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Alchemical Traces in Harry Potter, Part II

Alchemical Traces in Harry Potter, Part II

By Kate Daley Bailey….
Harry Potter as Coded text? Not only does Rowling incorporate many overt references to the history and legends surrounding alchemy, she often employs the very methods of communication which noted alchemists used. Alchemists often employed symbols, animal images, anagrams, and various word games/codes in order to keep their finding secrets and safe. While Rowling is not facing the Inquisitors or angry monarchs, her use of codes (anagrams (i.e. Tom Marvolo Riddle/ I am Lord Voldemort) and backwards writing (the Mirror of Erised/Desire) are very compelling to her audience. The most readily identifiable mythic animal associated with alchemy is the Phoenix. The phoenix, the iconic ‘fire bird,’ embodies the ultimate symbol of death and rebirth. It also represents spiritual transformation. This mythical bird plays a defining role in the Harry Potter series, especially the first few books. Harry is particularly troubled when Fawkes, Dumbledore’s phoenix, grows very old and bursts into flame before his very eyes. He is even more perplexed when from the ashes a small baby phoenix is born.

Alchemical Traces in Harry Potter, Part I

Alchemical Traces in Harry Potter, Part I

By Kate Daley Bailey….
Ever wondered where J. K. Rowling got inspiration for her magical world of the Harry Potter series? Did you know that Nicholas Flamel was a real man and famed alchemist, who according to mystical lore had created the illusive Philosopher’s/ Sorcerer’s Stone? Alchemy, the ancient mystical practice of trying to turn crude metals into gold, while seemingly fantastic to modern people, was the precursor to Enlightenment Sciences and various forms of Christian mysticism. Not purely an entrepreneurial venture, alchemy was not only viewed as a path to fame and wealth but also a spiritual practice grounded in religious symbolism. Some modern readers view Rowling’s alchemical leanings as advocating witchcraft and thereby denounce the series as promoting what they see as an anti-Christian agenda. Ironically, much of the alchemical history, which Rowling utilizes, is linked to Christian mysticism.

Patrick Leigh Fermor, 1915-2011

Patrick Leigh Fermor, 1915-2011

Louis A. Ruprecht Jr., Georgia State University….
At the ripe age of “eighteen and three quarters” (his words), Paddy Fermor decided to take a long walk, in lieu of attending university. He determined to travel by foot from the Hook of Holland all the way to Istanbul (a city he always imagined Greek-ly, and referred to stubbornly as “Constantinople” or “Byzantium,” its first name as a Greek colony). The trip took some years, and it gave both flavor and form to the rest of his extraordinarily long and extraordinarily creative life. But he did not begin to publish his reflections on the journey until fully forty years later, and that generational lapse between a youthful excursion and a mature reminiscence is a central feature in what makes his writing so singular, and the genre he created so difficult to define.

PARENTING in the Words of Freethinker Dale McGowan

PARENTING in the Words of Freethinker Dale McGowan

By Michel-Camille Bordeau…….
Parenting works in mysterious ways. It’s a complex affair for experienced, willing parents and a intimidating undertaking for those who, like myself, never prepared themselves for it, never imagined they would be fit for the task, or be given the opportunity. Two years ago, I became a born again parent, a step-dad to an 8 year old with an incredible (free)thinking mind and a mean high kick. Overnight, I grew a second heart—the first one being for his mother—and with twice the volume of blood stimulating my (free)thinking brain, I discovered a whole new family of anxieties that can be summed up with: ‘Seriously, don’t fark up (this kid’s life).’

Savage Beauty

Savage Beauty

By Louis A. Ruprecht, Jr…..
On the day after Osama bin Laden’s unexpected death was announced by the US President, a fascinating new exhibition was previewed at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. Entitled “Savage Beauty,” it bore more than a casual relevance to the city’s attempt to grasp the right tone in the twinned face of this assassination and the upcoming decennial commemoration of the September 11th attacks. Naturally, that strange-sounding juxtaposition needs some explanation. It has something to do with the sacred. That is to say, it has something to do with an important aesthetic and religious category very popular among the Romantics: the Sublime.

Freethinking in the Words of Matthew Alper

Freethinking in the Words of Matthew Alper

By Michel-Camille Bordeau….
If, like yours truly, you’ve been closely following the new wave of freethinkers, if you’ve helped Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Bart Ehrman, Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens and many others become bestselling authors, you might remember Matthew Alper, author of The ‘God’ Part of the Brain: A Scientific Interpretation of Human Spirituality and God. You might even recall the original cover of the 1996 self-published edition of his seminal work. Although The “God” Part of the Brain continues to pad Sourcebooks’ pocketbook; although it has been adopted by about 50 college professors; and, although, fifteen years after the initial release, Matthew Alper still receives hundreds of e-mails from students and professors worldwide, I still think it should get more attention. It should get Religion Nerd’s reader’s attention. Here’s why.

Memories of A Moderate Muslim Woman

Memories of A Moderate Muslim Woman

By Teo Sagisman
I lost both my parents at what I consider a young age. My religious background is that of a secular Turkish Muslim but I now consider myself a spiritual seeker more than religious. I lost my father when I was only five years of age. My paternal grandfather, originally from Eastern Turkey, had migrated to Istanbul in the early 1900’s. His last name, Sagisman, I later discover belonged to a list of Jewish converts to Islam (Dönmeh) who followed Sabbatai Zevi (1626-1676) a 17th-century Jewish Kabbalist who claimed to be the Jewish Messiah but was eventually forced by the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed IV to convert to Islam. After Sabbatai’s conversion, a number of Jews followed him into Islam and became the Dönmeh.

Freethinking in the words of CJ Werleman

Freethinking in the words of CJ Werleman

By Michel-Camille Bordeau….
CJ: Absolutely the Bible is a dangerous book if you do what God commands you to do. For example, if my daughter says, “God damn it!” I’m to take her to the edge of the town and bash her brains out with large rocks. If I wish to sell my daughter into sexual slavery, not only does the Bible not say there’s anything wrong with that, it gives commercial terms and conditions for doing such a thing. When we look at places like tribal Pakistan, for example, there they routinely execute people for blasphemy, a victimless crime. Now, are they barbaric, evil people? No they’re not. In fact, according to biblical law, of which the Koran is based, they’re more pious and pleasing to God than those who ignore that command. When people become cognizant of these kinds of issues, people realize this ancient book has no relevancy in today’s times.

Review of Anthony Le Donne, Historical Jesus: What Can We Know and How Can We Know It?

Review of Anthony Le Donne, Historical Jesus: What Can We Know and How Can We Know It?

By James F. McGrath, Exploring Our Matrix….
Perhaps the most important contribution of this “new perspective on history” is its emphasis that the earlier quests for uninterpreted facts was misguided. When we consider something or someone significant, we interpret it. And unless we find something significant, we do not remember it. Therefore, all memory is interpreted. This should not surprise anyone, and yet the modern quest for certainty has trained many of us to desire more, even if such desires can never be satisfied.

Art, Sex, and Censorship—Washington Style

Art, Sex, and Censorship—Washington Style

Louis A. Ruprecht Jr., Georgia State University….
Given the complex and sometimes sordid blending of religion and sexuality in this culture, the debate morphed significantly in late November 2010—just after the elections, be sure to note—from sex to religion. That is to say, from a debate about the virtues of exhibiting a show devoted to gay and lesbian sexuality, into a debate about obscenity, blasphemy, as well as varying perceptions of religious offense in a religiously diverse democracy such as our own.

Reggae, Rasta and Homophobia

Reggae, Rasta and Homophobia

By Hannah Spadafora….
On November 27th, 2010, protesters in Sacramento, CA gathered outside musical artist Capleton’s reggae-dancehall concert to oppose the violent gay-bashing ideas his lyrics promote. This isn’t the first protest against reggae artists calling for violent homophobic acts in their music. Other reggae artists criticized and boycotted over the last decade for anti-homosexual lyrics include Beenie Man, Buju Banton, Sizzla, Elephant Man, T.O.K., Bounty Killa and Vybz Kartel. A major leader in the campaign against the homophobia found in dancehall music (the reggae spinoff popular in United States and western Europe) is Stop Murder Music, who eventually initiated the “Reggae Compassionate Act”.

The Super Bowl As Epic

The Super Bowl As Epic

By Louis A. Ruprecht Jr., Georgia State University….
No, this year the story really was in the game. That seems relevant to anyone interested in the curious and complex trajectories of the sacred in contemporary American culture. As Gary Laderman has argued, in his book Sacred Matters, professional sports, to the degree that they contribute to our contemporary cult of celebrity, are bearers of profound spiritual resonance. But they are also highly complex choreographed events, what the student of religion is trained to see as ritual.

A Defense of Romanticism

A Defense of Romanticism

By J.F. Sullivan….
What Jones points out is that in the attempt to respond to the Orientalism that Said illuminated, we may have thrown the baby out with the bath water. While Jones treats Said more harshly than I think he deserves, the point is well taken. Does romanticism play a role in cultural understanding which helps to alleviate phobias and stereotypes? I would argue that it does. Romanticism is not history and was never intended to be taken literally or understood to be historically accurate. What it does do is inspire. Many who would go on to become some of the greatest of Orientalist scholars were raised on a diet of travel writing, art, and fantastic and exotic stories about the oriental world (again primarily the Middle East)

The Sacred Artist Stands Alone

The Sacred Artist Stands Alone

Louis A. Ruprecht Jr….
In short, Enrique Celaya is deeply interested in the realm of the sacred. Hence his creation of “Whale & Star” as a place where scientific enquiry and contemplative community mutually inform and inspire.
An essential part of Celaya’s studio is a library-and-lounge where he conducts most of his interviews. He reads widely in Continental philosophy and literature. Nietzsche and Heidegger, Thoreau and Melville, William Blake and Anton Chekhov, are all central interlocutors and inspirations for the work. And always, always, there are echoes of central biblical paradigms, never quite raised to the level of explicit