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Religion meets the coronavirus #13

Sunday, May 24th, 2020

[ by Charles Cameron — this last weekend was Eid al-Fitr for Muslims, Memorial Day Weekend for those of us in the USA, we have CDC’s suggestions for places of worship, an Indian Muslim reading of the Gazwa e-Hind, and much more — enjoy! ]
.

The other day, I overheard a Joel Osteen sermon, which included the following:

Have you ever tried something and got the results you wanted and then tried the same thing again and got different results? This happened to Moses in the Bible. They needed water and God told Moses to strike the rock. He struck the rock and water flowed out freely. Another time they needed water again, and God told Moses, “Speak to the rock.” Do you know what Moses did? He went over and struck the rock. He thought, “Hey, it worked last time. It’ll work this time.” But it didn’t. God had a different plan.

The point is that we have to stay open and make adjustments to stay in tune with God’s plan. You can do the same thing the same way you did last time and get different results. It may not be something major, but like Moses, maybe it’s just something small. Sometimes a small tweak, a small adjustment can make a major difference in the outcome.

Joel was suggesting the coronavirus may be a “downtime” while God is installing new software in us, requiring a reboot — and Moses trying the old, successful way when God had installed new software in him was the reason why he failed on the second occasion. Osteen again:

Today, make sure you aren’t doing things just because it’s the way you always did it before. Instead, listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit of God inside. Follow His leading and stay in sync with the wonderful plan He has for you!

**

Still on Christianity, here’s a fascinating excerpt from a longer piece:

  • Ng Zhi-wen, Novel Coronavirus: Lessons on radical charity from the early Church
  • The Antonine Plague (c 165 – 180)

    In the Ancient History Encyclopaedia, John Horgan, an assistant professor of History at Concordia University-Wisconsin, noted: “The effect of the illness was not confined to the military and economy. Marcus Aurelius launched persecutions against Christians who refused to pay homage to the gods which, the emperor believed, in turn angered the gods whose wrath made itself known in the form of a devastating epidemic.

    “Ironically the anti-Christian attacks produced the opposite effect amongst the general population.

    “Unlike adherents to the Roman polytheistic system, Christians believed in an obligation to assist others in a time of need, including illness. Christians were willing to provide the most basic needs, food and water, for those too ill to fend for themselves.

    “This simple level of nursing care produced good feelings between Christians and their pagan neighbours. Christians often stayed to provide assistance while pagans fled. Furthermore, Christianity provided meaning to life and death in times of crisis.”

    Self-sacrificing love isn’t limited to Christians — but today as in the time of Marcus Aurelius, we should stand in awe of its heroic beauty. – I’d say the whole of this essay is very well worth your attention.

    **

    Turning to Islam:

    I posted this in Coronavirus meets extremism, but it belongs here as well.. the clear Islamic rhetoric..

  • Brad Hunter, ISIS, al-Qaida commandeer COVID-19 as a ‘soldier of Allah’
  • ISIS and al-Qaida claim that the virus and ensuing global pandemic are retribution on the wicked West, courtesy of God.

    In typical, flowery al-Qaida style, the death cult released a statement.

    “Allah, the Creator, has revealed the brittleness and vulnerability of your material strength,” reads the maniacal missive. “It is now clear for all to see that it was but a deception that could not stand the test of the smallest soldier of God on the face of the Earth.”

    **

    On a hopefully positive note: Taliban & Kashmir: The taliban reaffirm their interests extending only to the boundaries of the present state of Afghanistan, and their acceptance of India’s claim to Kashmir:

  • WION, Taliban acknowledges Kashmir internal matter of India after fake tweets

    After fake tweets emerged attributing to the Taliban, the group has clarified that it Kashmir is India’s internal matter and they don’t support any Pakistani style “Ghazwa-E-Hind” or Holy war against India.

  • **

    Ghazwa-e-Hind??

    I wrote several posts about the Ghazwa a while back, noting that the relevant hadith explicitly proposed an army with black banners sweeping victoriously from Khorasan {roughly, Afghanistan] down to Jerusalem, accompanied by a second thrust, the Ghazwa, sweeping from Khorasan again, down into India. Some examples::

  • One hadith, one plan, one video, and two warnings
  • So many browser tabs, so little time
  • Pakistan’s Strategic Mummery
  • Khorasan to al-Quds and the Ghazwa-e-Hind
  • Current discussions elsewhere, including that of the Jamiat {see below], seem to take the term more literally as meaning “raid” and thus more general in application than the Khorasan hadith.

    **

    Islamic Theology, the Jamiat version thereof:

  • The Print, Everyone misinterprets Ghazwa-e-Hind, but a Jamiat scholar explains what it really means
  • From Pakistan’s JeM to Veena Malik, from Times Now to Tarek Fateh, everyone has been invoking Ghazwa-e-Hind recently.

    There’s a phrase that Pakistani militant leaders have used against India for decades – Ghazwa-e-Hind or a holy raid of India. Ghazwa in Arabic implies a war that is guided by faith rather than materialistic or territorial gains and is widely attributed to an Islamic concept derived from the hadiths — a set of sayings by Prophet Mohammad. The phrase is used refer to Muslim warriors conquering the Indian subcontinent. [ .. ]
    .
    Now, ‘Ghazwa-e-Hind’ has made a noisy return among scholars, security analysts and rabble-rousers, especially after the Narendra Modi government’s action on Article 370 and Pakistan’s isolation in the international theatre. [ .. ]
    .
    But what has gone largely unnoticed is that the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, a leading body of Muslims in India, has already called out the error in this popular interpretation. The group has supported the government’s decision on Kashmir.
    .
    Maulana Mufti Salman Mansoorpuri, a Jamiat scholar, insisted late last year that Pakistan has been erroneously and mischievously linking the term to their rift with India.

    The Maulana, remember, is speaking from within an Indian context: this no doubt influences his interpretation of the situation.

    **

    China vs India:

    When I say I study religions, I mean I study the intersection of cultural anthropology, comparative religion, & depth psychology — areas where depth drivers for surface events are visible — hence my interest in Michael Vlahos‘ work in general and today:

    M Vlahos, How China Can Beat The U.S. Without Firing A Shot

    **

    Islam in India, it was Eid al-Fitr over the weekend, and that means feeding the poor:

  • New Indian Exporess, World’s largest Eid feast: Michelin-star chef Vikas Khanna to feed 1.75 lakh people in Mumbai
  • That’s 175,000 people fed, a lakh being a hundred thousand. And it’s to be done ” while adhering to all guidelines of social distancing”.

    **

    There’s the cleaning of the Ganges that’s resulting from a drop in the number of cremations In Varanasi:

  • Deccan Chronicle, Coronavirus caused lockdown is healing the holy Ganga
  • **

    And finally, dated Saturday 23rd, this from the Centers for Disease Control:

  • CDC< Interim Guidance for Communities of Faith
  • Enough: I’m exhausted.

    New Small Wars Journal Book – China’s Securing, Shaping and Exploiting of Strategic Spaces

    Tuesday, December 31st, 2019

    [Mark Safranski / zen]

    Our friend, Dr. Robert Bunker at Small Wars Journal has a new natsec publication:

    CHINA’s Securing, Shaping, and Exploitation of Strategic Spaces: Gray Zone Response and Counter-Shi Strategies: A Small Wars Journal Pocket Book  

    Originally, this study was funded by USAWC SSI originally as a ERAP project. The work provides an analysis of the CCP regime’s use of gray zone activities to further its strategic imperatives as well as suggested US response.

    Bunker writes in the introduction…

    “….The ‘Gray Zone’ and Mary Kaldor’s ‘new wars’ construct – with success measured by those most able to avoid battle and control population – fit well with China’s desire to asymmetrically challenge the United States and not oppose it in traditional (and conventional) force on force engagement. This is not an unreasonable approach given the ‘Power Transition’ and ‘Thucydides Trap’ perspectives that exist, most specifically the dangers in inherent in an ascendant power (China) prematurely challenging an established great power (United States). The Chinese grand strategic initiative can thus be thought of as Intelligence Preparation of the Battlespace writ large….

    The book’s format is based on the following case studies:

    1: South China Sea—Artificial Islands
    2: Great Fire Wall of China—Golden Shield
    3: Social Credit System—Population Control
    4: Taiwan—Territorial and Ideological Unification
    5: Uighur Muslims—Cultural Ethnocide & Han Colonization
    6: Confucius Institutes—Ideological Subversion
    7: Direct Foreign Investments—Resources, Trade, and Influence

    You can find this timely addition to the strategic debate on China here.

    What terrifies the Chinese about Falun Gong?

    Monday, November 18th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — Falun Gong keeps coming front and center for a day or two, then fading back into the woodwork — so I wanted to get these points made, out there as an information dump for the likes of Rachel Maddow ]
    .

    What we don’t understand is that the horror-terror of the Taiping Rebellion with its 20 or so million dead in the eighteen-fifties shadow-ghosts the Chinese government’s present fear of, hence hate at — and thus rage against — the 100 million or so practitioners of Falun Gong, so gracefully, graciously performing their qi gong dances on parkland grass, all across the realm..

    TaipingThe Taiping Rebellion, 1850-1864

    **

    As some of you know, I talked briefly with Ali Allawi, one time Iraqi Defense minister, at the October 9, 2007 Jamestown briefing on Iraq, and he said the same was true of Iraqi responses to a militia threatening to kill the Hawza or council of Grand Ayatollahs of Najaf, so as to replace it with their candidate for Mahdi — a revolt of several hundred sectarians, which was put then down with considerable Iraqi force assisted by air support from the US — in what was then the single greatest battle in the Iraq war. Allawi told me the Iraqi fear of a Mahdist rebellion stemmed from their memory of the Babist and Bahai rebellion of the 1860s “in that part of the world” — a memory which remains sore to this day on account of the tens of thousand of lives lost.

    The Chinese have very good reason to be terrified when they find a group of — by one estimate — a hundred million followers of a charismatic leader, Li Hongzhi, whose apocalyptic teachings include an alien takeover of the human race:

    The aliens come from other planets. The names that I use for these planets are different . Some are from dimensions that human beings have not yet discovered. The key is how they have corrupted mankind. Everyone knows that from the beginning until now, there has never been a development of culture like today. Although it has been several thousand years, it has never been like now.

    The aliens have introduced modern machinery like computers and airplanes. They started by teaching mankind about modern science, so people believe more and more science, and spiritually, they are controlled. Everyone thinks that scientists invent on their own when in fact their inspiration is manipulated by the aliens. In terms of culture and spirit, they already control man. Mankind cannot live without science.

    The ultimate purpose is to replace humans. If cloning human beings succeeds, the aliens can officially replace humans. Why does a corpse lie dead, even though it is the same as a living body? The difference is the soul, which is the life of the body. If people reproduce a human person, the gods in heaven will not give its body a human soul. The aliens will take that opportunity to replace the human soul and by doing so they will enter earth and become earthlings.

    When such people grow up, they will help replace humans with aliens. They will produce more and more clones. There will no longer be humans reproduced by humans. They will act like humans, but they will introduce legislation to stop human reproduction.

    **

    These people — the middle-class practitioners of a form of Qi Gong which Hongzhi teaches — office workers, teachers, grad students, grannies — are imprisoned in droves by the Chinese government, and according to Falun Gong representatives abroad, subject to their organs being harvested to sale to those in need of transplants — a peculiarly horrid business, as I can attest, being myself in need to a functioning kidney or two.

    One can disagree with their religious beliefs, and still sympathize with their predicament under brutal Chinese repression.

    **


    The traditional Chinese dance troupe China doesn’t want you to see

    The traditional Chinese dance troupe China doesn’t want you to see is touring the world on behalf of Falun Gong:

    Shen Yun seems like a kitsch dance troupe. But Beijing sees it as the propaganda wing of the Falun Gong movement, and a threat to their rule – and hounds the dancers from city to city, trying to sabotage their shows.

    Or try this:

    The company has five separate touring troupes that carry out a dizzying schedule, a kind of Cirque du Soleil of the east backed by a seemingly bottomless publicity budget. They have played the Lincoln Center in New York and the London Coliseum. In a single week last spring, they hit Philadelphia, Honolulu, Charlotte, Kansas City and Huntsville, Alabama. Then Barcelona, Salzburg, Bremen, Baden-Baden and Paris.

    Well, but then New York dance troupe says China banned shows over Falun Gong links.

    A New York-based dance troupe has accused China of forcing the cancellation of its shows in South Korea over its links to a banned spiritual movement that Beijing calls “an evil cult” intent on “mind control”.

    Shen Yun, a performing company affiliated with the Falun Gong movement, accused China’s government of shutting down their shows in Seoul. The Chinese government maintains that the troupe is “a political tool” of Falun Gong.

    Mind control? Perhaps the whole troupe — all five troupes — are one collective Manchurian Candidate — China, beware!

    **

    Here, in any case, are the Facts about the So-called “Shen Yun” Performance by the “Falun Gong” as the Chinese Embassy in Seoul sees them. Chief among these facts are some pretty astonishing apocalyptic and medical claims:

    Li Hongzhi, the chief ring leader of “Falun Gong”, claims that the mankind has been destroyed 81 times, and that he has delayed the explosion of the earth by 30 years. He claims that the mankind is corrupted, and the earth is the biggest dumping ground of the universe, and that by practicing “Falun Gong”, the “true law” above all religions, one would never become sick or get in danger. He even claims that the Holocaust of Jewish people by Hitler was a result of the changes in celestial phenomena…

    Li Hongzhi is certainly capable of astonishing apocalyptic announcements, as evidenced by his 1999 interview with the Asian edition of Time, which I quoted above.

    **

    Look, there’s more than one side to this coin:

    In Sum:

  • Apocalyptic groups with charismatic leaders have indeed proven problematic, as the case of Jim Jones in Guyana showed us in the West — but to the Chinese, the case of the Taiping Rebellion, with its twenty-plus people dead back in the second half of the nineteenth century, no doubt looms largest.

  • On the other hand — people deserve the right to their religious opinions, even if those opinions differ from the norms of the society around them. And tragedy can ensure when — under the dismissive label “cult” — the state takes it upon itself to intervene, as the FBI holocaust of the Branch Davidians in Waco, TX, teaches us.
  • One of the more interesting comments about, well..

    Tuesday, October 15th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — reading my daily dose of 3QD again after a health-induced lapse, and glad I’m back ]
    .

    One of the more interesting comments about, well, religion, comes from a review by Robert Fay in 3QD of Chinese science fiction master Liu Cixin‘s novel, the first in a trilogy and the one President Obama so praised, The Three Body Problem, reading it in a wide world context:

    Sacrifice used to be part-and-parcel of the western self-identity. Jesus on the cross at Calvary was the central spiritual truth of Christendom. The west, of course, left much of this behind during the Enlightenment. The French Revolution further asserted the rights of individuals. If anything, the consumption of consumer goods is the true religion of the west now, and it demands we all act immediately on our impulses, cravings and desires.

    This hasn’t worked out well for the planet.

    **

    Yes, sacrifice, and it’s dual, martyrdom, have all but disappeared, although, well, the Marines understand sacrifice, and the jihadists understand martyrdom.

    To take you into the audacity of sacrifice or the self-surrender of martyrdom is beyond me here. Let me just note that the Eucharist is a sacrifice, and the death of Joan of Arc a martyrdom. Arguably, the two ideas are parallel, and meet at infinity, as in the Cure D’Ars observation:

    If we knew what a Mass is, we should die of it.

    Thus, theologically speaking, the Eucharist (present) cyclically repeats Christ‘s sacrifice on the cross (past), in a transcendent manner which makes of it a foretaste of the Wedding Feast (future) envisioned in the book of Revelation.

    But enough!

    **

    There’s a fine alternative vision of the three body problem in Bill Benzon‘s Time Travelers We Are, Each And All, his account of brain, mind and Beethoven, which, like Robert Fay‘s account of Liu Cixin‘s novel of that name, arrived in today’s edition of 3QD. Benzon is quoting the literary critic Wayne Booth describing a performance of Beethoven‘s String Quartet No. 14 in C-sharp minor, Op. 131 as constituting unities out of a string quartet, Booth himself and his nwife, and, somehow, both of those and Beethoven — three bodies as one:

    There is Beethoven, one hundred and forty-three years ago … writing away at the marvelous theme and variations in the fourth movement. … Here is the four-players doing the best it can to make the revolutionary welding possible. And here we am, doing the best we can to turn our “self” totally into it: all of us impersonally slogging away (these tears about my son’s death? ignore them, irrelevant) to turn ourselves into that deathless quartet.

    That unity of three bodies is found, and can be joined, in Beethoven‘s String Quartet No. 14 in C-sharp minor, Op. 131:

    **

    Reading Benzon‘s piece, we can benefit also from his presentation of neurons, their connections and internal workings:

    We have no way of directly counting the neurons in the nervous systems, but estimates put the number at roughly 86 billion with an average of 10,000 synapses per neuron.

    To specify the brain’s state at a given moment in clock time we need to know the state of each unit component, such as a neuron. One convenient way to do this is to say that a neuron is either firing or it is not. So it can have two states. Neurons are complicated things; each is a living cell with the full complement of machinery that that requires. There’s a lot more to a neuron that whether or not it’s firing.

    This description of neurons is in service to a discussion of clock-time and brain states, which is itself in service to a wider discussion of time itself, as our wrist-watches understand it, and as our experience of Beethoven might cause us to discover it.

    Following the musical branch of this discussion, we find Benzon quoting Bernstein on ego-loss:

    I don’t know whether any of you have experienced that but it’s what everyone in the world is always searching for. When it happens in conducting, it happens because you identify so completely with the composer, you’ve studied him so intently, that it’s as though you’ve written the piece yourself. You completely forget who you are or where you are and you write the piece right there. You just make it up as though you never heard it before. Because you become that composer.

    Benzon‘s three into one is Bernstein‘s two into one, and all paths lead to reliving a keynote segment of the life of Beethoven — Beethoven as a musical Everest, with Bernstein and the quartet as sherpas, Booth and his wife and Benzon and you and I as climbers, some at base-camp listening to the great Chuck Berry, some on the final ascent, some planting flags at the peak..

    Peak Beethoven is phenomenological unity. Across time, time travel.

    **

    Oh, the numbers games one can play — Sixteen into forty into one in Tallis’ forty-part motet, Spem in Alium Nunquam Habui — where the very title speaks to the union – I Have Hope in None Other:

    Oh and is not religion at the heart of this unity, this unity at the very heart of religion? And is not this braiding of voices, this polyphony, a working of this unity?

    **

    My early mentor and friend, Herbert Warner Allen, wrote of his own time with Beethoven. As I wrote elsewhere:

    Herbert Warner Allen, a classical scholar, sometime newspaper editor and noted authority on wines, experienced a timeless moment between two beats during a performance of one of the Beethoven symphonies. Not knowing quite what had hit him, he went on to research the mystical tradition and wrote three mostly forgotten books [of which the first was aptly named The Timeless Moment] situating his experience within intellectual tradition without nailing it to any particular dogmatic structure. TS Eliot, who published the books, inscribed a book of his own poetry to Warner Allen with the words “from the Srotaapanna to the Arhat, TS Eliot”, with a footnote to explain “Srotaapanna: he who has dipped one toe in the river of the wqaters of enlightenment; Arhat: he who has arrived at the further shore”.

    Here’s the almost anonymous A.T. writing to The Times, 19th January 1968:

    In your obituary notice of the late Mr. Warner Allen you do not mention the books he wrote describing his “journey on the Mystic Way”. The best known of these books was The Timeless Moment in which he gave some account of a visionary experience that for him “flashed up lightning-wise during a performance of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony at the Queen’s Hall “. In this split second of time he received (as no one reading his books can doubt) a flash of absolute reality that broke through the normal barriers of the conscious mind and left a trail of illumination in its wake. Mr. Allen never claimed to be an advanced mystic or profound philosopher. He described himself as an ordinary man of the world. He spent years unravelling the implications of his strange experience. The resulting volumes were and are of extraordinary interest.

    Amen. Warner Allen’s was a Timeless Moment, an ego-loss indeed!

    I must have been fifteen or so when I had the great good fortune to meet and be befriended by this extraordinary man..

    DQ #5, About that Mandate of Heaven..

    Sunday, October 13th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — all right, here’s the religion and morality heavy-hitter — DoubleQuote #5 in a series ]
    .

    **

    Pat Robertson — well, I leave you to our own musings about him — in any case, he mentions the Mandate of Heaven which, the Chinese being subtler thn the British, compares favorably with the Divine Right of Kings in that it can be withdrawn at the pleasure of the gods. Justice in a ruler, equitabe and fair, is the criterion for

    Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, has a rule-book for kings and those they reign over, and while Trump was anointed to his presidential role and widely considered a king Cyrus, as an outsider to the faithful, or a king David, as an adulterer nonetheless pleasing unto God, both concepts conferring wiggle-room on the wishes of Heaven, Russell Moore, one of the prime theologians and ethicists of the Southern Baptists, appears to agree with Robertson that the Mandate or Divine Right or fidelity under oath to the Constitution of these United States may be evaporating.

    Now I ask you..

    **

    For a discussion of the president-as-king theory and the meaning of executive power, see JD Mortenson, What Two Crucial Words in the Constitution Actually Mean.

    Ambassadors serve at the pleasure of the President. President‘s serve at the pleasure of the Congress, Cabinet, or electorate. It would be wise for the Congress, Cabinet, or electorate to ponder, under present circumstances, the Mandate of Heaven or, which is much the same thing, the Will of the People.


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