Monday, September 25, 2006

The Doors Of Perception And Heaven And Hell

The Doors Of Perception And Heaven And Hell Cover

Book: The Doors Of Perception And Heaven And Hell by Aldous Huxley

It was in 1886 that the German pharmacologist, Louis Lewin, published the first systematic study of the cactus, to which his own name was subsequently given. Anhalonium lewinii was new to science.
To primitive religion and the Indians of Mexico and the American Southwest it was a friend of immemorially long standing. Indeed, it was much more than a friend. In the words of one of the early
Spanish visitors to the New World, "they eat a root which they call peyote, and which they venerate as though it were a deity."

Why they should have venerated it as a deity became apparent when such eminent psychologists as Jaensch, Havelock Ellis and Weir Mitchell began their experiments with mescalin, the active principle of
peyote. True, they stopped short at a point well this side of idolatry; but all concurred in assigning to mescalin a position among drugs of unique distinction. Administered in suitable doses, it changes the
quality of consciousness more profoundly and yet is less toxic than any other substance in the pharmacologist's repertory.

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Saturday, September 23, 2006

Welsh Tradition Of Witchcraft

Welsh Tradition Of Witchcraft Cover
Welsh Tradition: Originating in Wales, Welsh witches believe themselves to be one of the oldest traditions. Members are "awakened" to their calling and pass through 9 levels of attainment. It is hereditary, but you can "convert".

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Friday, September 22, 2006

Jainism And Relativity

Jainism And Relativity Cover The Jaina perspectives of syadavada hold that a proposition is true only conditionally and not absolutely. This is because it depends on the particular standpoint, naya, from which it is being made; that logically a thing canbe perceived from at least seven different standpoints, saptabhangi-naya; which lead us to the awareness of the many-sidedness of reality, or truth, anekantavada.

Realist Ethics

At no time were these limited to epistemological questions, of concern only to the philosophers. Since human relationships, personal or social, are determined by our perceptions of ourselves and of others, which we mostly assume also to be true absolutely, giving rise to conflicts and violence because the others believe the same about their judgments, the very first step towards living creatively is to acknowledge the relativistic nature of our judgments, and hence their limits. While being a distinct contribution to the Development of Indian logic, the Jaina syada-vada has been, most of all, a realist ethics of not-violence, ahimsa. The two are inter-related intimately.

An article, 'Syada-vada, Relativity and Complementarity' by Prof. Partha Ghose, a Theoretical physicist says that P C Mahalanobis was the first to point out, in 1954, that "the Jaina Syada-vada provided the right logical framework for modern statistical theory in a qualitative form, a framework missing in classical western logic." J B S Haldane saw a wider relevance of syada-vada to modern science. And Prof. Ghose speaks of the "most striking" similarity of syada-vada to Niels Bohr's Principle of Complementarity, first noticed by D C Kothari. Furthermore, he says:

"The logic of Einstein's special theory of relativity is also very similar to syada-vada."

In Einstein's relativity theory, Prof. Ghose points out, "the conventional attributes of mass, length, energy and time lose their absolute significance"; whereas in Bohr's complementarity theory, "the conventional attributes of waves and particles lose their absolute significance." As in syadavada, what that means is that the physical value of the former is only relative to the theoretical framework in which they are being viewed, and to the position from which they are being viewed. None of them is a fixed, absolute truth about the physical universe, as was assumed in the Newtonian physics. It would soon be discovered, too, that they are relative also to the observer who observed them.

The upanishads and the Jaina syada-vada had argued that reality carries within itself also opposites as its inherent attributes; and, therefore, no absolute statements can be made about it. But no sooner was this said than it was shown itself to be subject to the same limitation. In the wake of the relativity theory, which had already shattered the classical notions of physical order, de Broglie, a French prince, demonstrated, in 1924, that an electron is both a particle and a wave, whereas quantum mechanics had held the particle-wave duality. This discovery was even more upsetting, but experimentally proved.

The most upsetting was the subsequent proof, provided by Werner Heisenberg in 1927, that no events, not even atomic events, can be described with any certainty; whereas the natural sciences were rooted until then, and are so even now, in the mistaken notion that scientific rationality and its method gave us exactand certain knowledge of the universe. Heisenberg called it the 'Principle of Uncertainty'. Its substance was not only that human knowledge is limited but also that it is uncertain. That is to say, there are aspects of reality about which nothing definite can be said - the avyaktam, or the 'indeterminate', of the Jaina syada-vada.

Subsequent Proof

In his book The Dancing Wu Li Masters: An Overview of the New Physics, published in 1979, Gary Zukay said: "The wave-particle duality marked the end of the 'either-or' way of looking at the world. Physicists no longer could accept the preposition that light is either a particle or a wave because they had "proved" to themselves that it was both, depending on how they looked at it." Syada-vada, and with it anekanta-vada, had held that there are several different ways of perceiving reality, each valid in its place, and none of them true absolutely. But how do we judge the validity of our perceptions, by what criteria, by what method? These are the main questions of epistemology. Since moderm science has been a method of perceiving reality, even if only physical reality, it is epistemology with a certain method. Einstein had placed great emphasis upon that fact; and he was one scientist of modern times who had placed also the greatest emphasis upon the question of method in theoretical physics. His writings in that regard are to be found in his Ideas and Opinions, published in 1954. He said:

"Epistemology without contact with science becomes an empty scheme. Science without epistemology is - insofar as it is thinkable at all - primitive and muddled."

Limits of Logic

Concerning the method, as physics advanced, it became clear that the theoretical element in scientific laws cannot be abstracted from empirical data, nor can it be of pure logical induction. There is no bridge between the two of a kind that one necessarily implied the other. According to Einstein, the "axiomatic bas is of theoretical physics cannot be abstracted from Experience but must be freely invented"; "experience may suggest the appropriate mathematical concepts, but they most certainly cannot be deduced from it." Neither can pure logic give us knowledge of the physical world. On this point also, Einstein was unambiguous. "Pure logical thinking cannot yield us any knowledge of the empirical world", he says; "all knowledge of reality starts from experience and ends in it.

Propositions arrived at by purely logical means are completely empty as regards reality." The passage from sense impressions to scientific theory, Einste in says, is through "intuition and sympathetic understanding."

In brief, the two revolutions of relativity theory and quantum mechanics and what followed, had rendered naive realism, pure empiricism, pure logical thinking, and materialism, when each claimed to be the only way to knowledge and its certainty, to be incompatible with scientific method. What had hitherto been assumed to be the scientific method and, therefore, also the only true rationality, and was sought to be imposed upon the rest of the world was, in its absoluteness, discarded, And in all those movements of the New Physics, the Jaina syadavada and anekanta-vada are clearly manifest.

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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Medieval Byzantine Magical Amulets And Their Tradition

Medieval Byzantine Magical Amulets And Their Tradition Cover

Book: Medieval Byzantine Magical Amulets And Their Tradition by Jeffrey Spier

A diverse yet distinctive group of Magical Amulets has periodically attracted the attention of scholars from Renaissance times to the present. The amulets take many forms, including engraved gems and cameos, enamel pendants,
die-struck bronze tokens, cast or engraved pendants of gold, silver, bronze, and lead, and rings of silver and bronze. All share a common motif-an enigmatic representation of a face from which radiates a varying number of serpents-and this device is usually accompanied by a Greek inscription, often abbreviated or blundered, beginning ('womb, black, blackening...'). The formula makes explicit that the amulets were meant to aid the 'hystera' (womb) in some way, but what is meant by hystera and what sort of aid is intended are in need of clarification. The identification of the image itself, the date and place of origin of the amulets, and the Magical Tradition to which they belong, are all controversial.

There appears to be little interest again in the group of Medieval Amulets until the 1800s. Comments on them appear sporadically until the end of the century, when several learned articles were written independently in both western Europe and Russia. The Russian articles derive both from an intense interest in Byzantine texts, including magical tracts, and from the use of similar amulets in medieval Russia. In the West a parallel interest in magical gems and amulets led to a brief article by Wilhelm Froehner, a study of a number of bronze and lead amulets by Gustave Schlumberger, and an important article by Wilhelm Drexler on a variety of magical amulets, gems, and texts and their survival in later European culture. A further gem, found in Poland in 1897, was published by the Byzantinist Vitalien Laurent, who expanded on Drexler's article, adding several unpublished lead examples.

Yet to date there has been no comprehensive survey of the amulets. Many of them have remained unpublished, a number of others are now lost, and no doubt more remain unnoticed in public and private collections. A catalogue of all the
pieces that have so far come to light is therefore included below, as Appendix I.

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Saturday, September 16, 2006

The Key To Theosophy

The Key To Theosophy Cover

Book: The Key To Theosophy by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky

The purpose of this book is exactly expressed in its title, The Key to Theosophy, and needs but few words of explanation. It is not a complete or exhaustive textbook of Theosophy, but only a key to unlock the door that leads to the deeper study. It traces the broad outlines of the Wisdom-Religion, and explains its fundamental principles; meeting, at the same time, the various objections raised by the average Western inquirer, and endeavoring to present unfamiliar concepts in a form as simple and in language as clear as possible. That it should succeed in making Theosophy intelligible without mental effort on the part of the reader, would be too much to expect; but it is hoped that the obscurity still left is of the thought and not of the language, is due to depth and not to confusion. To the mentally lazy or obtuse, Theosophy must remain a riddle; for in the world mental as in the world spiritual each man must progress by his own efforts. The writer cannot do the reader's thinking for him, nor would the latter be any the better off if such vicarious thought were possible. The need for such an exposition as the present has long been felt among those interested in the Theosophical Society and its work, and it is hoped that it will supply information, as free as possible from technicalities, to many whose attention has been awakened, but who, as yet, are merely puzzled and
not convinced.

Some care has been taken in disentangling some part of what is true from what is false in Spiritualistic teachings as to the postmortem life, and to showing the True Nature of Spiritualistic phenomena. Previous explanations of a similar kind have drawn much wrath upon the writer's devoted head; the Spiritualists, like too many others, preferring to believe what is pleasant rather than what is true, and becoming very angry with anyone who destroys an agreeable delusion. For the past year Theosophy has been the target for every poisoned arrow of Spiritualism, as though the possessors of a half truth felt more antagonism to the possessors of the whole truth than those who had no share to boast of.
Very hearty thanks are due from the author to many Theosophists who have sent suggestions and questions, or have otherwise contributed help during the writing of this book. The work will be the more useful for their aid, and that will be their best reward. -H.P. Blavatsky 1889

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The Delights Of Wisdom Pertaining To Conjugal Love

The Delights Of Wisdom Pertaining To Conjugal Love Cover

Book: The Delights Of Wisdom Pertaining To Conjugal Love by Emmanuel Swedenborg

I am aware that many who read the following pages and the Memorable Relations annexed to the chapters, will believe that they are fictions of the imagination; but I solemnly declare they are not fictions, but were truly done and seen; and that I saw them, not in any state of the mind asleep, but in a state of perfect wakefulness: for it has pleased the Lord to manifest himself to me, and to send me to teach the things relating to the New Church, which is meant by the New Jerusalem in the Revelation: for which purpose he has opened the interiors of my mind and spirit; by virtue of which privilege it has been granted me to be in the spiritual world with angels, and at the same time in the natural world with men, and this now (1768) for twenty five years.

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