Monthly Archives: May 2012

One from Sir Paul


Paul flubs the lines once, and they have to keep cutting to Yoko in the audience (sigh), but still worthwhile.

Quote for the Week

No people on earth can be held, as a people, to be an enemy, for all humanity shares the common hunger for peace and fellowship and justice. … No nation’s security and well-being can be lastingly achieved in isolation but only in effective cooperation with fellow-nations.
–Dwight D. Eisenhower, Speech to the American Society of Newspaper Editors “The Chance for Peace” (16 April 1953)

from here.

Synthesis, Part 2: Humans, Elves, and Mortality

So, if we can’t assert that Adam and Eve were the original ancestors of all humans, and thus cannot assert the traditional Western explanation of Original Sin, then what do we do?  What I want to do is take ideas from some of the various sources I’ve cited over the course of this series (and some from J. R. R. Tolkien, in this post in particular) and try to see an alternate way of viewing Original Sin and the Fall of Humanity.   A good place to begin is to look at various ways of what we understand the Fall to be.   Read the rest of this entry

The Heart Sutra

Avalokita, the Holy Lord and Bodhisattva, was moving in the deep course of the Wisdom which has gone beyond.

He looked down from on high, He beheld but five heaps, and He saw that in their own-being they were empty.

Here, O Sariputra,

form is emptiness and the very emptiness is form ;

emptiness does not differ from form, form does not differ from emptiness, whatever is emptiness, that is form,

the same is true of feelings, perceptions, impulses, and consciousness.

Here, O Sariputra,

all dharmas are marked with emptiness ;

they are not produced or stopped, not defiled or immaculate, not deficient or complete.

Therefore, O Sariputra,

in emptiness there is no form nor feeling, nor perception, nor impulse, nor consciousness ;

No eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind ; No forms, sounds, smells, tastes, touchables or objects of mind ; No sight-organ element, and so forth, until we come to :

No mind-consciousness element ; There is no ignorance, no extinction of ignorance, and so forth, until we come to : There is no decay and death, no extinction of decay and death. There is no suffering, no origination, no stopping, no path.

There is no cognition, no attainment and no non-attainment.

Therefore, O Sariputra,

it is because of his non-attainmentness that a Bodhisattva, through having relied on the Perfection of Wisdom, dwells without thought-coverings. In the absence of thought-coverings he has not been made to tremble,

he has overcome what can upset, and in the end he attains to Nirvana.

All those who appear as Buddhas in the three periods of time fully awake to the utmost, right and perfect Enlightenment because they have relied on the Perfection of Wisdom.

Therefore one should know the prajnaparamita as the great spell, the spell of great knowledge, the utmost spell, the unequalled spell, allayer of all suffering, in truth — for what could go wrong ? By the prajnaparamita has this spell been delivered. It runs like this :

Gate gate pāragate pārasaṃgate bodhi svāhā.

( Gone, gone, gone beyond, gone altogether beyond, O what an awakening, all-hail !)

This completes the Heart of perfect Wisdom.

–translated by Edward Conze

This is tweaked very slightly in that I put in the version of the mantra with all the correct diacritics, which Conze left out to make things typographically easier (that was the pre-computer days, you know).

This is actually relevant to some points I’m going to make in upcoming posts, believe it or not.  Meanwhile, it’s one of my favorite Buddhist scriptures, and I hope you enjoy it, too.


Avalokita–the bodhisattva of infinite compassion.

Bodhisattva–a being that is highly advanced on the path to enlightenment but has decided to postpone enlightenment to aid the suffering beings of the world. Broadly equivalent to a saint or a demi-god.

Heap–translation of the Sanskrit skandha, often translated “aggregate”; the characteristic properties of which sentient beings are formed:  form, sensation, perception,  mental formations, and consciousness.

Dharma–in this context, “characteristic” or “property”.

Prajñāpāramitā–the perfection of transcendent wisdom.

Part of the series Legends of the Fall.

Also part of the series Buddhism.

An Orthodox Chant for the Departed


The Brahms Requiem is a bit long, so this is another piece for the departed, in keeping with the theme of the weekend, which is both short and very beautiful. If you’ve never heard Orthodox chant before, then give it a listen.  Be patient–there’s a long sequence of bells before the chant begins.

For the Memorial Day Weekend


Eternal rest grant all the departed, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine on them, and may they rest in peace.  Amen.

Synthesis, Part 1: I want your ugly, I want your disease

Hey, it’s a change of pace from all the Adam and Eve scenes, and it might get the post more hits!  😉  Actually, there is  a logic here, as I’ll show later.  Seriously, we’re going to take all the ideas we’ve been developing about the Fall of Man and try to start putting things together and see where that gets us.

For those who may not have read the series thus far, it begins here and proceeds thenceforth (there are too many links to embed at this point).

Last time, we looked at criteria that any successful account of the Fall of Man must meet if it is to be taken seriously.  Given its strong mythological and allegorical tendencies, I think the Gnostic view could satisfy them all; and the Evagrian view no longer exists as a living theology in any branch of Christianity that I know of.  As to the orthodox Christian understanding, I think most non-fundamentalists have long since made peace with evolution and a massively old cosmos.  The two points that I think are the crux, because they are not addressed by traditional Christian theology are points three, that evil pre-existed mankind; and four, that human origins may be polygenetic.   I think the first of these is the less problematic, so I’ll save it for later.  The second I want to talk about here. Read the rest of this entry

Legends of the Fall, Part 6: Laying Groundwork

I’m not going to link back to the previous entries this time–if you’re reading this, you can scroll back; if you’ve been keeping up, you know what we’ve discussed thus far; and I’m getting way too many pingbacks whenever I put in links!  Before we move on to looking at possible candidates for a theory of the Fall of Man, I think we need to lay some groundwork by deciding what criteria such a theory must meet.

Scientific Criteria

1.  Any theory must acknowledge the great age of the cosmos and of the Earth.

2.  The evolution of humans over time from lower mammals must be acknowledged.

3.  The existence of natural evil in the material world before the human race came into being must be acknowledged.

4.  The possibility of polygenesis of humankind must be allowed for (see the last post).

Theological Criteria

A.  Any theory must assume one God.

B.  The one God must be all-good and perfect.

C.  He must be the creator of at least the souls of humans.

D.  Humanity–all humans that ever have existed, do exist, or ever will exist–must be a unity, at least in a metaphysical sense.  That is, we must all share a common nature and (if Original Sin in any form is to be meaningful) some kind of common metaphysical status.

E.  All humanity is redeemed–at least potentially–by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  This also requires some type of metaphysical unity of the human race.

The Gnostic system (especially because of its diversity) could probably deal with 1-4 fairly well–certainly, neo-Gnostics have no problem with them.  It also deals well with A-C.  D and E wouldn’t be fully applicable, since Gnostic anthropology and soteriology are substantially different from that of the orthodox, but that’s a discussion for another place and time, not relevant to the issue at hand.

The Evagrian system never had to deal with modern science, but I think it could handle 1-3 fairly well, and probably 4 as well.  I don’t know enough of it to speak to A-E as well, but I think Evagrius’ system could deal with them, as well, with proper development.

Orthodox Christianity has traditionally had a hard time with all of the scientific issues here, but most non-fundamentalists have made their peace with 1 and 2, and more careful thinkers are at least aware of 3 and 4, though I think work still needs to be done in this area.  D and E bear some relationship to 3 and 4 (once more, see the previous post).  Thus, the issues touched on by these four points are what I want to concentrate on for next time.

Part of the series Legends of the Fall.

Excursus: Genesis–Mono or Poly?

I was actually working on what’s going to end up being the next post when it occurred to me that there was one issue I hadn’t touched on.  I don’t think it’s as important to the discussion here as some of the other issues.  Still, I think it does need to be addressed–the issue of monegenesis vs. polygenesis of humanity.

The literal meaning of these terms is “one origin” and “many origins”, but the way in which they’re used is subtly different in different contexts.  In anthropology “monogenesis” means that modern  humans–Homo sapiens–evolved once only, probably in Africa, and that all humans descend from that original population, the different races having evolved after the original humans left Africa and dispersed around the world.  This is sometimes known as the “Out of Africa” theory.

Polygenism, also known as the “multiregional origin theory”, holds that H. sapiens evolved more than once, separately, from separate populations of more archaic hominids that had moved out of Africa at an earlier date.  Thus, Homo erectus or some such similar species diffused out of Africa, and different populations evolved into anatomically modern humans in Africa, Europe, Asia, and Australia.  These groups are close enough genetically to be considered the same species, and they have obviously interbred since then, but they are originally of separate origin.  Read the rest of this entry

Some Music to Begin the Week

It’s not exactly the beginning of the week any more, and I don’t usually post music until the weekend.  Still, Beethoven’s 6th is nice and perky and seems to me a good way to start (or continue) the week.  Interesting, given what I could find, not all movements are from the same performance.  Should make it even more interesting–enjoy!