Earthpages.ca

Think Free


1 Comment

Pisces – Something fishy here?

pisces

Pisces – Peter Tittenberger via Flickr

Before the internet most newspapers had a horoscope section. It might have been a small weekly column or a full-blown page on weekends.

Every morning my family read the local paper. I always managed to get the entertainment and sports sections. And the index. You always needed the index because that’s how you found out where your horoscope was.

Sort of an extra feature, like the comics, the horoscopes were juggled around to fit any blank space in the daily edition layout.

How times have changed… Or have they?

Horoscopes are still popular. Today people read more than a newspaper blurb. Now you can get a complete online reading if, that is, you know your date and time of birth. Press the button and the machine tells your life story.

Why are horoscopes still around?

Science generally says they’re rubbish. Christian theologians don’t like astrology much either (although Hindus consult astrologers during wedding ceremonies).

It seems there’s a middle ground between science and religion that appeals to the public. Something like myth and fantasy. I guess that’s where horoscopes come in.

Anatomical Man in the Duke Berry's Très Riches...

Anatomical Man in the Duke Berry’s Très Riches Heures (Photo: Wikipedia)

Whenever updating the astrology entries at Earthpages.ca I feel like a bit of a fraud. I’ll be honest. I don’t really believe in astrology any longer. Not sure if I ever did.

I know some people do believe and I respect that. We’re all different with unique paths. But for me, the power of God and the Holy Spirit makes any kind of “cosmic force” look small. It’s not that I don’t believe in cosmic forces. I do. It’s just a question of magnitude and relevance.

Let’s for a moment concede that cosmic forces affect the psyche. But what about God, the creator of those cosmic forces? God is infinitely larger and more powerful than any influence of Jupiter or Neptune.

Some astrology believers just don’t get this. They see God as the sum of the observable cosmos, known to thinkers like me as natural pantheism.

Still don’t see what I’m saying?

Let’s try this. Instead of the cosmos acting on mind and body, how about something more immediate, like nutrition.

Most people agree that nutrition is important. The substances we ingest directly influence our minds and overall health. But that’s not the whole story. Jesus of the New Testament tells us that we don’t live on bread alone. It’s the “alone” part that matters. There’s something more. Christians call it the Holy Spirit.

Likewise with astrology. We are not influenced by creation, alone. There’s more. The Creator of creation. Simple as that.

Take another analogy. God made the wind which, although invisible, is a powerful force. I believe in the wind from seeing, hearing, feeling and sometimes smelling its perceptible effects.

However, any good sailor can tack into the wind. We don’t have to be blown around just because the wind exists.

God gave us a mind and the ability to choose.

Well, enough preamable. Rather than rewrite my existing entry on Pisces, I’ll just tweak it.

No need to perpetuate the charade. I don’t believe in astrology. Life is too complex and ambiguous to be boiled down to an arbitrary theory. I’m not saying astrology is totally false. Cosmic forces no doubt exist. And astrology has entertainment, mythic and historical value. But to invest too much in it, I think, falls somewhere between spirituality and superstition.

A juvenile distraction, fine. But for spiritual adults, one hopefully moves on.

Pisces (February 19 – March 21) is the twelfth and a winter sign of the zodiac, symbolized by the fish and associated with the planetary rulers of Neptune and Jupiter. Its element is water.

Astrologers say that from Neptune, Pisces longs for a return to the primal waters; that is, a plunge into the underworld depths of the collective unconscious.

From Jupiter, Pisces is youthful, with all the pros and cons accompanying adolescence.  Astrologers say Pisceans are gentle but with fits of rashness, even cruelty.

Sometimes passive and lazy, Pisceans apparently alternate between lethargy and spells of vigor, enthusiasm and hope.

Prominent Pisces include Johnny Cash, Billy Crystal,  Elizabeth Taylor, Rihanna, Albert Einstein and Justin Bieber.

Pisces – The book of birth of Iskandar – Wikipedia

Related » Astrology

 Astrology lovers will rejoice over these freckle tattoos (mashable.com)

 Your November Horoscope! by Crystal “Kitty” Shimski (twocoatsofpaint.com)

 Boom time for fortune-tellers and tarot card readers in Italy as economic crisis bites (telegraph.co.uk)

 Venus-Jupiter Conjunction 2017: When, Where and How to See It (space.com)

 Mood Ring Is the New Bushwick Bar Inspired by Astrology and Hong Kong Cinema (grubstreet.com)

Advertisements


3 Comments

Q – It’s okay to be uncertain

Adam and Eve

Adam and Eve – Wikipedia

The Catholic Monk Thomas Merton once said that the Bible is a difficult, perplexing work. It doesn’t make sense. It has contradictions. And its Old Testament often portrays God as an immature, violent ogre. But with his hallmark Christian optimism, Merton says that’s exactly why he likes the Bible. It’s not fake or flaky. It portrays life as it really is.

Warts Exposed

I admit that some New Age websites telling us that “love is all around” give me the feeling that something not too loving is brewing underneath the surface of all that sugary sweetness. So I tend to agree with Merton. The Bible doesn’t cover up but exposes warts. Its compilers didn’t edit out apparent inconsistencies but left them in. Note the two different accounts of Creation in Genesis, for instance. Or Jesus saying we need to hate our parents, spouse, kids and siblings to follow him (Luke 14:26).

In the New Testament you’d think these difficulties and contentious scenarios would have disappeared. After all, many years had passed since Old Testament times and the relatively modern people around Jesus’ day could have edited everything into a nice, neat package. A package without contradictions.

But it didn’t turn out that way.

What about Q?

Most scholars agree that the New Testament was formed from an oral tradition. Christ lived his life, sometimes solitary, other times with his followers. People told stories about Christ and the Gospel writers collected those tales, probably according to their political and pastoral needs.

Some Gospel writers likely borrowed from existing texts. The words didn’t enter directly into their minds as some fundamentalists would say. At least, that is how it seems from the textual evidence.

10th century CE Byzantine illustration of Luke the Evangelist – Wikipedia

No one can say for sure. It is possible that the Gospel writers were divinely inspired to say the same things the same way. I considered that perspective soon after my conversion to Christianity. But years of study have tempered my thinking… for better or for worse.

One obvious feature of the Gospels is the material common to Matthew and Luke but absent in Mark.

Different theories try to explain this.

A prevailing idea is Q theory. Q sounds hip and cool but I doubt that’s why religious scholars chose it. The theory cropped up in the early 1900s and, as far I know, marketing wasn’t a burning academic issue at that time.

Johannes Weiss was a German Protestant scholar who first coined the name “Q.” He used Q to refer to some of that shared material found in Matthew and Luke but not in Mark. For decades most scholars assumed that Q alluded to the German word quelle, meaning “source.” But recent studies indicate that “Q” might have been chosen on a whim.

So maybe Weiss and his followers were trying to be trendy. Who knows. Before the word Q caught fire, researchers called this material the logia, calling to mind images of stony faced scholars sifting through weighty volumes in dusty old libraries.

What is most important to remember about Q is that it is a purely hypothetical document. Archaeologists have never discovered evidence that it actually exists. Not even a scrap or fragment. Despite this, some scholars carry on as if it were fact.

For and Against

Elaine Pagels is a religion writer who rose to prominence with her 1979 bestseller, The Gnostic Gospels. Pagels believes in Q because, as she points out, Jesus spoke in Aramaic. He, himself, wrote nothing. So Jesus’ actual sayings come to us through translated sources. But not only that. Our earliest existing sources are in Greek

New Testament apocrypha – Wikipedia

Whatever Jesus did say, our version has been translated at least once by somebody else. The fact that Jesus’ sayings are so strikingly similar in Matthew and Luke points to the existence of a textual source from which they were copied—namely, Q.²

Opponents of Q theory say the early Christians would have revered such an immediate record of their savior’s sayings, not allowing it to be misplaced or destroyed.

So where is Q? If Q did exist, how could the early Church have lost a document so important and essential to its formation?

Detractors have a simple answer. The early Christians would not have lost it. Q never existed.

For me it doesn’t really matter if Q existed or not. It is a compelling idea but as Pagels suggests, quite a few links were forged over the centuries from the era of Jesus and the occupying Romans to current, 21st century versions of the Bible. With much uncertainty accrued over two millennia, it would be unwise to fixate on any particular explanation without hard proof. Proof we may never discover.

It’s okay to not know everything

In a way, uncertainty is good. It can help to deflect the kind of fundamentalism that fuses zealous patriotism with a specific, dogmatic take on religion.³

Normally, I wouldn’t care about fundamentalists too much. But the visibility of some sectarians and their facile claims can make it more difficult for the rest of us thoughtful Christians, especially when trying to convey the beauty of Christ. Most caring, sensible people react adversely to fundamentalism. And if they haven’t really explored Christian religious differences, some otherwise good people lump all Christians together into one narrow-minded, authoritarian group.

Trying to explain the difference between the goodness of Christ and religious zealotry isn’t always easy. One has to get the listener past the image of aggressive, finger-wagging individuals.4

Worldly people, on the other hand, sometimes say that Christian religious experience is generated by body chemistry. For them, the Christian cannot discern the difference between an endorphin rush, sugar high or caffeine hit as opposed to the indwelling of spiritual graces.

To me, that only serves to tell me something about the mindset of the spiritually ignorant. Hard-boiled skeptics often don’t realize that while they’re looking at us, we’re looking at them.

At the other end of the spectrum, some fundamentalists say mysticism is nothing more than a devilish deception. There’s no talking to these people. They love to cherry pick Bible verses to support – while ignoring anything that challenges – their particular outlook.5

When folks, be they worldly or religious, are so entrenched in a limiting worldview my proverbial b.s. detector often goes from yellow to red. It may be a pastor. A blogger. A doctor. It doesn’t matter who. At those times I find the best thing is to politely withdraw and later on, when the time is right, redirect my thoughts into action.

¹ Some even believe in an original Aramaic New Testament that has been lost in the sands of time.

² See From Jesus to Christ: The First Christians, online at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion. Most agree that we have no original New Testament documents. So this would make our present version of Jesus’ sayings third-hand, at best. » 1 » Original Aramaic »  2 »  First but now lost transcriptions into Greek »  3 »  Surviving copies.

³ To me this is like the old Roman Empire championing its state gods.

4 We’ve probably all lived through or heard a story about offensive, overbearing Christians.

5 See Religious people have a brain so why don’t some use it?

For more on Q, see my highlights at LINER.

 Who Is Jesus? (3) (vanguardngr.com)

 Ghetts announces Ghetto Gospel: New Testament album, listen to new single “Slumdog Millionaire” (thefader.com)

 The Reformation Rolls On: (brothersjuddblog.com)

 Just listen (takeaminute.net)

 Sean Carvajal Steps in for Victor Rasuk in JESUS HOPPED THE ‘A’ TRAIN at Signature Theatre (broadwayworld.com)

Hug(thedistinctdot.com)

 Is this blasphemous? (quinersdiner.com)

 


Leave a comment

Psi – Good, evil, real or fantasy?

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

A subject in a psi experiment – Wikipedia

Psi (Ψ, ψ) is a Greek letter that today names frat houses and also denotes the idea of paranormal phenomena.

Coined by Bertold P. Wiesner, “psi” was appropriated in 1942 by Drs. Robert Thouless to indicate ESP

Psi later became an umbrella term for a range of alleged abilities. These include telepathy, precognition, clairvoyance, psychokinesis, near-death experiences, reincarnation, apparitions and other unconventional phenomena involving subtle sensing, near and at a distance.

Around the turn of the century, psi was popularized by the TV program Psi Factor, hosted by Dan Aykroyd. The show dramatized the pros and cons of purported psi abilities. Several other popular TV shows about psi have come and gone. The idea has become more mainstream in sci-fi and fantasy, along with the notion of psychological time travel.

George Noory hosts a popular radio show, Coast to Coast AM, where fringe and more credible callers phone in to talk about psi experiences, insights and most other things paranormal.

toads-fly2

The Skeptics

Psi remains controversial. Skeptics say no reliable scientific evidence supports it. Believers argue that psi is not amenable to science as we know it. The psychologist Carl Jung claimed that some scientific studies gave significant results. But Jung’s claim is debatable.²

More recently, a new breed of thinkers are calling for a reworked science that would

  • assess spiritual and paranormal reports as potentially legitimate data for scientific study
  • develop a holistic approach that would extend our understanding of science but not lapse into scientism
birds final

The Believers

Many religious people question the ethics of psi. Psi may exist, they argue, but we need to ask if enhanced abilities are in line with God’s will. This question implies its opposite; namely, that evil may endow – or seem to endow – individuals with psi.

Psychiatry views psi in terms of mental health and illness. While not absolutely negating the possibility of psi, most psychiatrists would probably say the brain creates some kind of hallucination, giving rise to the false belief that psychic abilities exist.

Catholicism’s take on psi reveals a curious mix of traditional religion and 21st century psychiatry. Exorcism prayers may be recited over those deemed possessed or obsessed by an evil spirit. Alternately, afflicted individuals may be advised to consult a psychiatrist.

Psi Factor: Chronicles of the Paranormal

Psi Factor: Chronicles of the Paranormal – Wikipedia

Instead of resorting to a black and white scenario like satanic influence vs. mental illness, psi errors and questionable beliefs about psi could be explained by a combination of psychological, social and spiritual factors.

Effective treatments could best involve spirituality, psychiatry, along with the humanities and arts to sort through cultural prejudices – and lies – that could contribute to personal issues.

Lasting solutions to psychological unsoundness would ideally involve a multi-disciplinary approach. But this is rare in most corners of the world. Maybe we’re just not “there” as a species. I’m not sure. But it seems that many religious people, especially fundamentalists, come down heavily on psi. They are convinced psi is of the devil. Meanwhile, the psychiatrist balks if we suggest an angel, demon or dead person might influence us from the other side.

However, psi need not be contrary to religion or psychological therapy. Catholic saints, for instance, reportedly have a gift for “reading hearts”—that is, intuitively knowing what others are thinking, feeling or experiencing.

And belief in organized religious teachings is “sane” according to psychiatry (which some say is a politically charged and culturally relative outlook).

So saying that psi is always of the devil or, on the other hand, a mere psychological fantasy seems a superficial reaction to countless reports that just might be pointing toward the next step in human evolution.

¹ Thouless, R. H. (1942) cited at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psi_%28parapsychology%29, “Experiments on paranormal guessing”. British Journal of Psychology, 33, 15-27.

² Clark, Michael. Synchronicity and poststructuralism: C. G. Jung’s secularization of the supramundane, 1997: pp. 72, 119-122, 130, 156-157, 177-179.

Related » Akashic Records, Aliens and Extraterrestrials, Clairvoyance, Psi Spies, Pyramids, Michael Talbot, UFO

For more see my highlights with LINER

 

 ‘Stranger Things’ Bits: Candles, Trivia, Sesame Street, Hopper Dancing and More! (slashfilm.com)


Leave a comment

Pythagoras – A lot more than a triangle

Angels

Angels – “In this theater of man’s life, it is reserved only for God and angels to be lookers-on” – Pythagoras by Riccardo Cuppini via Flickr

We’ve probably all heard of Pythagoras. In junior high the Pythagorean theorem is a mainstay of math class.

For a right-angled triangle, the square of the length of the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares of the remaining two sides.

Some might not know, however, that Pythagoras is one of those characters where it really is difficult to separate the myth from the man.

He existed, no doubt. That’s not the issue. But it is uncertain just how much he really knew; what the man actually said and did.

Part of the difficulty in sorting through all the legends is that his followers did, in fact, create a story – actually stories – about him. And those stories, replete with potential errors, fibs and embellishments, were passed on through the centuries, mistakes probably magnified at every turn.

Pythagoras in Thomas Stanley History of Philosophy via Wikipedia

One could say the same about Jesus Christ or Buddha.¹ Or any aspect of the Bible and most religious scripture. That doesn’t necessary detract from the overall message but it does make us think.

Hopefully…

Having said this, most see Pythagoras as a Greek philosopher and scientist born on the island of Samos around 570–495 BCE.

He is credited with discovering how musical intervals relate to mathematical proportions, the Pythagorean theorem and a complex system of portraying the universe through numbers.

Pythagoras’ moral teachings include asceticism and a belief in the transmigration of souls–that is, reincarnation. He founded a religious school in Crotona but was forced to move to Metapontum due to prolonged persecution.

S. G. F. Brandon says this persecution probably arose because of Pythagoreanism’s similarity to Orphism

Italiano: Busto di Pitagora. Copia romana di o...

Bust of Pythagoras. Roman copy of the original Greek. Capitoline Museums, Rome – via Wikipedia

On this point social psychologists and sociologists propose an “in-group/out-group” theory of conflict. According to this view, persecution arises when a minority group shares too many qualities with the powerful, orthodox group it threatens or challenges.

Nobody cares if the two groups are entirely different. But when they share some key concepts and practices, that’s when the dust flies.

And as history reveals, the two groups’ respective clout need not be dramatically skewed for this dynamic to take place: Jews and Muslims; Christians and Jews; Christians and Muslims; Liberals and Conservatives; Democrats and Rebublicans; Communists and Capitalists.

The list goes on.

Not just a dry philosophy, Pythagoreanism was a practical guide to living a valuable life. Pythagoras is also credited with providing a threefold theory of the soul. One that combines mysticism and practicality.³

Pythagoras maintained that the soul has three vehicles: (1) the ethereal, which is luminous and celestial, in which the soul resides in a state of bliss in the stars; (2) the luminous, which suffers the punishment of sin after death; and (3) the terrestrial, which is the vehicle it occupies on this earth.4

Illustration of the Pythagorean theorem. The s...

Illustration of the Pythagorean theorem. The sum of two squares whose sides are the two legs (blue and red) is equal to the area of the square whose side is the hypotenuse (purple) – Wikipedia

Muslims believed that Pythagoras was initiated into the sacred mysteries by Hermes (Egyptian Thoth). His thinking, and that of his followers, also had a profound influence on the work of the mystically inclined Plato.

Some maintain that Plato’s Republic, which outlines the ideal community, is based on a Pythagorean community established in Croton.

Pythagorean ideas resurfaced in Rome and Alexandria from the 1st century BCE onward. Many have written about Pythagoras.5 But again, this only confuses the story. Are we hearing about the man or the myth?

¹ Christians are often criticized for this; Buddhists, rarely. Christianity, after all, is the most persecuted religion in the world today.

² S. G. F. Brandon (ed.) Dictionary of Comparative Religion, New York: Scribner’s, 1970, p. 520.

³ Most mystics would dispute this distinction, arguing that mysticism is supremely practical, given the eternal or everlasting nature of existence and the prospect of a favorable or unfavorable afterlife.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pythagoras

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pythagoras#Timeline_of_sources

Related » David Bowie, Music of The Spheres, Numerology

For more see my highlights at LINER


Leave a comment

Possession – Another spiritual idea largely ignored by consumer culture

The controversial figure, Rasputin. Depending on one’s worldview or politics, he was mad, possessed or inspired – via Wikipedia

The idea of spiritual possession is found in many different cultures. Some see it as entirely involuntary, unwanted and evil. Others take a less extreme view.

Depending on the cultural context in which it is found, possession may be considered voluntary or involuntary and may be considered to have beneficial or detrimental effects on the host. Within possession cults, the belief that one is possessed by spirits is more common among women than men.¹

In Catholic teaching possession refers to the belief that a person’s body – but not the soul – is inhabited or controlled by demons or other evil influences. Possession in this sense may be temporary or permanent.

Over the centuries diverse exorcism prayers and rituals were developed by the Catholic Church to repulse what are regarded as spiritual attacks from Satan. An example of an exorcism prayer still in use is Prayer Against Satan and the Rebellious Angels, published in 1967 by order of His Holiness Pope Leo XIII.

The Swiss psychiatrist C. G. Jung used the term possession to describe the unhealthy influence of an archetype on the ego. Jung’s discussion suggests that many archetypes are equivalent in character to pagan gods, which for many are perceived as lesser than a monotheistic God.

Psychiatry complicates the belief in possession. When explaining this belief, contemporary psychiatrists look to delusional systems possibly rooted in faulty brain functioning.

Hacker – Hacking – Symbol by Christoph Scholz via Flickr

However, most psychiatrists do not consider the prospect that faulty brain functioning and spiritual attack may go hand in hand.

Just as a hacker finds weak spots within a computer operating system, the devil, some maintain, exploits physiological and psychological vulnerabilities within human beings.

Could possession be permitted by God to bring about some greater good? If God permits evil, as most traditional theologians say, and if possession is another instance of evil, then it follows that God does permit the possession of souls for some unknown reason.

It’s hard for us to understand why God would permit evil when a seemingly possessed person commits an enormous sin against others. Where’s the logic in that? most cry out afterward.

For me, it is less challenging to consider the “greater Good of good and evil” when we make small mistakes, mistakes that might be at least partially explained by the notion of temporary possession.

Huh?

Let me explain.

In times of extreme stress and fatigue most of us have probably experienced or witnessed someone being “beside themselves,” as the old saying goes. People say or do things they normally wouldn’t do, like hurting another person’s feelings or sparking an argument. This dynamic fits with an idea I’ve been thinking about since the 1980s—The notion of the necessary mistake.

Philosophically speaking, the necessary mistake is nothing new. It’s another way of saying inevitable sin, a concept that has been talked about since the dawn of ethical thinking. Because we are all imperfect, we are going to make mistakes (or commit sin) in life. But some believe that God may bring about a greater Good, despite our blunders. And hopefully the timing of our mistakes fits within a larger dynamic of overall improvement. That is, we all learn together.

BK via Flickr

The difference between a healthy and unhealthy response to a necessary mistake hinges upon how we respond. Do we resolve to do better next time or simply not give a damn and carry on, repeating the same mistake over and over to the detriment of self and others?

It may seem like I’ve wandered pretty far from the idea of possession. But again, possession can be temporary and, as psychiatry suggests, at least partly brought about by factors like genetics, personality, sleep deprivation, malnutrition, drug use and stress.

Conceivably, a dark spiritual force could influence us toward making mistakes if we let our guard down. And I think psychiatry, its patients and the general public would do well to consider this possibility.

In a world becoming more techno-crazed every day, it is time to bring soul, spirit and God back into the discussion of mental health and illness.²

¹ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spirit_possession

² I once had a professor who, almost like Rasputin, seemed to have enormous powers of influence over other people. I’ll call him or her “Raspy” (not the real name). In Jungian terms, Raspy seemed to be gripped (or intermittently possessed) by an archetypal power. Raspy almost had me fooled for a while, until I saw through her or him. As the New Testament puts it, you can always judge spiritual powers by their fruit (i.e. moral outcome). In Raspy’s case, the fruit seemed rotten.

Related » Mental Illness, Obsession, Occam’s Razor, Psychosis, Sibyl, Tramp Souls, Undoing, Vampires

 Boom time for fortune-tellers and tarot card readers in Italy as economic crisis bites (telegraph.co.uk)


2 Comments

Psychosis – Toward a humble, intelligent and ethically sound approach

Exorcising a boy possessed by a demon from Trè...

Exorcising a boy possessed by a demon from Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, 15th century – Wikipedia

Psychosis is usually described within psychology and psychiatry as a fundamental break with reality.

Current theories say this apparent break is caused by biological and environmental factors, resulting in a breakdown or disintegration of the personality where normal judgement is severely impaired or absent. The break can be non-violent or violent, temporary or permanent.

However, humanity has never reached absolute consensus on the topic of reality. And for anyone to suggest that they ‘know it all’ is misguided, grandiose and, in the case of some mental health workers, a naive political act.

Psychiatrists like R. D. Laing and Stanislav Grof emphasize not just the drawbacks but the transformational benefits that may arise after a so-called breakdown. Providing that a breakdown is properly treated, Laing goes as far to say we should think in terms of breakthrough instead of mere breakdown.

Breakdown is only the first stage in developing a greater sense of self, spirituality and wisdom.

As the old saying goes, we have to break an egg to make an omelette. Instead of trying to put a runny egg back into a broken shell, it is better to simply let the omelette cook. In other words, psychiatric treatments that try to resume former ways of being may help for a while. But hopefully a person moves on and learns how to make sense out of a dramatically different life experience and emergent worldview.

Laing’s position is worthy of consideration but most mental health workers point out that psychosis is no trivial matter and should not be glibly romanticized. People and those close to them suffer dearly. True, some individuals recover and flourish after a psychotic episode but others never really get better, even with positive family and social supports. They limp along on disability payments, looking forward to their evening pill that lessens their pain, fear or frightening hallucinations. Sadly, these pills also tend to dull the mind and, statistically speaking, have long term negative effects, to include early death.

A few anti-psychiatry writers at sites like Mad in America tend to overlook the possibility that some souls may never pass through their ordeal unscathed. Like ships dashed against the shoals in stormy weather, they sink or float shattered and aimless, never reaching the far shore of meaning and happiness.

Psychosis (video game)

Psychosis (video game) – Wikipedia

This is a tragedy for non-violent souls. But for those inclined to violence, it can be so much more than mere personal tragedy. And to overlook this is not just foolish. It’s socially irresponsible.

So who’s right? The critics or the psychiatrists?

The vast majority of people on both sides of this debate have good intentions and something to say. It is unfortunate that little positive dialog exists between the two groups because neither, in my opinion, fully understands the human psyche in relation to all of creation.

What’s at stake here is the definition of health and normalcy, and how that affects people’s lives.

If a person deviates too far from social conventions, there is a risk of being scapegoated by so-called normals. If left unchecked, this unfair dynamic can contribute to even greater unhappiness, discomfort and instability. So mental health becomes not just a personal issue but part of a greater social, political and economic dynamic.

I add the economic dimension because not being able to “work” as currently framed in the 21st century conversation is a huge stroke against individuals trying to break out of the psychiatric name-calling game. Arguably a kind of bullying, name-calling turns a blind eye to the fact that non-violent ‘crazy’ people rarely make money while violent, organized criminals often do.

Social organizations that brand themselves as “friends” of those with mental health labels may inadvertently reinforce the stigma with the implied message:

Accept your label… take your meds… you’re doing so much better.

To my mind this is like telling a person of color:

Accept that you are a  &%$#@!, take a menial, dead-end job, and be happy with your lot!¹

R.D. Laing, perusing in 1983 The Ashley Book o...

R.D. Laing, perusing in 1983 The Ashley Book of Knots in a humorous allusion to his own work, Knots – Wikipedia

Defining reality and normalcy is not just a philosophical riddle. Difficulties also arise in religion when discerning health and goodness from dysfunction and evil. For example, in the New Testament story some believe that Jesus Christ is insane or possessed by a demon:

Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebub[a]! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons – Mark 3:20-22.

Christian believers see Jesus’ rebuking his accusers as a sign of his divine intelligence but some nonbelievers see Christ as an egomaniac:

So Jesus called them and spoke to them in parables: “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can rob his house. I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin.” He said this because they were saying, “He has an evil spirit.” – Mark 3: 23-30.

The belief that madness is caused by evil, possession by a demon or by God withdrawing favor was common in the ancient world. In prehistory we have archaeological evidence, circa 5000 BC, of holes drilled in skulls, presumably to release evil spirits that tormented the insane or those perceived as such.²

Medieval book illustration of Christ Exorcisin...

Medieval book illustration of Christ Exorcising the Gerasenes demonic – Wikipedia

Today, many Christians of different denominations still believe that Satan wants to enslave victims in a psychological, social and spiritual hell. Not just in the next world, but now.

The Catholic clergy still perform exorcisms but also recommend psychiatry for mental discomfort. Adding to the ambiguity, the whole idea of spirituality varies from person to person.³

To further complicate things, many intelligent people believe that the idea of normality is a farce or illusion—a by-product of the most effective media spin.

The trouble with normal is it always gets worse.4

Not surprisingly, the relation between psychiatry and laws concerning individual rights and freedoms differ among countries and regions. In Russia we see a long history of political abuses involving psychiatry. That is, those who rub the Big Cheese the wrong way get locked up. But this isn’t just a Russian problem. Subtler kinds of psychiatry-based oppression and marginalization take place in North America and around the world.

So who can really say what’s normal and real? It almost seems like small or crafty minds try to fit everything into their own perspective. A perspective they are comfortable with.

But the fullness of life is rarely like that. Life changes and evolves. And it’s high time we realize this.

Related » Beatnik, Michel FoucaultMadness, Neurosis, Nietzsche

¹ Unlike some mainstream media outlets, I don’t wish to reinforce harmful words by indicating with a single letter. Please fill in the gap.

² This is a huge presumption. Our prehistoric ancestors might simply have thought the skull was too tight and were trying to relieve pressure, like letting air out of over-inflated tires. Point is, we cannot know.

³ See https://www.skeptic.com/reading_room/is-spirituality-so-broadly-defined-that-testing-is-meaningless/

4 https://youtu.be/kybkiiAKMOY

For more historical info see my highlights at LINER (scroll down)

 ‘I feel like I’m going crazy:’ Migrants in Greece are attempting suicide and suffering from other mental health issues at alarming rates (businessinsider.com)

 Why We’ve Been Thinking About Madness All Wrong: A Conversation With David Dobbs (psmag.com)


Leave a comment

Who’s got the power?

The Power of Choice

The Power of Choice: Simon Greening via Flickr

Way Back

The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle defined power in a way that remarkably prefigures Sir Isaac Newton‘s three laws of motion.

Aristotle says power is

  1. The agent causing a change in something
  2. The ability or potential in an object enabling it to act
  3. The ability in an object to remain unchanged

Image – Wikipedia

Today

In the social sciences and political life power usually means the ability to make decisions that influence, regulate or coerce.¹

For democratic countries political power is limited to the extent that the next elected representative has the ability to change or modify a set of power relations, as we see with US President Trump trying to unravel or remedy, depending on how you look at it, many of former President Obama’s initiatives.

But power goes far beyond big politics and weighty issues. It is found in the doctor’s office, the workplace, the schools and our neighborhoods. And thinkers like R. D. Laing suggest that power manifests within family dynamics.

Oliver Twist – Wikipedia

A Little Theory

Different cultural critics hold diverse views of power and how it is best applied. From Machiavelli to Marx, power is always present. But just how it is interpreted is a uniquely human act.

Postmodern and other social thinkers often overlook the fact that power, as a noun, is ethically ambivalent. Both good and bad can things be modified by the adjective “powerful”—for example, powerful love and powerful hate.

The 17th century philosopher Thomas Hobbes argued that knowledge gained from philosophical understanding creates power. Hobbes added that such power should be applied in ways good for the Commonwealth. His argument is echoed in the G-8 countries’ rationale behind military strikes against the enemies of democracy and freedom. In Catholicism, this is called the “Just War.

Good and Evil – Wikipedia

Michel Foucault says power is embedded in our social relationships but he doesn’t emphasize an ethical dimension to power. Rather, Foucault sees power as an ongoing struggle of competing intentions.

To some observers, it is almost as if Foucault portrays ethics and morality as historically relative products of social power.

If true, good and evil are not absolute, timeless and universal truths. They are relative to a given social time and place. That is, good and evil are social constructions.

However, Jules Evans argues that Foucault’s later work, such as The Care of the Self (1984), reveals a developing interest in an ethic of wellness. As Foucault says:

Perhaps I’ve insisted too much on the technology of domination and power. I am more and more interested…in the mode of action that an individual exercises upon himself by means of the technologies of the self.²

Whether or not Foucault’s interest in wellness was purely intellectual or, perhaps, an emerging practical concern remains open to debate.

Anthropology, Depth Psychology and Religion

Supernatural – Juliana Coutinho via Flickr

Terms like mana, numinoustapas and orenda refer to a form of magical, mystical or spiritual power originating from beyond the realm of scientific predictability.

In keeping with Max Weber‘s idea of charisma, individuals with a lot of social power may possess, command or mediate a good deal of spiritual, otherworldly power.

I think Weber’s concept of charisma is important because, for some, it links spiritual and political power.

Science vs Religion

Power ON – Wikipedia

Another central question is whether or not a given set of otherworldly powers are good or evil. This issue was once of great importance. It is now pretty well passed over by the media and most everyone else.

In its place we have the popular mindset of “health” and “illness.” In a nutshell, science and technology have moved in where religion and ritual once held sway.

So the 21st century mass murderer is “mentally ill” and not “possessed by Satan.”

At least, this is how the courts see it. And they, to return to our initial topic, have the power

¹ See my highlights at LINER for some recent distinctions in the ongoing dialog about power:

Hard Power – http://lnr.li/C0mV7/

Soft Power – http://lnr.li/IQQXv/

Smart Power – http://lnr.li/0rJdk/

² Michel Foucault, lecture given in 1982 cited in Jules Evans, “Philosophy as a Way of Life,” Eurasian Home Analytical Resource, August 15, 2007.

³ Most traditional theologians would say the courts only hold as much power as God permits, God being the bearer of all power.

Related » Counter-discourse, Discourse, Poststructuralism

 Two Concepts of Polarization (3quarksdaily.com)

 The last sacred kings (aeon.co)

 What are your desert island philosophy essays? (ask.metafilter.com)

 If Time Is Money, They’re Both Lies (therooflesschurch.com)

 Porn stars go mainstream (foxnews.com)