While the information that follows about the Spanish Inquisition, early US synagogues, Sumerian tablets, Philadelphia financiers, cyberpunk, and blockchain government may seem out of place in a series on Brazil, I have a gut feeling the connections I’m laying out may become significant in the future. For that reason, I wanted to take time to compile these fragments of information I’ve been gathering up and share them with you to see what you think, and if you have information to add. The objective is not to point to some single “responsible party” to hold accountable for the situation in which we find ourselves. That would be a gross oversimplification, and counterproductive. We are investigating different parts of this machine of domination, one that has been running for centuries, traumatizing people who in turn traumatize others in a cycle of ongoing dysfunction. Living in Philadelphia means wandering through a web of history. Sometimes it’s worth picking out some threads to have a closer look.
In recent years as I’ve continued to piece together this puzzle, there have been times when flickers of memories come like a flash of light when I stumble into new areas of inquiry – in this case clay tablets. I hold in my heart a memory of a warm spring day standing along a crop row talking with a colleague, a person of deep and committed faith, who works with the land, Lenape land. This person knows hands-in-the soil connection to seeds, stories, and food is what will help heal the world. I was speaking with this person maybe three years ago about the things I was seeing as I followed the money, and he said to me essentially, “Alison, you are a Jeremiah.” I’m somewhat ashamed to say I had to go and look it up. Jeremiah was the weeping prophet, the one who said the Babylonians were coming and was abandoned, beaten, and thrown in a well for it. Now my child has turned their back on me and the light I am attempting to shine on the truth. The weight of this calling is becoming very, very real for all of us who have chosen to take a stand as keepers of natural life. I just had a friend tell me police are going door-to-door in Delhi taking vaccine status and phone numbers. I have another friend who is now prohibited from riding public transit in Italy. I have friends who have lost jobs for not agreeing to submit their personal health data to the biosurveillance state. That’s me, too.
Yes, the Babylonians are coming. They are the foundations and tech billionaires, like Jack Dorsey, who offer grants to often well-intentioned organizations. Program managers then fool themselves into thinking they are doing the right thing, making the best of an impossible situation, and will go on to pilot the predatory Internet of Things technologies that will inevitably take coming generations down a road to posthumanism and disconnect from all that nature offers. The farther we go, the more we lose the language we need to COMMUNICATE with all our sibling beings in the REAL world. The slide is so gradual, though, most never notice the loss of beingness.
Once you see you the system of domination, truly see it, and how it has been so assiduously woven into the psychology of our mythological “democratic” past, you can’t unsee it. All you can do is try to become coherent, cut yourself free from entanglements, and keep walking forward. So, let us start by getting a clear understanding of how systems of domination came to the New World with Shawnee-Lenape Indian law scholar Steven Newcomb.
In 1493 Pope Alexander VI issued a Papal Bull of Demarcation that split rights to claim the new world between Spain and Portugal. That agreement was revised by the Treaty of Tordesillas the following year, pushing the pole-to-pole meridian further west to 370 leagues beyond the Cape Verde Islands. That adjustment meant Portugal was entitled by Papal decree to dominate and colonize lands discovered by Pedro Alvarez Cabral six years later, those became the nation of Brazil.
Catholics weren’t the only Europeans enriched by the abundance wrested from indigenous lands, Jewish people benefitted as well. Infrastructure investments that for centuries were directed into minerals and agricultural products are today being applied to the capture of behavioral data for human capital valuation. The colonial interests that built Brazil’s sugar empire are again on the scene, which is not surprising given that communities of faith are hubs for social service delivery. For that reason, they are poised to serve as ready-made channels through which global capital can bring industrial-level poverty management to scale. The sugar connection interests me, because I explored the idea of hypothecation and mortgaged human life and data collection in the so-called “community school” model in the context of sugar refineries in a post a wrote a few years back.
Sir Ronald Cohen is a key figure in global impact investing. A Harvard MBA and the father of British venture capital, Cohen fled to the UK with his family from Egypt in the 1950s. He is Jewish, in fact his wife’s now deceased father was Yossi Harel of the Exodus, but moves fluidly among all circles in his role conducting the symphony of the global technocratic social impact transition. Cohen has appeared at the Vatican’s social impact conferences as well as conferences on Jewish venture philanthropy at Fordham University in New York. Ronald Cohen collaborates with Omidyar Network, an organization working on many fronts to remake Brazil as a data-driven society suited to the global impact economy.
Jews faced forced conversion under the Portuguese Inquisition, a few years after Spain’s purges had gotten underway. Those who did not flee had to convert though many continued to practice their faith in secret. Converso history (videos here and here) has gotten considerable attention in academic circles and the media over the past decade as more and more people are getting their genomes sequenced for ancestral purposes. Converso history overlaps with the Jesuit church, which tended to be receptive and whose missionary program enabled such people opportunities to leave the regions where they were persecuted. The Jewish Heritage Alliance states that 10-25% of the population of Brazil likely has some ancestral connection to Conversos.
From 1568-1648 ongoing skirmishes took place between what is now The Netherlands and Spain. After that separation was accomplished, Portuguese Conversos poured into Amsterdam, fast becoming Europe’s largest port, a center of maritime trade and intellectual ventures, including printing. There they often renewed their cultural and faith practices while playing a key role facilitating the financial transactions of European empire building. Dutch acceptance of Jewish culture made New World colonies, like Recife, an attractive option for those seeking opportunities abroad.
The oldest synagogue in the New World is in Recife, a northeastern coastal smart city, the fourth largest in the nation. Jewish settlers came to the region during the short window of time, 1630-1654, that it was controlled by the Dutch and the West India Company. The Jewish community of Recife helped establish a sugar industry as well as financing construction of infrastructure like roads and sewer systems. The Kahal Zur Israel Synagogue, now a frequented tourist destination, was built sometime before 1641 and restored in 2001. Jewish people were forced to leave in 1654 when the Portuguese regained control. Some came to New Netherlands, New York City, where they were initially rejected by Governor Peter Stuyvesant, but won a right to remain by petitioning the Dutch West India Company in 1655. These Brazilian exiles built the first synagogue in North America, Shearith Israel. It was the only Jewish congregation in the city from 1654 to 1825.
During the American Revolution, Jewish people from throughout the colonies sought refuge in Philadelphia, and Reverend Gershom Mendes Seixas came down from Shearith Israel in New York to minister to them at Mikveh Israel. It remains our city’s oldest congregation, one that continues to uphold Spanish-Portuguese traditions of worship. Joshua de Sola Mendes of Shearith Israel provides additional information on other sister Spanish-Portuguese synagogues around the world in a 2013 presentation. Mikveh Israel’s current site on Independence Mall is home to a memorial to Operation Entebbe, commemorating the death of Benjamin Netanyahu’s brother Yonatan. Their father Benzion was a scholar and professor at Dropsie College, more on that later, whose dissertation focused on conversos and the Spanish Inquisition. The brothers grew up and went to high school in the Philadelphia suburb of Cheltenham, PA a stone’s throw from Abingdon, PA where Stephen Schwarzman of BlackStone grew up. Stephen Schwarzman graduated high school in 1965, Benjamin Netanyahu in 1967. Their schools were less than three miles apart.
Institutionalized faith traditions can be viewed as among the oldest forms of “programming:” from chants to tablets to books to televangelism and now AI as intercessor between humans and their creator. Neal Stephenson’s 1992 cyberpunk novel SnowCrash, the book that coined the term Metaverse and brought the idea of avatars into popular use, goes into this concept in some detail. The plot revolves around a powerful Texan, L. Bob Rife, who made a fortune in telecommunications and intends to take hold of the consciousness of the world through faith-based viral programming.
At the core of the novel is the nam-shub of Enki, a Sumerian incantation with magical force. According to legend, the trickster Enki, god of water and creation, let a mind virus loose on humanity. Before that time, all beings of the universe shared a common language. When the nam-shub came into the world that universal language was lost, like the Tower of Babel. Also lost was the spiritual programming that came through Asherah, one of the three goddess of the Canaanites and mother of all living things whose worship was closely associated with trees and wooded groves. Humanity was forced to develop its own intellect and capacities beyond what was offered by Asherah through the priests.
So, if we were to take Stephenson’s interpretation of the Enki story at face value, we must ask ourselves what has humanity done in the millennia since that original break? Well, we have continued to fragment ourselves not only by language, but by many other aspects of identity. We have acquired vast, but narrow, sets of “expert” knowledge largely disconnected from the sacred energetics of the world. We have disrespected the Earth and our sibling beings and devised sophisticated forms of domination that we obfuscate using languages of care and social progress. There has been a lot of domination.
Now we’ve arrived at a moment where men like James Tour at Rice University (similar to the Stephenson’s antagonist L. Bob Rife, also based in Houston) are exalted for efforts to “program” matter from the bottom up using advanced molecular engineering and nano-technology, as if he were a direct agent of god.
This mentality leads to defense interests refining new forms of “communication,” one where minds and bodies are remade as computational surfaces, armatures for BioLAN. Look at what the US Army Combat Capabilities Development and Command (DEVCOM); the Center for Biomolecular Science and Engineering, US Naval Research Lab; and the Institute for Bioscience and Biotechnology Research at the University of Maryland at College Park have been up to – information conveyed from living cells embedded in bioelectronics interfaces to engineered microbial networks. Findings published in Nature Nanotechnology in March 2021.
Did Enki know what he was unleashing, leaving humans to their own devices? “Magic force?” Nano-pico sorcery of a most devious kind.
At the time I was reading SnowCrash this fall, I learned about Dropsie College of Cognate and Hebrew Languages in North Philadelphia, Benzion Netanyahu, and its collection of ancient middle eastern texts, which included Sumerian tablets. So the idea of an incantation that had the potential to program minds without people even realizing what had happened really hit home given all we’ve been navigating since March 2020. We are in total information warfare – all of us, even “the resistance.” I suspect the people running this game know all about nam-shubs (and nano-technology and carrier waves).
Samuel Noah Kramer’s book, Myths of Enki The Crafty God, co-authored with John Maier and published by Oxford University Press in 1989, was Stephenson’s source for the myth. In the story, “the Librarian” character advises Hiro Protagonist and cites Kramer’s work.
Kramer’s was born in Kiev in 1897. His family left in 1905 due to anti-Semitism under the rule of Czar Nicholas II. His father went on to establish a Hebrew school in Philadelphia. Samuel was for a time an Egyptology student at Dropsie College, but left and went on to study at the University of Pennsylvania where he became a renowned professor of Assyriology and transformed the world’s understanding of Sumerian literature.
Kramer’s library was donated to Bar-Ilan University in Tel Aviv in 1980. The university established an institute in Kramer’s honor supporting research into relationships between Assyriology and the Bible and to cultivate an international interest in the culture of Mesopotamia. Bar-Ilan is a partner with Social Finance on a student-run ESG impact investing fund and has a major research center for nanotechnology and advanced material engineering. As a side note, based on a 1986 New York Times article describing his contributions to the field, Kramer and his wife appear to have spent their last years in what is now my neighborhood in an apartment overlooking the Art Museum, a ceremonial mound perhaps not so unlike the ziggurats of Mesopotamia.
Dropsie College of Cognate and Hebrew Learning was founded in 1907 with money from the estate of Moses Aaron Dropsie, a lawyer of Dutch descent who made his money building Philadelphia’s street railways. Dropsie College was the first institution in the world to award advanced degrees in Judaic Studies. It sat adjacent to the fourth synagogue built by Mikveh Israel’s congregation. Both are located on the southeast corner of North Broad and York Streets a few miles from my house.
Benzion Netanyahu and William Chomsky both lectured at the school, the former on Spanish Jewry and the latter on classical Hebrew language and literature. The school maintained an extensive library including numerous rare texts and Sumerian tablets. Though Dropsie College was an unaffiliated institution, it kept close ties with the University of Pennsylvania. The school was damaged by fire and closed in 1985. Mikveh Israel had already relocated to a new location, its present site, on Independence Mall in 1976. Today the lot with the two buildings is being eyed for redevelopment by Brit Emet as one-bedroom apartments to serve the nearby Temple University student population.
The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology holds a large collection of Babylonian artifacts excavated in Iraq in the late 1880s, including the tablets Samuel Noah Kramer spent much of his career studying. The Babylonian Expedition to Nippur, the cradle of civilization, netted inscribed hymns to the god Ninib, an ancient solar deity with the powers of healing and war. Nippur was a pilgrimage city and an administrative and legal center of Mesopotamia located 100 miles south of Bagdad. Many of the tablets, including the feature image, were sacred texts or business contracts. The durability of the clay tablets with reed markings enabled them to endure for thousands of years. Kramer spent his lifetime translating tablets and presenting what he found in books written for the general public, not just academic audiences. It is his work that created a broader awareness of Sumerian society during the second half of the twentieth century.
So it seems fitting that the University of Pennsylvania’s Museum of Archeology and Anthropology, set up by William Pepper in large part to hold the items collected in Nippur, is sited at the intersection of medicine and war. You can see on the map below its position between the Singh Nanotechnology Center, the Moore Building where ENIAC the first computer general purpose computer was made to calculate missile trajectories in WWII, and the sprawling medical campus with many bioengineering facilities. A block to the west is the Wistar Institute, one of the country’s first biomedical research centers dating to 1892. Two blocks north of that is the house where Madame Blavatsky, Theosophist mystic, lived while she was in Philadelphia. For many years it operated as the White Dog Café, run by Judy Wicks, a prominent figure in green, sustainable business, and more recently impact investing.
The expedition was underwritten with financial support from Edward and Clarence Clark, sons of Enoch Clark who created the banking empire E.W. Clark & Company in the mid-nineteenth century and helped finance the Mexican American War. Enoch Clark launched the career of Jay Cooke, financier of the Union during the Civil War and later investor in railroad, mining, and insurance. William West Frazier whose family made its fortune in Latin American sugar processing; Joseph D. Potts, railroad and shipping magnate; Henry Charles Lea, historian and civic activist; and William Pepper, medical doctor and University of Pennsylvania provost also supported the undertaking.
Walter Annenberg, Wharton class of 1931 and early-stage education impact investor, was tapped to save the Dropsie College’s library after the fire. He set up the Annenberg Research Institute to bring Dropsie’s rare texts and artifacts into his possession. A decade later the collection came under the supervision of the University of Pennsylvania when the two institutional collections of Judaica were brought together in 1993 in what is now the Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies. It is housed in an imposing five story building, which holds over 350,000 artifacts that are available for study through graduate level fellowships. The center is located at Fourth and Walnut Streets in the block directly opposite the Second Bank of the United States (the second attempt to establish a Central Bank in the US) and the American Philosophical Society (Ben Franklin’s eighteenth-century center for science innovation) and is one block east of Independence Hall.
The University of Pennsylvania has close ties with Israel, Wharton in particular. The business school received a $10 million donation last year from Yuri and Julia Milner to underwrite tuition covering 60 Israeli MBA students over the coming decade. Jonathan Greenblatt, who led the Obama’s effort around Pay for Success Finance from 2010-2014 served as a senior social impact fellow at Wharton the year after he left the White House and is now CEO of the Anti-Defamation League. Wharton is also leader in blockchain technology and gamification per Kevin “After The Digital Tornado” Werbach.
As we seem to be speeding towards Terry Gilliam’s vision of disregulated technological governance, I invite you to read the paragraph below written by Arthur Kiron, curator at the Katz Center, and taken from “The Professionalization of Wisdom: The Legacy of Dropsie College and its Library.” My worry is that in looking back into these encoded texts powerful financial interests may be looking to drop their own nam-shub on the world and force us all into the Metaverse. While they speak of the origins of democracy, what is actually being set up is the state as a machine. As with so many things in Philadelphia, they fancy it up with pretty sounding language, but the intended result will be cold, harsh, and inhuman.
Mayer Sulzberger who advanced this premise was came from a family with a legacy of rabbinical scholarship who studied law and worked for Moses Dropsie and later became the first Jewish judge in Pennsylvania. He was a member of Mikveh Israel and a prominent civic figure especially in Hebrew libraries and education. The Philadelphia Area Archives and Research Portal’s entry on Sulzberger notes that his legal views strongly favored the benefit of society over individual rights, which would be in alignment with the Communitarian ethos later advanced by Amitai Etzioni.
“…a state machine that manages the inputs and outputs of transactions…”
This vision is not unlike an automated Code of Hammurabi, which was Babylonian. There were tablets of the code, CODE, found in the sacred city of Nippur, the site of the University’s Babylonian Expedition. The Metaverse has been designed as a digital world the contours of which will be defined by domination and hyper-capitalism. The financiers, defense interests, data analysts will rule through automated legal agreements built on blockchain smart contracts where everything, every social exchange, every movement, and perhaps every thought tracked as electrical signal will become a TOKEN to be fed into Bettina Warburg’s imagined vending machine. With each token deposit, humanity gets closer to the Singularity and farther from our connection to the divine universe. A person’s accumulation of “tokens” will make their “character” legible to the machine, so the state, as Charles Hoskinson of Cardano has said, will know, based on your digital twin’s meta-data, if you are a good actor and worthy of having your needs of survival met. If we are not deemed worthy, what recourse will we have confronting a faceless fascist machine built on nefarious public-private partnerships and key performance indicators?
Bettina Warburg authored the above piece for the British Council in 2019. The British Council, created in 1940, was set up to secure UK interests abroad, especially during the Cold War, through friendly cultural and education programs with a side of state intelligence. Warburg (hard to say if she is from THAT Venetian-German finance family as her personal details are kept very private) did attend Georgetown and Oxford with a research focus of German national identity. She gave the first TED Talk on the topic of blockchain, a much lauded event, after she’d spent three years as a public foresight strategist at Institute For The Future. IFTF is a RAND spin off tasked since the late 1960s with creating marketing campaigns for Silicon Valley’s planned technetronic future.
She is presently building out decentralized “asset chains,” of which monitored human behavior will be a central feature. Warburg Seres VC and Animal Ventures where she is a managing partner are literally setting up that mixed-reality CIA video game for “social impact” I keep talking about – a crypto-kibbutz model with gamified psychological management through digital nudges. They will frame it as fun and community building, cooperative. It’s not. It’s really not and that is why all the people pushing blockchain liberation are incredibly irresponsible. The only tokens that will be used “in-game” are the ones approved by venture capital. You’d think people like Derrick Broze would do their due diligence before promoting deceptive enterprises like “play to earn” Splinterlands gaming backed by Blockchain Founders Fund out of Singapore and INSEAD. Scratch below the surface and you see what is really going on. Animal Ventures – e-citizens, poor children, tokenized as digital livestock. Kind of puts that Farmville phenomenon in a whole new light, doesn’t it?
IFTF’s “Blockchain Futures Map 2017-2027” presents a mind-boggling array of concepts – from the prospect of trying to live as a gig worker hired by an HVAC system to bots having the same rights as people. A centerpiece of Warburg’s work was “civic hacking,” the shift to automated, data-driven government being sold by digital currency hucksters like Brian Forde to an unsuspecting public as a solution to government accountability and efficiency. This is very much in line with automated e-governance being ramped up in Israel under cover of pandemic lockdowns. In 2020 Israel did a webinar pitching this digital governance model to the state of Rhode Island. This has been teed up for quite some time now through programs like MIT’s research in Jun, Spain where citizens were encouraged to engage their government primarily through Twitter (Jack Dorsey) for “transparency.” Before doing so they were to register their social media with government officials. Maybe back then it was harder to see what was coming down the pike. Now we know the bigger goal is tracking social physics. Once citizens have an assigned DID, decentralized identifier, tracking and controlling one’s access to the internet and the mixed reality Metaverse, I fear the digital twinning of society is going to proceed more quickly that we can possibly imagine.
Consider what it will mean to live in a future where faith and government and social behavior are subject to nano-technological programming hidden beneath nam-shub Metaverse enchantments. I’ve come to believe the energetic “current” running through blockchain digital currency is a modern nam-shub meant to make holders forget who they are. The predator energy needs for us to willingly give consent to become part of their engineered, man-made network. It must be our choice to give up our birthright, our place in the divine web of creation that has existed for all eternity. Crypto is the cheese for their mouse trap. That is why I take a hard stance. Don’t blockchain life, don’t. That is my line in the sand.
What does all this mean not just for some mythical American “democracy,” but for the world at a whole? Will we allow the technicians to blockchain faith? Will we task third-way politicians with blockchaining our government? Will stand by as central banks force us to adopt digital wallets of smart contract currency? Will bio-tech processing hubs manage us as digital twins according to the biosensor data contained in our blockchain health records? Will be become the “wireheads” of Stephenson’s novel, where bulky antennae are replaced by the nano-neural networks developed by DARPA, Charles Lieber, James Giordano, and James Robinson?
We need to grapple with the concept of the nam-shub, how our life force is being channeled, and to what end at this time of global upheaval. Systems of domination extend beyond the Roman Empire back to Babylon, that cradle of “civilization,” of agriculture, trade, written communication, scribes – those scribes keeping the cunieform accounts on clay tablets awaiting the day when a truly permanent ledger would arrive. The clear, coherent thinking of which John Trudell spoke feels more and more elusive in an era where MIT Media Lab’s experiments in synthetic programmable hallucinations are being normalized.
Once we understand the game is about domination through mental programming and economic control, the historical details, while interesting, can be set aside. It’s simply not useful to attempt to pin the “blame” for creating this anti-life machine on any single party. It is about a dominating principle that came into legal force in the New World through the papal bulls and the colonization and dispossession and death and destruction that followed. It is strange to consider distances of time and space between colonized and “smart” Philadelphia, Recife, Amsterdam, and Lisbon are not so vast after all, that our stories are woven together – forced migration, colonization, dispossession, subjugation, financialization, programming, and yet still there exists mystical faith in a greater power. Can we keep that beyond the reach of the Ahrimanic machine? I believe we can.
For detailed analysis on social impact investing in Israel and Ronald Cohen you can check out my four-hour presentation with Shai Danon from December 2020. You can read more about Ronald Cohen from Raul Diego at Silicon Icarus here.
Update: confirmation has been provided by a person in my circle that Bettina Warburg-Johnson is the daughter of Dr. Marie Warburg. Dr. Marie Warburg, investment advisor for biotechnology companies, is the daugher of Eric M. Warburg, of the German international banking family. He led E.M. Warburg Pincus and Company in New York from 1939 to 1973 as well as being managing partner in M. M. Warburg, Brinckmann, Wirtz & Company. During World War II he was a high-level intelligence officer and participated Operation Paperclip, the covert program by which Nazi scientists were relocated to the United States.
What Soros and Janeway’s Institute for New Economic Thinking had planned in 2013.