Syncretism consists of the attempt to reconcile disparate or contrary beliefs, often while melding practices of various schools of thought. The term may refer to attempts to merge and analogise several originally discrete traditions, especially in the theology and mythology of religion, and thus assert an underlying unity allowing for an inclusive approach to other faiths.

It also occurs commonly in literature, music, the representational arts and other expressions of culture. Syncretism may occur in architecture as well. There also exist syncretic politics, although in political classification the term has a somewhat different meaning.

Overt syncretism in folk belief may show cultural acceptance of an alien or previous tradition, but the other cult may survive or infiltrate without authorized syncresis nevertheless. For example, some Conversos developed a sort of cult for martyr victims of the Spanish Inquisition, thus incorporating elements of Catholicism while resisting it.

Some religious movements have embraced overt syncretism, such as the case of the adoption of Shintō elements into Buddhism as well as the adoption of Germanic and Celtic pagan elements into Catholicism during Christianity’s spread into Gaul, the British Isles and Germany. Others have strongly rejected it as devaluing precious and genuine distinctions; examples of this include post-Exile Judaism and Islam.

Syncretism tends to facilitate coexistence and constructive interaction between different cultures, a factor that has recommended it to rulers of multi-ethnic realms. Conversely the rejection of syncretism, usually in the name of piety and orthodoxy, may help to generate, bolster or authorize a sense of cultural unity in a well-defined minority or majority.

Religious syncretism exhibits blending of two or more religious belief systems into a new system, or the incorporation into a religious tradition of beliefs from unrelated traditions. This can occur for many reasons, and the latter scenario happens quite commonly in areas where multiple religious traditions exist in proximity and function actively in the culture, or when a culture is conquered, and the conquerors bring their religious beliefs with them, but do not succeed in entirely eradicating the old beliefs or, especially, practices.

Religions may have syncretic elements to their beliefs or history, but adherents of so-labeled systems often frown on applying the label, especially adherents who belong to revealed religious systems, such as the Abrahamic religions, or any system that exhibits an exclusivist approach. Such adherents sometimes see syncretism as a betrayal of their pure truth. By this reasoning, adding an incompatible belief corrupts the original religion, rendering it no longer true. Indeed, critics of a specific syncretistic trend may sometimes use the word syncretism as a disparaging epithet, as a charge implying that those who seek to incorporate a new view, belief, or practice into a religious system actually distort the original faith. Non-exclusivist systems of belief, on the other hand, may feel quite free to incorporate other traditions into their own.

In modern secular society, religious innovators sometimes create new religions syncretically as a mechanism to reduce inter-religious tension and enmity, often with the effect of offending the original religions in question. Such religions, however, do maintain some appeal to a less exclusivist audience.


Vitalism is a doctrine which states that the functions of a living organism are due to a vital principle distinct from biochemical reactions. Where vitalism explicitly invokes a vital principle, that element is often referred to as the energy which some equate with the soul.

It has a long history in medical philosophies. Most traditional healing practices posited that disease was the result of some imbalance in the vital energies which distinguish living from non-living matter. In the Western tradition founded by Hippocrates, these vital forces were associated with the four temperaments and humours. Eastern traditions posited similar forces such as qi and prana. Vitalistic thinking has also been identified in the naive biological theories of children.

The notion that bodily functions are due to a vitalistic principle existing in all living creatures has roots going back at least to ancient Egypt. While vitalist ideas have been commonplace in traditional medicine, attempts to construct workable scientific models date from the 1600s, when it was argued that matter existed in two radically different forms, observable by their behavior with regard to heat. These two forms of matter were termed organic and inorganic. Inorganic matter could be melted, but could also be restored to its former condition by removing the heat. Organic compounds disintegrated when heated, transforming into new forms that could not be restored to the original. It was argued that the essential difference between the two forms of matter was the vital force, present only in organic material.

Aided by the development of the microscope in the Netherlands in the early 1600s, the germ theory of disease eventually challenged the role of vitalism in Western medicine. The cellular composition of the organs of human anatomy and the ensuing molecular analysis of the maintenance of life slowly became better understood, reducing the need to explain things in terms of mystical vital forces.

While contemporary conventional medicine has distanced itself from the less reductionistic and more vitalistic approach of traditional medicine, some areas of complementary medicine continue to espouse various forms of vitalistic concept and worldview, such as alternative medical systems or systems of therapy and practice.

The therapies that continue to be most intimately associated with vitalism are bioenergetic medicines in the category of energy therapies. This field may be further divided into bioelectromagnetic medicines and biofield therapies. Compared with bioenergetic medicines, biofield therapies have a stronger identity with vitalism. Examples of biofield therapies include therapeutic touch, Reiki, external qi and chakra healing. Biofield therapies are medical treatments in which the subtle energy field of a patient is manipulated by a biofield practitioner. The subtle energy is held to exist beyond the electromagnetic energy that is produced by the heart and brain.


Basil is a culinary herb prominently featured in Italian cuisine, and also plays a major role in the Southeast Asian cuisines of Thailand, Vietnam and Laos. The plant tastes somewhat like anise, with a strong, pungent, sweet smell. It is originally native to Iran, India and other tropical regions of Asia, having been cultivated there for more than 5,000 years.

There are many varieties of basil. That which is used in Italian food is typically called sweet basil, as opposed to Thai basil, lemon basil and holy basil, which are used in Asia. While most common varieties of basil are treated as annuals, some are perennial in warm, tropical climates, including African Blue and Holy Thai basil.

Basil is commonly used fresh in cooked recipes. It is generally added at the last moment, as cooking quickly destroys the flavour. The fresh herb can be kept for a short time in plastic bags in the refrigerator, or for a longer period in the freezer, after being blanched quickly in boiling water. The dried herb also loses most of its flavour, and what little flavour remains tastes very different, with a weak coumarin flavour, like hay.

When soaked in water the seeds of several basil varieties become gelatinous, and are used in Asian drinks and desserts such as falooda or sherbet. Such seeds are known variously as subza, takmaria, falooda or selasih. They are used for their medicinal properties in Ayurveda, the traditional medicinal system of India.They are also used as popular drinks in Southeast Asia.

The various basils have such different scents because the herb has a number of different essential oils which come together in different proportions for various breeds. The strong clove scent of sweet basil is derived from eugenol, the same chemical as actual cloves. The citrus scent of lemon basil and lime basil is because they have a higher portion of citral which causes this effect in several plants. African blue basil has a strong camphor smell because it has camphor in higher proportions. Licorice Basil contains anethole, the same chemical that makes anise smell like licorice.

Basil contains large amounts of (E)-beta-caryophyllene (BCP), which might have a use in treating inflammatory bowel diseases and arthritis. BCP is the only product identified in nature that activates CB2 selectively. It interacts with one of two cannabinoid receptors, blocking chemical signals that lead to inflammation, without triggering cannabis’s mood-altering effects.

Recently, there has been much research into the health benefits conferred by the essential oils found in basil. Scientific studies have established that compounds in basil oil have potent antioxidant, anti-cancer, anti-viral, and anti-microbial properties. In addition, basil has been shown to decrease the occurrence of platelet aggregation and experimental thrombus in mice. It is traditionally used for supplementary treatment of stress, asthma and diabetes in India.


The relationship between belief and knowledge is subtle. Believers in a claim typically say that they know that claim. For instance, those who believe that the Sun is a god will often report that they know that the Sun is a god. However, the terms belief and knowledge are used differently by philosophers. It is a telling point concerning the nature of belief that most people distinguish between what they know and what they believe, even though they consider both kinds of statements to be true.

Mainstream psychology and related disciplines have traditionally treated belief as if it were the simplest form of mental representation and therefore one of the building blocks of conscious thought. Philosophers have tended to be more abstract in their analysis and much of the work examining the viability of the belief concept stems from philosophical analysis.

Beliefs are sometimes divided into core beliefs (those which you may be actively thinking about) and dispositional beliefs (those which you may ascribe to but have never previously thought about). For example, if asked “do you believe tigers wear pink pajamas?'” a person might answer that they do not, despite the fact they may never have thought about this situation before.

That a belief is a mental state has been seen by some as contentious. While some philosophers have argued that beliefs are represented in the mind as sentence-like constructs, others have gone as far as arguing that there is no consistent or coherent mental representation that underlies our common use of the belief concept and that it is therefore obsolete and should be rejected.

Beliefs form in a variety of ways. We tend to internalize the beliefs of the people around us. Albert Einstein is often quoted as having said that “Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen.” Political beliefs depend most strongly on the political beliefs common in the community where we live. Most individuals believe the religion they were taught in childhood.

People may adopt the beliefs of a charismatic leader, even if those beliefs fly in the face of all previous beliefs and produce actions that are clearly not in their own self-interest. Rational individuals need to reconcile their direct reality with any said belief. Therefore, if belief is not present or possible, it reflects the fact that contradictions were necessarily overcome using cognitive dissonance.

The primary thrust of the advertising industry is that repetition forms beliefs, as do associations of beliefs with images of sex, love, and other strong positive emotions. Physical trauma, especially to the head, can also radically alter a person’s beliefs.

In Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass, the White Queen says, “Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” This is often quoted in mockery of the common ability of people to entertain beliefs contrary to fact.


Gnosis is the spiritual knowledge of a saint or mystically enlightened human being. In Byzantine and Hellenic cultures, gnosis was a special knowledge or insight into the infinite, divine and uncreated in all and above all, rather than knowledge strictly into the finite, natural or material world. It indicates direct spiritual experiential knowledge and intuitive knowledge, mystic rather than that from rational or reasoned thinking. Gnosis itself is obtained through understanding at which one can arrive via inner experience or contemplation.

Carl Jung worked on trying to understand and explain the Gnostic faith from a psychological standpoint. In many ways, Jung’s analytical psychology schematically mirrors ancient Gnostic mythology. Jung understands the emergence of the creator out of the original, unified monadic source of the spiritual universe by gradual stages to be analogous to the emergence of the ego from the unconscious.

However, it is uncertain as to whether the similarities between Jung’s psychological teachings and those of the gnostics are due to their sharing a similar philosophy, or whether Jung was unwittingly influenced by the Gnostics in the formation of his theories. Jung’s own writings would tend to imply the latter, but after circulating one of his related manuscripts, Jung declined to publish it during his lifetime. Since it is not clear whether Jung was ultimately displeased with the book or whether he merely suppressed it as too controversial, the issue remains contested.

On the other hand, it is clear from a comparison of Jung’s writings and that of ancient Gnostics, that Jung disagreed with them on the ultimate goal of the individual. Gnostics in ancient times clearly sought a return to a supreme, other-worldly God state. To contend that there is at least some disagreement between Jung and Gnosticism is at least supportable. The Jungian process of individuation involves the addition of unconscious psychic tropes to consciousness in order to achieve a trans-conscious centre to the personality. Jung did not intend this addition to take the form of a complete identification of the self with the unconscious.

Gnostic believers today retain much of the gnostic mysticism of early Christian centuries, in particular that human minds are independent of the realm of matter, and are emanations of the One, the non-physical Spirit, and that the physical world is a result of the creator manifesting itself, and it is ruled by demons which prevent the spiritual progress of the mind in every possible way and maintain its entrapment in matter.


Courage, also known as bravery and fortitude, is the ability to confront fear, pain, danger, uncertainty, or intimidation. Its accompanying animal is the lion. Often, Fortitude is depicted as having tamed the ferocious lion, as in the Tarot trump called Strength. It also is a symbol in some cultures as a savior of the people who live in a community with sin and a corrupt church or religious body.

The Tao Te Ching states that courage is derived from love and explains: “One of courage, with audacity, will kill. One of courage, but gentle, spares life. From these two kinds of courage arise harm and benefit.” In Roman Catholicism, courage is referred to as Fortitude, one of the four cardinal virtues along with prudence, justice, and temperance. In both Catholicism and Anglicanism, courage is also one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.

As a virtue, courage is discussed extensively in Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, where its vice of deficiency is cowardice and its vice of excess is recklessness. Soren Kierkegaard opposed courage to angst, while Paul Tillich opposed an existential courage to be to non-being, fundamentally equating it with religion.

Courage is the self-affirmation of being in spite of the fact of non-being. It is the act of the individual self in taking the anxiety of non-being upon itself by affirming itself in the anxiety of guilt and condemnation. Every courage to be has openly or covertly a religious root, for religion is the state of being grasped by the power of being itself.

Courage appears as the first of ten characteristics of religion the Hindu scripture, with the remaining characteristics being forgiveness, tolerance, not to steal, control of senses, cleanliness, intelligence, knowledge, truth, and not to get angry. In Islam, courage is seen as an important attribute to combat evil like the Prophet and to make the sacrifice required, to stand up to evil like the Prophet said and defend the brothers and sisters.

Civil courage, sometimes also referred to as social courage, is defined by many different standards. In general, the term is usually referred to when civilians stand up against something that is deemed unjust and evil, knowing that the consequences of their action might lead to injury or some other form of significant harm.

In some countries civil courage is enforced by law. This means that if a crime is committed in public, the public is obliged to act either by alerting the authorities or by intervening in the conflict. If the crime is committed in a private environment, those who witness the crime must either report it to the authorities or attempt to stop it.


Gravenstein is a variety of apple native to Grasten in South Jutland, Denmark. The variety was discovered in 1669 as a chance seedling, although there is some evidence that the variety originated in Italy and traveled north. The skin is a delicately waxy yellow-green with crimson spots and reddish lines, but the apple may also occur in a classically red variation.

The Gravenstein was introduced to western North America in the early 19th century, perhaps by Russian fur traders, who are said to have planted a tree at Fort Ross in 1811. The Gravenstein apple was introduced to the Canadian province of Nova Scotia in the 19th century. Charles Rammage Prescott, the father of the Nova Scotian apple industry, grew Nova Scotia’s first Gravensteins in his orchard at Acacia Grove. By 1859, Gravenstein trees were commonly cultivated on Nova Scotian farms. The Gravenstein apple is still considered the choicest apple by many Nova Scotians.

The Gravenstein apple is considered by many to be one of the best all-around apples with a sweet, tart flavor and is especially good for baking and cooking. It is picked in July and August and is known as a good cooking apple, especially for apple sauce and apple cider. It does not keep well, so it is available only in season. In addition, their short stems and variable ripening times make harvesting and selling difficult.

The red Gravensteins, are considered a sport rather than a true variety. The flesh is juicy, finely grained, and light yellow. Trees are among the largest of standard root varieties, with a strong branching structure. The wood is brownish-red and the leaves are large, shiny, and dark green. It grows best in moderate, damp, loamy soil with minimal soil drying during the summer months. Locations close to watercourses and edges of ponds are preferred. Gravensteins will not thrive in areas of high groundwater and require moderate protection against wind.

During the first half of the 20th century, Gravensteins were the major variety of apples grown in western Sonoma County, and were the source for apple sauce and dried apples for the U.S. troops in World War II. Most of the orchards in Sonoma County are now gone due to a combination of suburban development, a shift to wine production, and economic changes in the apple industry. Only six commercial growers and one commercial processor remain in Sonoma County as of 2006. In 2005, Slow Food USA declared the Gravenstein apple a heritage food and included it in their Ark of taste. Slow Food USA reports that production in Sonoma County is currently 15,000 tons of Gravensteins a year.


Affluenza, a portmanteau of affluence and influenza, is a term used by critics of consumerism. Sources define this term as a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more. It is also defined as the bloated, sluggish and unfulfilled feeling that results from efforts to “keep up with the Joneses”. It is an epidemic of stress, overwork, waste and indebtedness caused by the pursuit of the American Dream, or an unsustainable addiction to economic growth.

Proponents of the term consider the costs of prizing material wealth vastly outweigh the benefits. They claim those who become wealthy will find the economic success leaving them unfulfilled and hungry for more wealth. The condition is considered particularly acute amongst those with inherited wealth, who are often said to experience guilt, lack of purpose and dissolute behavior, as well as obsession with holding on to the wealth.

British psychologist Oliver James asserts that there is a correlation between the increasing nature of affluenza and the resulting increase in material inequality. The more unequal a society, the greater the unhappiness of its citizens. Referring to the manipulative methods used by the advertising industry, James relates the stimulation of artificial needs to the rise in affluenza.

James also believes that higher rates of mental disorders are the consequence of excessive wealth-seeking in consumerist nations. He cites World Health Organization data that English-speaking nations have twice as much mental illness as mainland Europe. James defines affluenza as placing a high value on money, possessions, appearances and fame, and this becomes the rationale behind the increasing mental illness. He explains the greater incidence of affluenza as the result of ‘Selfish Capitalism,’ the Market Liberal political governance found in English-speaking nations as compared to the less selfish capitalism pursued in mainland Europe. James asserts that societies can remove the negative consumerist effects by pursuing real needs over perceived wants, and by defining themselves as having value independent of their material possessions.

Affluenza is considered to be most present in the United States, where the culture encourages its citizens to measure their worth by financial success and material possessions. Mainstream media outlets, such as television broadcasts, tend to demonstrate how pervasive the idea has become, and by the same token the same media outlets reinforce the values to the viewers.

The term affluenza was popularized in the United States by the 1997 documentary of the same name from KCTS and Seattle and Oregon Public Broadcasting. John de Graaf, producer of the documentary, also co-authored a book with the same title.


A pouf is a style of hair which came about in 18th Century France. First used by Marie Antoinette, it became popular among the wealthy women of France.

Developed in conjunction with hairdresser Monsieur Leonard, the pouf consisted of a scaffolding made from wire, cloth, gauze, horsehair and fake hair, with the wearer’s own hair teased high off the forehead. On top of this huge confection of hair was a display of feathers, flowers, vegetables or other objects designed to express a topical message. For example, Marie-Antoinette commissioned a huge pouf showcasing an intricate hairdo displaying a French frigate that won a key victory against the British in June 1778.

The pouf was adapted by woman of class based on current events. For example, during the American Revolution poufs included model ships to show support for the Americans and their war against the British. During the French Revolution women took the pouf hairstyle and turned it to their favours to support the revolution. The pouf became popular among many women across Europe and the United Kingdom.

It was not an easy hairstyle to adopt. The underlying contraption was heavy and difficult to sleep in. Marie Antoinette would have had to wrap her head in a huge bandage-like wrap and sleep semi-upright. And since grease was used to glue the hair in place, the pouf was impossible to wash and fostered breeding grounds for vermin. But this did not stop other women from emulating the French Queen of Fashion. One lady of the court declared “I shall never again wear anything but vegetables! It looks so simple, and is so much more natural than flowers!”

Unfortunately, the pouf also corresponded to a time of bad harvests and harsh winters in France. Appearing at the opera, theatre and parties in her wedding cake-like coiffure, Marie Antoinette flouted her lifestyle in the face of a starving nation. It was particularly horrifying to hungry peasants that the whiteness of the pouf coiffure came from flour. Popular opinion turned from admiration to distaste and Marie Antoinette’s willingness to consider more serious matters was questioned.


Kensho is a Japanese term for enlightenment experiences, most commonly used within the confines of Zen Buddhism. It generally refers to the realization of nonduality of subject and object. Frequently used in juxtaposition with satori, there is sometimes a distinction made between the two in that some consider satori to be qualitatively deeper.

Kensho itself has been said to be a blissful realization where a person’s inner nature, the original pure mind, is directly known as an illuminating emptiness which is dynamic and immanent in the world. Kenshō experiences are tiered, in that they escalate from initial glimpses into the nature of mind to an experience of emptiness.

Working towards this realisation is usually a lengthy process of meditation and introspection under guidance of a Zen or other Buddhist teacher, usually in intensive retreats. The methods used differ depending upon the tradition and practice. Soto tends towards a gradual approach preferring to let the experiences happen on their own while Rinzai tends toward the use of Koans or a set Koan question as a technique to bring the experience sooner.

Which methods are more appropriate for any given student are made by which lineage of Zen the student practices as well as what seems most appropriate by the student’s teacher. It should be noted that the Kensho experience is not limited to Japanese Zen Buddhism traditions and occurs in many traditions as well as outside of Buddhist practice.

Kensho may also be spontaneous, upon hearing or reading some significant phrase, or as result of a profound dream. For example, Zen lore describes the Sixth Patriarch Hui Neng’s spontaneous experience of kensho upon hearing a phrase of the Diamond sutra.

Koans are a technique that can be used as meditation aids, particularly in the Rinzai tradition. For example, one koan is known as ‘Who am I’, since it is this question that guides the enquiry into one’s true nature. The realization that there is no ‘I’ that is doing the thinking, but rather that the thinking process brings forth the illusion of an ‘I’, is a step on the way to Kensho.

It is not unusual for various hallucinations and psychological disturbances to arise prior to true kensho. These are referred to as makyo. Distinguishing these delusions from actual kensho is the primary function of the teacher, as the student may be erroneously convinced they have realized kensho.