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Johannes Gutenberg

The Gutenberg Bible displayed by the United St...

The Gutenberg Bible displayed by the United States Library of Congress - Raul654 via Wikipedia

Johannes Gutenberg (1400-68) was a German inventor usually credited with the advent of the printing press based on movable type.

Records are scant but Guternberg likely began printing in Strasbourg (1430-44), seeking to reproduce the religious manuscripts of the day. He constructed a printing press in 1448 with the financial backing of Johann Fust. Around 1455 he printed a 42-line Bible, which historians call the “Gutenberg Bible,” a word respected for its aesthetic charm.

The Chinese had been block-printing with stamps and seals since the Shang dynasty (BCE 1766 – 1122) but the innovation of movable type sparked a technological revolution that continues into the 21st century. The impact of movable type on literacy – and society in general – is much discussed in contemporary sociology and cultural studies courses.

A set of metal types

A Set of Metal Types - Willi Heidelbach via Wikipedia

What you probably don’t hear in these courses, however, is that we’re not really sure if Gutenberg was the inventor of movable type. The uncertainty arose when researchers realized subtle differences between some characters within different printed copies of the same work.

Elaborate computer scans have apparently confirmed that these differences indicate that Gutenberg did not use one indestructible mould but, rather, had to employ some other method to mass produce copies of a single work. And this exact method is still subject to debate.

The following except from Wikipedia explains:

The invention of the making of types with punch, matrix and mold has been widely attributed to Gutenberg. However, recent evidence suggests that Gutenberg’s process was somewhat different. If he used the punch and matrix approach, all his letters should have been nearly identical, with some variations due to miscasting and inking. However, the type used in Gutenberg’s earliest work shows other variations.[citation needed]

In 2001, the physicist Blaise Agüera y Arcas and Princeton librarian Paul Needham, used digital scans of a Papal bull in the Scheide Library, Princeton, to carefully compare the same letters (types) appearing in different parts of the printed text.[20][21] The irregularities in Gutenberg’s type, particularly in simple characters such as the hyphen, suggested that the variations could not have come from either ink smear or from wear and damage on the pieces of metal on the types themselves. While some identical types are clearly used on other pages, other variations, subjected to detailed image analysis, suggested that they could not have been produced from the same matrix. Transmitted light pictures of the page also appeared to reveal substructures in the type that could not arise from traditional punchcutting techniques. They hypothesized that the method may have involved impressing simple shapes to create alphabets in “cuneiform” style in a matrix made of some soft material, perhaps sand. Casting the type would destroy the mould, and the matrix would need to be recreated to make each additional sort. This could explain the variations in the type, as well as the substructures observed in the printed images.

Thus, they feel that “the decisive factor for the birth of typography”, the use of reusable moulds for casting type, might have been a more progressive process than was previously thought.[22] They suggest that the additional step of using the punch to create a mould that could be reused many times was not taken until twenty years later, in the 1470s. Others have not accepted some or all of their suggestions, and have interpreted the evidence in other ways, and the truth of the matter remains very uncertain.[23]

Related posts » à Kempis (Thomas), McLuhan (Marshall Herbert)




Swami Kriyananda offering sweetmeats to Yogananda.

Swami Kriyananda offering sweetmeats to Yogananda via Wikipedia

In Hinduism a guru is an esoteric spiritual teacher. It is believed that the guru instructs and purifies disciples with the help of God’s grace and other spiritual elements.

In many cases, the mechanism of purification is said to be karma transfer, where the karmic impurities of the disciple apparently fly from the disciple to the teacher, who then spiritually ‘cleanses’ him or herself through intense devotion or meditation. A similar, although certainly not identical, mechanism is described among Catholic saints when they speak of spiritual intercession and the taking of sins.

Critics of the guru system often claim that gurus try to transform disciples into a carbon copy of the guru—or perhaps into mindlessly accepting the type of spiritual powers mediated by the guru, which arguably are not suitable for everyone (or perhaps only suitable for a certain period in an individual’s lifelong journey of becoming).

Moreover, Rabbi Allen Maller argues that spiritual experience and practice should bring one back to one’s social, interpersonal and personal duties with enhanced spirituality instead of creating recluses and ascetics, as we often find with Hindu gurus. This view of ‘genuine’ spirituality being intimately wedded to worldly action may, however, be critiqued from both Christian monastic and Hindu meditative perspectives.

As politically incorrect as this might seem today, both C. G. Jung and Joseph Campbell suggested that Westerners might lose their unique sense of individuality under the influence of an Eastern guru. Along these lines, some gurus have been accused of brainwashing and manipulating their disciples, usually by concerned family members of the disciples who don’t share guru’s religious beliefs

According to Bishop Kallistos Ware:

There are many false guides. There is no automatic way of discovering a true guide, but there are certain criteria. First, the spiritual father, if genuine, does not automatically impose himself. He doesn’t necessarily hide, but he waits for the others to come. The true spiritual father helps us to develop our own freedom. He does not impose his way on us, but helps us to discover our own way. The true spiritual guide does not promise instant success. In the spiritual life there are occasionally shortcuts, but ones provided by God. In general, what is asked of us is fidelity and the willingness to go deep. Those spiritual teachers who claim to offer us the higher gifts of contemplation through a few simple exercises should be treated with great caution.¹

In religions like Sikhism, the term guru may refer to a great spiritual figure recognized by everyone within that tradition, such as Guru Nanak.

¹ “Image and Likeness: Interview with Bishop Kallistos Ware” in Lorraine Kisly (ed.), The Inner Journey: Views from the Christian Tradition, Parabola Anthology Series, Sandpoint ID: Morning Light Press, 2006. p. 160.

Related Posts » Ashram, Aurobindo (Sri), Celibacy, Da Free John, Fasting, Lama, Levels of Knowledge, Mythic Eternalization, Paramahansa Yogananda, Pollution, Ram Dass, Saint, Seer, Yoda

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Guiley, Rosemary Ellen

English: Example of a subject in a Ganzfeld ex...

Example of a subject in a Ganzfeld experiment via Wikipedia

Rosemary Ellen Guiley (19?? – ) is an American researcher, author and broadcaster on paranormal phenomena. Dr. Guiley promotes awareness of the paranormal. At her website she writes that her “driving purpose is to help further our understanding of our place and role in the cosmic scheme” ( She also addresses issues like communicating with the dead and dealing with malevolent spirits.

This is all very interesting stuff. Unfortunately, it’s still difficult for most people to understand because of the inherent difficulties in the public verification of paranormal reports. In addition, some materialist or (ironically enough) religious reactionaries tend to cast aspersions on anyone interested in trying to understand the paranormal—even though the very same people will often delight at movies like The Exorcist

¹ The Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, of course, would say that the horror movie watcher is momentarily fascinated by the archetype of the shadow. For Jung this is not unhealthy. But in some destructive instances, if left unconscious the shadow archetype apparently can erupt and compel non-integrated individuals to behave in a manner harmful to self or others.

Related Posts » Clairaudience, Clairsentience, Remote Viewing, Tarot

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Guardian Angel

English: Guardian Angel, German postcard 1900 ...

Guardian Angel, German postcard 1900 via Wikipedia

The term guardian angel refers to the Catholic belief that we are guided from birth to death by an angel, assigned by God to each particular individual.

Similar ideas are found in the ancient world. In Plato’s Apology of Socrates, Socrates speaks of some kind of otherworldly agency that tells him what not to do but never what to do.

The Old Testament also speaks of angels that intercede for mankind, the most famous example being that of Moses leading the people through the wilderness. Here God tells Moses that an angel will lead him. And many Muslims believe that they are guided by two angels.

In Shamanistic and Amerindian belief, the guardian and guide may be in the form of an animal spirit.

Today, the belief in guardian angels is quite widespread and does not pertain to any single religious group or denomination.

Historically speaking, it’s long been believed that dark or evil angels can confuse people and compel them to sin, even to suicide. No doubt as a product of mankind’s sexist history, women, especially, were thought to be driven to the point of madness by evil spirits posing as loving presences.

Contemporary psychiatry generally downplays or ignores the possibility that evil spirits could influence a person’s behavior. Psychiatry does recognize the phenomenon of “magical thinking” but usually within the interpretive framework of a cognitive error or mental illness.

Many exhibiting so-called magical thinking probably do make all sorts of interpretive errors. But the issue here is the underlying cause. The medical psychiatrist looks to inherited, (apparently) abnormal predispositions and adverse environmental conditions which may, indeed, be present. However, psychiatry tends to overlook the possibility that these contributing factors could be part of a much larger dynamic, a dynamic that might involve evil spiritual influences.

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Gregorian Chant

Gregorian Chant

Gregorian Chant - Photo: Nesster via Flickr (Fair Use Rationale)

A Gregorian Chant is a non-harmonic, unaccompanied melody of the Roman Catholic Church, usually but not only sung in monasteries for worship and spiritual elevation.

The earliest surviving manuscripts are from the late 9th century. The authorization of the chants for liturgical use is often attributed to Pope Gregory the Great.

Numerous recordings of Gregorian Chants are available today for listening among the general public. Some of these recordings are made by actual monks and others by scholarly musicians, such as the Ensemble Organum directed by Marcel Pérès.

Most lay people play this music for purposes of relaxation or contemplation. Among music scholars, however, there’s an ongoing debate about how best to perform the chants. The problem is that early forms of musical notation are notorious for not clearly indicating the timing of certain notes. So some may think a certain note should be longer, others shorter. This uncertainty leaves much room for rhythmic interpretation.

Related Posts » Mantra, Orpheus, Song

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The Great Schism

Patriarch Michael Keroularios sitting on a thr...

Patriarch Michael Keroularios sitting on a throne with clergymen from the Chronicle of John Skylitzes via Wikipedia

The first Great Schism was the separation of the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches. Antagonisms over various issues had been brewing since the 9th century but the break formally took place in 1054.

Relations between East and West had long been embittered by political and ecclesiastical differences and theological disputes.[2] Prominent among these were the issues of “filioque“, whether leavened or unleavened bread should be used in the Eucharist,[3] the Pope’s claim to universal jurisdiction, and the place of Constantinople in relation to the Pentarchy

The antimony between East and West was brought to a head in 1053 by an attack on the Pope by Michael Cerularius, the patriarch of Constantinople. This resulted in the excommunication of Cerularius and his Eastern followers by Western papal authorities.


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Great Mother

English: A silver female statuette, possibly r...

A silver female statuette, possibly representing mother goddess, from tombs in Alacahöyük, an archaeological site in Turkey via Noumenon at Wikipedia

The Great Mother is an umbrella concept referring to the idea of “The Goddess” and different major goddesses around the world, usually but not necessarily related to vegetation, and by implication, fertility.

The celebrated archeologist Marija Gimbutas (1921-1994) argued that behind all representations of prehistoric goddesses lies a single, Great Goddess.

Gimbutas identified diverse Paleolithic and Neolithic female representations that she believed depicted a single universal Great Goddess. She also recognized that these complex representations stood for a range of female deities (e.g. snake goddess, bee goddess, bird goddess, mountain goddess, Mistress of the Animals) that were not necessarily ubiquitous throughout Europe.¹

In a tape entitled “The Age of the Great Goddess,” Gimbutas discusses the various manifestations of the Goddess which occur, and stresses the ultimate unity behind them all of the Earth as feminine.¹

English: A mother goddess statuette from Canha...

A mother goddess statuette from Canhasan, which is an archaeological site in Turkey. This figurine, along with other mother goddess figurines found in Canhasan, is thought to be an evidence of a continual matriarchal society in central Anatolia during the Chalcolithic age - via Noumenon at Wikipedia

Gimbutas also believed that excavations from Neolithics sites in Europe and Lithuania suggest a society were women were dominant, in both the worldly and spiritual sense. Her views, although still debated among scholars, gave great impetus to aspects of the feminist movement, mostly among woman scholars, academics and intellectuals who shared her point of view.

Erich Neumann’s The Great Mother adopts Carl Jung‘s view that the Great Mother is an archetype expressing the anima.

The term was also used in the ancient world to refer to nurturing, life-affirming female deities worshipped in public places.

While in prison awaiting his execution, Boethius (circa 480-525) wrote Consolation of Philosophy, in which he’s visited by a female apparition called Philosophy. Boethius’ “eternal feminine” comforter and guide conforms to Jung’s idea of the anima, as does James Lovelock‘s choice of the name Gaia (Greek Mother Goddess) to depict his view that the earth behaves as if it were a self-contained living organism.

La Gran'mère du Chimquière, Statue menhir, St ...

La Gran'mère du Chimquière, the Grandmother of Chimquiere, the statue menhir at the gate of Saint Martin's church is an important prehistoric site in the parish via Wikipedia

In the contemporary and ancient sense, the Great Mother has a terrible side, wreaking vengeance and punishment on the sinful. In India, the bloodthirsty goddesses Kali and the bellicose Durga are regarded by many as manifestations of the Great Mother.

The Virgin Mary is often wrongly placed in this category, described by non-Catholics as a goddess. But representations of Kali and Mary, for instance, reveal clear differences. Kali, mouth dripping with blood, wears a garland of human heads which she has decapitated, whereas Mary stands serenely on top of creation (and the serpent), disseminating God’s graces from her hands. And there are still regular animal sacrifices at the Kali temple in Kolkata (where the distasteful odor of animal blood certainly did not elevate this author’s mind and soul to high places).

Other differences between Mary and non-Christian goddesses are more subtle. Mary and the goddess Isis, for instance, are both represented suckling their sons, and the Chinese bodhisattva, Kwan-Yin, also holds an infant. But, despite their representational similarities, the religious beliefs and metaphysical implications behind these female deities differ significantly.

In the simplest terms, Mary is a venerated saint who intercedes for God, while The Goddess is the source of all creation—that is, God or a manifestation of God.

Related Posts » Buddhism, Catholicism, Cybele, Demeter, Goddess vs. goddess, Greek Orthodox ChurchMedusa, Yoni

¹ The first citation is a paraphrase of a passage at Wikipedia that could have been written more clearly. The second, a direct quote: