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Saint Pacianus – A bishop with wife and child

Saint Pacianus in the façade of the bishop’s palace in Barcelona, Catalonia (Spain) – via Wikipedia

St. Pacianus (or St. Pacian) was the 4th-century Christian bishop of Barcelona. He is considered a “Father of the Church” and was canonized as a Catholic saint.

He apparently embodied chastity, education and eloquence.

In those days, a bishop could be married with children. Accordingly, St. Pacianus was married and had a son, to whom the famous (in Catholic and academic circles) scholar Saint Jerome dedicated his biographical De Viris Illustribus (On Illustrious Men).

St. Pacianus is probably best remembered, however, for his pithy statement:

Christian is my name; Catholic is my surname.

It’s hard to know if anyone would say that today.

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Pali – Language of the ancient Buddhists

The President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee, presenting the Presidential Award to the Scholars of Sanskrit, Arabic, Persian & Pali/Prakrit & Mahrshi Badrayan Vyas Samman for the year 2014 at Rashtrapati Bhavan.

Pali is an ancient language derived from Sanskrit, used in the scripture and liturgy of Theravada Buddhism. Its use virtually died out in the 14th century in India, dwindling on until the 18th century.

Some religious studies scholars believed that Pali is related to Magadhi, the language that the Buddha allegedly spoke. This theory is still taken seriously in S. G. F. Brandon’s Dictionary of Comparative Religion (1970).¹

However, a more recent Wikipedia entry questions whether or not the Buddha spoke Magadhi, suggesting this claim could be more an opportunistic strategy (i.e. politically motivated) instead of an actual fact. Old Magadhi was a high-class language, the lingua franca of the nobility. And its use was one way the ancient elites could separate themselves from, as they likely would have seen it, the riffraff.

Stefan Rüdiger – Buddha via Flickr

This doesn’t meant that the Buddha did not speak Magadhi. But it does mean that we do not know.²

¹ In fairness, the entry in this outstanding dictionary (for 1970) does offer a footnote suggesting further scholarly study, which I haven’t yet followed up on.

² See Similar questions arise with regard to the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. That is, did things always happen as the text says or are we often reading, for example, ancient invective, hyperbole or theologically infused storytelling. However, fundamentalists who refuse, or who find it too psychologically painful to examine their literal beliefs, will usually turn a blind eye to (or demonize) earnest attempts to get at the truth with the cognitive and scholarly tools available to us today. Many of these folks believe they have a pipeline to God, so for them, whatever idea pops into their head is a “revelation” from the Holy Spirit. In most cases this probably doesn’t involve too much high spirituality but, rather, a significant lack of self-knowledge and intellectual formation in this particular area.

Related » Akashic Records, Anatman, Deva, Dhammapada, Dukkha, Nirvana

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Geoffrey Parrinder

Image via Tower Books

Geoffrey Parrinder (1910 – 2005) was a British scholar, professor and Methodist minister whose reference works on world religions are appropriate for both lay and learned readers.

Parrinder is particularly strong on African and non-Christian religions, although his more recent Encyclopedia of Christianity strikes a good balance between conciseness and breadth of coverage.

He spent almost two decades as a missionary along the western coast of Africa from the 1930s to 50s, and later, from the 1950s to 70s, taught at King’s College London. One of his more famous students there was “the future Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu.”¹

Related » Diana, Dyaus

¹ Wikipedia entry (also with list of Parrinder’s publications)

² For a thought-provoking review of pictured book, see

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Parsees (or Parsis)

To go with AFP story ‘Pakistan-unrest-religion-minorities-Parsi’, FEATURE by Issam AHMED This photograph taken on February 25, 2015, shows Pakistani Parsi (Zoroastrian) priests Jehangir Noshik (L) and Jal Dinshaw (R) sitting at their prayer place in Karachi. For more than 1,000 years, Parsis have thrived in South Asia but an ageing population and emigration to the West driven by instability in Pakistan means the tiny community of ‘fire worshippers’ could could soon be consigned to the country’s history books. AFP PHOTO / Rizwan TABASSUM

The Parsees (Parsis) are descendants of the Zoroastrians who fled from Persia (now Iran) for about 200 years between the 8th to 10th centuries CE to avoid persecution by the Arab Muslim invaders of Persia¹; they settled around Mumbai (formerly Bombay), India.

According to Wikipedia:²

The word پارسیان, pronounced “Parsian”, i.e. “Parsi” in the Persian language literally means Persian.[14] Persian is the official language of modern Iran, which was formerly known as Persia, and the Persian language‘s endonym is Farsi, an arabization of the word Parsi


² Op. cit.

Related » Adherents of all Religions, Ahriman, Avesta, Gabars, Zarathustra, Zoroastrianism

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Party (this ain’t no party… this ain’t no disco…)

Image derived from Mike Mozart - Party City via Flickr

Image derived from Mike Mozart – Party City via Flickr

Some first-year sociology students might think that class, status and party refer to some kind of elite celebration. But in the world of the German sociologist Max Weber, party is a term that sometimes has been described as power. However, the idea is more nuanced than the mere idea of power.

Party in Weberian thought refers to the social ranking and related power gained by holding a political office or by associating with those holding such an office.

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Ivan Petrovich Pavlov – Another Russian pioneer

Ivan Petrovich Pavlov (1849-1936) was a pioneering Russian physiologist credited with developing the scientific study of Behaviorism.

Benjamin Gray – pavlov via Flickr

Rather than spend time rewriting what every psychology 101 student learns, I’ll just copy and paste Wikipedia’s version of Pavlov’s remarkable contribution to the history of ideas:

The concept for which Pavlov is famous is the “conditioned reflex” (or in his own words the conditional reflex) he developed jointly with his assistant Ivan Filippovitch Tolochinov in 1901. He had come to learn this concept of conditioned reflex when examining the rates of salivations among dogs. Pavlov had learned that when a buzzer or metronome was sounded in subsequent time with food being presented to the dog in consecutive sequences, the dog would initially salivate when the food was presented. The dog would later come to associate the sound with the presentation of the food and salivate upon the presentation of that stimulus.[32] Tolochinov, whose own term for the phenomenon had been “reflex at a distance”, communicated the results at the Congress of Natural Sciences in Helsinki in 1903.[33] Later the same year Pavlov more fully explained the findings, at the 14th International Medical Congress in Madrid, where he read a paper titled The Experimental Psychology and Psychopathology of Animals.[9]

As Pavlov’s work became known in the West, particularly through the writings of John B. Watson and B. F. Skinner, the idea of “conditioning” as an automatic form of learning became a key concept in the developing specialism of comparative psychology, and the general approach to psychology that underlay it, behaviorism. Pavlov’s work with classical conditioning was of huge influence to how humans perceive themselves, their behavior and learning processes and his studies of classical conditioning continue to be central to modern behavior therapy.[34] The British philosopher Bertrand Russell was an enthusiastic advocate of the importance of Pavlov’s work for philosophy of mind.[35]

Pavlov’s research on conditional reflexes greatly influenced not only science, but also popular culture. Pavlovian conditioning was a major theme in Aldous Huxley‘s dystopian novel, Brave New World, and also to a large degree in Thomas Pynchon‘s Gravity’s Rainbow.

It is popularly believed that Pavlov always signaled the occurrence of food by ringing a bell. However, his writings record the use of a wide variety of stimuli, including electric shocks, whistles, metronomes, tuning forks, and a range of visual stimuli, in addition to the ring of a bell.†

Related » B. F. SkinnerJ. B. Watson, Daniel Dennett, Free Will

† Follow this link for more

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The Philosopher’s Stone

Kristaps Bergfelds – Philosopher’s stone via Flickr

The Philosopher’s Stone is an idea described in medieval and ancient alchemical texts. The concept is variously linked to the quest for heaven, immortality, vitality, and also to turning base metals into silver or gold.

According to C. G. Jung’s analytical psychology, the Philosopher’s Stone is a symbol of the inner self, said to exist within the entire self.

As the above photo demonstrates, the idea of the Philosopher’s Stone has a wide range of applications. Here, we see a young woman apparently reflecting on something deep or of special significance.

Related » Alchemy, Hero


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