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Elizabeth – The Mother of the Last Great Jewish Prophet?

Statue of the Visitation at Church of the Visitation in Ein Karem, Israel via Wikipedia

In the New Testament, Elizabeth a daughter of Aaron, wife of  Zechariah and the mother of John the Baptist.

Among Christian theologians and homilists, John is often spoken of as a link between the Old and New Testaments. He’s the last of a long line of Jewish prophets who announces the coming of someone so great that he, himself, is “not worthy to untie the strap on his sandals.”¹ That person, of course, turns out to be Jesus of Nazareth, who goes on to become the founder of the world’s largest and most international religion.²

A nice New Testament story is one that also becomes part of the Catholic Holy Rosary as “The Visitation” of the Joyful Catholic Mysteries.³ This is the tale, true or not, that the unborn John leaps in Elizabeth’s womb when the pregnant Mary, bearing Jesus, comes to visit.4

This story reminds me of several studies, true or not, suggesting that the unborn get used to and turn out smarter if they hear classical music through their mother’s abdomen. 5

But in the case of John and Jesus, I would also think that these two babies, being who they were, would be especially spiritually sensitive. So quite possibly John leaped in the womb because he could sense the presence of Jesus. Not so much because he heard Mary’s voice. However, John’s reaction could have been prompted by both auditory and spiritual factors—if the story is true, that is, and not just a pleasant religious tale fabricated by early enthusiasts to advance their religious beliefs.

Most of us have heard the tale about the angel coming to visit the teenager, Mary, giving her the choice to be the mother of a miraculously conceived Jesus. But not quite so popular is a parallel story about an angel coming to visit Elizabeth’s husband, Zechariah:

But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born (Luke 1:13–15).

Again, is this just good religious storytelling or did things really happen in parallel as written? While scholars and religious people argue this point back and forth, for me the answer, like most things in life, ultimately comes down to belief.

Sadly, the human story ends miserably for both John and Jesus. John is beheaded at the hands of Herod Antipas who grants the cruel request of his step-daughter Salome and her mother. And Jesus dies on a cross after willfully submitting to a complex political web involving the Jewish religious leaders in Israel, some of an assembled mob, and the occupying Roman authorities. I say the human story ends miserably because, according to the belief, both of these figures endure in unimaginably great heavenly places, beyond time and space as we know it.

¹ https://www.google.ca/search?q=i+am+not+worthy+to+untie+his+sandals…

² https://www.google.ca/search?q=largest+world+religion…

³ https://www.google.ca/search?q=roary+the+visitation…

4  https://www.google.ca/search?q=john+leaps+in+elizabeths+womb…

5 https://www.google.ca/search?q=the+unborn+like+music…

Related » Hail Mary Prayer


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Freyja – Afterlife goddess still alive today

English: The goddess Freia stands under a tree...

The goddess Freia stands under a tree of apples with her cats by her feet. Note that Wagner’s Freia merges the Norse goddesses Freyja and Iðunn. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Norse mythology, Freyja is the goddess of love, sex, fertility, wealth, war and the afterlife, roughly parallel to the Greek Aphrodite. Young women consult her on matters of love. She and her brother, the fertility god Frey, are the offspring of Niord, god of the sea.

Half of all warriors slain in battle enter her heavenly hall, Fólkvangr. The other half go to Odin’s great hall at Valhalla. Wikipedia tells us

Freyja is attested in the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional sources; in the Prose Edda and Heimskringla, the two latter written by Snorri Sturluson in the 13th century; in several Sagas of Icelanders; in the short story Sörla þáttr; in the poetry of skalds; and into the modern age in Scandinavian folklore, as well as the name for Friday in many Germanic languages.¹

Freyja is an old goddess, historically speaking, often equated with Frigga, the wife of Odin. However, some scholars suggest that Frigga and Freyja are two different versions of the same Germanic pagan deity.

The following image shows how Freyja, far from being some distant mythic memory, continues to inform the mythological and artistic imagination of many Northern Europeans.

The statue of Freyja on the Djurgårdsbron bridge in Stockholm (Sweden) in the late evening.

¹ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freyja

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Erich Fromm and the “Mass Man”

Gedenktafel für Erich Fromm aus der Reihe Mit ...

Plaque for Erich Fromm from the series with Freud in Berlin. Bayerischer Platz 1, Berlin-Schöneberg. Enthüllt am 1. Juli 2006. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Erich Fromm (1900-1980) was a German-born American psychologist and social thinker who is often linked to the Frankfurt school of critical theory.

Fromm’s work combined different ideas from the works of Sigmund Freud, Karl Marx and J.-P. Sartre.

Like Carl Jung, he was acutely aware of the danger of bureaucracies controlled by the wrong people. He leveled a critique against the so-called mass man who, like a robot, compliantly follows orders to maintain financial security at the expense of human decency.

For Fromm, individuals “escape from freedom” through at least three often related routes:

  • Authoritarianism – losing the self by over-identifying with a powerful leader
  • Automaton Conformity – blindly following the will of a powerful leader
  • Destructiveness –  hurting self or others in an attempt to blot out a painful reality

In “The Sane Society” (1955), Fromm says modern individuals are alienated from their authentic self by seeking ephemeral thrills through mass culture and consumerism. According to Fromm, what makes us truly human is our ability to love. If we sacrifice this to the gods of commerce or political ambition, we’ve sacrificed our greatest gift of all.

Fromm’s works include The Fear of Freedom (1941), The Art of Loving (1956) and The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness (1973).

Related » HAL 9000, Borg, Projection


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Functionalism – Are we simply what we do?

In art and architecture functionalism refers to combining aesthetics and efficiency. With intellectual roots in the 18th and 19th centuries, in the 1920s and 30s the Bauhaus movement designed furniture for utility.

In architecture, the idea that function should determine form was exemplified by Le Corbusier’s definition of a house as “a machine for living in.”

Portret van Talcott Parsons (1902-1979)

Portret van Talcott Parsons (1902-1979) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In social anthropology and sociology, functionalism (and structural functionalism) envisions society as a self-regulating organism. Social institutions, customs, beliefs and even social deviance all contribute to societal functioning. This approach was especially prominent in the sociological work of Emile Durkheim and Talcott Parsons.

In the Philosophy of Mind functionalism presents a challenge to behaviorism. While strict behaviorism explains the mind by observing external causes and effects, functionalism tries to account for consciousness in terms of all inner and outer causes and effects. Philosophical functionalism considers the possibility, overlooked by behaviorism, of a multiplicity of inner causes and effects existing within the mind. The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy simplifies it thus:

Functionalism is a theory about the nature of mental states. According to functionalism, mental states are identified by what they do rather than by what they are made of.¹

¹ http://www.iep.utm.edu/functism/

Related » William James


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Fundamentalism – Can we escape interpretation?

English: William Jennings Bryan, full-length v...

William Jennings Bryan, full-length view standing on stage, delivering campaign speech, another unidentified man seated to the rear of the stage. A portrait of Bryan from some years earlier is seen at bottom left. c. 3 July 1908 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The idea of Fundamentalism refers to religious or political groups adhering to a rigid, traditional interpretation of their particular belief system.

In Christianity, some fundamentalists seem to believe that they take the Bible literally. But as human beings it is arguably impossible for any religious person to escape the interpretive process.

It seems reasonable to say then, that fundamentalists adhere to an interpretation of scripture that they suppose is literal but which is selective and slanted to suit a particular psychosocial agenda.

A similar critique could be leveled against Christian liberals and other denominations.

The current split between Fundamentalism and science has deep roots, going back to the Scopes trial of 1925 in which Democratic Presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan argued for a Biblical view over Darwin’s theory of evolution. Bryan’s campaign fought for banning evolutionary theory from American classrooms.

As for Islamic fundamentalism, the Oxtord Dictionary has this to say:

Islamic fundamentalism appeared in the 18th and 19th centuries as a reaction to the disintegration of Islamic political and economic power, asserting that Islam is central to both state and society and advocating strict adherence to the Koran (Qur’an) and to Islamic law (sharia)

Skip O’Neill, a leader of the fundamentalist Church of Bible Understanding’s branch here. November 12, 1976. (Photo by Jerry Engel/New York Post Archives / (c) NYP Holdings, Inc. via Getty Images)

More recently, the term fundamentalism loosely refers to any kind of strict cultural preference. So we have Hindu fundamentalists who insist on the historicity of their sacred myth, Star Trek fundamentalists who accept nothing after TOS, Disney fundamentalists who maintain that anything after hand-drawn cartoons are bogus, and so on. These types of fundamentalists hearken back to a supposed “original” or “golden age” within whatever activity inspires them.

¹ http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/fundamentalism

Related » Galileo Galilei, UFO


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Sign of the Cross – Sign of the Times?

Originally published in 2007 at Earthpages before we migrated to WordPress

The other night Turner Classic Movies ran a wonderful 1930’s production called The Sign of the Cross. Basically it’s about early Christians being hunted down and persecuted in the Roman empire. Toward the end, the film gives a dramatic portrayal of the power of faith as imprisoned Christians face the prospect of being eaten alive by wild beasts at the Colosseum (which really happened), with an especially inspired performance by Elissa Landi.

After the close of the movie, the critics at TCM said absolutely nothing about the power of faith but zeroed in on the importance of a woman’s breasts being partially shown in a milk bath and how a lusty gay scene was mostly edited out some years later once Hollywood prohibitions kicked in. Interesting stuff, but really quite tangential to the main message…


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The Furies – an early attempt to outline a core dynamic?

The Remorse of Orestes or Orestes Pursued by t...

The Remorse of Orestes or Orestes Pursued by the Furies (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Furies were ancient Greek avengers usually personified as three ugly, old women carrying torches and covered in snakes. Typically seen as three sisters – Alecto (The Unresting), Tisiphone (The Avenger) and Magaera (The Jealous) – the Furies are the offspring of Gaia and Uranus or, depending on which myth you subscribe to, Nxy (night).¹

In Greece the Furies were also called the Erinyes. The Erinyes mostly punished people within families for their ill deeds on Earth.

The Romans adapted the bulk of Greek myth to suit their own purposes and mindset. The Roman poet Vergil depicts the Furies in the underworld, where they torment the wicked. Although vicious, the Furies mete out just punishments to those who have sworn false oaths.

Night of the Furies

Night of the Furies (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I see myths like this as primitive or prototypical attempts to understand some basic dynamics of what later would be called the “collective unconscious.”² The old saying what goes around comes around comes to mind. In other words, we can fool others, we can fool ourselves, but sooner or later we have to pay for our bad choices.

¹ According to variant accounts, they emerged from an even more primordial level—from Nyx (“Night”), or from a union between air and mother earth. »  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erinyes

² Not to imply that this term is adequate. The Jungian James Hillman rightly points out that the idea of the unconscious is just another concept, another myth. And better understandings of how the mind works in relation to All That Is most likely will come in the future. See James Hillman, The Myth of Analysis.

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