Experience

Process theology is a school of thought influenced by the metaphysical process philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead. It affirms that God is working in all persons to actualize potentialities. Thus, each religious manifestation is the Divine working in a unique way to bring out the beautiful and the good. Additionally, scripture and religion represent human interpretations of the divine.

Whitehead enumerated three essential natures of God. First, the primordial nature of God consists of all potentialities of existence for actual occasions, which Whitehead dubbed eternal objects. Second, God can offer possibilities by ordering the relevance of eternal objects. The consequent nature of God prehends everything that happens in reality. As such, God experiences all of reality in a sentient manner. The last nature is the superjective. This is the way in which God’s synthesis becomes a foundation for other actual entities. In some sense, God is prehended by existing actual entities.

Process theology gives God a special place in the universe of occasions of experience. God encompasses all the other occasions of experience but also transcends them. Since, it is argued, free will is inherent to the nature of the universe, God is not omnipotent in the sense of being coercive. The divine has a power of persuasion rather than coercion. God’s role is to offer enhanced occasions of experience. It participates in the evolution of the universe by offering possibilities, which may be accepted or rejected.

In this philosophy, reality is not made up of material substances that endure through time, but sequenced events which are experiential in nature. These events have both a physical and mental aspect. All experience is important and contributes to the ongoing and interrelated process of reality.

The universe is characterized by process and change carried out by the agents of free will. Self determination characterizes everything in the universe, not just human beings. God cannot totally control any series of events or any individual, but God influences the creaturely exercise of this universal free will by offering possibilities. To say it another way, God has a will in everything, but not everything that occurs is God’s will.

Because God interacts with the changing universe, God is changeable. That is to say, God is affected by the actions that take place in the universe over the course of time. However, the abstract elements of God such as goodness and wisdom remain eternally solid.

A liberative theology is very easily constructed in process theology. There is a relational character to the divine which allows God to experience both the joy and suffering of humanity. God suffers just as those who experience oppression, and God seeks to actualize all positive and beautiful potentials. God must, therefore, be in solidarity with the oppressed and must also work for their liberation.

Therefore, God is not omnipotent in the classical sense, and so God does not provide support for the status quo, but rather seeks the actualization of greater good. God exercises relational power and not unilateral control. In this way God cannot instantly end evil and oppression in the world. God works in relational ways to help guide persons to liberation.

Buffoon

A jester is a member of a profession that came into popularity in the Middle Ages. Jesters are always thought to have worn brightly colored clothes and eccentric hats in a motley pattern. Their hats were especially distinctive. Made of cloth, they were floppy with three points, each of which had a jingle bell at the end. The three points of the hat represent the donkey’s ears and tail worn by jesters in earlier times.

The jester was a symbolic twin of the king. All jesters and fools in those days were thought of as special cases whom God had touched with a childlike madness; a gift, or perhaps a curse. Mentally handicapped people sometimes found employment by capering and behaving in an amusing way. In the harsh world of medieval Europe, people who might not be able to survive any other way thus found a social niche.

In societies where freedom of speech was not recognized as a right, the jester could speak frankly on controversial issues in a way in which anyone else would have been severely punished, and monarchs understood the usefulness of having such a person at their side. Still, even the jester was not entirely immune from punishment, and he needed to walk a thin line and exercise careful judgment in how far he might go, which required him to be far from a fool in the modern sense.

In Tarot, The Fool card represents the Spirit, God, and Absolute Being. The depiction includes a man juggling unconcernedly or otherwise distracted with a dog at his heels. This image represents a number of human conditions such as innocence, truth, confidence, freedom from earthly desires or passions but also perversity. Some versions of the dog on most interpretations of the card depict him biting at The Fool. The dog symbolizes the natural world, a path to knowledge and a valuable ally. The Fool is often shown walking off a cliff. This raises the question of whether The Fool is making a mistake or a leap of faith.

The Fool is the spirit in search of experience. He represents the mystical cleverness bereft of reason within us, the childlike ability to tune into the inner workings of the world. The sun shining behind him represents the divine nature of the Fool’s wisdom and exuberance. On his back are all the possessions he might need. In his hand there is a flower, showing his appreciation of beauty.

Inference

The soulcatcher was an amulet used by the Medicine man of the Tsimshian, Haida and Tlingit tribes of the Pacific Northwest Coast of British Columbia and Alaska. It is believed that all soulcatchers were constructed by the Tsimshian tribe, and traded to the Haida and Tlingit tribes.

Soulcatchers were constructed of a tube of bear femur, incised on one side, and often ornamented with abalone shell. Bears have powerful shamanic connotations among the people of the Pacific Northwest Coast. Soulcatchers were decorated with  a serpent, land otter, or bear head at both ends of the tube, and an anthropomorphic face in the middle. This form may represent a mythological land otter canoe, imbued with shamanic power. The soulcatcher was plugged at both ends with shredded cedar bark, to contain the lost soul or hold the malevolent spirit of a patient. The amulet was usually worn as a necklace. They range in size from six to eight inches in length.

Sickness incurable by secular herbal means was believed to be caused by soul loss. Dreaming was thought to be the soul leaving the body and traveling to the spirit world. If the soul was unable to return to the body by morning due to disorientation or supernatural interference chronic illness would follow.

To cure the patient the shaman would wear the soulcatcher as a necklace. He would then travel to the spirit world by calling helper spirits using trance music and employing helper spirit masks and staffs. Shaman would also work in groups, constructing a representation of a land otter canoe of shaman and spirit boards or flat totems as a vehicle to travel to the spirit world. Once the missing soul was located, the shaman would suck the soul into the soul catcher, and return to the patient. The soul would then be blown back into the patient. Another use of the soulcatcher was for sucking malevolent spirits out of a patient in a similar manner.

Monochord

A tromba marina or marine trumpet is a triangular bowed string instrument used in medieval and Renaissance Europe that was highly popular in the 15th century in England and survived into the 18th century. The tromba marina consists of a body and neck in the shape of a truncated cone resting on a triangular base. It is usually four to seven feet long and is a monochord, although some versions have sympathetically vibrating strings. It is played without stopping the string, but playing natural harmonics by lightly touching the string with the thumb at nodal points. Its name comes from its trumpetlike sound due to the unusual construction of the bridge.

During the time of Michael Praetorius in 1618, the length of the Trummscheit was 7′ 3″ and the three sides at the base measured 7″, tapering to 2″ at the neck. There was at first only one string, generally a D cello string. The heavy bow, similar to that of the cello, is used between the highest positions of the left hand at the nodal points and the nut of the head. In one catalogued example the frets are lettered A, D, F, A, D, F, G, A, B, C, D.

The body of the tromba marina is generally either three slats of wood joined in an elongated pyramid shape with a pegbox at the apex, or a body of three to six ribs, a frontal soundboard, and a distinguishable neck. In most cases the bottom end of the instrument is open. Some historical models use sound holes. The single string is tuned to the D three octaves below middle C. It attaches at the soundboard and passes over one foot of the bridge, leaving the other foot to vibrate freely on a plate of ivory or glass set into the soundboard creating a brassy buzz.

From its curiously irregular shape, the bridge is also known as the shoe. It is thick and high at the one side on which rests the string, and low and narrow at the other which is left loose so that it vibrates against the belly with every movement of the bow. A string called a guidon is tied around the playing string below the bridge and runs up to the pegbox where it is wrapped around a peg. The guidon adjusts the balance of the bridge by pulling the playing string.

The measurements of the tromba marina varied considerably, as did also the shape of the body and the number of strings. An octave string, half the length of the melody string, and even two more, respectively the twelfth and the double octave, not resting on the bridge but acting as sympathetic strings, were sometimes added to improve the timbre by strengthening the pure harmonic tones without increasing the blare due to the action of the bridge.

In Germany, at the time when the tromba marina was extensively used in the churches, nuns often substituted the tromba marina because women were not allowed to play trumpets. In France, the Grande Ecurie du Roi comprised five tromba marina among the band in 1662, when the charge was mentioned for the first time in the accounts. The instrument fell into disuse during the first half of the 18th century, and was only to be seen in the hands of itinerant and street musicians. In modern times, the group Corvus Corax still regularly plays the tromba marina.

Illumination

A candle is a source of light consisting of a solid block of fuel and an embedded wick. Prior to the 19th century most candles were made from tallow, a by-product of beef fat rendering. Nowadays, they are usually made from wax. Paraffin wax is the most common, but there are also candles made from gel, soya and beeswax.

In Christianity the candle is commonly used in worship both for decoration and ambiance, and as a symbol that represent the light of God or, specifically, the light of Christ. The altar candle is often placed on the altar, usually in pairs.

In the Roman Catholic Church a liturgical candle must be made of at least 51% beeswax, the remainder may be paraffin or some other substance. In the Orthodox Church, the tapers offered should be 100% beeswax, unless poverty makes this impossible. For this reason, the stumps from burned candles are usually saved and melted down to make new candles.

In some Western churches, a special candle known as the Paschal candle, specifically represents the Resurrected Christ and is lit only at Easter, funerals, and baptisms. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, during Easter Week the priest holds a special triple candlestick and the deacon holds a large candle during all of the services at which they serve.

In Sweden, St. Lucia Day is celebrated on December 13 with the crowning of a young girl with a wreath of candles. In raqs sharqi, candles are used as a complementary element in some dance styles. The candles can be either be held on the dancer’s hand or above her head, depending on what the choreography demands.

In Judaism, a pair of candles are lit on Friday evening prior to the start of the weekly Sabbath celebration. On Saturday night, a special candle with several wicks is lit for the Havdalah ritual marking the end of the Sabbath and the beginning of the new week.

The eight day holiday of Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, is celebrated by lighting a special candelabrum or Hanukkiyah each night to commemorate the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem.

A memorial candle is lit on the Yahrtzeit, or anniversary of the death of a loved one according to the Hebrew calendar. The candle burns for 24 hours. A memorial candle is also lit on Yom HaShoah, a day of remembrance for all those who perished in the Holocaust.

The Candle is also used in celebrations of Kwanzaa, which is an African American holiday which runs from December 26 to January 1. A Kinara is used to hold candles in these celebrations. It holds seven candles; three red candles to represent African American struggles, one black candle to represent the African American people and three green candles to represent African American hopes.

In Wicca and related forms of Paganism, the candle is frequently used on the altar to represent the presence of God and Goddesses, and in the four corners of a ritual circle to represent the presence of the four classical elements: Fire, Earth, Air, and Water. When used in this manner, lighting and extinguishing the candle marks the opening and closing of a ritual. The candle is also frequently used for magical meditative purposes.

Candles are a traditional part of Buddhist ritual observances. Along with incense and flowers, candles are placed before Buddhist shrines or images of the Buddha as a show of respect. They may also be accompanied by offerings of food and drink. The light of the candles is described as representing the light of the Buddha’s teachings, echoing the metaphor of light used in various Buddhist scriptures.

In almost all Hindu homes, lamps are lit daily and sometimes every day before the altar of the Lord. In some houses, the lamps or candles are lit at dawn, in some twice a day at dawn and dusk. A diya, or clay lamp, is frequently used in Hindu celebrations and forms an integral part in many social rites. It is a strong symbol of enlightenment and prosperity. In its traditional and simplest form, the diya is made from baked clay or terracotta and holds oil or ghee that is lit via a cotton wick.

Phylogeny

Ernst Haeckel was an eminent German biologist, naturalist and artist who discovered, described and named thousands of new species, mapped a genealogical tree relating all life forms, and coined many terms in biology, including phylum, phylogeny and ecology. Haeckel promoted and popularized Charles Darwin’s work in Germany and developed the controversial recapitulation theory claiming that an individual organism’s biological development parallels and summarizes its species’ entire evolutionary development. The published artwork of Haeckel includes over 100 detailed, multi color illustrations of animals and sea creatures.

Haeckel studied under Carl Gegenbaur at the University of Jena for three years, earning a doctorate in zoology before becoming a professor of comparative anatomy at the University of Jena. Between 1859 and 1866, Haeckel worked on many invertebrate groups, including radiolarians, sponges and annelids. During a trip to the Mediterranean, Haeckel named nearly 150 new species of radiolarians.

Haeckel was a zoologist, an accomplished artist and illustrator, and later a professor of comparative anatomy. Although Haeckel’s ideas are important to the history of evolutionary theory, many speculative concepts that he championed are now considered incorrect. For example, Haeckel described and named hypothetical ancestral microorganisms that have never been found.

He was one of the first to consider psychology as a branch of physiology. His chief interests lay in evolution and life development processes in general, including development of nonrandom form, which culminated in the beautifully illustrated Art Forms Of Nature. Haeckel did not support natural selection, rather believing in the inheritance of acquired characteristics.

Haeckel advanced the recapitulation theory which proposed a link between development of form and evolutionary descent. His concept of recapitulation has been disputed in the form he gave it, now called strong recapitulation. Strong recapitulation hypothesis views ontogeny as repeating forms of the ancestors, while weak recapitulation means that what is repeated and built upon is the ancestral embryonic development process. He supported the theory with embryo drawings that have since been shown to be oversimplified and in part inaccurate, and the theory is now considered an oversimplification of quite complicated relationships. Haeckel introduced the concept of heterochrony, which is the change in timing of embryonic development over the course of evolution.

Haeckel’s entire literary output was extensive, working as a professor for 47 years, and even at the time of the celebration of his 60th birthday at Jena in 1894, Haeckel had produced 42 works with nearly 13,000 pages, besides numerous scientific memoirs and illustrations.

Peace

Peace is a term that most commonly refers to an absence of hostility, but which also represents a larger concept of healthy or newly healed interpersonal or international relationships, safety in matters of social or economic welfare, and the acknowledgment of equality and fairness in political relationships and world matters.

It is a state of balance and understanding in one’s self and between others where respect is gained by the acceptance of differences, conflicts are resolved through dialogue, other’s rights are respected, and everyone is at their highest point of serenity without social tension.

In the Great Lakes region of Africa, the word for peace is kindoki, which refers to a harmonious balance between human beings, the rest of the natural world, and the cosmos. This vision is a much broader view of peace than a mere absence of war.

Wolfgang Sutzl of the Innsbruck School of Peace Studies states that some peace thinkers have abandoned any single and all encompassing definition of peace. Rather, they promote the idea of many peaces. They argue that since no singular, correct definition of peace can exist, peace should be perceived as a plurality.

These thinkers also critique the idea of peace as a hopeful or eventual end. They recognize that peace does not necessarily have to be something humans might achieve some time in the future. They contend that peace exists in the present, we can create and expand it in small ways in our everyday lives, and peace changes constantly. This view makes peace permeable and imperfect rather than static and utopian.

Followers of some religions, such as Jainism, go to great lengths to avoid harming any living creatures, including insects. Pacifists, such as Christian anarchists, perceive any incarnation of violence as self perpetuating. Mahatma Gandhi’s conception of peace was not as an end, but as a means: “There is no way to peace; peace is the way.”

The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded annually to notable peacemakers and visionaries who have overcome violence, conflict or oppression through their moral leadership. The prize has often met with controversy, as it is occasionally awarded to people who have formerly sponsored war and violence but who have, through exceptional concessions, helped achieve peace.

Prophecy

The Star of Bethlehem is a star in Christian tradition that revealed the birth of Jesus to the Magi and later led them to Bethlehem. According to the Gospel of Matthew, the Magi were men from the east who were inspired by the appearance of the star to travel to Jerusalem. There they met King Herod of Judea, and asked where the king of the Jews had been born. Herod then asked his advisers where a messiah could be born. They replied Bethlehem, a nearby village, and quoted a prophecy by Micah. While the Magi were on their way to Bethlehem, the star appeared again. Following the star, it stopped this time above the place where Jesus was born. The Magi found Jesus with his mother, paid him homage, worshipped him and gave gifts. They then returned to their own country.

The ancients believed that astronomical phenomena were connected to terrestrial events. Miracles were routinely associated with the birth of important people, including the Hebrew patriarchs as well as Greek and Roman heroes. Although not referred to by Matthew, the Star Prophecy in the Book of Numbers was well known at the time that that the Gospels were written.

The Magi are sometimes called three kings because of the belief that they fulfill a prophecy by Isaiah concerning a journey to Jerusalem by kings. This prophecy mentions gifts of gold and incense, similar to the gifts presented to Jesus. In the Book of Daniel, the Magi are portrayed as an association of scholars in Babylon.

Matthew’s description of the miracles and portents attending the birth of Jesus can be compared to stories concerning the birth of Augustus, the first Roman emperor. Linking a birth to the first appearance of a star was consistent with the popular belief each person’s life was linked to a particular star. Magi and astronomical events were linked in the public mind by the visit to Rome of a delegation of Magi at the time of a spectacular appearance of Halley’s Comet.

Christians generally regard the star as a miraculous sign given by God to mark the birth of the Christ. Some theologians claimed that the star fulfilled a prophecy, known as the Star Prophecy. In modern times, astronomers have proposed various explanations for the star. A nova, a planet, a comet, an occultation, and a conjunction have all been suggested. The star has also been interpreted as an astrological event.

Spirit

Animism refers to a religious belief that souls or spirits exist in animals, plants and other entities, in addition to humans. Animism may also attribute souls to natural phenomena, geographic features, and even manufactured objects. Religions which emphasize animism in this sense include Shinto, Hinduism and pagan faiths such as folk religions and Neopaganism.

Some theories have been put forward that the belief in animism among early humans were the basis for the later evolution of religions. In this theory, early humans initially worshipped local deities of nature, in a form of animism. These grew into larger, polytheistic deities, such as gods of the sun and moon. Eventually these evolved into a belief in one, monotheistic God.

In many animistic world views found in early cultures, the human being is often regarded on an equal footing with animals, plants, and natural forces. In this world view, humans are considered a part of nature, rather than superior to, or separate from it. In such societies, ritual is considered essential for survival, as it wins the favor of the spirits of one’s source of food, shelter, and fertility and wards off malevolent spirits. In more elaborate animistic religions, such as Shinto, there is a greater sense of a special character to humans that sets them apart from the general run of animals and objects, while retaining the necessity of ritual to ensure good luck, favorable harvests, and so on.

A large part of mythology is based upon a belief in souls and spirits. Myths that portray plants, inanimate objects, and non human animals as personal beings are examples of animism in its more restrictive sense. As mythology began to include more numerous and complex ideas about a future life and purely spiritual beings, the overlap between mythology and animism widened. However, a rich mythology does not necessarily depend on a belief in spiritual beings.

Shinto, the traditional religion of Japan, is highly animistic. In Shinto, spirits of nature, or kami, exist everywhere, from the major ones, such as the goddess of the sun, who can be considered polytheistic, to the minor, who are more likely to be seen as a form of animism.

Many Pagans and Neopagans believe that there are spirits of nature and place, and that these spirits can sometimes be as powerful as minor deities. Polytheist Pagans may extend the idea of many gods and goddesses to encompass the many spirits of nature, such as those embodied in holy wells, mountains and sacred springs. While some of these many spirits may be seen as fitting into rough categories and sharing similarities with one another, they are also respected as separate individuals. On the other hand, some Wiccans may use the term animist to refer to the idea that a Mother Goddess and Horned God consist of everything that exists.

Most animistic belief systems hold that the spirit survives physical death. In some systems, the spirit is believed to pass to an easier world of abundant game or crops, while in other systems, the spirit remains on earth as a ghost, often malignant. Still other systems combine these two beliefs, holding that the soul must journey to the spirit world without becoming lost and thus wandering as a ghost. Mourning rituals and ancestor worship performed by those surviving the deceased are often considered necessary for the successful completion of the journey.

Appropriation

Cultural appropriation is the adoption of some specific elements of one culture by a different cultural group. It can include the introduction of forms of dress or personal adornment, music and art, religion, language, or social behavior. These elements, once removed from their indigenous cultural contexts, may take on meanings that are significantly divergent from those they originally held.

A common type of cultural appropriation is the adoption of the iconography of another culture. Obvious examples include tattoos of Hindu gods, Polynesian tribal iconography, Chinese characters, or Celtic bands worn by people who have no interest in or understanding of the original cultural significance. When these artifacts are regarded as objects that merely look cool, or when they are mass produced cheaply as consumer kitsch, people who venerate and wish to preserve their indigenous cultural traditions may be offended.

African American culture has been the subject of aggressive cultural appropriation, especially elements of its music, dance, slang, dress, and demeanor. Artists such as Eminem, a white American who adopted a traditionally African American music and style, may be perceived this way.

Another prominent example of cultural appropriation is the use of real or imaginary elements of Native American culture by North American summer camps, by organizations such as the Boy Scouts of America, or by New Age spiritual leaders. Many summer camps, and many age segregated groups of campers within summer camps are named after real Native American tribes. Tipis are common at summer camps even at an enormous distance from the Great Plains, and rituals often evoke Native American culture. The Boy Scout honor society is called the Order of the Arrow.

Cultural appropriation may be defined differently in different cultures. While academics in a country such as the United States, where racial dynamics had been a cause of cultural segmentation, may see many instances of intercultural communication as cultural appropriation, other countries may identify such communication as a melting pot effect.

It has also been seen as a site of resistance to dominant society when members of a marginalized group take and alter aspects of dominant culture to assert their resistance. An example were the Mods in the UK in the 1960s, working class youth who appropriated and exaggerated the highly tailored clothing of the upper middle class. Objections have been raised to such political cultural appropriation, citing class warfare and identity politics.

The history of almost every society that comes into contact with other societies is filled with examples of what may be described as cultural appropriation, often learning from other cultures, taking parts that are useful, aesthetic, or agreeable, and incorporating them into their own. For instance, it is arguable that the Islamic civilization appropriated the cultural and intellectual heritage of the Greco-Roman civilization during the Islamic Golden Age. They then used this knowledge, combined with their own talents, to rise to a level of greatness comparable to the days of the Romans themselves.

Justin Britt-Gibson’s article for the Washington Post looked at the appropriation of his African-American culture as a sign of progress:

Throngs of dreadlocked Italians were smoking joints, drinking beer, grooving to the rhythms of Bob Marley, Steel Pulse and other reggae icons. Most striking was how comfortable these Italians seemed in their appropriated shoes, adopting a foreign culture and somehow making it theirs. The scene reinforced my sense of how far we’ve come since the days when people dressed, talked and celebrated only that which sprang from their own background. For the first time in my life, I was fully aware of the spiritual concept that we’re all simply one.

Last month in a Los Angeles barbershop, I was waiting to get my trademark Afro cut when I noticed a brother in his late teens sitting, eyes closed, as the barber clipped his hair into a frohawk, the punk inspired African American adaptation of the mohawk. Asked why he chose the look, the guy, without looking up, shrugged, “Something different.” Immediately, I understood. Minutes later, his different cut became my new look.