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Radha – From milkmaid to goddess

Radha Krishna by Balaji Photography via Flickr Radha Krishna by Balaji Photography via Flickr

In Hinduism Radha (Sanskrit = fortunate or successful) is an incarnation of the goddess Lakshmi. She appears on Earth as the female ghopi (cowherdess and milkmaid) who leaves her husband to become the playmate of the Hindu god Krishna.

Her loving and playful relationship with Krishna has become an integral part of the Indian popular imagination, comparable to Romeo and Juliet had Shakespeare not written a tragedy.

Radha is also interpreted on a higher, mystical level, symbolizing the soul‘s loving surrender to God. Contemporary Vaishnava religion in W. Bengal regards Radha as the ultimate female principle, the Goddess or Shakti.

While writing this I couldn’t help but note a loose parallel to Mary, the mother of Jesus. According to the Bible story, Mary was a humble teenager soon to be married to a carpenter (Joseph). Like Radha, she got a divine call. But she didn’t leave her husband nor humanity immediately to dance in the ethereal realms with God. Instead, she stayed on Earth and lived a real, difficult life, to the extent of watching her human/divine son die at the hands of some of the Jews and occupying Romans. Only after that terrible ordeal do both ascend to be with God.

An image like Radha dancing with Krishna in astral realms might be appealing to some wanting to sugarcoat or, perhaps, escape the world as quickly and easily as possible. But for those who believe that salvation comes from going through not only the joys but also the grind of life, the Christian story, as lamentable as it can be, may seem a bit more real.


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Gene Roddenberry

Gene Roddenberry listening to fans after his l...

Gene Roddenberry listening to fans after his lecture at the Student Union of the University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas, United States. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Eugene Wesley Roddenberry (1921-91) was an American television and film producer best known for creating Star Trek: The Original Series, Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

Apparently Roddenberry’s hands-on involvement with the popular Star Trek: The Next Generation dwindled away after the first few seasons. But TV execs kept his name in the credits, knowing it boosted credibility among fans.

Roddenberry was born into a Baptist family but came to reject religion, calling himself a humanist. This comes through in the Star Trek franchise, where religion is not eschewed but sometimes homogenized, suggesting that all paths are the same. A nice sentiment, this is an aspect of Star Trek that arguably oversimplifies. Otherwise, Star Trek productions tend to be intellectually satisfying.

Roddenberry also had a military background as a pilot. He flew commercially too. These experiences led him to envision a starship as a tight, military style outfit, with a clear line of command. After a commercial crash, he resigned from PanAm in 1945 and took up his career as a TV writer. The rest is history.


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Ramanuja

Deity at the Sriranganathar Perumal Temple

Deity at the Sriranganathar Perumal Temple: Dilip Muralidaran

Ramanuja (1017-1137 CE) was an important Hindu sage and philosopher who believed that Vishnu was supreme and challenged the ideas of Sankara and the Saivites (followers of Siva).

Ramanuja developed the system of Visistadvaita or qualified monism.

Specifically, Ramanuja challenged Sankara’s claim that only the Brahman is real and individuality is illusory (maya).

For Ramanuja the Brahman is real and beyond pain and suffering but individual souls (jivas) emerging from and ultimately resting within the Brahman are also real.

While the Brahman is beyond the law of karma, the individual soul (jiva) is not.

As a result, the jiva experiences the pleasure and pain of earthly life.

Liberation from samsara, the round of rebirth due to karma, is gained through individual effort as well as the grace of God (as Vishnu).

As a consequence of his religious and philosophical innovation, Ramanuja was persecuted by a rival Hindu who happened to be a Saivite ruler.

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Ryle, Gilbert (1900-76)

ghost in the machine

ghost in the machine: Mathieu Bertrand

Gilbert Ryle (1900-76) was an English philosopher who taught at Oxford from 1945-68 and edited the journal Mind from 1947-71.

Ryle advanced the idea that philosophy could and should be expressed in ordinary language. If an argument cannot be expressed in a universally understandable manner, he argued, it’s probably not clearly understood by the person advancing it.

Indeed, some philosophers seem to get so caught up in their special language that they develop blind spots to the ambiguities, limitations and sometimes absurdity of their claims. And some view simpler language as not really counting, when arguably this is more accurate, given the vast amount of uncertainty and mystery inherent to human existence.

One potential problem with Ryle’s sort of democratic approach to philosophy is that life is perhaps never so simple as one person living in a kind of charmed isolation, trying to figure out the riddles of existence. And rarely do we find the much promulgated ideal of a consciencious group of scholars happily working together in a conflict-free environment.

As Michel Foucault argues, it seems scholars always operate within some kind of social and political system, one often characterized not just by collaboration but also struggle. And certain language styles (and all the connotations that go with them) may be an important factor in getting one’s ideas across, being effective, advancing one’s career, and so on.

In short, anyone who says that small-p politics doesn’t play a significant role in the quest for knowledge is probably a scam artist or possibly a naive person in need of a reality check.

Ryle published a well-known work in 1949, The Concept of Mind, challenging Descartes mind-body dualism. Ryle said that Descartes describes the mind as a metaphysical ghost in a material machine, hence the enduring phrase, “ghost in the machine.”

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Russell, Bertrand (Arthur William), 3rd Earl (1872-1970)

Bertrand Russell

Bertrand Russell: Kevan Davis

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) was a Welsh philosopher and mathematician.

Russell lectured at Cambridge in 1895, published Principles of Mathematics (1903) and, with A. N. Whitehead, authored Principia Mathematica (1910-13).

He was dismissed in 1916 because of his advocacy of pacifism during World War I. Jailed in 1918 for six months, Russell finally revoked his support for pacifism with the rise of Fascism.

Soonafter his fellowship was restored.

In the 1920’s he began to lecture and write widely. In 1927 he founded an experimental school with his second wife. And he toured the Soviet Union and lectured in China and America.

His main publications are The Problems of Philosophy (1912), On Education (1926), An Enquiry into Meaning and Truth (1940), History of Western Philosophy (1945), and Human Knowledge (1948). He also wrote probing essays on a variety of topics, such as Why I am not a Christian (1927).

After World War II Russell advocated a ban on nuclear weapons and corresponded frequently with leading politicians around the world. He received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1950 and produced a three-volume Autobiography (1967-9).

» Wittgenstein (Ludwig Josef Johann)

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Rona

Moody Moon

Moody Moon: Road Fun

In Oceanic myth Rona is a fierce female cannibal who eats her beautiful daughter’s lover.

In another Oceanic myth Rona is a god who fights the moon to rescue his abducted wife.

According to this story, as the moon tires from the battle, it wanes. When the moon begins to regain its strength, it waxes.

This is an excellent example of what we might call alternative logic. The depth psychologist C. G. Jung noted that archaic myths are just as logical and meaningful to primitives as scientific explanations are to moderns.

Jung says he treated so called primitive peoples with respect and, when interviewing local elders and tribesmen, didn’t challenge their beliefs or try to convert them to a modern scientific perspective.

This probably was a wise move on Jung’s part. Imagine if advanced extraterrestrials came to Earth who could see beyond our commonly held understanding of directional time and the apparent solidity of physical matter, these beliefs so important to the psychological security and workings of 21st century mankind. If the ETs showed us too much too fast they’d likely “blow our minds” (or at least most of our minds), as David Bowie put it in the song “Starman.”

And Jung would have likely disrupted archaic people’s psychological wellness had he tried to convince them that, for instance, the sun’s rising wasn’t dependent upon contemplation and sacrifice¹ but, rather, a natural process due to the Earth’s rotation.

This whole issue raises important questions concerning the assumptions we tend to have about our current cosmologies and their relation to the idea of progress.

¹ Jung actually interviewed an elder who held these beliefs.

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Ragnarok

Day 729-Ragnarok

Day 729-Ragnarok: "As I gaze into eternity...I see nothing If only I had a star to guide me Or a bird to show me a sign... For the moment, I will rest I'll lie still and silent Strip my mind of thoughts I shall close my eyes and breathe deep the slumber of gods... For awhile, at least..." ------------------------------------------------------------- Text and image idea from the last page of The Mighty Thor #85 (2004) The writer was Michael Avon Oeming | Citation (abridged) and image originally uploaded by Mikey Da Photographer / Michael Dunn

In Scandinavian myth, Ragnarok is a terrible final battle in which gods, mankind and all creation perish.

According to the story, Ragnarok will be preceded by a period of lawless anarchy and followed by the descendents of Lif and Lifthrasir, the only two survivors of the catastrophic war.

The tale is found in two main sources. The Poetic Edda was written in the 13th century, being a compilation of existing poetry. Also in the 13th century the noted historian, writer and statesman Snorri Sturluson wrote a Prose Edda, which makes frequent reference to the Poetic Edda.

The mythographer and writer Stuart Gordon notes similarities among the idea of Ragnorok, the Book of Revelation by St. John, the Hindu notion of yugas, and Plato‘s account of Atlantis.

The story is by no means a dead one, locked in the past. It’s been influential to contemporary video games, film and Marvel comics has repeatedly adapted the Ragnarok cycle in The Mighty Thor¹ and subsequent Thor comics.

¹ The Mighty Thor

» Aesir, Bible , Fenris, Loki, Thor, Vanir

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