Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Giving up smoking

A pipe is only slightly better IF one does not inhale. Many former cigarette smokers continue to inhale the pipe smoke which is more harmful than cigarette smoke. Also with pipes there is an increased risk of cancer of the mouth and/or throat. I worked for a man in his 70s who quite literally smoked one pound of SAIL tobacco each month. He would order 5 one pound cans at a time and I would date, stock and rotate them. A lit pipe was CONSTANTLY in his mouth. I used to smoke pipes but I could never smoke with his frequency. Finally he was treated for throat cancer. He continued to work each day and went to radiation treatments. His neck became black, I imagine from the burning of the radiation treatment. He stopped smoking. He is still alive today and has the use of his voice and the surgery took place about 8 years ago. I stopped tobacco and alcohol four years ago. I had to stay clean for 1 month to permit anesthesia for kidney stone surgery, and I never went back to drinking/smoking. But the last few years of tobacco use were Redman Chewing tobacco because my sinus problems made smoke intolerable. My boss from Paris HATED tobacco users and he never knew I was one because I only did it once or twice a day for several minutes in the restroom, and rinsed my mouth, so he never knew. Now I honestly say that I never crave alcohol or tobacco. I started on both when I was age 7 but only very infrequently and in secret until I was in my teens.

Monday, November 28, 2011


"Axiomatic" comes from the Greek "axios" (worthy) an in geometry it means something WORTHY of being accepted as intuitively obvious but without proof because if EVERYTHING were proven in theorems then that would mean an infinite number of theorems. In a sense an axiom is something we accept as being true but cannot PROVE true yet that which is proven is more cogent and compelling.

Accepting God's Will

There is a different sort of answer for your friend's problem. There are various passages in the Bible which suggest that everything which befalls us is part of God's will and as it says in the Epistle of James "count it all joy when trials befall you" ... Job is tried with all sorts of sufferings. Even Tobit in the Deuterocanonical books risks his life to bury the dead in defiance of a pagan king's orders and yet a tragedy befalls Tobit which causes him to go blind.  

If we keep getting pregnant until we have ten children, then that is God's will. If we cannot conceive or even adopt, then that is God's will.

At a certain point a believer should simply surrender to circumstances and accept God's will.  A person who is in a state of "friendship with God" and is able to receive communion but cannot because of some mitigating circumstances beyond their control is still much better off than someone who receives communion unworthily and as Paul says, eats unto their own condemnation. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

We who mystically represent the Cherubim

When, during the Greek liturgy, the priests and deacons come out of the altar iconostasis bearing "the gifts" the bread and wine to be consecrated, and this is called "the great entrance" then the choirs chant a long slow solemn hymn which says "We who mystically represent the Cherubim, and offer to the live-giving Trinity the thrice holy hymn... let us relinquish all worldly concerns so that we may receive the king of all"  (its hard for me to remember it exactly.. I used to know it in Greek) ...  now let us compare this to a Protestant notion of church. Modern people are not interested in "mystically representing the Cherubim" ... modern people want an inspiring person who can be an engaging speaker (the sermon) and an effective social worker (pastoral counseling)... SO ... women can be great at that.. perhaps better than males... and why bother with candles and incense and what is the point of the eucharist because, after all, it makes crumbs, and is unsanitary if a lot of people drink out of the same cup.  SO, why not just create your own church and write your own rules, and have your own method of governance and why worry whether it's valid or invalid or what the rest of the world thinks. There is one long avenue that runs the length of Brooklyn from North to South, Dekalb Avenue, and literally every block has anywhere from one to three store front churches and one of those has a billboard which says "founded by Bishop Sally" so, we already have female bishops... no problem 

Jain and Buddhist traditions

Now, to really understand the female ordination issue, one may consider the long history of the Jains (there are about 3  million Jains in the world mostly around Gujerat, India) whose founder was Mahavaira who was a contemporary of Siddhartha Gautama who is the historical Buddha.  In ancient times the Jains split into two sects; the Svetasambra (white sheet clad) and the Digambra (sky-clad... i.e. bare naked).  The Digambra are far more strict, conservative whereas the Svetasambra are liberal. Among the Digambra only MALES may become ascetic monks. Females must wait until they are reincarnated as a male (no I am NOT joking). The Svetasambra do allow female renunciates (nuns if you will.)  Now lets look at Siddhartha Gautama. He starts off as a wealthy prince living a privileged life of luxury. He abandons the luxury and begins to practice every known religious teaching moving from guru to guru and sect to sect. Finally he is at the point of starvation when he sees a boat pass by on the river and hears the master musician instruct the apprentice who is stringing an instrument "Do not make it too tight or it will snap BUT do not make it too slack or it will not sound its note."  From this Siddhartha realized that "the middle way was best" ... then he experienced enlightenment... then I went about preaching far and wide but ordained ONLY MALES to his religious order. After some years one woman complained and so he founded an order for women. BUT, there was no role for the married laity other than to give alms of food. As the centuries passed there was a schism between the way of the elders, the Theravadin, and the Mahayana or Great Vehicle. To this day there are orders of women whose ordination (sampradaya) lineage traces back to Siddhartha. At a certain point in history, all the Theravadin convents were destroyed. Theravadin women continued to practice renunciate life in viharas (convents) BUT they could never take ordination BECAUSE the lineage had been disrupted. During the 19th or 20th century one Mahayana order of nuns with a valid lineage offered to ordain the Theravadin women and let them continue in their Theravadin practices and beliefs but the Theravadin women declined because they felt the Mahayana lineage was too tainted.  I know some LGBT people who gravitate to Buddhism because they do not perceive any negative criticisms of same sex love in Buddhist teachings. What they fail to realize is that the origins of Hindu and Buddhist religious practice ASSUMED ascetic renunciation and so no mention is made about sexuality. Only gradually over the centuries was some practice carved out for the participation of laity.

Male Ordination

The Greeks have a special, long ceremony to vest a Bishop in the Church. Once the Bishop is vested and begins to serve then a deacon or priest INCENSES the bishop NINE times. The icon of Christ is incensed only three times under any circumstances (bishop or no bishop present.)  The REASON that a bishop is incensed with the censor NINE times is because the bishop, mystically, from the time of vesting until the service is over is THE LIVING ICON OF CHRIST whereas the wooden painting on the iconostasis is NOT a living icon.  The Greeks and Russians may in theory only consecrate Bishops from among monastics because the monastic life of the ascetic renunciate IS the mystical life of Christ. It is true that in recent centuries widowed priests have been given a nominal monastic tonsure and then consecrated as bishops but this is not a good practice. Monasticism is a way of life and you cannot learn it by reading "Monasticism for Dummies" or taking a semester of "Asceticism 101" and doing some multiple choice, true or false and essay questions.  For a male to be ordained as a priest he is allowed to be married BUT he must have been a virgin prior to marriage and must marry a virgin. Once he is ordained, should his wife die, he is expected to enter a monastery. A man who marries a widow may not be ordained as a priest. A man who is physically imperfect, missing fingers, limbs, eye, ear, may not be ordained because the males animals sacrificed in the Old Testament must have no obvious imperfections.  Once a priest or bishop is ordained/consecrated then even if he is maimed he may continue to serve. IF a male is bleeding, say from some wound or hemorrhoids he is ritually unclean and may not celebrate the liturgy/mass nor receive communion and this is the same reason why a woman who gives birth may not enter the church for 40 days and after 40 days there is a brief churching prayer. A woman may not receive communion during menstruation. A priest may not hunt or slaughter animals. IF a priest should be driving a car and kills someone in an accident then he may never serve another liturgy/mass. If a male seeks ordination but as a child was molested and penetrated then he is ritually unfit for ordination.  All this is very ancient tradition. I am not making it up. I have a copy here of the 1000 page Pedalion (The Rudder) ... a rudder guides, steers a ship so the Pedalion is all these traditions written down.  I am dredging all this up from my memory to illustrate how there are reasons why no female and even many males are unsuitable for ordination. Eastern Orthodoxy has always been driven by mysticism. The West, Rome, retained a fair measure of mysticism but introduced a lot of Aristotelian type logic and legalism. The center piece of worship is always the mystical supper of the eucharist. The sermon is kind of a side-show event. Once the Reformation comes along then the sermon and the bible are front and center and the eucharist takes a back seat until gradually, it vanishes into a monthly or quarterly or perhaps even yearly token event (depending on the denomination) . 

Ordination of Women

I realize your original question had to do with what my WIFE thinks about ordination of women. Of course, living with me she hears all these ancient Greek Orthodox arguments which almost no one in the world knows including many Greeks. Being male I can testify to the fact that in a certain way all males are rotten. I was the one who make up the saying "All men are dogs but some dogs are Lassie." Oh, and if you want to argue that Lassie was FEMALE, then Google and find out that ALL 14 Lassie dogs were male because males are larger and do not have a problem with seasonal molting. There were monks in the Greek monastery who had been there thirty years and complained during confession that every time they see a woman they are afflicted with carnal thoughts. Males are afflicted by testicles and testosterone. Certainly it is true that women experience sexual temptations but their batting average is a lot better than males in the area of sexual misconduct. My wife would be 100 per cent in favor of women ordinations.

There are some Protestant denominations who criticize Catholics saying "If Jesus were electrocuted would you wear an electric chair around your neck?" and "if you celebrate a Mass every day then you are crucifying Christ over and over." What such critics fail to realize is that there is only one Crucifixion in a pre-Eternal moment and mystically celebrants are transported to that moment.

There will always be innovations and schisms BUT... for some reason Mt. Athos and St. Catherine's Sinai have continued unchanged stretching back to Apostolic times. As long as somewhere in the world there are a few people doing what has been done since the beginning then it really does not matter if there are groups who start ordaining women or robots and have a Eucharist of cheerios and kool-aid.

There are Reform Jewish synagogues which have female lesbian Rabbis and since the Torah says "thou shalt not lie with a male as with a female" the gay couples have sex standing up and feel that they have fulfilled the mitzvah (NO I am NOT joking)

What to do? What to do?

A Catholic is now celiac and cannot have gluten, so what to do. I was just asked this. My reply:

How strange you should mention this, since I was thinking of that during my cheerios and kool-aid homily.

Simple-minded answer. I went with a Greek priest monk once to an emergency ward where an old man was in minutes of death. The doctors and nurses parted like waves in the wake of so huge ship as this black robbed priest-monk with a long beard approached with a chalice (containing both wine and bread, body and blood, whatever)  .... the old man had all these tubes in his nose, mouth, arm.... his eyes OPENED WIDE cause he knew this was it, the end of the trail... the priest dipped his index finger in the chalice, perhaps a drop, and placed it in his mouth next to the tube. Ten minutes later, the man was dead.   Now back to your friend. SINCE the RC Church says that the wafer is sufficient, the wine is not necessary... she can go and sip from the chalice. By the way their are a few alcoholic priests I know who use grape juice.   Now let us imagine the situation of someone who has their mouth sewn shut (or perhaps has no mouth or jaw) and lives on intravenous. What to do, what to do?  In the vision of Prophet Daniel (I think it was Daniel) he was feeling faint and an angel took a burning coal, touched it to Daniel's mouth, and said "this has touched your lips and taken away your inequity."  Consider the life of St. Mary of Egypt who was one of the greatest harlots, even forcing sailors to do things which embarrassed them. When she went into the desert for 40 years, she had no priest, no communion, and only just before her death did a priest find her in the wilderness and give her communion.  To an alcoholic I say, eat the wafer, to a celiac, I say, sip the wine. To Donovan's brain living in a glass jar, I say, Believe and ye have already eaten.  And what of the several children born with TWO HEADS. Suppose one wanted to convert to Islam and the other wanted to chant Hare Krishna... what to do?? what to do???  What is impossible for humans is possible for God (if there is a God, and no one can prove that there is or there isnt.)  There are people who take communion ever day and are not Christians. There are Christians who can never take communion once in their life. And then there is the rest of us.

The Multidimensional Gestalt of Ordinary Cognition

I am 62 years old and have had curious and diverse experiences, a Liberal Arts education at St. John's, living in a Greek and a Russian monastery, learning to get by in modern Greek, Russian and church Slavonic, studying 2 years of Integral, Differential Calculus, Linear Algebra, Differential Equations (and I mean 16 hours a day every day), working as a computer programmer in the 1970s through 90s in Mfg, Wholesale, Retail, Engineering, Service, spending 2 years in a Guyanese Hindu temple and two years in a Korean Zen temple, reading several hundred books on psychology, psychiatry, psychoanalysis, (I am probably the only layperson to have read books on Rorschach from every decade and learned to administer and interpret tests).... MY POINT BEING that whenever anyone asks me ANYTHING.... I answer based upon the GESTALT of all these multidimensional experiences over 50 years, and I can think about them all at once, and there is nothing marvelous about this for it is quite naturally how the brain works... BUT... sutras, threads, sentences, syllogisms are ONE DIMENSIONAL, so even though I can realize something in an instant, it takes me hours or days or months to do a transformational projection from that multidimensional gestalt into the linear one dimensional nature of speech, argument, narrative discourse.... because essentially what one tries to do with discourse is to RECREATE that multidimensional experience of years in the audience.  For me to truly UNDERSTAND the notions of, say, Hans Kung, it is not sufficient for me to simply read a book by Hans Kung but rather I must in some sense BECOME Hans Kung with all his years of experiences.  This is the truth which Hallaj, the first Sufi martyr, martyred at the hands of Orthodox Sunni because he exclaimed "I am one with Allah" - as he was being led to the gallows he said "if I had had YOUR experiences then I should have no choice but to execute me BUT if you had had MY experiences then you would have no choice but to exclaim I AM ONE WITH ALLAH."

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Simon's Sin of Simony

I wanted to look up this passage regarding Simon's "simony" (his attempt to purchase ordination) and I see in various passages that PERHAPS his sin will be forgiven IF he repents, but there is some reservation and forgiveness is NOT a certainty. http://bible.cc/acts/8-22.htm  Yet it seems that earlier Simon "believed" and was baptized, so why did Simon not have the "eternal security of salvation" (once saved, always saved, OSAS) ? Also, it would seem that Simon DID NOT REALIZE his request was sinful else why would the sin be named after him (since this was the very first occurrence ) ?

Why Does the Obvious Need a Prophet or Revelation

So, IF truth and goodness are univalent, unambiguous, persuasive, transformative then WHY are we not explicitly, didactically told what is true and good in declarative syllogisms which predicate with algorithmic precision (why are we spoken to in figures and parables) and FURTHERMORE if the truth is ONE and it unambiguously persuades then why are we not all Republicans (or Democrats) or Calvinists or Sufis?  Calvin in his Institutes of Divine Religion and Mohammad in the Qur'an both make occasional appeals to "common sense" ... "for DO YE NOT KNOW" or "all men agree..."  BUT if everything is intuitively obvious then why the need for prophets to be sent and divine revelation. For THAT matter, IF the verses of Paul in Hebrews, Chapter 11, http://bible.cc/hebrews/11-1.htm , about all things things in the Old Testament wrought by faith are not Paul's brilliant, persuasive rhetoric but are truly the meaning of the Old Testament then WHY do we not find those express statements in the Old Testament. Why must we wait for Paul to state the obvious? 

A Word of Wisdom Fitly Spoken

I remember Jacob Kline at St. John's College, Annapolis speaking about the first word of Plato's Republic, KATABAINEIN, Which means "I went down" or "I descended" ... it is Socrates saying Katabainein xthes (I went down yesterday) ... to the Piraeus, to a religious festival. Jacob Kline said that this one word, descent, contained the entire Republic in microcosm since in a sense the high-point (or low point) is the Myth of Er and the DESCENT into the underworld for a vision of karmic rebirth.  Kline suspected that Plato had re-written page one of the Republic 50 times so that form would imitate content. Paul Valery calls Pascal's pense the "perfect poem" (I cant really spell from memory)  'Le silence eternel des ces espaces infinis m'effraie - The eternal silence of these infinite spaces frightens.”  Two immensities, the silence and the spaces, balanced upon DES and the self, the I, which is frightened, is OUTSIDE of that structure and frightened because of said exclusion, alienation.  So page 1 of Plato's Republic conformed to Leo Strauss's "Persecution and the Art of Writing" in that "A word of wisdom, fitly spoken, is like apples of gold in silver fittings."  From a distance, it appears a silver apple, that is it appears to say one thing, but upon closer inspection, meditation, it reveals itself to the eye of the worthy beholder (not the hoi polloi) as a golden apple concealed in a fine silver mesh filigree.

Is Goodness Absolute or Relative?

Alexander the Great, George Washington, Adolf Hitler, Martin Luther, Saddam Hussein, Cotton Mather, Osama bin Laden and Mohandas Kirmachand Gandhi all had AT LEAST one thing in common: all by nature desired the good. Perhaps they were all mistaken in their understanding of what constitutes goodness, but Alexander never said "hmmm it is better to sit in a hut and meditate but I instead I will conquer the known world. "
George Washington never said "Hmmm... I think I should seize autocratic power and be a dictator, but I guess I will step down from public office."  

That is the tricky, deceptive nature of Socrates's dictum that all by nature desire "the good."  We ASSUME that there is an absolute good. We assume that the law of excluded middle (or whatever they call it) is true and universal ... ok I googled  (The rule of excluded middle asserts that : Either a statement P or its negation (~P) holds.) 


Socrates's statement is... what should I call it... solipsism? tautology? 

The Jain (a small religious sect in India similar to Buddhism) notion of "anekantavada" (no one single view) offers an alternative way to see things http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anekantavada

The Weapon of Self

Aristotle's definition of the great-souled (megalopsychis) person includes HUBRIS (if I remember) and hubris is related to PRIDE. Also of interest is that the Greek New Testament term for sin traces back to Aristotles' Poetics and is origin...ally a term from archery which means "missing the mark" : HAMARTIA. This may seem like quite a non sequitur but these days I study Chinese Hanji characters and the character for "I, self" 我 Wǒ INCLUDES on the right-hand side, the character for spear, weapon,  戈; pinyin: gē , halberd http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halberd ... I suspect that the ancient notion of self/personhood involved a sort of egoism or pride which is at odds with the Christian notion of humility and especially with the notion of divine kenosis or emptying of self in death upon the cross.

It is ironic that the Christian government closed the Academy and the scholars retired to Persia and Baghdad where the Muslims acquired the much of the learning to preserve it and bring it back to the West indirectly. Moses Maimonides did such a massive job of codification, redaction, consolidation of Jewish thought and died about 20 years before Aquinas was born. Aquinas in his Summa seems to quote Aristotle as frequently as he quotes Paul.  The Greek Orthodox by contrast never seem to refer to Plato or Aristotle even once. One startling watershed/divide between East and West is if we compare what 6th century Maximus the Confessor (who wrote more than 1/3 of the Philokalia) says about faith with regard to understanding, which is DIAMETRICALLY OPPOSED to what Aquinas says in the Summa. Aquinas decides that understanding is prior to faith and that faith proceeds from understanding. Maximus states that faith comes FIRST as a gift from God given through God's foreknowledge from his pre-eternal vantage point beyond time/space and the causal matrix, give to certain individuals with the foreknowledge of how each individual will receive that give of faith with their free will (which is no way impaired by Gods foreknowledge) and that FROM THE GIFT of faith proceeds UNDERSTANDING, but ONLY as much understanding as is necessary to be salvific for that individual.  It is also ironic that Maimonides great opponents in Muslim Spain were the Mutakallim who were a very Aristotelean Muslim sect and yet later Islam (and present day Islam) is very much unlike the Aristotelian Mutakallim.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Jesus - (Ye) 耶 and He ”provides us with our daily food- fish plus wheat or rice”(Su) 穌

I had blogged some while about about the curious characters chosen in Chinese for the name Jesus Christ, namely that one of the characters is a composite of two characters that mean grain and fish - I google and found this: (Yesu or Jesus) whose “ears are always open to our prayers”(Ye) 耶 and He ”provides us with our daily food- fish plus wheat or rice”(Su) 穌. ... I am not implying that there is some symbolic significance in the characters chose for Jesus name but simply that the world commences with cave drawings (icons), proceeds to pictograms/logograms, then to phonetic alphabets (Logos), and in the case of Chinese, back to the logograms. WHAT I am thinking about in a formative sense is HOW we live our daily life, the manner of our living, as somehow an IMAGE of something higher. Hans Kung on page 1 of "On Being Christian" asks an important question: WHY do we need Christ? Why not simply live a good life in the humanist sense?

Word Become Flesh

I am thinking about written, redacted traditions vs living oral traditions with regard to the notion of LOGOS as "word become flesh or incarnate."  The earliest attempts at recording informations were NOT phonetic alphabets, nor were they hieroglyphs of the Egyptians or the Hanzi Chinese characters, but rather the cave drawings and paintings.  In Plato's cave analogy, those in chains in darkness are deceived NOT by written words but by shadowy IMAGES upon the cave wall.  Glyphs and logograms came much later (China circa 8000 - 5000 BCE) and phonetic alphabets much later still. Archaeologists have found some fragments of what appear to be phonetic Hebrew writing, created by slaves or a working class as a furtive kind of rebellion from the formal hieroglyphs of the priestly ruling class. BUT in the Torah we are presented with the notion that God inscribes Hebrew letters in a stone tablet, and one of those letters has a part in its center which is believed to have FLOATED in mystic fashion as a piece of stone suspended in the hole of the tablet.  So, when Jesus says "No man has seen the Father at any time; he who sees ME sees the father (as a living IMAGE or icon of the Father)."  I am thinking of Logos as a pictogram or glyph or icon, and it is a image or shadowy representation of A WAY OF LIVING ONE'S LIFE from day to day.  Cardinal Newman's term "illation" brought to life in Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited has some bearing upon this logos.

Oral Tradition vs. Written Documents

I am aware of "the mandate" under which instructors work and I certainly would not want to criticize any seminary. These days when there is such a decline of vocations or callings it is sufficient that there are still seminaries and programs to train people for the religious life. I think I remember reading in Jaroslav Pelikan's "History and Development of Christian Doctrine" that on 2nd century bishop (whose name will come to mind eventually) actually DOUBTED the wisdom of WRITTEN documents in the same way that Socrates doubted, in the sense that the author is not present to defend, explain, guide as a living tradition, and hence the document becomes subject to the caution of II Peter (  is it 3:16) "Paul has said some things which are difficult to understand and those weak in understanding, lacking a proper foundation, twist and distort such verses to their own destruction as they do many other scriptural passages."  AHA... Bishop Iranaeus was the bishop who questioned the dangers of written tradition.  Even today among the conservative Greek Orthodox, monastacism is transmitted as a way of life in a community rather than academically with courses in "Monasticism 101" with essays and multiple choice exams.

Philosophy and Theology in Seminaries

I WAS the one who imagined, guessed "Introduction to Phil. 101" but it might very well be simply a history of philosophy.  I was startled that Euthyphro was covered BUT no mention was made of the famous, mind-boggling "Euthyphro Problem" namely, does God love "The Good" because of it's intrinsic nature or is "The Good" simply good by FIAT because God arbitrarily chooses to like it.

This morning I awoke with the question in my mind "what is the inception and history of academic corporate effort for learning?"  It struck me that military and religion are two ancient sources of group learning TRADITION (in the sense of something handed down or passed along) .. I was reading Gibbon Decline and Fall of Roman Empire and he describes how the military were like constant school boot camps even in time of peace and the soldiers used instruments TWICE as heavy as what is necessary so as to be strong in times of real battle. Then I was thinking of secret societies like the Pythagoreans, Eleusinian Mysteries, etc as an organization which passes on learning, theories, methods, liturgics, etc. 

To this VERY DAY there are very conservative old calendarist Greek monastic groups (and Russians) who train their own priests and bishops outside of any formal academic environment and without benefit of certification or degrees.

Even the ancient original oath of Hippocrates FORBIDS a physician to do bone setting since that is a skill taught upon the battlefield through experience to a technician/artisan bone-setter.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Wisdom, Number, Measure, Hunger, Thirst

(written 9-29-2000)

When we dwell as pedestrians in a land, we behold the scenery from the most intimate detail and perspective, but that very closeness and intimacy in perspective prevents us from seeing symmetry, intention and design on a grander scale, bearing profounder implications. If we ascend to a mountain peak, we lose discernment of much of the finer details, but we can begin to recognize the "lay of the land" and its geography. From an orbiting space station, we can perceive global structure. And from vantage point of another galaxy, we may comprehend cosmic design.

When we seek Divine intention, design, laws, and principles in Nature, we consider NUMBER to be the highest authority of truth. We seek mathematical certainty. Mathematical proof is the hallmark of modern science.

The Bible also associated "wisdom" with "number". We find "wisdom" and "number" mentioned together in three verses of the King James Bible:

Job 38:37 Who can number the clouds in wisdom? or who can stay the bottles of heaven,

Psalms 90:12 So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.

Revelation 13:18 Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.

In Job, it is our inability to number and measure creation which exhorts us to humility and surrender to the Divine Will.

In the Psalms, it is the measure of our temporal finitude which gives us pause for the reflection which leads to wisdom.

In the Book of Revelation, it is a precise number which reveals to us that person who is an embodiment of evil.

We never find "wisdom" and "measure" mentioned in the same verse in the Bible, not even in the Books of Apocrypha. Measure is a human activity and not a Divine activity.

We first encounter the word "measure" conjunction with "cubit" in Exodus 26:2 "The length of one curtain shall be eight and twenty cubits, and the breadth of one curtain four cubits: and every one of the curtains shall have one measure." When King Solomon is in the act of consecrating the newly finished Temple, he suddenly exclaims: 1 Kings 8:27 "But will God indeed dwell on the earth? behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded? "

A "cubit" is the length of a man's forearm, which is subjective and variable, not objective, absolute and unchanging.

In Hebrew, cubit is 'ammah; i.e., "mother of the arm," the fore-arm, is a word derived from the Latin cubitus, the lower arm. It is difficult to determine the exact length of this measure, from the uncertainty whether it included the entire length from the elbow to the tip of the longest finger, or only from the elbow to the root of the hand at the wrist. The probability is that the longer was the original cubit. The common computation as to the length of the cubit makes it 20.24 inches for the ordinary cubit, and 21.888 inches for the sacred one. This is the same as the Egyptian measurements. A rod or staff the measure of a cubit is called in Judg. 3:16 _gomed_, which literally means a "cut," something "cut off." The lxx. and Vulgate render it "span."

The earliest mention of "measure" is in conjunction with the precise instructions for building the Tabernacle: Exodus 26:2 The length of one curtain shall be eight and twenty cubits, and the breadth of one curtain four cubits: and every one of the curtains shall have one measure.

The third mention of "measure" occurs together with the first appearance of the word "unrighteousness" in relation to dishonesty in trade: leviticus 19:35 Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment, in meteyard, in weight, or in measure.

Mathematicians consider "Number Theory" to be the Queen of all Mathematics. Number Theory deals with such properties of number as Odd or Even, Perfect numbers (which are the sum of their prime factors), and with such properties as "excess" and "deficiency" in multiplication.

The number Nine is a number with several very interesting properties. Nine is a Trinity of Trinities, in the sense that it contains the number three thrice times. In a Greek Orthodox liturgy, the priest or deacon will incense a Bishop NINE times, but the icon of Christ only three times because the Bishop, when vested and serving in his sacerdotal capacity, is considered to be the "Living Icon" of Christ.

Hindus consider NINE to be a divine number, because it may interact with any other number in multiplication, and yet somehow, retain its identity. Two times Nine equals 18, and 1 + 8 = 9. Three times Nine equals 27, and 2+7 = 9. Four times Nine equals 36, and 3 + 6 = 9. So Nine is perfect in this respect, whereas the other numbers are sometimes "excessive" in this respect and other times "deficient". Two times Seven equals 14, and 1+4=5. Three times Seven equals 21, and 2+1=3. Therefore Seven is deficient in these equations. Three times Five equals 15, and 1+5 = 6. Five times Five equals 25, and 2+5=8. Number Five is excessive in these equations.

If you look at all the sacred scriptures of all the Religions, you will discover that there are only certain sentences or phrases in which is a WHOLE WORLD OF THEOLOGY.

For example, Mother Theresa put Christ's final words from the Cross, "I thirst", on her convent wall.

John 19:28 After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, "I thirst".

How many times in our lives might we read this verse, and pass it by, not seeing the entire world hidden in two words?

A world hidden in a word is a pearl hidden in a field.

Hidden, amidst all the other verses of the Gospels, "out of context", is something which opens up a whole world in the mind.

In a certain way, the very nature of our thought processes, is a non-sequitur. Hence, structure and form in writing is, in a sense, illusion, or maya. But we come to think of that ordered "structure" as the nature of reality.

Regarding the "I Thirst" of Mother Theresa, Jallaladin Rumi once said, "Do not seek water, for water is EVERYWHERE! Seek THIRST!" For without the THIRST the water is of no value to you.

In the Psalms, "O Lord, I have thirsted after Thee like a deer in a waterless land."

I have written the preceding as a prelude to the consideration of the motif of "hunger" and "thirst" in the Scriptures.

It is most curious that there are a total of NINE verses in the entire King James Version which mention "hunger" and "thirst" in the same verse. The word "hunger" always appears first, followed by the word "thirst".

It is significant that the word hunger should always appear first in these verses. We know that thirst will afflict us much sooner than hunger, and the pangs of thirst are far more intense and severe than hunger pangs. We can endure a much longer period of time without food than we can without fluids. Why is it that Hunger is always mentioned first, and not Thirst? Perhaps "thirst and hunger" is the human order, whereas "hunger and thirst" is the Divine order.

The word "hunger" makes its first appearance in Scriptures (Exodus 16:3) PRIOR TO the first appearance of the word "thirst" (Exodus 17:3 ).

This same consistent word order may be observed in the Apocrypha as well; "hunger" always precedes "thirst". In the Apocrypha, we also find this most unusual verse: 2 esdras 15:58 "They that be in the mountains shall die of hunger, and eat their own flesh, and drink their own blood, for very hunger of bread, and thirst of water." We may see in this verse the beginnings of the imagery of the Eucharist.

Because NINE is an ODD number (rather than an EVEN number), there is a mid-most verse, the FIFTH of the verses: 5.) John 6:35 And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.

Indeed, this is a most central verse, portraying Jesus as the Bread of Life and the Living Waters.

The first occurance of hunger, (which appears BEFORE the first occurance of THIRST), Exodus 16:3 "And the children of israel said unto them, Would to God we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger.

The first occurance of thirst, which inspires murmuring against Moses and God: Exodus 17:3 "And the people thirsted there for water; and the people murmured against Moses, and said, Wherefore is this that thou hast brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst? "

We see here the totally Human aspect of hunger and thirst, the fallen nature of humanity, driven by appetites and desires.

The second occurance of "hunger and thirst" is 2.) Nehemiah 9:15 "And gavest them bread from heaven for their hunger, and broughtest forth water for them out of the rock for their thirst, and promisedst them that they should go in to possess the land which thou hadst sworn to give them."

This is the totally Divine aspect of God, who provides food and drink, and sustains all creatures.

The third occurance of "hunger and thirst" is 3.) Isaiah 49:10 "They shall not hunger nor thirst; neither shall the heat nor sun smite them: for he that hath mercy on them shall lead them, even by the springs of water shall he guide them."

Here we see a prefiguring of the Book of Revelation, the New Heaven and New Earth, where there are no more tears, no more hunger or thirst or desire.

The fourth occurance is 4.) matthew 5:6 "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled."

We see a UNIFICATION of hunger and thirst as ONE, no longer two, and the object of the desire is no longer physical food and water, but Righteousness. But what or Who is that Righteousness?

The fifth occurance is 5.) John 6:35 "And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst."

Remember that this is the MIDDLE-MOST of the nine verses, about which the other eight verses are symmetrically balanced. This verse answers our previous question "Who is that righteousness for which the blessed hunger and thirst."

We may note that at the Last Supper, or Mystical Supper, the Institution of the Eucharist, Christ offers the broken bread FIRST, and afterwards the Cup. It is logical that the Bread or Body must be broken first, before there is Blood.

The sixth occurance of "hunger and thirst" is 6.) Romans 12:20 "Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head."

This is the fulfillment of seeing the Divine Image of God in all others, even enemies. And it is We, the Mother Theresa, who now assume the role of the God-Man Christ, as we minister unto our enemies and are perhaps rent asunder, bleeding. St. athanasius said "God became man, so that Man might become God".

The seventh occurance of "hunger and thirst" is 7.) 1 Corinthians 4:11 "Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling place", which is the Disciples/Apostles in "imitation of Christ", taking up their cross.

The eight occurance is 8.) 2 Corinthians 11:27 In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.

The ninth occurance is 9.) Revelation 7:16 "They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat.". Here we see that time and space, heaven and earth, pass away, and all souls dwell in the very fabric of God, which now becomes their space, light, raiment, sustenance and all things. These souls dwell in "the bosom of abraham".

The verses 'The Kingdom of God is WITHIN' and 'in my Father's house are many mansions' are thought provoking verses. I recently learned that it may also be translated "the kingdom of heaven is AMONG you" , which has very different implications.

If we look at the Book of Revelation, in the chapters surrounding ch. 10.... (where it says...'God shall wipe away every tear').... we see that THERE SHALL BE TIME NO LONGER (CH 10, verse 6), and "heavens and earth shall be rolled up as a scroll" (no more SPACE).

So, time and space ceases, and God becomes raiment, light, air, food, etc. An image which is faithful to St. Paul's words, "..in HIM we live and move and have our being--Acts 17:28" and, Acts 17: 27 "That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us."

This passage, Ch. 10:6 in Revelation, depicts time and space itself passing away, and all dwell WITHIN God, within the "fabric of God" so to speak.

We do see in the parable of lazarus and the rich man that Lazarus is "in the bosom of Abraham", which is metaphorical, but supports the notion of what is described in Revelation

What is interesting is that Christianity condemns notions of Pantheism, that God IS the universe; yet in the final analysis, based on what the Book of Revelation describes, God literally BECOMES the Universe, once the Universe passes away.

In light of the above understanding of Revelation, it would seem that the "many mansions" are WITHIN God Himself.

(a reader's reply):

Interesting study! Indeed

John 4,10

10. Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knowest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.

11. The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep; from whence then hast thou that living water?

12. Art thou greater than our father jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle?

13. Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again:

14. But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. (!)

I have come across a nine pointed form of star. It could be called a master blueprint.

The Seal of Solomon (six pointed star) is said to be all time and space.

Is not the manifest universe a great cycle arising out of the Source? Is not this cycle eternal? Who could count the number of mansions within Gods creation?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The God of the Ant Farm

Imagine me as caretaker of an ant farm and it is my duty to see to the well being of thousands of ants. I like ants. I care about them. I study them. I give them food and water and medicine. I am very close, physically, to all of them because I stand and watch over them day and night and yet for them I am invisible because I am so huge and they are so small. Many of the ants doubt my very existence. I cannot recognize any individual ant. If one and dies I do not grieve because I know that their life span is short. IF the entire colony were to die then I would grieve. I have an IMPERSONAL relationship with each individual ant. Now some of the ants might imagine a giant in the sky who provides for them while others find such a notion to be rubbish. But those ants who DO imagine an invisible caretaker cannot possibly comprehend my true nature or personality, my occasional weariness, impatience or sense of humor.

Imagine that one day an ant wanders on to a huge driveway. I watch the ant move in ever increasing circles. I "foreknow" or foresee that the ant will eventually reach the cool protection of the grass. The ant is unaware of my presence. The ant assumes it is walking in a straight line. My FOREKNOWLEDGE from my hyperdimensional vantage point in no way ROBS the ant of its free will to walk in any direction.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Do Not Be a Quote Machine

It is better to say things in our own words than to be a quotation machine and frequently stumble across mis-attributed and spurious quotes.

Search engines can make anyone seem smart or philosophical or devout.

Remember my analogy of the demagogue who is like the surfer riding the huge wave before an admiring crowd. It is sad that a majority of people will be impressed by such things. There are reasons, I suppose, to seek the admiration of many but we should be careful not to fool ourselves in the process.

Remember that little parable about the two sons and a father who commands them to do a certain thing. One son pays lip-service and says yes, but then does nothing. The second son says NO, but later repents and does what was asked of him. Words are cheap. Deeds, actions, works have value.

Faith and Love in the Old Testament

The word "FAITH" occurs first in Deuteronomy ch. 32 IN THE NEGATIVE "because of your FAITH-LESSNESS" and the only other occurrence is the famous Habbakuk which is CORRECTLY translated in the Septuagint to say "because of GOD'S faithfulness" but is mistranslated in KJV as the faith of the person saved.  The first occurrence of the word LOVE in the Old Testament is Isaac's love for the tasty game flesh which Esau hunted and prepared. SO if love and faith are SO important then why are they hardly mentioned? And the word in Hebrew for "faith", emunah, means "faithfulness to a covenantal agreement or bargain" rather than faith "pistis" in the sense of Apostle Paul in Hebrews 11:1-40

1) Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.


emunah: firmness, steadfastness, fidelity
Original Word: אֱמוּנָה,
Transliteration: emunah
Phonetic Spelling: (em-oo-naw')
Short Definition: faithfulness

Word Origin
from aman
firmness, steadfastness, fidelity
NASB Word Usage
faith (1), faithful (3), faithfully (8), faithfulness (25), honestly (1), responsibility (1), stability (1), steady (1), trust (2), truth (5).
NAS Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible with Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries
Copyright © 1981, 1998 by The Lockman Foundation
All rights reserved Lockman.org

faithful set office, stability, steady, truly, truth, verily

 or (shortened) >emunah {em-oo-naw'} feminine of 'emuwn; literally firmness; figuratively security; morally fidelity -- faith(-ful, -ly, -ness, (man)), set office, stability, steady, truly, truth, verily.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Swiss Army Knife Syndrome

We can be certain that no matter WHAT we buy or when we buy it, in six months there will be something newer, better, cheaper: Murphy's and Moore's laws.

On the other hand it can be a mistake to look for a Swiss Army Knife which can be all things to all people.  It is fun to read a Kindle, light weight, small. If  5 hours of battery life is not enough then perhaps you should take a physical book rather than an electronic device. If you have desktops at home then you can do desktop things on the desktop. IF you live out of a suitcase and travel then you want the most powerful and sturdy laptop and perhaps cloud storage. 

Kindle vs Nook vs Notebook vs Laptop vs Desktop

I do subscribe to http://skritter.com which allows one to study Chinese characters by stroking them with the mouse or on a touch screen and it works fine on the Kindle Fire. I would say that if money is no object then one should get the most powerful Ipad or Laptop available. If money or size/weight IS a consideration (along with battery life) then obviously one must weigh alternatives carefully. I found one Youtube tutorial on EZpdf (for $1) for android which demonstrates how college students take the professor's slide show presentation, load it as a pdf into EZpdf and then make notes and draw on it. EZpdf can also READ ALOUD through the speaker and the volume/quality is exceptional. One must grow accustomed to the robotic voice but we grow accustomed to anything with enough time and the desire to "make do." Amazon Kindle Fire only has about 6 gig of physical storage and no room for expansion. Of course only your PERSONAL documents use up device storage. All the Amazon books are on "the cloud." Kindle Fire has a jack for headset but lacks microphone or webcam. The Kindle Fire only gets about 5 hours on battery. BUT, the Kindle Fire is small, light, easy to read. My wife wants a Catholic Bible (NAV or Douay-Rheems but not KJV or NIV).  I can download various Bibles for her BUT I am thinking of getting something in PDF and loading it to her personal storage BECAUSE then EZpdf will be able to open it, read aloud, copy and paste, etc and she will have more versatility than a Kindle book would offer. I am also thinking of looking for a PDF of the 960 page Catechism. When you purchase EZpdf then they give you a Windows printer driver which will produce PDF's suitable for mobile devices. I had one minute on the phone with her sister to choose between Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook, so I said Kindle BECAUSE in my mind (and I could be wrong, I have not researched) Amazon seems like a larger organization than B&N.  The Nook seems larger, heavier. It has more slots available or memory cards. BUT, I can plug the Kindle USB into my Ubuntu and upload/download files. AND there is the option to use CLOUD storage.  I downloaded some free essays by Chesterton (one on Catholic Conversion and another "Tales of Father Brown") and he is such a brilliant writer but perhaps dated for today's tastes. I downloaded a free Vol I (edited) of Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire because his prose is so "magisterial" and as an historian he was the standard for a century.  As far as language learning, using a Kindle is like using a shovel when you could have a front-end loader steam shovel. Unless resources are limited, go with a $2000 laptop. And if you do NOT need portability then go with a desktop or tower.

Computer problems and recovery

In college in the 1960s, we had to read some Kant, and people would make dumb jokes about words ending in "keit" so I coined "karmakeit" . I had done a few seemingly simple things with computers which had devastating and unforeseeable effects. One recent example was two old Dell XP Windows machines. On one I installed Microsoft Asian Language Fonts and pinyin input method so I could type Chinese characters. I had no idea that such an installation is IRREVERSIBLE and that the only precaution is to set a SYSTEM RESTORE POINT prior to installation so that you may roll back to that point and undo the installation. I contacted a helpful fellow called pinyinjoe.com who informed me of all these things. The install caused a minor annoying bug in that the mouse FREEZES several times a day and I have to unplug and replug the USB to fix it, so I can use the system but it is annoying. SO, on a second Dell XP, I set the restore point, installed Asian Fonts and pinyin, had even worse experiences, did the rollback, and the whole system died (became unusable). It was a very old machine and the 80 gig Seagate drive seems to have died so that might be coincidental. I purchased a 380 gig drive for $70, plugged it in and then did a free Ubuntu Linux install. I didnt feel like spending several hundred dollars for Windows XP. The only REAL safety with computers is to always have essential data backed up somewhere and always be prepared to REINSTALL the operating system and start from scratch. But it can take hours or days or even weeks to reinstall and configure everything that you want on your machine and configure drivers for printer/scanner/webcam, etc.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Political Power of the Open Source Community

I would be a miracle of +Linus Torvalds would notice this post and would take an interest in this cause of unifying all glucose meter manufacturers under some kind of ANSI standard and making Linux open source the backbone of a universal agnostic Glucose meter software.  IOGEAR, the mfg of a usb-serial converter would certainly be in a position to engage in this project.  I am certain that any door would open wide if someone of Mr. Torvalds' stature knocked. Such a project would greatly benefit the open source world because it would bring to public attention the realization of what a powerful force the open source community can be. The world would realize how foolish and short sighted is the proprietary selfishness and greed of private enterprise Corporations.  If there were contests and scholarships then young students around the world would become more involved in science and technology. Diabetes is a serious problem around the world even in countries too poor to afford expensive hardware and software. Ubuntu and other varieties of Linux have come so far already. There is no reason why Linux cannot become the OS to serve all the worlds needs. Source Forge has demonstrated that if it runs on Linux then it can easily be ported to other platforms. So why develop in some proprietary platform to begin with. And if you get it working in XP 32 bit then you find out it wont work in Windows 7 64 bit.

ANSI Standards for Glucose Meters and Open Source Software

What the world needs is glucose meter software which
will run on any platform, especially Gnu/Linux (Ubuntu)
which will talk to an IOGEAR USB-Serial adapter
and which will work with any glucose meter capable of
RS232 communication. GUC232A uses the Prolific 2303 chipset.

All manufactures of meters (e.g. Abbott Labs) should be encouraged
to adopt a uniform standard to allow the creation of
a universal software.

Manufactures in general should begin to take Linux seriously and 
not develop simply for proprietary software (Microsoft, Apple)

Sourceforge.net might be a logical place to start.

David Weisgerber started a project Glucomodul Project around 2002 but may no longer
be active.

I suggest that IOGEAR manufacture a simple RS232 device which
programmers may use to TEST
Serial adapter GUC232A so that Linux programmers may
become fluent in routines which talk to devices using

Efforts should be made to publicize this project on the internet and perhaps
even establish a contest similar to Google's yearly programmer contest, perhaps with a scholarship as a prize.

All the technology and expertice already exists to make such open source
universtal glucose meter software possible.  Companies can cooperate
to establish ANSI standards for connections, specifications, protocols and it should all be available in public domain.

There is plenty of money to be made in service and support in the open source world of MySQL and PostgreSQL without becoming proprietary.

The bulk of the Internet technology is already driven by Linux, Apache, PhP, Python, etc.

The Problem with Discussions and Politics

I do not find discussions troubling. What does trouble me is the naive assumption that electing a different leader or passing some laws or repealing some laws or levying some taxes will change the course of history. How much has really changed in the past hundred years or the past thousand and I mean change that was directly attributable to some individual's leadership or some ideology or philosophy (apart from science and technology and we do not control THAT beast; we are at its mercy and it has a life all its own.) Is there really a chicken in every pot?  I happened to catch Ron Paul on TV. He sounds like a decent person. But everything he said in response to all the questions were clever formulaic answers and he is SKILLED in rolling with the punches, but nothing he said was of any real substance that would make someone hope for some profound change or improvement. All these politicians are smooth talkers. But human nature is pretty much the same as it was in Homer's time of the Iliad and the Odyssey.  It took until around 1870 for the world population to reach one billion. By 1930 (less than a century) it had DOUBLED to two billion. By the 1960s it had tripled to six billion. Ecologists estimate that the Earth cannot support more than one billion without the ecosystem being seriously affected. We live in a world which depends NOT upon earning its daily bread but rather upon ever accelerating growth of profits. There are only so many forests to exploit; only so many 3rd world countries to colonize. I personally see the entire world as a pyramid or ponzi scheme which is doomed to collapse at some point.  I don't see how any ideology or ideologue is going to change the inevitable.  

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Hunger We Can Never Feed

Our greatest gift AND our greatest curse is our imagination for in that we can imagine something something better we are innovative and make progress but in that we can imagine a perfection and a pleasure beyond anything that is feasible we are always miserable and dissatisfied. This is why Bob Dylan sang "I started out on burgundy but soon it was the harder stuff." This is why no one can have their fill of sexual partners or erotic extremes. This is why the Bible speaks of "the wickedness of the imaginings of the heart which knows no boundaries." This is why the Way of the Tao says in the 33rd stanza "that one who finds satisfaction in whatsoever one possesses has achieved true wealth."

You Have Been Weighed and Found Wanting

Whenever we hear the expression "the handwriting on the wall" we think of something portentious and obvious to all. But the original Biblical handwriting that appeared upon a wall was a mystery, a puzzle (mene mene tekel upharsin) and only the prophet Daniel, skilled at dream interpretation could decipher it as "you have been weighed and found wanting."  Although perhaps it was not at all obscure but simply the sort of message that no one cares to understand as addressed to them.

Surfers and Politicians

A surfer is a perfect metaphor for a politician-demagogue. Surfers are our heroes. They see a great wave coming, catch it and boldly ride it in a death-defying manner. They have no idea what causes the wave. They have no control of the wave. Riding the wave accomplishes nothing constructive. The surfer basks in the admiration of the ructive multitudes.

When we pay lip service to champion noble causes

Socrates points out that all people by their essential nature desire only "the good" but this is a bit of a tautology since the very fact that we desire something means that we deem our desire good. It just now occurs to me how closely this phenomenon is related to "The Euthyphro Problem" - namely, does God like "the good" for its intrinsic properties OR is the good "GOOD" by fiat simply because God chooses to like it. We should always have the courage to examine reality and also ourselves from different perspectives/angles and always doubt and question. More dangerous than the unanswered question is the unquestioned answer. But IF we are like a machine-gun shooting 60 rounds per minute at every evil that pops up in current events we must give pause and ask ourselves WHY we do this and what it accomplishes. If we look at any number of gifted politicians (aka demagogues) we notice that they do not have unusually high I.Q.s for the most part. Ron Paul is a medical doctor so he is one exception I suppose. What they do have is charm and the gift of gab and they say things and champion causes in part to increase their influence and not necessarily to permanently solve age-old problems of human suffering. Perhaps Jimmy Carter is another exception, who has devoted his life in part to eradicating the fire-worm in African drinking water.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Augustine in the light of the Philokalia

I read Augustine in college at SJC around 1968. A few years after graduation I read through large portions of the Philokalia and when you examine Augustine in that light of Greek Orthodox monasticism then Augustine appears to be what Greek monastics would call "planamenos" (the Russians call it "prelest") and this word comes from the same root as "planet" meaning "wandering" , i.e. Augustine is wandering in a deranged spiritual deception of egocentric emotionalism. Certainly Augustine was a gifted writer and a brilliant mind and certainly people like Augustine and Aquinas and Luther shaped Western thought but the Greeks see Augustine as a heretic for good reason and Augustine provided plenty of fuel for Luther's Reformation.

Augustine and Pelagius

The first time I read Augustine, I saw the part where he wished that his old Manichean  buddies could WATCH (see) him praying ... I found that passage a real turn-off. Augustine laid the foundations for the Reformation and no one really scrutinized him until the counter-Reformation. The Greeks have always called Augustine a heretic. The Russians who were heavily influenced by the West called Augustine "Blessed" but not "Saint."  As the years passed I came to see Pelagius as more convincing than Augustine. It is interesting to read Steinbeck's "East of Eden" and see how pelagian Steinbeck was. The final poisoned apple from Augustine's tree of knowledge is Charles Stanley's "Eternal Security of Salvation" 

Monday, November 07, 2011

人人网 - Rén Rén Wǎng - Everyone Network - China's TWITTER


I just now spent four hours joining RenRenWang which is China's answer to Twitter. It took me several hours BECAUSE the signup is all in Chinese, naturally, BUT the hardest part is the CHINESE CAPTCHA and here is a screenshot of the tool I used and the captcha which finally worked.

Here is the first message I received upon sign-up (translated by translate.google.com

Hi, � 威 � (My name in Chinese which is REQUIRED in Chinese and can be no more than 6 characters), everyone is welcome to join network family!
Here you can create a personalized space, post the log, upload photos; understand the Friends of the latest developments,
Play games with them. We believe you will like here!
This is a guide, I hope you can help Oh!

The name I chose for myself in Chinese is Bì Wēi Lùn which sort of means: Complete Prestige Theory

人人网 - Rén rén wǎng - Everyone Network

The most popular site for this is www.renren.com (人人网 – rén rén wǎng), which translates literally as the “Everyone Network.” (The THIRD character, WANG, 网 , means WEB or NET) With over 160 million users, the site is extremely popular amongst college students. Just like Facebook, users create a profile with information about their education, hobbies, and hometown. The popularity of this site is extending outside of the Middle Kingdom, as Renren is geared up to make an IPO in the US. If you want to find your friends in China, this is probably the best place to look!

And here is the link to the site that let me draw the CAPTCHA characters free-hand with the mouse, which was difficult when I was not certain of the proper stroke-order, plus CAPTCHA intentionally distorts slightly. It took me 4 hours and 20 attempts before I finally got in with 一丝一毫, Yīsīyīháo, "shred"


I was greatly assisted in all this by what I have learned about writing in Chinese at http://www.skritter.com 

That Paltry Eternity, Posterity

Only today does it dawn upon me, after all these years, the puzzling irony that when Odysseus travels to Hades and speaks to the soul of Achilles, Achilles says that it is better to be a humble person alive upon the earth than king of all the dead. No mention whatsoever is made of the possibility of rebirth. Perhaps by Plato's time there was some influence from India. The Noble Lie of the Republic seems to describe a caste system similar to the Hindu Varnas (and the word Varna has the same root as VARNISH, and suggest that color, hue, race is an inherent part of the caste system. )  In the Iliad the battlefield dialogue between Glaukos and Diomedes suggests that all a person can hope for is a glorious memory in the lore of future generations.  Camus utters such a potent phrase in his Sisyphus essays; "that paltry eternity, posterity" .  Odysseus' rejection of Circes' offer of eternal life is such a contrast to the Christian and I suppose Egyptian desire for immortality.

Odysseus and the middle way of mean between extremes

Aha! In the 3rd book of the Iliad, the "catalog of ships" Odysseus ship is mid-most on the lineup along the shores, with Achilles being farthest from Troy, since he was swift enough to meet the enemy first, and Ajax (The Wall) was closest to Troy since he was such a lumbering bulwark. Odysseus is the very embodiment of mean between extremes or middle way. His legs are short but his trunk is tall so seated at council he towers above the rest. Now it is Odysseus in the myth of Er who chooses the LAST lot, but chooses the best life for rebirth since all are conditioned to choose based upon their previous life and each tended to veer to the OPPOSITE, the weak chosing a tyrant's life, and tyrants becoming swans. Odysseus chose the life of a free middle-class member of a Democracy AND Odysseus rejected the opportunity which Circes offered for IMMORTALITY.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Work Hard to Gain your own Salvation

Theravadin = "Way of the Elders" - was first to develop around 400 BCE and then Mahayana = "great vehicle" developed (I think around 100 BCE) ... vehicle means a teaching which brings the practitioner across the river of Samsara (10,001 concerns/things) to Nibbana (extinguishment, no further rebirth). The Theravadins taught that only an individual practitioner can work out his "enlightenment" and that there are no Bodhisattvas or lending of merits.  The Mahayana "Great Vehicle" means a teaching/practice capable of delivering ALL sentient beings rather than just one lone practitioner. So the Mahayanists called the Theravadins "Lesser Vehicle" or "Hinayana" which Theravadins see as an insult. One Theravadin abbot asked me "can you IMPART to anyone your knowledge of how to ride a bicycle" and of course the answer is NO, each person must learn and practice on his own and fall down many times until, suddenly, the practitioner grasps how to ride a bike, and then they never forget.

Then the Buddha addressed all the monks once more, and these were the very last words he spoke:

"Behold, O monks, this is my last advice to you. All component things in the world are changeable. They are not lasting. Work hard to gain your own salvation."

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

The Swords of the Apostles

Only TWO swords, and Jesus healed the ear of the centurion who was struck.  I think the point of the swords (only two) was symbolic to demonstrate that he was not helpless but chose to surrender to his fate.  Jesus only made TWO destructive gestures. One was to THREATEN the money changers with a whip, but he never struck them, and also when Jesus told the fig tree "zeranthesate" (be thou withered) ... but it was only found withered on the next day and did not wither immediately.  OHHH and if I remember correctly Jesus did not COMMAND the apostles to take swords but rather permitted them to take two when they asked. If resistance by violent force was Jesus intention then why not arm all the apostles? And Jesus mentions that he could command a legion of angels so why bother with armed apostles. And there is some verse about how those who approached to seize him were briefly blown down by some invisible force. I think all this was to demonstrate that Jesus had the means to escape but freely chose to submit to his fate.  All the crap that took place in the Middle Ages and the Spanish Inquisition and Salem witch burnings and Senator McCarthy's witch hunts have no bearing upon the essence of Jesus life or message but only show how clever human nature is at twisting and distorting facts to support their own selfish and evil agendas.

Christian Clergy and Lethal Force

Speaking of rioters ravaging gardens, pillaging, plundering... I went through college with someone who went on to a seminary. The Vietnam draft was going strong so I expect that was one incentive because the life he was leading was not a spiritual one. He leads a kind of double life, straddling the fence. Some days he tells people to "ratchet up their rosary prayers" but other days he talks about his arsenal of assault rifles and ammo and how he is prepared to dole out his conservative Republican vigilante style justice when the unwashed multitudes come to pillage his larder of provisions, and he even posts bizarre photos of himself wearing strange hooded costumes and pointing his assault rifle.  I don't think he grasps the fundamental message of Christianity.  No military chaplain is allowed to carry a weapon. The Roman Catholic Church and the Greek Orthodox Church will not allow priests to serve if they use lethal force. I know for a fact that if a Greek Orthodox priest is involved in an automobile accident and is guilty of involuntary manslaughter they must stop celebrating mass/liturgy.  King David was celebrated as a warrior saying "Saul slew his thousands and David slew tens of thousands" but David was not allowed to build the temple. Only Solomon who never used lethal force was allowed to build the temple. 

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