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Juvenal

Frontispiece depicting Juvenal and Persius, fr...

Frontispiece depicting Juvenal and Persius, from a volume translated by John Dryden in 1711 via Wikipedia

Juvenal (Decimus Junius Juvenali, c. 55-130 CE) was a Roman satirist whose sharp, critical eye gives a reality check to those who uncritically glorify ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt as examples of a mythical ‘golden age.’

The ancient world was typically corrupt, hypocritical and cruel, with large numbers of miserable have-nots (slaves and the over-taxed poor) at the whim and mercy of a tiny group of often tyrannical rulers.

As for sacred temples, Juvenal writes that they are frequently used as meeting places for casual hetero- and homosexual sex. To the “provincial” Naevolus he says:

It’s not so long, I recall, since you used to hang around the temples of Ceres and Isis, or Ganymede’s little shrine
In the temple of Peace, or Cybele’s secret grotto
On the Palatine Hill – all such places are hot-spots for easy women.
You laid them by the dozens then, and (something you don’t mention)
More often than not you would have their husbands, too (Juvenal, The Sixteen Satires, trans. Peter Green, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1974, p. 195).

And his take on the Roman state religion’s feast days is just as controversial:

What feast-day’s so holy it never produces the usual quota
Of theft, embezzlement, fraud, all those criminal get-rich-quick schemes,
Glittering fortunes won by the dagger or drug-box? (Ibid., p. 249).

Juvenal’s vivid and piercing portrait of ancient Rome might be more relevant to some contemporary cultures than Voltaire‘s equally powerful satire, Candide, even though the latter is nearer to the present, chronologically speaking.

Contemporary scholars don’t know if Juvenal really stood behind his criticisms or, instead, was simply writing about some of his contemporaries who viewed things as he wrote them.

While Juvenal’s mode of satire has been noted from antiquity for its wrathful scorn towards all representatives of social deviance, some politically progressive scholars such as W.S. Anderson and later S.M. Braund have attempted to defend his work as actually a rhetorical persona (mask) taken up by the author to critique the very attitudes he appears to be exhibiting in his works.¹

¹ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juvenal#Modern_criticism_and_historical_context_of_the_Satires

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Jedi

Star Wars - Darth Vader

Star Wars - Darth Vader via Wikipedia

The Jedi are a sagely band of warrior-knights in George Lucas’ Star Wars films. Imbued with a high concentration of ‘the force,’ a bio-mystical power permeating all existence, Jedi’s work to liberate their galaxy from an oppressive empire and more generally, to keep the the force in balance.

In much of the Star Wars films, the empire is ruled by an evil emperor and his No. 1 minion, a Sith Lord. The most famous Sith Lord is Darth Vader, who himself is a fallen Jedi.

Jedi Masters normally belong to a Jedi Council. And at death a Jedi becomes immortal and honored, not unlike the ancient Greek heroes who, through their outstanding valor, escape the bonds of the shadowy underworld to enjoy eternal life on the blessed isles.

As with the religious sinner, a fallen Jedi, even a Sith Lord, may be redeemed by a significant act of kindness or self-sacrifice. Darth Vader, for instance, realizes that, without help, his son Luke Skywalker would perish. At a critical moment when Luke is about to be destroyed by the evil emperor, Darth’s humanity is rediscovered and he turns to fight the emperor. This guarantees Luke’s survival at the cost of Darth’s physical but spiritually redemptive death.

Also similar to most ancient myths, the Star Wars films exhibit subtle variants. For instance, in the original release of Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, the redeemed Darth Vader appears in spirit form, played by actor Sebastian Shaw.  But due to the popularity of Hayden Christensen’s subsequent portrayal of a youthful Anakin Skywalker (Darth Vader’s name before he became a Sith Lord), in a 2004 DVD release of the film Shaw was replaced by Christensen as the resurrected Vader. And over the years, other scenes have been altered, added or expanded upon due to artistic choice and also the enhanced technologies which became available.¹

The word Jedi was added to The Shorter Oxford Dictionary in 2002.

¹ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_changes_in_Star_Wars_re-releases

Related Posts » Klingons, Obi Wan Kenobi, Yoda


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Justification

Mosaics in the Hagia Sophia, section: Maria as...

Mosaics in the Hagia Sophia, section: Maria as patron saint of Istanbul, detail: Emperor Constantine via Wikipedia

Justification is a pivotal theological concept in Christianity, Judaism and Islam. It has to do with the idea that a sinner can be redeemed or saved in the eyes of God.

In Christianity justification has been the focus of much debate and controversy within the traditional Christian circles.

For the Protestant Reformers, justification refers to the idea that sinful human beings may be saved by God’s grace alone. The shortened phrase “justification through faith,” which we often hear in religious debates, more completely means “justification by grace through faith.”

The Catholic interpretation of justification emphasizes a total conversion of the sinner who comes to receive sanctifying grace, this being conferred and increased by the sacraments of the Catholic Church.

Some Protestants and Christian fundamentalists regard most of the Catholic sacraments as human fabrications, possibly leaning towards superstition, magic, paganism and the devil. For Catholics, however, the Protestant notion that one may be certain of one’s personal salvation is misguided and, technically speaking, heretical.

Related Posts » Calvin (John)Calvinism, Luther (Martin)


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Just War (The Just War Doctrine)

Vol. 1 of the Leonine edition of the works of ...

Vol. 1 of the Leonine edition of the works of St. Thomas Aquinas. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Just War doctrine relates to the notion that, in certain circumstances, war may be ethically justified for reasons of personal, national or religious self-defense. This has nothing to do with a disturbed individual taking on the role of “savior” of humanity through horrific and irrational acts of violence, as we’ve recently seen, for instance, in Norway.

With no direct New Testament scriptural support for the idea of a Just War, Catholic Tradition endorses it. St. Augustine supports the Just War on the basis of numerous holy wars portrayed in the Old Testament. The Middle Ages endorsed it in the Inquisitions. And the most recent Catholic Catechism cites St. Thomas Aquinas, who condones killing as a legitimate form of self defense, be that personal or national (1995: p. 604).

The contemporary understanding of the Just War speaks to the organized killing, when absolutely necessary, of other human beings on the wrong side of the religious or political fence. All peaceful solutions have failed, the enemy poses some kind of grand scale threat and there’s a reasonable expectation of victory. Most theologians, for instance, would agree that Hitler and the Nazi’s simply had to be stopped.

Similarities and Differences in non-Christian Religions

In Islam, the notion of Jihad might point to a uniquely Islamic understanding of a kind of ‘Just War’ doctrine (although it would not be called a Just War because that is a uniquely Christian concept). And in Hinduism, the Baghavad-Gita endorses killing in keeping with one’s moral duty to uphold the apparently sacred dharma. While it may be hard for many to see what these two forms of war have to do with self-defense, an intellectual argument could probably be made within each religion to try to convince others that these kinds of war are about self-defense. One, of course, doesn’t have to agree. And God knows the truth of the matter.

Meanwhile, Buddhist scriptures speak of peace and non-violence, and Buddhism is often hailed as a non-violent path. But Moojan Momen points out that scriptural, philosophical and folkloric justifications for violence exist in the Buddhist tradition (Moojan Momen, The Phenomenon of Religion: A Thematic Approach, Oxford: Oneworld, 1999, p. 410). Bernard Faure also says that Buddhist doctrine has often been adapted to justify war (Bernard Faure, “Buddhism and Violence,” Sangam.org, December 6, 2003). And John Ferguson draws on scripture, legend and history to outline five justifications for war in the Buddhist tradition (War and Peace in the World’s Religions, London: Sheldon Press, 1977, pp. 55-57).

For more on world religions and violence, see “Collisions of Religion and Violence: Redux” at Crosscurrents.org, Summer 2001.


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Jupiter

Fresco from Pompeii - Jupiter enthroned with M...

Fresco from Pompeii - Jupiter enthroned with Mars and Venus via Wikipedia

Mythology:

In classical Roman mythology Jupiter is the master deity, often depicted with flowing hair, beard, thunder and a thunderbolt.

He was worshipped by the Roman elite at his sacred temple on the Capitoline Hill in Rome.

Also known as Jovis, Jupiter was regarded as the upholder of justice who protected the state and its rulers. He also presided over the Roman games.

Jupiter is likely related to the Vedic Dyas Pitar and has probable origins as a sky and weather god. However, he clearly evolved into a bellicose deity, and is also seen, among his other attributes, as a god of war.

His Greek counterpart is Zeus. In Britain he was called Jove—hence the phrase by Jove! And mention of Jove appears quite often in Shakespeare.

At lovers’ perjuries,
They say Jove laughs. O gentle Romeo,
If thou dost love, pronounce it faithfully. ¹

tf_jupiter.jpg

Image Courtesy NASA

Astronomy:

In astronomy, Jupiter is the 5th planet from the sun, with 16 natural satellites, taking 11.9 years to complete a full orbit that travels between the paths of Mars and Saturn.

Jupiter is the largest planet in our solar system with 63 natural satellites.

Culture:

In the films 2001: A Space Odyssey and its sequel, 2010, Jupiter figures prominently as the location for a fictional hyperspace portal to the stars.

——

¹ http://www.enotes.com/romeo-and-juliet-text/act-ii-scene-ii

Related Posts » Dyaus, Hephaestus, Hercules, Juno, Mars, Pisces, Sagittarius, Swedenborg, (Emanuel), Venus, Vulcan


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Juno

Hall of the Augustals (Herculaneum) - Hercules...

Image: Andy Hay via Wikipedia

In ancient Roman religion Juno is the sister and wife of Jupiter with whom she guards and rules women throughout the course of their lives.

Juno also presides over female warriors. She is the Roman counterpart to the Greek Hera.

In the contemporary world, Juno is the name for Canadian music awards, as ‘Oscar’ is to Hollywood film awards.

And she’s been the object of much scholarly discussion by mythographers, as evidenced in this excellent Wikipedia entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juno_%28mythology%29


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Jung, Carl Gustav

Carl Gustav Jung

Carl Gustav Jung via Wikipedia

Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961) was a Swiss psychiatrist and man of letters whose cultural impact is second only, perhaps, to that of Sigmund Freud.

While Freud is cited in most scholarly textbooks and dictionaries about society and culture, Jung is only mentioned in some. That’s probably because Freud, with all his limitations, was the first to systematically conceptualize the so-called unconscious aspects of the psyche—at least, Freud was the first to do so on a grand scale.

Jung, on the other hand, was at one time Freud’s favored disciple. As such, his model of the unconscious, as useful as many may find it, builds on Freud’s work.

Another reason Freud might still be more popular than Jung is that Freud speaks to a level of awareness that most members of 21stC culture — or at least, visible culture — can appreciate. Freud still hits, as it were, because his theory reflects the status quo.

However, from the perspective of those who envision the spirit as something different from culture and nature, it appears that not a few people confuse the idea of grace with mere biochemical or sensory impulses. For example, if a long distance runner has only experienced endorphin rushes, or if a canoeist has only delighted at the aesthetics of nature, these people might not understand that grace is something entirely different from biochemically or naturally induced pleasures. So Freud makes sense to these people because, arguably, they haven’t experienced anything else that would demand a better and more complete explanation than Freud’s theory can afford.

From the spiritual person’s vantage point, on the other hand, Freud may have some valuable insights but he’s also terribly reductionist. Along these lines, Jungians will usually say that, as a visionary of sorts, Jung’s full impact is yet to be seen. Mankind just has to catch up with Jung’s forward looking insights. But until that time, Jung will always be number two to Freud. (The jury’s still out on this, of course).

In his early days, Jung distinguished himself with his work in developing a word-association technique, finalized in 1906, which apparently identified unconscious complexes.

In 1907, Jung visited Freud and quickly became part of Freud’s inner circle in the newly arising school of psychoanalysis. As Freud’s protégé, Jung began to formulate his own theories, especially in relation to the libido.

Fearing his professional differences with Freud would rupture their mentor-mentee relationship, Jung withheld his ideas until 1914, at which time he publicly split with Freud. After that, the two never spoke again.

From 1913-1919, Jung underwent what he envisioned as a creative illness. He minimized his activities and generally withdrew from society. During this period he explored the collective unconscious in a somewhat pioneering and (apparently) controlled flight into the psychological underworld.

Jung apparently maintained his mental balance with the help of family ties, dream representation, inventive play and by developing the psychotherapeutic technique of active imagination. After recovering from his creative illness and returning to daily life, Jung began to make significant and lasting contributions to psychiatry and, more generally, to the history of human thought.

In the 1930’s, some controversy arose mainly because Jung headed the International Psychiatric Association, an organization that was funded by the Nazis in Germany. In his memoirs, Jung recounts that he was compelled to make a difficult ethical choice, deciding it best, in the long run, to work at advancing the field of psychiatry within the existing totalitarian political conditions in which he found himself. Scholars and writers still debate the ethics of his choice, their secondhand opinions being formed in hindsight.

Regardless of one’s take on Jung’s level of involvement with the Nazi’s, his work on synchronicity and numinosity are nothing short of groundbreaking. And his innovative work on personality types directly influenced the Myers-Briggs model (and its many offshoots) which are still used today. Moreover, Jung later openly criticized Nazi Germany, likening its sinister powers to the activation of the Teutonic Wotan archetype.

According to Jungian legend, at the time of Jung’s death, his favorite tree at Kusnacht was struck by lightning. And around this time, Jung’s old friend Laurens van der Post dreamed that Jung appeared to him saying, “I’ll be seeing you.”