Sunday, December 27, 2009

Saved (the Desire Behind Desire)

Next week I'll be posting my last article. It will be quite short and will include some thoughts about the religion of Adam. I'll also be giving some book recommendations.

Romans 2: 28-29, “A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God.”

The Apostle Paul seems to state in several places that he believed in all of humanity having something along the lines of what the ancients called the "laws of nature". Some cultures call them "first precepts" or "the Tao" etc. It’s basically the notion of a universal conscience common to all men at all times everywhere throughout creation. For instance, as C. S. Lewis once said, no one has ever admired cowardice or selfishness. We're always amazed when we hear of somebody committing inhumane acts of extreme torture and the like, and say, "How could somebody do that to someone else?", as if they've done something that goes against nature itself--and they have. A materialist would like to think this proves there is no Tao, and men create their own conscience, but this is not so. These are men who have simply chosen not to follow their God given consciences. I had a friend many years ago whose cousin was jumped in a bar by some bikers; they held him down while one of them cut out one of his eyes with a pocketknife. They were following their own design of moral conscience while choosing to ignore the one God gave them at birth. I stated in a previous article that if you ignore your God given conscience it would begin to leave you, and eventually there would be hardly a trace of it left. Men can replace this conscience with one of their own making, and men that do this are capable of any detestable act that comes into their heads.

Another example of this Tao would be its presence in very young children who are molested. Almost every one of them will say on a witness stand that they knew/felt that what was being done to them was wrong even though they were too young to even know what sex was, but that didn't stop them from knowing a universal wrong when it was done to them.

Let's look at the following comment by Paul:

Romans 2:13-16 For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God's sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.) This will take place on the day when God will judge men's secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.

As for Paul's later reference in Romans to being "justified by faith", I don't see this as being a self-conflicting argument against his earlier statement about gentiles being saved by obeying the laws on their hearts, i.e.—conscience. I believe he reasons that the very fact that a man chooses to follow his God given conscience creates a turning point for him. That he has chosen God because God is a part of his conscience in some way.

Nobody can find friendship with God through obeying either the Deuteronomical laws or the laws of nature either one because nobody keeps them all the time. This is true. We all mess up now and then. Neither can anyone aspire to divine favor through faith alone. Paul also states that, even if we prophecy and have faith, we are worthless if we don't love others.

Nor do I think holy friendship is attainable through the magic invocation of names. No one gets points simply for saying they believe in Jesus. You might as well tell someone, "Say abracadabra and click your heels three times; there now, you get to go to heaven!" When Christ talked of separating the sheep from the goats, he was talking about people, all of whom, believed in him and weren't shy in saying his name. Those who were called the "goats" were called so because they didn't do, or didn't want to do, the good works they should have.

We can point to biblical passages that seem to contradict each other concerning the names/works/faith route to heaven all day. Therefore whatever brings us into the presence of Holiness must be something that concerns all of these things, but yet is something a little beyond them--something that is a bit of a mystery. Paul even spoke about "the mystery of faith". I don't pretend to know the mind of God, and I'm no mystic, but I think I may be able to shed a tiny bit of light on this mystery. Paul alludes to it when he speaks of the way the mind (or will of the body) wants to do one thing while the will (of his spirit) attains to something holier. CS Lewis said in The Weight of Glory that he believed the human conscience to be composed of both the Tao (something he likened to moral instincts) and the choices the mind makes between right and wrong where the Tao is unclear. I think Lewis is right. Paul separates the mind from the conscience in Titus 1:15 where he says "…both their minds and their consciences are corrupted", and I think he was right to completely separate the two here. The conscience for Paul seemed to hold a certain reverence. It was God himself, a glimmer of divine light, within mankind. It was like the first precept of all reason, because it was reason without cause. It was simply there, as a gift, just as the formulae of pi exists within all circles. We find that 3.14 keeps coming up in many geometrical measurements. It’s a sort of first precept of geometry, and it exists on its own whether we realize its existence or not. Yet Paul also talked of the conscience in other places where he admits that it's at least partially developed by our choices. So I tend to think he thought of the God given conscience as something like a big dam with Satan on the other side, where the biggest part of the structure was made by God, but where we have the ability to add to it and strengthen it, or to tear away at it until it comes tumbling down altogether. A man who has torn down that dam is the kind of man who can do unspeakable acts. The dam that would have kept the evil out of him is gone, and he's floating in the filth he let in.

Now this is a hard subject to grasp, and I believe that's why Paul thought of it as a mystery, but the body seems to have a mind of its own. It not only has physical desires but also mental desires that are not healthy. We all have thoughts that flood our heads now and then that we wish were not there, yet we find getting rid of them is not so easy as just wishing them to be gone. Yet we do wish them to be gone. How can it be that the minds of our bodies wish one thing, and yet we possess something behind that mind which would wish another thing altogether? It's as though we have a physical will and a spiritual will, and often they are at odds with one another. The closer we grow to Christ, the more at odds they will become. At this point you may think that winning this Olympics of wills is what sets good men apart from bad men, but you would be wrong. Here a third oddity comes into the fray that’s even more difficult to take in.

We may wish to be good and to follow our God-given consciences. Sometimes this involves heavy lifting (both physically and of the will). I may know through my conscience that God is telling me to do a certain good work, perhaps to cut my neighbors grass because they're sick in bed. However, what if cutting grass is my least favorite activity? For that matter, what if feeding the poor is one of my least favorite activities as well? Not only does my physical mind lack a desire to do a certain good work but even my spiritual mind seems to have no will do to the thing. Yet, I know it is a thing worth doing and a thing that will somehow do me good as well as those who are being done for. Therefore, I have a desire to desire that I would do these things. That is, I wish I would desire to do certain things that I have no desire to do--that they would become a part of my spiritual will. They may never be part of my physical will because it's always at odds with my spiritual will, but I at least wish that my spiritual will would be in step with the desires that the Tao is telling me are good and proper to have. I don't want to cut my neighbors grass, but I really wish I could make myself want to.

If we wish to have a desire to do good things, often that wish is fulfilled at some point. That wish can only be fulfilled by another kind of Will, one that is foreign to our own. Only God can convert our "desire to desire" into being a part of our own will. The bible says to love our enemies, but no one in the history of man ever wanted to love his enemies, and you can't make yourself want to. However, as long as you at least desire to want to then God will step in and convert that desire to a want to. (This is very hard to express verbally; I can only hope the reader will understand the mental imagery I am trying so hard, and yet so poorly, to convey). Before long you'll find that you really do want to love your enemies or cut your neighbors grass etc. It came by no power of your own, and it usually came after you gave up on it ever coming. One day you suddenly realize that you have a kind of love for people that you never had before, and this is what Paul meant by transforming our minds. It also happens to be what salvation (for lack of a better term) is. It's not the acts that we do, or the words we say, or opinions about God that we express. It’s the desire to desire goodness in all things. I know of no word or phrase for that desire behind desire, but the thing surely exists, and it’s the most important thing a man must take heed of within all of creation.

A man may choose to desire goodness in all things without ever having heard of Christ. He still chooses Christ, because Christ is the voice calling him to that desire behind desire. Or as Lewis once said, a man can be saved from drowning and never find out who it was that saved him. That's just my opinion, but it comes from something so deep within that it's without.

There's so very much more to this earthly existence than the tidbit I've tried to express here. There are things that Christ did and changed just by coming into the world that I haven't even begun to touch upon--things that changed all of humanity whether they realize it or not. For instance, people no longer build pyramids and mounds; no one builds them today at all. Worshipping in the high places is all but over for the most part. Magic, if it ever existed, no longer does. Mass human sacrifice is no longer a part of everyday culture throughout the world as it once was. The coming of Christ had a lot to do with that. There are ways in which Christ changed the world that even the bible itself doesn't go into. It doesn't matter if we know what all those changes are. We can still be grateful for them.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Great War (CS Lewis, Owen Barfield, and—Anthroposophy)

The following first appeared in my old blog a few years ago. I've always considered the letter by CS Lewis quoted here to be among the best and most significant he ever wrote, and it seemed important enough to me to merit posting it once again.

The Great War (CS Lewis, Owen Barfield, and—Anthroposophy)

CS Lewis, when speaking about Owen Barfield, once said that there are two kinds of best friends a person can have. One was the type of friend Lewis had during his younger years in Arthur Greeves, and this was the kind of person with whom you had everything in common. The other was the kind of friend he had in Owen Barfield, and this was the type of friend with whom you disagree about everything: "He has read all the right books but has got the wrong thing out of every one... How can he be so nearly right and yet, invariably, just not right? He is as fascinating (and infuriating) as a woman."

Owen Barfield was a lifelong friend to CS Lewis despite their differences in opinion. They were introduced during their days as students at Oxford by another student, Leo Baker. Baker was a priest with the Anthroposophical Christian Community and taught at one of the early schools started by the Anthroposophical Society to promote the spiritual philosophy of Rudolf Steiner widely referred to as Anthroposophy.

Anthroposophy itself would become a lifelong point of contention between Jack and Owen. Barfield was enticed into joining the Anthroposophical Society in the early 1920's after hearing Steiner lecture on the subject.

Steiner's spiritual philosophy was based on mankind being a part of the creative thought behind the development of the world, both spiritually and materially, that man's will was there from creation, and that will took part in all decisions that would influence the evolution of the whole world and man's place in it. Like many spiritualists groups of the day, Steiner introduced meditative techniques involving visualization and concentration of the will in bringing man back into a conscious state whereby he could regain his lost knowledge of those latent creative forces which a devotion to materialism had made him to forget. He believed that when enough people had regained this knowledge of themselves and their capabilities that mankind would enter a new evolutionary stage of consciousness. Anthroposophical teaching, along with various apocalyptical prophecies from the Mayan; the Hopi Indians; and several other sources including the Bible itself, were the basis for the New Age movement of the early 1970's. Steiner was careful not to espouse a pantheistic philosophy that replaced God with a super-consciousness that encompassed every living thing. In his mind, God was still the chief architect, but he allowed man to have a much larger part in running the world than traditional Christianity had taught.

Lewis, however, was not convinced and once described Anthroposophy as "a kind of Gnosticism". The Catholic Church agreed and denounced Anthroposophy condemning it as far back as 1919.

Barfield and Baker would not be the only members of the Anthroposophical Society to come into Lewis' life. While attending Oxford, Barfield would meet another lifelong friend in Cecil Harwood. Harwood and his wife Daphne would later be at the forefront in the development of the Rudolf Steiner Schools. Daphne taught in the schools throughout much of her life while Cecil would give lectures promoting them. These schools would eventually become the basis for the Waldorf Schools still in existence today. Owen Barfield and his wife Maud would stay close friends to the Harwood's throughout all their years. Any friend of the Barfield's was a friend of Lewis.

Jack would engage in lively debates with his Anthroposophical friends during the 1920's even writing a long paper detailing his arguments against Anthroposophy and delivering it to Owen by mail. They jokingly referred to the paper as "The Summa", and it was just a small part of on ongoing debate that would last for years which they called "The Great War". It was a friendly war, however, and by the 1930's Lewis declined debating the subject any further. Instead, he would often focus on the things they had in common and the points in Anthroposophy that he agreed on. His disagreement with Anthroposophy was well-summed up in a short letter to Cecil Harwood in 1926:

No one is more convinced than I that reason is utterly inadequate to the richness and spirituality of real things: indeed this is itself a deliverance of reason. Nor do I doubt the presence, even in us, of faculties embryonic or atrophied, that lie in an indefinite margin around the little finite bit of focus which is intelligence—faculties anticipating or remembering the possession of huge tracts of reality that slip through the meshes of the intellect. And, to be sure, I believe that the symbols presented by imagination at its height are the workings of that fringe and present to us as much of the super-intelligible reality as we can get while we retain our present form of consciousness.
My scepticism begins when people offer me explicit accounts of the super-intelligible and in so doing use all the categories of the intellect. If the higher worlds have to be represented in terms of number, subject and attribute, time, space, causation etc (and thus they always are represented by occultists and illuminati), the fact that knowledge of them had to come through the fringe remains inexplicable. It is more natural to suppose in such cases that the illuminati have done what all of us are tempted to do:—allowed their intellect to fasten on those hints that come from the fringe, and squeezing them, has made a hint (that was full of truth) into a mere false hard statement. Seeking to know (in the only way we can know) more, we know less. I, at any rate, am at present inclined to believe that we must be content to feel the highest truths 'in our bones': if we try to make them explicit, we really make them untruth.
At all events if more knowledge is to come, it must be the wordless and thoughtless knowledge of the mystic: not the celestial statistics of Swedenborg, the Lemurian history of Steiner, or the demonology of the Platonists. All this seems to me merely an attempt to know the super-intelligible as if it were a new slice of the intelligible: as though a man with a bad cold tried to get back smells with a microscope.

This letter, written five years before Jack would proclaim himself a Christian, and at the young age of twenty eight, already shows an admiration for the mystical and a disdain for unrealistic ideologies turned dogma which would become the hallmark of his conversion process.

That men can disagree on religious and theological ideologies to such a degree as did Lewis and his Anthroposophical friends and still remain full of admiration and brotherly love for many decades, is a testament to level headedness, the likes of which one seldom encounters in any religious circle. Lewis dedicated his book, The Allegory of Love, to Owen Barfield, (Lewis sometimes signed his letters to Owen, as—The Alligator of Love). The Barfield's had three adopted children. Lewis was godfather to the second one, Lucy, and dedicated The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to her. He dedicated The Voyage of the Dawn Treader to the third child, Jeffrey. Lewis dedicated his book, Miracles, to the Harwood's, and was godfather to their son Laurence. And Lewis openly praised Barfield's first book, a novel called, The Silver Trumpet, as did Tolkien. Friendships such as these are rare indeed.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Bad Scholarship - The Root of Much Evil

Perhaps you've heard about a website called Conservapedia founded by Andrew Schlafly, son of conservative radio commentator Phyllis Schlafly. It proposes to be something along the lines (the wrong lines) of an encyclopedia for conservatives, particularly conservative Christians. It was in the news recently when the owner announced that he's also attempting to use the device to construct a new bible geared toward conservatives. He complains that most modern bibles have been liberalized to the point of being inaccurate (he seems to especially despise gender neutral words), or that they've been dumbed down to a grade school reading level (a criticism decidedly aimed at the NIV Bible).

I'm no theologian. Even at my finest I'm just a man who does the best he can with what little common sense God has seen fit to give him. I recently mentioned that I also believe God has given me a fair amount of discernment/intuition. In addition, my father once paid me a great compliment in saying that he thought I should have been a policeman or in some other way involved with justice because he thought I would have been "fair". Common sense, discernment, and fairness may seem the tiniest and humblest of gifts to you. To me prophecy, healing, and miracles pale by comparison. I will endeavor to illustrate to you why I feel this way.

I find it increasingly rare to come across individuals today who are, in my estimation, fair in their reasoning. People tend to be jaded by circumstances. There's an old saying that hard times will either make you or break you. They seem to break most, and one of the things that gets broken more often than not is our sense of fairness. A young man dates a French girl who treats him badly; suddenly all French people are now second class and to be distrusted. Perhaps you were once passed over for a job by a factory that makes a certain brand of watches, and the man they hired instead of you is your worst enemy, so now this is a lousy brand of watch. It may have been something as simple as someone cutting you off in traffic, and now you even loathe the type of car they were driving, and nothing will ever convince you that it's a well-made vehicle. Topping it off are all the cultural prejudices we're taught growing up from our parents, our teachers, our clergymen and so on--prejudices that aren't always beneficial and which may not even represent accurate details of the various situations. I had a friend across the street in the 3rd grade who I distinctly recall telling me that Catholics like him were supposed to hate Protestants like me after he found out I was one. Of course it was just childhood gibberish. He made a poor stab at saying something he had heard an adult say and probably didn't get it exactly right. At any rate, we both quickly forgot what we were talking about and went on playing. But who's to say this conception which was already beginning to bud in him wouldn't flower into something greater later in life without his even thinking about it? You might be surprised how many unjust prejudices we pick up in childhood without realizing it.

If there's one area in which I constantly see people acting in an unfair manner it's the political arena. This is especially troublesome in the USA specifically because we're primarily a 2-party system, and these two parties, more often than not, act like two warring mafia families. I don't find liberals in America so much as I find haters of conservatives. And conversely I find many more haters of liberals than people who are truly practicing conservatism. Mr. Schlafly of Conservapedia, I believe, falls into this latter camp. Most people probably couldn't even tell you what liberal or conservative mean. I'm going to quote someone who does, but you may be shocked to find out that the quote is from a very well-known Hollywood actor:

My reputation as a conservative is valid in a lot of ways," he says, "but what disturbs me is what people think conservatives are. What conservatism represents to me is civil libertarian thought. To me, it's as simple as this: We all agree we need to solve social problems. My leanings tend toward individualist solutions. I don't like to characterize anybody, but I think liberals tend to have collectivist solutions. The twentieth century has been a collectivist century. Most of our solutions to social problems--even the term social problems--are collectivist. We've had this global experiment, and we're starting to see the end of the chain letter. I say let's try new things. I can't guarantee you they'll all work. If thirty percent of them work, I'll be happy. It's just time to reassess things and say that maybe this idea of the common good has to be translated through the individual.

I've learned by hanging out in Hollywood, where I disagree politically with most people, that most people's hearts are in the right place, and the only thing we have to argue about is the way to solve the problems. So I don't like it if the conservative philosophy becomes an 'anti' philosophy, just sheer negative thought.

If that's conservatism, I don't want to be labeled a conservative. If I can be an advocate of individualist solutions to our society's problems that are affirmative solutions, that to me is what conservatism means.

Those were the words of Tom Selleck in an interview some fourteen years ago. It's heartening to hear someone talk politics with no animosity toward others who may own antithetical viewpoints. Mr. Schlafly could learn a lot from Mr. Selleck. A cursory glance at Conservapedia easily shows conservatism gone wrong. There is properly placed prejudice and improper. There is fair and just bias and unfair. Mr. Schlafly represents to me someone whose biases have clouded his judgment to appalling ends. But I really have no wish to talk any further about his political demeanor. It's there for all the world to see. What interests me is his Conservative Bible Project.

The term liberal often means something different among theologians than it does when speaking of politics, although in Mr. Schlafly's mind it appears the two often get intermingled. Bibles that purposely change words from their original gender specific expressions such as he to something like they are no doubt using liberal ideologies when doing so. We often use the word man alone when speaking of all humans, as in mankind. We've all come across feminists who dislike this broad terminology and would rather see a text read humankind. Most of us probably aren't concerned whether a writer uses one or the other in most instances. But what if a feminist placating bible translator decides it's more decorous to use vague terms when speaking about God's own gender and chooses to use it instead of he or him? Then things start sounding convoluted. They may also be inaccurate because, for all we know, God may have more manly traits about him than feminine ones. Schlafly dislikes this treatment of God. I don't blame him. But does he dislike it because it's an inaccurate translation of the original texts, or because of his aversion for liberals and feminists? A theologian, like a scientist, or a school teacher, has got to be fair-minded. If he allows for the faintest hint of prejudice in his work he will have tainted all of it. People will then be able to point out the blemished parts and easily form a bias against the whole. Mr. Schlafly has caused a bias against his own work before he has even gotten past the opening stages.

Schlafly hardly stops there. If modern bible translators show any progressive leanings in their theology (whether these leanings are come by honestly or not) they're to be rejected on the spot. This basically comes down to the fundamentalist (biblical inerrancy) verses non-fundamentalist camps. Schlafly will have no part of the latter.

More importantly though, I find his reasoning often void of any substance or precision. For instance, he gives several reasons why he believes modern translations such as the NIV are frequently incorrect. One example he cites is the following:

At Luke 16:8, the NIV describes an enigmatic parable in which the 'master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly.' But is 'shrewdly', which has connotations of dishonesty, the best term here? Being dishonestly shrewd is not an admirable trait.

Go and read Luke 16, and I think you will quickly see the problem with Schlafly's argument. The parable never says that the rich master is himself a good man or any better than his servant. In fact, that the master "commended" the dishonest actions of his servant shows us a great deal about the master's own lack of morality. There's also the fact that Jesus is painting a picture of a man he calls a "rich master", and we all know how hard it is for the rich to enter Heaven according to Jesus. If he were going to tell a story about a good businessman and a dishonest servant, he probably wouldn't have prefaced it by indicating that the businessman was rich. What disturbs me even more, however, is the fact that Schlafly depicts the word shrewd as having something in common with dishonesty. It does not. Shrewd simply means wise. In every text of Luke I know of (and of course all are in Greek), the Greek word used is "pronimos" which does indeed mean shrewd, wise, astute etc. The word Schlafly suggests using is resourceful which isn't necessarily incorrect, but it's not as accurate as shrewd either. Resourceful denotes a certain kind of creativity at work. There used to be a TV show called MacGyver about a man who was very resourceful indeed. If you needed a way to listen in on satellite telephone conversations, Angus MacGyver could probably tear apart an old radio and use the parts, with the aid of his ever present Swiss army knife, to build a working cell phone interceptor in less than ten minutes. His exploits often reminded me of the Professor on Gilligan's Island who could build just about any modern convenience from two coconuts and a hairpin. If the rich man's servant in Luke showed any resourcefulness at all, it certainly wasn't much. But he could unquestionably be described as being shrewd.

Another disconcerting aspect to Schlafly's translation efforts has to do with the fact that he's using the King James as a source to start from. Actually, what he's trying to give us is not so much a translation of a new bible as it is a paraphrase of an old one. He suggests to his helpers that they use the KJV as a starting point and then look up words in a Strong's Concordance for further assistance when needed. Part of his reasoning for doing this is because the KJV is in public domain, so they can use it freely. There is a great problem with this approach however. The translators of the KJV used Hebrew texts exclusively when translating the Old Testament because they assumed that the Jews would have more accurate copies even though they are considerably later than the Greek Septuagint and Theodotion copies we have. This assumption turned out to be incorrect. If you ignore the older Greek copies you will never have as accurate a translation because there are some passages the later Hebrew copies simply got wrong. An example I've always used is that of King Saul's daughters. The KJV says the following:

II Samuel 6:23 Therefore Michal the daughter of Saul had no child unto the day of her death.

II Samuel 21:8 But the king took the two sons of Rizpah . . . and the five sons of Michal the daughter of Saul.

Obviously the two verses cannot both be right. If Michal can die barren and yet have five sons she would have one-up'd the virgin Mary considerably. Why does the KJV read this way? Actually 21:8 should read Saul's other daughter Merab as having those five sons. We know this because I Samuel 18:19 correctly tells us Merab was married to Adriel.

1 Samuel 18:19 But it came to pass at the time when Merab Saul's daughter should have been given to David, that she was given unto Adriel the Meholathite to wife.

In II Samuel 21:8 the KJV again uses the wrong name for Saul's daughter:

But the king took the two sons of Rizpah the daughter of Aiah, whom she bare unto Saul, Armoni and Mephibosheth; and the five sons of Michal the daughter of Saul, whom she brought up for Adriel the son of Barzillai the Meholathite....
So, now here it is saying that Michal was married to Adriel when it just got done telling us that Merab was married to him instead. If you read through the two books of Samuel you will come to realize that it had to be Michal who was barren and Merab who had the five sons. The problem with the KJV in this instance is that there are only two Hebrew fragments of II Samuel which show the correct names, and to the best of my knowledge neither of these were known of until the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the 1940s. However, even though most of the Greek Old Testament copies got the name jumbled too, there were some that got it right. If the KJV translators had bothered to use the Greek manuscripts they could have easily figured out the correct name to use in each verse. In using the KJV as a starting point for the Conservative Bible, Schlafly will be making many of the same mistakes they did. It's simply bad scholarship corrupted by a combination of poor thinking skills and a bias that favored the Hebrew text over the Greek.

Schlafly also talks about trying to get the "precision in the original language" accurate with his new version. The problem is that we don't know how the original Hebrew Old Testament texts read since there are no extant copies from the B.C. era. There aren't even many fragments until much later. If you follow Schlafly's logic, he seems to think there must have been something majestic about it which explains why he's so fond of the KJV. There are two problems here. I'm not fluent in it, but I know that ancient Hebrew was actually a very simple language, especially compared with Greek. The Greeks had amassed a huge vocabulary by the time the Septuagint came into being while the Jews still had a very small one by comparison. Ancient Hebrew had very little by way of conjunctions and connecting words that we take for granted today. For instance they didn't have a word for that. I've always likened the language in those days to something very similar to various native American Indians. If you can recall Indians speaking in the old cowboy movies, they might give directions by saying, "Go north two moons, look great oak, valley down many buffalo." In other words, travel north two days until you get to a big oak tree, and in the valley below you will find large buffalo herds. While ancient Hebrew may have been slightly more sophisticated, it wasn't by much. There was nothing majestic about it. The Greeks made it look more majestic than it really was, but the KJV translators did even more so. When the original KJV first came out in 1611, it was negatively criticized in its own day for being in an archaic form of English that was no longer used even then. People had stopped using words like thee and thine at least two or three centuries earlier. Critics of the KJV at that time accused the translators of trying to pretty it up and make it sound grandiose. Apparently Mr. Schlafly will be doing the same. If the NIV translation is written at a grade school reading level (which I judge to be a false claim) it's only because the bible was written at one. There's nothing difficult in the words themselves. The more important truths don't need difficult words to express them. They're inexpressible anyway.

My hope is that you are beginning to see why I consider common sense, discernment, and fairness of such great importance. Without them, truth and accuracy are unachievable. This is why most books are bad books. I don't want to single out Mr. Schlafly though. let me give you another example of bad scholarship. I made a short film a while back on beauty not being in the eye of the beholder. In other words, that it's not subjective at all, and I showed where this ungodly notion came from. If you search on the internet you can find several websites devoted to showing the origins of words, phrases, and sayings. Of course there are several books that do this as well. One of the more popular websites for this type of thing is called The Phrase Finder. I will post below the information they give for the origins of the phrase, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder." Keep in mind that other similar websites give almost identical information.


This saying first appeared in the 3rd century BC in Greek. It didn't appear in its current form in print until the 19th century, but in the meantime there were various written forms that expressed much the same thought. In 1588, the English dramatist John Lyly, in his Euphues and his England, wrote:

" neere is Fancie to Beautie, as the pricke to the Rose, as the stalke to the rynde, as the earth to the roote."

Shakespeare expressed a similar sentiment in Love's Labours Lost, 1588:

Good Lord Boyet, my beauty, though but mean,
Needs not the painted flourish of your praise:
Beauty is bought by judgement of the eye,
Not utter'd by base sale of chapmen's tongues

Benjamin Franklin, in Poor Richard's Almanack, 1741, wrote:

Beauty, like supreme dominion
Is but supported by opinion

David Hume's Essays, Moral and Political, 1742, include:

"Beauty in things exists merely in the mind which contemplates them."

The person who is widely credited with coining the saying in its current form is Margaret Wolfe Hungerford (née Hamilton), who wrote many books, often under the pseudonym of 'The Duchess'. In Molly Bawn, 1878, there's the line "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder", which is the earliest citation of it that I can find in print.

I agree that Hume was the first to suggest this concept, and Ms. Hungerford only rewords his thoughts slightly. This isn't to say that no one had the thought before Hume. I'd be very surprised if someone hadn't said similar things before Plato was ever born. But so far I've not found it in writing. More importantly though, is the fact that every listing this website gives prior to Hume is incorrect.

The 3rd century Greek writer they refer to is Theocritus. What he says is, "...for in the eyes of love that which is not beautiful often seems beautiful." He does not say beauty is in the eye of the beholder but merely says things sometimes seem beautiful whether they are or not. But he never for a moment suggests that this beauty is a realty.

This website quotes Shakespeare without realizing that his wicked queen is saying exactly what Shakespeare, like all just men, disapprove of. Elsewhere in the poem it says:

O, who can give an oath? where is a book?
That I may swear beauty doth beauty lack,
If that she learn not of her eye to look:
No face is fair that is not full so black.

These are the words he gives to a very ignoble character. He gives her wicked words to say because she is wicked. Shakespeare makes plain his dislike for any nonsense involving subjective beauty in Sonnet 127:

In the old age black was not counted fair,
Or if it were, it bore not beauty’s name.
But now is black beauty’s successive heir,
And beauty slandered with a bastard shame.
For since each hand hath put on nature’s pow'r,
Fairing the foul with art’s false borrowed face,
Sweet beauty hath no name, no holy bow'r,
But is profaned, if not lives in disgrace.
Therefore my mistress' eyes are raven black,
Her eyes so suited, and they mourners seem
At such who, not born fair, no beauty lack,
Sland'ring creation with a false esteem.
Yet so they mourn, becoming of their woe,
That every tongue says beauty should look so.

What he's saying is that once women with fair complexions were considered beautiful, but in his day people had begun saying that it was the women with dark complexions who were accounted beautiful. He goes on to say that it was becoming fashionable for women to paint themselves up and use powders to feign the look of beauty. He laments that beauty has been so mistreated because if everything can be beautiful then nothing is beautiful. And there lies the sophistry of the subjective argument. If beauty is not universal then beauty does not exist.

Lyly is quoted from, but let me quote the entire line:

And as rare it is to see the Sunne with-out a light, as a fayre woeman with-out a lover, and as neere is Fancie to Beautie, as the pricke to the Rose, as the stalke to the rynde, as the earth to the roote.

Fancie here does not mean imagination. It means desire as in, "She fancied going to the opera". Therefore it has nothing to do with beauty being in the imagination, and if it did, the line would make no sense.

Franklin is also quoted, but he did not say this. He was quoting Jonathan Swift who wrote the line ten years earlier in his poem Strephon And Chloe:

For Beauty, like supreme dominion,
Is best supported by Opinion:
If Decency bring no supplies,
Opinion falls, and Beauty dies.

The poem is about a married couple who realize after marriage that, though initially attracted by physical beauty, they are still human and have to "poop and fart" (Swift's very words) like everyone else. They try to put a pleasant face on it as though it's still part of the beauty, but clearly Swift toward the end of the poem says they are wrong to do so. Also, if you read the above lines carefully you'll see that he isn't saying what this website seems to think he does. He in fact is saying just the opposite. He is not talking about individual opinion, but is simply saying that the more people who can agree on a thing being beautiful, the more likely it is to be so. This attests to beauty being universal rather than subjective.

Other websites mention Plato as being the first to suggest beauty as being subjective in the following.

Plato ~ Remember how in that communion only, beholding beauty with the eye of the mind, he will be enabled to bring forth, not images of beauty, but realities (for he has hold not of an image but of a reality), and bringing forth and nourishing true virtue to become the friend of God and be immortal, if mortal man may.

They're completely misinterpreting what Plato said. He's simply saying that beauty is transcendent from God, and that when the mind taps into this beauty, it is tapping into a real place within the mind of the creator. Had they read The Republic in school, they would have realized right off that this is an element in his Theory of Forms.

It was the atheist (or at least agnostic) philosopher David Hume who actually came up with the notion of beauty being a matter of taste. He says in 1742: "Beauty, properly speaking, lyes in the Sentiment or Taste of the Reader", and "Beauty in things exists merely in the mind which contemplates them." Again I must say that if everything can be beautiful then nothing is beautiful. What Hume has actually managed is the abolition of beauty (as C. S. Lewis might say).

Speaking of Lewis, let me close with some choice words he has to say about poor scholarship. From his essay, Modern Theology and Biblical Criticism, later titled Fern-seed and Elephants:

First then, whatever these men may be as Biblical critics, I distrust them as critics. They seem to me to lack literary judgment, to be imperceptive about the very quality of the texts they are reading. It sounds a strange charge to bring against men who have been steeped in those books all their lives. But that might be just the trouble. A man who has spent his youth and manhood in the minute study of New Testament texts and of other people's studies of them, whose literary experience of those texts lacks any standard of comparison such as can only grow from a wide and deep and genial experience of literature in general, is, I should think, very likely to miss the obvious thing about them. If he tells me that something in a Gospel is legend or romance, I want to know how many legends and romances he has read, how well his palate is trained in detecting them by the flavour; not how many years he has spent on that Gospel. But I had better turn to examples.


Finally, from the same Bultmann: 'the personality of Jesus has no importance for the kerygma either of Paul or John... Indeed, the tradition of the earliest Church did not even unconsciously preserve a picture of his personality. Every attempt to reconstruct one remains a play of subjective imagination.'

So there is no personality of our Lord presented in the New Testament. Through what strange process has this learned German gone in order to make himself blind to what all men except him see? What evidence have we that he would recognize a personality if it were there? For it is Bultmann contra mundum. If anything whatever is common to all believers, and even to many unbelievers, it is the sense that in the Gospels they have met a personality.

That then is my first bleat. These men ask me to believe they can read between the lines of the old texts; the evidence is their obvious inability to read (in any sense worth discussing) the lines themselves. They claim to see fern-seed and can't see an elephant ten yards way in broad daylight.

Don't think for a moment that because someone has a PHD and many years of education or even a high IQ that this qualifies them as good scholars even if they are well-read. As Lewis once pointed out, a man can read all the right books and still get the wrong things out of them. He also mentioned that John Bunyan, with less than four years of formal education, went on to write a book which has astonished the world. Common sense, discernment, and fairness can take some men a very long way indeed.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Demystifying the Mystagogues

I saw this on another blog a few days ago: "Both you and God are ultimately absorbed in the One ... For this is the ultimate goal of traditional yogic practice: to throw oneself under the cosmic bus, and merge with the Infinite. No self, no problem."

It made me ponder my own position in accordance to the proximity of the Almighty. Many Christians, starting with the earliest Gnostics, have taken up this Hindu concept of oneness with the divine. Of the 31,000 verses in the bible, there are only three or four that on the surface sound as though they might have anything at all to do with this concept of merging with that hypostasis we call the trinity.

John 10:30 "I and the Father are one."

John 17:11 "I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name—the name you gave me—so that they may be one as we are one."

John 17:20-22 My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
But are these scriptures actually talking about our being sucked up into the Godhead, a sort of reversal of the Big Bang where all goes back to its original state of primordial substance before the fall? That is indeed very similar to the Hindu concept of nirvana where man loses his individual consciousness in God. This, however, has nothing in common with the teachings of Christ or the character of a creator. God's greatest triumph was being able to do the very opposite of this. The connectedness of all things isn't a particularly tricky subject. That all beings are within the whole yet can still remain quite separate, take divergent paths, and act with extreme variance is the more interesting and inexplicable phenomenon. To create beings apart from himself, each with their own personality and awareness, in essence--a soul--was an act of excogitation no man can begin to comprehend.

Being drawn into the divine and losing our individuality in the process is the last thing on God's mind.

What Jesus was talking about in the above verses was something very much like what we're told his followers took to heart and did: Acts 4:32 "All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had."

God wants us to have a common sense of right and wrong that comes from him, to live in a mutual attitude of love and respect for one another, to share each other's physical and emotional troubles. He has no intentions of un-creating our individuality even when we're in Heaven. What he wants for us is to be creators ourselves and to go on creating throughout eternity. He didn't tell Noah to have no children and live in a state of constant meditation in an attempt to become one with God. Far from it, he told him to go out and replicate, to fill the world with more souls. That's what creators do--they create. There's no talk of "less is more" in Heaven. Scientists tell us they now believe the universe will expand forever. There are billions of stars in the universe, billions of people on this one planet, billions of photons passing through your body this very instant. God is about more, more, more! He can be nothing less. A dog barks because it's his nature. God creates because that is his.

The Mystagogues talk in lofty words full of air like a poem with no subject. They love the mere mention of words like eternity, infinity, timelessness, intangible, ineffable. They live for the mystery of things. They have little use for either hard answers or the hard work of a life well-lived. Theirs is a wistful world of imponderable bliss without end. And if they're not careful they may get it. I loved what G. K. Chesterton had to say in his essay entitled The Mystagogues.

Whenever you hear much of things being unutterable and indefinable and impalpable and unnamable and subtly indescribable, then elevate your aristocratic nose towards heaven and snuff up the smell of decay. It is perfectly true that there is something in all good things that is beyond all speech or figure of speech. But it is also true that there is in all good things a perpetual desire for expression and concrete embodiment; and though the attempt to embody it is always inadequate, the attempt is always made. If the idea does not seek to be the word, the chances are that it is an evil idea. If the word is not made flesh it is a bad word.

Thus Giotto or Fra Angelieo would have at once admitted theologically that God was too good to be painted; but they would always try to paint Him. ... The trend of good is always towards Incarnation. ...those refined thinkers who worship the Devil ... always insist upon the shapelessness, the wordlessness, the unutterable character of the abomination. ... they worship him as the unspeakable name; as the unbearable silence. ... It was the Christians who gave the Devil a grotesque and energetic outline, with sharp horns and spiked tail. It was the saints who drew Satan as comic and even lively. The Satanists never drew him at all.

... The man who really thinks he has an idea will always try to explain that idea. The charlatan who has no idea will always confine himself to explaining that it is much too subtle to be explained. ... The honest man is he who is always trying to utter the unutterable, to describe the indescribable; but the quack lives not by plunging into mystery, but by refusing to come out of it. [my emphasis]

There is a proper longing that every Christian has to be with God in something like a physical way although we may not realize what that longing is initially--that Sehnsucht which C. S. Lewis spoke of so often where there seems to be joy in the longing itself. But the mature Christian, in time, learns that this feeling is not a love for mystery, nor a desire to be drawn in to God's own self. God allows us our "selves" and instead causes his light to shine on everything we experience no matter where we go in the world. Lewis figured this out after reading MacDonald's story--Phantastes.

There was no temptation to confuse the scenes of the tale with the light that rested upon them, or to suppose that they were put forward as realities, or even to dream that if they had been realities and I could reach the woods where Anodos Journeyed I should thereby come a step nearer to my desire. ... Thus, when the great moments [Sehnsucht] came I did not break away from the woods and cottages that I read of to seek some bodiless light shining beyond them. ... For I now perceived that while the air of the new region made all my erotic and magical perversions of Joy look like sordid trumpery, it had no such disenchanting power over the bread on the table or the coals in the grate. That was the marvel. Up till now each visitation of Joy had left the common world momentarily a desert.... Even when real clouds or trees had been the material of the vision, they had been so only by reminding me of another world; and I did not like the return to ours. But now I saw the bright shadow coming out of the books into the real world and resting there, transforming all common things and yet itself unchanged.

Our objective is not to live in mystery (although it may start as such). It is to live in the embodiment of divine grace.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sin And The Art Of Telecaster Maintenance

[I thought I'd take a breather this week from anything deeply spiritual or theological and allow you the great pleasure of just hearing me gripe about our sinful world. But beware that next week we'll be getting into some pretty heady stuff.]

Sin And The Art Of Telecaster Maintenance
(Apologies to Robert Pirsig)

I haven't played the electric guitar very much the past few years, opting to fingerpick an acoustic most days instead, at least on the rare days that I play at all. My favorite electric guitar is the Fender Telecaster--the first commercially available solid body guitar ever made. People snickered at their arrival in the world. A "plank" with strings they thought it was. And for Pete's sake...a bolt-on neck! Whoever heard of such a thing or saw such a sight? But Leo Fender apparently either had no fear or no shame. While developing the prototype around 1949 or so, he and partner George Fullerton drove out to a little dive called the Riverside Rancho one night where Jimmy Bryant, a brilliant country-swing guitarist, was playing. They got Jimmy to come over to the table while Leo unveiled his new invention. Rather than snicker, Bryant was curious. He plugged it in and began to wail. For the next two hours, you could hear a pin drop (if it was a really big'un) as the folks in this joint forgot about their drinking and came up around the stage, clearly amazed at what they were hearing.

Millions of divers kinds of solid body guitars have been sold since then, but this is still the one that does it for me. Not because it was the first, but because it has the most human-like quality in tone. It almost literally can laugh, scream, and moan the blues or twang away in a country pickers hands. When you find a good one, they just sing.

I haven't owned a tele since the early 90s. While I love the guitars, they're kind of smallish, and I'm kind of biggish. I always felt a little strange strapping one across my chest. They can look darn near like a mandolin on a 6'5" man. But as fate would have it, I came across an old, beat up tele in a music store a couple of months ago. I seldom pick one up I like anymore because they just don't seem to build them like they used to, but this old junker sounded and felt almost too good to be true. The price was right, and I simply couldn't resist.

My first thought was to restore my new acquisition to its former glory. A tele is probably the easiest guitar to work on that was ever made. Swapping pickups, necks, pots and so forth couldn't be easier. As a result, guys like to soup them up, and you'll see all kinds of them out there. You can't hardly hurt them either. I don't want to say they're indestructible, but you could probably toss one down a flight of stairs, and not only wouldn't it break, it would likely still be in tune when you picked it up. The design is a real testament to simplicity, durability, and functionality--three of the best things in life when found together.

The Fender Telecaster reminds me very much of the Ford Model T. The Model T has the same elegant simplicity and easy to maintain functionality, yet it's also easy to hot-rod and do all kinds of customizing with. Over 15-million were made between 1908 and 1927, and there are still tons of them on the road. You can pick up a phone and have any part delivered for them in a single day.

It is almost without a doubt the best automobile ever made when it comes to simplicity, durability, and functionality. I once actually saw three guys put one together from parts in about 30-minutes! Literally, the chassis, body, tires, motor, all the interior parts, windows, everything in 30-minutes. The Model T was capable of running on gasoline, kerosene or ethanol and got better than 20 mpg. Sure its little 4-cylinder motor only produced a top speed of 45 mph, but it was a remarkable achievement in many ways. It had no oil pump, no fuel pump, no water pump, no distributor cap--almost nothing to go wrong. And nearly every metal part on the vehicle was made of vanadium steel, so it was extremely resistant to rust (which is part of the reason there are still so many of them around). It would also go over nearly any kind of terrain and had a reputation for starting right up in all kinds of weather. If I had to drive across the continent tomorrow and wanted to buy the most reliable vehicle for the job, after a century of automobiles to choose from, I would still pick Ford's old Tin Lizzie for dependability.

After bringing home my new tele, I began to search the internet for parts to see what was available, the wait time, prices and so on. There are a lot of aftermarket parts made for teles, and sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish the ones worth having from the ones you wouldn't wish on your enemies or even your girlfriend's cat. The only way to determine the quality of workmanship is to handle everything yourself or to rely on a reviewer to do that for you. Many of these parts aren't available in stores and come from distant states, so I have no choice but to rely on the latter.

One thing you quickly learn about the internet, and I learned it long ago, is that the vast majority of what you read on it comes under the heading of misinformation (to put it kindly) or disinformation (to put it more accurately). It's hard to trust anything you read online. First there are these things in cyberland called user reviews. They're as useless as...what's that old line?...a screen door on a submarine. Half of them are written by kids, generally trying to pass as adults, and to them everything is either great or terrible. Most kids, devils that they are, are infatuated with their possessions. They own it, so it must be fantastic. Any similar product is inferior whether they've actually laid eyes on it or not. Or they find some little thing wrong and decide the company that makes the product produces nothing but trash. I think a lot of this has to do with a new American ethos. A couple of decades ago we saw some strange trends beginning with the children in this country. They started insisting on the best of everything. A pair of tennis shoes had to cost a hundred dollars or they weren't good enough. Kids suddenly had to wear a different pair of pants to school every day rather than make the same pair of blue jeans last out the week the way we did when I was growing up. Where do they come up with these notions? Who is it that wants them (or their parents) to spend money so frivolously?

Unfortunately, the adults here at the weird wide web are nearly as bad. I laugh every time I read that somebody has made some very slight modification to a guitar or amplifier, and the difference is now "night and day". Maybe all they did was change the tuning pegs. A night and day difference in the way a guitar sounds after just swapping out the tuners? I don't think so.... In fact, it probably had no effect on the tone of the instrument at all, and I could prove it to them in a blindfold test most of the time, but they probably wouldn't stand for it. Common sense is the evil enemy in cyberland. Here are four cases to make my point. There's really no need to read all four unless you just want to:

1) In the old days we used to record sound to big reel to reel magnetic tape machines. They were insanely expensive and cumbersome. Then someone came up with the idea of recording digitally, first to magnetic tape, but about ten years ago software came in vogue for multitrack recording digitally to a computer. Several software engineers came up with their own apps for this, so you had several to choose from. They all recorded what are called "wave" (or .wav) audio files. You used to see hundreds of messages at user reviews or music forums claiming that this editor recorded better sounding wave files than that one. It seemed that almost everyone had an opinion about it. But truth be known, all wave apps record wave files exactly the same. There is absolutely no difference in the recording process. A wave is a wave is a wave. Either there are a lot of people in the world who can't hear what they think they can, or a lot of people are liars.

2) There are these things called amplifier simulators that guitarists often use to record with called amp sims for short. They're small desktop boxes that you plug your axe into that sound remarkably like a regular cranked up guitar amp but without the volume problems that make your neighbors call the police. Normally you run a line out of them into your mixing board and then on into the computer soundcard etc. You can monitor through a set of headphones without disturbing anybody. There were two main amp sims for a few years: the Line 6 POD and the Behringer V-Amp. And again you could find user reviews and message boards awash with opinions as to which was the best. Most people said the POD sounded"night and day" better. Why? Probably because it cost twice as much. Fact is, both use the exact same IC architecture, and get identical amp/speaker sounds. There was one guy who eventually realized this and came up with a program that could take user presets from one amp sim and transfer them to the other.

3) A microphone in general is just a speaker in reverse. Condenser mics are the most popular for recording. They're simple to make (for the most part), and most are extremely similar in design given the same capsule size, polar pattern, etc. Actually, there are many little things that go into the way sound is captured in them such as the thickness of the diaphragm, the material it's made from, and the tension on it; the distance between the diaphragm and the back plate and so on. The electronics are generally very similar with only small differences mostly having to do with capacitance.

The Chinese have gotten very good at reverse engineering expensive microphones from the West and then building inexpensive knockoffs. They may use cheaper electrical components, but this generally effects the noise specs more than the tonal aspects. The diaphragm material may also be slightly different. I don't know of a microphone made that has more than twenty or thirty dollars worth of electronics in it. As to the other materials, again there isn't much there by way of cost. Nearly all condenser mics have around fifty or sixty dollars worth of parts in total. Yet some of the more expensive mics retail for over $2,000. Can labor alone justify that price? The Chinese knockoffs run anywhere between $100 and $300, and they can, and usually do, sound a whole lot like the more expensive originals. The differences in sound are pretty subtle. The biggest difference is the price. But again, if you go by what people are saying at user reviews and message boards, you'd think the Chinese mics weren't worth a plug nickel. Here's a link to a website that gives sound samples of a couple dozen different mics, all recording the same voices in the same context. Some of the mics are very expensive, and some are very cheap. It's a blindfold test, but there's a key at the bottom of the page that pops up to tell you which mic is which and what they typically cost. I think it's painfully obvious that some of the cheap mics here actually sound better than others costing 2 to 3 times as much.

4) I'm also a bit of a video buff. Film has been the touchstone medium for capturing moving images since the 1800s. But good 35mm film cameras, the film to go in them, and especially the cost to develop that film is incredibly expensive. When videotape was introduced a few decades ago, it wasn't taken seriously as a tool for features. It had a hard look that was too much like real life. It managed to find a home for Network News as an ENG (electronic news gathering) device though, and soaps adopted it for their poor quality daytime dramas where cost was an issue. In recent years, however, manufacturers of miniDV camcorders found ways to record in progressive frames as apposed to the hard look of interlacing and also developed camcorders that could record at 24 frames per second just like film cameras instead of the 30 fps they had been using over the years. These two developments went a long way toward making videotape take on a film look. Really the only thing missing was a 35mm lens for getting the same depth of field. But traditional manufacturers of 35mm lenses sold them for around $10,000 to fit expensive film cameras. Why are the lenses so expensive? Because the traditional film market would pay it. A set of glass lenses is nothing but a nickel's worth of sand. Making it into glass, grinding it, and polishing it are hardly rocket science. But who would pay $5,000 for a top flight miniDV camcorder only to shell out another ten grand for a 35mm lens for the front end? Well, sure enough, some enterprising young guys started making their own 35mm lenses about a year ago and selling them as aftermarket add-ons to fit various camcorder filter threads for not much more less than $200. They're also selling them to fit the newer HDV units as well. Now you can buy something like a Canon XH-A1 and fit it with a 35mm lens for a total cost of around $3500 and shoot video that looks remarkably like film even when spread out on a 30' screen. How did the internet audience react? Do I even have to tell you? They started a typical smear campaign. "Film will never die!", "Videotape will never look like film!", "These cheap lenses are blurry!". In protest of this I put together a presentation of stills taken from movies that had been shot on both film and videotape and put it on the internet challenging people to guess which stills came from which recording medium. No one as yet has ever come close to being able to tell one from the other. Apparently people's eyes are as bad as their ears, or...they're lying.

We can, and should, assume that your average Joe on the internet has no earthly idea what he or she is talking about. Thus the misinformation aspect of things. But, now for the main course in this essay, and that has to do with the disinformation facet.

It's not just consumers that have access to the internet, to user reviews, or message boards. The manufacturers, company employees, salespeople, even folks at home who have stock in companies all have equal playing time, and there are almost no rules to play by. You can see where I'm going with this. Many of the message boards and user review sites that are out there, probably most if truth be told, have been set up by these same people. One of the more popular musical instrument store outlets is G...C... I once overheard two sales employees from there talking about downplaying certain products because they made very little money on them. The commission on a $1000 microphone is much greater than that on a $100 one. Obviously they want you to spend as much as you can afford even if the more expensive item isn't worth the extra money. People like this will purposely leave user reviews saying that inexpensive products are pure junk and that you're wasting your money on them. They'll routinely get together and set up their own message boards and then go on to create several usernames each. Of course the talk of the day will always focus on how only more expensive items are good for anything. If you take the names of these various dotcoms and search them at sites like the Whois database you'll quickly find that many of them are privately registered and give absolutely no contact information. A veil of secrecy is crucial to them doing what they do.

Could it be possible that most people are like this in the real world too, and you just never saw it before? I pity the question. No, I pity the questioner! Fact is that this is the type of dirty pool that has been going on since the beginning of civilization and the trading of goods and services. Before there was an internet people still did the same kinds of things with newspapers, magazines--even word of mouth rumors. There are precious few people in the business world that follow the golden rule.

This is a true story. My paternal grandfather for many years worked in a small shop that made batteries in East St. Louis back in the 30s/40s. After the shop closed, he went to work for a brake shop in the same area. While he was there, he and a friend at the shop got together and invented a car battery that they thought would last a lifetime. Grandpa died before I was born, and he never left any papers about his idea that I'm aware of, so I don't know what the details were. At any rate, they knew they couldn't afford to have the design patented, so they decided to pay a visit to the largest manufacturer of batteries in those days (probably Willard or Delco) to see if they could sell them on the idea. When they got there, the man they talked to actually laughed at them. Turns out his company already had the same idea and had a patent on it. They had no intension of ever making the battery though. The last thing they wanted was a battery that people only had to buy once.

My dad was a great baseball player. He dropped out of school to go to work when he was fifteen, so he never played on the school team. He didn't want to anyway because he had already been playing on a men's team since the age of twelve. The Jaycees baseball league was actually started in East St. Louis by Ray Rice back in the 40s. Dad started playing on one of the teams in the 50s', and in 1952 they won the state championship and then went on to defeat the Missouri champs at an exhibition game at Sportsman's Park where the St. Louis Cardinals then played. Dad's batting average that year was 667. (Yes, he was really that good). Actually, the whole team was great. They won every game on the way to state by no less than seven runs and won the state final by ten runs. A lot of the Cardinal players used to come out to watch these kids play--that's how much they were respected. They're still the only Jaycees team I ever heard of that actually had players drafted by major league teams. The Dodgers came after dad. He promptly turned them down saying, "I play for fun, not for money." Other guys on the team turned down offers too. If you ask around, you'll find that it was probably more common for players to turn down major league contracts than to accept them in those days. They turned them down because major league teams had a reputation for snapping up good young players they didn't really need and then sticking them in the minors at low pay forever just so nobody else could get them.

Lies and deception are the tools of trade around the world when it comes to big business. Politics is even worse. I'm a registered republican. I have to tell you though, that I'm ashamed of our leaders and this idiotic nonsense propagated about universal health care being a product of socialism. It's complete and utter horse hockey from A to Z. Under this new, absurd definition of socialism even the military is a form of socialism. Police departments, fire departments, Medicare, public water systems, social security--all ingredients of a socialist government. Either the leaders of the Tea Party Movement are so stupid they don't even know the difference between civilization and socialism or they're simply a lying propaganda machine for the health and drug industry. I'm all for a reasonable debate about universal health care, but lying is not an attribute of reason.

I've decided to keep my beat up old Telecaster pretty much the same after swapping out the font pickup. There's just something special about this old tele just the way it is, warts and all. It reminds me that you can't hardly buy quality goods anymore. Even guitar amplifiers are increasingly going digital and this spells disposable technology. There aren't many parts inside most kinds of electronic gear you can fix anymore. The prices are getting so cheap that the manufacturers figure you can afford to just buy a new one when something breaks. I'm glad for the cheap prices, but I'm also saddened that even expensive things aren't usually made of truly great quality anymore.

Buying this old guitar, and working on her, gave me a lot to think about. They were mostly unpleasant thoughts as you've just witnessed. I understand all to well how the seedy side of business works. And I understand how it is that so many people in the world are immersed in conspiracy theories. Lord knows they see enough real life examples of it in business and politics every day. My only question is the same one that's been asked for thousands of years. It's commonly called Jeremiah's Complaint:

Jeremiah 12:1 You are always righteous, O LORD,
when I bring a case before you.
Yet I would speak with you about your justice:
Why does the way of the wicked prosper?
Why do all the faithless live at ease?

Of course we know it won't always be that way for them. But still the question remains, why does God let them go on so long? The only answer I can come up with is this: that they will only prosper as long as I need them to. Maybe when I can learn to love the wicked, to stop saying nasty things about them, to stop envying their prosperity, maybe then God won't need them around. Just a thought.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Study in the Changing Face of Evil Part 3

[If you'll go back and refresh your memory as to where Part 2 of this series ended, I said, "And this leads us back to the subject of astral projection which we'll pick up on next week."]

A Study in the Changing Face of Evil Part 3

Edgar Allen Poe ~ "The boundaries between life and death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where one ends and where the other begins?"

What happened to me would, in my opinion, best be described as an OBE (out of body experience), and this was something that only happened very rarely. I think of an astral projection as an OBE also, but something a person causes to happen through meditation etc., and it's not the type of thing I normally approve of. The only reason I even brought the OBE subject up was because of that feeling I had of an evil presence near me during some of those times. When I entered a couple of sleep studies, I found that, while it's not common, there are certainly many other people who have these spontaneous OBEs, and many of them also mention the feeling of something evil in the room with them. I've felt that same evil presence during vivid dreams now and then also. I would like very much to know what that presence is. Science has not been able to account for it. Sure you can cause the brain to bring on states of fear, even panic, by electrically stimulating certain sections of it, but this feeling of an evil being was very different. If you see a lion coming at you, you may be quite afraid, but the lion feels scary--not evil. The difference is obvious to anyone who has felt that presence. And for some strange reason, the only people I've ever personally met who've had that same overwhelming feeling were others who had an OBE or who had become self-aware during a deep sleep state that brought about night terrors. It may only happen to 5% of the world's population, but this is something that happens to people from every part of the world and apparently always has if we can trust history at all.

There's another class of people who have seen these evil beings though, and that would be those who have what are generally called hallucinations. These aren't necessarily people with bent brains either. Sometimes they're just regular folks who see something they can't account for. It may only happen once in their life. Is it fair to call it a hallucination in this case? That's another word I don't like because it always denotes something that is unreal, and I don't know that what they've seen is imagined or not. And who's to say that this place our minds go to called imagination isn't a real place in some way we can't yet know?

There is still one more particularly disturbing faction of people who see evil beings during wakefulness, and that would be young children. I heard a woman sobbing a couple of weeks ago because her daughter had been seeing what she at first thought was an imaginary black goat in her bedroom. Even when the girl reported that the goat had begun speaking to her, the mother thought it was normal pretending. But when the goat started telling the child to kill her parents…alarm set in.

Every language throughout history has a word for demonic-like inhuman entities just as every language has a word for spirit. The Sumerians had the earliest known form of writing, and their stories are rife with tales of demonic forces as far back as nearly 5,000 years ago:

"In the hands of the fate demon my appearance has been altered, my breath of life carried away. The asag demon, the evil one, bathes in my body."

"The demons go hither and thither searching for Dumuzid. The small demons say to the big demons: 'Demons have no mother; they have no father or mother, sister or brother, wife or children. When ... [unintelligible] were established on heaven and earth, you demons were there, at a man's side like a reed enclosure. Demons are never kind, they do not know good from evil.'"

"Jectin-ana had barely finished that lament when the demons arrived at her dwelling. "Show us where your brother is," they said to her. But she spoke not a word to them. They afflicted her loins with a skin disease, but she spoke not a word to them."

"A small demon opened his mouth and said to the big demon, 'Come on, let's go to the lap of holy Inana.' The demons entered Unug and seized holy Inana. "Come on, Inana, go on that journey which is yours alone -- descend to the underworld."

Absolutely every race of people on the Earth have reported encountering demonic-like beings. Whether those stories come from people who saw them while in the body or out is difficult to say since the ancients weren't always clear. I find it disturbing that almost no one acknowledges their presence today. Christian songwriter, Keith Green, had a song called "No One Believes in Me Anymore" which was sung from Satan's point of view:

Oh, my job keeps getting easier
As time keeps slipping away
I can imitate your brightest light
And make your night look just like day
I put some truth in every lie
To tickle itching ears
You know I'm drawing people just like flies
'Cause they like what they hear
I'm gaining power by the hour
they're falling by the score
You know, it's getting very simple now
'Cause no one believe in me anymore
Oh, heaven's just a state of mind
My books read on your shelf
And have you heard that God is dead
I made that one up myself
They dabble in magic spells
They get their fortunes read
You know they heard the truth
But turned away and followed me instead
I used to have to sneak around
But now they just open their doors
You know, no ones watching for my tricks
Because no one believes in me anymore
Everyone likes a winner
With my help, you're guaranteed to win
And hey man, you're ain't no sinner
You've got the truth within
And as your life slips by
You believe the lie that you did it on your own
But don't worry
I'll be there to help you share our dark eternal home
Oh, my job keeps getting easier
As day slips into day
The magazines, the newspapers
Print every word I say
This world is just my spinning top
It's all like childs-play
You know, I dream that it will never stop
But I know it's not that way
Still my work goes on and on
Always stronger than before
I'm gonna make it dark before the dawn
Since no one believes in me anymore
Well now I used to have to sneak around
But now they just open their doors
You know, no one watches for my tricks
Since no one believes in me anymore
Well I'm gaining power by the hour
They're falling by the score
You know, it's getting very easy now
Since no one believes in me anymore

The song's title couldn't be more apt even where the church is concerned. The Catholic Church in particular has made an admitted attempt to downplay the role of demonic forces. Actually, this is probably true of most churches today. Isn't it strange that the OBE and astral projection crowd has much more to say on the subject of demonic entities than the church? Even projectors that have little or no interest in religion tell tales of evil beings they've encountered seemingly out of nowhere and for no reason. Robert Monroe, the guy who coined the term "out-of-body-experience", mentions several encounters with them coming in many forms. Monroe was a businessman who started having OBEs out of the blue in middle-age. Today he's often mentioned in connection with the new age crowd, and judging by his last book, I'd have to say that he certainly seemed to join their ranks at the end. But if we can look past that for a moment, I believe there are some important things we can learn from his story. He's one of the few that have had these experiences that has also had the wherewithal to perform hundreds, if not thousands, of experiments, many of them assisted by medical personal with EEG machines etc. He had no interest in religion whatsoever in the beginning, yet he routinely encountered both evil beings and sometimes benevolent ones (he referred to the latter as "helpers") during OBEs. He also described seeing them trying to influence the behavior of humans.

There are two things about Robert Monroe's out-of-body journeys that should be of great interest to anyone. One is that he sometimes was able to locate people he knew around the earth no matter where they were and tell them later what he had seen them doing, so his OBEs were sometimes more like remote viewing. (I'm reminded of the time Christ demonstrated this ability, telling Nathaniel that he saw him standing under a fig tree before he met him--it caused Nathaniel to become a believer). There was one incident I thought was quite striking. Monroe had an unnamed female acquaintance who had left for vacation. All he knew was that she was somewhere on the east coast. During a self induced OBE (which I would call an astral projection) he purposely tried to locate her and found her in a New Jersey hotel. With her were two young women. All three had drinks in their hands and were just sitting and chatting. Monroe made a deliberate attempt to make the lady feel his presence. Anytime he had tried to touch anyone in the physical plane previously he found that his hand always went right through them. This time he concentrated all his will though and managed to pinch the woman very hard in the ribs. When she returned from her trip the following week she confirmed everything he saw. She mentioned nothing of the pinch however. Finally he asked her if she had felt him pinch her, and she exclaimed, "That was you!" She then lifted her blouse slightly to display the bruise marks he had left on her.

I think the evidence that OBEs are a real state of a spirit leaving the body to travel either in this world or another world is remarkable and plentiful for those who bother to look into it. I've made several videos about evidence for other worlds and otherworldly activity. Truly, the evidence is there. Whether they're worlds or dimensions is anyone's guess, but there is more to this life than what the material senses can alone gather.

If mankind has always known about evil, nonhuman beings whether they were called devils or something else, it seems curious to me that we're trying so hard to forget about them today and act as though the spirit world(s) itself no longer exists. In the Keith Green song mentioned above, Satan literally basks in the darkness of man's forgetfulness. In his novel, Till We Have Faces, C. S. Lewis says the following:

Of the things that I followed I cannot at all say whether they were what men call real or what men call dream. And for all I can tell, the only difference is that what many see we call a real thing, and what only one sees we call a dream. But things that many see may have no taste or moment in them at all, and things that are shown only to one may be spears and water-spouts of truth from the very depth of truth.

And later in the same book: "One thread ran through all my delusions. Now mark yet again the cruelty of the gods. There is no escape from them into sleep or madness, for they can pursue you into them with dreams. Indeed you are then most at their mercy."

In C. S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters, we find a chief demon instructing his young apprentice to make sure to keep the attention of humans on, "the stream of immediate sense experiences. Your business is to fix his attention on the stream. Teach him to call it 'real life' and don't let him ask what he means by 'real'."

Lewis mentions something else of great value in this book. He gives us a rationale for demonic beings doing what they do. He says:

They're second motive is a kind of hunger. I feign that devils can, in a spiritual sense, eat one another, and us. Even in human life we have seen the passion to dominate, almost to digest, one's fellow; to make his whole intellectual and emotional life merely an extension of one's own....

... There [in Hell], I suggest, the strongest spirit--there are perhaps no bodies to impede the operation--can really and irrevocably suck the weaker into itself and permanently gorge its own being on the weaker's outraged individuality. It is (I feign) for this that devils desire human souls and the souls of one another, It is for this that Satan desires all his own followers and all the sons of Eve and all the host of Heaven. His dream is of the day when all shall be inside him....

Interestingly, although I believe Monroe misinterpreted many things he witnessed during his astral journeys, I find it disturbing that when he once consulted one of these helpers (angels?) he encountered, asking why humans were at the top of the food chain more or less and why there shouldn't be anyone to eat us, the helper retorted that some of the evil beings Monroe encountered actually fed on certain human emotions, and fear in particular. Perhaps Lewis was on to something.

What does the bible say about this OBE phenomenon? Monroe referred to his astral body simply as a second body. The Egyptians called it Ka. Even Plato and Aristotle believed in a second sort of nonphysical body that resided in juxtaposition with the physical. Certainly the earliest Christians and Jews knew about the second body. I believe the Jews simply termed the second body as spirit. In the bible, only Paul directly refers to someone possibly moving "out" of the physical body before death though:

2 Corinthians 12:1 I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. 2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. 3 And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows—4 was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell.

You may recall that my own first experience as a teenager was accompanied by a pressure that felt like an immense hand pushing me down into the bed. Many who go through an OBE incident mention that same feeling of something like a hand--a heaviness on the chest area. Many times I've wondered whether the bible, at least in a few instances, may have been referring to the same feeling taking place when it says the "hand of the Lord" was on someone during a vision such as Elisha's in 2 Kings 3:15-16 "'But now bring me a harpist.' While the harpist was playing, the hand of the LORD came upon Elisha and he said, 'This is what the LORD says....'"

And here are three more interesting instances mentioned by Ezekiel.

Ezekiel 3:14 The Spirit then lifted me up and took me away, and I went in bitterness and in the anger of my spirit, with the strong hand of the LORD upon me.

Ezekiel 37:1 The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones.

Ezekiel 40:1 In the twenty-fifth year of our exile, at the beginning of the year, on the tenth of the month, in the fourteenth year after the fall of the city—on that very day the hand of the LORD was upon me and he took me there. 2 In visions of God he took me to the land of Israel and set me on a very high mountain, on whose south side were some buildings that looked like a city. 3 He took me there, and I saw a man whose appearance was like bronze; he was standing in the gateway with a linen cord and a measuring rod in his hand.

These all sound like OBEs to me, and all are accompanied by the "hand of God" being upon someone.

Many people who have had an OBE talk about being able to see a cord at times that is attached between the back of the head/neck area on their physical body and to that of their second state body which is very thin and generally white or silver in color. This cord stretches to go wherever they go and never breaks. It's generally thought that at the time of physical death the cord does in fact break though and a person lives in the spiritual plane forever onward. Ezekiel mentions a similar cord:

Ecclesiastes 12:6-7
Remember him--before the silver cord is severed,
or the golden bowl is broken;
before the pitcher is shattered at the spring,
or the wheel broken at the well,
and the dust returns to the ground it came from,
and the spirit returns to God who gave it.

There is much more we could discuss on this topic of the out of body experience, but primary I just wanted to point out that it's something that man has always known about and that even some biblical figures may have been engaged in. And many biblical prophets (while quite possibly in an OBE state) also mention evil entities around the world. The story of Job goes into detail about Satan himself trying to influence the behavior of Job. And this is the core of what I meant to lecture on all along in this series. I first wanted to get the point across to you that many, many people from every corner of the globe, from every race and religion, and from every point in history, have had firsthand encounters with that dark spiritual agency. Lewis and Monroe each gave us a reason for them doing what they do--that they somehow feed off us or at least our emotions in some way that's unclear at present. If Monroe's "helper" (angel?) was correct, and it's the negative emotions they feed upon, this might explain why they should try so desperately to induce bad behavior in humans. Yes, I'm aware that it sounds like a bad episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and perhaps Lewis' argument may sound more rational to you (it does to me). But, whatever their reasons, let's consider for a moment that demonic forces do indeed try to induce bad behavior, at least in humans (and possibly other creatures as well).

Of the many unexplainable oddities in nature none is more irregular than unnatural behavior in both humans and other animals. We often find ourselves tempted to do, not only evil things, but things that simply make no sense, even behavior we normally wouldn't think of doing, and then afterwards we say to ourselves, "Why on earth did I do that?", or "I don't know what came over me!"

Now I'm not talking about character traits because those are things habitual in nature. What I'm talking about are behaviors that are decidedly uncharacteristic. What I'm trying to convey here are those behaviors that appear out of nowhere and for no reason. Children are especially bad at this. Your son is twenty feet up in a tree and for some ungodly (literally) reason decides to jump down. My father's older brother did this when they were young, except it was more like thirty feet. Not only did he miraculously walk away unscathed, but dad jumped right behind him and also was uninjured. Dad tells me he still doesn't know why either of them did it. This unnatural desire to jump just came over them all the sudden. I heard a story from a woman the other day who mentioned going to summer camp one year as a young teen, and for some reason that she still can't comprehend, pulled the zipper down the front of her friend's top (who was braless) exposing her to the other kids. After all these years she's still stymied as to why she did this. It was almost like an instinct, some inner drive seemed to command it of her. I know of a man who, while he was in college, was walking down the street one day, and decided on the spur of the moment to walk out into oncoming traffic and kneel down in front of a car. He got lucky, and the car was able to avoid him. Nothing was troubling this young man; he was relatively carefree and happy, yet something drove him without hesitation to do this foolish thing, and he couldn't begin to tell you why.

If it's the prodding of devils acting on our psyches, it would seem to have little in common with Lewis' notion about the way demons feed upon us. If Monroe was right, however, this behavior would make sense since they would all bring about extreme emotions in all the people involved. You may feel no emotion at all in climbing a tree and jumping, but a few feet before you hit the ground, great anxiety and fear are bound to set in. And even if you felt no anxiety or fear when walking out in front of traffic, it could still be that the driver you step in front of may feel a great deal of it.

One of the strangest things in all of the animal world has got to be the way parasites act on their hosts causing them to act out all kinds of seemingly irrational behavior. There is a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii which is thought to produce low intelligence and hyperactivity in human children. It's also been linked to Schizophrenia. One particularly interesting parasite to me is the gordian worm. As a juvenile it enters into various kinds of insects and then grows into adulthood feeding on the insides of the insect. After it reaches adulthood, the parasite can only breed in water, so it appears to somehow act on the brain of the host causing it to go into a pond, lake, or other body of water, and quite often this host cannot swim, and so it basically commits suicide at the prodding of the parasite. Afterwards the parasite emerges from the corpse. Here is a thirty second video (without sound) showing an infected cricket jumping into a swimming pool and drowning, and the parasite subsequently emerging from the body. What's even odder with this host is that crickets can normally navigate around on water pretty well. It seems as though this cricket purposely drowns itself.

I'm reminded of the man at the tombs whom Jesus healed who was demon possessed. The strangest thing about that healing was that the demons, through the man, asked to be sent into a herd of pigs. The pigs subsequently ran off a cliff and drowned in the water below. Coincidence? I'm not necessarily saying demons and parasites are one and the same. But isn't it odd the way God so very often uses real life examples that are symbols of the spiritual world from which ours takes its existence. Demons in this case represent the macrocosm while parasites are the earthly symbolic microcosm.

On the other hand, who's to say that devils don't work through creatures like parasites or bacteria? If they would live in a pig, why not a parasite? Charles Williams once said that demons "pine for matter". They can never have an existence outside of the spirit world. The closest they can come is to live through us, or through other of God's creatures. Perhaps when we figuratively refer to a man with cancer as "fighting his demons" we aren't speaking as figuratively as we think. We might rather be unconsciously tapping into yet another example of the macrocosm/microcosm of devils at work in some way. Satan set the ultimate example of effecting human behavior in the Garden of Eden while in a spiritual paradise. Parasites, bacteria, and other fungi have been copying the behavior on the microcosmic material world of human flesh ever since. Parasites are essentially agents of evil.

Of all his accomplishments, I think Satan must take greatest pride in changing the human view of morality. Remember the incident with Michael Jackson and child molestation we talked about? While things like parasites mostly try to affect the way we treat ourselves, Satan is more concerned with how we treat others. He's made great use of language toward this end. If you call a thing by another name long enough, people will begin to believe it. All the devils in hell would like to see each and every child molester left free to roam the world so they can keep on doing what they do. But of course if anyone were to stand up and say exactly that, he would be scorned by the masses. So instead Satan takes the more subtle route of changing our perception of evil itself while taking the focus off the child and putting it on society as a whole. The child molester is misunderstood. He was mistreated growing up because he was different, maybe a little effeminate and weak. And who was he mistreated by? Us of course. It's our fault he's the way he is. We didn't show him enough love and respect before he started molesting, and that's what set him off. We should have been more tolerant. We should always be tolerant of others no matter how different they are. And when they finally do go wrong and molest, we should be both tolerant and lenient of their wrongdoings because there before the grace of God go you and I. Thus today we have school teachers talking a great deal about tolerance. But where's the faintest bit of talk about permissiveness in all this? We're ready to tolerate any and all sin today because we're taking the high road in doing so. It proves we're better people for doing it. But you can no more make the world a better place by being tolerant of criminals than you can make your house fly by drawing wings on it.

If the prophets of old were alive today they would in all likelihood be run out of any Christian Church they entered. King David surrounded himself with prophets and seers. And it sure looks to me like they were often in trance states. Today it's somehow all come to be viewed as the work of the devil and occult practices. Even meditation has come under ridicule although one has to wonder exactly what the Sabbath's "rest" was for if not meditative purposes? Transcendence used to mean focusing one's attention on the world of spirit. Now it too has come under that all inclusive cloak of occultism. Christians today don't have enough on the ball to even realize that all spiritual power comes through transcending the material world whether they be powers used for good or for evil. Mysticism has become the evil deed of a witch when it used to be the opening of the heavens to the spiritual eyes of the faithful Christian. And yet Christians today complain that we don't see miracles like those in the bible anymore. Is it any wonder? We've closed off every avenue to the world of spirit, that land where angels tread, and actually did it in the name of God. This is what the devil focuses on doing. He wants us to call good evil and evil good. And he's succeeded. He has changed the face of evil.

I'm going to close this series out on evil with a prayer written by Bob Russell while he was the pastor of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky. (He may still be for all I know). He read it at the Kentucky Governor's Prayer Breakfast in 1995. It later caused quite a stir among democrats when Pastor Joe Wright read the prayer at the Kansas House floor a year later. One democrat walked out during the prayer. Three others got up and protested Wright's prayer as a message of--you guessed it--intolerance.

Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask your forgiveness and seek your direction and guidance.

We know your Word says, "Woe to those who call evil good," but that's exactly what we've done.

We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and inverted our values.

We confess that we have ridiculed the absolute truth of your Word and called it moral pluralism.

We have worshipped other gods and called it multiculturalism.

We have endorsed perversion and called it an alternative lifestyle.

We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery.

We have neglected the needy and called it self-preservation.

We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare.

We have killed our unborn and called it choice.

We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable.

We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building esteem.

We have abused power and called it political savvy.

We have coveted our neighbors' possessions and called it ambition.

We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression.

We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment.

Search us O God and know our hearts today; try us and see if there be some wicked way in us; cleanse us from every sin and set us free.

Guide and bless these men and women who have been sent here by the people of Kansas, and who have been ordained by you, to govern this great state.

Grant them your wisdom to rule and may their decisions direct us to the center of your will. I ask it in the name of your son, the living savior, Jesus Christ.