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Cosmology Matters

Yesterday I tweeted about this program. I also wrote the television station, telling them how much I enjoyed the show and that it should be available on the web. I was pleasantly surprised to be informed that TVO is extremely web savvy. So if anyone read my comments re yesterday’s entry, I stand corrected!

More importantly, I’m glad that visitors to Earthpages.org can watch this video too. I found it very helpful… nothing short of captivating.

—MC


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Finally, a cosmology that includes spirituality

Watched the authors on TV Ontario tonight. Outstanding. They were articulating things that I have thought about but often find challenging to express. One idea I really liked was the notion that even change changes. I think this is valuable on one level. Certainly there are many ways to view the universe or to “slice an onion,” as the old saying goes. But I think there still could be some meta-truths. For example: One of God’s primary attributes is love.

—MC


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Do thoughts really penetrate into matter?

A penny for your thoughts...Dollars for your t...

A penny for your thoughts…Dollars for your thoughts – NARA – 513735 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 


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Philo-Semitic Poles And Others

Nazi-German annoucement of the introduction of...

Nazi-German annoucement of the introduction of the death penalty for Jews leaving the ghettos and for Poles helping them; dated Nov. 10th, 1941 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Rabbi Allen S. Maller

On November 23, 1939, Hans Frank, head of the Nazi Government General that ruled central Poland, declared that all Jews above ten years of age were to wear a white badge with a Star of David on their right arm.

By October of 1940, almost 400,000 Polish Jews had been confined in a 3.5 square mile ghetto in Warsaw, an area which normally housed about 160,000 people. The Warsaw ghetto was surrounded by a wall 10 feet high that was sealed off on November 15, 1940. Jews were forbidden to go outside the area on penalty of being shot on sight.

One day, a young Jewish woman who escaped from the Warsaw Ghetto a few days before it was sealed shut, was riding on a streetcar when Gestapo men boarded and began checking identity papers. The woman had no papers and was not wearing the Jewish star.

In a panic she turned to an older Polish gentleman sitting next to her, and in a whisper begged his help. He yelled, “Foolish woman, how can you be so stupid?”

A Gestapo officer quickly walks over asking, “What is going on?” The man looks at the Jewish woman and says, “I tell her every day to remember to carry her papers with her. Now this idiot tells me she left them in the hall closet.” The Gestapo officer smiles, shrugs his shoulders and passes by.

Months later the woman tells her story to some other Jews who are also in hiding. The story survived. I do not know if the woman did. There must have been thousands of incidents like this, where a Jew was temporarily rescued by a Philo-Semitic Pole or other Gentile, and then later caught by the Nazis and murdered.

Warsaw Jews being held at gunpoint by SS troop...

Warsaw Jews being held at gunpoint by SS troops. Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, April 1943. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

These incidents have never been reported to the Israeli organization Yad V’Shem since the Jews involved did not survive, but those who did survive have already reported to Yad V”Shem over 6.400 Poles who have rescued Jews.

After the end of the communist oppression in Poland, a small but increasing number of Poles found out from older family members, that they had Jewish roots from one or more of their ancestors. Some of these Poles have been drawn to Jewish music, culture or religion and some of them have even become Jewish.

I am an American Reform Rabbi, and a teacher of the Jewish mystical tradition called Kabbalah. Over the last four decades in America and especially during two six to seven weeks visits to Poland in 2010 and 2012; I found many people who were drawn to Jewish life, especially those who become Jewish in Poland, already had a (gilgul) Jewish mind/soul that they inherited from one of their own Jewish ancestors.

Most new borns do not have a gilgul mind/soul. Most people have a new ‘first time here’ mind/soul.

Those who are certain they have no Jewish ancestors for at least five to seven generations back, may be new mind/souls; or they may be a descendent of a Pole or other Gentile who once helped rescue a Jew who was in great danger from a Polish denouncer or a German soldier.

Yellow badge Star of David called "Judens...

Yellow badge Star of David called “Judenstern”. Part of the exhibition in the Jewish Museum Westphalia, Dorsten, Germany. The wording is the German word for Jew (Jude), written in mock-Hebrew script. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

An example of this rare pattern of a descendent of a helpful Non-Jew becoming Jewish 3-4 generations later, occurred more than a decade ago in New York, where the great-grandson of President Roosevelt (FDR) became Jewish.

He is now a Reform Rabbi in New England. Rabbi Boettiger says he isn’t sure how FDR would have reacted, (FDR refused Jewish requests that he order the U.S. Army Air Force to bomb the gas chambers at Auschwitz) but Rabbi Boettiger is sure that FDR’s wife Eleanor, who was much more liberal, and helpful to minorities than her husband, “would have gotten a kick” out of his decision to become a rabbi.

If Rabbi Boettiger does have a Jewish gilgul mind/soul; it is probably from Eleanor Roosevelt.

Rabbi Maller’s web site is: rabbimaller.com

 


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RELIGION/ADAPTATION: God and the Survival of the Human Species

Creation of the Sun and Moon by Michelangelo, ...

Creation of the Sun and Moon by Michelangelo, face detail of God. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Robert DePaolo

A Deistic Conflict

Answering the question of whether God actually exists has always been fraught with complications. Part of the problem lies in the fact that ostensible interactions of God – regardless of the particular faith – have been few and far between. Indeed it is hard to argue with the fact that most of the body of religious doctrine has been purveyed by man. On Sinai only The Ten Commandments were issued in person while the various laws in Deuteronomy seem to have been written by various authors, including  Moses, Joshua and a mysterious set of writers often referred to by biblical scholars as The Yahwist, The Elohist, the Deuteronomist and the Priestly Source.  Thus while a large part of religion is based on conversations of one sort or another between a god and a chosen human being it is the latter’s account that is ultimately used as final purveyor of doctrine.

None of this is necessarily denied by even ardent believers. All Christian scholars know that many of the main tenets of the old and New Testaments  considered divinely conveyed in modern times were in fact decided by various councils during the Middle Ages – including the decision to consider Jesus a God rather than a higher-order profit in the mold of Moses, Isiah or Elijah. The premise behind such decisions was at least derived in part from the teachings of Christ so one could infer the councils were simply relying on an original source. After all he said ‘I am the Way’ in John 14:6. On the other hand, in Luke 18:19 he also said, ‘Why do you call me good when that word applies only to God?’ In that instance Jesus was clearly separating himself from the one true God of the Jews, who after all, viewed themselves as monotheists.

Atheists feed off such inconsistencies, arguing, as Draper (1998) did that since much of religious doctrine is man-made, the idea of a God has little to do with the actual existence of a deity. Some, such as Christopher Hitchens (2007) have argued that the world would be a better place if not for a belief in God, this opinion apparently based on a history of religiously-influenced wars and political tyrannies.

In this opinion that is a rather vacuous argument, not only because it ignores the vast number of altruistic acts that have been conducted in the name of religion but also because most moral concepts regarding peace, adhere to law, fairness, and humaneness adopted by the western world have been heavily influenced by religious mores, particularly those inherent in Judao-Christianity.  Echos of old and new testament laws run throughout the English and American Constitutions…for example the reference in Leviticus 24:19 to an eye for an eye runs parallel to the 8th Amendment in the American Constitution on cruel and unusual punishment. Obviously the same parallels exist between modern law and biblical tenets regarding prohibitions against theft, murder and slander.

But an even stronger argument against atheistic thought can be presented by simply considering the history of religion and its historically adaptive value to our species.

In the Beginning

The first modern humans were nomads (Marlowe 2005). Until roughly 8,000 years ago climatic conditions, lack of knowledge, the lack of availability of certain grains (which had to evolve into more resilient form themselves before being arable) ruled out the possibility of agricultural settlements. During that time man wandered the earth, settling into temporary make-shift homes, periodically following herds. Permanence, and all the cognitive and emotional by-products and potentials of that were yet impossible. The nomadic human tribes had limited capacity to carry objects in their travels, thus left most of their tools behind. In effect they were forced to re-make them, which led to a great deal of behavioral redundancy. That left little time to contemplate possibilities, anxieties, and meaning in general despite their having enough cortical brain mass to do so.  As Bronowski (1973) has pointed out, nomadic life allowed little in the way of existential concerns.

Since value is based on necessity, material possessions were not cherished in the nomadic world. Since travel was essential to survival those who, for one reason or other could not press on were left to die – and likely did so without protest. Life for these groups was moment to moment and confined to the immediacy of their circumstances and needs.

Still, the early humans worshipped gods (Narr 2008). The reasons why were probably myriad. First and foremost was probably the size and construction of their brains – which had reached 1500 centimeters. A brain like that, with delineated speech centers, and a capacity to categorize, memorize and communicate socially, would have attributed events to causes and sources (King, 2007), (Gould, 2007) Since large brains tend to correlate with intense social concerns, these attributors would have caste the causes and sources in at least quasi-personal forms – thus the personification of God.

At the root of what might be called a cognitive-God function are the needs to control, reduce uncertainty and press onward.  While many social scientists have discussed the advantage of evolutionary human brain expansion with respect to increased language capacities, cognitive abilities, tool making, art and creativity in general they miss one very salient disadvantage of having a large brain. While a brain with billions of inter-neuronal connections provides a capacity to think and communicate it also creates a greater potential for ‘noise,’ existential uncertainty and consequently a greater need for ongoing resolution. The large brains bestowed on mankind by nature (and God, if you will) thus set in motion the very need for a God-concept. This process likely began with climatic change during the tail end of the Pleistocene (glaciation) era when resources dried up, travel became both more possible but also more treacherous during migrations across frozen tundra.

A small-brained creature would not contemplate such duress, merely experience it in the moment. Its fate would be either to adapt or die. There would be neither any possibility nor any point in hoping, fretting, worrying about ‘what if.’ Conversely, an animal with a brain of 1500 or so centimeters would. Since uncertainty-fostered duress can lead to avoidance behaviors, some sort of endurance-enhancing cognitive capacity would have had to kick in to rein in all that angst. In that time period the adaptive value of God might have been to sustain human motivation through supra-environmental (i.e. spiritual) cognitions and emotions, so that persistence would increase the likelihood of finding food, water and climatic support. In the aftermath of such discovery, the need of a large brain for closure might lead the nomads to thank/appease an overseer to reinforce his investment in the tribe and express gratitude for his or her concern for their well-being.

The combination of attributional and personifying tendencies probably forced a belief in God for the first humans. In that instance religion was not a symbolic, spiritual mindset but a necessary, adaptive form of cognition facilitating persistence and thus aiding in survival. It was conceivably both necessary and inevitable.

Genesis II.

A second God-adaptation possibly arose with the advent of agricultural societies. When people are able to renew a supply of plant foods without necessarily understanding the biology behind the process, they will perhaps view their good fortune as a function of some sort of outside control. That in turn will lead to gratitude and a need to pay homage to the purveyor of this good fortune. Thus the transition from a nomadic to agricultural/urban life style did not require a cognitive/religious transformation. The settlers hoped for crops to grow, had to wait for seasonal and climatically favorable circumstances and when things turned out well they acknowledged the agent responsible and continued to express their gratitude in the hope that the bounty would continue. (Wilkins 2000). Both nomadic and early agricultural religious practices were adaptive because they facilitated persistence and provided uncertainty reduction.

The continued development and expansion of agriculture societies obviously led to profound social changes, including a more sedentary life style and greater social permanence.  Family members could live together for longer periods of time and all inhabitants had more down time to ponder existential questions. A brain previously driven by movement, faced with moment to moment concerns about geography. resources and destinations was now able to look beyond immediate experience. A distinction between concrete experience and ‘meaning’ was drawn. Ideas on the value and importance of life and the trauma of death became more common and more vivid (Erlich 2000), (Gould, McGarr et. al 2007). A greater capacity for suffering was a consequence of that as the inherent tough-mindedness of the nomad morphed into the more tender and sensitive mindset of the permanent settlers.  To cope with internally-driven angst, to persist despite the specter of death, failure, and the potential loss of new-found prosperity required a continued reliance on the cognition/religion paradigm.

So, once again, God came to the rescue, insulating humans against the existential suffering and enabling mankind to adapt to still newer social and environmental circumstances.

Genesis III

Religious evolution did not end there, for another profound change occurred in human society. While agriculture provided stability and control, not all habitable places on earth were equally arable. Some places lacked water resources, others were too cold or mountainous, still others had agricultural potential but residents lacked knowledge of farming techniques. Yet tribal outsiders traveled about – after all, many were still entrenched in the nomadic life style. They were aware of the existence of milk and honey settlements and wanted in on that. As a result another ironic byproduct of societal advancement occurred in the form of tribal invasion. War became all the rage.

The genes of a primate are very parochial. Somehow, in some way these microscopic bio-conglomerates influence behavior in such a way as to serve the local gene pool. Family ties tend to promote loyalty while the presence of strangers tends to invoke hostility. Up the point of tribal invasions, family ties were not only strong but historically crucial. As evidenced in the Old Testament people in the Middle East/North African settlements were well aware of and arguably obsessed with lineage. One reason for this concern with lineage was to prevent contamination of the local gene pool by outsiders. Religious thought favored that mindset, as seen in the long reference list of progenitors and offspring in Genesis. That cognitive-religious mindset was adaptive because it reinforced altruism within the ranks and consequently the survival of all members of the tribal family. That model persisted down through the epochs depicted in the Bible. Indeed without that, Jesus of Nazareth (being ostensibly from the line of David and born by mandate in David’s town of Bethlehem) could not have risen in the ranks.

Yet even extended families are small in number and insufficient to ward off hordes of invaders. A conflict arose. Consanguine groups had to decide between keeping the family intact at the risk of being overrun by vast armies or increasing their numbers and territorial defensive capabilities by assimilating para-familial members into their community. The solution was discovered at some cost. It was that strangers somehow had to be incorporated and welcomed into an extra-familial socio-political structure

In order to achieve these first forays into social integration required nothing less than a socio-political miracle. For this to occur, the behavioral impetus arising from the most basic elements of life  – the genes – had to be overridden. In effect, nurture had to over-take nature. It was not an easy task, which is why a new religious adaptation was needed and why it did occur.

The newest cognitive/religious adaptation was found in the idea of integration and it was exemplified by Judao-Christian, Buddhist and other religious models.  The God of Abraham accepted Ishmael as future leader of a great nation, despite his biological mother (Hagar) being an Egyptian maid. Moses began as an Egyptian prince before ultimately leading the Hebrews. David united the conflicted twelve tribes to form the state of Israel. The story of the Good Samaritan rose above parochial protest. Jesus reached out to the Roman centurion to heal his servant, and included tax collectors and other outsiders into a more compassionate world view, while Buddha traveled about, espousing not just tribal integration but unity among all life forms. All these integrative ideas heralded at different times, in different places the advent of a new model. It was a credo that met with considerable resistance – and still does, but, just as the industrial growth of the western nations (most notably the U.S.A.) occurred through assimilation of immigrant foreigners, so were the urban settlements in the Middle East ultimately sustained in ancient times. In fact the human race was able to adapt as a result of a religiously-driven idea of overriding both genetic and tribal differences.

Protection from invasion was not the only reason for integrative thought but it conceivably originated in the need to survive against enemy attack and it worked.  In that context, God evolved from a parochial figure to one more concerned with the family of man. He taught us, through the prism of human cognition how to get along when it was absolutely necessary to do so.

Throughout history the cognitive and behavioral byproducts of belief in God have enabled us to adapt, persist and deal with changing pressures, threats and trends. In one sense that would seem to render God flexible, adaptable and perhaps even anthropocentrically utilitarian. And of course a belief in God has led to violent, destructive behavior in the course of time. Still, the overall effect of religion has kept Homo sapiens alive and well through thick and thin, in times when the genes, habits and instincts of mankind would not have been nearly enough – and indeed could have led to our downfall. As to the question of God’s existence: it is hard to resolve such a question in our post-Cartesian, empirically-tinged world. Perhaps a better question has to do with God’s legitimacy. In that context, even if religious belief is not genetically hardwired into the human brain as Hamer (2005) suggested, one could argue that since religion has been an inevitable byproduct of human neurology and human need and since it has enabled our species to persist, adapt and survive, it is virtually built into human experience and perhaps into mind as well. Like our penchant for analyzing nature through the medium of mathematics it seems very much within us – just as the prophets insisted.

REFERENCES

Cauvin, C. Watkins T. The Birth of the Gods and the Origin of Agriculture. Cambridge University Press

Draper, P. (1998) Evolution and the Problem of Evil. In Philosophy of Religion. Ed. Louis Pojman. Wadsworth Publishing. P. 200

Erlich, P. (2000) Human Nature,Genes, Culture and the Human Prospect. Washington, DC Island Press

Gould, S.J. McGarr, P. Steven, P, Russell, R (2007) Challenges to Neo-Darwinism and its Meaning for a Revised View of Human Consciousness. W.W.Norton & Co.

Hamer, D. (2005) The God Gene: How Faith is Hardwired into our Genes. Anchor Books

Hitchens, C. (2007) God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. Twelve/Hachette Book Group, USA Warner Books

Jesus reference re; I am the Way. In John 14:6

Jesus reference re:  Why do you call me good? In Luke 18:19

King, B (2007) Evolving God; A Provocative View on the Origin of Religion. Doubleday Publishing

Lieberman, P. (1984) The Biology and Evolution of Language. Cambridge, Harvard University Press.

Marlowe, F.W. (2005) Hunter-Gatherers and Human Evolution. Evolutionary Anthropology: Issues, News and Reviews. 14 (2) 54-67

Narr, K.J. (2008) Prehistoric Religion. Britannica On-Line Encyclopedia

Wilkins, j. (Aug 2000) Agriculture and the Rise of Religion. Evolving Thought. Science Blog.

Article Source: http://www.articlesbase.com/religion-articles/religionadaptation-god-and-the-survival-of-the-human-species-7193824.html

About the Author

Robert DePaolo, MS Clinical Psychology, former Professor of Psychology NH University System, author of five books and many articles on science, religion, politics, psychology and music.

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The Greenman, The Empress, Little John and Indy Jones: Untying a Celtic Knotwork

Originally posted on Shamagaia:

celtic-animal-ornament

illum_recently I experienced some very vivid psychic impressions during a lucid dreaming experience. One in particular had me receiving images of the Celtic symbolSerpiente_alquimica of the Greenman, and leading a Druidic prayer ritual in a stunning forest grove. I suspect that it might have been a peek through the eyes of ancestral memory, or perhaps a hint of things to come. Cyclically speaking, it might even be one and the same event: a past and future imposed upon one another, linked acausally by reoccurring astrological conditions of the sort expressed Alchemically by the Ouroboros snake eating it’s own tail. One things for sure, I will be doing a lot more research into Celtic lore!
The timing of this experience was telling. It was the night before my dear, departed Grandad’s RWS_Tarot_03_Empressbirthday and the week previously, I had recieved a very clear psychic image of a Tarot card with a…

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Symbolism in “The Cat in the Hat”

Originally posted on Stuff Jeff Reads:

CatInTheHatRecently my daughter pulled together a pile of books to give to Goodwill. Among them was The Cat in the Hat. It is such a classic book and I have read it countless times to my children over the years, I just couldn’t part with it. I surreptitiously removed it from the pile and slipped it onto my bookshelf.

Back when I was in college, I had taken an honors-level seminar and one of the books we studied was The Cat in the Hat. That section of the course was fascinating and made me look at this book from a completely different perspective. Even now, reading it again, I discovered more symbolism that I had never seen before. I decided to point out some of them so that the next time you read this book (and you will read it again) you will be aware of the symbolism…

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