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No Man’s Sky

Friday, August 19th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — a quick blog letter to Chris Bateman, and more broadly to the global God NoGod argument ]
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Warning:

This post may or many not be of interest to individual ZP readers, so here’s what’s up. The philosopher-game-designer-blogger Chris Bateman gets into blog-with-blog discussions, the rubric with his articles on his own iHobo and Only a Game blogs being “all replies at other blogs will be promoted here to keep the conversation going” – and this ZP post of mine is in response to his No Man’s Sky Roundup post today, and the pieces about the game of that name he led me to.

It is also an attempt to put the basic insight of that branch of theology called “apophatic” (“other than speech”) theology into, well, written speech. And in a way, it is also my challenge to the entire “God vs NotGod” debate that tiresome long books are written about, since the God described by Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa strikes me as the “definition of God” that any worthy attempt to attack the “God” concept on philosophical grounds should be tackling – not such local and verbal matters as whether God prefers seven days to universe completion or a little longer, burkas or bikinis, gays married or chaste, or being embodied or otherwise, three, one or both.

It’s also written in a language you might term poetico-philosophical or vice versa, you have been warned.

If that sounds like something you’d be interested in, have at it!

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No Man’s Sky

Words drag their whatevers with them into some form of presence, which with “table” is not an issue, the table idea is both transparent and vague as clouds, it sits as easy in mind as I sit in a chair – wait, at my desk, a form of table, the word “table” brought table to mind, table brought chair..

Or was it, “table” brought “chair” and “chair” brought chair, I myself embodied being also enchaired, one might think “enthroned” as I write this.

At my desk I read these words describing the books in BorgesLibrary of Babel, “every variation of the 22 letters of the alphabet (as well as the additional three symbols of the comma, period, and space” – I read them as illuminating for me the planets, fauna, flora, perils and perceptions players find in the trans-galactic game, No Man’s Sky.

And words drag their whatevers with them.

It is the mystery. It is the moon at which the zen finger points, it is the, a, God, whole system, the One and All I wish to speak of – the ineffable – here.

So it is that the words “the comma, period, and space” drag with them first a tailed dot, a tadpole, a jot, yod in the Hebrew, a tongue of flame, tongue here being fire, language and insight, that descended on certain disciples of someone, arguably, then the dot without tail, a speck, point, blackness minimal – and then, like the zoom from space station window to deep space outside, space.

In the game, No Man’s Sky. Or at your window, seen perhaps from your desk, imagined at mine. Or dragged, somehow, for I and later, you, with or from these words.

So: zero to galaxy via a simple “and” less than a second long, short in the life of humans, long enough, it would seem, for some previously unknown game galaxy. Or “galaxy” – game or otherwise.

The marks, the comma and period, I am habituated to. They are articulation points among the bare bones of the letters, bodying them out into words, langue, langue, language – again, fire and insight, but also scratches, pecked out with pen, keyboard or chisel – but space.

And I was reading about this game, No Man’s Sky, this game gaming space, deep space, as the books within Borges’ book, within Borges and now shared out among us, game all possible verbal coherences with all possible incoherences, all partials, wholes, and almost nothings, an “a” that may be word or mark, an ‘o” that may close the book, galaxy, universe, be zero, lack sound or howl fury.. and those illimitable periods, commas, spaces.

Thus: “comma” drags its micro-tadpole with it, I squint, “period” drags it’s point – where is my jeweler’s loup? – and “space” __ I am flung far enough that I stop to take stock, look back from vague, vast imagined space at imagined period and comma, see how far how fast I have come, gasp.

Now the great mystery, the unknowable more than human mind as human mind is more than speck, galactic cluster more than planetary spack with us specks on it, the whatever the “moon” in “finger pointing at the moon” was, is, pointing at, the stuff and substance of what the word “God” drags in, neither stuff nor substance but, per the good catholic Cardinal, Cusanus, well —

When we attempted to see Him beyond being and not-being, we were unable to understand how He could be visible. For He is beyond everything plural, beyond every limit and all unlimitedness; He is completely everywhere and not at all anywhere; He is of every form and of no form, alike; He is completely ineffable; in all things He is all things, in nothing He is nothing, and in Him all things and nothing are Himself; He is wholly and indivisibly present in any given thing (no matter how small) and, at the same time, is present in no thing at all. –

— That!

The “That” in “Thou art That” with “art” the link connecting them, us, if you’ll allow me to digress into a pun, puny beside that immense No Thing at All.

You drop the word “space” into an unremarkable remark about “the comma, period, and space” and space, the deep, the trans-galactic space is dragged into mind – mine, anyway, and perhaps now yours – and we ignore it, “space” we know here meaning what “space between letters” would drag with it – we ignore it as though shutting a window, the space station window, the window of mind.

And God, But God.

We foreclose the window on God with undue haste, because it is rubbish, garbage, nothing. Or because it is that someone with disciples end of conversation, agree or be damned. Because we’ve got it, we know, we affirm, “I believe”.

But peer closer at that creed, the longer one, Athanasius’ Creed, skip a few lines and what they drag with them, you’ll find..

Incomprehensible.

To be specific:

The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Spirit incomprehensible .. as also there are not three .. incomprehensible, but .. one incomprehensible.

Or in short:

Incomprehensible, three one.

— which drags a certain amount of sense with it, and the someone, and the entire ineffable.

And that word, struck like repeated blows of a Thor-sized hammer of mind, “incomprehensible .. incomprehensible .. incomprehensible .. incomprehensible .. incomprehensible”.

There is no whatever, it says, no thing or person or process our mind can think or process that this word or these words, “incomprehensible”, drag with them. Such a thing, or process, or person – “someone” included – is not subject to mind, cannot be crammed, cannot be cabined, cribbed, confined, into mind, into your, my, or some – any – high priest philosopher’s mind. Or book.

Of whom or which or whatever it is said —

He is not one who is ashamed to show his strength,
and buffets proud folk about like leaves in a gale.
He upsets those that hold themselves high and mighty
and rescues the least one of us.

–- of which water is exemplary, which “nourishes all things without trying to” and “is content with the low places which people disdain.”

Humility, then. And to erect a hurdle, you might call it “epistemic humility” –

But make no mistake:

Humility is the game. “Humility” is the name of the game.

A trumpet voice above Trump’s

Monday, July 25th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — for those wishing for discourse above the political fray ]
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Yesterday, Sunday, I was going to post a “Sunday surprise” about a voice that transcends that of Donald Trump — the voice of Alison Balsom, trumpeter extraordinaire. But my thread linking Balsom and Trump was a slender one — Trump and trumpet — and I thought better of it, and deleted my reliminary notes for that post.

Today, though, I read Humera Afridi‘s Dance of Ecstasy: Bridging the Secular, Sacred, and Profane, and found therein:

Amjad Sabri, an eminent Pakistani qawwal -— a Sufi devotional musician in the tradition of world-renowned Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, and son of the famous singer Ghulam Fareed Sabri of the Sabri Brothers — had been shot dead in his car in Karachi ten days earlier by the Pakistani Taliban. He’d been praising the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and his noble family a little too much for the Taliban’s liking. And so they had their way with him. In a nation inured to violence, Sabri’s death, nevertheless, struck at the communal soul of Pakistan. ..

Thousands of Pakistanis came out on the streets, united in grief, to protest Sabri’s death. Sabri was a child of Pakistan’s own soil. He belonged to a venerable, centuries-old musical dynasty. His spiritual attunement and the muscular faculty of his voice transported people to ecstasy, raising mere mortals above the denseness of an earthly, mired existence, above differences of class and wealth into a celebration of the Divine. Sabri’s music was a glorification. And it belonged to a distinct tradition of South Asian music, a legacy irrefutably inherent in the DNA of Pakistan, twinned to the devotional practice of Islam and its syncretic cultural roots in the region. Invoking a transcendent joy, Sabri’s qawwali created a milieu of harmony—completely antithetical to the Taliban’s backward, beclouded ideology of hate which thrives on sowing seeds of discord.

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It’s that second paragraph I’m interested in, because it says so exactly what I was trying to get at in my deleted post about Alison Balsom: that “mere mortals” can be lifted, lofted “above the denseness of an earthly, mired existence, above differences of class and wealth into a celebration of the Divine”.

Here’s a taste of Amjad Sabri, for those who appreciate the Sufi tradition and the haunting ecstasies of the Qawwals:

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And here’s Balsom, whose trumpet voice likewise lifts us, for those with ears more attuned to the western classical tradition:

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— and best of all, though I’ve posted it here before:

Nesting Buddhas and insubstantiality

Monday, July 25th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — from the Buddha’s Diamond Sutra via matrioshka dolls and koans to Sun Tzu and Wittgenstein ]
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From Karl Brunnhölzl, The Heart Sutra Will Change You Forever, in today’s Lion’s Roar:

Besides being a meditation manual, we could also say that the Heart Sutra is like a big koan. But it is not just one koan, it is like those Russian dolls: there is one big doll on the outside and then there is a smaller one inside that first one, and there are many more smaller ones in each following one.

After reading that, I wasn’t exactly expecting to find illustrations of Buddhas in the form of Matryoshka dolls on Google, but in fact there are quite a few variants on the theme. Here’s one, original source unknown:

matryoshka_buddha

Buddhism actually has a doctrine of the Trikaya or three bodies of Buddha, as described in the dictionarily dry words of the Britannica:

Trikaya, (Sanskrit: “three bodies”), in Mah?y?na Buddhism, the concept of the three bodies, or modes of being, of the Buddha: the dharmakaya (body of essence), the unmanifested mode, and the supreme state of absolute knowledge; the sambhogakaya (body of enjoyment), the heavenly mode; and the nirmanakaya (body of transformation), the earthly mode, the Buddha as he appeared on earth or manifested himself in an earthly bodhisattva, an earthly king, a painting, or a natural object, such as a lotus.

— and point you to a deeper reading as set forth by Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, whose understanding far surpasses anything I could muster.

I don’t. however, believe these three bodies are “nested” quite the way the Russian dolls are..

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Now let’s get down to business. In the same article, Brunnhölzl writes:

Many people have complained about the Prajnaparamita Sutras because they also trash all the hallmarks of Buddhism itself, such as the four noble truths, the Buddhist path, and nirvana. These sutras not only say that our ordinary thoughts, emotions, and perceptions are invalid and that they do not really exist as they seem to, but that the same goes for all the concepts and frameworks of philosophical schools—non- Buddhist schools, Buddhist schools, and even the Mahayana, the tradition to which the Prajnaparamita Sutras belong.

That’s by normal western standards, is pretty strong philosophical meat. But Brunnhölzl continues, asking:

Is there any other spiritual tradition that says, “Everything that we teach, just forget about it”?

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I sense a slight “my path is edgier than yours” tinge to that question, so I didn’t treat it as rhetorical, I pondered it — and in my googling ran across this rather neat pair of DoubleQuotes, which had been put together by Noah Greenstein in a blog-post titled Wittgenstein and Sun Tzu (on throwing the ladder away):

DQ Sun Tzu Wittgenstein ladders

and which I’ve presented here using one of my own DoubleQuotes formats.

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It should be noted, however, that the Sun Tzu translation quoted here is the 1910 Leonard Giles version, that the text with a little more context reads:

At the critical moment, the leader of an army acts like one who has climbed up a height and then kicks away the ladder behind him. He carries his men deep into hostile territory before he shows his hand. He burns his boats and breaks his cooking-pots..

and that Giles‘ own comment on “the leader of an army acts like one who has climbed up a height and then kicks away the ladder behind him” reads:

literally, “releases the spring” (see V. § 15), that is, takes some decisive step which makes it impossible for the army to return—like # Hsiang Yü, who sunk his ships after crossing a river.

Sun Tzu as quoted here, then, is not in fact a great match for Wittgenstein — but Wittgenstein, who can indeed be said to have “thrown away” his own early philosophy as outlined in the Tractatus before acquiring the new one outlined in his Philosophical Investigations, comes far closer in spirit to the Diamond Sutra as discussed above.

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Did I say the Heartv Sutra was “pretty strong meat”? I did. Perhaps this excerpt from Brunnhölzl’ piece will bring the point home:

There are accounts in several of the larger Prajnaparamita Sutras about people being present in the audience who had already attained certain advanced levels of spiritual development or insight that liberated them from samsaric existence and suffering. These people, who are called “arhats” in Buddhism, were listening to the Buddha speaking about emptiness and then had different reactions. Some thought, “This is crazy, let’s go” and left. Others stayed, but some of them had heart attacks, vomited blood, and died. It seems they didn’t leave in time. These arhats were so shocked by what they were hearing that they died on the spot. That’s why somebody suggested to me that we could call the Heart Sutra the Heart Attack Sutra.

Now that’s serious philosophy.

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Okay, this has been an early morning meander, sufficient to drive away both fatigue and insomnia. On with the insubstantial day..

Putin, Hezbollah on the Brit right, Pokémon Go at the Yasukuni

Saturday, July 23rd, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — a couple of discordant notes on goings on ]
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This tweet from Casey Michel showing contemporary American fans of Sir Oswald Mosley

— looked interesting, so I went to the linked Eurasia.net article, US Hate Group Forging Ties with the “Third Rome”, where I found these images:

Matthew Heimbach

— with a caption that reads:

In two photos posted to his personal social media networks, Matthew Heimbach stands with other white nationalists underneath the “Novorossiya” flag in a photo he published in May 2016 to his personal Twitter account (top) and he stands next to a flag used to represent the president of Russia in a photo he published to his personal page on the Russian social media web site VKontakte in August 2015. Heimbach, an American citizen, claims that Russian President Vladimir Putin is the best European leader of the 21st century. (Photos: Matthew Heimbach/VKontakte;Twitter)

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The double-headed eagle flag in the second image, according to the Appleton Studios heraldry blog, is in fact the “achievement of arms of the Russian Federation: The red shield with St. George on horseback slaying the dragon, the shield on the breast of a double-headed eagle wearing crowns (with a third crown in chief) and holding in its talons the orb and scepter.”

That’s interesting, next to the Oswald Mosley guy — but what’s just as intriguing is ther symbolism of the t-shirt he’s wearing. That’s a Hezbollah t-shirt — and it’s no coincidence, as this next image from his twitter-stream shows:

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Okay, that’s my first note. Here’s the lead-in to my second:

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Pokémon Go Is At The Center Of An International Incident

Wha??

What’s worth noting here is that the Pokemon GO “gym” (augmented reality contest location) that’s at the center of this kerfuffle is geolocated at the Yasukuni Shrine — which can be seen as the Japanese approximate equivalent of the Arlington National Cemetery in the US — the nation’s most sacred shrine to its war fallen — always bearing in mind this major difference, that the Yasukuni Shrine includes numerous convicted war criminals among those venerated:

Why is the Yasukuni Shrine so controversial?

The Shrine is a national religious institution in Japan. Since 1869 it has honored the souls of those who have died in the service of Japan. So it mostly contains military men, but also some classes of civilians who’ve died in war-time. These include merchant seamen, and workers in bombed munitions factories, but not people in the general population killed, say, by allied bombing in World War II.

In Shinto religion, the souls become ‘kami,’ or revered spirits. The word can be translated as ‘gods,’ but perhaps the word ‘saints’ is the most appropriate word in the western religious lexicon. So it’s a holy place for millions of Japanese who lost relatives fighting for their country.

Among the 2.4 million souls enshrined and revered in the Yasukuni Shrine are about 1,000 war criminals from World War II. These were men who were convicted and executed by Allied war tribunals, or who died in jail. This is one of the main problems for Japan’s neighbors; that reverence is being paid to those who committed some of history’s most egregious crimes. The shrine wasn’t an issue before they were inducted en masse in a secret ceremony in 1978, after a special new category of eligibility was created for the ‘victims’ of the international war crimes tribunals.

Those crimes were horrendous. The charge sheet at the tribunal included “murdering, maiming and ill-treating prisoners of war (and) civilian internees … forcing them to labor under inhumane conditions … plundering public and private property, wantonly destroying cities, towns and villages beyond any justification of military necessity; (perpetrating) mass murder, rape, pillage, brigandage, torture, and other barbaric cruelties upon the helpless civilian population of the over-run countries.”

That list hardly captures some of the individual horrors. For example, during the “Rape of Nanking” in 1937, two Japanese officers had a contest to see who could kill the most Chinese with their swords. Japanese newspapers covered it as though it was a sporting event, talking about the contest going into an “extra innings” when they both reached 100 at about the same time. Elsewhere, prisoners of war were used for bayonet practice, to toughen up new recruits in the Imperial Japanese Army; while other PoWs and Chinese civilians were staked out at scientific intervals to test the effectiveness of chemical and biological weapons. Chinese cities were deliberately infected with biological agents. Countless young Asian women were forced into sex-slavery to ‘entertain’ the troops.

The Yasukuni Shrine:

600px-Yasukuni_Shrine

JJ MacNab on the Baton Rouge shooter

Tuesday, July 19th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — plus further readings on sovereign citizens & the Moorish Science Temple ]
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JJ MacNab, author of The Seditionists: Inside the Explosive World of Anti-Government Extremism in America — note date of publication — has the basics on the quasi-religious sovereign citizen and Baton Rouge cop shooter, Gavin Long:

Here’s the text of MacNab’s Tweet-storm, collapsed for easier reading:

Yesterday, Louisiana law enforcement revealed that the Baton Rouge shooter, Gavin Long, had a Washitaw Nation card on him when he was killed. Judy Thomas of the Kansas City Star looked beyond the social media clues to find a Washitaw-related legal filing: Kansas City man identified as suspect in killings of three Baton Rouge police officers

A sovereign citizen is someone who mixes fabricated history, out of context laws, and miscellaneous quotes to prove he’s above all laws. Those who have been watching the #BundyRanch standoff and the #oregonstandoff have seen this “magical thinking” in action.

25+ years ago, this movement fell into the white supremacist / right-wing extremist categories. 20 years ago, the white supremacist side of the movement splintered off, leaving behind a right-wing extremist group. 15 years ago, a handful of left-wing extremist / black supremacist groups adopted many of the legal theories as their own.

Today, the sovereign movement falls into 3 general categories: the right wing patriots, the left wing Moors, and the left wing anarchists. Since the left-wing anarchist sovereigns aren’t a significant threat at this point, I’ll leave them out of the rest of this thread.

In 2015 Gavin Eugene Long aka Cosmo Setepenra filed a curious document with the Jackson County, Missouri recorder.

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In this document, he corrected his “common law name” from Long to Setepenra.

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Note that his given name GAVIN EUGENE LONG is in all capital letters while his “corrected” name Cosmo Ausar Setepenra, is mixed case. In sovereign-speak, he is attempting to separate his flesh-and-blood self (Cosmo) from his corporate fiction self (GAVIN.) In the document, Long claims to be a member of a fictional Native American tribe: the Washitaw Nation.

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This group has a theory that, when the North American continent separated from the African Continent, humans were split between them. They consider the slave ship stories of the early colonies to be a myth. Therefore, he is descended from an indigenous people who were in the U.S. before it became a country and is not subject to any our laws.

When gov agencies (police, IRS, courts) fail to recognize their faux indigenous status, they believe their inherent rights are violated. They simply lifted legal theories from the right-wing sovereigns – UCC codes, “reclamation,” admiralty law theories, “truth language.” The personalized those theories w/ a complex layer: Egyptian mythology and symbols, numerology, new age imagery, holistic healing, etc.

To see some of these beliefs, poke around this website a bit: http://www.stewartsynopsis.com/washitaw.htm 

Long left clues beyond filing his sovereign “reclamation” legal document and carrying a Washitaw Nation card (probably his ID card.) The number 7, for example, is sacred.

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Gavin Long’s email address was TheCosmoWay7@gmail.com. The family name he chose for himself was Setepenra or Setep-en-ra (Chosen by Ra.) The shooter said that he used to be part of Nation of Islam. That is not inconsistent as there is some overlapping between movements.

When you start looking into this movement, you will find hundreds of website, hundreds of Youtube videos, and thousands of online comments. It’s a complex sub-culture so no tidy category boxes. Moorish sovereign beliefs can be found in everything fr popular music 2 self-help vids. As w/ their “patriot” sover’n cousins, there’s a lot of grifting, property theft & domestic violence (females relatives & kids are property) And like the “patriots,” they resent authority figs who don’t respect their belief that they are above the law. This can be deadly to cops.

The following is violence/plots list. As you scroll down (it’s 8 pages,) look for the “Moorish Sovereign” subset. http://www.seditionists.com/antigovviolence.pdf

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I first became aware of the Moorish Temple via the brilliant and eccentric Peter Lamborn Wilson‘s Sacred Drift: Essays on the Margins of Islam. Herbert Berg‘s Mythmaking in the African American Muslim Context: The Moorish Science Temple, the Nation of Islam, and the American Society of Muslims looks to be a serious paper on the topic, and you can find more at the Moorish page at the Hermetic Library — note that Hakim Bey is the pseudonym of Peter Lamborn Wilson. See also the Holy Koran of the Moorish Science Temple of America.


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