Friday, September 30, 2011
Posted by Jasmeine Moonsong at 2:03 PM
Posted by Jasmeine Moonsong at 1:47 PM
Owen Jarus, Live Science Contributor
Researchers have identified what is believed to be the world's earliest surviving Christian inscription, shedding light on an ancient sect that followed the teachings of a second-century philosopher named Valentinus.
Officially called NCE 156, the inscription is written in Greek and is dated to the latter half of the second century, a time when the Roman Empire was at the height of its power.
An inscription is an artifact containing writing that is carved on stone. The only other written Christian remains that survive from that time period are fragments of papyri that quote part of the gospels and are written in ink. Stone inscriptions are more durable than papyri and are easier to display. NCE 156 also doesn't quote the gospels directly, instead its inscription alludes to Christian beliefs.
"If it is in fact a second-century inscription, as I think it probably is, it is about the earliest Christian material object that we possess," study researcher Gregory Snyder, of Davidson College in
, told LiveScience. [See Images of Early Christian Inscriptions and Artifacts]
Snyder, who detailed the finding in the most recent issue of the Journal of Early Christian Studies, believes it to be a funeral epigram, incorporating both Christian and pagan elements. His work caps 50 years of research done by multiple scholars, much of it in Italian. The inscription is in the collection of the Capitoline Museums in Rome.
"Assuming that Professor Snyder is right, it's clearly the earliest identifiable Christian inscription," said Paul McKechnie, a professor of ancient history at Macquarie University in Australia, who has also studied the inscription.
As translated by Snyder, the inscription reads:
To my bath, the brothers of the bridal chamber carry the torches,
[here] in our halls, they hunger for the [true] banquets,
even while praising the Father and glorifying the Son.
There [with the Father and the Son] is the only spring and source of truth.
[here] in our halls, they hunger for the [true] banquets,
even while praising the Father and glorifying the Son.
There [with the Father and the Son] is the only spring and source of truth.
Details on the provenance of the inscription are sketchy. It was first published in 1953 by Luigi Moretti in the "Bullettino della commissione archeologica comunale di Roma," an Italian archaeological journal published annually.
The only reference to where it was found is a note scribbled on a squeeze (a paper impression) of the inscription, Snyder said. According to that note, it was found in the suburbs of Rome near Tor Fiscale, a medieval tower. In ancient times, the location of the tower would have been near mile four of a roadway called the Via Latina.
How was it dated?
Margherita Guarducci, a well-known Italian epigrapher who passed away in 1999, proposed a second-century date for the inscription more than four decades ago. She argued that the way it was written, with a classical style of Greek letters, was only used in Rome during the first and second centuries.
After that, the letters change; for instance, the letter omega, Ω, changes into something closer to the letter w. The letter Sigma, Σ, changes into a symbol that resembles the letter c. [Inscription on Roman Gladiator's Gravestone Reveals Fatal Foul]
Snyder essentially added more evidence to Guarducci's theory. He analyzed a 1968 catalog of more than 1,700 inscriptions from Rome called "Inscriptiones graecae urbis Romae." He found 53 cases of Greek inscriptions with classical letterforms.
"Not one case is to be found in which, in the judgment of the [catalog]editors, an inscription with the classical letter forms found in NCE 156can be securely placed in the mid-third or fourth century," Snyder wrote in his paper.
In addition, Snyder analyzed an inventory of inscriptions from nearby Naples, published in a series of two volumes in the 1990s called "Iscrizioni greche d'Italia." He found only two examples that might date into the third century. "In sum, Guarducci's case for a second-century date for NCE 156 is stronger than ever," he wrote.
McKechnie said that, after reviewing Snyder's work, he agrees with the date. "The first time I read his article I was far from sure, but the second time I read it I was convinced by his argument about the letter shape."
The author of the inscription likely followed the teachings of a man named Valentinus, an early Christian teacher who would eventually be declared a heretic, Snyder said. The presence of the inscription suggests that a community of his followers may have lived on the Via Latina during the second century.
"We know that Valentinus was a famous Gnostic teacher in the second century (who) lived in Rome for something like 20 years, and was a very sophisticated ... poetic, talented, thinker, speaker, writer."
His teachings are believed to be preserved, to some degree, in the Gospel of Philip, a third-century anthology that was discovered in 1945 in the town of Nag Hammadi in Egypt. That gospel is a collection of gnostic beliefs, some of which were probably composed in the second century, that are written in a cryptic manner. However, like the inscription, it also refers prominently to a "bridal chamber."
One example, near the end of the gospel, reads in part:
The mysteries of truth are revealed, though in type and image. The bridal chamber, however, remains hidden. It is the Holy in the Holy. The veil at first concealed how God controlled the creation, but when the veil is rent and the things inside are revealed, this house will be left desolate, or rather will be destroyed. And the whole (inferior) godhead will flee from here, but not into the holies of the holies, for it will not be able to mix with the unmixed light and the flawless fullness, but will be under the wings of the cross and under its arms...
(Translation by Wesley Isenberg)
"It's not quite clear what it [the bridal chamber] is, it's explained to some degree, but explained in cryptic terms in the Gospel of Philip, it's a ritual involving freedom and purification and union with the deity," McKechnie said.
Perhaps rather than an actual ritual, the bridal chamber is a metaphor.
"It may be a metaphor for something that happens in death — maybe it's a kind of ritual that happens when people are still alive. That you achieve a new kind of existence or spiritual status based on this kind of wedding with your spiritual ideal counterpart," Snyder said. [Top 10 Weird Ways We Deal With the Dead]
"Some groups may have celebrated it as a concrete ritual, others perhaps sawit in metaphorical terms. I like the idea that it is connected with the death of the believer, who has cast off the mortal coil and enjoys a new life in the spirit," he added in a follow-up email.
But there were some important differences between Valentinians and other early Christians. "Valentinians in particular, and gnostics more generally, most of them wouldn't, for example, get martyred," McKechnie said. "They wouldn't think it was wrong or unlawful to do the things that Christian martyrs refused to do, like take an oath in the name of Caesar or offer incense to a statue or that kind of thing."
The reason for their lack of bias has to do with the Valentinians' beliefs about all things physical. "They believed that not only matter and the physical world was evil, but also that matter and the physical world was unimportant," McKechnie said. "Therefore, it was unimportant what you or what your body did in the physical world."
"It's mostly about the world of the mind."
Valentinians were also likely influenced by earlier Greek philosophers such as Plato, Snyder has found, though he doesn't think they would have interpreted the story of the resurrection of Jesus in a literal way.
"It's certainly not the case that they would have considered that to be a physical resurrection," he said. "Christians of this particular variety (who incorporated Plato's philosophy) generally speaking saw the material body as something not so desirable, not so good."
Christian and pagan
When analyzing the inscription, Snyder also noticed some similarities with funeral epigrams composed for non-Christians. In those inscriptions, the wedding imagery is used in a tragic way. [After Death: 8 Burial Alternatives Going Mainstream]
One example, written about 2,100 years ago, reads in part:
I am Theophila, short-lived daughter of Hecateus. The ghosts of the unmarried dead were courting me, a young maiden, for marriage, Hades outstripped the others and seized me, for he desired me, looking upon me as a Persephone more desirable than Persephone. And when he carved the letters on her tombstone, he wept for the girl Theophila from Sinope, her father Hecateus, who composed the wedding torches not for marriage but for Hades...
(Translation by Gregory Snyder)
"Typically, that wedding imagery is tragic," said Snyder. "Here's the promising young person entering into the prime of life, suddenly snatched away, and betrothed, married to Hades."
What the second-century Christian inscription does is turn this convention on its head. "They're playing with that... it's not decline, it's looking forward to a new life."
Snyder said that the mix of Christian and pagan traditions in the inscription is striking. He told LiveScience that he's studied early Christian paintings on the Via Latina that mix biblical themes, such as the story of Samson or the raising of Lazarus, along with figures from classical mythology, like that of Hercules.
"Those kinds of things I find particularly interesting, because they seem to suggest a period of time in which a Christian identity is flexible," Snyder said. "Is it just a simple either/or between pagan and Christian?" he asked. "Or is there really something rather like a spectrum? Or are you really sort of both in certain respects?"
Posted by Jasmeine Moonsong at 9:00 AM
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
WRITTEN BY RAVEN CLABOUGH
In what many say is political correctness run amok, British schools have banned black witch hats for children, claiming that they are "racist." So-called diversity and equality experts in the United Kingdom assert that because the wicked witch appears in a black hat, while fairies — typically associated with sweetness and light — are often clad in pale, glistening colors, children are being indoctrinated to believe that all things light or white in color are by nature “good,” while those that are black are inherently “bad.”
The Blaze reports,
Now, to combat that perceived threat, primary school teachers in Britain are allegedly being encouraged by equality advocates to censor fictional children’s characters, eliminating witches’ black pointed hats in favor of white ones, while dressing fairies in dark colors. Proponents of this technique can claim the method will eliminate "racism" in children as young as two.
Unsurprisingly, other innocuous items are also coming under fire. Take for example writing paper. TheTelegraph reports:
Another staple of the classroom — white paper — has also been questioned by Anne O’Connor, an early years consultant who advises local authorities on equality and diversity.
Children should be provided with paper other than white to draw on and paints and crayons should come in “the full range of flesh tones,” reflecting the diversity of the human race, according to the former teacher.
O’Connor even insists that teachers should be prepared to answer “black” or “brown” when pupils ask them their favorite color — all in the interest of good race relations.
Many of these bizarre measures come out of a set of guidelines found in the British magazine Nursery World — guidelines which assert that because young children could possess an inclination to be racist, nursery schools therefore have a responsibility to help them “unlearn” those traits.
O’Connor points to a study conducted by Professor Lord Winston, who said he determined that children as young as four can hold racist views. TheTelegraph explains:
In an experiment carried out for the BBC’s Child of our Time series, children were presented with a series of images of faces of men, women, boys or girls. Only one of the faces in each sequence was white.
Children were asked to pick out the face of the person they wanted as their friend and the person they thought would be most likely to get in to trouble.
Almost all white children in the survey associated positive qualities exclusively with photographs of white children or adults. More than half of the black children made the same associations.
In contrast, people with darker faces were viewed as troublemakers.
O’Connor’s program is intended to promote a more positive association with dark colors, a method developed in the United States, according to the Telegraph, as part of a special interest group’s multiculturalism agenda.
This is an incredibly complex subject that can easily become simplified and inaccurately portrayed. There is a tendency to say "here are normal people and here are different people and we have to be kind to those different people," whether it’s race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age or faith.
People who are feeling defensive can say "well there’s nothing wrong with white paper," but in reality there could be if you don’t see yourself reflected in the things around you. As an early years teacher, the minute you start thinking, "Well actually, if I give everyone green paper, what happens," you have a teaching potential.
People might criticize this as political correctness gone mad. But it is because of political correctness we have moved on enormously. If you think ... we now take it for granted that our buildings and public highways are adapted so people in wheelchairs and with pushchairs can move around. Years ago if you were in a wheelchair, then tough luck. We have completely moved and we wouldn’t have done that without the equality movement.
Responding to these assertions, Margaret Morrisey, spokeswoman for the advocacy group Parents Outloud, observed, “I’m sure these early years experts know their field but they seem to be obsessed about colour and determined to make everyone else obsessed about it too.”
She believes the fears touted by these experts are entirely unfounded:
Not allowing toy witches to wear black seems to me nonsense and in the same vein as those people who have a problem with "Baa Baa Black Sheep" or "The Three Little Pigs." Children just see a sheep in a field, whether it be black, grey, white or beige. I have worked with children for 41 years and I don’t believe I have ever met a two-year-old who was in any way racist or prejudiced.”
Posted by Jasmeine Moonsong at 2:57 PM
Witch hunts grew from a stew of emotions, notably fear of female sexual power. They have no place in a modern Italian court
Posted by Jasmeine Moonsong at 2:54 PM
By Mckenna Kohlenberg
Wisconsin federal legislators lobbied Monday to remove gray wolves from the federal endangered species list after their recent increase in population.
In a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wisconsin, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, and the other Wisconsin congressmen said the Wisconsin gray wolf population has returned to an ecologically manageable size and therefore should be removed from the Endangered Species list.
The Wisconsin gray wolf population, which is estimated to be between 782 and 824, now exceeds the federal recovery goal of 100 and the Wisconsin Wolf Management Plan of 350. Legislators argue this population revival more than justifies the wolf's removal from the list of endangered species.
The species has recovered so well that the wolves now struggle with a significant decrease in space.
Lawmakers highlighted the threat gray wolves have posed to local farmers. They said the wolves have impeded on farmers land and were responsible for the deaths of 75 livestock animals from 47 different farms.
Baldwin, the author of the letter, commended the bipartisan effort to "protect Wisconsin's people and property in a vibrant ecosystem."
"The resurgence of the gray wolf in Wisconsin and the Great Lakes region is a stunning success story for the Endangered Species Act and a lesson in exceptional wildlife management," Baldwin said in a statement.
Legislators said through careful management, the state of Wisconsin can both protect Wisconsin residents and preserve a once nearly diminished specie.
Posted by Jasmeine Moonsong at 2:52 PM
By Alexandra Swanberg
Some people have a magic touch, specifically the ability to transfer energy through their hands for meditative and spiritual purposes.
Luis Sanchez, a local Reiki practitioner, said anyone can acquire this ability through the art of Reiki, a mode of therapeutic touch.
“You’re applying the principle of self-love to the cells and the organs, and as you do that, they start helping you,” he said. “It opens up the path for the energy to flow out of your body.”
Different forms of therapeutic touch have been around for centuries, but the system of Reiki was not developed until 1922 by Dr. Mikao Usui in Japan. The practice revolves around the idea that there is a universal life force that is concentrated in seven energy centers in beings called chakras, Sanchez said.
In “The Chakras and the Human Energy Fields,” Shafica Karagulla, a psychiatrist, writes that these energies revolve around the chakra core, pulsating rhythmically in constant harmonic motion.
“The torrent of incoming energy from the general field pours into the chakras, and because of their pattern of organization this produces a whirling or spinning motion,” she writes. “This flow does not affect their basic geometrical structure, however, for that remains constant.”
During a Reiki therapy session, the practitioner first assesses which chakras are operating inefficiently due to blockages, which in effect overworks the fully operational chakras, Sanchez said.
Blockages are commonly described in terms of temperature or color, he said. Someone attuned to Reiki energy can feel areas that are significantly hotter with a more vibrant color emanation and understand there is chaotic energy built up.
He said these blockages, the root of illness, are then corrected by channeling love energy through the practitioner’s body, through his hands and into the problem area. Simultaneously, the practitioner visualizes one of many Reiki symbols to focus their intent, he said.
“Any energy can be transformed,” Sanchez said. “So energy that is disorganized, through a process of transforming it, we can start elevating it, little by little, from very disorganized, to organized, to highly organized. As we do that we’re taking it from chaotic to kind of okay to kind of heavy, beautiful, loving energy.”
In the 2009 report, “Systematic Review of the Therapeutic Effects of Reiki,” a review of all studies to date about the practice concludes that while Reiki use is growing in North America, there is not adequate scientific data to prove its effectiveness.
This is the result of too few studies on the subject and the invariably poor quality of the studies that have been conducted, the report said.
However, Tamisha Sabrina of the UK Reiki Foundation, wrote in an article entitled “The Science Behind Reiki” that independent research during the 1980s, conducted by Dr. Robert Becker and Dr. John Zimmerman, yielded some important findings.
The brain wave patterns of the practitioner and receiver supposedly become synchronized, which is not only characteristic of deep relaxation and meditation, because the brain waves also pulse in unison with the Schumann Resonance, or Earth’s magnetic field.
“During these moments, the biomagnetic field of the practitioners’ hands is at least 1000 times greater than normal, and not as a result of internal body current,” she wrote. “It is interesting to note that Dr. Becker carried out his study on world-wide array of cross-cultural subjects, and no matter what their belief systems or customs, or how opposed to each other their customs were, all tested the same.”
Mary O’Gara, local Reiki master, said even without scientific evidence she knows relaxation is an important step in enabling the body to heal. The practice is spiritual, meaning the intent behind it determines the quality of the receiver’s experience. The practitioner is simply a vessel for the energy to flow through and the receiver can draw on this energy or not, depending on what their bodies need. In this respect, each individual experience varies, making any sound conclusion regarding the subjective experience difficult, Ogara said.
Dr. William Tiller, professor emeritus of Stanford University’s Department of Materials Science, has executed a series of experiments in the last 30 years as part of his mission of developing “Psychoenergetic Science.”
He said he has proven the power of human intention through these experiments. One experiment studied water that was bottled from the same source while channeling different energies. The water was then frozen. Each bottle crystallized in a different way, though no chemicals were added.
The field of quantum mechanics may be coming closer to bridging the gap between science and spirituality, but Sanchez said the scientific basis of Reiki is almost irrelevant when every 30 years or so we realize that we were wrong about something we thought had been grounded in science. In the meantime, Sanchez said tools like Reiki that support emotional and spiritual well-being, not just physical health, remain valid.
“At the root of every dysfunction in a human being is emotion,” he said. “If I can heal their emotions, I can free their mind to do other things that would be helpful to them, and then to treat other ailments they have physically.”
Posted by Jasmeine Moonsong at 2:48 PM