus Omar is also Confluent with his only son for around the same amount of time as he is with his wife. At this time he would have "had it all" :- he had married Egypt's biggest star and they were called the Arab film industry's equivalent of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. They co-starred in movies and in this year they made a thriller Dark Waters (poster is shown above), which has been rated in one poll as the best Egyptian movie ever made. He now had a son and a very bright future. We all know, that with the benefit of hindsight, he was to become an even bigger star in Hollywood, but that was almost by default and it was 7 years away. Once again the unbroken journey of forward momentum for 7 years is displayed.

Now we move on to Faten's age 31 Year of Broken Pathways (May 1962 to May 1963). Just before this time she had starred in The River of Love (1961), her last movie with Sharif and the end of their on-screen partnership. Times were also changing for the worse in Egypt from Faten's point of view. There was a new initiative by President Nasser in 1962, to introduce Soviet-style socialism and this would come to include travel restrictions outside of Egypt. It would impact on her freedom to attend international film festivals and also meant a repression of Muslim women to initiate divorce. However these were insignificant issues compared to Omar's sudden and unexpected offer of a leading role in the movie Lawrence of Arabia. Director David Lean ostensibly picked out his photo, because his liquid brown eyes would contrast well against Peter O'Toole's very blue eyes. Already a major star in the Middle East he was cast as Lawrence's guide, but after many other stars pulled out or were unsuitable, he was offered the starring role as Sherif Ali. Lawrence was shot during 1962 and released at the end of Dec.

Omar's age 31 Year of Broken Pathways (April 1963 to April 1964) really coincided with the enormous critical and box office success of Lawrence. He was to go on to receive an Academy Award nomination and two Golden Globe Awards. He became, in this year, literally the toast of Hollywood as a new actor and offers began to roll in, along with a hoard of female admirers of this fascinating Arabian Sheik-style leading man. He was also affected by the Government-imposed travel restrictions and to a much larger extent than Faten was. He couldn't really work in Hollywood and visit Egypt in between and Faten wanted to continue her career in the Egyptian film industry, so they basically came adrift at this point.

I'm going to interject here and ask the obvious :- "Could things have turned out differently or was this separation inevitable?" Omar is on the record as saying :- " Maybe if I hadn't made Lawrence I would have gone on living in Cairo and had five children and lots of grandchildren" Well yes, maybe this is so. Also, maybe if Faten was not quite so independent-minded she could have followed him to Hollywood and worked at carving out her own international career. Also Omar was by his own admission drawn to the girls like a bee to honey and now there were ample leading ladies only too willing to share an on-screen (and off-screen as well) kiss with him, starting in 1964 with Ingrid Bergman in the movie The Yellow Rolls Royce. He soon admitted as much to an enquiring Faten saying that he :- "meets all these beautiful girls, actresses and other women.....and that he might fall in love with one of them at any moment". Well you've got to give him points for honesty I guess, but the marriage survived in name only until a divorce in 1974.

Once again we're left with the residual friendship side on Confluence and a life-long bond through their son (who had a small part in Zhivago). Now on to their own defining age 36 Years of Revolution, that had a similar theme - to live life by your own standards regardless of what government policy or religious convention might have to say. Firstly to Faten (May 1967 to May 1968). In the national setback following the Six Day War with Israel in June, 1967, Faten was asked to co-operate with Egyptian Intelligence Services and she refused resulting in her maintaining a self-imposed exile from her country. Despite President Nasser trying to get her to return and calling her a "national treasure"; she stayed away till the year following his death in 1971. She divided her time between London and Beirut. Isn't this ironic?! I mean if it would have happened a couple of years earlier then maybe Omar would have seen sense and returned to her.

She also championed the rights of Muslim women to initiate divorce and other related human rights causes, resulting some 7 years later in her breakthrough movie - I Need A Solution. From his side however, Omar's age 36 Year of Revolution (April 1968 to April 1969), was all about defying religious convention and causing a storm of criticism in the Arab world. It should be noted that he always felt deeply about religious and racial equality and harmony, not unnaturally since he was an ethnic Lebanese Christian, who had become a Muslim and in turn held no enmity towards Jewish people.

In 1968 the movie Funny Girl was released. He co-starred with Barbara Streisand and it attracted much negative publicity as she was Jewish and he kissed her on-screen (and fell in love with her off-screen as shown above). The Egyptian Government immediately condemned the film and it was banned in many Arab countries. Omar himself was unrepentant saying that he saw nothing wrong with any of it. He was as much a rebel against orthodoxy as Faten was, albeit in a different way. However, this placed a wedge firmly between him and his homeland. His own form of patriotic redemption was shown through his other great love - the game of bridge. He was a world class player and in 1968, even though he was living in France, he wanted to take part in the Bridge Olympiad as Captain of the Egyptian team. The Government refused to sponsor the team in France, so Sharif put up his own money to pay for their accommodation and living expenses. It was his personal contribution to his country, as well as a high point in his bridge career.

Omar has often echoed sentiments that argue for an inclusive view of religious differences and this was in turn imparted to his son Tarek, who in 1983, whilst doing a Uni course in Toronto, had a relationship with a Jewish fellow student, as a result of which Omar's grandson - Omar Sharif Jr.- was born. Omar Jr. was not only named after his famous grandfather, but he has become an actor and has recently admitted publicly that he is gay as well as half-Jewish (although this is just a label as you can't really be half of a religion).

Can you see how Omar and Faten were very similar in their attitudes and outlook? Had Omar not 'fallen for the lure of a Hollywood career' they could well have had five children and many grandchildren and fought their progressive causes together. Had Omar not lived a lonely life abroad (even though outwardly glamorous), they could have remained close friends in Egypt, no matter if they divorced or not. Omar did not find another satisfying long term relationship and Faten remained his 'one true love'. I hope you enjoyed this tribute article, which became by accident another case of the influence of Confluence in Families. Till next month :- "may the cycles always bring you good fortune."