Catholic books?!

Screenshot anime Boku wa Tomodachi

“Catastrophe shall befall you if you continue your association with the minions of the church.” I suspect a good portion of my acquaintances would come to a similar conclusion. Or for that matter my relatives. I better explain myself!

Intriguingly, the books of wisdom and piety that manage to capture my attention these last few months are Catholic. That may not surprise everyone, but it sure surprises me.

I grew up in a Norway that was recently started to become post-Christian (I think my generation was the first that never even pretended to be religious except for the minority who actually were). But before that, Lutheran Protestantism had been almost alone and universal in the land. And it did not think highly of Catholicism. In Norwegian  there is no separate word for “venerate”, so we were told that Catholics worshiped saints. They had specific saints for specific careers or situations; I am not sure whether we were pointed out that this was similar to the pagan pantheons, or whether I found that out by myself. But it was kind of obvious.

Then there was the whole inquisition thing and the massive burning of witches and heretics. Like most young people I thought the witch burnings happened in the Middle Ages (the vast majority of the cases were much later, and Protestant countries were not exactly better). I may even for a few years have believed the ridiculous claims of millions of witches being killed. (There were a few thousand, each of them meticulously documented. While more women than men were accused, the percentage of death sentences was higher for male witches. But enough about that – the fact that it was popular in Protestant countries shows that it was not a Catholic thing as such. I did not know that until recent years though.)

Then there is the whole thing about bribing God with coin to free relatives from Purgatory. According to what church history was still taught, this was what caused Luther to break with the Pope and form a purer branch of Christianity. The absurdity of priestly celibacy was also pretty damning here in Scandinavia, I suspect.

Even after I found that some of what I believed was caricature, that does not mean I automatically agree with the Catholic Church. The fact remains that it has been and to some degree still remains a political and economic force to reckon with, something that is utterly opposite of the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. And there is still some doctrine that is very hard to align with the Bible. For instance, the Bible makes no mention of Purgatory as such. And to prohibit people from marrying or bidding them to refrain from food are labeled as “demonic teachings” in the Bible. There better be better reasons for this than I have seen so far.

The reason why I came to even look at Catholic books is that they were mentioned and quoted at the One Cosmos blog, a curious place but one that caters to the religious intellectual. That is not something you see often, but the again I suspect it is not a large audience either. Not many wise in this world were called, after all. That said, you’d think some would become wise later, under the influence of religion. It certainly has helped me in that regard, as I am sure anyone will confirm who knew me when I was much younger.

Be that as it may, I came across quotes by intellectual authors like A.G. Sertillanges and soon after James V. Schall, who are very much non-preachy and excellent writers of universal wisdom. But evidently both Catholic, somewhat to my surprise. I ended up buying books by them both, and rather enjoying them (although the writing is not exactly beach literature). Hans Urs von Balthasar also seems interesting, although I have yet to buy any of his massive tomes. Perhaps if I suddenly stop aging. It might well take a lifetime to get through all his lifetomes, if one were to give them due consideration.

And now there’s Meditation on the Tarot by our would-be Unknown Friend. A bit heterodox in places, I would say, but the basics seem to be sound and very inspiring. It is rare for religious literature to be outright exciting, I think, but this can be, at least to some of us. It does require some time to immerse oneself in, though.

And then there’s Fire Within, the Kindle version of which I read on my commute. It is a treatise on the life and teachings of St Teresa of Avila (who is certified awesome, as I have said before) and St John of the Cross (who is kind of scary, what with the Dark Night of the Soul and all). The two of them evidently have a lot in common, including knowing each other, St Teresa being the first of them. Anyway, fascinating stuff. I recognize myself in the beginning of it, even though no one had told me any of it. That’s kind of disturbing, when you realize that the only person who has spoken to you of this before is God. Or whoever the voice in my heart is, I am pretty sure it at the very least channels God if it is not the Most High himself. This was how I learned meditation (or “contemplation” as it is evidently still called in Catholic tradition). It also throws light on the great difference I perceive between neo-Buddhist (technical) and Christian (devotional) meditation.

I may have just dumped into these particular writers by the luck of the draw. Perhaps there are just as excellent Protestant or Methodist books that I simply have not been exposed to. But given that even the current Pope has written a couple likable books, I can see how Amazon is now offering me a long list of Catholic classics when I visit them. I think I’ll take it slow though – the books I already have are such as deserve to be read slowly, and then, I believe, be read slowly again. We’ll see how that pans out – I am not exactly a monk, although my female friends may never know the difference. Unless they read my journal.

Fury of the Northmen

I must admit that I have a couple characters in City of Heroes inspired by Norse mythology. It lends itself quite well to warlike heroes… in a fantasy world.

As I expressed on Google+, there was something off about the bomb in Oslo. It did not follow the pattern of al-Qaeda or their Islamic copycats. The timing in particular was a bit off. Once I heard that someone was shooting at Utøya, the traditional summer camp site of the Social Democrats, I knew it had to be a nationalist. At that time, I still did not know he was also behind the bomb, just that something was subtly “off” about it.

You see, this guy was not the only one thinking of the (more or less) ruling Social Democrat party as quislings. I would guess somewhere around 1/4 of the adult population would agree with that, possibly more. And I mean quisling in a very literal sense. Nationalists consider the Muslim immigration more of a threat to Norway than the German invasion ever was. As it happens, I agree with that, in a manner of speaking. But it really does not matter now. History is coming to an end, and Norway and Islam both will become like dust on the wind. Not in my natural lifespan, perhaps, but in less than a century is my guess.

But most people don’t look forward. They don’t even look backward properly. They don’t realize that the world has changed more in the past 50 years than in the previous 500, or quite possibly 5000. They don’t notice that the acceleration of accelerating change is accelerating – that the pace at which chance increases is itself increasing. An exponential function of knowledge and change. All that you knew is slipping between your fingers. Your grandchildren will either be as gods, or not alive at all. The squabble between cousins that we call a clash of civilizations is … insignificant. Unless it somehow manages to inspire us to blow up the planet, I guess. And you have to wonder, after days like these.

As I said, nationalists consider the current stock of politicians to be guilty of high treason, so it would make sense to assassinate them. I can certainly understand their feelings, having been human myself. For much of my life, there was this constant undercurrent in my life of thinking “evil people must die, evil people must die”. It took me many years of self-reflection to realize that I was basically one of the evil people, and I am still not completely dead, although I am certainly much reduced. For someone stuck at the mental level I was at in my 20es, blowing up a government building or executing Evil People (TM) would certainly be a holy duty and a great joy. Having a good enemy to project your evil on makes life a lot more bearable.

You may have heard that Norwegians are eager to help all kinds of people and try to negotiate peace all over the world. That is certainly true. What you don’t know is that we do all this because we know, but dare not think of, that deep inside we want to throttle people with our bare hands, or at least cleave their skull with a good axe, and laugh as we watch the light die in their eyes. Do you really think our genes have changed that much in 1000 years? They have not, we just go out of our way to not trigger them.

“From the fury of the Northmen deliver us, o Lord!” So prayed the English monks during the viking age, and rightly so. Scandinavians may be slower to anger than people in warmer climes, but once the bloodlust rises in them, there is no holding them back. I am not really surprised that we have a throwback to that time: In school we used to learn a slightly glorified version of the old Norse history, with the strong and proud warriors as an ideal. “Noregsveldet” was it called in my grade school, meaning roughly “the lands ruled by Norway”, encompassing such vassal states as Ireland and Great Britain and parts of France, not to mention Iceland, Greenland and snippets of North America. I am sure Swedes are thinking back to the time when they ruled much of Germany as well, but let us stick with Norway for now.

It should not surprise anyone that people who take the Vikings as ideal, can get a bit … bloodyminded, so to speak. And one habit of old (which is unfortunately not restricted to this corner of the world) was, when you had an enemy you really hated, to kill his children in front of him before blinding him.

I see international media represent Utøya as a political youth camp, and that it is too. But especially for the younger (and more vulnerable) teens, it is mainly a summer vacation resorts for children of the Social Democrat political elite, the leaders locally and nationally and their friends in the party. I think you see what is coming here.

“They were friends” said Norway’s Prime Minister, Jens Stoltenberg, after the massacre, and he was right. Those kids were his friends and children of his friends.  “This place was my summer paradise, and it has been made into a hell.” The Oslo-bomber did not kill the traitors, as he (and many others) thought of them. Instead, he killed their children. I have on good authority that this is far worse.

And it makes sense. You destroy our future, we destroy yours. An eye for an eye. This man was perfectly sane – within his worldview. If the world he lived in were the real world, he would have been a hero. I am sure that is how he regards himself even now.

I am pretty sure there aren’t many others who think of him as a hero, though. Not even among his fellow nationalists. Most of us have the good sense to notice when the berserker rage begins to creep up on us, and go to extremes to avoid it. Because once it takes us, the old gods of thunder and spears are very much alive and well in the land.

From the fury of the Northmen, deliver us o Lord!  Amen.


Growing up

I disagree a bit – kids do need to be looked after. But it is true that you have limited influence on who they become in the end: That will increasingly depend on their own decisions. Each child is an individual, whether you want it to or not.

I guess it had to happen sooner or later. Over the last years, I have noticed that I am beginning to grow up. It has kind of accelerated after I hit 50, it seems…

“Growing up” is really a very vague concept. When are you a grown-up? For much of history, childhood was very short, in so far as it existed at all. There were infants, and then there were small, stupid workers. But you generally were not considered grown-up until you were able to reproduce. That did not stop girls in particular from being married off as young as 5, although more commonly around 9 years old. The notion that pedophilia was wrong, rather than just impractical, is fairly new. The word itself was unknown a hundred years ago, but we have had some idea about this for longer than that. The ancient Greeks and Romans, however, did not. Judaism stood out in this area by not actually shipping the girls off for marriage until their first menstruation (which was generally later than today, due to less nourishing foods and vitamins).

Today, we have almost certainly gone too far in the opposite direction. People are now “kids” until they graduate from college, and are not expected to take responsibility for their own lives until then. (Kind of hard to do in a capitalist society without money, really.) Needless to say, most people won’t be celibate that long, but are discouraged from forming a family. By the time they take their place in adult society, they have a decade’s practice of fooling around. To everyone’s great surprise, some of them continue to do this after they marry and/or have kids, and acrimony ensues.


But there is another meaning of growing up, and that is internally. Some people don’t really much care about what happens inside their own mind, much less others, but in that case you would probably not be hanging out here. So…

Ryuho Okawa (of Happy Science fame) says that you are fully responsible for your own life from around the age of 30.  He bases this on both his own experience and Jesus Christ, neither of which started their religious work until the age of 30. Even then, one may notice, Jesus’ mother managed to get him to perform his first miracle by putting him in a situation where she would be regarded as a weirdo if he didn’t. Or that is one way of seeing it at least. He warned her at the time that she could not expect to have any say in his life anymore, and from what it seems, she didn’t after that one time.

It is a gradual thing though. We start shaping our own lives much earlier. Jesus asserted himself when he was 12 and stayed behind in the temple, although we don’t hear of any further such episodes. But for the rest of us too, it is common that some sense of identity awakens late in childhood or at the onset of puberty. In my case, I discovered my free will the summer when I was 15, I believe, shortly before leaving home for high school. So that was convenient. I read a small tract by Elias Aslaksen, a Norwegian preacher of Truth, where he convinced me that nobody can lift our hand to strike or open our mouth to speak. We are not responsible for what others do to us, but we are responsible for how we react. What we do depends on what we think, how we see that which happens to us. The way we see things can be completely opposite, depending on ourselves.

In a matter of minutes, my life turned around. Of course, in the heat of emotion this insight was often forgotten, but not permanently. Gradually, my power over my own body increased. It still does – it is still not complete, even at this age. I’d like to be able to say with Confusius (Analects chapter 2):
The Master said, “At fifteen, I had my mind bent on learning.
“At thirty, I stood firm.
“At forty, I had no doubts.
“At fifty, I knew the decrees of Heaven.
“At sixty, my ear was an obedient organ for the reception of truth.
“At seventy, I could follow what my heart desired, without transgressing what was right.”

Intriguingly, reception of Truth is what I am “specializing in” now, I guess. There is still so much Truth to absorb. But I really wish to arrive at having no desires that transgress what is right. At that point, I suppose I may call myself a grown-up, even spiritually.

May 17

Another reason to dissolve the union between Norway and Sweden: You can only have so many hot blonde girls in one country before it grinds to a halt. So to speak.

Today is May 17th, Norway’s national day. Since I live in Norway – and indeed have never left the country even for a brief visit – I have the day off from work. It is kind of like a holy day, except for the holiness. Old people even go to church. New people are mostly atheists so only go to church on Christmas Eve or weddings, burials etc, but some of the most nationalist may possibly tag along to church today as well.

Norwegian nationalism is pretty tame, actually. You’d think not, given that we have twice turned down membership in the European Union, by referendum no less. Although the majority was somewhat less than in the referendum about continued union with Sweden, in 1905, when only 184 souls voted for continued union! (Of course, democracy was still pretty new by then and the whole “anonymous” voting was perhaps not fully implemented… not to mention the voting locales being decorated with Norwegian flags, stuff like that.)

That said, Norwegians like independence, but we don’t like attacking and occupying other nations. We’ll tag along when allies get involved in a war, but we would rather stay at home if we could. We haven’t even gotten back the couple provinces that Sweden kept when the union was dissolved. But we’ve bought a lot of the property there, and probably most of the booze.

Oh, right. We kind of just kept the land of the Sami, the reindeer-herding people up north, which we had annexed during the union years. But it was either that or let the Russians have them, Russia was really trying to expand back in the days. In recent years, the Sami have some token independence. I suspect if they really, really wanted full independence from Norway, they could have it. It is not like the area runs a surplus, exactly: It is mostly arctic tundra, or nearly so. If you don’t like reindeer or midnight sun, you are unlikely to have any errands there.

Of course, Norway enjoys a similar status in Europe as a whole. Except we also have mountains. Lots and lots of mountains. With reindeer on them. Plus Germans in particular tend to die easily here. They are just not used to nature being, you know, untamed. Mountains you fall down from, rivers that throw you off into a waterfall, seas with big waves, roads with sudden bends, things like that. I think more Germans than Norwegians may lose their lives to Norwegian nature some years, even though we live here all the time and they only visit as tourists, and then bring their own beer. (I am not sure to what extent the beer contributes to the casualties…)

Anyway, one more thing, although I have said it in earlier years at this time: May 17 is not actually our Independence Day. That is June 7, 1905. May 17, 1814 is our Constitution day. The logic seems to be that it does not matter whose king you have, as long as you have your own laws. And that is probably the truth. Just look at the Jews. They got their laws thousands of years ago and will probably still be a people of their own as long as there are humans on Earth. Hopefully that will be a long time yet.

Music, books and countries

If you have a PC (or Mac, or Android phone) you can use the Internet to store your music. Actually you can do that anyway – Ubuntu Linux has had this for at least a year – but it is new to Amazon. com. And unlike Ubuntu One, it is for Americans only. has launched a “cloud drive” service for their MP3 shop. People can save the MP3 files directly to these servers (not actual clouds, luckily) and play them from anywhere. Anywhere in the USA, that is. does not sell MP3 files overseas, although ironically they sell CDs, which you can then rip and upload to competing “cloud” providers. It’s a good thing sending all those physical objects across the globe does not cause some kind of climate change or anything, since the end result is exactly the same, with the addition of a CD on a landfill.

I think it is safe to assume that the restrictions on export of MP3 files are due to negotiations with the RIAA, the Recording Industry Asses of America or something very similar to that. It bears mention that I have bought several books in electronic form from Amazon, quickly and without hassle, across the Atlantic. This fits with my impression that book publishers may be greedy like the rest of us, but fundamentally sane. The RIAA, on the other hand, systematically comes across as a collective psychiatric basketcase, more exactly organized paranoia. These are the guys, if you remember, who wanted many millions from a single mother for a couple dozen pretty boring music tracks.

Not to sow doubt about their clinical insanity and need for strong medication and straitjackets, but there is a fundamental difference between books and music that may explain their behavior to some small degree. Whereas music has been with us since time immemorial, canned music is a far more recent invention than the written word.  Books, in some form, is a mainstay of civilization. It could even be argued that civilization as we know it would be hard to maintain without them. Certainly a high-level civilization is unlikely to evolve without a lengthy phase of written records.  So basically, we know books, their causes and effects.

And it so happens that people who read books tend to be regarded as civilized. Whether this is cause or effect, or perhaps both, I am not sure.  As a friend likes to quote from The Penultimate Peril: “Wicked people never have time for reading. It’s one of the reasons for their wickedness.” Music, on the other hand, is often seen as loosening the bands of civilization (although this varies with the type of music, I would say.)

It may not always have been exactly like this. During my recent reading of Dante’s Inferno, there was a mention of an adulterous couple who had supposedly fallen in sin by reading a romance novel together, and consequently went to hell as they never repented.  My immediate reaction was “Who the hell would read a romance novel together with someone of the opposite sex if they were not already planning to do that thing?”  But it goes to show that books may once have been viewed with a certain suspicion which is now reserved for more modern technologies.

Better and better day by day!

This world is amazing! Except perhaps for America.

My llama-focused reader in Thailand has digged out some quite interesting links lately, and the latest (as of this writing) was an online book called “Butterflies are free to fly“. Not for the weak of mind, admittedly. I was positively amazed and kept reading until Chapter 3, where suddenly the author throws himself at the steering wheel and makes a sharp turn toward the nearest off-ramp from reality.  I quote:

~ when you look at the world today, do you really think the human race as a whole is more peaceful, more loving, more tolerant, more fulfilled, happier, safer, better fed and better housed than it was ten years ago? Or fifty or a hundred years ago? When you watch the evening news, doesn’t the opposite appear to be true? Doesn’t it seem like the world – as portrayed in the 3D movies surrounding you – is heading in the “wrong” direction, away from constant and abiding joy, abundance, power, and love and into greater depths of pain and suffering despite all the efforts of all the different groups that have grown exponentially over the same period of time?

Where to begin? And if I begin, how will I end?

These last ten years have been by far the most wonderful in human history, beyond any imaginable comparison.  Earth is certainly no paradise, but it is less hellish than it has ever been since the dawn of recorded history. There are less wars and conflicts than usual. The sheer number of people who have been lifted out of abject poverty during the past decade is comparable to the entire world population at the time of Jesus or Buddha or Socrates. One of the years in this decade was the first time there were more obese than starving people on the planet. With all due disrespect for obesity, I think that is an accomplishment of biblical proportions.  During last year’s economic crisis, Africa as a whole saw an economic growth of around 4.5%. All but a few hate-filled fringes of the developing world have been growing at breakneck speed this decade.

Are people happier? Yes they are, with one glaring exception. Americans, more exactly those in the nation of the United States of America, are NOT happier.  But America is not a very large part of the world in terms of population. It still has a sizable economy and military, but I don’t think we are talking about those here.

Now, if we go back fifty years – and I happen to have lived those years myself – the improvements are nothing short of miraculous. No, that is too weak. My lifetime has seen a miracle of such a magnitude that if God’s prophets had included a reasonably concise foretelling of this age in the Bible, people would have thrown the Bible in the trash bin as utter insanity.  It is one thing for Jesus to walk on water, Jesus being Jesus after all.  But for numerous people to walk on the moon? Nonsense. But it gets worse.  Ordinary workers flying through the skies from one side of the world to the other? Thousands, no, millions of them? Children talking with friends hundreds of miles away? The music of great orchestra carried in your pockets and playing for your ears only? The knowledge of a million books in a box in your living room? No, wait, now in your shirt pocket! The eradication of smallpox, and the banishment of most plagues from entire continents? Come on, it is insane. Even if angels came down from on high and said this would happen, people might have chased them away with sticks and stones. And that is only a sample of what I have seen.

But are people happier? Yes, I think even the Americans are happier than they were in 1960. The rest of the world definitely. More peaceful? Definitely, despite some stop and go. More tolerant? Ask your gay friends whether they would want to take a time machine back 50 years.  In fact, ask anyone.

People may gripe, but only a few delusional people, mostly Americans, would seriously want to turn the clock back 50 years. The ones who would want to turn it back 100 years are so few, I think I may possibly know 1. That’s the guy who is praying for natural disasters to strike his (and my) native Norway so its people can return to the Lord. Turning the clock back 100 years would probably qualify. He would be disappointed, however, to find that people 100 years ago were not the pious souls he imagines. In my childhood I listened for many long hours to my grandfather rambling on about his youth, which is now 100 years ago, and let me tell you: The drunkenness, whoring and fighting that was the norm back then was just shocking and disgusting.

Do the various spiritual splinter cells have any hand in the great improvement we have seen, or is it all due to secular science?  That is another matter. I think we cannot separate the two. Rather they are two prongs of a much greater wave of change that is coming, one so immense that it must be seen from a very great height to become visible at all. For the rising tide lifts all boats.

Now, the book will get back on track, at least for a while. I am still making my way down it, not sure where I will stop reading. But because this is a common mythunderstanding, I wanted to clear it up. If you are American, you have my pity. I am not quite sure what went wrong, but please consider getting out of there while you still can. For most of us though, celebration is in order. Perhaps we should adopt the American tradition of yearly Thanksgiving – much good it seems to have done them…

Paladins, celibates and other abominations

Moderately abominable paladin: Not so gay, but very very celibate.

One shall read much before the eyes pop out. I recently read an article by Dennis Prager.

This Prager fellow is spoken of with the greatest respect by my conservative friends, one would almost expect him to be some kind of hero of our time. Well, I suppose this may be the case under some circumstances.

In any case, it is strange how pieces of puzzles fall together as one lives one’s life, an effect often called “synchronicity” these days.


Does anything ever begin? But we can make a beginning on the day when I was quietly reading Dante’s most famous work, the Divine Comedy.  Now in the (so far slowly) declining years of my body, I am reading up on some timeless classics which every civilized person ought to know, but which I don’t. I mean, I am so busy now that we have all this spare time, so there just hasn’t been time for the pillars of western civilization. This includes Dante who pretty much defined the folk theology of the late Middle Ages. Some of his concepts, like the circles of Hell, have become part of common speech.

While reading my Dante, I found a drive-by reference to “Orlando” and his horn. This sounded vaguely familiar, but something was off. Could Orlando be, apart from a place with an airport, also the Italian name for Roland? Wikipedia sure thinks so. And Roland was someone I vaguely knew from my childhood. Well, not in person, but from the Norwegian folk song “Roland og Magnus Kongjen” (Roland and Magnus the King), also known simply as Rolandskvadet (song of Roland, see also the much longer French “Chanson de Roland”.)

No points for guessing why that particular song lodged in my memory.

Over the next days, I spent some hours reading up on medieval literature. I realized that the peers of Charlemagne’s court were the original paladins, which spawned not only a deluge of romance stories but also some legends that are more comparable to modern superhero stories or the Greek and Norse mythology. These men were seen as larger than life. Though at least some of them were real men from history, they were transformed into archetypes as the centuries passed. Legend became myth.

What does this have to do with Dennis Prager?  Less than he thinks, I would say. He referenced my beloved paladins in his article “Judaism’s Sexual Revolution: Why Judaism (and then Christianity) Rejected Homosexuality”. In this, he argues not only that the paladins in Chanson de Roland were gay, but that celibate men (and women) are less than human.

I can defend myself, but I would encourage Mr Prager to keep his hands off my paladins. It’s bad enough with the yaoi fangirls writing gay paladin fiction without a renowned Conservative adding fuel to the fire.


Now, I don’t think people and their works are generally pure good or pure evil. I like to think I am more nuanced than toddlers, people with borderline personality disorder, and American political bloggers. (I will assume, despite frequent anonymity, that these are three distinct groups.)

And Mr Prager’s article certainly has its good points, and is a welcome – maybe even necessary – contribution to the debate. In particular, someone had to point out that the ancient world was not like USA in the 1950es. Young people today may not know, but the world where Judaism first appeared was horrifyingly alien. Civilization was still young and somewhat experimental. Notably, women were literally treated as slaves: Not in the sense that hubby went from the dinner table straight to the couch without doing the dishes, but in the sense of being shipped off to some unknown house around the age of 9, there to be brutally raped and put to hard work, and harshly beaten if the work did not please their husband / owner and his family. Boys were somewhat better off, but were still subject to sexual abuse by older men on a regular basis. You may remember from history class that in ancient Greece, there was an elaborate system in which men of the upper classes would induce barely pubescent boys to love in the physical sense as well as the more romantic adoration or idealization. This was less regulated in other cultures, but the man-boy love association was a staple of coming of age in early civilizations.

From the dawn of civilization, religion has sought to exert a civilizing influence on human sexuality, among other things.  (Food being probably even more prominent.) In Bronze Age religions, this sanctification of sexuality took the form of temple prostitution and also public religious rituals of a sexual nature. In other words, rather than have the men roam freely and rape anything that couldn’t fight back, the Bronze Age religions encouraged them to instead visit the temple and have sex with one of the temple priestesses or cute boys (or sometimes sacred eunuchs) residing there.

Dennis Prager is, understandably, horrified by this practice. So was Yahweh’s prophets, and there are several references to these things in the Bible, some oblique and some pretty explicit. But if you  travel with your mind back through time, you will realize that the Bronze Age religions (usually centered on fertility goddesses) did what little they could to tame the male beast. In the stone age, people had lived in tribes where everyone knew everyone and most people were related. With the break-up of the small tribe, people were cast into a world of strangers, and the male libido, no longer under mom’s wakeful eyes, went wild. We have been working on getting this creature integrated in civilization ever since.

Be that as it may, a new age dawned in the Middle East with Judaism. Marriage already existed, but it was mainly a matter of ensured paternity, not a mutual union. Men were still visiting prostitutes as a matter of course. You will find this mentioned casually in the early books of the Bible. Judah impregnated his son’s wife thinking that she was a prostitute, and thus begat the lineage that would lead to King David and ultimately to Joseph of Nazareth. Samson, the Biblical hero who redeemed himself by killing himself along with a couple thousand infidels and a public building, had a well documented habit of sleeping around, which was fine as long as he stuck with prostitutes and did not get attached to them. When he fell in love with Dalilah, things turned nasty. But sleeping around was OK. Sometimes a man got to do what a man got to do.

The prostitutes are still among us, but they are not employed by the churches.  And the boys are definitely not accepted. (Contrary to some liberal media, the altar boys are generally not there for that purpose.)

Judaism, then, moved the “sacredness” of sex out of the temples and into the home. The sacred union of man and woman was now not a temple ritual, but marriage itself, which had before had a function more akin to slavery.

This is pretty much as far as we have come even today. It has taken its sweet time. Kings and the upper class used to have courtesans and concubines well into the middle ages, if not modernity. (It was usually more discreet in recent years.) The teachings of Jesus Christ about not even ogling other women have few adherents even 2000 years later, but I feel sure its time will come as well. We are talking about changes to basic human behavior, so millennia may be needed to complete the transformation.


It is an irony that the focus on homosexuality in the past century has sounded the death knell for the kind of deep affection between men which was idealized not just in the medieval paladin literature, but well into the cowboy age. A bond of love that is not sexual, but intimate in the ways of the soul. When modern liberals read about love between men in ages past, they naturally suppose that they are seeing gay characters, but this is not necessarily the case. Certainly I would have wished that at least conservatives would still be able to recognize this, but even that time may be over.

It is, incidentally, the same with children. Today, a father cannot even bathe his own children for fear that he may be imprisoned as a child molester, should he ever have a fall-out with his wife.  Women can still be affectionate toward each other and children, long may it last.


The sanctification of marriage necessarily means that any other lifestyle becomes suspect. Prager is not the first to bring up this. I was still young when I first read the Rabbinical saying that “a man who is unwed after the age of thirty is under God’s curse”. Certainly this was also the prevailing attitude of the Christian Church, and one of the reasons why I slipped out of there. (I still think of myself as a Christian, but not a Churchian, unfortunately.) Even if a man was celibate in word and thought (this was supposed to be possible, albeit only with divine intervention), he was still depriving a woman of a husband. This was a sin, unless one had a really good excuse.

Prager brings up the point that single men commit almost all coarse crime, like violence and drug crime. He seems utterly unaware of the possibility that the causation could be the other way: That most women would hesitate to marry a notorious criminal. (Many of them have girlfriends, though. I guess these are not the marrying type.) Even so, I think he may be onto something. Having a wife waiting for you at home may really make you less likely to do something that could get you imprisoned or dead. Conversely, the need to constantly impress new girls may be a powerful force to push young men into crimes.

That’s still a bit from assuming that being single means you have given your heart and soul to the powers of Death. It may be the Rabbis who think so and not Prager, but this is hard to say for sure from the text of the article.

Is a bachelor actually only half a human until he finds the woman who will make him complete?  I think that is the case for some. One of my friends, a good and admirable young man (though less young than when I first met him) certainly seems very troubled by it. Another is more quiet on the topic, but still hatches plans to get hitched. A third… actually, I cannot remember if there is a third. I think the rest may be either married (or nearly so), or still young, or… non-mainstream in various ways as regards their intimate behavior. And even among those, there are some who feel incomplete.

Not I. Well, perhaps a little. Like 98% complete or some such. I enjoyed hanging out with my female best friend a couple times a year, as I did ten years ago.  But being half a human? Dear complete humans, no offense, but don’t you already have your work cut out for you to keep up with the happiness I have been given, no matter how much sacred sex you have in your marriage? You better amp it up already.

And may Light have mercy on us all if I actually were to level up to my supposed human potential. ^_^

Roland set horn to bloodied mouth, and blew it in his wrath;
rent was wall and marble stones for a distance of nine days’ march.

-Roland & Magnus the King.

So, King Magnus, did the earth move for you too? ^_^

Inferior Lightwielder worldbuilding

I was imagining something weird again. This is unlikely to surprise regular readers, I suspect…

Actually it is not the worldbuilding that is inferior, although that may also be true. Rather it is the world itself, most notably its people, among them even the Servants of the Light.

I admit that it was Rabbi Steinsaltz’ book that prompted me to sketch out a new story. But it contains nothing I could not have written before. I came up with the idea of vertical, hierarchical worlds when I was still young. I think maybe 19, but I have no writing from that age, so I am not sure. At that time there was nothing religious or spiritual to it: I had picked up the idea of parallel worlds (or dimensions, as they were erroneously called) from a book by Norwegian SF authors Bing & Bringsværd. Their worlds were parallel horizontally rather than vertically, gradually becoming more alien with increasing distance from our reality, I think. In any case, at some point I changed my view of the multiverse to vertical and hierarchical, although at that time it was still pure SF.  Then some 25 years passed before I found this worldview again, in a different context.

In my latest story, the protagonist is from a world much like our own. In the library he chances upon a book that describes dozens of other worlds, in a brief but factual way, as if a textbook for world travelers rather than a piece of fiction. One of them stands out: The world where the community of Servants of the Light have worked tirelessly together to fill the whole world with Light, to the point where it became a paradise and eventually ascended to a higher level. This world again has now given birth to lower worlds, and while it is higher, they are lower.  Our hero decides to try the ritual written in the book to travel to one of these worlds.

The world of Gebir is an instance of Earth, with similar but not quite identical races of humans, animals and plants. However, this world, by virtue of being a little lower than ours, is inferior in details.  The soil itself is less fertile, and life is nastier, more brutish and shorter. The human races there are not only a little weaker physically and more prone to illness, but their lifespan is shorter even when they die from old age: An age of 65, or 70 for the strong, is considered ripe old age.

Worse yet is the mental inferiority of the people. They learn more slowly and forget more easily. Their attention span is shorter, and it is harder for them to see the consequences of their actions, for themselves and for others. Logic is a virtually unknown art, and superstitions reign.  (In all fairness, they do live in a world where a certain type of magic actually works, but they will believe in many other strange things as well.) Their willpower is nothing to write home about, they are easily mastered by their appetites, whether it concerns food or drink or sex or sleep. Quick to anger and easily distracted from work, especially mental work, they progress slowly and backslide quickly.

The sad truth is that these untermenschen are largely patterned on our own ancestors, from the middle ages backward.  It is hard for a modern person to imagine the sad state of mankind 1000 years ago, let alone 1500 years ago.

(Let me briefly once again say that I consider the “Dark Age” of Europe to be from the final generations of the Western Roman Empire, through the violent and chaotic era where entire nations were moving around, to the beginning of Carolus Magnus’ new Holy Roman Empire (which was neither holy, roman, nor – for most of its time – a real empire.) From here on, if not before, there was a slow and fitful progress in many areas. The Middle Ages, then is largely a time of progress, leading toward the Renaissance. It was certainly not guaranteed to end that way – China pretty much ossified before reaching the modern age, despite having a lead on Europe for much of the time – but neither was it some kind of black hole.  Things were even worse before.)

Now I am not saying that our world is in the process of ascending to a Paradise and beyond: There are still so many things that can go wrong, and some of them are indeed going wrong even as we speak. But comparing the English-speaking people today with their ancestors 1000 years ago, not to mention even further, even common people today appear as supermen in health of not only body but mind as well.

Be that as it may, this is the first time in a long time indeed that I design a world that is consistently inferior, and humans who are a breed of losers. I must admit that I had to reflect deeply on my fascination with the depravity I imagined. There is a saying about people who go into the sewers to clean up and people who go there to bathe (social realism anyone?). I am still in a very early phase of this project, having written only a couple thousand words. I am not sure how viable it may be. Let’s say I am not quitting my day job to write on this.  But I make these few notes just in case.

Atheism as transitional phenomenon

“The mind is the work of our brain” – this theory is currently accepted as truth by most Scandinavians. Viewed generously, this can be likened to saying that “Windows is the work of the computer”. Given the many great realms open to the human mind, however, it is more like saying that air is the work of the lungs or that dry land came into being because the fish evolved legs. But when you don’t have a realistic alternative…

This is not the first time in history that atheism is surging here in Scandinavia. Much the same happened a bit over 1000 years ago, as Christianity was replacing the old Norse religion. According to a saga writer who saw the tail end of that period, many of those who had been brought up in the old religion and saw it discredited, did not latch on to the new. Rather, they “believed only in their own strength”.

This is not hard to understand. If there are a lot of people who don’t believe in Odin and Thor, why should I? But if my ancestors lived for generations without even having heard of the White Christ, why should I bother with him?

It is the same today. For the first time in history, many different religions from various times and places all show up at the same time, and people reasonably think that they can’t all be right, so why should any one of them be right? It seems only logical.

But this logic can also be reduced to the absurd. For the same bringing together of the world has also shown us many languages: Some big, some small, some easy to learn and some quite obscure.  If most people in the world don’t speak my language, why should I?  And why should I adopt another language, if most people don’t even understand it, much less use it? Indeed, when humans can’t agree on a language, why should I speak at all?

Now arguably, you cannot survive without speaking (though some monks might disagree). You can survive without religion. But most people don’t speak merely for their survival, but because it is a genuine expression of human nature.

I have a theory – it is not a revelation, merely a speculation – as to why atheism has surged so much more in northern Europe than in the USA. I believe it comes, this time again, from the sudden transition.

If you remember the theory of Spiral Dynamics, you will know that different people have different levels of complex thinking. What we call higher levels are such that can handle a more complex worldview. This change started rather earlier in the USA and has continued at a gradual pace. The USA has, for instance, still a large “Blue” segment that believes in religious myth in a literal way, and values obedience to authorities with no need for understanding. This is generally considered shamefully primitive in the Nordic countries, where the norm now is to be Green (postmodern) in theory and Orange (capitalist) in practice.

Because the Nordic countries (and the Netherlands) have experienced such a rapid “lift” in complex worldview, it is natural that people find their childhood religion primitive and even caricature-like.  Furthermore, the Nordic countries had very little religious diversity to start with. Each had a national Lutheran church that counted some 95% of the population. In this comfortable near-monopoly, the churches may have seen little point in changing until it was too late, and then mainly by becoming generally permissive, rather than attempting to meet intellectual challenges.

People whose heads are now in the postmodern world have available a religion suitable for the 18th century, with God as an enlightened monarch at best. Not that there is anything wrong with that – for the people who have a worldview to fit.  Like water takes the form and size of the container, so also religion will take the form of the mind in which it is contained. But here the water of religion was frozen in a form badly suited to the postmodern mind. Naturally this led to a wholesale rejection of traditional religion.

Lately, New Age spirituality seems to be growing in this area, presumably as an attempt to fill the religious vacuum. But being vague and mixed with many kinds of superstition, it is unlikely to fill the role of religion. What will, I don’t know yet. But history suggests that humans will naturally return to a religion that fits their level of development.

Euhemerus science

Having seen how awesome King Hermes was, the Greek soldiers decided that he must be a god! Picture from the Japanese animated movie “The Golden Laws”, based on a book by Ryuho Okawa.

There is a theme to my last few posts, and I want to press that point a little more. But to do that, I have to introduce someone with a difficult name: Euhemerus, an ancient Greek. His name means “Happy” or “Prosperous” (or something like that), so there is a pun in today’s headline. Anyway, his name may be difficult to you, but not to the people in the Macedonian court, where he was working.

Macedonia, back then, was where Alexander the Great came from. Alexander inherited a pretty good army from his father, but still, he really did earn that name. He built one of the world’s largest empires over the course of a few years. He died young, and his empire fell apart, but it was still an amazing feat, and it also made communication possible between cultures that had until then been mostly apart.

Old “Happy” lived a generation or so later, so had a most compelling case for the theory that made him famous: That the gods of old were actually men (and women) who had accomplished such great works that people thought they were gods.

We shall bear in mind that Greek polytheism was probably a lot more like Japan’s Shinto religion (which I mentioned in passing yesterday) than Religion in the west today. The border between men and gods was already kind of porous, with heroes and ancient kings being seen as offspring of visiting gods, mainly Zeus. Many of these were considered historical persons, though some are no longer thought to be. In any case, if some of Zeus’ sons were men of great fame, why not the rest of him, and Zeus and his brothers and sisters too?

So was born the theory called “euhemerism”, which claims that gods were once men who got excessive respect, usually after their death. This theory is also found in one of the Jewish apocrypha, still included in some Bibles today. It was also embraced by early Christian thinkers, although after the completion of the New Testament. The phrase “Those who you worship were once men like you” resounded through Christian history, apparently without the slightest irony.

Yes, until recently it could be argued that Jesus Christ was the best documented example of a man being later worshiped as a god, or even as God. While worship of emperors was common in Rome, China and Japan (at the very least), this was a formal, ritual, even political act. It is doubtful that many embraced these men as their personal savior. But Jesus Christ was another matter entirely. Despite his life and death being accepted as historical fact (except for a while during the 19th century), he is mostly famous for his divinity.

Of course, the big difference is that Jesus really was Divine, but some misguided people still can’t seem to understand this…

More locally, the Norse gods were explained as great kings of old by Snorri Sturlason in the early 1200s, and I read his explanation repeatedly when I was a boy. I had no idea until this year that this was called euhemerism, though.

An unexpected twist to this topic comes from the prolific Japanese writer Ryuho Okawa. He claims that the ancient gods of Greece (and Japan, presumably many others as well) were in fact historical characters. He even made an anime about one of them, Hermes, and this movie is still possible to buy on DVD. It was a big hit in Japan, but flopped completely in the USA. “Flew like a turkey” I believe is the local expression.

Okawa’s view is a bit less rationalistic than classical euhemerism. He sees the ancient gods as historical men and women, yes, but they were filled with a spirit from Heaven. They were men and women with a mission from God, and this is why they were venerated after their passing. So he is not entirely dissing their divinity, but they were still mortals. In the tradition of Shinto, he refuses to see gods and mortals as fundamentally different. They are all aspects of the Divine.

Okawa ought to know, if anyone does. Because he is already being worshiped as a god by hundreds of thousands of Japanese, and there are numerous temples dedicated to him. That is one of the things that makes him so interesting: He is a living case of euhemerism in action. Imagine if Zeus had a Twitter account, or Jesus Christ was videotaped during the Sermon on the Mount. Would they still be worshiped centuries after their passing from the world?

Well, Jesus would, of course, since he is just that awesome. But at least he would not be portrayed as an Aryan photo model.

So far, Okawa is doing well too in the being worshiped department, but he is not dead yet. His new religion is called “Happy Science”, and so – by a surely unplanned irony – the circle is closed. Old Euhemerus the scientist would perhaps have been amused.