Christianity, especially Ancient and Medieval Christianity is awash in the supernatural and in spirituality. And in a far more potent and real form than that of any historical branch of paganism. That’s one reason it replaced paganism, and worldwide.
It is the modern Christian who has castrated Christianity of all its inherent force and power to fix obsessively upon the much smaller issues of politics, culture, entertainment, society, and materialism.
As a matter of fact it is very hard to see where society ends and the church or Christianity begin. It is like a sow who has birthed a fat piglet. Place either upon the plate as cooked ham and without further information you’d be hard pressed to identify the source.
The trouble with modern Christianity in this sense (and there are almost countless problems with modern Christianity) is not that Christianity is not a far more viable and valid form of spirituality than paganism, it is that modern Christianity has no spirituality any longer, just as it has no magic, miracle, or salvific force. Not in the West anyway.
And that began (the abolition of miracles, spirituality, the Mysteries, etc.), rightly or wrongly with the Protestant Revolution. And some things concerning the Protestant Reform should have definitely happened and some things should have never happened at all. But still they did.
And as a result Christianity is now but shadow of itself and a mere machine without a Ghost, Holy or otherwise. Or should I just say it is little more than a mere cultural artefact and a religion Wholly Without a Ghost…
I recently visited the website of a popular company that sells products like deodorant and toothpaste with natural ingredients. Curious to learn more about the business, I visited their blog which was purportedly about the latest trends in health and wellness.
What greeted me was not what I expected. Rather than tips on exercise or healthy eating, the blog featured stories about the healing power of crystals and the benefits of tarot card reading. This was at once surprising and unsurprising, for new age and occult practices, in all their various forms, are experiencing a major resurgence, especially among millennials. But from a company that sells toothpaste?
It is no exaggeration to say that, despite the best efforts of the New Atheists, our culture is more awash in spirituality than ever before. One can hardly go anywhere today without seeing products, articles, and popular gurus encouraging practices like yoga, meditation, reiki—and now, tarot and crystals—as essential to a healthy lifestyle. In the realm of entertainment, hugely popular series like Harry Potter, Star Wars, and Game of Thrones all draw on themes of magic and the supernatural.
What are we to make of this ?
From a Christian perspective, many of these trends are undoubtedly suspect or downright heretical. And yet, we should think carefully before issuing anathemas, for while misguided, many of our culture’s flirtations with the occult really betray a deep hunger for the supernatural.
Theologian Alexander Schmemann once said, “To condemn a heresy is relatively easy. What is much more difficult is to detect the question it implies, and to give this question an adequate answer.” He was right. As Catholics, we are often in such a rush to point out what is wrong with neo-pagan practices that we miss the deeper questions they imply. And we certainly fail to give them a satisfying answer.
The truth is, our culture is starving for the supernatural. My generation has been raised to believe that we are nothing more than accidentally advanced apes on an unusually lucky space rock floating in a meaningless sea of nothingness in a universe that could care less whether we lived or died. It is despair inducing in the highest degree. Moreover, we have been told, nearly since infancy, that science has answered nearly all questions of existence, and if any remain unanswered, they will be resolved quite soon. For every question, there is an answer, even before you ask it. Existence is thus no longer wonderfully strange and awe-inspiring, but mundane and prosaic.
As a result, young adults today are desperate for an encounter with authentic mystery. Things like astrology and crystals are attractive because they are strange and defy the scientific-materialist paradigm. There are certainly explanations for how they work, but they require a level of faith. And despite what the pompous atheists claim, we want to have faith in something we can’t fully explain. We are fundamentally religious beings, and we instinctively know there is more to the world than meets the eye. We are hungry for magic and mystery and will embrace the first thing, rightly or wrongly, that offers it.
The Failure of Christianity
Now, you may be reading this and thinking that Christianity, especially Catholicism, believes and proclaims the existence of supernatural realities, so why abandon it for neo-pagan practices? Wouldn’t their hunger for the supernatural be satisfied at their local parish?
Yes and no. Yes, because the supernatural mysteries taught by the Church do exist. No, because in practice we so often deny them.
We claim to believe in angels and archangels and a host of saints who join us in worship. Yet, we strip our churches bare and make them into beige-carpeted business centers, rather than holy temples.
We claim to believe that each Mass is a miracle that brings God bodily to dwell among us. Yet we make our liturgy a comfortable affair, eliminating anything that is difficult, disorienting, awe-inspiring, ancient, or mysterious. We sing cheesy ditties, hold hands, and pass out the greatest mystery of all, the Holy Eucharist, like a snack in a cafeteria.
We claim our priests have supernatural powers to consecrate, bless, and preach. Yet we water-down or change their sacred formulas, eliminate their rituals, and distribute their duties to laymen as often as possible.
We claim to believe in the Almighty, the Creator of all before whom the burning spirits veil their faces, yet we insist on dragging him down to our level to accommodate our needs and sins. We say we believe in supernatural mystery, but we do all in our power to destroy it at every turn.
If lex orandi, lex credendi is true, then we simply do not believe what we say we believe.
To be perfectly honest, we have failed to offer an encounter with mystery for some time now. The mass abandonment of the faith by young people is not so much a sign of their wickedness as an indictment of our own practical unbelief.
As Catholics, we long ago turned the faith into an intellectual game devoid of mysticism, priding ourselves on our clear philosophy and well articulated theological frameworks. But the letter without the spirit, philosophical theology without mystical encounter, kills. It is a head without a heart, and it cannot give life.
When the world walked away—tired of textbook answers and hungry for the Transcendent Mystery—we became not lessworldly but more worldly. We embraced modern, secular modernity, stripping our faith of nearly everything supernatural, and we lost any credibility we had left.
The truth is, most of us live like complete secularists the vast majority of the time. We claim to believe in supernatural realities, but compartmentalize them to one hour, one day per week—and perhaps not even that. Heaven is always somewhere out there, and never really upsets my daily existence. We aren’t taken seriously by modern men and women hungry for the supernatural because we don’t believe in the supernatural, despite what we say.
I have been critical to this point because it upsets me to see countless Catholics practically deny the supernatural realities of our faith with banal liturgies and disrespect or even disdain for the holiest things of our religion, and then see the same Catholics criticizing the errors of wayward neo-pagan youth. Until we take our own faith seriously, no one else will.
But I don’t simply want to criticize; I want to offer a solution. The answer is not difficult to discern. It is simply this: Emphasize the supernatural reality of our faith at every turn, recover those traditions which preserve and honor this reality, and thus offer an encounter with what one theologian termed the mysterium tremendum et fascinans—the Great and Awesome Mystery—which is Almighty God.
For everywhere the Holy Eucharist is treated with awesome and painstaking reverence, everywhere buildings still appear to be and are treated like temples, everywhere saints are still venerated and angels called upon, everywhere priests are honored as the supernaturally-endowed mediators that they are, everywhere miracles are still believed in and occur, the faith is growing. And it is almost always young people who flock to such places.
If we want to be a viable alternative to neo-paganism, we need to embrace once again the supernatural traditions of our faith. Our sacred language. Our ancient and venerable rites and formulas. Our “superstitious” Catholic practices. Our symbols. Our mystical traditions of prayer. We don’t need only more catechesis, as if ideas alone could save us. We need more mystery, more transcendence, more ritual, more magic, for lack of a better word.
Every Catholic must become a mystic, in the sense that we live like the supernatural is as real as the air we breathe—because it is. Then, and only then, will we be able to speak authentically to a world hungry for the divine.
We’ve all probably thought about it. What would we do and how would we fare after a societal collapse? My guest today has spent his career helping individuals get ready for such a situation. His name is James Rawles. He’s the owner of survivalblog.comand the author of several bestselling books on prepping, including How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It.
Today on the show, Jim and I discuss how our dependency on the power grid makes us more vulnerable to disaster than we’d like to think, and all the downstream consequences that would happen if the power grid went down for a significant amount of time, including loss of water, sewage services, and a disruption of supply chains.
We then dig into what you can do to prepare for such a situation, including securing a water supply, storing food, and the skills and mindset you need to weather a crisis. Even if you don’t think you’re interested in prepping, it’s really interesting to think through what you’d need to do to survive an apocalyptic scenario.
The vulnerability of the US power grid, and scenarios that might cause it to go down
How water gets from its source to your home
The public health/sewage nightmare of a power grid collapse
The importance of knowing how to filter and purify water
Why grocery stores no longer have extra stocks of food
The problem with a hyper-optimized and hyper-efficient society
The “YOYO” mindset
Getting started if you have no plan for survival preparedness
Making physical room for long-term food and water storage, even in a small living space
Why you need to practice cooking and eating your survival foods
Why you need self-defense/weapons training
The two-key force multipliers in modern self-defense
Dealing with medical needs in a survival scenario
The value and importance of being health and in shape
Why you need patience in developing your survival plan
The typical answers are “taxation without representation” and the economic and political consequences that came with that.
My guest today argues that while economic and political principles all played roles in the American Revolution, there’s one big thing underlying all the causes of the Revolutionary War that often gets overlooked: honor.
His name is Craig Bruce Smith, he’s a historian and the author of the new book American Honor: The Creation of the Nation’s Ideals During the Revolutionary Era. Today on the show we talk about what honor looked like in America during the colonial period, how that concept changed, and how this shift precipitated the War of Independence. We then explore how personal affronts to honor experienced by several of the Founding Fathers at the hands of the British transferred into a feeling of being slighted as a people, galvanizing a collective sense of honor in the colonies and inspiring the fight for independence. We then discuss the role honor played in Benedict Arnold’s treason and how his treachery spurred colonial Americans to go on to win the war. We end our conversation discussing why the sons of the Revolutionary Era returned to a more traditional ethos of honor in the form of dueling.
This show will give you fresh insights on the founding of America.
What was the concept of honor before the Revolutionary Era?
What change in that concept did we start seeing before the war?
Benjamin Franklin’s idea of ascending honor
How Washington’s concept of honor became more democratized over time
The relationship between honor and virtue/ethics in this time period
How the colonists looked to Ancient Rome as an example
Higher education and the founders
How did personal slights lead to the Revolution?
The birth of a collective, national honor
The “buy local” and “made in America” movement of the 1770s
Why honor doesn’t depend on victory
Benedict Arnold, honor, and his role in early America
The history of dueling in early America, and when it came to an end
The myths and realities of Andrew Jackson’s dueling resume
If you’re like most people, you’ve got a powerful computer in your back pocket that allows you to listen to this podcast, check the score of your favorite team, and learn the population of Mickey Mantle’s hometown of Commerce, OK (answer: 2,473). Our smartphones are a blessing, but for many people they can also feel like a curse. You feel compelled to check your device all the time, leaving you feeling disengaged from life.
What is it about modern technology that makes it feel so addictive? My guest todayexplores that topic in his book, Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked. His name is Adam Alter and today on the show, we discuss what makes today‘s technology more compelling than the televisions and super Nintendos of old, whether our itch to check our phones can really be classified as an addiction, what soldiers’ use of heroin during the Vietnam War can tell us about why our attachment to our phones is hard to shake, and how the reward we’re looking for on social media isn’t actually the “likes” themselves. Adam then shares what he thinks is the most effective tactic for taking back control of our tech, and how consumers may be able to influence the direction of its future.
Why do tech companies design their devices/apps to be addictive?
Why Steve Jobs never let his own kids use an iPad
Is it possible to truly be addicted to our tech?
How much time are most people really spending on their phones? (It’s an astounding number.)
The deleterious effects of technology on social skills
What makes today’s tech so different from the tech of a couple decades ago?
What heroine use in the Vietnam War can tell us about the effects of our environment/context on our behaviors
Tactics that companies use to get our attention, including hijacking our goals
How casinos have influenced the way tech companies design their products
How video game companies “on-ramp” players to get them hooked, and how other tech companies have used that template
The ways social media amplifies these addictive components
How do you get a hold of a behavior you can’t seem to shake?
Will recent bad press actually force companies like Facebook to make any changes?
Each week we uncover the most interesting and informative articles from around the world, here are 10 of the coolest stories in science this week.
Daring, Dangerous Rescue
A massive operation is underway to rescue 12 boys and their 25-year-old soccer coach who have been trapped for nearly two weeks in the Tham Luang cave system, with rain expected Sunday (July 8).
Whether the team could wait out the monsoon season, remaining holed up in the cave for months, is not clear. [Read more about the risks.]
Saving the Day
A pride of hungry lions in a South African reserve just saved the day, at least for a herd of rhinos. The poachers, who had illegally entered that reserve with a gun and axe to kill those rhinos, were not so lucky. [Read more about the event.]
A new optical-illusion study in the journal Science asks whether a series colorful dots is purple, blue or proof that humans are doomed to a lifetime of sadness and poor decisions. [Read more about the illusion.]
The first mission designed to hunt a meteorite that crashed into the ocean has now discovered what may be tiny fragments of the meteorite’s crust, researchers say.
The details the scientists had regarding the fall suggested the meteorite was unusually strong, Fries said. This knowledge, in combination with the fact the meteorite landed on a soft seafloor as opposed to dry land, suggested this ocean fall might yield large, relatively intact meteorites for scientists to study. [Read more about the meteorite.]
Links to the Past
More than 3 million years ago, our adult human ancestors were walking on two feet and didn’t have the option of a fashionable baby sling to carry their kids around in. Instead, Australopithecus afarensis toddlers had a special grasping toe that helped them hold on to their mothers and escape into the trees, reports a study published today (July 4) in Science Advances. [Read more about the digit.]
A Paradoxical Situation
A galaxy that is supposedly devoid of all dark matter might actually be full of it.
Scientists have suggested the existence of this bizarre matter to explain a just-as-bizarre phenomenon: Based on the light astronomers can see with their telescopes, the universe acts like there is much more mass, and therefore much more gravitational force, than Albert Einstein’s theories predict based on what we can see. [Read more about the galaxy.]
The laser blasters in “Star Wars” are no longer a thing of science fiction. Chinese researchers have developed an actual laser gun that can ignite a target on fire from a half mile (800 meters) away, the South China Morning Post reported.
Although the gun is classified as a nonlethal weapon, its laser shots can cause “‘instant carbonization’ of human skin and tissues,” according to the South China Morning Post, which means skin would burn and be reduced to carbon like the outside of a charred marshmallow. It can also fire through windows, burn through gas tanks and ignite anything that’s flammable. [Read more about the gun.]
Guilt-Free Cup’o Joe
Coffee lovers may not have to feel that familiar pang of guilt when pouring themselves yet another cup of joe for the day.
In the study, published July 2 in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, Loftfield and her team at the NCI analyzed data from nearly 500,000 people who took part in the U.K. Biobank study. That project gathered health information from more than 9 million people. [Read more about the possibilities.]
Hope on Enceladus
Large, carbon-rich organic molecules seem to be spewing from cracks on the surface of Saturn’s icy moon, Enceladus, according to a new study of data collected by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. The discovery means that Enceladus is the only place besides Earth known to satisfy all the requirements for life as we know it, space scientist and study co-author Christopher Glein said in a statement from the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in San Antonio. [Read more about life in space.]
For the science geek in everyone, Live Science offers a fascinating window into the natural and technological world, delivering comprehensive and compelling news and analysis on everything from dinosaur discoveries, archaeological finds and amazing animals to health, innovation and wearable technology. We aim to empower and inspire our readers with the tools needed to understand the world and appreciate its everyday awe.
A Secret Service laptop containing sensitive information about Trump Tower, details about the Hillary Clinton e-mail probe and other national security secrets was swiped from an agent’s motorcycle in Brooklyn, police sources said Friday.
The computer was taken Thursday morning from the driveway of agent Marie Argentieri’s Bath Beach home, the sources said.
The thief drove up to Argentieri’s home around 8:40 a.m., walked right up to her Bajaj motorcycle and took the items. He was then caught on video fleeing the scene on foot, sources said.
Argentieri told investigators that the laptop held sensitive information about national security, the floor plans for Trump Tower, evacuation protocols and details about the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s e-mail server.
While none of the info pertains to White House officials or foreign leaders, she said it could ultimately compromise national security. Sources told The Post that the laptop cannot be remotely erased or traced.
A black bag with the Secret Service insignia on it was also taken — along with an access keycard, several lapel pins that Secret Service agents are required to wear when protecting the president and other sensitive documents, sources said.
An agency-issued radio, used for closed-circuit communications between agents, was also among the stolen items, according to Politico.
“The U.S. Secret Service can confirm that an employee was the victim of a criminal act in which our Agency issued laptop computer was stolen,” the agency said in a statement Friday.
“Secret Service issued laptops contain multiple layers of security including full disk encryption and are not permitted to contain classified information. An investigation is ongoing and the Secret Service is withholding additional comment until the facts are gathered.”
The NYPD is assisting the agency in their investigation. It is unclear if the theft was targeted or simply a random act.
The black bag and some other items were later discovered at nearby Poly Prep HS by the head of security, Carol Bongnan, and returned to Argentieri.
But the laptop and lapel pins were still missing as of 2:30 p.m. Friday, sources said.
Sources said somebody had brought left it at the school.
Thursday’s heist is just the latest in a long line of public embarrassments for the Secret Service in recent years.
A Congressional investigation in 2015 found that it had transformed into an “agency in crisis” — entrenched in low morale, heavy boozing and dimwitted security decisions.
In Sept. 2014, President Barack Obama’s Secret Service detail allowed a security guard with a gun and three prior convictions for assault and battery into an elevator with him for a photo.
Two years after that, a pair of agents allegedly got drunk and interfered in a bomb investigation outside the building.
In 2014, a man was able to bypass Obama’s security detail and speak to him by pretending to be a congressman.
Most recently, two agents came under investigation after snapping selfies with President Trump’s 8-year-old grandson, Donald III, last weekend.
Dungeons and Dragons, Pokémon card games and role-playing games are more than entertainment — they’re inspiration for the CIA.
David Clopper, senior collection analyst with 16 years’ experience at the CIA, also serves as a game maker for the agency. From card games to board games, Clopper creates games to train CIA staffers including intelligence agents and political analysts for real-world situations.
“Gaming is part of the human condition. Why not take advantage of that and incorporate into the way we learn?” Clopper said Sunday at a games-themed panel discussion at the South by Southwest Interactive technology festival. Clopper and other CIA officers discussed how the agency uses games to teach strategy, intelligence gathering and collaboration.
Clopper, who began making training programs based on popular tabletop games in 2008, described some of his creations for the CIA.
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In “Collection,” Clopper’s first CIA game, teams of analysts work together to solve international crises against a ticking clock. His second title, “Collection Deck,” is a Pokémon-like card game in which where each card represents either an intelligence collection strategy or a hurdle like red tape or bureaucracy.
For instance, a player could lay out a card to collect intelligence via satellite photos, but an opponent could block them by playing a “ground station failure” card. It’s meant to mimic situations analysts might run into in their actual work.
Also speaking on the panel was Volko Ruhnke, who is an intelligence educator at the CIA and a freelance game designer. Ruhnke said he is particularly interested in one type of game: a simulation tabletop game to train analysts and help with analytic tasks. It could help forecast complex situations by forcing players to handle multiple scenarios simultaneously.
Ruhnke himself created a commercial board game to simulate the Afghanistan conflict and walk players through military, political, and economic issues in the region. It gives players “a much more dynamic understanding of the issues of modern Afghanistan,” Ruhnke said, adding that a similar game could be of use internally at the CIA as well.
Old school games are the main inspiration for popular training programs — for now. But analysts expect to be using virtual reality gaming in training programs soon. Multiple branches of the military have used VR training for years, immersing service members in real life experiences through visual and audio simulations.
“The sooner we can get involved in using VR in games, the better,” Rachel Grunspan, Chief Strategy Officer at a digital innovation organization inside the CIA, said during the panel discussion.. “You want to get their heads inside the intelligence question you’re trying to answer, and VR does an amazing job doing that.”