Saturday, December 20, 2014

Are we innate retributivists?

from Why do we punish others? There are many philosophical answers to that question. Some claim that we punish in order to incapacitate a potential wrongdoer; some claim that we do it in order to rehabilitate an offender; some claim that we do it in order to deter others; and some claim that we do it because wrongdoers simply deserve to be punished.

Proponents of the last of these views are called retributivists. They believe that punishment is an intrinsic good, and that it ought to be imposed in order to ensure that justice is done. Proponents of the other views are consequentialists. They think that punishment is an instrumental good, and that its worth has to be assessed in terms of the ends it helps us to achieve.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Lost Lands of Mu and Lemuria

from source: Lemuria and Mu are interchangeable names given to a lost land believed to have been located somewhere in either the southern Pacific or Indian Oceans. This ancient continent was apparently the home of an advanced and highly spiritual culture, perhaps the mother race of all mankind, but it sank beneath the waves many thousands of years ago as the result of a geological cataclysm of some kind.
The thousands of rocky islands scattered throughout the Pacific, including Easter Island, Tahiti, Hawaii and Samoa, have been claimed by some to be the only surviving remains of this once great continent. The theory of a lost continent in this area has been put forward by many different people, most notably in the mid 19th century by scientists in order to explain the unusual distribution of various animals and plants around the Indian and Pacific Oceans. In the late 19th century, occultist Madame Blavatsky reincarnated the idea of Lemuria as a lost continent / spiritual homeland and influenced a host of subsequent occultists and mystics including well known American psychic healer and Prophet Edgar Cayce. The popularisation of Lemuria / Mu as a purely physical place began in the 20th century with ex-British army officer Colonel James Churchward, and the idea still has many adherents today.

But is there any physical evidence to back up these claims of an ancient continent beneath the Pacific or Indian Ocean? Or should these ‘lost homeland’ stories be interpreted in another way entirely, perhaps as the symbol of a mythical vanished ‘Golden Age’ of man?

Friday, December 12, 2014

Wrestling with Transhumanism

from Transhumanism for me is like a relationship with an obsessive and very neurotic lover. Knowing it is deeply flawed, I have tried several times to break off my engagement, but each time it manages to creep in through the back door of my mind. In How We Became Posthuman,1 I identified an undergirding assumption that makes possible such predictions as Hans Moravec’s transhumanist fantasy that we will soon be able to upload our consciousness into computers and leave our bodies behind. I argued that this scenario depends on a decontextualized and disembodied construction of information. The disembodied information Claude Shannon formalized as a probability function, useful for specific purposes, has been expanded far beyond its original context and inappropriately applied to such phenomena as consciousness. With this argument, I naively thought that I had dismissed transhumanism once and for all, exposing its misapprehensions to my satisfaction and delivering a decisive blow to its aspirations. But I was wrong. Transhumanism has exponentially more adherents today than it did a decade ago when I made this argument, and its influence is clearly growing rather than diminishing, as this workshop itself testifies.

How can we extract the valuable questions transhumanism confronts without accepting all the implications of transhumanist claims? One possibility is to embed transhumanist ideas in deep, rich, and challenging contextualizations that re-introduce the complexities it strips away. The results re-frame the questions, leading to conclusions very different than those most transhumanists embrace. In these encounters, transhumanism serves as the catalyst—or better, the irritant—that stimulates a more considered and responsible view of the future than it itself can generate.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Meet the Bilderberg Group, High Priests of Globalization

from Meet the Bilderberg Group – an annual gathering of 130 of the Western world’s top financial, corporate, political, academic, media, military and policy elites, held every year since 1954.

They meet behind closed doors, at five-star hotels, where participants are encouraged to speak frankly – meaning “off the record” and away from the prying eyes and piercing ears of the public. Some journalists and media executives are invited, but they don’t actually cover the meetings: they simply attend them as guests.

The famous exclusivity and secrecy of the Bilderberg Group, we are told, is designed to encourage frank and open discussions among some of the most influential people in North America and Western Europe. But unlike its portrayal as a place where powerful people simply “talk shop,” critics for years have considered the meetings a form of secret world government, and a shadowy cabal.

The truth, as it often is, rests somewhere between these extremes.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Curious Case of Jesus’s Wife

from For six days in September 2012, some 300 participants came together at Sapienza University, in Rome, for the 10th International Congress of Coptic Studies. Among those presenting was Karen L. King. The author of five books, King is a highly respected specialist in early Christianity whose work focuses on a group of Christians commonly known as the Gnostics. Her 2003 volume, What Is Gnosticism?, is already a standard in the field. She currently teaches at Harvard Divinity School, where she is the first woman to hold the Hollis Professorship—the oldest endowed chair in the country. She is, and has long been, considered to be one of the best religion scholars in the world.

King began her lecture at 7 o’clock in the evening, during the last session on the second day, a time when most participants had moved on to dinner, at least mentally. King’s talk followed others with titles such as “A New Branch: Judas Scholarship in Gnostic Studies” and “Wisdom’s Sadness in Valentinian Cosmogony,” and hers promised to be similarly staid. Its title, “A New Coptic Gospel Fragment,” might have suggested she would be describing a newly discovered fragment of a previously known Christian text—nothing more, that is, than a minor addition to the corpus of old Christian texts, of the type that appear on the scene with some regularity. But once King began her lecture, those in the audience quickly realized that she would not be talking about a new fragment of a familiar Gospel. Instead, she would be presenting something extraordinary: a fragment of a previously unknown Gospel.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Canon - Exploring the mystery of humanity's place in the cosmos

from A footnote from the first chapter of William Stirling’s classic 19th century work, The Canon, provides a centering thought for the themes which will be the focus of the upcoming Evolver Learning Lab that Scott Olsen and I have organized to present the concepts of sacred geometry and alchemical transformation. To avoid misunderstanding, it may be stated here, that throughout the present inquiry the doctrine of the mysteries is assumed to have been a defined scientific tradition, communicated orally to the initiates or mystics, who secretly passed it on from generation to generation. Therefore, mysticism being synonymous with gnosticism, it must not be confounded with the speculative mistiness which is cultivated by certain dreamy philosophers of our day. The mystic in the old sense has naturally become extinct, together with the gnosis which formerly instructed them.

Although today science and the sacred seem to exist on uneven ground, with tensions played out in the fury of debate that arises in mainstream media, in his work Stirling opens the doors on an incredible vision of integral understanding evinced in the art and architecture of past ages.  Throughout the book he speaks of a future time when the material he presents will be better understood and available to those who seek a unified vision of self, society and the cosmic order, a time when science rediscovers the profound mystery of how deeply humans are intimately entwined with the universe through the hidden harmonies which weave the world of phenomenal being.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Alchemy and Sufism

from It is known that alchemy originated from Hermeticism. Some have even considered the two synonymous. We have also seen that Sufism is the contemporary form of Hermeticism. This suggests that there should be some affinity between Sufism and alchemy. In the present article, we focus on this subject.

The first famous Moslem alchemist, Jabir ibn Hayyan, was also considered a Sufi. And a famous Sufi, Dhun-Nun (or Dhul-Nun) al-Misri (9th century), from Akhmim/Panopolis, was also known as an alchemist. The alchemist Uthman ibn Suwaid, from the same town and time as Dhun-Nun, wrote a treatise defending the latter. Ibn Suwaid is known as the author of the Mus’haf al-Jama’a, the Arabic prototype of the alchemists’ famous Turba Philosophorum (“Assembly of Philosophers”). And the famed Moslem scholar Al-Ghazali (1058–1111) wrote the “The Alchemy of Happiness” (Kimiya-yi Sa’adat), dealing with Islamic philosophy and spiritual alchemy.

According to Titus Burckhardt, “It was in the Islamic world that alchemy reached its fullest flowering.