Tag Archives: christianity

Omnium Gatherum: July 25th, 2014

An irregular hodgepodge of links gathered together … Omnium Gatherum for July 25th, 2014

William Mortensen The Mark of the Devil
The Mark of the Devil by William Mortensen at The Grotesque Eroticism of William Mortensen’s Lost Photography — Larry Lytle, VICE

 

Here are some top gatherum posts from the BBS this week:

  • Excerpt from Hugo Gernsmack’s The Scientific Adventures of Baron Munchausen quoted at U-Boats, Spies, and White Magic: The Invention of Wireless Cryptography — Grant Wythoff, Gizmodo

    “When one contemplates the marvel of sculptured sound on a graphophonic record, and realizes that from the cold vorticity of line there may magically spring the golden lilt of the greatest song voice that the world has ever heard, then comes the conviction that we are living in the days of white magic.”

  • Bringing Back a Lost Museum — Laura C Mallonee, Hyperallergic

    “In 1945, workers at Brown University’s biology department were clearing out storage space when they stumbled on a giant trove of natural and ethnographic specimens and artifacts. The collection had belonged to the Jenks Museum of Natural History and Anthropology, founded at the school in 1871 and dismantled in 1915 to make way for new classrooms. Inexplicably, the workers drove 92 truckloads worth of the carefully curated objects to the banks of the Seekonk River, where they unloaded them into a common dump.

    Now, the collection has been resurrected from that mire by “The Jenks Society for Lost Museums” — a group of students and professors from Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design — with the help of artist Mark Dion. Like previous attempts to reimagine destroyed museums, their three collaborative installations, on view at Rhode Island Hall, recreates parts of the museum while challenging assumptions about permanence in museum work.”

  • The Grotesque Eroticism of William Mortensen’s Lost Photography — Larry Lytle, VICE

    “Don’t feel bad if you haven’t heard of him—he was written into a footnote by the “straight photography” school of the 1950s, and referred to as “the Antichrist” by Ansel Adams, a tag that stuck after Anton LaVey dedicated The Satanic Bible to him. Primarily known as a Hollywood portrait artist, he developed a myriad of pre-Photoshop special effects to craft grotesque, erotic, and mystical images. This fall, Feral House will release [American Grotesque: The Life and Art of William Mortensen], a monograph on his occult photography.”

  • Haiti Doesn’t Have a Vodou Problem, It Has a Christianity Problem — France François, Ebony

    “Contrary to the Cardinal’s statement, Vodou is not Haiti’s problem; Christianity is. No push to spread Vodou ever wiped out entire “savage” indigenous peoples. Vodou has caused no wars due to a desire to convert as many people as possible. Vodou doesn’t tell “saved souls” that they must be complacent, accepting their lot on Earth for the potential of future salvation in heaven. Vodou never told Black people they were a curse or 3/5ths of a person.

    Vodou is of the belief system that sustained our ancestors across the Middle Passage, during the brutality of the plantation, and through the victories of slave rebellions. Haiti should never apologize for it.

    Christianity and the West’s real problem with Vodou is that, like the Maroons who practiced it, it remains elusive to those who would aim to profit off of it, package it, and control it.”

  • Newly-discovered records show history of black Masonic lodge in Winfield — Dave Seaton, Winfield Daily Courier

    “A treasure trove of Winfield history was recently discovered in the dilapidated two-story building at 1307 Main, just north of the Dawson Monument Company.

    Realtors Jeff Albright and Jeff Everhart found a trunk upstairs full of records and memorabilia from the former black Masonic lodge here. They also found the lodge’s gavel.”

    “In its heyday, the Winfield lodge hosted a gathering of individual chapters of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Kansas, the organization of black Masonic lodges in the state. The event took place Aug. 20-21, 1917. An estimated 200 Masons attended from around the state.”

  • From the Introduction by Henrik Bogdan and Jan A M Snoek to Handbook of Freemasonry from Brill

    “With roots going back to the medieval guilds of stonemasons, Freemasonry is the oldest initiatory society in the West not dependant on a religious institution. Having lodges in virtually every major city in most parts of the world, it has changed from an originally British institution to a worldwide phenomenon with a wide range of local idiosyncratic features and characteristics. Numbering millions of active members it is also the largest fraternal organization in the world, still managing to attract new members in the postmodern society of the twenty-first century. The continued presence and development of Freemasonry with its rich diversity in practices and interpretations, raises the question what it is that makes such an old phenomenon seem relevant to so many diverse people for over three hundred years? There is no single answer to the question, but part of it surely rests on the fact that despite its emphasis on tradition, transmission and authority, Freemasonry has always been a non-dogmatic organisation in the sense that its rituals, symbols and practices have not had official and final interpretations. On the contrary, Freemasonry is characterised by a striking diversity of interpretation—it is thus possible to find purely moral interpretations of its central symbols, but also scientific, psychological, esoteric, political, philosophical, religious etc. interpretations of the same symbols—a fact that will become more than apparent by reading the various chapters of this handbook.”

  • Bible Cross-References — Chris Harrison [HT Hemant Mehta]

    “He described a data set he was putting together that defined textual cross references found in the Bible. He had already done considerable work visualizing the data before contacting me. Together, we struggled to find an elegant solution to render the data, more than 63,000 cross references in total. As work progressed, it became clear that an interactive visualization would be needed to properly explore the data, where users could zoom in and prune down the information to manageable levels. Together, we struggled to find an elegant solution to render the data, more than 63,000 cross references in total. As work progressed, it became clear that an interactive visualization would be needed to properly explore the data, where users could zoom in and prune down the information to manageable levels. However, this was less interesting to us, as several Bible-exploration programs existed that offered similar functionality (and much more). Instead we set our sights on the other end of the spectrum – something more beautiful than functional. At the same time, we wanted something that honored and revealed the complexity of the data at every level – as one leans in, smaller details should become visible. This ultimately led us to the multi-colored arc diagram you see below.”

    Chris Harrison Bible Cross- References

     

  • An Incredible Interactive Chart of Biblical Contradictions — Hemant Mehta, Friendly Atheist

    “Now, computer programmer Daniel G. Taylor has taken all that data and turned it into a visual masterpiece.

    His website, BibViz (Bible Visualization), gives you the same linking arcs as before, but when you hover over one of them, it lights up and tells you in the upper right-hand corner of the screen which verses are being linked together. Click on an arc and it takes you directly to those verses as compiled in the Skeptics Annotated Bible:”

    Daniel G Taylor The Holy Bible contradictions

     

  • Routes of Wholeness: Jungian and Post-Jungian Dialogues with the Western Esoteric Tree of Life — Lloyd Kenton Keane, a thesis

    “This thesis compares and contrasts what could be considered two psycho-spiritual traditions: analytical psychology and the Western Esoteric Tradition. A common link between these two traditions is the use of symbols and metaphors of wholeness, specifically the sefirot of the Western Esoteric Tree of Life.”

  • Meet the electric life forms that live on pure energy — Catherine Brahic, New Scientist

    “Unlike any other living thing on Earth, electric bacteria use energy in its purest form – naked electricity in the shape of electrons harvested from rocks and metals. We already knew about two types, Shewanella and Geobacter. Now, biologists are showing that they can entice many more out of rocks and marine mud by tempting them with a bit of electrical juice. Experiments growing bacteria on battery electrodes demonstrate that these novel, mind-boggling forms of life are essentially eating and excreting electricity.”

  • Baleen and sperm whales are ocean’s ‘ecosystem engineers,’ new study says — James Maynard, Tech Times [HT Slashdot]

    “Baleen and sperm whales act like ecosystem engineers in the global ocean, according to a new study from the University of Vermont. Whales help maintain the global ecological balance due, in part, to the release of vast quantities of feces.

    A new study examined decades of research on the marine mammals and their role in maintaining the balance of life in oceans.”

  • Rupert Sheldrake quoted at Scientific Heretic Rupert Sheldrake on Morphic Fields, Psychic Dogs and Other Mysteries — John Horgan, Cross-Check at Scientific American [HT Boing Boing]

    “We both agree that science is at present limited by assumptions that restrict enquiry, and we agree that there are major unsolved problems about consciousness, cosmology and other areas of science… I am proposing testable hypotheses that could take us forward and open up new frontiers of scientific enquiry.”

  • Aleister Crowley: Legend of the Beast (Review) — Blacktooth, Horror Society

    “What astounds me is how ignorance has played into turning Aleister Crowley into a myth instead of a historical figure. Instead of being known as a educated man who was a freethinker that went against the norm he goes down as a Satanist […] This is due to how close-minded the masses are now and how they were then. That is why this bio-pic is so brilliant and powerful. It sheds light on one of the most misunderstood figures in history.”

  • Avoid the Uninitiated Mob — Michael Gilleland, Laudator Temporis Acti

    “Disregard the angry clamour of the lying masses; avoid the uninitiated mob, and you will know happiness and the truth that is revealed to few.”

  • Libraries Are Not a “Netflix” for Books — Kelly Jensen, Book Riot

    “It is not the goal of the library to make money. Nor is it the goal of the library to create levels of service so that those who can afford to indulge will receive more while those who can’t, don’t. Instead, libraries work to ensure their services reach as many facets of their community as possible. Libraries want to offer what they can to those who have nothing and those who maybe have everything.

    The library is the center and the heart of community.”

 

If you’d like to participate in the Omnium Gatherum, head on over to the Gatherum discussions at the Hrmtc Underground BBS.

A Terrible Love of War

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews A Terrible Love of War by James Hillman.

James Hillman A Terrible Love of War

Neo-Jungian (“archetypal”) psychologist Hillman wrote this meditation on the place of war in human society in the awareness that it would probably be his final book. Just as Freud (in Moses and Monotheism) and Jung (in Answer to Job) used their last books to criticize and reimagine religious history, Hillman trains the fourth of his four essays in this book on the martial element in Christianity and its hypocritical concealment.

While I was as sympathetic to Hillman’s views and arguments as ever, I didn’t find this to be one of his more effective books. It was somewhat scattered and meandering. By his own admitted lights, it should have had a powerful, martial drive, but I didn’t find that there. My hope that this book would inspire me in appreciating my connection with the martial aspect of the Lord of the Aeon was thus disappointed. Still, there were some valuable ideas scattered through what is really a quick read, ending on a note of perplexed aspiration. [via]

Going Home

Going Home: Jesus and Buddha as Brothers by Thich Nhat Hanh, the 1999 hardcover from Riverhead Books, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Thich Nhat Hahn Going Home from Riverhead Books

“Having lived in the West for more than thirty years, exiled from his native Vietnam, Thich Nhat Hanh has become known as a healer of the heart, identifying our cultural wounds and trying to find a way to repair them. Going Home deals with the wounds he sees most often: our alienation from our own spiritual traditions.

This book continues the dialogue with Christianity that began in Living Buddha, Living Christ. In that book, the door was opened to the idea that Buddha and Jesus speak to each other. In Going Home, they sit down and talk about each other’s prayers and rituals. They ask how they can help renew each other’s traditions. They look at the convergence of concept such as resurrection and the practice of mindfulness. They see where the Buddhist understanding of the nature of reality and the concept of God come together. Their conversation shows the deep connection between Jesus and Buddha. It shows the brotherhood they share. And most important, it shows a way to return to ourselves and our spirituality as our only true home.” — flap copy


Living Buddha, Living Christ

Living Buddha, Living Christ by Thich Nhat Hanh, introduced by Elaine Pagels, the 1995 hardcover from Riverhead Books, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Thich Nhat Hahn Elaine Pagels Living Buddha, Living Christ from Riverhead Books

“Buddha and Christ, perhaps the two most pivotal figures in the history of humankind, each left behind a legacy of teachings and practices that have shaped the lives of billions of people over the course of two millennia. If they were to meet on the road today, what would each think of the other’s spiritual views and practices?

Thich Nhat Hanh has been part of a decades-long dialogue between the two greatest living contemplative traditions, and brings to Christianity an appreciation of its beauty that could be conveyed only by an outsider. In lucid, meditative prose, he explores the crossroads of compassion and holiness at which the two traditions meet, and reawakens our understanding of both. ‘On the altar in my hermitage,’ he says, ‘are images of Buddha and Jesus, and I touch both of them as my spiritual ancestors.'” — flap copy


Drudgery Divine

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Drudgery Divine: On the Comparison of Early Christianities and the Religions of Late Antiquity by Jonathan Z Smith.

Jonathan Z Smith Drudgery Divine

This fairly slim book consists of five lecture texts:

˙ “On the Origin of Origins” begins the discussion, using the Jefferson-Adams correspondence on religious topics as a point of departure. It also orients around the writings of Priestly and Dupuis, and pinpoints the question of Christian origins in “Protestant anti-Catholic apologetics.”

˙ “On Comparison” is a largely methodological piece, that incisively outlines the gambits of uniqueness and genealogy that have served the agendas of Protestant polemic and Christian supremacism in previous work on the topic.

˙ “On Comparing Words” discusses the philological arguments to date, and their subservience to theological efforts. Quite happily for me, Smith chose to use the term mysterion for illustrative purposes throughout this section. Among other things, I learned about the ancient Greek pun attributed by Athenaios to Dionysos Tyrannos: mysterion = mus terein, “mouseholes!” (p. 56 n)

˙ “On Comparing Stories” has a quick survey of “pagan Christs” literature, before focusing in on Frazer’s ‘dying and rising’ god motif, and its application to Christianity in the work of Pfleiderer; then a discussion of the problems of data for historically-oriented comparisons.

˙ “On Comparing Settings” applies all of the foregoing to the question of comparing early Christianities (note the significant plural!) to other religions of antiquity, also bringing in Smith’s locative/utopian distinction. Smith’s confessed appreciation for and dependence on the Christian origins work of Burton Mack is clearest in this section.

Smith writes, “The Protestant hegemony over the enterprise of comparing the religions of Late Antiquity and early Christianities has been an affair of mythic conception and ritual practice from the outset.” Aleister Crowley’s Gospel According to St. Bernard Shaw (a.k.a. Jesus sub figura 888) still deserves that same valuation, despite its opposition to the Protestant hegemony, as he was fighting fire with fire. It was not “a thorough revaluation of the purposes of comparison” in service to “the scholarly imagination of religion,” as Smith would prefer. But Crowley’s tack adds an additional dimension to the history of the enterprise, and for those who wish to soldier on in the mythic and ritual battlefields, Smith’s book is a stone that will sharpen any sword that can hold the edge. [via]


Antichrist

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Antichrist: A novel of the Emperor Frederick II by Cecelia Holland.

Cecelia Holland Antichrist

Historical novelist Cecelia Holland is the author of Antichrist: a novel of the Emperor Frederick II (1970). The British issue of the same book had a more timid publisher, it seems. The title there was Wonder of the World, in reference to Frederick’s renown as stupor mundi. The US Primate of the Gnostic Catholic Church identifies Frederick II as the “Frederick of Hohenstaufen” enumerated among the saints of Liber XV, and he points to Frederick’s notable antagonism with Rome, but he fails to note the item that gave Holland her title: a tradition of identifying Frederick as the Antichrist.

Antichrist is an inherently prophetic figure, and the prophecies of Frederick’s Antichrist status were initially derived from Joachim of Fiore’s writings. Holland observes this fact with a brief notice in her prefatory “Note” (ix). The Super Hieremiam was a pseudo-Joachimist work that identified Frederick as a head of the apocalyptic dragon and as the emperor whose death would inaugurate the age of the Holy Spirit. The prophecy regarding Frederick is one of the elements that made Joachim’s work topical for the Franciscans who became interested in it during the 1240s.

Holland’s story is set in the 1220s, with Frederick’s prosecution of the Sixth Crusade. She depicts the Franciscans in Outremer as opponents of the Emperor, and she has them accuse him of being Antichrist. Whether they would have done so at that time, before taking up the ideas from Joachim, or whether the accusation in the novel was anachronistic, I don’t know.

Besides the Franciscan Order, Antichrist includes a rough and caricaturing treatment of the military Orders of the Temple and the Hospital. Of the former, Holland writes that they “were beyond doubt Satanist,” choosing to take the French court proceedings as gospel on this count (xiii). She depicts both Orders—who were, after all, opposed to her protagonist Frederick—as corrupt and malevolent. In fact, her depiction of them is much in keeping with the villainous roles that they play in the novels of Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832).

An important aspect of the novel (and the events it attempts to describe) is the relationship between Christians and Muslims, both in southern Europe and in Palestine. The idea that Frederick was Antichrist had much to do with his perceived and actual intimacy with Saracens and Islam. Holland creatively adds a member of the Order of Assassins to Frederick’s bodyguard in Palestine. This touch on her part leads to a historical error, in which she has the “Assassins” in question refer to themselves as Hashishiyyun (164). The Muslims associated with Alamut whom the Crusaders called “Assassins” were sometimes called hashishis as a term of derision by their Muslim antagonists, but they were in fact, and knew themselves as, Syrian Ismailis of the Nizari sect.

Holland’s book was great fun to read: it has a lot of witty dialogue and vivid description. If handled respectfully, it would probably make a terrific movie. Although she makes some outright errors, the author provides the unusual courtesy among historical novelists of pointing out which principal features of the story are her conscious interpolations (xii-xiii). As far as the broad outlines of her narrative go, there is nothing to contradict any of the history I have read. [via]


Witchcraft in the Middle Ages

Witchcraft in the Middle Ages by Jeffrey Burton Russell, the 1992 fourth printing paperback from Cornell University Press, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Jeffrey Burton Russell Witchcraft in the Middle Ages from Cornell University Press

“All the known theories and incidents of witchcraft in Western Europe from the fifth to the fifteenth century are brilliantly set forth in this engaging and comprehensive history. Building on a foundation of newly discovered primary sources and recent secondary interpretations, Professor Russell first establishes the facts and then explains the phenomenon of witchcraft in terms of its social and religious environment, particularly in relation to medieval heresies. He treats European witchcraft as a product of Christianity, grounded in heresy more than in the magic and sorcery that have existed in other societies. Skillfully blending narration with analysis, he shows how social and religious changes nourished the spread of witchcraft until large portions of medieval Europe were in its grip—’from the most illiterate peasant to the most skilled philosopher or scientist.’ A significant chapter in the history of ideas and their repression is illuminated by this book. Our growing fascination with the occult gives the author’s affirmation that witchcraft arises at times and in areas afflicted with social tensions a special quality of immediacy.” [via]


The History and Philosophy of the Metaphysical Movements in America

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews The History and Philosophy of the Metaphysical Movements in America by J Stillson Judah.

J Stillson Judah The History and Philosophy of the Metaphysical Movements in America

Writing in the 1990s, Wouter Hanegraaff refers to this book as a “standard work” on the topic, and notes that Judah coined the term “metaphysical movements.” (See Judah, p. 7) The volume treats a set of “religious philosophies” in the United States, beginning in the 1840s, and progressing up until the date that the book was written. Although Judah provided no evidence for the claim, he asserted that these religions were growing in popularity at the time of his writing. (p. 12) He characterized these metaphysical movements by family resemblance, with a set of fifteen chief features, including: gnostic anthropology, divine monism, pragmatism, psychological interpretation, optimism, mental or spiritual healing, and preferring “principles” to creed. Even when explicitly Christian, these groups tended to view Jesus as a teacher, rather than as the unique human incarnation of God.

Judah’s first chapter is devoted to inventorying some aspects of the germinal milieu of the American metaphysical movements. Besides the transcendentalist school and its effects, which he remarks as their foremost precedent and influence, he observes the importance of American religious pluralism, revivalism, deism, Swedenborgianism, Puritan utilitarianism, and occultism (i.e. hermeticism and kabbalah). He then goes on to provide historical sketches, with representations of doctrines and practices, for each of the following metaphysical movements: Spiritualism (with its various institutions and sects), Theosophy “and its allies” (i.e. the Arcane School and the Astara Foundation), New Thought (with the precedent teachings of Quimby and Evans, and the progeny of the Divine Science Church and the Church of Religious Science), the Unity School of Christianity, and Christian Science. A closing chapter treats the effect of the metaphysical movements on Protestantism, especially through the avenue of notions of health and mental healing.

Judah repeatedly cites Frank Podmore’s history of Spiritualism, Charles J. Ryan on Theosophy, Horatio Dresser on New Thought, and several secondary sources on Christian Science. For all of the movements surveyed, he makes extensive use of their own doctrinal literature, and in several cases he has interviewed key leaders or their families. Perhaps it is significant that no secondary sources appear in different sections of the book, since Judah appears to have been the first to tie these various groups and teachings into a coherent tradition.

Judah’s theory of religion is partly formulated in his closing chapter, where he insists that all religions can be analyzed in terms of three chief components: mental/philosophical, conative (relating to aspiration and conduct), and emotional. He insists that the conative component, the religious will as such, must be powered by an emotional experience, and he suggests that the historical transformations in American religion have resulted from the waxing and waning of emphasis on emotional experience. He points to the metaphysical movements as offering an orientation to the religious experiences of the individual during periods when mainline Protestantism has become abstracted into concerns about social justice. (pp. 291-2)

A significant part of Judah’s methodology in The Metaphysical Movements might be best characterized as comparative theology, even though that term has not been in vogue since the mid-20th century. He consistently attends to comparing the theological elements in the various metaphysical movements against each other, and against an implicitly normative mainline American Protestantism. But he has no evident chip on his shoulder, and his foreword includes an accounting of his own past engagements in the study and practice of Theosophy, yoga, New Thought, Spiritualism, and other “metaphysical” systems. The frankness of this passage shows a sort of scholarly reflexivity that is admirable in the early and mid-1960’s when Judah was writing. He cautions that any seemingly negative evaluations of the religions in his book “should be considered as constructive criticism offered in the same spirit in which the writer has also criticized the Protestant churches.” (p. 9) He does in the end refrain from offering either praise or condemnation of the metaphysical movements as a whole, but he opines that there would be ample justification for different parties to view them as revolutionary, restorative, or subversive of more customary institutional religions in America. [via]


Sorcerers of Sodom

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Sorcerers of Sodom by Roger Elwood.

Roger Elwood Sorcerers of Sodom

The publisher’s blurb claims that this novel “graphically portrays how Satanism has infiltrated our culture through music, medicine, education, the media, and in many more subtle ways.” While the story clearly contains no objective facts regarding the Satanic conspiracy it alleges to dramatize, it does form an interesting case study in psychosocial projection. The Satanists are portrayed as focusing their efforts on raising a generation of indoctrinated drones, recruiting them from
· children whom their parents wanted to abort,
· Satanically-dominated day care centers, and
· Satanic infiltration of public schools.

I have yet to see any evidence of Satanism on those three fronts, but it does not escape my notice that evangelical Christians are perennially interested in those venues for the indoctrination of children with the worship of their Jehovah-Jesus caricatures.

Similarly, the Satanically-inspired New Age movement is supposed to be based on promises of “rebirth without a great deal of anxiety”—which is exactly how the individuals “saved” in the novel experience their conversions to Christianity. Oh, there’s anxiety about the Satanic hordes of course, but not about Jesus! Just desperate contempt transformed to insipid reverence.

Temple of Set founder Michael Aquino is an offstage presence in the narrative, invoked as “Martin Andreno…the top Satanist in the nation.” And the author, writing in 1991 e.v., assures the reader through the voice of a repentant New Age guru, “By the year 2000, they will have everyone who hasn’t become a Satanist living in moment-by-moment fear of their lives.”

Predictably, the Christian heroes of the text are given plenty of opportunity to express their abhorrence of sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll. In an unexpected piece of dialogue, the protagonist and an arch-Satanist discuss atheism, with the pastor-hero defending the moral sensibility of atheists, and the Satanist deriding them for “having no belief at all.” Author Elwood seems to have misplaced his Christian evangelical script, in which atheists are tools of Satan.

Bewildering indeed is the novel’s climax, in which a Native American, recently converted to Christianity and armed with a bow and arrow(!), serves as emergency reinforcements for the hero, in a pyrrhic attempt to rescue the Indian’s own son from crucifixion by Satanists.

Observing the commercial success of the Left Behind novels, I can only hope that the last two decades have seen improvements in the standard for pop-Christian evangelical paranoid fantasy stories. [via]