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Proclus – A good example of how all spiritual beliefs are not the same

Lycia-46

Lycia-46 by Phoebe Luckyn-Malone via Flickr

Proclus (410-85 CE) was an influential Greek Neoplatonist philosopher. Born in Lycia, he moved to Athens for the remainder of his life.

A lawyer by trade, Proclus came to realize that he preferred philosophy so made a study of the classics and beliefs of his time. Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics, mathematics and the ancient mystery cults were all under his purview.

Modern writers often call him the last of the classical Greek philosophers.

Proclus’ works include extensive commentaries on Plato’s dialogues and on Euclid’s Elements of Geometry. He also wrote several major treatises, to include Platonic Theology, Elements of Theology, and Elements of Physics.

Like his better known predecessor, Plotinus, Proclus attempts to combine the Platonic notion of the ideal Forms with Aristotle’s concept of a prime, unmoved Mover (the first cause of all creation).

Proclus’ synthesis of Platonic and Aristotelian systems culminates in his theory that an overall, divine action coordinates all cosmic elements as the soul returns back to the One from which it originally emanated. This One is unlike the monotheistic God of Jewish, Muslim and Christian faiths, mainly because it is not a being but rather some kind of creative principle.

The first principle in Neoplatonism is the One (Greek: to Hen). Being proceeds from the One. The One cannot itself be a being. If it were a being, it would have a particular nature, and so could not be universally productive.¹

Woman teaching geometry, from Euclid's Elements.

Woman teaching geometry, from Euclid’s Elements via Wikipedia

Due to the non-Christian aspects of his teaching, the emperor Justinian closed the reknowned school of Athens after its (more or less) nine century run.

But the ecclesiastical powers couldn’t suppress Proclus’ ideas indefinitely.

Considerable interest in his work reappeared during the medieval and renaissance periods, as scholars and monks gained access to a considerable array of classical literary, religious, mythological, biographical, historical and scientific sources.

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

Realated » Platonism

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 The Twilight of Humanity & the Rise of Home Deus (vladimirsays.com)

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Polyphonic chant (and a little polyphonic trivia for the digital age)

gregorian chant

K Leb – Old book of Gregorian Chant; some place in Aragón via Flickr

Polyphonic chant is a type of Christian devotional singing developed in the 10th century where two or more melodies or parts are sung together in a composition.

As with anything new, not everyone approved of polyphony.

Some believed that melodic complexity was the work of the devil, who tried to seduce believers through the sin of pride. Pope John XX II was dead against polyphony and in 1324 CE warned his flock not to fall into the satanic lure of musical innovation.

Pope Clement VI Cameo

Pope Clement VI Cameo via Wikipedia

However, such narrow-mindedness couldn’t stop the flow of musical evolution.

As different cultures and musical styles increasingly intermingled, more complex forms of polyphony emerged in the medieval and renaissance eras, like the motet, the rota, the canon, polyphonic masses and madrigals. Another Pope (Clement VI) actually championed polyphony. So not all the Popes were backward looking duds.

The 18th century saw further development of the fugue, which had roots in simpler, medieval compositions. A good, lighthearted example of a modern fugue is found in Glenn Gould‘s “So You Want To Write a Fugue?”¹

Today, the word polyphony takes on whole new meanings with electronic instruments.

Oberheim 4voice '"Used by 808 State, Depe...

Old analog synthesizer – Oberheim 4voice ‘”Used by 808 State, Depeche Mode, Styx, The Shamen and John Carpenter. Produced from ’75 to ’79. Killed by the Prophet-5.” via Wikipedia

Most hardware and software synthesizers allow users to select the number of notes or layers they want to work with. For example, one might set polyphony to 4, 8, 16 or 32. Generally speaking, the higher the polyphony, the more complex the sound. But increased polyphony puts more demand on a computer processor.

Composing a pop song with “phat bass” and lush synth sounds, for example, would probably require more PC power than an ordinary phone or tablet could provide. Great strides are being made to make bigger sounding virtual instruments work on mobile devices and everyday computers. It’s all about clever, efficient software coding to get the most bang out of lighter processors without any unwelcome stuttering, freezing or crashing. If only those owning high-end gaming computers and expensive sound cards could run commercial music software, not too many units would be sold.

Sylenth1, a popular virtual instrument that runs on a computer, with polyphony settings at top left – via https://www.lennardigital.com/sylenth1

Back in the early days of computing I thought all PCs ran at the same speed because information is carried by electricity, and electricity runs practically instantaneously. Ha ha. Not so. Like anything, electronic data transfer follows basic laws and principles much like water moving through plumbing.

A bit of a diversion here, but it serves to demonstrate that polyphony demands more energy than monophonic performances. Be it with human singers and musicians, or with artificial electronic instruments.²

¹ More about polyphonic music thru my LINER notes » http://lnr.li/v5yC3/

² I added “artificial” lest we forget that human beings are also electrical to some extent.

Related » Orpheus


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Politically Correct – Beyond the definition

Antonio Ciseri's depiction of Pontius Pilate p...

Antonio Ciseri’s depiction of Pontius Pilate presenting a scourged Christ to the people Ecce homo! (Behold the man!) In the New Testament account, that assembly found it acceptable to crucify Jesus instead of Barabbas, a convicted murderer – Image via Wikipedia

politically correct

conforming to a belief that language and practices which could offend political sensibilities (as in matters of sex or race) should be eliminated

political correctness

noun

First Known Use: 1934

“Politically Correct.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 4 Jan. 2018.

Well that’s a dictionary definition, which is a good start. But I think the term “politically correct” demands a little amplification.

From my perspective, “politically correct” describes a belief that the majority (or a highly visible group) at a given moment in history see as true or, if not ultimately true, acceptable or appropriate.

Alexis de Tocqueville, French political thinke...

Alexis de Tocqueville, French political thinker and historian – Image via Wikipedia

When a politically correct idea takes hold, many follow suit and boldly proclaim with an almost religious zealousness a belief or agenda that, in reality, could be an ephemeral, ideological trend.

Along these lines, the classical French sociologist Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859) argued that democracy’s emphasis on equality could possibly squelch individuality, leading to a suffocating majority rule marked by total conformity.

In the New Testament narrative, Pontius Pilate voices the philosophical essence of political correctness when he says to Jesus Christ:

What is Truth!  ~ John, 18:38 NASB

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar has Pilate sarcastically ask

But what is truth? Is truth unchanging law? We both have truths. Are mine the same as yours?

The following New Testament passage gives a scathing account of worldly wisdom, which could be seen as a type of political correctness:

What is truth? Deutsch: Was ist Wahrheit? Fran...

What is truth? Christ and Pilate – Image via Wikipedia

Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, he must become foolish, so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written, “He is THE ONE WHO CATCHES THE WISE IN THEIR CRAFTINESS”; and again, “THE LORD KNOWS THE REASONINGS of the wise, THAT THEY ARE USELESS” ~ I Corinthians 3:18-20 NASB

Okay, so there is a lot of b.s. in the world. I think we all get that. But that doesn’t mean all politically correct ideas are bad or untrue. Many seem to contain virtue.

The key is to avoid blindly accepting majority opinion – and the political correctness that often goes with that – without first researching and thinking for oneself.

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The Pope, infallibility and Antipopes

Image – Wikipedia

Pope (Greek Pappas = father; Latin Pontifex Maximus = greatest bridge-builder)

The Pope is the Bishop of Rome and head of the Roman Catholic Church.

For Catholics he is a direct successor to St. Peter, the first Pope. He is the chief pastor of the Catholic fold. As such, he’s regarded as the foremost servant of God.

In 1870 the First Vatican Council defined the doctrine of infallibility, which some believe has always been present in the Catholic Church.

Strictly speaking, infallibility refers to the idea that the Pope cannot err when speaking ex cathedra (Latin = from the chair). When speaking ex cathedra, the Pope solemnly defines issues concerning faith and morals.

Gregory the Great, attributed to the studio of...

Gregory the Great, attributed to the studio of Saraceni, ca 1610 (Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica, Rome) via Wikipedia

We usually hear that, after 1870, only the dogmas of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary are ex cathedra—that is, infallible.

However, some Catholics believe that infallibility extends to all Catholic teachings concerning faith and morals. In reality, many Catholics debate the meaning of the term.

But one thing is clear. Infallibility does not refer to cosmological issues, as many wrongly suppose. Nor does it relate to grave mistakes in ethical judgment and associated behavior in these situations.

For instance, the Church tried Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), finding him guilty for claiming that the sun – not the earth – was the center of our solar system.

The Catholic Encyclopedia explains this embarrassing blunder as follows:

As to the Galileo affair, it is quite enough to point out the fact that the condemnation of the heliocentric theory was the work of a fallible tribunal. The pope cannot delegate the exercise of his infallible authority to the Roman Congregations, and whatever issues formally in the name of any of these, even when approved and confirmed in the ordinary official way by the pope, does not pretend to be ex cathedra and infallible. The pope, of course, can convert doctrinal decisions of the Holy Office, which are not in themselves infallible, into ex cathedra papal pronouncements, but in doing so he must comply with the conditions already explained — which neither Paul V nor Urban VIII did in the Galileo case.¹

More recently, the Vatican has asserted copyright over the papal figure. Almost like a corporate logo, the papal name, image and symbols are not for casual use as, say, most NASA images are.

The Church gives spiritual reasons for tightening control over the papal figure, but some critics say it’s more about insecurity, the wish to dominate and that ago-old god, money.

emblem of the Papacy: Triple tiara and keys Fr...

Emblem of the Papacy: Triple tiara and keys – Wikipedia

Interestingly, the Latin term Pontifex Maximus was used in pre-Christian Rome for the most influential but not the (technically) highest ranking priest.

The Catholic Church has appropriated and essentially Christianized the old pagan title, along with many other polytheistic symbols and customs. Some see this as a fatal flaw. The Church itself argues that this process transforms and ennobles all that was good or potentially good in the pre-Christian era.

Just around the time of revising this I came across an engaging lecture by William R. Cook Ph.D. that reminded me of the long, checkered history of the Papacy.

Popes, corrupt and debauched popes, antipopes, mutual excommunications during the East-West Schism (1054) and Western Schism (1378), scholarly disagreement over the legitimacy of the current line of Papal succession… all of these hard facts might make us wonder about the legitimacy of the current Pope.²

Like most things in life, one has to believe.

¹ See: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07790a.htm

² https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/East%E2%80%93West_Schism and  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Western_Schism

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Merry Christmas!

In Toronto we have an FM radio station, CHFI, that plays only Christmas music at this time of year. I noticed this song came up a lot (by checking “recently played” on the web) but never heard it ’till now. Not bad! 🙂


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Princess Leia – A Star Wars icon lives on

Carrie Fisher who plays Leia – Wikipedia

There’s a new Star Wars film out which some say is the best since The Empire Strikes Back, and Princess Leia is up next for revision.

A nice coincidence, especially since actor Carrie Fisher, who plays the original Leia, also plays Leia in later years as Senator and General Leia Organa.

In the Star Wars Trilogy, Princess Leia is Luke Skywalker‘s twin sister and Darth Vader‘s daughter.

Reflecting attitudes of the late 1970s, Leia is cast as a feminist and still serves today as a feminist role model.

A few people say she’s not a great feminist icon, but on the whole Leia is seen that way.

Perhaps the critics don’t like the male chauvinism that pervades the early Star Wars scripts.

Han Solo, for instance, condescendingly says he knows, despite Leia’s apparent disgust toward his sexual advances, that she “really wants it.” And Leia’s role in the film sometimes evokes a more traditional female sex role stereotype.

As noted in a sidebar at Wikipedia:

Leia wearing her iconic golden “metal bikini” slave outfit at Jabba’s palace. Leia’s appearance has been voted one of the most memorable swimsuit moments of cinema history.¹

English: Christy Marie as Slave Leia Organa.

Christy Marie as Slave Leia Organa – Wikipedia

Is this a showcase for the feminist sentiments of the time? I suppose it depends on the person interpreting. Like most social movements, feminism moves within a total context so has been evolving… slowly.

Before her untimely death in 2016 Fisher occasionally introduced vintage films with Turner Classic Movies host Robert Osborne.

She also struggled with mood swings that she managed with drug use. Embracing the diagnosis of “bipolar disorder” given to her by the medical establishment, she evidently had no other way to decode her feelings and the medical model arguably didn’t help too much.

This is unfortunate. I often feel that if some took a broader view of their unconventional psychological experiences they might get a better grip on them—without the use of heavy drugs or, as Fisher underwent, ECT.²

General Leia is in theaters as I write this. The posthumous release of Fisher’s performance in The Last Jedi is helping to make box office records.

Like all Hollywood greats, Fisher lives.

¹ This quote is from several years ago. The link and caption has changed to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Princess_Leia%27s_bikini 

² Recently I was surprised to learn that the medical establishment still practices ECT. When I took psych in the 1980s ECT was frowned upon as a part of psychiatry’s dark history. That this practice continues today, with such spurious scientific backing, imo is horrific.

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 The Ultimate Star Wars Quiz: Find Out Which Character Matches Your Personality (time.com)

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 “The Last Jedi” Felt Like a Dream. I’m Not Sure I Even Really Saw It. (motherjones.com)


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Star Trek’s Prime Directive – A lofty idea with a few wrinkles

Image FET-OPEN call deadline via Twitter

In the fictional world of Star Trek, the Prime Directive is a core regulation of Starfleet. To understand what the Prime Directive means, we have to know how Star Trek depicts its moral universe.

Star Fleet officers usually see themselves as an alliance of “good guys” belonging to the United Federation of Planets, as opposed to the “bad guys” made of up species like the Cardassians and the Borg.

Starfleet is concerned about right ethics, so the Prime Directive stipulates noninterference with other species’ planetary development.

This applies to space exploration through normal time¹ and to time travel. Violating the prime directive results in court-martial, except in extenuating circumstances.

The Prime Directive sounds like a great idea but, we could ask, what exactly does “non-interference” mean?

Extreme causal loop time travel paradox animation

Extreme causal loop time travel paradox animation – Wikipedia

Religious and New Age people, for instance, tend to say that humanity is invisibly guided by advanced beings residing in the universe, astral realms, heavens and throughout time.² If so, a Federation starship crew might have a moral responsibility to help primitive but eligible species develop better ways of living.

Despite its lofty ideal of non-interference, the Prime Directive is often breached. Moral dilemmas are key to dramatic storytelling and, it goes without saying, TV ratings. In real life, St. Paul says that moral dilemmas are best solved by following the spirit instead of the letter of the law.³ So it’s not surprising that the Prime Directive is often messed with.

As any good popcorn popping cultural studies or phony entertainment critic will say, art follows life and life follows art.

A relatively novel mystery arises with The Prime Directive’s treatment of temporal paradoxes. For obvious reasons, Star Trek’s writers never fully answer the tricky question: Could a time traveler going back in time be certain what choice out of many possible choices would be best? Or, for that matter, is there a single, best choice?

English: Capt. Jean-Luc Picard as Borg Locutus...

Capt. Jean-Luc Picard as Borg Locutus – Wikipedia

Possible answers to these conundrums lead to notions of a plethora of potential outcomes and universes (to include parallel universes) and a multiverse (which differs from parallel universes).

Tantalizing cosmological questions have been posed by both mystics and subatomic physicists, but no universally agreed upon answers have been found due to their speculative nature.4

But one thing is certain. The Star Trek mythos is no silly fantasy but, rather, provides us with some of the best imaginative thinking in 20th and 21st century science fiction.

Related » Aliens, Angels, Jane Roberts, UFOs

¹ Technically, Star Trek might be at odds with reality because warp speeds are faster than the speed of light but travelers experience no time dilation. But being good sci-fi, fans are obviously willing to give the benefit of the doubt.  They weren’t as forgiving with Space 1999, which was visually interesting but a bit of a bomb.

² For some, demons try to get us off track.

³ Usually associated with St. Paul in 2 Corinthians 3:6, the idea has other applications. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Letter_and_spirit_of_the_law

4 Sometimes the speculation is forwarded as a hypothesis, which is good, healthy science or mysticism. But other times it is not, as with those claiming to have advanced knowledge that others lack. In religion and the New Age, these mentally unwell characters may be ego-inflated holy men and women or, from my experience, some religious studies professors who do their esoteric “thing” under the cover of academia. In both cases, these half-baked manipulators are blind to their own prejudices and do everything possible to convince you that they know better. Watch out!

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