Sympathy for the liberal devil

15 03 2019

I should state again that I am sympathetic to theological liberalism of all stripes. Part of this is due to my good personal relationships with people with progressive religious worldviews. They are generally nicer people (using my “Would I invite this person to a backyard barbecue?” standard). Even though my own ideological preferences often dip into the reactionary, and my ritual preferences definitely so, my inclination to exclude people using these criteria dwindles more and more as time passes. Read the rest of this entry »

On fasting

12 03 2019

I heard a homily recently at a Roman Catholic church I do not frequent wherein the priest was talking about fasting. He stated that what you eat doesn’t really matter, as in giving up chocolate or meat or whatever. Rather, he said it was simpler if you just eat half of what you normally eat, perhaps by using a smaller plate. Having experience in other traditions with strict limitations on the types of food one can eat while fasting, I found this attitude intensely problematic. The typical Eastern Christian fast is one from most animal products, and the term “carnival,” the period before Lent in the Western Church, means “saying farewell to meat.” Is this simply impractical in our age when meat is often less expensive than (good) plant-based products? Read the rest of this entry »

On the supersoul

6 03 2019

I have a habit of trying to read books outside of my expertise and interest, and the above talk is on the book that I just finished reading: Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness. The octopus and the cuttlefish in particular seem to exhibit evidence of consciousness and recognition, often with mischievous and self-interested ends. Humans have reported octopuses trying to escape from aquariums, exhibiting hostile behavior, and swimming next to divers in a pattern of recognition. They seem to demonstrated levels of consciousness only present in “higher mammals.”

Some interesting tidbits from the book is that octopuses seem to see with their skin and, in spite of having advanced intelligence for their habitat, they live only about two years. The author then has to explain why animals that have this level of intelligence live so shortly. The hypothesis is that animals in general have to “front end” all of their vital energies, which explains why we get old. We have to have all of our strength and health early to reproduce the species as much as possible. Otherwise, especially in the wild, if we had to wait to be strong and attractive at the end of our life, we could be killed or or suffer an accident before we reach our full potential.

Such inherent intelligence also reminds me of the book, Gifts of the Crow, also about an animal with an “abnormal” level of intelligence. Crows have been known to go out of their way to sabotage cars and get resources in creative ways. The problem then becomes: Are we seeing ourselves in a universe that is dead and hostile to us, personifying the inhuman? Or is our intelligence part of a larger intelligence that works in us but not exclusively?

Briefly on Meister Eckhart

4 03 2019

I listened recently to Charlotte Radler’s brief audio lecture, Living Without a Why: Meister Eckhart’s Mysticism as a refresher concerning his thought. I came away fairly lukewarm concerning Eckhart. When I was younger, Eckhart seemed interesting and a bit transgressive, especially in the circles I was in. I guess years of experience has made me impatient with his word games and exaggerations. Talk about some “oneness” beyond the Trinity or “the eye by which I see God is the same eye with which he sees me,” leaves me rather cold. For me, the austere negation and moving beyond all concepts just births nasty things like Hegel and the New Age (New Agers love Eckhart). Maybe that isn’t fair, but the burden of being understood lies with the author, not with the careless readers with agendas. Eckhart played fast and loose with much of his rhetoric, and Radler seems to concede that at times. Eckhart was prepared to submit to Holy Mother Church when he died during his heresy trial. I am not sure how useful his thought is now, considering our current intellectual atmosphere.

St. Thomas and the robot

1 03 2019

A fascinating video series concerning the veracity of a story of St. Albert the Great building a robot and St. Thomas Aquinas smashing it. It touches all of my intellectual sweet spots: Aquinas, philosophy, natural magic and so on. Read the rest of this entry »