Religious belief differs from everyday belief. Since it cannot be tested or independently confirmed, religious belief must be accepted on faith. Religious belief generally starts with a few powerful and attractive ideas. For example: would it not be wonderful if we did not have to die? As time passes these foundational principles are elaborated and bolstered by other equally untestable beliefs to form a relatively coherent set of teachings. These “doctrines” can then organize communities of the faithful, govern the behavior of believers, and attract new converts. Some believers may choose to interpret the foundational ideas of a faith differently from the system of beliefs that are considered “orthodox” (Greek: ortho straight, correct + doxa, opinion). Beliefs that differ from the orthodox are termed heretical (Greek: hairesis, choice). Heresies are usually considered dangerous since they can easily disrupt the accepted doctrine and question the power of those who promote orthodoxy. Heresy occurs in the history of all the world’s religions (Henderson, 1988) This post limits itself to the early Christian beliefs and heresies about the nature of God, particularly those concerning the Trinity.
In 1098 a small group of monks left the Benedictine monastery of Molesme in Burgundy to live in the forest of Cîteaux (Latin Cistercium) just south of Dijon. They considered their original home too lax and luxurious, and wished to return to the austere life of solitude, chastity, poverty and manual labor that St Benedict had originally proposed in the 6th Century. They distinguished themselves from the Benedictines by wearing undyed white robes rather than black. Over the next hundred and fifty years, the small monastery founded by these “white monks” at Cîteaux became the center of the Cistercian Order, which linked together over 500 abbeys in Europe, extending from Portugal to Estonia and from Sicily to Norway. The Cistercians were noted for the proficiency of their agriculture, the fervor of their scholarship, and the beauty of their buildings. This post comments on their achievements.
Frames of Reference: The Art of William Kurelek
This post discusses the life and work of William Kurelek (1927-1977), one of the most distinctive and prolific Canadian painters of the latter half of the 20th Century. Kurelek was a figurative artist during the heyday of Abstract Expressionism, and a fervent Christian artist in the years of unbridled secularism. His work should be considered in the context of a life framed by memory, madness and religion (Kurelek, 1980; Morley, 1986). The post contains illustrations of many of his paintings, which can speak for themselves independently of my commentary.
Windfall Light is an old man’s self-indulgence: a small book of poems written over the course of my life. The cover shows a painting by Paul Klee. The title comes from a poem by Dylan Thomas. Most of the poems are formal in style, although the rhymes are as often slant as regular. This post presents three poems from the book.
All the major religions of the present world are androcentric in nature and misogynistic in practice. The following are some typical injunctions in the Christian scriptures:
Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law.
And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church. (I Corinthians 14: 34-35)
Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.
But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. (1 Timothy 2: 11-12)
These rulings are in spite of (or perhaps because of) women being more attentive to religious teachings, and participating more often in religious services than men (Pew Research Foundation, 2016). The two passages nevertheless serve a purpose – they provide clear evidence that the New Testament does not always represent the word of God.
The androcentricity of organized religion differs completely from prehistoric religious beliefs, wherein God was more likely female than male (Stone, 1978). Over recent centuries, however, female aspects of the godhead have become more and more recognized. This posting briefly considers some of the manifestations of the divine feminine, and mentions what might be involved in a feminist theology.
This post presents some ideas about the Dào (“Way”) as described in the Dàodéjīng (“Book of the Way and its Virtue”), that legend claims was composed by Lǎozī in the 5th Century BCE. The Dào cannot be explained in words. But that has never stopped anyone from writing about it.
The Kabbalah is a body of Jewish thought based on mystical insight into the nature of God and an imaginative interpretation of the Torah. The word itself means “received.” According to legend this special knowledge was imparted by God either to Adam in Eden or to Moses on Sinai, and handed down thereafter from generation to generation to an enlightened few, who preserved the received wisdom and taught it to their students. This post presents some thoughts about the Kabbalah from someone who, though neither Jewish nor fluent in Hebrew, is fascinated by the intricacy of its ideas.
Marcus Aurelius (121-180 CE) is one of the most famous of the Roman Emperors. Some of his renown is related to the many representations of the Emperor that have persisted to the present day: the Aurelian Column documenting the Marcomannic Wars he waged on the Northern frontiers of the Empire; the bas-reliefs that were initially mounted on a triumphal arch in Rome, and later preserved when the arch was destroyed; and the equestrian statue that, from the Renaissance, was displayed in Rome’s Piazza de Campidoglio on a pedestal designed by Michelangelo. Most of Marcus’ fame, however, derives from the book that he wrote during the many years when he campaigned against the Germanic Tribes who threatened to cross the Danube and invade the Empire. This book, which has come to be known as the Meditations, presents a philosophy that derives from Greek Stoicism: to live each day as if it were one’s last, to act in accord with nature, not to become upset by whatever happens, and to help others as best one can.
Toward the end of his life, Michelangelo (1475-1564) attempted to sculpt a marble representation of the Pietà – the moment when Christ’s lifeless body is taken from the cross and held by his mother. In this endeavour he was returning to the subject of the sculpture that first brought him fame – the Rome Pietà of 1499. The ageing sculptor was unable to complete his task. One of his efforts – the Florentine Pietà of – he broke into pieces in 1555. A second attempt – the Rondanini Pietà – was still unfinished when he died in 1564. Both sculptures have an intense emotional power.
As I stated in my pre-Christmas post about On this Short Day of Frost and Sun, I have made a copy of the file with embedded sounds. For each of the poems, there is a recitation, often by the author of the poem. While inserting the soundfiles, I also corrected a few typographical errors in the original pdf.
The resultant pdf file is very large – 588 KB. Because of its size it is only available on my google drive:
I have not been able to download the file on my phone, and I think that it would too complicated to operate on a phone or a simple tablet. It should be downloaded onto a computer. Your browser may complain that the file is too large to check for viruses, but that you can “download anyway.” There are no viruses in the file.
Once you have downloaded the file to your computer, it should be opened using Adobe Acrobat Reader (free to download.) If the file is opened in other pdf-reading programs, the file will either be rejected as too large, or the sound files won’t work. For example, Google may automatically try to read the file using its Google-Doc programs but this will not work.
In order to listen to the embedded sound files, you must set up the Adobe Reader to play multimedia files. To do this follow these steps:
Edit > Preferences (bottom) > Multimedia & 3D (in menu)> tick box for Enable Playing of Multimedia & 3D content (topmost box).
Like its soundless cousin, the file is best viewed using a full-screen two-page viewing mode. To set this up in Adobe follow these steps:
View > Page Display > Two Page View
This is a screen-shot of what it looks like when it works.