Friday, May 29, 2015

Moral Psychology and the Misunderstanding of Religion

from It might seem obvious to you that contractual societies are good, modern, creative and free, whereas beehive societies reek of feudalism, fascism, and patriarchy. And, as a secular liberal I agree that contractual societies such as those of Western Europe offer the best hope for living peacefully together in our increasingly diverse modern nations (although it remains to be seen if Europe can solve its current diversity problems).

I just want to make one point, however, that should give contractualists pause: surveys have long shown that religious believers in the United States are happier, healthier, longer-lived, and more generous to charity and to each other than are secular people.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

A Christian Nation? Since When?

from nytimes.comAmerica may be a nation of believers, but when it comes to this country’s identity as a “Christian nation,” our beliefs are all over the map.

Just a few weeks ago, Public Policy Polling reported that 57 percent of Republicans favored officially making the United States a Christian nation. But in 2007, a survey by the First Amendment Center showed that 55 percent of Americans believed it already was one.
The confusion is understandable. For all our talk about separation of church and state, religious language has been written into our political culture in countless ways. It is inscribed in our pledge of patriotism, marked on our money, carved into the walls of our courts and our Capitol. Perhaps because it is everywhere, we assume it has been from the beginning.
But the founding fathers didn’t create the ceremonies and slogans that come to mind when we consider whether this is a Christian nation. Our grandfathers did.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Ancient Cities Provide A Warning for the Modern World

from In this age of urban-living, how cities grow is vitally important. The way cities expand in relation to their geographical surroundings has been an important consideration for eons. One of the ways of making a city sustainable is to make it ‘smarter.’ Making a city ‘smarter’ means improving the management of its infrastructure and the resources available to meet current and future needs.

New research has shown that ancient cities can provide a fantastic example for how modern cities should develop. Geologist Donatella de Rita and archaeologist Chrystina Häuber have been examining classical Rome and Naples, and how they could offer clues for today’s future.

In their study, published in the most recent edition of GSA Today, the authors argue that pre-Republican Rome was a smart city. During this period, Rome’s expansion did not substantially alter the geological features of the area. Natural resources around Rome were managed in order to minimise the environmental damage from over-exploitation.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

The “Karmic Visions” of H.P. Blavatsky

from It is quite well known that the highly renowned Carl Jung had a powerful premonition of the First World War about a year or so before it began. What is unfortunately not so well known is that H.P. Blavatsky had what “The New Yorker” magazine of May 1964 called a “much earlier and even more realistic vision” of things to come.

HPB clearly foresaw – and described in soberingly accurate detail – not only the First World War but also the Second World War. She did so in 1888, 26 years before the first conflict and 51 years prior to the outbreak of the second.

She describes past, present, and future events in compelling story form in her article titled “Karmic Visions” which was published in the British Theosophical magazine “Lucifer” in June 1888. It is not actually known for definite how she came to be in possession of such profoundly prophetic insight into the coming Wars. She may indeed have literally had a vision but may also have simply been able to access the information as easily as you or I can access information on the internet, by means of her undeniably highly developed spiritual powers. Alternatively, it may be that her Indian Masters – the Mahatmas of the Trans-Himalayan Brotherhood – worked together with her on the article.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

A spirited story of the psychic and the Colonel

from On a warm autumn afternoon in 1874, Henry Steel Olcott, an attorney and popular New York journalist, found himself in Vermont looking for ghosts. On assignment for his newspaper, he planned to investigate one of the séances, or "spook shops," that were then enjoying a surge of popularity across America.

Olcott's credentials as a sleuth were impeccable. After rising to the rank of colonel during the Civil War, he had attracted national attention as the head of a commission that investigated the conspiracy to assassinate President Lincoln. Now 42, with his fashionable mutton-chop whiskers and pince-nez spectacles he was an imposing media figure, and his readers expected a brilliant expose. They were to be very surprised.

For Colonel Olcott was about to have one of the most dramatic midlife crises in history. Changing from skeptic to true believer, he would become a leading exponent of occult wisdom in countries around the world, and the first American to popularize Eastern religions in the West.
What brought on the dramatic turnabout in his life? Her name was Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, a down-on-her-luck Russian aristocrat and mystic who had also made her way to Chittenden, Vermont, that afternoon. Middle-aged and fat, fond of dressing in frumpish Gypsy-like costumes, she was no siren. Nonetheless, her round face, wiry hair and huge eyes gave her a hypnotic attractiveness. She could converse brilliantly on any subject, and when Olcott met her, he was fascinated.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

How the Council of Nicea Changed the World

from When Constantine became the first Christian leader of the Roman Empire in the 4th century, his vast territory was populated by a hodgepodge of beliefs and religions. Within his own young religion, there was also dissent, with one major question threatening to cleave the popular cult — as it was at the time — into warring factions: Was Jesus divine, and how? 

That summer, 318 bishops from across the empire were invited to the Turkish town of Nicea, where Constantine had a vacation house, in an attempt to find common ground on what historians now refer to as the Arian Controversy. It was the first ever worldwide gathering of the Church. The Christianity we know today is a result of what those men agreed upon over that sticky month, including the timing of the religion's most important holiday, Easter, which celebrates Jesus rising from the dead.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

“Masonic Police Force” Uncovered in Los Angeles

from Claiming to be descendants of the Knights Templar, the Masonic Fraternal Police Department vowed to “protect Masonic Grandmasters” across 33 states.

Three California residents were arrested on April 30th on suspicion of impersonating a police officer and were released later that day. Claiming to be the “oldest police force in the world”, the Masonic Fraternal Police Department claimed jurisdiction across 33 states (coincidentally, 33 is the holiest number in Masonic symbolism).

Read the full article here.