Meaning and Understanding

At the heart of our understanding of All That Is — the Universe around us, the Gods, the daily news — is cognition. How we think. What our minds do with what our senses offer as input and what we have already processed and stored, whether we remember it or not. And it turns out that humankind developed our current capabilities in cognition over eons — indeed, we wouldn’t expect it to be any other way, but, of course, we take it for granted.

The video below is the first in a series by Prof. John Vervaeke, of the University of Toronto Psychology Department and Cognitive Science Program, laying out the details of our human cognitive development against the history of human development.

And this brought to my mind the course in Pagan Apologetics I took at Cherry Hill Seminary, taught by Dr. David Oringderff of Sacred Well Congregation, the premise of which was that Paganism is the indigenous religion of humankind.

There is a lot of content in this video, delivered in straight lecture style in front of an almost-useless whiteboard. Conveniently, YouTube lists the books Vervaeke mentions:

  • Michael Anderson – After Phrenology: Neural Reuse and the Interactive Brain
  • Barry Boyce (Editor) – The Mindfulness Revolution: Leading Psychologists, Scientists, Artists, and Meditation Teachers on the Power of Mindfulness in Daily Life
  • Andy Clark – Natural-Born Cyborgs: Minds, Technologies, and the Future of Human Intelligence
  • Michel Ferrari and Nic Weststrate (Editors) – The Scientific Study of Personal Wisdom: From Contemplative Traditions to Neuroscience
  • Harry Frankfurt – On Bullsh*t
  • David Lewis-Williams – The Mind in the Cave: Consciousness and the Origins of Art
  • L. A. Paul – Transformative Experience
  • Massimo Pigliucci – How to Be a Stoic: Using Ancient Philosophy to Live a Modern Life
  • Matt Rossano – Supernatural Selection: How Religion Evolved
  • Daniel Siegel – Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation
  • Steve Taylor – Waking From Sleep: Why Awakening Experiences Occur and How to Make Them Permanent
  • John Vervaeke, Christopher Mastropietro, and Filip Miscevic – Zombies in Western Culture: A Twenty-First Century Crisis
  • Michael Winkelman – Shamanism: A Biopsychosocial Paradigm of Consciousness and Healing
  • Susan Wolf – Meaning in Life and Why It Matters

Just as we did in Pagan Apologetics, Vervaeke looks back to our primitive human ancestors, the physical traces they left, and the differences between those who came before and those who came after. He focuses in this episode on the transition from the middle- to the upper- paleolithic, about 45,000 years ago, as the Neanderthal population faded out and the human population expanded out of Africa.

What I want to do is point to a time when many people think our humanity, the kind of people we are now, came into form. Not fully like the way it is now, because of course there’s been lots of historical and cultural processes, but the kind of humanity that we would recognize as “us” and how much this was bound up with meaning making in the way that I’ve been talking about.

Episode 1

This episode is just under one hour, and it moves quickly. The second half gets into the details of the upper paleolithic transition, focusing on the work of the shaman, on ritual, and on the various ways of knowing. It is better experienced than read, but the transcripts are available.

Beltane for Kids

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/paganfamilies/2015/04/beltane-for-kids/

Love – love is a huge part of Beltane, and it’s not just sexual or love for a partner.  Talk to your children about their love for family, friends, and the world around them.  Plan a ritual involving a brother/sister deity pair, or a parent/child relationship.  Celebrate that love comes in many forms.

Passion – what is your child passionate about?  Sexual passion is certainly not the only kind there is!  What is your child strongly interested in, fiercely dedicated to?  Do they spend hours practicing piano, drawing pictures, writing stories?  Turn that into a ritual!  Invite the patron deities of what they’re passionate about, ask for their blessings on your child – this will help them understand the concept a thousand times better than attending a symbolic Great Rite.

Creativity – when you break it down far enough, the magic of fertility is all about an act of creation.  Plan a rite that features a craft of activity that gives your child an opportunity to make something, to bring something new into the world.  It can be anything!  Plant a few seeds, sculpt with salt dough, anything your child will be excited and proud to have made.  Younger children may not understand the magic and mystery inherent to baby-making, but making an awesome finished product from simple ingredients is just as magical for them!

About Molly Khan

Molly Khan is a writer, student, and mother of three from the Midwest prairie. She is a founding member and liturgist for Prairie Shadow Protogrove, ADF. She writes about her joys and struggles as a mother and a Heathen Druid, as well as her experiences raising children in an interfaith household at thepagangrove.blogspot.com.

An Inclusive Great Rite Blessing

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/dirtheartwitch/2015/05/an-inclusive-great-rite-blessing/

As the knife is to the cup in Buscuits, Lefevre-Utile 2 by Alphonse Mucha.jpg
Blissful connection
The cup is to the cup in
Boundless joy
And the knife to the knife in
Brilliant perfection
We bless in our souls the sweet reflection
Of our Gods’ wild Beauty, Power, and Love

Scale of the Universe — NASA APOD 14 January 2012

http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap140112.html

What does the universe look like on small scales? On large scales? Humanity is discovering that the universe is a very different place on every proportion that has been explored. For example, so far as we know, every tiny proton is exactly the same, but every huge galaxy is different. On more familiar scales, a small glass table top to a human is a vast plane of strange smoothness to a dust mite — possibly speckled with cell boulders. Not all scale lengths are well explored — what happens to the smallest mist droplets you sneeze, for example, is a topic of active research — and possibly useful to know to help stop the spread of disease. The above interactive flash animation, a modern version of the classic video Powers of Ten, is a new window to many of the known scales of our universe. By moving the scroll bar across the bottom, you can explore a diversity of sizes, while clicking on different items will bring up descriptive information.

A Ritual for the Elements

http://witchesandpagans.com/pagan-paths-blogs/to-be-a-witch/a-ritual-for-the-elements.html

Posted to Witches and Pagans blog by Gwion Raven on Thursday, 16 April 2015

Working with the Elements is a core piece of magic I teach in the Reclaiming Tradition. I revisit this work every so often as a teacher and as a student. In my last five articles I’ve chronicled my explorations with Air, my connections with Fire, my dive into Water, my complex dance the Earth and finally finding myself standing in the Center.

for the full ritual on this site, click:

A Ritual for the Elements

Science proves God (MIT) by Gerald Schroeder, PhD

Published on August 2, 2014

 

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Gerald Schroeder is a scientist with over thirty years of experience in research and teaching. He earned his Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctorate degrees all at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, with his doctorate thesis being under the supervision of physics professor Robley D. Evans. This was followed by five years on the staff of the MIT physics department prior to moving to Israel, where he joined the Weizmann Institute of Science and then the Volcani Research Institute, while also having a laboratory at The Hebrew University. His Doctorate is in two fields: Earth sciences and physics.

Schroeder’s formal theological training in biblical, talmudic and kabalistic interpretation includes fifteen years of study under the late Rabbi Herman Pollack, Rabbi Chaim Brovender and Rabbi Noah Weinberg, of blessed memory.

The scientific career that Schroeder chose has given him varied and often unusual experiences. In his work with nuclear disarmament, he has been present at the detonation of six atomic bombs. Work in control of radioactivity has put him hundreds of meters below ground in U.S. and foreign uranium mines. Within this research, he invented and had patented the first real time monitor for airborne alpha beta gamma emitters. The government of the People’s Republic of China, during the decade before it established direct contacts with Israel, was willing to overlook his Jerusalem address and had him as a frequent advisor. He also has consulted for agencies of the governments of Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Canada, USA. Invitations for him to lecture have come from around the world. He has over 60 publications in the world’s leading scientific journals on topics ranging from the radon atmosphere of the moon (in Science) to the metabolism of mother’s milk (in Nutrition Reports International). The results of Schroeder’s work have been reported in Time, Newsweek, Scientific American and in newspapers as far apart as Boston and Adelaide. His formal training in chemistry, physics and the Earth and planetary sciences provides the basis for the broad scientific perspective he brings to his books and lectures.

For the past twenty-five years, Dr. Schroeder has also pursued a study of ancient biblical interpretation. An ability to handle the biblical material in the original languages allows him to tap the subtle depths contained in the original texts. These nuances are often missed when working with translations. The uniqueness and success of Schroeder’s approach integrating biblical and scientific knowledge is demonstrated by the success of his first book, Genesis and the Big Bang (published by Bantam Doubleday), and the wide acclaim for his second book The Science of God (published by The Free Press of Simon & Schuster and Broadway Books of Bantam Doubleday) which was on the Barnes & Noble list of non-fiction best sellers and was Amazon.com’s best selling book in the field of physics/cosmology for all of 1998. This was followed by The Hidden Face of God, discovering the unity that binds all existence (published by The Free Press of Simon & Schuster). His book, God According to God, A scientist proves we’ve been wrong about God all along, was published in May 2009 with HarperOne and has enthusiastic endorsements by leading theologians, both Jewish and Christian, and a Noble Laureate scientist.

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Website: http://SinaiSpeak.com
http://geraldschroeder.com
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Twitter: http://twitter.com/SinaiSpeak

 

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May They Not Have Power Over Us by Vivianne Crowley

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/viviannecrowley/2015/01/may-they-not-have-power-over-us/

As a Pagan, I do not believe in an external force of ‘evil’ in the universe. Rather I subscribe to the view of Mahatma Gandhi:

The only devils in this world are those running around inside our own hearts, and that is where all our battles should be fought.

Evil is human-made, a result of fear, ignorance, anger and frustration. When such pressures build up, it is easy to fantasise that there is some simplistic solution. The maiming and destruction of our enemies, the inquisition, ethnic cleansing, wars of religion – all feed off the same delusion – that there is a good, pure, right ideology that will make the world a better place. If people will not subscribe to it voluntarily, then they are evil and must be destroyed. Once we have labelled a group as ‘other’, the enemy, we can persuade ourselves that in order to protect what we think precious and right any action is justifiable.

Invocation of the Lord and Lady from Internet Book of Shadows

http://www.sacred-texts.com/bos/bos593.htm

Internet Book of Shadows, (Various Authors), [1999], at sacred-texts.com

Invocation of Lord and Lady (Ritual)
Dan Holdgreiwe

The following is the text of a ritual titled Invocation of the Lord and
Lady which was presented by the Fellowship of the Sacred Grove at a
local gathering in November of 1993. Prayers and invocations are not
included in the text as these are delivered spontaneously by the Priest
and Priestess.

PART ONE: THE PREPARATIONS

[Priest, Priestess, Bard and Quarters begin standing in circle just
outside the circle that will be consecrated for the ritual. Other
participants begin outside of circle and will later enter through South
gate. Customarily, East and North are male, South and West female.]

  1. The Warning

[The Bard moves to center of circle and addresses all.]

“We gather tonight to open the veil between the worlds.

This is not safe — To pass beyond that threshold we must leave behind
the protections of the mundane world. We must remove the veils which
disguise us and lay aside the jewels which dazzle our eyes. We must
take the risk of Seeing, and of being Seen.

For our protection we rely upon the Lord and the Lady, whose Children we
are. Any who are not ready to approach Them in reverence, love and trust
should leave now.

[Pause]

Those of you who have chosen to walk this path, prepare yourselves to
meet God and Goddess.

[Bard remains in center.]

2.Claiming the Circle

[East takes one step forward into the circle and speaks, facing inward.]
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“In the name of the Lady of Light, and in my own name,
I claim this circle as a place of Men.
Let all who enter be bound to speak, and hear, the Truth.
So mote it be.”

[West takes one step forward into the circle and speaks, facing inward.]
“In the name of the Sacred King, and in my own name,
I claim this circle as a place of Women.
Let all who enter be bound to Perfect Love and Trust.
So mote it be.”

[South takes one step forward into the circle and speaks, facing
inward.]

“In the name of the Lord of the Greenwood, and in my own name,
I claim this circle as a place of Nature
Let all who enter be bound to the sacred web of life.
So mote it be.”

[North takes one step forward into the circle and speaks, facing
inward.]

“In the name of the Queen of Heaven, and in my own name,
I claim this circle as Sacred Space.
Let all who enter be opened to the presence of God and Goddess.
So mote it be.”

  1. Marking the Circle

[All sing Listen to the Lord and Lady while Priest and Priest mark
circle. When finished Priest and Priestess stand before alter in North,
facing South.]

  1. The Challenges

[East and West move to South gate and form Arch with athames. North
crosses to South gate. Participants enter through South gate one at a
time and are challenged at knife point by North and South, then shown to
places by Bard.]

Who seeks to join this fellowship?

Will you support and defend your companions on this quest?

Do you swear to use that which you learn in this circle only in service
of the light?

Are you ready to meet the Mother and Father of All life?

Then enter and be welcome.

[Comment: This took several minutes, but the effect of the delay was
positive rather than negative. The lengthy challenge process acted to
center and focus the entire circle.]

……………………………………………………………………..
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5.Sealing the Circle

[Bard speaks from center.]

We have stepped beyond time, to a place not of earth. In the presence of
the Lord and Lady, we join together and are one.

[Bard crosses to take place in circle, then takes hand of next person
deosil and says We are one. Each participant takes the hand of the next
repeating We are one until the whole circle is joined. When the circle
is complete, the Bard announces again We are one!]

PART TWO: THE MYSTERY

  1. Pathworking

[Priest moves to center and leads all in pathworking. After preliminary
relaxation and centering, the working takes the participant first to
four symbols — a living tree, a sword, a cup, and a standing stone —
each of which holds a message for the visitor. Then the participants
journey to an ancient clearing around a weathered stone alter where, in
times long past, their ancestors honored the Lord and Lady. In that
holy place, the participants call the Guardians of the Quarters, then
prepare to invoke the Lord and Lady.]

[Comment: The actual invocation of the Lord and Lady follows without
transition, inviting the participants to continue to experience it in
the ancient clearing.]

  1. Calling the Lord and Lady

[Priestess joins Priest in center. Priestess invokes the Lord. Other
celebrants
invoke Lord and/or Lady as they feel inspired. Priest closes invocations
by invoking the Lady. All invocations end with Come join with us. which
is repeated by all.]

  1. Chant:
    Priestess begins chant alone, all join in after first time through.
    Participants should stand, clap and dance as they feel moved.]

Isis, Osiris, Woden and Freya; Lord and Lady, Brigid and Lugh

[Chant builds in power to be cut off at peak by Bard striking staff on
the ground.]

  1. Readings

[During chant East and West have stepped outside circle and deliver
readings from opposite sides of circle. Bard is at center. Bard speaks.]
Hear now the words of the Great Mother who is called Isis, and Freya,
and Brigid, and many other names.

[West speaks.]

Think not that I am far from you, for you can see my visage in the moon,
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and hear my voice upon the wind.
I am the silence of the sea, and the secret of the standing stones.
I am the beauty of the green earth, and the mystery of the stars.
I am the Mother of all things, and the soul of nature, who gives life to
the universe.
I am the source of your beginning, and I am the fulfillment of your
desire.

[Bard speaks.]

Hear the words of the All Father who is called Osiris, and Woden, and
Lugh, and other names beyond counting.

[East speaks.]

You know me not, but I am with you. My face is the sun, and my voice the
thunder.
I am the strength of the forest, and the keenness of the sword.
I am the rune giver; the patient teacher; the revealer of secrets.
I am the warrior, the defender of the weak and the companion of heroes.
I am the Horned One. I am the gateway to the Mysteries, and I am Mystery
itself.

[West speaks.]

Arise and come unto us, for mine in the womb that bore thee and the
breast that nursed thee. Your joy is our joy, and your sorrow, our
sorrow. We would teach you the ways of healing, and the joys of love,
for our law is love unto all beings. We give the knowledge of the
eternal spirit, and beyond death we give peace and reunion with those
who have gone before. We would lead you to love and to freedom. Call on
us, and we will show you the hidden paths.

[East speaks.]

Follow my white stag into the deep forest. There is mystery in the wild
places, and a path that leads between the worlds.
The path is not easy, for it leads to that which cannot be given by
another.
Those who would share our freedom must create it anew within their own
hearts.
But no one who walks that path walks alone. Fear not to call on us, for
we have not forgotten our Children.

  1. Great Rite

[Priest and Priestess take positions in center of circle, Priest
kneeling with chalice, Priestess standing with athame. Priest makes
spontaneous prayer to Lord and Lady. Priestess prays and/or responds on
behalf of Lord and Lady, customarily ending with So mote it be as she
lowers the athame.

[Comment: a common theme here is to invite the Lord and Lady to join
with us as they join with each other, but sensitivity to the inspiration
of the moment is the prime concern.]

  1. Blessing

[All sing We all come from the Goddess as Priest and Priestess circle
group, touching and offering a blessing to each in turn. When all have
received a blessing, Priest and Priestess return to circle and all join
hands. Priest and Priestess signal end to song by returning to center.]

PART THREE CLOSING

  1. Thanking the Lord and Lady

[Priest thanks Lady, Priestess thanks Lord.]

  1. Return to Mundane Consciousness

[Priestess return to circle. Priest resumes pathworking in ancient
clearing, thanks quarters and draws participants back into normal
consciousness. Priest returns to circle.]

  1. Opening the Circle

[Bard moves to center and addresses all.]

The rite is ended, the circle is open, may the blessing of the Lord and
Lady be with you all. So mote it be. (All respond.)