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St. Teresa of Ávila

Teresa of Ávila, Ulm, Germany

Teresa of Ávila, Ulm, Germany (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

St. Teresa of Ávila (1515-1582) was a Spanish Carmelite Catholic mystic whose frank autobiography was criticized by the American psychologist and philosopher William James. However, this work along with The Interior Castle and The Way of Perfection are widely regarded as literary and spiritual classics.

St. Teresa was a profound mystic and convent organizer. She spoke of degrees of purity, detachment from the world (to include one’s relatives) and various graces encountered by those seeking spiritual perfection and God.

For St. Teresa, God’s love was experienced as a kind of spiritual water for which she was ever thirsty.

In keeping with the general motif of the Dark Night of the Soul, in her autobiography she spoke of terrible “dry” periods where grace was lacking. During these moments she neither enjoyed this world nor a heavenly one, “as if crucified between heaven and earth, suffering and receiving no help from either.”

St. Teresa apparently levitated. This made her uncomfortable because she didn’t want to draw attention to herself.


Ecstasy of St. Teresa of Avila, by Bernini

Perhaps her most enduring saying is “God alone suffices.”

In 1622, forty years after her death, she was canonized by Pope Gregory XV, and on 27 September 1970 was named a Doctor of the Church by Pope Paul VI.¹

While St. Teresa’s autobiography is inspiring for contemporary readers, it doesn’t really address some of the problems that modern (and postmodern) mystics must face.

If I remember right, there’s no mention of systemic corruption in the Church. And there’s certainly no commentary on how we are to survive amidst ever growing technologies and their potential misuse by creaminals, creeps and scallywags. So although extremely worthwhile in my younger days, I had to take heed but respectfully move past hers and several other Christian classics to pave my own road to salvation.


Related Posts »  St. John of the Cross, Numinous, Pollution

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Winged youth with a sword, probably Thanatos, ...

Winged youth with a sword, probably Thanatos, personification of death. Detail of a sculptured marble column drum from the Temple of Artemis at Ephesos, ca. 325-300 BC. Found at the south-west corner of the temple. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thanatos is a Greek word meaning death. In Greek myth he is the personification of death. Mentioned often, he doesn’t visit mortals too regularly—otherwise there would be few alive to tell his tale.

According to the poet Hesiod, Thanatos is a son of Nyx (Night) and Erebos (Darkness), and the twin brother of Hypnos, the benevolent god of sleep who lives in the underworld

Sigmund Freud used the term Thanatos to symbolize a hypothesized death instinct, which counterbalances Eros, Freud’s hypothesized life instinct.

Freud’s theories have been routinely challenged by depth psychologists, transpersonal psychologists and by spiritualists. At the other end of the spectrum, his ideas also have been questioned by clinical psychologists and psychiatrists.

But Freud still looms large in the humanities, mostly because he arguably was the first to try to systematically (some say scientifically) explore the hidden workings of the mind. So like him or lump him, he does deserve some respect.

¹ With help from –

English: Group photo in front of Clark Univers...

Group photo in front of Clark University Sigmund Freud, G. Stanley Hall, Carl Jung; Back row: Abraham A. Brill, Ernest Jones, Sándor Ferenczi. Photo taken for Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts publication. Česky: Foto z Clarkovy univerzity roku 1909. Dole (zleva) Sigmund Freud, G. Stanley Hall, Carl Jung, nahoře (zleva) Abraham A. Brill, Ernest Jones, Sándor Ferenczi (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Related Posts » Civilization and its Discontents, Dreams, Id, Libido, Repression




Tantalus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Greek myth Tartarus is a deity, son of Aither (Sky) and Gaia (Earth). Over time, Tartarus came to be regarded as the lowest abyss in Hades. The philosopher Plato wrote of Tartarus as a dreadful place of afterlife punishment.

The Greek poets say that the Kings Ixion and Tantalus were condemned to Tartarus for offending the gods. And King Sisyphus was sent to Tartarus for murdering his guests, seducing his niece, and spilling the beans on Zeus’ sexual practices. The ruler of the Titans was also sent to Tartarus.

Concerning Tantalus, we see again how ancient myth is adapted to modern times. In the original Star Trek TV show, Tantalus is the name of a Penal Colony where people’s minds are blanked out as part of their psychiatric treatment.¹

The Tartarus Gate

The Tartarus Gate (Photo credit: Wikipedia) – The Tartarus Gate is the season 7 opener of the Doctor Who audio spin-off series of Bernice Summerfield. Released by Big Finish Productions in July 2006 and written by Stewart Sheargold.

This is a captivating episode and runs counter to those existential or, perhaps, postmodern pundits who claim that ancient myth has “died” in a supposedly vulgar void of contemporary meaningless. I think people who say that just don’t get Western culture. Or their own culture or subculture is so messed up that it taints their entire outlook, makes them cynical, etc.

Digital Dame adds:

Another ST tie-in for Tantalus: In the episode “Mirror, Mirror” where they transposed with their evil counterparts in an alternate universe, Mirror-Kirk’s girlfriend, Marlena, shows good Kirk the Tantalus Device, or Tantalus Field, that vaporizes his enemies. » See in context

Further Reading:

David Sacks, A Dictionary of the Ancient Greek World, Oxford 1995, pp. 8-9.


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The Our Father or The Lord’s Prayer

English: Lords Prayer in Aramaic(Syriac)

Lords Prayer in Aramaic (Syriac) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is a central prayer that the Christian tradition says Jesus, himself, gave to his disciples and, through them, to mankind.¹

The version in Luke 11: 2-4 differs slightly from that of Matthew 6: 9-15, probably because the two were written down in different contexts.

Some versions of the prayer add an ending line: “For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, now and forever (or forever and ever).”

Our Father, Who art in heaven,
Hallowed be Thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come.
Thy Will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil. Amen.

English: The lord's prayer in Manchu

The lord’s prayer in Manchu (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Different translations of the original Greek Gospel treat the Lord’s Prayer differently, perhaps reflecting the conscious or subconscious convictions and agendas of the team involved in a given Bible’s publication.

Jesus, himself didn’t speak in Greek or English but in Aramaic. An Aramaic version of the prayer exists, but scholars generally agree that it is based on early Greek New Testament sources and is not the “original” as some believe. Like the Buddha, Jesus was probably too busy being a spiritual person to actually write anything himself.

As Christianity spread throughout the world, the Our Father would usually be translated into different languages well before the entire Bible translation would be completed. Almost like a preview or “trailer” of what was to come with the full Bible, the Our Father is usually deemed as the most important Christian prayer.

English: Lord's Prayer in Persian(Farsi) in th...

Lord’s Prayer in Persian(Farsi) in the Convent of Pater Noster in Jerusalem (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

More recently, Feminists have taken exception to the apparently sexist language of the prayer. Many say that masculine, paternal images of the divine (i.e. “Father“) reflect and reinforce an unhealthy and unfair patriarchy that has existed for millennia.

The depth psychiatrist Carl Jung thought that the passage “lead us not into temptation” was telling. Jung believed that part of the Godhead was unconscious. And through interacting with mankind God becomes increasingly self-conscious. So in this part of the prayer, mankind is begging God not to lead them down a dark alley. Why, Jung wondered, does the prayer not simply say, “protect us from temptation”? For Jung, the answer lies in his belief that God had a dark side, a shadow

In 1973 the Australian Sister Janet Mead, a nun, helped the Christian pop music scene move into the mainstream by singing the Our Father to, at that time, funky music.

¹ This is so taken for granted in Catholicism that, during the Mass, many priests say, “let’s say the prayer that Jesus gave to us” before the recitation of the Our Father.

² See

Lord's prayer in Coptic language

Lord’s prayer in Coptic language (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lord's Prayer in greek in the Pater Noster Cha...

Lord’s Prayer in greek in the Pater Noster Chapel in Jerusalem (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: The Our Father as used in Catholic li...

The Our Father as used in Catholic liturgy painted on tile in Chinese. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lord's Prayer in danish in the Pater Noster Ch...

Lord’s Prayer in danish in the Pater Noster Chapel in Jerusalem (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Prayer our father in Bliss language F...

Prayer our father in Bliss language Français : Prière du Notre père en langage Bliss (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lord's Prayer in hebrew in the Pater Noster Ch...

Lord’s Prayer in hebrew in the Pater Noster Chapel in Jerusalem (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Tabula Rasa

Русский: На фотографии забражена рок-группа Th...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tabula Rasa (Latin: blank slate) is the idea that human beings are born psychologically equal, and that all knowledge comes from experience or perception.

We usually hear that the British empirical philosopher John Locke forwarded this view. This is true, but Locke was by no means the first to advance the idea. It is found as far back as Aristotle, the Stoics and, still before Locke, the Persian thinker Avicenna.¹

Locke believed the human being is born into the world with a blank slate. Accordingly, we inherit nothing more than physical characteristics and a basic sense of goodness. The mind is free and equal among different individuals, sort of like a computer processor rolling down the assembly line. We’re all hardwired just the same.

Tabula Rasa (video game)

Tabula Rasa is also the name of a video game (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Most contemporary psychologists adhere to the “nature-nurture” paradigm, meaning we’re each the outcome of genetically inherited and socially developed potentials.

More recently, the ideas of epigenetics and brain plasticity have complicated the picture. Basically these two concepts mean that we can not only outgrow our genetic programming but, moreover, in some instances experience and perception can alter that programming.²

Scientific and religious debates continue, but most of us agree that, regardless of our differences, we are all of equal value as human beings.


² This development should have a profound influence on psychology and psychiatry, particularly in regard to the professional and public perception of current diagnostic categories. See and

Related Posts » Lévi-Strauss (Claude)

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English: Ralph Cudworth. Français : Ralph Cudw...

Ralph Cudworth (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The term “theism” was coined by the Cambridge Platonist scholar, Ralph Cudworth (1617-88), in 1678.

Theism is the belief in a wholly-other creator God, ruling over creation and intervening with divine power, presence and graces.

Theism is often contrasted with deism, the belief in a wholly-other creator God who does not intervene after the initial creation of the universe.

Wikipedia suggests that theism can also apply to most other types of religious beliefs.¹ This may be a current trend in scholarship. It might even be motivated by a hyper aggressive kind of political correctness. I’m not sure. But traditionally, theologians and scholars deemed it important to keep the term’s meaning separate from that of others pointing to the idea of ultimate reality.

Classical Definition of Kno

Classical Definition of Knowledge (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

¹ See for details.

Related Posts » Akhenaton, Atheism, Neo-Paganism, Pagan, Pantheism

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Showdown Between Good and Evil by

Markus Aaron Brechbiel – Showdown Between Good and Evil via Flickr

Theodicy is a theological term describing attempts to uphold God‘s absolute goodness and power with the presence of evil in the world.

In Christian theology evil is often seen as a necessary part of God’s plan of salvation. Most Christians accept as an article of faith that God permits evil for some greater good, beyond the comprehension of mere mortals (see Isaiah 55:8-9).¹

One school of thought, stemming from Irenaeus and popularized by John Hick, argues that evil is permitted but not caused by God.

Why, one might ask, would a benevolent and all-powerful God permit evil?

For the Irenaean school the answer lies within the idea of “soul making.” A soul freely choosing to abstain from evil is of greater value than one automatically avoiding evil. The free and virtuous soul better glorifies God than would a sinless automaton.

Although evil may ravage, test and torment good souls living on earth, the true goal of our finite, earthly life is to be made worthy of eternal heaven.

According to this view, evil acts as a crucible. Souls not succumbing to but ultimately resisting evil are purified and strengthened towards the good. Evil, then, is necessary. It acts as a kind of “hammer” that pounds out the soul’s impurities.

Meanwhile, St. Thomas Aquinas, in keeping with the final winnowing of the Apocalypse (Luke 3:17, Matthew 3:12), writes

God permits some evils lest the good things should be obstructed.

The Prophet Jonah, as depicted by Michelangelo...

The Prophet Jonah, as depicted by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Perhaps this means that God allows evil to grow with the good because trashing evil too soon could cause some collateral damage, which might be permitted in military ops but with God, must be kept to zero.

Another argument, influenced by Plato’s idea of the Forms, is given by St. Augustine. Augustine sees evil as a privatio boni—the absence of good. Because God is good, Augustine says, evil must be where God is not present. So God doesn’t create evil. It’s a choice.

Needless to say, not everyone is happy with this argument. Some, usually religious believers, see it as self-evident while others, often atheists, say it’s philosophically unsatisfying. And somewhere between these two extremes, Carl Jung believed that if God knew how we would choose, and created us in the first place, it’s a joke to say that we are responsible for evil.²

¹ Although in some Catholic homilies, I’ve heard variations of this belief. For example, one priest claimed, I think facilely, that God wants us to be happy all the time. In so doing, he seemed to overlook and trivialize another basic Christian belief—namely, that there is value in some forms of suffering. God may wish us to be happy all the time in heaven. But life on Earth is anything but heaven 24/7.

² I think a problem with Jung’s argument is that he’s viewing the issue from the perspective of linear time, which according to Einstein’s relativity theory, doesn’t really exist. This is a surprising error on the part of Jung, because he was aware of the latest scientific developments, well before the time of his death (1961). I think Jung also displays a dash of human arrogance. Perhaps with more humility he might have found more answers.

Related Posts » Fatalism, Felix culpa, Hick (John), Providence

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  • A humorous video presenting the Irenaean theodicy:

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