Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Houdini and the Supernatural

from thegreatharryhoudini.com: In the 1920s, after the death of his mother, Houdini began focusing his energy on debunking psychics and mediums. Although he eventually focused on proving these people to be fakes, his initial entry into the world of the supernatural began when he attempted to contact his dead mother. However, he found that the mediums he met were often frauds. He began investigating their methods and claims and later became a self-appointed crusader against them. He knew he could duplicate their methods on stage and it was not long before his efforts to reach his mother became secondary to his need to expose the frauds. Ashamed of having masqueraded as a medium during his medicine show days, Houdini began making notes for a book. However, to prove that he did have an open mind, the magician made a pact with his friends that when he died, he would make contact, if at all possible, from the other side. He devised a secret code with his wife Bess so that only she could divine the legitimacy of the message.

During personal appearances to promote his moves, Houdini would project slides of various mediums and denounce their supposed supernatural abilities. He would also answer questions about false mediums in various newspapers throughout the country. Though he continued to perform, Houdini spent most of his time focused on exposing what he called “vultures who prey on the bereaved.” In fact, Harry would often attend séances in disguise in order to gather evidence, then leap up, tear off his disguise and reveal how the fraud was committed. Like so many of his illusions, these activities received extensive coverage from the press.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Native American Words of Wisdom

from firstpeople.us: The time has come to listen to echoes from our land...the wisdom and teachings of our Native American Indians. Their words are simple and their voices are soft. We have not heard them, because we have not taken the time to listen.

Perhaps now is the time to open our ears and our hearts to the words of wisdom they have to say.

Click on a name on this page to take you to their words of wisdom.

Happy Thanksgiving all!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

What Is Esoteric?

from esoteric.msu.edu: Until comparatively recently, there was very little scholarship on Western esotericism as a field. There were, of course, various articles and books on aspects of Western esotericism like alchemy or Rosicrucianism, but there was virtually no sense in the scholarly world that these disparate tributaries of thought formed a larger current of Western esotericism as such. One finds landmark studies in the mid-twentieth century by authors like Frances Yates, but no one who demarcated “Western esotericism” as a field for interdisciplinary or transdisciplinary study. This situation was to change with the work of Antoine Faivre (1934-) who, in the last quarter of the twentieth century, with numerous major books and articles defined an entire field of inquiry.

Faivre holds a chair in the École Pratique des Hautes Études at the Sorbonne in the “Histoire des courants ésotériques et mystiques dans l’Europe moderne et contemporaine,” and his work represents the first strictly academic overview of Western esotericism. In his view, it is best to speak of Western esotericism in terms of “forms of thought” rather than in terms of “occult tradition” or similar terminology. He is interested in delineating the elements that make up particular ways of thinking we can mark as “esoteric,” and this methodological approach has been widely accepted. In his definitive book Accès de l’ésotérisme occidental, (1996), he demarcates four primary and two secondary characteristics that he sees as common to all the various currents of Western esotericism.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Sumerian King List Still Puzzles Historians After More Than a Century of Research

from theepochtimes.com: Out of the many incredible artefacts that have been recovered from sites in Iraq where flourishing Sumerian cities once stood, few have been more intriguing that the Sumerian King List, an ancient manuscript originally recorded in the Sumerian language, listing kings of Sumer (ancient southern Iraq) from Sumerian and neighbouring dynasties, their supposed reign lengths, and the locations of “official” kingship. What makes this artefact so unique is the fact that the list blends apparently mythical pre-dynastic rulers with historical rulers who are known to have existed. 

The first fragment of this rare and unique text, a 4,000-year-old cuneiform tablet, was found in the early 1900s by German-American scholar Hermann Hilprecht at the site of ancient Nippur and published in 1906.  Since Hilprecht’s discovery, at least 18 other exemplars of the king’s list have been found, most of them dating from the second half of the Isin dynasty (c. 2017-1794 BCE.).  No two of these documents are identical. However, there is enough common material in all versions of the list to make it clear that they are derived from a single, “ideal” account of Sumerian history.

Monday, November 17, 2014

In Defence of Theology

from bernardokastrup.com: Theology has been the subject of much bashing by neo-atheists over the past several years. A fresh blog post by Jerry Coyne today seems to encapsulate the essence of their grievance: theology is claimed to be a discipline with no subject of study. Correctly defining theology as "the study or science which treats of God, His nature and attributes, and His relationships with man and the universe," Coyne asks rhetorically: "What good is a discipline that tries to tell us about the qualities of a nonexistent object? It’s as useful as a bunch of scholars trying to tell us about the characteristics of the Loch Ness Monster, or Paul Bunyan." (the hyperlink is mine) Any counter-argument to this is delicate, since it necessarily requires defining the most overloaded word in the history of language — 'God' — in some particular way that many are bound to disagree with. Yet, there are some common attributes almost always associated with 'God,' and 'God' alone: omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence. Thus, it is fair to say that, if one can identify a subject of study for which there is concrete, objective evidence and which incorporates the three attributes just listed, then one will have debunked Coyne's argument against theology. This is precisely what I intend to do in this essay. But in order to make my argument, I first need to take you on a brief tour of a more parsimonious, logical way of interpreting the facts of reality than the materialist metaphysics entails. Bear with me.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Delightfully Horrifying Manuscript Illuminations

from blogs.getty.edu: Illuminated manuscripts provided the medieval reader-viewer with a rich array of images that often rival those that we encounter on Halloween, from gory scenes of decapitated martyrs or arrow-pierced saints to walking cadavers, creepy spiders, spooky cemeteries, and even witches and ghosts. The images that follow had a variety of functions: some served as moral exemplars, while others instilled fear or terror to inspire pious living, or reminded the living of the fleeting nature of life. Many are full of naturalistic details that heighten the visual experience. Test your artistic acumen: Can you guess which medieval stories and saintly characters these images illustrate, and what they were meant to evoke? 

Read the full article here.

Friday, November 14, 2014

INTERSTELLAR: Secret Revelations of Transhumanism and ‘The Singularity’

from source: Interstellar is a grandiose film about a great number of serious philosophical and scientific concepts.

It’s also about a host other things, such as love, life, mistakes, meaning, etc., so knowing where to start an analysis is a bit challenging, though as many of my friends have said, it seems to be the perfect “
Jay’s Analysis” movie. I concur. Other sites that have posted analyses make the correct point of viewing it as Christopher Nolan’s version of 2001: A Space Odyssey, and while that is fine as far as it goes, it also departs from Kubrick’s film in significant ways. I will go all out on this one like I did with Inception, which is the first analysis to gain a lot of traction – I think I have decoded the real meaning of Interstellar, so stick around for the big reveal at the end…

Read the full article here.