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Postmodern Theology – Who’s got the power?

Postmodern Sock Monkeys.JPG

Postmodern Sock Monkeys by deglispiriti via Flickr

When I studied Michel Foucault and postmodernism in the 1980s, many so-called intellectuals overlooked the idea of the holy, as taken on its own terms, and focused on a stripped down notion of socio-cultural power.

Society was just the outcome of competing discourses and institutionalized practices of power. Everything else didn’t really matter. And if psychology did manage to squeak its way into an academic discussion, Freud was fair game but Jung, well, he was definitely out.

This approach seemed pretty thin and I remember talking about or, rather, trying to talk about the idea of the numinous and how it could relate to power, both psychological and social.

I’d written an essay on Michael Jackson’s Thriller video, groundbreaking back then, likening it to the numinous potential of Jungian archetypes. I only got an A- on that paper, probably because my sociology professor, although a nice guy, just couldn’t see the connection I was making between pop culture and spirituality. Ironically enough, the arguably silly distinction between pop culture and spirituality is still reinforced today by many religious people who insist on the primacy of their own rigid beliefs and agendas.

Later, in the early 1990s, I got interested in the ethical ambivalence of power. By this I mean that power isn’t always oppressive, bad or solely based on self-interest, as some professors seemed to say. In fact, power can be used for the good and, moreover, the Good can be powerful.

Fortunately, the postmodern scene has evolved since the early days. Bookworms and information seekers began to embrace figures like Jacques Derrida, who speaks to a ‘metaphysical space’ in-between linkages within endless chains of connotative signification.

Reminiscent of Sartre’s ‘gap of nothingness,’ the apparently radical postmodern agenda began to discern cracks in the interpretative process and was asking what might lay beyond them.

Spirituality perhaps?

A fairly recent trend called Postmodern Theology takes postmodernism in the opposite direction from it’s limiting beginnings. Postmodernism is apparently restoring the holy and encouraging meaningful interfaith dialogue in an age where many are turned off by religious dogmas and yet duped by the reductive claims of science. A good example of this trend can be found here: “Toward a Theological Understanding of Postmodernism.”

Contemporary postmodernism may be spiritually liberating or restrictive. On the plus side, the conceptual deconstruction of sacred texts, teachings and practices strips away bogus, culture-laden ideas about God and moral righteousness. But on the down side, some postmoderns still seem unable to consider the idea that power may be holy, that the holy is ‘good power,’ and so on.

At the other end of the spectrum there’s an equally unfortunate scenario where authoritarian personality types are consumed by a numinous power that’s less than God. These individuals haven’t developed any appreciation for postmodernism’s potential usefulness. In fact, these folks probably don’t think at all because they just know they’re right (at least, that’s what they say or imply).

One way to identify an authoritarian personality is in the inability to admit uncertainty. There’s always “no doubt” in an authoritarian’s mind. They simply must have things their way, intellectually and often practically. The last thing they’re willing to do is compromise, and this can happen in any religious, political, scientific or New Age circuit.

Perhaps the next important task for postmodernism is to strip away its elitist, specialized style and make its ideas more accessible to the general public. There’s a branch of philosophy that says if you cannot say things clearly, in a way that everyone can understand, chances are you don’t really understand it yourself.

While this approach engenders its own set of complications (e.g. how can we ‘make it clear’ if an audience always interprets what we say?)  it does seem worthy of consideration.

Copyright © Michael Clark. All rights reserved.

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Review – Real Ghosts U.K., DVDs 2 & 3: Scotland’s Haunted Bunker & The Guy Fawkes Inn

Image courtesy Reality Entertainment

Title: Real Ghosts UK: Ghosts Aren’t Real? – Think Again!
Genre: Documentary, Paranormal
Production Company: Reality Entertainment

Real Ghosts U.K. is a 3 DVD set bound to astonish ghost hunters and anyone wanting to believe that there’s more to life than meets the eye.

Because there’s a lot of material here, I reviewed these discs over the span of a few weeks. Disc 1, The Mermaid Inn, is fully reviewed here.

Disc 2, Scotland’s Haunted Bunker, takes us deep underground into an actual Scottish bunker, built to preserve government leaders in case of a massive military attack.

This is interesting footage. We see old radio equipment and other electronic gear, designed, I guess, to enable the rulers to broadcast an SOS.

Soon we learn that the place is known to be haunted. So two paranormal researchers lead us through some supernatural accounts and, as in disc 1, the alleged medium Patrick McNamara heads a physical circle.

What’s a physical circle?

For the uninitiated, it’s a group of people, seated in a circle, interested in becoming attuned with supposed spiritual presences and ethereal vibrations. Some call it a magic circle, an idea roundly denounced in the Catholic Encyclopedia of 1917 but treated more academically in the 2003 version.

Much like in disc 1, I found this part of the program slightly less compelling than the opening segment. The main shortcoming here, as I see it, is that the cameras can’t pick up the spirits and other anomalies which participants in the circle seem to confront. So we’ve got to go on blind faith.

For me, however, seeing is believing.

Still, ardent spiritualists and the merely curious will enjoy watching participants seeming to encounter all sorts of odd things.

Disc 3, The Guy Fawkes Inn, begins by showing us the enchanting Guy Fawkes Inn, along with a smattering of related history and provocative questions. Patrick McNamara returns again, this time telling us about a panoply of spirits and spiritual presences that are said to haunt the inn.

This DVD tends to emphasize, even more than the previous two, the idea that spiritual presences of the dead can draw energy away from the living.

McNamara also suggests that a physically hot kitchen can feel spiritually chilly, and that he smells spiritual odors – some pleasant, some sickening – that the ordinary senses can’t pick up.

Employees are guided through another physical circle, and all sorts of fantastic things seem to happen–to include, no less, the appearance of Michael Jackson’s face. As with the first two discs, however, we can’t really see most of the strange claims. So many do sound a bit strange.

But we should keep an open mind. I suspect that if I panned this part of the DVD I’d probably start seeing something weird just like the stuff described in this video. It’s easy to close off the mind and accept a materialistic paradigm. It takes a bit more insight and, perhaps, imagination to consider that there just might be more to this world than green eggs and ham.

Green eggs and ham? Whaaaa?

Just checking to make sure you’re reading carefully… 🙂

But seriously, we all know about radio waves going through the air, quite invisibly. So it’s not such a huge stretch to suppose that some gifted individuals can inwardly “see” other types of energy and presence that most of us cannot. The ability may be genetic, possibly spiritual or, perhaps, some combination.

I have no problem with that. And furthermore, the employees at the Guy Fawkes Inn give a final wrap up of the experiment, seeming to verify their experiences, even though we can’t witness them via the infrared camera.

Altogether, the three discs of Real Ghosts UK should please ghost hunters and those wanting more coverage of all things paranormal. Although we don’t literally see most of the alleged supernatural phenomena, this 3 DVD set opens a forum for discussion, which is always better than close-minded nay saying.

–MC

Disc 1 is reviewed here!

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Michael Jackson will be a “subject” at A.R. Rahman’s Music Conservatory

Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson: Cain and Todd Benson

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Special to Earthpages.org

Entertainment icon Michael Jackson will be a subject at Oscar winner musician A.R. Rahman’s (Slumdog Millionaire) KM Music Conservatory, according to reports.

Rahman himself will reportedly give the inaugural lecture on Jackson. Rahman loved Jackson’s music and has said about Jackson in the past: “one of the greatest musicians of our time… pushed the milestone of Pop music to unbelievable levels… I am yet to find an artist with that energy, perfection and vision…”

During their meeting in Los Angeles (USA) earlier this year, when Jackson showed Rahman a five second example of his dance move, Rahman stated: “It was like a lightning strike”. Jackson even reportedly asked Rahman during this meeting to compose a unity anthem. Jackson collaborated with Rahman on Ekam Satyam track in 1999. Rahman is reportedly developing an album in memory of Jackson, which will include musicians from all over the world.

Founded by Rahman (who is also its Principal), KM Music Conservatory in Kodambakkam area of Chennai in Tamil Nadu state of India envisions expanding the horizon of musicians in India by offering education in both Indian and Western music besides music technology and its mission is to provide students with a strong artistic, intellectual, and technical foundation. T. Selvakumar is the Managing Director of this international school of music and music technology whose tagline is “Become the Future of Music”.

Conservatory offers Preparatory Program (2-5 years), Foundation Program (1-2 years), and Degree Program (three years) under affiliation of Middlesex University in United Kingdom (UK), and has proposed to offer Diploma Program (one year) for international students) and Masters Program (two years) with concentrations in music performance-composition-technology-education. Many faculty members have degrees from USA and UK. Sound editor Joe E. Rand (Titanic) has lectured here besides demonstration by Vienna Chamber Orchestra.

Indo-American leader Rajan Zed has applauded Rahman for creating a bridge between the music of east and west and for strengthening the worldwide market and stature of Indian music. Zed, who is the chairperson of Indo-American Leadership Confederation, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, urged Rahman to help nourish the next generation with the richness of Indian music, elements of whose theory were first found in ancient Hindu scripture Sama-Veda. Rajan Zed further said that Michael Jackson’s personal life might had been controversial, but he did provide “joy” to a large populace of the world through his music. One of the ancient Hindu scriptures “Taittiriya Upanishad” talking about “joy” says: From joy are born all creatures, by joy they grow, and to joy they return.

Rahman, who has reportedly recorded sales of over 300 million, was called “Mozart of Madras” by Time magazine. Rahman sees music “as a way to connect to spirituality and embrace it” and for “creating harmony in troubled times”.