We don’t see a whole lot of genuine faith in the movies or on TV these days. Instead, characters who exhibit religious faith on fictional films and programs are more likely to show up as fodder for mocking or as social deviants in disguise. Obviously, we can easily forget that the concept of faith played a much greater role in Hollywood’s earlier days, even in the films made by the Disney Studios.
Walt Disney held a deep, private faith in Jesus Christ, though he was not an outwardly religious man. His parents raised him in the theology of the Congregational Church, and he firmly believed in the power of prayer and Bible study. Rarely, if ever, did Disney attend church, but he made sure his daughters were involved in Sunday School programs, even allowing them to choose the denomination that suited them best in their teen years. Walt also said:
I ask of myself, “Live a good Christian life.” Towards this objective I bend every effort in shaping my personal, domestic, and professional activities and growth.
I believe firmly in the efficacy of religion, in its powerful influence on a person’s whole life. It helps immeasurably to meet the storm and stress of life and keep you attuned to the Divine inspiration. Without inspiration, we would perish.
Clearly, Disney understood the importance of faith as part of the American cultural fabric. Another quote of his underscores this fact:
I have watched constantly that in our movie work the highest moral and spiritual standards are upheld, whether it deals with fable or with stories of living action.
We can see these moral and spiritual standards at work in Disney’s classic films. In fact, the concept of faith plays a role in many of the great films of the Disney canon. Today, I’m going to look at five examples of the value of faith in Disney’s classic films: I’m taking a look at two of the big themes that emerge, and then we’ll delve into three characters who exhibit faith in different ways. These movies are not necessarily religious in nature, nor do I claim that they are theologically accurate in any sort of way. With that said, let’s dive in…
Week 13 of my second 13 week season: low-carb diet and more exercise, tracking my weight, blood glucose, and body fat. You can follow me at my 13 Weeks Facebook page for daily updates, and you can join Fitocracy (free!) and follow my daily exercise, and maybe even start tracking your own.
We’re now in the last week of my second 13-week experiment. I’m planning another 13 weeks and I want to talk about what I’m going to change and why, but first I think it might be useful to look back at when I started this, six months ago:
It struck me just a couple weeks ago. I’m 57, weigh 300 pounds, massively deconditioned, verging on type II diabetes if not actually there, and I don’t want to die.
It’d been a hard year. A year ago this week, my mother had a heart attack, and over the ensuring months failed and died, passing away on 11 January, two days before her 77th birthday. Following that, I had a succession of illnesses that put me in the hospital for a day, four times between January and August. One of those times was with pneumonia, and as my friends all insisted on reminding me, “you can die from that!”
A sense of mortality struck me on my birthday, 57 this year; arithmetic started showing up for me. My father died in 1994, at 69. That’s only 12 years older than I am now. Mom at 77, only 20 years older than I am now.
Now, my Dad weighed in the neighborhood of 450 lbs when he died, and he smoked. My Mom, around 200 lbs and she’d smoked heavily, drunk heavily, and generally been rode hard and put up wet nearly her whole life. I’ve got some advantages, since I don’t drink or smoke; on the other hand, I’ve been struggling with my weight since I was literally 6 years old. You can hear a lot of bad diet advice in 50 years.
The long and short of it is that I want to change this and need to change this, and there’s relatively new science that suggests there are better, faster, more efficient ways to change this. So I’m doing an experiment: for 13 weeks, which I plan to start a week from today, 4 November 2012, I’m going to start an experiment where I’ll be keeping a very low carb, more or less “paleo” diet, and doing “high intensity interval training” and “high intensity strength training” two sessions a week. This scheme has good reasons behind it, biochemically and otherwise.
Then I’m writing about it, and I’m going very public with it, so, frankly, it’ll be too embarrassing to quit.
And I have changed my situation. I’ve lost 30 pounds, 10 percent of my bodyweight. My blood sugar is down, way down. (As we saw a couple weeks ago, maybe a little too far down.) I have been more successful with exercise, if not astoundingly successful. And my health is definitely better, both by objective medical measures and just in the way I feel. But I’d still like to lose maybe another 50 pounds, and I’d like to get completely off diabetes meds. And I’m bored with what I had been doing.
Here’s the basics of the next 13 week experiment:
- I’m going to change over to Tim Ferris’s Slow Carb Diet as defined by his 5 rules. Now, that’s kind of the Reader’s Digest Condensed version of his full diet plan, but I like simple things. Also, his full-fledged diet cuts out dairy and I like cheese. This is still low-carb, although not quite as low, but with the episodes of hypoglycemia I’m hoping to maybe level out by blood sugar some.
- I’m going to pick out two (gasp) goals: by the end of this 13 weeks I want to do 100 pushups in a row, and I want to do at least one unassisted pull up. I’m going to continue to track my Fitocracy points and plan to get 2000 points or more a week.
- I will continue to track weight and glucose, and I’ll make a full set of body measurements at the beginning and end of the 13 weeks. Measuring body fat is going overboard; I’ll talk more about it next week, but basically I don’t think any method I’ve got easily available is turning out to be either precise or accurate.
- I’m going to concentrate more on mental, or if you will spiritual, aspects. As part of that in a way I’ll explain in a minute, I’m going to ask those of you who are inclined to try to change something in your life to join in. We’ll talk a lot more about coaching and support; I’ll also want to know what tools you feel would help you perform a 13 week experiment of your own.
The mental/spiritual idea is, I suspect, a surprise. It sure as hell was to me: Dave Swindle, who edits the Lifestyle section, suggested it to me as an addition for the next experiment and — well, I replied “Hm. I’ll think about it.” but what I meant was “Don’t like it, no.” But there was a chain of events I didn’t know was happening. Dave had put the idea in my head. I recently became enamored of the Brazilian novelist Paulo Coehlo, and was reading his book Aleph. (I recommend Coelho, by the way, even if he did get noticed because Bill Clinton was reading his book The Alchemist.) Aleph is a sort of fictionalized (I think) biography; in a powerful scene, in a ritual in a church Coehlo asks a woman he wronged in the past for forgiveness. Then she continues by spontaneously saying essentially the same words, forgiving herself for past wrongs she had done to herself.
Reading that, I had one of those moments of visceral, pleasurable electricity, and I realized that there had been an emotional theme I’d been working on during the last 26 weeks. Part of it was seeing the ways I’d been hurt by things said about my weight and appearance, general lack of athletic motivation, extreme nerdiness and the emotional distance that comes with long-term depression. I’ve devoted a column on several occasions to various kinds of baggage, including that column about the car wreck, which I found hard to write because it felt like I was admitting to failings.
Reading Aleph, I realized there was a central theme: I needed to forgive myself for sometimes being imperfect.
1. Belief in God Is Logical. God’s Fingerprints Cover the Universe. It Is Irrational to Believe That the Universe Was Created Out of Nothingness.
Dear [Insert Name of Your Secularist Friend or Family Member Who Does Not Understand Why You No Longer Share Their Hatred of Traditional Religion Anymore],
It seems like our arguments on Facebook and over email have been increasing lately with all the horrific news stories. And again you continue to misunderstand why I approach the stories of the day from Kermit Gosnell to the Boston Bombers with a good and evil, Bible-based perspective.
One of the best places online you can go to better understand my approach to these issues is Prager University. Every month they release two five-minute courses designed to educate people in a quick, entertaining way about history, philosophy, religion, and politics. I discovered Prager University’s videos when I noticed that they decided to start featuring every new one at PJ Lifestyle, a publication that I enjoy reading which shares the same goals of reaching out and engaging with the culture at large instead of just preaching to the choir.
I’ve collected six of Prager University’s videos on God and religion, starting with their newest one above that they just released yesterday featuring Boston College philosophy professor Peter Kreeft answering the question “God or Atheism — Which is More Rational?” I hope if you want to understand better how it is that I’ve come to reject your ideology and returned to faith in the God of the Bible you would consider these videos along with these six points I’ve written in relation to them.
Throughout this series I’ve questioned where the line is drawn between reflecting and affecting when it comes to the media’s relationship with real life. Either way, the determining factor is relatability. You aren’t going to imitate something unless you can relate to it, and if you can’t relate to a show, chances are it isn’t anywhere near a reflection of who you are.
So, in the interest of all things entertainment, let’s take a simple quiz to determine your relatability factor when it comes to the portrayal of “traditional family” on television using two popular prime-time family-themed shows: Family Guy and The Middle.
Family Guy: The show is apathetic, even nihilistic at times, mocks the same politically correct values it thrives on, and typifies men and women in terms taught best in Gender Studies 101. The Middle is one of a handful of shows to make it to the air that depicted exactly what its title intimated: a middle -lass, middle-of-the-road family living in the middle of nowhere, America. As working middle class as the Griffins, the Hecks are a family of five that mirrors the demographics of the Quahog clan: father, mother, two sons with a daughter in the middle.
So, what’s your relatability factor? And how does your relatability compare with the ratings? Take this simple five-question quiz to find out!
After reading about a newly published scientific book titled The Mystery of the Shroud, which attempts to prove that the Shroud of Turin actually dates back to the time of Jesus, I planned on writing what you are about to read.
Then, an hour before my scheduled writing time, I “just happened” to notice a Facebook post that read:
Christmas was the promise — Easter is the proof.
That phrase truly resonated with me because of the word “proof.”
But do believers really have proof that Jesus was resurrected from the dead?
After twenty years of reading about and studying the Shroud of Turin (and even viewing it in 2010), I have all the “proof” I need. Although let me state emphatically that my faith — and the faith of most people who are celebrating “Resurrection Sunday” today — does not depend on any physical proof whatsoever.
For we know that Jesus is alive and His Spirit lives in us; that is all the proof we need.
Still, physical proof of Christ’s resurrection would be useful, especially when one tries to convince loved ones to believe in what more than a billion people around the world believe today.
So what if this new Shroud of Turin scientific study really does prove conclusively that the Shroud cloth dates back to the time of Jesus? Does that mean mankind finally has the proof it needs to believe that Jesus Christ was resurrected from the dead after dying on the cross?
We are certainly getting close to “proof beyond a reasonable doubt,” and here are some reasons why this is happening now.
I can tell you that this morning in Beersheva, before it even started to get light, birds were singing in the dark. From my open, fourth-story kitchen window I saw the utter calm, felt the remarkably mild air, made out the forms of the buildings without a single window lit by a light.
Remarkably mild, because we’ve been having an intrusion of summer into what should be — at best — spring.
For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come….
The Song of Songs remains a detailed and reliable guide to spring in this land — or at least its more rural parts. Where I live — as could be made out as the light slowly grew — a hodgepodge of older, smaller houses and more recent apartment buildings that were thrown up hastily for immigrants makes for a grim, cluttered effect. But it is the land; as birds start to wheel in the sky against a dull silvery color.
Thomas Sowell: “One of the infirmities of age is omniscience.” I’m far from aged, and I’m not omniscient. But that line — from a writer who comes up with a lot of them — has special resonance. If I’ve achieved any knowledge, it’s what I feel now in this hushed, almost secret hour.
In the first phase of my life my “Jerusalem” was a pond. It lay along the golf course in Clifton Knolls, a development near which I grew up. (It was in the town of Clifton Park, New York. You can see the pond here down on the left.)
For the wild bunch I hung out with in my teens, the golf course was a haven—at night. The cops—though their cars roamed the streets of the development assiduously, the bright beams splitting the night—almost never bothered with the golf course. You could get drunk out there under the stars, feeling the world was yours, spacious, endless.
That wasn’t, though, what made the pond a sacred place. That happened later at night—past midnight, when the silence out there was total except a sound a frog made like a bass string being slowly, pensively plucked. This was something even more clandestine than the drinking with the buddies; it involved sneaking out of a bedroom window, a tryst at a street corner, and making our way in the darkness to the “place by the water” (a paraphrase).
This went on for a few weeks during one of the summers. In an adolescence bedeviled by shyness and frustration, I had somehow found someone to go there with, alone. The magnificence, for me, of the intimacy; the beauty of the setting—breezes rustling the leaves along the pond—all this was overwhelming. The girl went away; I never understood why, until e-contact with her—over the past couple of years—provided some clues.
But the memories did not go away. A sort of religion of the pond—of itself, without my prompting—formed in my mind: the deep, ineffable tranquility, the sense of a different dimension, secluded, peaceful, and final. In the coming years I would drift back to it often.
Last week on PJ Lifestyle I read with great interest a piece by P. David Hornik titled “What Near-Death Experiences Tell Us.” With “great interest” refers to my long-time fascination with near-death experiences (NDEs), which began in 1994 after a friend gifted me the book Embraced By The Light by Betty J. Eadie.
The book, according to my friend, was a “must read.” As proof, she claimed it was still on the New York Times best seller list after an entire year. (For the record, Embraced By The Light was #1 on the New York Times list in September 1993 and in the top ten for 78 weeks. Subsequently, it became the fifth bestselling book of the 1990s.)
Embraced By The Light, published in 1992, was Eadie’s personal account of her near-death experience after an operation gone awry in 1973.
Then, for more than a decade, Eadie was hesitant to write or speak about her NDE out of fear that people (including family members) would think she was totally nuts, or would not believe her story.
What makes Eadie’s NDE so controversial and intriguing is the title of the book itself. Because, immediately upon reaching heaven, Betty was “embraced by the light,” and that light was Jesus Christ and he made himself known to her.
Betty is then taken on an unforgettable tour of heaven which she describes in great detail. Throughout the book, Jesus teaches Betty His message of eternal and unconditional love. But despite her pleas to stay in heaven, Jesus sends her back to earth because it was “not yet her time.” The book concludes with Jesus’ final message to Betty, “Above all else, love one another.”
Like millions of other readers around the world (the book was published in 130 countries, translated into 38 languages, and to this date has sold over 20 million copies), I was totally captivated by Embraced. This captivation stemmed from my belief in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. But Betty’s NDE account, the first one I had ever read, only served as sweet confirmation that the “benign deity” (the phrase used by Hornik in his piece) not only exists, but that we will meet Him face to face “when it is our time.”
Here’s a video of Eadie on the Oprah Winfrey Show in the ’90s, when Embraced was a best-selling book:
About five years ago, after my husband and I first heard Paul Wilbur perform at a messianic temple in Ft. Lauderdale, we became instant fans. Since then, we have played his CDs in our cars repeatedly.
Wilbur’s songs appeal to traditional Jews and Christians alike. He has performed in Israel on numerous occasions, and his love for that nation, coupled with his own Jewish heritage and love of Christ, is the hallmark of his music ministry, making him a unique performer.
As a result, Wilbur’s popularity as a singer, songwriter and praise/worship leader has grown tenfold around the world since we first heard him perform in a small venue.
His music resonates with me, and not just because we are both Jewish believers in Jesus Christ, but in the extraordinary way his songs fill any room (or car) with passion and love.
Now, as so often happens when I’m inspired to write something with a spiritual theme for PJ Lifestyle, a deeper dimension of the topic is revealed while I am doing “research.” (A quick Google search.)
Such was the case with Paul Wilbur. I had already decided to write about him because I thought PJ Lifestyle Sunday readers would appreciate knowing about him and hearing some of his music.
That was when I discovered, just this past December, Paul Wilbur made history as the first singer to perform at a religious concert event in Cuba with the full permission and “blessing” of the communist Cuban government.
Watch him here as he speaks about this historic trip.
His Cuban concerts were truly amazing events for this struggling nation and its oppressed people.
Perhaps, just the fact that Wilbur’s two “praise and worship” performances were even allowed to proceed, is a signal that some potentially major political, social and or spiritual changes are about to be instituted by the Cuban government.
Which begs the questions, “Is God at work in Cuba and if so, is HE using Paul Wilbur as a catalyst?”
Only time will tell, but in the meantime, check out Paul Wilbur Ministries and discover what a tour de force he has become around the world.
And, if you are ever presented with the opportunity to see him perform live, do not hesitate. Trust me when I tell you your faith walk could be impacted, even if you have little faith or none at all.
Finally, I will close with a video of Paul Wilbur performing a song that ranks high among my favorites.
Please do watch until the very end, for this song builds and soars and I predict your spirits will be uplifted right along with it.
Anyone on a faith walk will eventually ask the question, “How do I pray?”
Except for the Lord’s Prayer that Jesus taught his disciples, there is no easy answer, for prayer is a very personal and personalized pursuit.
And, as with all pursuits, practice is the key to success and prayer is no different.
You will soon discover the more you pray, the more you will find answers to difficult questions, along with mental or physical healing from various maladies, protection for you or your loved ones and comfort from any number of storms that happen to be raging in your life.
Whatever the current state of your prayer life, even if you do not have one, or practice no faith at all, here is a powerful “prayer exercise” that you should find very beneficial.
Back in 1990 I first experienced this exercise in a group while attending a prayer seminar at my church. During the course of the exercise, the answer to a personal spiritual question that had been plaguing me for 15 years was instantly revealed.
Thus, I immediately became a huge believer in this prayer exercise and since have shared it with many others over the years. You too might find some answers but only if you are truly honest and unafraid to ask or face the most difficult questions or issues in your past or present circumstances.
So without further ado, here is the exercise.
Jesus is visiting your neighborhood. He is going house to house and will be at your door in five minutes.
Will you let him in?
What will you say to Him when he appears at your door?
What is He going to ask you?
What questions are you going to ask Him?
Are there any rooms in your home that you do not want him to see?
Any closets, drawers, photos, or computer files that you want to hide from Him?
Pray about these questions for five minutes.
(Five minutes passes)
Knock, knock Jesus has arrived.
Greet Him at the door or ask Him to go away.
If you invite Him in, visualize actually letting him in the door of your home or apartment as you would any guest.
You may even offer Him something to drink or eat.
Just let the visit unfold.
Perhaps you might want to take him on a tour of your home. Or ask him to sit down as you begin chatting in your most comfortable space.
Remember to discuss the questions or issues you identified in the first part of the exercise.
His visit can last as long as you want because, as the Bible says: I will never leave you nor forsake you.
However, in my group prayer seminar His visit lasted about 10 minutes.
After that time, the prayer leader asked our group if anyone was willing to share their experience of “Jesus’ visit.” Many did, but I was still in shock from His most perfect answer to my question, so I remained uncharacteristically silent.
This exercise is effective in a group setting or when one is alone. Adults, teenagers or even children can be enthralled by this 15 minute “visit with Jesus,” if participants take it seriously and deal with sometimes difficult personal issues honestly.
For a different twist, you could even visualize Jesus walking around your office building for five minutes visiting others before He shows up at YOUR office.
Even though it has been 23 years since I was first introduced to this prayer exercise, my experience was so enlightening it was imprinted on my heart and soul forever.
Do not be surprised if you have similar results. This exercise is extremely powerful because it presents Jesus as someone who you can communicate with in a two-way conversation.
And, after all isn’t that what prayer is anyway, a conversation with God?
Finally, this week on a country music station I heard the song, If I Could Have A Beer With Jesus for the first time. This song by Thomas Rhett reminded me of my 1990 prayer seminar experience and that is the reason why you just read what you read.
Related at PJ Lifestyle:
Golly, I feel old sometimes.
I became a buddhist in 1966. It turns out my new favorite Zen Master — boy, he’s gonna flinch if he reads that — is a guy who was about four years old at the time. His name is Brad Warner, and he’s rockin’ the Zen world.
Literally. Brad is a hardcore punk rock bass player, who recorded with hardcore bands like 0DFX (Zero Defex) and started a psychedelic band Dementia 13, and I’m telling you right here and now that my knowledge of punk rock is entirely derived from reading Brad’s books and a couple of Wikipedia articles: when punkers were listening to the Dead Kennedys, I was listening to Styx and Kansas.
I also like Glenn Miller. Sue me.
Brad then moved to Japan, where after a year of teaching English, managed to wangle a job working for Tsuburya Productions, which made Ultraman; he acted in bit parts in a number of Ultraman movies and did promotion in English for the company. He also married. While he was there, he also started to study Zen with Gudo Nishijima, a teacher in the Soto lineage, and as he tells it in his first book Hardcore Zen: Punk Rock, Monster Movies and the Truth About Reality, Nishijima-sensei decided to confer Transmission, making him an official certified Zen Master and Nishijima’s Dharma heir. He then moved back to the US, lost his job, got divorced, and began writing for the general public with Hardcore Zen, followed by becoming a columnist for the Suicide Girls website, largely a repository of pictures of young hipster girls with lots of tattoos and few clothes.
Brad has been controversial more or less from the start. (Not every Zen Master writes for a porn site.) First of all, he doesn’t look the part.
This guy looks like a Zen Master.
This guy looks like a Zen Master.
And then there’s Brad.
According to Boxofficemojo.com, Marvel’s The Avengers ranks as the third most successful film of all time with a global haul of $1.5 billion. Rotten Tomatoes notes the alignment of critics (92% approval) and audiences (96%.) Like other epic fantasy franchises at the top of the list — from Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings to Harry Potter and The Matrix — The Avengers resonates universally with audiences and critics across the globe because of its exciting reinventions of classical mythology, religious metaphor, and esoteric symbols.
What follows is my attempt to unpack some of these references and describe what I believe to be their cumulative effect: The Avengers is the best superhero film yet made, both in its entertainment level and moral values. Over at the Weekly Standard, Jonathan V. Last and Travis D. Smith can have their debate of Batman vs Spider-Man. The Avengers rise over them both, providing a much richer fantasy for young people to embrace as they begin the journey toward adulthood.
1. The Invigorating “Live to Rise” Theme Song Explicitly Reveals the Film’s Hidden Hermetic Goal: Directing the Viewer to Understand Their Life as an Expression of the Rise, Fall, Death, and Resurrection of the Sun.
The lyrics to the new Soundgarden song — embedded above — used prominently in the film’s advertising and closing credits:
What if all you understand,
Could fit into the center of our hand,
Then you found it wasn’t you,
Who held the sum of everything you knew,
Like the sun we will live to rise,
Like the sun we will live and die,
And then ignite again,
Like the sun we will live to rise again,
Dr. Israel Regardie’s The One Year Manual: Twelve Steps to Spiritual Enlightenment offers a series of short chapters with practical exercises for improving one’s life. The book distills a lifetime’s worth of engagement with Hermeticism to transform a spiritual practice cloaked in mystery and confusion into an accessible tool for those of all faith traditions.
The book’s exercises involve instruction in prayer, relaxation, rhythmic breathing, meditative ritual, and the development of concentration. Throughout the text Regardie draws from ancient Egyptian, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and scientific traditions to show how one can plug in any deity and use the book’s rituals to help grow closer to one’s conception of the Higher Power.
My friend Rob Taylor suggested The One Year Manual to me last December and I experimented with its techniques throughout 2012. I agree with the author that the book’s first exercise — the Four Adorations — is the most essential and the only one to practice daily, which I do:
In former great ages, man realized intuitively his relationship to nature and to the living universe in which he lived and was a part. He felt his unity with all the elements. In the fullness of his life he worshipped the Sun as a visible symbol of the unknown God in whom we live and move and have our being. It is axiomatic that light is life and both are dependent upon the Sun — which thus becomes a vital symbol of God.
In our modern scientific age of gadgets and things, with our unnatural way of life divorced from contact with the dynamic root of things, we may once more progress towards the full awareness of the source of life and love and liberty, we make ritual gestures of affirming a link between the Sun and ourselves. Upon the basis of these gestures of adoration, every act in life may be dedicated in such a way that living itself becomes sanctified and transformed.
Though God is a unity, the Sun, as a symbol of God, appears differently at each of its four daily stations — dawn, noon, sunset and midnight. Therefore an adoration is directed towards the Sun at each of these four stations.
At dawn, or upon arising, he should perform whatever abulations are customary and then turning towards the East, say audibly:
Hail unto Thee who art Ra in thy rising,
Even unto Thee who art Ra in thy strength,
Who travellest over the Heavens in Thy bark
At the Uprising of the Sun.
Tahuti standeth in His splendour at the prow
And Ra-Hoor abideth at the helm.
Hail unto Thee from the Abodes of the Night!
Much of the symbolism inherent in this simple adoration may be missed by the student for some considerable time. It does not matter just yet. But this should not be permitted to serve as an obstacle to daily practice, nor to deter him from adoring God in the form of the rising Sun every day of his life.
Regardie then explains how the prayer changes at each time of day with different Egyptian gods representing the sun later at noon, sunrise, and night. Here’s a hieroglyph depicting the image of the prayer and the deities referenced: Tahuti (Thoth, the ankh,) Ra-Hoor (Horus the Hawk-headed), and the sun deity Ra (the solar disk):
The great value of the “Four Adorations” comes not in the words of the prayer or the Egyptian gods Regardie suggests. Evangelical Christians could just as easily substitute God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. What matters is how the prayer — adapted from the ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead — breaks up the idea of God into multiple parts, asserting that individual deities can only express aspects of a Transcendent God existing beyond human comprehension. We can only hold pieces of God in our head at a time.
What if all you understand,
Could fit into the center of our hand,
Then you found it wasn’t you,
Who held the sum of everything you knew,
Here we see the mechanism for the gradual transition from polytheism to monotheism. It’s not just a matter of belief in one god versus the worship of many. The revolution came not in the idea of a single deity, but an abstract deity defined not in a single symbol — like a Golden Calf — but in the ongoing transformation of one symbol into another. In the Judeo-Christian monotheism that arose out of the polytheism of the Mediterranean world, God was not a Thing. God was the invisible process through which nothing transforms into something. God isn’t a man sitting up in the clouds or an animal-headed supernatural being sailing across the sky in a boat. God is the four-fold process we see manifest in the rise of the sun and the turn of the seasons. And the more we worship this process — Regardie recommends stopping at the same time every day for a moment of reflection and devotion — the more we can apply it to transform ourselves and our world.
Its with this Hermetic understanding — God as a process of continual death and resurrection, “Like the sun we will live to rise again,” — that I approach the heroes and villains of The Avengers with the Tarot deck in hand. The cards each represent aspects of this process of transformation. They are not a fortune-telling or future-predicting device any more than the future changes when the individual seeing the cards chooses to respond to the reminder of the values they represent.
The next 8 pages will each focus on the mythological significance of each hero and villain in The Avengers. The conclusion will explore what story pours out after all these elements liquify in the blender of cinema. My apologies for the length — this is really more of a short ebook rather than a long article. Caveat emptor.
We begin first with the film that carved a space for Marvel at the box office, 2008′s Iron Man and its brilliant, capitalist-hero Tony Stark, an exciting reinvention of the suit of Swords (spades in the playing card deck) fueled by a $140 million budget.
Related at PJ Lifestyle:
Religion, God, transcendence, spirituality: do these things exist independently of the human mind or are they products of neurochemical firings of the brain? When Saul had his revelatory experience on the road to Damascus, had he fallen under the spell of a seizure, as some have claimed, or was it a flash of the divine that caused his conversion to Christianity? When Fyodor Dostoevsky experienced the self-transcendent moment he describes below, was he momentarily elevated into a mysterious mystical realm or was he having a fit of temporal lobe epilepsy?
The air was filled with a big noise and I tried to move. I felt the heaven was going down upon the earth and that it engulfed me. I have really touched God. He came into me myself, yes God exists, I cried, and I don’t remember anything else. You all, healthy people . . . can’t imagine the happiness which we epileptics feel during the second before our fit . . . I don’t know if this felicity lasts for seconds, hours or months, but believe me, for all the joys that life may bring, I would not exchange this one.
Over at the Atlantic, two scientists and doctors–the renowned neurologist Oliver Sacks and radiologist Richard Gunderman–are debating these fascinating questions.
In his new book Hallucinations, Oliver Sacks writes, “One must wonder to what extent hallucinatory experiences have given rise to our art, folklore, and even religion.” In his recent piece for the Atlantic titled “Seeing God in the Third Millenium,” he went on to argue:
Hallucinations, whether revelatory or banal, are not of supernatural origin; they are part of the normal range of human consciousness and experience. This is not to say that they cannot play a part in the spiritual life, or have great meaning for an individual. Yet while it is understandable that one might attribute value, ground beliefs, or construct narratives from them, hallucinations cannot provide evidence for the existence of any metaphysical beings or places. They provide evidence only of the brain’s power to create them.
When I interviewed Sacks for a profile, his words were slightly softer: “There is always a brain basis for these various religious states, although this says nothing of the meaning or value of hallucinations. I don’t think it’s at all reductive.”
Continue reading at Acculturated.
Related at PJ Lifestyle:
On Christmas Eve, gather up your loved ones and to listen to Amy Grant sing Breath of Heaven (Mary’s Song).
This is my favorite modern Christmas song and one I cannot listen to without tearing up.
The song takes you inside the mind and heart of the person who would become the world’s most revered Jewish teenage mother as she is about to give birth, in the most difficult of circumstances, to a baby she was chosen to bear — the One who will impact the world like no other.
Merry Christmas to all and especially those who truly love this mother and Baby.
With over 40 million views, this video captures the essence of the article you are about to read.
A funny thing happened “on the way” as I was contemplating writing this piece. While listening to a Christian radio station the announcer said, “Jesus is the reason for the season.”
At that moment this very familiar phrase hit me like a thunderbolt. For not only is “Jesus the reason for the season,” but Jesus is the reason our world, nation, history, culture and society are the way they are.
So regardless of whether you believe in Jesus, practice another faith, or are devoid of faith, Jesus has impacted you by virtue of the fact that you are alive.
For no person has affected mankind – past, present and future –more than this Jewish teacher who lived over 2000 years ago, whose birth we will celebrate with great fanfare.
Although Jesus’ life, death and resurrection were the impetus behind His followers’ establishing Christianity, the world’s largest religion itself is only the starting point for the influence Jesus spawned in countless non-religious venues as people over the centuries were moved and motivated by Him to express themselves in a multitude of ways that we continue to see played out everyday across the planet.
With so many examples of Jesus Christ’s effect on mankind it is impossible to even mention them all in this short piece — the purpose of which is to not only enhance your celebration of “the reason for the season” but to also increase your awareness of just how much Jesus impacts the world around you every day of the year.
If after reading this piece you are moved to delve deeper into this topic, I recommend a book published in 1994 that has since become a “modern classic,” What If Jesus Had Never Been Born?, co-authored by the late Dr. D. James Kennedy and the still very much alive Jerry Newcombe.
This book had a profound influence on me as it oriented my thinking about Jesus in ways that I had never contemplated.
So here in alphabetical order is only a short, incomplete list of the most obvious “non-religious” aspects of how Jesus Christ has impacted the world.
Victoria Soto, the Sandy Hook Elementary teacher slain in the Newtown massacre is being praised the world over as a hero – and rightly so. But is America being taught the true lesson of Soto’s sacrifice?
The reactions to the massacre in Newtown do not illustrate our culture’s value of human life so much as our desire to engineer the society in which we live. Whether the call for more gun control or less, the root of the argument is the same: human beings can create a perfect society through government, despite the fact that history has repetitively shown the exact opposite to be true.
Social engineering, an outgrowth of the industrial revolution, values human beings as assembly-line manufactured cogs in a wheel. Designed for a specific task, these human cogs are trained through government programming to follow bureaucratic blueprints for the creation and maintenance of a perfect society. This Marx-meets-manufacturing perspective may sound like the stuff of science fiction, but it continues to emerge over the course of human history. Ideas that sound innocent in theory are enacted with deadly results. Take, for example, one of the most grossly influential theories of social engineers in the late 1800s: Eugenics. This mad “science” that sprouted from Darwin’s Theory of Evolution posited that human beings could be determined “inferior” or “superior” based on their genetic makeup. This racial theory had as much influence on Margaret Sanger as it did Adolf Hitler. Both sought to engineer a “perfect” society and whether abortion or Holocaust, the result has been the same: A deadly lack of respect for the sanctity of human life.
It took less than an hour after we first learned about the events in Newtown for commentators to begin pontificating about gun control laws. We were never given an opportunity to mourn the dead. Those murdered were not valued as human beings, but as cogs to be used in the mechanical argument over the definition of a government-created perfect society. Even later arguments regarding mental health services were voiced under the auspices of government-funded programming more so than removing the stigma from, and promoting treatment for mental disease. Little to nothing has been said about the violent video games the shooter played, or the fact that his mother was a “Doomsday Prepper” like those seen and mocked on reality television. I wonder, when those comments finally make their way around the round tables, will that conversation also be guided by the advocacy of greater government regulation on media as well?
In the meantime, a nation mourns in silence, taught by example to channel their emotions into angry demands for government action, leaving little room for the comprehension — let alone teaching — of personal responsibility for the life of another human being. The real lesson of Newtown is the one that is being missed: Individuals are responsible to make the choice to value the sanctity of human life.
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World stands as one of the most creative scripts produced in 2012. Steve Carell and Keira Knightley play an odd couple united on a quest to reconnect with their respective pasts before a meteor destroys all life on Earth. Dramatically deviating from the clichés of the disaster genre, Seeking a Friend presents a doomed humanity that takes the apocalypse fairly well. While including requisite scenes of panic and riot, the film’s characters strive toward some sense of relationship in their final days.
We too seem to be taking the apocalypse pretty well. Our world hurls toward its scheduled end on December 21st according to predictions based on the ancient Mayan calendar. It’s something folks like Art Bell, George Noory, and their overnight talk radio guests have been warning us about for years. It serves as the subject of several books, a keyword of countless websites, the inspiration for a variety of B movies, and the premise behind Roland Emmerich’s consummate disaster film titled simply 2012. After years of hype, the date approaches. Yet there is a conspicuous lack of panic.
The smart money bets on the continued survival of both humanity and our planet. As my friend and PJ Media colleague Sunny Lohmann recently quipped on Twin Cities News Talk, the only thing sure to come beyond the winter solstice is more daylight. Predictions of Armageddon have an impressive failure rate.
Be that as it may, we should not completely dismiss the potential for a kind of apocalypse. No, I don’t mean the fiscal cliff, Obama’s second term, or an imminent economic meltdown. I’m talking about an apocalypse of the kind which has come many times before, a moment in history when a culture unravels under a development so overwhelming that established institutions pass into ruin. Think of the Aztecs and their encounter with Spanish conquistadors. They scurried about, minding their own business, when the white man arrived to unmake their world.
At a moment like that, two things happen. Newly introduced technology bowls over indigenous methods, and a new way of thinking transmits through that technical superiority. That kind of apocalypse, one which reforms our world and thus destroys our way of life, looms not only possible, but anticipated.
The Papyrus of Ani was created in Egypt about 1250 B.C. It represents the best preserved, longest, most ornate, and beautifully executed example of the form of mortuary text known as The Egyptian Book of the Dead.
Ani was an important Temple scribe. He and his wife Tutu chose from among some 200 available prayers, hymns, spells, and ritual texts the 80 that most appealed to them. Their completed scroll measured some 78 feet long by 15 inches in height. Their likenesses were painted among the elaborately crafted hieroglyphic vignettes. This individualized papyrus roll would be buried with them, with the intention of opening a gateway in the afterlife. If successful in persevering through the trials they encountered there, they would be free to eventually feast and dally with the gods.
As a magical, polytheistic religion, the Egyptian faith was alive with creativity and energy. It involved a continuous interaction between the individual and the various deities who constituted its elaborate and exalted pantheon. The dignity afforded the observant Egyptian was an invigorating state. One who had led an upright moral life, had shown respect to the gods, and been strong enough to proceed through the dangers and trials of the afterlife, was invited to join the gods—playing board games in beautiful fields, drinking beer, eating, even making love. The successful adherent would reach a stellar glory of his own, at last a member of that hierarchy he had honored throughout his life.
The prayers of The Egyptian Book of the Dead are connected to certain archetypal images. Thus an invocation to Osiris, the Lord of the Underworld, will be written within a painting (or vignette) of that deity. The meaning of the scene is a marriage of word and image, reaching well beyond the merely verbal level of comprehension. One of the best known examples is the Weighing of the Heart scene below. The heart (the moral integrity of the deceased, his conscience) is weighed against the feather of Truth and Justice. If the cumulative effects of a person’s life have allowed his soul to be as light as the feather of Truth, he or she is judged pure and allowed to continue on with the journey. However, if the person’s heart is weighted down with the burden of sin, his soul is flung to the great monster who awaits the recording of the verdict and is no more.
Plate 3: The Weighing of the Heart. (As restored © 1994, 1998 James Wasserman)
In 1888, Ani’s papyrus was acquired by Sir E.A. Wallis-Budge, assistant Keeper of the Egyptian Collection at the British Museum and author of numerous books on ancient Near Eastern civilizations. He described the Papyrus as the largest he had ever seen. “… I was amazed at the beauty and freshness of the colours of the human figures and animals, which in the dim light of the candles and heated air of the tomb, seemed to be alive.” Budge recognized the Papyrus of Ani was the greatest of such scrolls ever found.
Related at PJ Lifestyle:
Did you happen to notice there were 63 million views of this Stairway to Heaven video?
As a loyal reader of this weekly series you know, (even at my advanced age) I am not ashamed of being obsessed with Led Zeppelin, so it is no surprise that Stairway to Heaven is my favorite classic rock song of all time.
When I hear it on the car radio it still “makes me wonder” what is the force that commands me to sit in the car listening to the very end – even after I have reached my destination.
Did you know that Stairway to Heaven has even become a popular funeral song?
But do not expect to hear it played at Robert Plant’s funeral some day because apparently he “loathes” the song.
So why is this 41-year-old eight minute masterpiece with the mysterious lyrics #1 on the “greatest ever” charts?
For starters, unlike most rock songs there is no repeat chorus. Instead the song slowly climbs, like musical stairs, up to an explosive instrumental segment where Jimmy Page shows us why he is Jimmy Page. After which Robert Plant launches into his “rock god” falsetto voice and in the process releases enough raw sexual power and energy to set off a musical “orgasm.”
Maybe that is why generations of young men and women love this song. It symbolizes pure passion without any commitment!
Curious about what my contemporaries now think of Stairway to Heaven I asked two old friends, who both happen to be musically hip aging baby boomers (aging exceptionally well I might add.)
The first, a media consultant who often appears on national cable news shows responded with this pithy one line email: “Stairway to Heaven was the soundtrack to my life in high school.”
The other is a classic rock radio DJ, so I consider his comments about Stairway to Heaven to be “expert opinion.”
He emailed: “Yes, I do like it….it’s ingrained into the fabric of my life!”
Interesting how both these comments reflect a “life” impact.
Then Mr. Classic Rock DJ continues his email with this startling calculation:
I’ve been on the radio for around 34 years….and played Stairway at least once or twice a week…
Let’s look at the numbers… (This is the low ball figure)
Song is about 8 minutes long…
8 minutes times 52 weeks = 416 minutes or 6.9 Hours
6.9 hours times 34 years = 234.6 hours
234.6 hours divided by 24 hours in a day = 9.8 days
10 days of my life have been spent listening to “Stairway.”
That’s just on the air….doesn’t include the amount of times
I heard the song from 1971 (when it came out) to 1978 when
I started in radio!
My takeaway on the song…
“No matter how much opulence she displays on the planet, she still can’t buy her way into the Kingdom!”
Was that the message of Robert Plant’s infamous lyrics? For decades later questions still remain over whether Stairway to Heaven’s music and message was divinely inspired or satanic.
While contemplating heaven or hell may I suggest a nice bubbly to further stimulate the brain.
In past columns, I mentioned my fondness for Prosecco (Italian Sparking Wine) which is growing in popularity because of its light pleasing taste.
Today, I recommend a brand called LaMarca priced at $15.00 or less.
So now, with a glass of LaMarca in hand, let’s toast to the greatest classic rock song of all time and sing some familiar lyrics to which every aging baby boomer can contemplate and relate.
Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run
There’s still time to change the road you’re on.
And it makes me wonder.
I wonder if someone will remember to play Stairway to Heaven at my funeral many decades from now. (I hope.)
Related at PJ Lifestyle:
I guess it’s to be expected – that the cool grew up to be square. Hell, even evangelicals are hipper than liberals now. (I used the word Hell deliberately, even though it isn’t cool.)
Now here’s the thing: Liberals are beginning to realize they’re not hip anymore. They won’t admit it, but they do. Witness Obama’s behavior with the press. He’s sweating like Nixon – and that’s definitely not hip. (On second thought, Nixon was finally hipper than Obama.)
And Jay Carney? Would you call him hip? And what about Biden? Has there ever been a soul so square?
What makes modern liberalism the mess that it is today is that it is mainly composed of people who desperately wanted to be cool in high school – wanted to be Abbie Hoffman or Eldridge Cleaver – but never were. Their longing – this need to be Abbie – has clouded their thinking and their ability to perceive reality, placing us all in a mess along with them.
Meanwhile, Bob Dylan became a conservative.
– PJ Media CEO Roger L. Simon, June 19, 2012
“He’s forgetting what his own positions are, and he’s betting that you will, too. I mean, he’s changing up so much and backtracking and sidestepping, we’ve gotta … name this condition that he’s going through… I think it’s called Romnesia,”
– President Barack Obama, October 19, 2012
Of course we’re down to the final months of the president’s term, as presidents…
…as President Obama surveys the Waldorf banquet room with everyone in white tie and refinery, you have to wonder what he’s thinking. So little time, so much to redistribute.
And by the way in — in the spirit of Sesame Street, the president’s remarks tonight are brought to you but the letter ‘O’ and the number $16 trillion.
– GOP Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney, October 18, 2012
Previously at PJ Lifestyle we’ve discussed the phenomenon of the “crunchy conservative,” the individual who embraces politics and values commonly associated with “the Right” while living a more natural, “hippie” lifestyle stereotyped as a monopoly of those on “the Left.”
But libertarians who prefer raw milk and organic food aren’t the only oddballs smashing the stereotype of what a “Bitter Clinger” actually looks like. Here are three more political-cultural hybrids:
Someone with classical liberal politics and outside-the-mainstream art tastes, lifestyle choices, diet, fashion sensibilities, sexual preferences, or religious beliefs. Often times this mindset comes as a result of a political shift to the Right later in life.
Archetypal example: New Media troublemaker and publisher, the late Andrew Breitbart (whose memoir appears second on the list.)
Tea Party Occultist
One who identifies with both the founding fathers’ Enlightenment politics and Masonic spiritual values — and perceives the relationship between the two. Religious Liberty requires a government based in Political Liberty and a military to defend it from barbarian idolaters who would take away both. Alternative definition: one who identifies with both the “Right-Wing” Tea Party movement and the Right-Hand path of the Western Mystery Tradition, adequately defined here by Wikipedia:
The Right-Hand Path is commonly thought to refer to magical or religious groups which adhere to a certain set of characteristics:
(See the rest of the Wikipedia entry for a list of various religions and mystical groups characterized as Right-Hand.) Even within the magical world those on “the Right” cherish the Rule of Law, while those on “the Left” embrace anarchy.
Archetypal example: James Wasserman, author, book designer, and a “founding father” of the modern revivals of the mystical secret society the Ordo Templi Orientis and its religion Thelema. (Wasserman’s new memoir begins the list and four more of his books also appear.)
One who understands the magical abilities of the free market to create value, wealth, and prosperity out of nothing but hard work, great ideas, and good luck. In free societies you really can wave your wand and turn lead into gold. All wealth begins when the entrepreneurs who will someday create it first dream and then put pen to paper to lay out their plan. Writing creates wealth. The ridiculous level of comfort in our society today — our government can afford to pay for the luxury of a cell phone for “poor” people — could happen because hundreds of years ago men wrote that the pursuit of happiness was an innate right.
Archetypal Example: Walt Disney. What began as imaginations in his head and sketches of a mouse would one day become a billion dollar multimedia empire with DisneyLand — our Mecca — as the permanent celebratory reminder of how the imagination can manifest mental and spiritual wealth into the material world.
One can note that these categories each correlate with one of the three values of the American Trinity identified and defined by Dennis Prager in his book Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph. Counterculture conservatives embody Liberty, Tea Party Occultists emphasize In God We Trust, and the Capitalist Wizards live E. Pluribus Unum in both theory and practice.
These three categories also have their natural opponents, of whom more will be said later in the list when appropriate:
- Counterculture Conservatives Vs Cultural Marxists.
- Tea Party Occultists Vs Nazi Mystics.
- Capitalist Wizards Vs Corporatist Sorcerers.
My intent with this list is to compile an annotated bibliography of sorts — a collection of books on a variety of subjects and genres that when put side by side can manifest fresh connections and new ways of looking at the world so we as individuals can solve our problems and live happier, more fulfilling lives.
Future editions will include additional categories and authors, as well as expanded entries for the books and authors already included. (Please leave suggestions of who should appear in future updates. And if you leave an especially strong comment then I might include it in the next edition.) This first list comprises only a bare bones beginning for defining these three emerging traditions. Perhaps 100 more titles await in my mind for potential inclusion and with input from PJ Lifestyle’s readers that number can grow.
Here are the various sections of the list for your browsing convenience so you can jump to the subjects or authors who are of most interest. However, I’ve still written this extended article (really more of a free e-book before the election) with the traditional intent that it should make the most sense read beginning to end… that is, if it ends up making any sense at all — which is not something I can guarantee… Caveat Emptor…
Part I, Autobiographies: Forging Counterculture Conservatism In The Center of the Fire
- Occult author James Wasserman in the context of New Media publishers Roger L. Simon and the late Andrew Breitbart.
Part II, History: The Temple of Solomon and the Foundations of Western Civilization
- Abraham, The Patriarch as Original Counterculturalist.
- Also: the truth about the Muslim occultists who tried to separate Islam from Shariah and their hidden role in shaping Western Freedom.
Part III, Polemics: A Moonchild of Aleister Crowley and Ann Coulter
- “Freedom is a two-edged sword of which one edge is liberty and the other, responsibility. Both edges are exceedingly sharp and the weapon is not suited to casual, cowardly or treacherous hands.” — Jack Parsons…
Part IV, American Exceptionalism: The Secrets Embedded Within The Fourth Great Western Religion
- The Tarot cards hidden in Washington D.C.’s architecture.
- Why America really is a nation of crazy people.
- Also: meet Ronald Reagan’s favorite occultist.
Part V, Media: Douglas Rushkoff and Programming Internet Magic
- The Bible as R-rated Counterculture Comic Book For Adults.
- What’s the difference between capitalism and corporatism?
Part VI, Science: Howard Bloom and the Modern Alchemical Marriage of Secularism and Spirituality
- What does it mean to understand Mother Nature as “a bloody bitch?”
- And what does it look like when an atheist proves that God exists not as a noun, but as the Kabbalists always said, a Verb?
Dr Eben Alexander, a Harvard-educated neurosurgeon, fell into a coma for seven days in 2008 after contracting meningitis.
During his illness Dr Alexander says that the part of his brain which controls human thought and emotion “shut down” and that he then experienced “something so profound that it gave me a scientific reason to believe in consciousness after death.” In an essay for American magazine Newsweek, which he wrote to promote his book Proof of Heaven, Dr Alexander says he was met by a beautiful blue-eyed woman in a “place of clouds, big fluffy pink-white ones” and “shimmering beings”.
He continues: “Birds? Angels? These words registered later, when I was writing down my recollections. But neither of these words do justice to the beings themselves, which were quite simply different from anything I have known on this planet. They were more advanced. Higher forms.” The doctor adds that a “huge and booming like a glorious chant, came down from above, and I wondered if the winged beings were producing it. the sound was palpable and almost material, like a rain that you can feel on your skin but doesn’t get you wet.”
Dr Alexander says he had heard stories from patients who spoke of outer body experiences but had disregarded them as “wishful thinking” but has reconsidered his opinion following his own experience.
(CNSNews.com) – A survey by the Pew Research Center discovered that 2.4 percent of Americans say they are atheists and 3.3 percent say they are agnostic.
Among the atheists and agnostics, however, 6 percent said they pray daily.
Another 11 percent of the atheists and agnostics concede that they pray only weekly or monthly.
“About eight-in-ten atheists and agnostics seldom or never pray (82 percent),” said Pew in its analysis of its survey.
Hat Tip: AH
Related at PJ Lifestyle: