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Michael Clark, Ph.D.


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Hubris by Rev. Xanatos Satanicos Bombasticos (ClintJCL) via Flickr

Hubris (Greek: hybris) This term, often used in literary criticism, denotes haughtiness, arrogance or overconfidence usually resulting in some sort of personal disaster.

The term has a complex history in ancient Greek culture. And the idea crops up in the Old Testament Proverbs, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”¹

In the 20th and 21st centuries the idea of hubris has been explained through the psychological concept of the unconscious. For instance, most of us have probably heard of the idea that some criminals, at some level, want to get caught.

So they leave obvious clues or do things that appear hard to understand (like a wealthy Hollywood celebrity shoplifting in a store that has security cameras, or an important politician tweeting profane things).

However, they do this unconsciously, so the theory goes, because they actually want to face their unresolved issues and come back to their true selves and feelings. And getting caught in a silly, shameful thing is a surefire way of being humbled and brought back to oneself.

Theological explanations concerning why bad things happen to people, even seemingly good people, usually refer to God testing, strengthening or purifying us for everlasting life in heaven.


Related Posts » Oedipus


David Hume

David Hume's statements on ethics foreshadowed...

David Hume's statements on ethics foreshadowed those of 20th century emotivists via Wikipedia

David Hume (1711-76) was a Scottish philosopher who developed a naturalist perspective on all aspects of human life.

For Hume, the highest good is based on the pursuit of happiness. We are personally happy when we’re good to others, not due to some high spiritual reward but because this approach leads to a harmonious social whole. So personal and social well-being go hand in hand.

This means that morality isn’t based on austere rational principles but on the desire for enjoyment. Accordingly, Hume believes that reason cannot determine anything without experience. And he goes as far to say that reason is the “slave of passion.”

Hume’s metaphysics, in particular his critique of the belief in cause and effect, remains an important challenge to our conventional way of seeing. All we can be sure of, says Hume, is that certain events occur one after another in a given region and for a certain duration.

In billiards, for instance, the white ball appears to cause the motion of other balls when impacting them on the gaming table. But here’s the radical part. Hume says that all we can truly know is that, in the past, the first ball impacted and the other balls moved. We cannot prove that the first ball’s impact will always be followed by movement of the other balls. And for Hume, there is no rational way to demonstrate a causal connection:

Reason can never shew us the connexion of one object with another, tho’ aided by experience, and the observation of their constant conjunction in all past instances. When the mind, therefore, passes from the idea or impression of one object to the idea or belief of another, it is not determin’d by reason, but by certain principles, which associate together the ideas of these objects, and unite them in the imagination.¹

Put differently, from prior experience we build up a series of expectations and habitual ways of interpreting observations. Hume calls these “ideas.” But ideas they simply are. Although we expect the billiard balls to move, we have no way of proving or knowing that they always will.

At first, this may seem absurd. But Hume’s critique of causality had a profound effect on one of the most important thinkers in the history of Western philosophy, Immanuel Kant.  Mortimer Adler says “…Kant tells us that David Hume awakened him from his dogmatic slumbers.”²

In addition, on a quantum level of reality, contemporary physicists claim that observations of subatomic particles support the ideas of probability and simultaneity instead of linear causality.

However, some say it’s invalid to compare quantum and macroscopic levels of reality because subatomic particles exist in an entirely different arena, and behave in different ways than the larger aggregate objects which they make up.

This debate continues to this day, the answer to which might depend on one’s core beliefs and related worldview. Or in Hume’s terms, one’s “customs of thought.”

Related Posts » Atheism, Behaviorism, Mill (John Stuart), Roberts (Jane), Rousseau (Jean Jacques), Smith (Adam), Synchronicity, Unconscious, William of Ockham

¹ David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature (1896 ed.), SECTION VI.: Of the inference from the impression to the idea, paragraph 278.

² Adler, Mortimer J. (1996). Ten Philosophical Mistakes. Simon & Schuster. p. 94, cited at

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Homer was also called Melesigenes (son of Mele...

Homer was also called Melesigenes (son of Meles) by the name of the brook which flowed by Smyrna. This photo is of a marble terminal bust of Homer. Roman copy of a lost Hellenistic original of the 2nd c. BC. From Baiae, Italy via Wikipedia

Homer is an Ancient Greek poet (Homeros) of uncertain identity.

He or she was believed by the ancient Greeks and Romans to have authored the classic epics of the Odyssey and Illiad around the 8th-7th centuries BCE, the former epic likely predating the latter. Today, most people will tell you that Homer is the outstanding author of the Odyssey and Illiad but, in reality, this authorship isn’t solidly established.

Not unlike the uncertainty concerning the originality and authorship of some of the works of Shakespeare, Homer probably borrowed from existing mythological tales which were transmitted through oral tradition.  And with a particular poetic genius, he or she depicted the enduring characters of the Olympic pantheon.

Contemporary scholars say that the two Homeric classics may have been authored by several persons.

The ancient Greeks saw Homer as an impoverished, blind minstrel. And a contemporary minority view suggests that Homer was a woman. Regardless of the poet’s gender, his or her lasting impact on Western culture is undeniable.

Medieval bards wrote of Troy and neo-classical painters depicted the pursuits of the Homeric gods in all their outrageous splendor and folly.

The 33 Homeric Hymns, likely written after the two epics, are no longer attributed to Homer.

In more recent times, a Homeric strain is arguably discernible in the works of the Canadian poet and musician Leonard Cohen, who took up residence in Greece during his formative years.

Related Posts » Achilles, Aeneas, Aesculapius, Aphrodite, Athena, Blessed Isles, Cyclops, Demeter, Eleusinian Mysteries, Hermes, Hesiod, Myth, Odysseus, Orpheus, Sirens, Troy

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Old Homeopathic belladona remedy

Old Homeopathic belladona remedy via Wikipedia

(a) In natural medicine homeopathy is a so-called “alternative” approach to healing based on the belief that illness arises from an imbalance of internal and external elements. The basic premise is that the basic life force, a sort of vital energy, needs to be rebalanced or realigned to restore health.

This is normally achieved by the practitioner assessing the whole patient, and not just the area of illness. From this assessment, what is believed to be the appropriate substance is administered, usually in a highly diluted mixture.

Critics say that the mixture is so highly diluted that whatever original substance was supposed to be administered is not present in the final solution.

Critics also say that, although the odd individual may show signs of improvement, homeopathic medicine does not stand up to scientific scrutiny. Unlike allopathic (i.e. conventional) medicine, there is absolutely no statistical evidence that it works.

Chola Bronze icon. Siva and Parvathi c. 1200 C.E.

Chola Bronze icon. Siva and Parvathi c. 1200 C.E. via Wikipedia

(b) The Indologist Wendy Doniger O’Flaherty uses the term homeopathy in her study of the medieval Hindu myths known as the Puranas.

As as structuralist thinker, O’Flaherty tends to see the vast and baffling repertoire of Hindu myth in terms of binary opposites.

Siva, for instance, regulates the balance of the universe though (seemingly) ungodly activities, such as tempting the Pine Forest Sage’s wives. Siva’s attempt to seduce the sages’ wives breaks the sages’ meditation, the power of which threatens the balance of the cosmos.¹

While they may appear to be quite different, both the alternative medicine and mythological studies definitions of homeopathy point to the notion that problems may be corrected by restoring balance.

¹ See Wendy Doniger, Siva: The Erotic Ascetic p. 173.


Holy Spirit

English: child Jesus with the virgin Mary, wit...

Child Jesus with the virgin Mary, with the Holy Spirit (represented as a dove) and God the Father, with child john the Baptist and saint Elizabeth on the right, 1665-1670 Bartolomeo Esteban Murillo via Wikipedia

In Christian theology, The Holy Spirit is one of the three “persons” constituting the Holy Trinity of The Father, The Son and the Holy Spirit.

Each person is said to be eternal, equal, distinct and yet of the same substance. The term Holy Ghost is an old English version of the Latin Spiritus.

In the New Testament Jesus promises his disciples that the Paraclete or Spirit of Truth will return. However, the worldly and evil people of this world cannot and will not see it unless they repent (John 14:16-17).

Around 360 CE the early Christian Church opposed as heretical the idea of the pneumatomachi–-the teaching that Jesus Christ but not the Spirit is Divine.

In 381 the Council of Constantinople repudiated these heretics by declaring the dogma of the Holy Spirit. This was further elaborated in 589 by the Council of Toledo’s dogma of double procession, or the filioque, which stipulates that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son.

This teaching became popular as the Nicene Creed spread throughout the empire of the Franks from the 9th-century onward. But due to an apparent temporal paradox (How can the Holy Spirit proceed from the Father and the Son if the Holy Trinity is co-eternal?), the filioque has been controversial and, indeed, openly attacked by the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Many Christians tend to describe the Holy Spirit as an indwelling of the divine. That is, God is wholly-other but also immanent as a numinous experience. On the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, Karl Gross cites Evelyn Underhill:

As they know themselves to dwell in the world of time and yet to be capable of transcending it, so the Ultimate Reality, they think, inhabits yet inconceivably exceeds all that they know to be — as the soul of the musician controls and exceeds not merely each note of the flowing melody, but also the whole of the symphony in which these cadences must play their part. » Source

However, a philosophical problem arises with the idea of indwelling. It’s obvious that many religious groups (and individuals) claim to be guided by the Holy Spirit while promoting drastically different agendas. Perhaps a partial solution to this problem could be to say that some of these groups and individuals are closer to enacting God’s will than others.

Related Posts » Arius, Calvinism, Christianity, Confirmation, Joachim of Fiore, John the Baptist, Otto (Rudolf), Psychosis, Spirit, Swedenborg (Emanuel), Tradition, Wave

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Holy Rosary

English: Azzano San Paolo, Bergamo, Lombardy, ...

Azzano San Paolo, Bergamo, Lombardy, Italy - procession on the Feast of the Holy Rosary by Luigi Chiesa via Wikipedia

The Holy Rosary is a Catholic devotion usually prayed on a circle of beads, with a short row of five beads and crucifix attached at the bottom.

One prays the rosary to the Blessed Virgin Mary, not only to venerate her and glorify the Lord, but also to implore the saint to pray to God on one’s behalf. This request for intercession can be for oneself, others, the whole world, and for all souls who ever existed and will exist.

A distinction can be made between the instrument itself (the loop of beads), and the type of prayer performed with them. For instance, Catholics often pray a special prayer called the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, apparently given to St. Faustina, using rosary beads.

Before 2002, the full rosary consisted of 15 decades (ten beads per decade). A Hail Mary Prayer is said on each bead, with two extra prayers at the end of each decade. The first prayer is The Our Father, which is repeated on each large bead dividing the decades.

English: A sterling silver Catholic rosary. Fr...

A sterling silver Catholic rosary via Wikipedia

Each decade celebrates a holy “mystery.” A mystery is a particular event in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The first group of mysteries involves the Joyful Mysteries (5 decades), dealing with the events leading to Jesus’ birth and growth to maturity.

The next group of mysteries are the Sorrowful Mysteries (5 decades), focussing on the period from Jesus’ arrest to crucifixion.

The third group is the Glorious Mysteries (5 decades), dealing with Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, as well as Mary’s assumption into heaven.

To these three mysteries, Pope John-Paul II added the Luminous Mysteries in October 2002. So the former group of three mysteries (Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious) officially became four.

No one really knows for sure how the Holy Rosary came into existence. Some believe that it was adapted from earlier Muslim prayer beads, introduced through the Crusades.

Sandro Botticelli, Magnificat, 1480-81, temper...

Sandro Botticelli, Magnificat, 1480-81, tempera on panel, Uffizi Gallery, Florence via Wikipedia

Others believe that the Catholic rosary existed prior to the Crusades.

Catholic tradition, itself, says the Holy Rosary originated with St. Dominic (1170-1221 CE).

Not a few non-Catholics liken different goddesses to the Virgin Mary, and in a similar way, not a few people say that different types of prayer beads found around the world – such as Tibetan and Islamic forms – are equivalent to the Holy Rosary.

But this claim seems superficial because world religions are so different from one another.