Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Bipolar, schizophrenia or an illness as common as flu?

       If you’ve read my blog on daydreams*, you’ll know that for most of my life I’ve lived in another universe. Which for a writer is no bad thing.
       However, some time ago, these imaginings began to take a sinister turn. The line between fantasy and fact became blurred. It wasn’t that I couldn’t tell the difference, but my parallel universe became so vivid, so exciting and invoked such powerful emotions I was reluctant, if not unable, to return to my ‘normal’ existence with all its mundane problems.
       Secondly, having previously enjoyed the occasional trip to La-La Land, my mind not only visited this virtual holiday home more often, but took up permanent residence. My work suffered (I could scarcely bring myself to turn the computer on), I didn’t go out unless I absolutely HAD to and, when with friends, I rarely took in their conversations, being too wrapped up with my own fantasies, which grew more complex and intriguing every day.  And then they turned on me!
       From the heights of these reveries, I found myself plunged into an abyss of despair - so much so I felt suicidal.  My moods switched faster than Usain Bolt on speed; the most inane humour set me off into peals of helpless laughter; a chance remark could reduce me to tears.
       And, worst of all, when I tried to come down to earth, my mind kept dragging me back into what was no longer a dream but a dystopian nightmare. I was in a loop, a video that had somehow got stuck and never stopped playing.  I just wasn’t ME anymore.  I needed help. Drugs. Tranquillisers. Gin. Anything to stop these now intrusive imaginings trampling all over me.
       As it happened, I had an appointment for a check-up with Dave,* my bio-resonance practitioner. I first visited him on a friend’s recommendation, presenting with extreme tiredness, bad headaches and painful joints.  Using electro-magnetic waves, which pick up the frequency of parasites and bacteria, he correctly diagnosed 20 different kinds of Candida and advised me on the foods to avoid.  I now felt so well physically, I almost cancelled my appointment, but having grown so concerned with my mental aberrations, I decided to see if Dave could help.
       Turned out I had not one but two protozoa – single-celled organisms which cause diseases in humans and animals. The most serious was the Borna virus, usually found in horses and now apparently in me, ever since I suffered a particularly nasty flu-like illness in March- which was when my fantasies began.
       Borna affects the brain, heightening emotions and causing sudden mood swings. Left untreated, the it can lead to depression, OCD, bipolar symptoms and even schizophrenia. And, most worryingly, it can spread as rapidly as a common cold. Dave had, over the previous few months, treated literally 100s of people for this virus, each having suffered some form of psychosis. In fact, he experienced Borna himself when this normally kind, mild-mannered man suffered intense feelings of rage.
       The other virus he found in my brain was Toxoplasma, a protozoa that causes similar problems to Borna. And, as if two were not enough, I also had Trypanasoma, which fuels obsessions and fantasies.  Paul had of course encountered these viruses before but never all three in one person at the same time!
       “Some people take Sativa to get the highs you’ve been having,” he said, cheerfully.  
       “Ah, maybe I should keep the viruses then,” I replied. 
       Dave shook his head: “Not a good idea. They can be dangerous if untreated – even fatal. But don’t worry, you’re in the clear now.”
       Fortunately for me, it took just half an hour’s zapping with electro-magnetic waves to eradicate all three viruses and, within a matter of days, I was back to my old, rather boring, self.
       Borna did recur some months later, however, but at least then I knew what it was. How many people are walking around in a mental fog – or worse – unaware that, far from being psychotic, they are suffering a virus as potentially common as flu!

**Not his real name

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Ark of the Covenant: Does it still exist?

Fashioned by master craftsman Bezalel from acacia wood overlaid with gold, it measured 111cm x 67cm x 67cm (44” x 26” x 26”) and had a solid gold cover supporting two angels with bowed heads and outstretched wings.

Truly, the Ark of the Covenant was a treasure beyond price. Yet, to the nation of Israel, its material value was as nothing compared with what it represented – the presence of its original designer, Almighty God himself!

In fact, the Ark, which contained the Ten Commandments and, initially, a golden jar of manna and the flowering rod of Aaron, was considered so sacred that no one was allowed to touch it – or even to look upon it - on pain of death.

When the people of Israel came to rest during their 40 year wanderings through the desert, it lay in the Holy of Holies, an inner chamber screened off from the main tabernacle (or tent), accessible only by the High Priest for just one day every year - the Day of Atonement. And when the people broke camp, the Ark had to be carried by Levites on poles slotted through two rings of gold on either side and covered with blue cloth and sealskin to shield it from the gaze of the people.  In this way the Ark was carried into battle ahead of the nation of Israel, putting courage into the people and striking fear into their enemies, particularly after the spectacular fall of Jericho. 

Not a magic charm

However, contrary to the Indiana Jones movie, the Ark of the Covenant had no miraculous properties in itself. Success or victory depended entirely on the people’s loyalty to God – a lesson which the Israelites learned to their cost. Acting against divine instructions, Hophni and Phinehas, renegade sons of the High Priest Eli, took the Ark from the tabernacle in Shiloh, wrongly viewing it as a magic charm that would protect them against their enemies and help them conquer the Promised Land.

They soon realised their mistake. After a humiliating defeat in which 30,000 Israelites lost their lives, the sacred chest was captured by the Philistines who brought it back to Ashdod. Here, it was placed in the temple next to the half-man half-fish image of the Philistine god Dagon. But not for long. Overnight, the idol fell flat on its face before the ark. It was then put back on its plinth, only to be brought  crashing down again the following night, this time losing its head along with the palms of its hands.
Later, as the Ark was paraded on a seven month tour of Philistia, the people were plagued with haemorrhoids, the land was overrun by jerboas, and the city of Ekron was hit by death-dealing confusion. These woes were enough to prompt the Ark’s speedy return to Israel, accompanied by a suitable offering!
Eventually, the Ark was brought to Jerusalem, although it did not have a permanent home until Solomon’s temple was built. In 642 BCE, King Josiah arranged for the Ark to be brought back to the temple, although there is no indication as to why it was removed in the first place. It may have been for safekeeping during temple renovations; or it could have been to prevent its misuse by one of Josiah’s predecessors, including his own father Manasseh, who fell away to false worship.
Whatever the reason, the Ark is not mentioned again in Hebrew scripture and there is no evidence that it was taken to Babylon after Jerusalem’s destruction in 607 BCE. It simply disappeared.

Does it still exist?

Various archaeologists have spent years searching for the Ark of the Covenant without success. Some believe it’s in Axum, Ethiopia at the Church of Saint Mary of Zion, having been ‘acquired’ by Menelik, the Queen of Sheba’s son during a visit to Jerusalem. However, this does not square up with the Bible account (2Chronicles 35 v 3) which, as previously mentioned, places the Ark in Jerusalem during Josiah’s reign – nearly 400 years later. This might explain why the “Keeper of the Ark”, the monk who claims to have possession, refuses to let anyone see it.

Archaeologist Leen Ritmeyer claims to have discovered where the original Temple’s Holy of Holies was located, pointing to a bedrock section in the centre which matches the precise dimensions of the Ark. Whether the Ark is indeed buried there is likely to remain a mystery, as neither the Muslim or Israeli authorities will agree to an excavation.

To sum up, it seems unlikely that the Ark of the Covenant will ever be found, partly because it has served its purpose, and also because such a precious artefact would doubtless attract unwarranted veneration.

Friday, 3 November 2017

Could the Pope get married?

       Australian Catholic Church claims priests’ vow of celibacy may be linked to child abuse.
       26 Italian women in loving relationships with Catholic priests urge Pope Francis to relax the celibacy rule.

       No doubt about it, the papal view of celibacy has caused misery for many people over hundreds of years. But is it scriptural? Does God really demand that priests (and nuns) forego the natural joys of marriage and parenthood? A simple view of the Bible and early Christian teaching will answer these questions: 
Doctrine from devils?
       According to the New Jerusalem Bible: “The Spirit has explicitly said that during the last times some will desert the faith and pay attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines that come from devils, seduced by the hypocrisy of liars whose consciences are branded as though with a red-hot iron: they forbid marriage and prohibit foods which God created to be accepted with thanksgiving by all who believe and who know the truth.” (1Timothy 4:1-3)

Doctrine from Jesus?       
       Even Pope Paul VI, a pontiff not generally noted for liberal thinking, admitted in his encyclical Sacerdotalis Caelibatus (Priestly Celibacy, 1967) that “the New Testament which preserves the teaching of Christ and the Apostles….does not openly demand celibacy of sacred ministers…..Jesus Himself did not make it a prerequisite in His choice of the Twelve, nor did the Apostles for those who presided over the first Christian communities.” – The Papal Encyclicals 1958-1981 (Falls Church, Va.; 1981), p.204.

Doctrine from Peter and apostles?
       Considering that Simon Peter** was married (Mark 1:29-31) as were the rest of the apostles along with Jesus’ fleshly brothers and first century ‘bishops’ (1Corinthians 9:5; 1 Timothy 3:2), then the Catholic church has no real basis for insisting that priests should be celibate, a doctrine that must surely be partly responsible for the shocking incidence of child abuse by various clergy.

Doctrine from Paul?
       Obviously, Christian teaching has never endorsed celibacy except when freely espoused by its adherents. The apostle Paul, while outlining the benefits of singleness, also advised it was “better to marry than to burn.” (1 Corinthians 7:9) The ultimate authority, of course, was Jesus Christ who described singleness as a ‘gift’ for which “not all men can make room.” (Matthew 19:11)
       “Celibacy was commonly practiced before the Christian era by Buddhist priests and monks, and even earlier by the higher orders of the Babylonian priesthood” – The Two Babylons by A. Hislop. P.219

*See also:

**Peter was also known as Cephas – (John 1:42)

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Was there really a global flood?

       Cataclysmic. That’s the only word to describe it. Billions of tons of water let loose from the skies to cover the earth, destroying all land-based creatures except for eight humans: Noah, his wife, their three sons and their wives.
      Heeding the warning and having gathered the animals onto the ark seven days beforehand, Noah and his family climbed aboard – and the ark door shut firmly behind them. The ark was not a boat as commonly depicted, but an enormous rectangular structure  measuring  133.5m x 22.3m x 13.4m (437 ft.6in  x 72 ft 11 in X 43 ft 9 in) – roughly half the length of the QE2 and with height to width to breadth dimensions used by ship designers to this day.  Made out of resinous wood (possibly cypress), flat-bottomed and waterproofed inside and out with tar, it had taken Noah between forty and fifty years to build - in between the serious business of warning the entire inhabited earth of the coming destruction.
       Not an easy task. Especially as the earth of Noah’s day was an extremely unpleasant place to be, thanks to a horde of rebellious angels who’d created bodies for themselves in order to marry the good-looking women. Their giant hybrid offspring, the Nephilim, also known as Fellers or ‘men of fame’ because of their superhuman strength, tended to throw their (considerable) weight about, and, like their angelic sires, created fear wherever they went until the ‘earth was filled with violence’. Mere humans were little better; with ‘every inclination of the thoughts of (their) heart only bad all the time’, they became increasingly aggressive and were no doubt unimpressed by Noah’s attempts to preach.

Could it happen today?

       With many countries deluged in recent months, this question is understandable. However, if all the water in the atmosphere was released in one downpour evenly across the globe, it would only amount to a couple of inches. In contrast, Genesis describes how the deluge lasted 40 days and nights, covering ‘all the tall mountains that were under the whole heavens’ and overwhelming the earth for 150 days. (Genesis 7:17-24)

So where did the water come from?

       Now here’s an interesting fact: Before Noah’s day, it had never actually rained. Instead, at night, ‘a mist would go up from the earth’,  creating a thick layer of dew upon the surface  (Genesis 2:5,6). Originally, the earth was surrounded by a ‘heavenly ocean’ – a vast girdle of water which no doubt protected the earth from the sun’s harmful radiation, much as the ozone layer is credited with doing today. This was the source of the torrential downpour.

Where did all the water go?

       Actually, it never went away. Pre-Flood, the oceans were much smaller and the land mass far greater, as can be seen by river channels branching out under the oceans, and scientists say mountains were once much lower, having since been forced up from under the seas. A huge amount of water is also contained in the huge ice mountains of the arctic.
        Arithmetic also helps prove that the floodwaters are still here. According to National Geographic, January 1945 “there is ten times as much water by volume in the ocean as there is land above sea-level. Dump all the land evenly into the sea, and the water would cover the entire earth, one and a half miles deep.”  As things stand, water covers around 70% of the planet.

Effects of the Flood

       In the short term, the Flood destroyed all land-dwelling life except for the eight people on the ark along with the various animals which accompanied them. In the long-term, earth without its protective watery canopy became more susceptible to harmful cosmic radiation. Some scholars have linked this to a significant drop in human life expectancy, although the Bible itself is silent on the matter. Even so, such a change in radiation would have affected the rate of radioactive carbon-14, making any pre-Flood radiocarbon dating virtually impossible.
       The land mass was greatly altered, owing to the shallowness of the earth’s crust (est. 30km [20 miles] and 160km [100 miles] thick) which, under the massive eight of floodwater would have shifted considerably. There would also be a deepening of sea basins, while new mountains were created and existing mountains thrust to greater heights.

Evidence of a global deluge

       Mammoths and rhinoceroses have been discovered in various locations, most notably in Siberian and Alaskan ice. After examining these remains, experts have found some animals with “food undigested in their stomachs or still unchewed in their teeth, indicating that they died suddenly. The fossil remains of many other animals, such as lions, tigers, bears and elk, have been found in common strata, which may indicate that all of these were destroyed simultaneously.” (Insight on the Scriptures Vol 1 by Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society of Pennsylvania International Bible Students Association)

Can the remains of the ark be found?

       When the waters subsided, Genesis says the ark came to rest upon Mount Ararat. Ararat or Aghri-Dagh (Mount of the Ark) is a range of mountains in modern eastern Turkey near the borders of Iran and Russia. There are two conical peaks roughly 11 km apart and the higher peak reaches 5,165 metres (16,950 ft) above sea level.
       Some say there is an outline of a massive wooden vessel on the top of one of these peaks which can be made out by satellite but, so far, the Turkish Government has refused permission for the site to be explored.

Flood legends

       Legends of a catastrophic Flood abound. Aside from the Bible account, many versions have been passed from generation to generation of various races throughout the earth. Egyptians, Chinese, Greeks, British Druids, Eskimos, Greenlanders, Polynesians Native Americans, Africans and Hindus all have details in common, such as a place of refuge (ark) for a few survivors,  global destruction by water, and the preserving of a human seed from whom we’ve all descended.
       “Flood stories have been discovered among nearly all nations and tribes. Though most common on the Asian mainland and the islands immediately south of it on the North American Continent, they have been found on all the continents. Totals of the numbers of stories known run as high as about 270.....Moreover, some of the ancient accounts were written by people very much in opposition to the Hebrew-Christian tradition.” (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Vol 2 – Edited by G Bromiley, 1982)

Halloween and other Festivals connected to the Flood

       According to Bible chronology, the Flood occurred in 2370 BCE in the 600th year of Noah’s life, between the end of October and beginning of November.  Many indigenous people throughout the world – including Mexico, Fiji, Australia, Society Islands, Peru and Egypt - hold a Festival of the Dead or Festival of Ancestors around this time, while Halloween has become a popular celebration across western civilisation.
       One writer believes Halloween with its glorification of suffering and death, can be traced back to when all the Nephilim, sons of the fallen angels, were destroyed along with wicked humans “on or about the very day on which, according to the Mosaic account, the Deluge took place, viz., the seventeenth day of the second month – the month nearly corresponding with our November.” (The Worship of the Dead, by J Garnier)

Were humans meant to eat meat?

       I must confess, I do like bacon. Not as enthusiastically, as some, I might add, and I’m rapidly fancying that rack of spare ribs a lot less than I used to, but I've certainly eaten my pound of flesh. So the following statement is not a pious, self-righteous attack on carnivores but an honest presentation of the facts:
       Humans were not designed to eat meat.  
       If you believe in creation you also have to believe God's words to Adam in Genesis chapter 1:29*. "Here I have given to you every seed-bearing plant that is on the earth and every tree with seed-bearing fruit." Steak was not on the menu!
       It doesn't end there. According to Genesis 1:30, even animals were vegetarian: "Let them serve as food to you. And to every wild animal of the earth and t every flying creature of the heavens and to everything moving on the earth in which there is life, I have given all green vegetation for food."
       Of course, we all know this idyll didn't last. Adam and Eve turned away from God and were turfed out of Eden to eat bread in the sweat of their faces until they returned to the ground (Genesis 3:19). The treacherous twosome lost their wonderful privilege of filling the earth with their perfect children, caring for the animals and turning the rest of the earth into a paradise.
       Even so, humans didn't eat meat until after the flood when God gave Noah and his descendants permission to do so. (Genesis 9:3,4) No doubt in consideration of the animals, he instilled in them a fear of humans instead of the trust they had enjoyed originally. (Genesis 9:2)
      The good news for animal lovers is that meat eating will one day be abolished. When the catastrophic results of Adam's rebellion are reversed, all living things will return to their original diet of seed-bearing fruit and vegetables. Isaiah chapter 11 promises: "The cow and the bear will feed together, and their young will lie down together. The lion will eat straw like the bull." (Isaiah 11:6-9)

* New World Translation

Monday, 9 October 2017

Monogamy - is it possible to love someone forever?

Lovelocks on bridge at Bakewell, Derbyshire
       When it comes to relationships, there’s one line of thinking that has arguably caused more damage to the human condition than any other....that     monogamy is not only unnatural but, for the most part, impossible.
      And this belief is by no means new. Leo Tolstoy, for example, opined: “To say that you can love one person all your life is just like saying that one candle will continue to burn as long as you live.”
       Or what about this little gem from 19th century Irish poet, Thomas Moore:
Romantic love is an illusion. Most of us discover this truth at the end of a love affair or else when the sweet emotions of love lead us into marriage and then turn down their flames.”
       Even women have expressed similar sentiments: According to Goldie Hawn: “Monogamy is impossible these days for both sexes. I don’t know anyone who’s faithful or wants to be.” 
       The late film actress Katherine Hepburn advised: “If you want to sacrifice the admiration of many men for the criticism of one, go ahead, get married.
      And this quote from Bette Davis takes the biscuit! An affair now and then is good for a marriage. It adds spice, stops it from getting boring… I ought to know.”
       So that’s all right then. Sorry no, it isn’t, and I challenge the assumption that men were programmed to spread their seed while women are merely seeking sound physical specimens with which to procreate. These propositions may be all very well for evolutionists but not for people who feel love and sex should be viewed as something higher. And if you accept the Bible’s account, then you’ll no doubt believe, as I do, that true romance can and should last forever.
       Whether they believe in it or not, most of us are acquainted with Genesis and the first marriage between Adam and Eve, two perfect humans who were joined together by their Creator. What you may not have realised is that their partnership was meant to last a great deal longer than your average Golden Wedding Anniversary. How do we know?
       Well, in Genesis 2:17, God warned the couple not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and bad - for in doing so they did so, they would die. The rest is history. Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, became imperfect and, sure enough, began to grow old and turn to dust.       But, let’s just  suppose they hadn’t disobeyed their Creator. Would they have died? Would they have aged? Would they still be happily married?
       The Bible, of course, encourages the highest form of love, love for God who insists on exclusive devotion. (Exodus 20:1-5). Scripture rarely touches on romantic love but, when it does, it stresses the need for loyalty, exclusivity and, yes, everlasting love. Check out Proverbs 5:18,19 which describes the ‘constant’ love of a man for his wife. And for pure romance, consider these beautiful verses from the Song of Solomon (Canticles) Chapter 8 verses 6 &7:

“Set me as a seal upon your heart,
   as a seal upon your arm;
for love is strong as death,
   passion fierce as the grave.
Its flashes are flashes of fire,
   a raging flame. 
Many waters cannot quench love,
   neither can floods drown it.
If one offered for love
   all the wealth of one’s house,
   it would be utterly scorned.”  (New Revised Standard Version)

Why settle for anything less?

Monogamy in animals

Incidentally, many animals enjoy lifelong relationships with their mates.  Wolves, beavers, eagles and even termites are thought to be monogamous while swans are renowned for their fidelity. But for sheer fidelity, one creature tops them all: The stork.
In Hebrew, this bird’s name is ‘chasi-dhah’, which means ‘loyal one; one of loving kindness’, signifying its enduring faithfulness to its mate and exceptionally long-lasting, tender care for its young. You’ll see it on many greeting cards for new parents, usually carrying a baby in its enormous beak.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Do you still believe in Santa Claus?

       Believe it or not, there are millions of people who don’t. Yet one 6-year old at our local primary school was almost lynched recently after telling his classmates there was no such person.  
       In the interests of inclusivity, the same school once tried to rename the seasonal celebrations as ‘Winterval’ only to meet with howls of disapproval from its nominally Christian parents. Despite their own pew-eschewing ways, they proved surprisingly touchy about this issue.
So what is Christmas and why do people feel obliged to re-mortgage their homes to celebrate it? Why do harassed Mums (sorry, but it’s usually Mums) spend hours preparing food that doesn’t get eaten and buying gifts that nobody wants?
       Some people (surprisingly not as many as you might think) point to the birth of Jesus - surely the world’s longest surviving infant, confined as he is to a cradle year after year. There’s just one small problem with that; Jesus wasn’t born on the 25th December, not by a long chalk. Bible scholars have been unable to find the date of his birth in any of the gospels; however, as Jesus was 33½ years old when he died, he must have been born around October/November, which makes sense, considering the shepherds were still living outdoors at the time.

Why December 25th?

       According to The Encyclopedia Americana, this date may have been chosen “to correspond to pagan festivals that took place around the time of the winter solstice, when the days began to lengthen, to celebrate the ‘rebirth of the sun’.” This also corresponds with the Roman Saturnalia (a festival to Saturn, the god of agriculture, and to the renewed power of the sun) and “some Christmas customs are thought to be rooted in this ancient pagan celebration.”
       The New Catholic Encyclopedia gives further information on the December solstice when, “as the sun began to return to northern skies, the pagan devotees of Mithra celebrated the dies natalis Solis Invicti (birthday of the invincible sun).”

Three Kings or Magi

       The exact number of these visitors from the east is not known. What is known, however, is that they were astrologers and the ‘star’ didn’t lead them to Jesus as is often supposed, but to King Herod, alerting him to the Messiah’s birth with devastating consequences.* Herod immediately ordered the deaths of all males born in Bethlehem during the previous 2 years.
       *In fact, Matthew's gospel account clearly shows that the chief priests discerned the where the Messiah was born through the prophesy at Micah 5:2. (Matthew 2:4-6)

Santa Claus

       Santa has several alter egos. St Nicholas, Father Christmas, Knecht Ruprecht, the Magi, Jultomten (or Julenissen) the elf, and even a witch called La Befana have all been credited with bringing gifts to children. As none of these stories are true, does presenting them as such help children develop an appreciation for truth in later life?
       Christmas trees, mistletoe, Yule logs, puddings and other seasonal accessories all have roots in pagan practices – either to protect against evil spirits or to encourage fertility, growth and general good fortune for the coming year.  Whether you embrace them or dispense with them is, of course, a matter of personal choice.
        But next time that annoying child at school insists there’s no such thing as Santa Claus, please don’t be too hard on him.