The Light at the End of the Tunnel


Coleman.pngSpecial day. Old friend of mine who I went to school with from the 4th grade through high school dropped by. He’s a Coleman lantern collector…though I only found that out recently. Clearly, you’ll get the gist of this post from the image. I’ll get there shortly.

You share a lot in life, and sometimes you work in the same place for decades and share your life, like it or not, with coworkers or business associates. For at least some of us, however, our most lasting memories and friendships come from what is, towards the twilight of life, an astonishingly short period, public school.

The total time ranges from all 12 to as little (in those days) as 3 years. But many become implanted even at the low end of the scale. I can’t possibly explain it. But I see it in others now. And it is priceless.

Eugene’s visit was more than just reminiscing with and old friend. It was a holy moment that can only be experienced by those who spent formative time together, but went on to a diaspora before swimming back up stream to where they were spawned. We chatted for maybe 30 minutes total in the AM before I brought out my grandmother’s Coleman lamp. He took it with him, and I said don’t worry over when you have time to mess with it. I know it’s in good hands. I figured it would be indefinite time before I hear from him, and was perfectly good with that.

About three hours later, knock at the door. Eugene is back, and he has the lantern I inherited from my grandmother in hand. He’s already completely restored it and you can see the result above. He’s also able to show me in a book he has the precise “Alligator” white globe I have (not shown) and the entire history of the lamp.

Of course, we had a deep technical discussion about how to use and maintain the lamp, but we soon transitioned under the  soft hiss of the 8 decade old family heirloom and then

The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–
And whether pigs have wings.”

And for nearly two hours, we did just that. Then we hugged and parted.


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LOVE to eat them mousies! Mousies what I love to eat. Bite they little heads off, nibble at they tiny feet!


Cleopatra was my mother’s cat, or vice versa.  Hard to tell.  When she was perhaps 10 years old she was hit by a vehicle and her pelvis shattered.  My mother was the most frugal of persons in most things, but she poured more money into saving Cleo than she had put into buying a car for most of her life.  I was stunned at this.  When I first saw Cleo after the accident, she was immobilized with her entire hindquarters and legs in a cast.  I must say it was extraordinary work by a master veterinarian.  Nonetheless, I hardly expected her to recover at all, much less fully.

Well, she did.  Even though I saw her several times a year over at 15 years, she never paid me…or anyone…other than my mother any attention.  She didn’t run away, she simply ignored everyone.  So I was not really attached to her and wondered why my mother had spent so much money on her.  

My mother was an incredibly active woman until (literally) the day she died.  One thing I dreaded when visiting was knowing that sleeping past 8AM or so would never happen.  I have never eaten breakfast for at least an hour after awakening as I have no appetite at that point.  But I loved her so and never said a word.  I’d drag myself in there and she’d place two perfectly fried (basted with bacon grease just to set the yolk) eggs with bacon, grits, and toast in front of me as I sat.  I’d dutifully eat it, and expressed gratitude all the time wishing I was still in bed.  Oh, to hear that soft knock again and hear her intone “David Alan, breakfast is ready.” 

In February, 2002 my wife and I took our 6 week old son Thomas to Texarkana for mother’s approval.  Thomas represented the only male born to my dad’s generation to survive.  Of my father’s 5 brothers, not a single one had a son who survived or produced a son.  My older brother had two beautiful daughters, and my first child was also a girl.  Then came Thomas.  My mother was ecstatic.  We were only there for the weekend, and we stayed at her home (which I was raised in and currently occupy) while she stayed with her last husband and love.  We took pictures of her holding Thomas and beaming with pride Saturday evening.  Sunday morning she was at the house and shared Nutter Butter cookies with our daughter Jennings and goo’d and coo’d over Thomas some more.  Then, she jumped up with great purpose and said she had a lot to do and must get to the gym for her workout.  I put my arms around her and gazed into her steady and loving eyes and said “sweet mommy” as I kissed her good bye, and she returned “sweet baby.”   Then she swirled out the door and left as she waved goodbye. 

We drove back to Flower Mound and turned in.  The phone rang early the next morning and my brother-in-law James was on the line.  He said “Your mother passed away last night.”

She’d gone home, made a scratch peach cobbler, cleaned the kitchen and put everything away, leaving it spotless as always and the table reset for breakfast.  As was her norm, she then went to her room and turned on the TV and piled up pillows to watch.   She was a special fan of “Touched by an Angel,” and I’ve always liked to think that as she watched she felt a touch and looked up to see someone who looked a lot like John Dye tell her gently “Lillian, your mission is complete and it’s time to go.” 

Her husband had peaked in on her at around 11PM and she was propped up looking contentedly at the TV.  It is quite likely she was not there as she went without a twitch.  She had always told me in times of inexplicable loss that “God never calls anyone home until their mission is done.”  I always found this true, even in the case of the soul-trying loss of my 13 year old daughter Jennings.  And it comforted me to know that my mother had spent her last day holding her last grandchild, the grandson she’d waited on, tidied up behind her and slipped into eternity. 


Cleo loved it in Flower Mound, where she had nearly 2 acres to roam and luxuriate.

So, what about Cleo, you are asking after all this sidetracking?  My older brother approached me after the funeral and said it had been decided I should take Cleo.  I was not thrilled.  I knew she needed a home but having a cat who ignored you didn’t seem like much and I wondered if she wouldn’t just wander off.  But I hauled her and her possessions down to our country home in Flower Mound.  The first night home as Kécia and I settled down in the TV room, me in my customary Roman triclinium repose propped up on my left arm, she jumped up and curled up right under my head.  From that night on, if I was not in the TV room by 7PM or so she’d come looking for me as if to say “It’s our time together.”  When my son Thomas was about 5 or so Thomas brought home a wild and feral kitten Jennings and he dubbed “Lollipop.”  Cleo totally ignored her and she stayed well clear of the queen’s presence.  Popsy NEVER passed the door to the TV room when Cleo was on her throne holding court.  However, one night she decided to see if she could make it over to Kécia’s lap.  Almost.  Cleo had made no sound or movement, but I could see she was tracking Popsy across the floor.  She was around 17 years old at that point and I was stunned as she seem to simply rise straight up and arc across, coming down with a scream on top of the hapless Popsy who disappeared out the door with equal speed.  Cleo simply looked in her direction and then deliberately came back and resumed her position on the throne.  Other than that one time, she had never previously shown any hostility to Popsy and she never did again.  

Cleo never showed any real signs of her incredibly advanced age.  I’d always been concerned that eventually the damage repaired to her pelvis and hind legs would begin to get her down, but it did not.  However, there came the last week and she suddenly stopped eating and wouldn’t go more than a few feet out the door.  I knew her time was coming and was considering having her euthanized, though dreading it in my heart.  One Saturday afternoon she approached as I sat at the kitchen table back the back door and stared at me.  She suddenly seemed much better, and appeared to have purpose.  I asked if she wanted out and she approached the door.  As I opened it, I felt a sudden strange feeling of communication from her.  Halfway out the door she stopped and looked up at me with those eyes that suddenly reminded me of my mother as I hugged her that last time.  The tears came to me and I reached down and rubbed her neck.  She pushed back with affection, then turned deliberately and went out the door and kept walking.  I never saw her again.  I’d like to think there was another cat walking with her I didn’t see that was showing her the way. 

My mother’s cat, indeed.  Her mission accomplished and all left in order, leaving quietly and with no angst.  May they rest in peace.

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Homoousian: The One Word Behind “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, One God, now and forever, Amen”

The Shield of the Trinity, symbol of homoousios

The “scutum fidei” or Shield of the Trinity, symbol of homoousios

Homoousian (/ˌhɒmoʊˈuːsiən/ HOM-oh-OO-see-ən; Ancient Greek: ὁμοούσιος, from the Ancient Greek: ὁμός, homós, “same” and Ancient Greek: οὐσία, ousía, “being”) is a technical theological term used in discussion of the Christian understanding of God as Trinity. The Nicene Creed describes Jesus as being homooúsios with God the Father — that is, they are equally God. This term, adopted by the First Council of Nicaea, was intended to add clarity to the relationship between Christ and God the Father within the Godhead. The term is rendered “consubstantialis” in Latin and in related terms in other Latin-derived languages which lack a present participle of the verb *to be*. It is one of the cornerstones of theology in Christian churches which adhere to the Nicene Creed.

Please resist the urge to close your browser. Hopefully I’ll make some sense out of this for you and provide you with some insight into “why” you believe in the central tenant of Christianity, the Trinity.

First, to understand why this is important you need to have a picture in mind of what the church looked like by the third century. The Apostolic missionaries preached a simple faith in Jesus Christ, Son of God, and Savior. Not much more. No time, and they had an entire world to cover. The churches they planted worked it out for themselves. They had the Eucharist, the “love feast,” that we now call communion. Many times it was a full meal as was the original. Most of the earliest Christians were Jewish and still worshiped in the Temple or a synagogue. They considered Jesus as the promised Messiah and gave thanks for Him in these places. James the Just, Christ’s brother, was first head of the church and bishop of Jerusalem. He was a Levite of the priestly class and is often described as the second most blameless and pure man in Judea after Christ Himself. He was a frequent visitor and worshiper at the Temple before and after his conversion. He did not become a follower of Jesus until after the resurrection and Christ appearing to him as reported in 1 Corinthians 15:6-8:

“…6 After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; 7 then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; 8 and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.…”

Many scholars believe that James was held in high esteem by all seven major sects of Judaism, and that they hoped he would tone down the growing number of followers of “The Way,” which Jesus followers called themselves until after Antioch. James did not, and they killed him. Not the Romans, but a high priest named Ananus. In fact, the Roman procurator Albinus promptly removed him from office for this action.

It is at that very moment that the church as a separate faith to replace Judaism entirely amongst gentiles can be traced. Without it, and if James had survived, things might have been quite different. But the Jews actions cause the growing “Way” movement to begin to distance itself from the Temple and with the work of Paul it set off in an entirely different direction.

A hundred years later and Christians can be found all over the Empire, including Gaul (France) and Britain…as and even as far away as India thanks to Thomas. But the “doctrine” of each church varied widely and included things we would consider heresy. Yes, they all shared the idea of Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior, but what that translated to in this world varied. Remember, there are no creeds at this point. The only guidance came in the form of epistles from the Apostles at first, then their chosen successors, the first bishops of the church. By the mid second century, the works of the Apostles were not yet considered “The Word of God” but had been “beatified” at least into words written by God’s chosen servants…and to be obeyed. But these Epistles still didn’t spell out a definition of the faith. Many today are surprised, even shocked, to learn that the “Trinity” is NOWHERE mentioned in the New Testament. Probably a third or more of Christians believed Jesus was the Son of God, but did not believe Him to be equal to and consubstantial with the Father. One of the books circulated and believe at the time was the “Gospel of the Hebrews,” said to have been written by Matthew. It implied that Jesus became the “Son of God” at His baptism as indicated by the descent of the Holy Spirit and God’s words. Most of this “gospel” is lost, but some was quoted by the early church writers including this quote from that lost gospel by Jerome:

“And it came to pass when the Lord was come up out of the water, the whole fount of the Holy Spirit descended upon him and rested on him and said to him: My Son, in all the prophets was I waiting for thee that thou shouldest come and I might rest in thee. For thou art my rest; thou art my first-begotten Son that reignest for ever.” (Jerome, Commentary on Isaiah 4

It’s easy to see why the early Christians would believe this. After all, nothing is heard from Jesus aside from the Temple visit until this day, and all of his ministry and miracles occur afterwards. That is one “deviant” belief, but there were many, many more.

The fathers of the church themselves were all over the place, but beginning to come together as they read each other’s works and those of the Apostles. Now comes Constantine.

Contrary to popular belief, his “In this sign, conquer” vision at the Milvian Bridge was NOT a conversion experience. It was a political one. Christianity was likely the largest single sect (not a majority, as there were so many religions), and this was especially true in his Army. His own primary faith was of Sol Invictus, the unconquerable sun. Son/sun…you can see the connection and how this could work nicely.

In fact, the much improved situation for the Christians had more to do with Constantine’s predecessor Galerius who had issued his “Edict of Toleration” in 311. The Romans had never hated Christianity. The Christians were persecuted for treason: Refusal to honor the state religion along with their own as everyone else did. However, Galerius finally gave up, after a fashion, with this statement:

“Wherefore, for this our indulgence, they ought to pray to their God for our safety, for that of the republic, and for their own, that the commonwealth may continue uninjured on every side, and that they may be able to live securely in their homes.”

In other words, if you won’t pray for the Emperor and the Republic to our gods, at least do so to yours.

Maps-Spread_of_ChristianityConstantine, with his own rulings that property should be restored to the Christians and that they be considered good citizens, now became their pontifex maximus, or chief priest. The emperor was, by Roman law, chief priest of ALL religions within the empire. While he was not baptized until he was on his death bed, his mother Helena was a fervent Christian who had churches built all over the empire, especially in the holy land and Jerusalem. By ten years or so, Constantine was sick to death of the doctrinal fractures and condemnations of the various bishops and scholars, and said “ENOUGH!”

He issued orders that basically told the entire church to choose emissaries, send the Nicaea, and don’t leave until you’ve defined the faith, and what books are fundamental to the faith and which are not.

So, we really have to get to that word now as it is the key to the definition of “church” that 98% of the believers in Christ hold to whether they know it or not, the Nicene Creed.

I ask you to pay attention to the often only a single letter difference between some of the variants of “homoousios” below as they are far more than semantic, and in fact determine “Christian” from “Non-Christian” by human definition.

Pre-Nicene use of the term

The term ὁμοούσιος had been used before its adoption by the Nicene theology, mainly the Gnostics, that group of highly educated, converted pagans who first set to work to attempt to create a mythology for Christianity more like that of the world of gods, goddesses, and other realms they were familiar with. Don’t condemn them immediately, and realize they were simply trying to make sense of something not yet explained. The Gnostics were the first theologians to use the word “homoousios”, while before the Gnostics there is no trace at all of its existence. The early church theologians were probably made aware of this concept, and thus of the doctrine of emanation, by the Gnostics.  In Gnostic texts the word “homoousios” is used with these meanings:

(1) identity of substance between generating and generated;

(2) identity of substance between things generated of the same substance;

(3) identity of substance between the partners of a syzygy.

Ouch. Yes, the first two are hard enough. But “syzygy?” Here’s the short and simple: Syzygy (Gnosticism), male-female pairings of the emanations known as aeons. There, better? Of course not, and no time to get into here, so just think of it as a union of opposites, or a wholeness like the Ying/Yang symbol from the East.

Moving on, Basilides, the first known Gnostic thinker to use “homoousios” in the first half of the 2nd century, speaks of a threefold sonship consubstantial with the god who is not.  The Valentinian Gnostic Ptolemy claims in his letter to Flora that it is the nature of the good God to beget and bring forth only beings similar to, and consubstantial with himself.  “Homoousios” was already in current use by the 2nd-century Gnostics, and through their works it became known to the orthodox heresiologists, though this Gnostic use of the term had no reference to the specific relationship between Father and Son, as is the case in the Nicene Creed.

Adoption of the term in the Nicene Creed

The Nicene Creed is the official doctrine of most Christian churches – the Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodox Churches, Church of the East, Anglican Church, Lutheran, Reformed, Evangelical, and most mainline Protestant churches – with regard to the ontology of the three persons of the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Origen seems to have been the first ecclesiastical writer to use the word “homoousios” in a nontrinitarian context, but it is evident in his writings that he considered the Son’s divinity lesser than the Father’s, since he even calls the Son a creature.  It was by Athanasius and the Nicene Synod that the Son was taken to have exactly the same nature or essence with the Father, and at the Nicene Creed the Son was declared to be as immutable as his Father is. Some theologians preferred the use of the term ὁμοιούσιος (homoioúsios, from ὅμοιος, hómoios, “similar” rather than ὁμός, homós, “same”) in order to emphasize distinctions among the three persons in the Godhead, but the term homoousios became a consistent mark of Nicene orthodoxy in both East and West.

According to this doctrine, Jesus Christ is the physical manifestation of Logos (or the divine word) and consequently possesses all of the inherent, ineffable perfections which religion and philosophy attribute to the Supreme Being. In the language that became universally accepted after the First Council of Constantinople (in the year 381), three distinct and infinite “hypostases” or Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, fully possess the very same Divine Essence (ousia).

This doctrine was formulated in the 4th century during the Christological debates between Arius and Athanasius. The several distinct branches of Arianism which sometimes conflicted with each other as well as with the pro-Nicene homoousian creed can be roughly broken down into the following classification:

Homoiousianism (from ὅμοιος, hómoios, “similar” – as opposed to homós, “same”) which maintained that the Son was “like in substance” but not necessarily to be identified with the essence of the Father.

Homoeanism (also from hómoios) which declared that the Son was similar to God the Father, without reference to substance or essence. Some supporters of Homoian formulae also supported one of the other descriptions. Other Homoians declared that God the father was so incomparable and ineffably transcendent that even the ideas of likeness, similarity or identity in substance or essence with the subordinate Son and the Holy Spirit were heretical and not justified by the Gospels. They held that the Father was like the Son in some sense but that even to speak of ousia was impertinent speculation.

Heteroousianism (including Anomoeanism) which held that God the Father and the Son were different in substance and/or attributes.

All of these positions and the almost innumerable variations on them which developed in the 4th century AD were strongly and tenaciously opposed by Athanasius and other pro-Nicenes who insisted on the doctrine of the homoousian (or as it is called in modern terms consubstantiality), eventually prevailing in the struggle to define the dogma of the Orthodox Church for the next two millennia when its use was confirmed by the First Council of Constantinople in 381 or 383. The struggle over the definition of the nature of Christ’s divinity was not solely a matter for the Church. The Emperor Theodosius had published an edict, prior to the Council of Constantinople, declaring that the Nicene Creed was the legitimate doctrine and that those opposed to it were heretics.

It has also been noted that this Greek term “homoousian”, which Athanasius of Alexandria favored, and was ratified in the Nicene Council and Creed, was actually a term reported to also be used and favored by the Sabellians in their Christology. And it was a term that many followers of Athanasius were actually uneasy about. And the “Semi-Arians”, in particular, objected to the word “homoousian”. Their objection to this term was that it was considered to be “un-Scriptural, suspicious, and of a Sabellian tendency.” This was because Sabellius also considered the Father and the Son to be “one substance,” meaning that, to Sabellius, the Father and Son were “one essential Person”, though operating as different faces, roles, or modes. This notion, however, was also rejected at the Council of Nicaea, in favor of the Athanasian formulation and creed, of the Father and Son being distinct yet also co-equal, co-eternal, and con-substantial Persons.

So, you are ready to read a much more accomplished writer to explain how he’s carried out his orders from the emperor to define the faith. I almost imagine his parishioners asking him on his return “What have you brought us?” and him responding in a similar way as Ben Franklin did after signing the U.S. Constitution when asked that question: “A church, if you can keep it.”

Episcopal Epistle of Eusebius from Nicaea to his Diocese

Eusebius of Caesarea was a major player at Nicaea and his record of the deliberations of that event in his “Ecclesiastical History” the most detailed available.  As Bishop of Caesarea, he also felt it his job to inform his diocese of his activities, positions on issue, and decisions being made there.

The following epistle was distributed in his diocese and provides a vivid look into the workings of the council that, perhaps more than any other, defined the church for all time.  I have broken it up into some degree of organization as the translation I had was only about 3 paragraphs and rather difficult to parse.  The variants on the creed that progress through this epistle might be confusing until you realize he didn’t sit down and write this in one sitting, but added notes as the council’s deliberations and iterations developed.  Read with that in mind one gets a sense of the incredibly heady and passionate debate that must have gone on in there.  Note that Constantine is never mentioned as “Christian,” but as “pious” and “most religious.”  That’s because there remained many millions of non-Christians and by Roman law he was “pontifex maximus,” or chief priest, of ALL of them. 

You have probably had some intimation, beloved, of the transactions of the great council convened at Nicæa, in relation to the faith of the Church, inasmuch as rumor generally outruns true account of that which has really taken place. But lest from such report alone you might form an incorrect estimate of the matter, we have deemed it necessary to submit to you, in the first place, an exposition of the faith proposed by us in written form; and then a second which has been promulgated, consisting of ours with certain additions to its expression. The declaration of faith set forth by us, which when read in the presence of our most pious emperor, seemed to meet with universal approbation, was thus expressed:

“According as we received from the bishops who preceded us, both in our instruction [in the knowledge of the truth], and when we were baptized; as also we have ourselves learned from the sacred Scriptures: and in accordance with what we have both believed and taught while discharging the duties of presbyter and the episcopal office itself, so now we believe and present to you the distinct avowal of our faith. It is this:

We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible:—and in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the Word of God, God of God, Light of light, Life of life, the only-begotten Son, born before all creation, begotten of God the Father, before all ages, by whom also all things were made; who on account of our salvation became incarnate, (NOTE: No mention of the Virgin Mary in this early draft.  Amongst scholars there is still debate on how necessary such birth might be as opposed to simply being a product of the Greek concept of parthenogenesis) and lived among men; and who suffered and rose again on the third day, and ascended to the Father, and shall come again in glory to judge the living and the dead. We believe also in one Holy Spirit.

We believe in the existence and subsistence of each of these [persons]: that the Father is truly Father, the Son truly Son, and the Holy Spirit truly Holy Spirit; even as our Lord also, when he sent forth his disciples to preach the Gospel, said, ‘Go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.’ (NOTE: Is this a clear reference to the Trinity?  It does not in any way suggest “Homoousian,” but simply three aspects.)  Concerning these doctrines we steadfastly maintain their truth, and avow our full confidence in them; such also have been our sentiments hitherto, and such we shall continue to hold until death and in an unshaken adherence to this faith, we anathematize every impious heresy. In the presence of God Almighty, and of our Lord Jesus Christ we testify, that thus we have believed and thought from our heart and soul, since we have possessed a right estimate of ourselves; and that we now think and speak what is perfectly in accordance with the truth. We are moreover prepared to prove to you by undeniable evidences, and to convince you that in time past we have thus believed, and so preached.”

When these articles of faith were proposed, there seemed to be no ground of opposition: nay, our most pious emperor himself was the first to admit that they were perfectly correct, and that he himself had entertained the sentiments contained in them; exhorting all present to give them their assent, and subscribe to these very articles, thus agreeing in a unanimous profession of them, with the insertion, however, of that single word “homoousios” (consubstantial), an expression which the emperor himself explained, as not indicating corporeal affections or properties; and consequently that the Son did not subsist from the Father either by division or abscission: for said he, a nature which is immaterial and incorporeal cannot possibly be subject to any corporeal affection; hence our conception of such things can only be in divine and mysterious terms. Such was the philosophical view of the subject taken by our most wise and pious sovereign; and the bishops on account of the word homoousious, drew up this formula of faith.

The Creed.

“We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible:—and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only-begotten of the Father, that is of the substance of the Father; God of God, Light of light, true God of true God; begotten not made, consubstantial with the Father; by whom all things were made both which are in heaven and on earth; who for the sake of us men, and on account of our salvation, descended, became incarnate, (NOTE: Still no mention of the Virgin Mary in this draft.) was made man, suffered and rose again on the third day; he ascended into the heavens, and will come to judge the living and the dead. [We believe] also in the Holy Spirit. But those who say ‘There was a time when he was not,’ or ‘He did not exist before he was begotten,’ or ‘He was made of nothing’ or assert that ‘He is of other substance or essence than the Father,’ or that the Son of God is created, or mutable, or susceptible of change, the Catholic and apostolic Church of God anathematizes.”

Now this declaration of faith being propounded by them, we did not neglect to investigate the distinct sense of the expressions “of the substance of the Father, and consubstantial with the Father.” Whereupon questions were put forth and answers, and the meaning of these terms was clearly defined; when it was generally admitted that ousias (of the essence or substance) simply implied that the Son is of the Father indeed, but does not subsist as a part of the Father. To this interpretation of the sacred doctrine which declares that the Son is of the Father, but is not a part of his substance, it seemed right to us to assent. We ourselves therefore concurred in this exposition; nor do we cavil at the word “homoousios” having regard to peace, and fearing to lose a right understanding of the matter.

On the same grounds we admitted also the expression “begotten, not made”: “for made,” said they, “is a term applicable in common to all the creatures which were made by the Son, to whom the Son has no resemblance. Consequently he is no creature like those which were made by him, but is of a substance far excelling any creature; which substance the Divine Oracles (NOTE: Rather fascinating use of a Greek concept in the context of Christianity…there was a LOT of that at the time.)  teach was begotten of the Father by such a mode of generation as cannot be explained nor even conceived by any creature.”

Thus also the declaration that “the Son is consubstantial with the Father” having been discussed, it was agreed that this must not be understood in a corporeal sense, or in any way analogous to mortal creatures; inasmuch as it is neither by division of substance, nor by abscission nor by any change of the Father’s substance and power, since the underived nature of the Father is inconsistent with all these things. That he is consubstantial with the Father then simply implies, that the Son of God has no resemblance to created things, but is in every respect like the Father only who begat him; and that he is of no other substance or essence but of the Father. To which doctrine, explained in this way, it appeared right to assent, especially since we knew that some eminent bishops and learned writers among the ancients have used the term “homoousios” in their theological discourses concerning the nature of the Father and the Son.

Such is what I have to state to you in reference to the articles of faith which have been promulgated; and in which we have all concurred, not without due examination, but according to the senses assigned, which were investigated in the presence of our most highly favored emperor, and for the reasons mentioned approved. We have also considered the anathema pronounced by them after the declaration of faith inoffensive; because it prohibits the use of illegitimate terms, from which almost all the distraction and commotion of the churches have arisen.

Accordingly, since no divinely inspired Scripture contains the expressions, “of things which do not exist,” and “there was a time when he was not,” and such other phrases as are therein subjoined, it seemed unwarrantable to utter and teach them: and moreover this decision received our sanction the rather from the consideration that we have never heretofore been accustomed to employ these terms.

Nay, our most religious Emperor did at the time prove, in a speech, that He was in being even according to His divine generation which is before all ages, since even before He was generated in energy, He was in virtue with the Father ingenerately, the Father being always Father, as King always, and Savior always, being all things in virtue, and being always in the same respects and in the same way.

We deemed it incumbent on us, beloved, to acquaint you with the caution which has characterized both our examination of and concurrence in these things: and that on justifiable grounds we resisted to the last moment the introduction of certain objectionable expressions as long as these were not acceptable; and received them without dispute, when on mature deliberation as we examined the sense of the words, they appeared to agree with what we had originally proposed as a sound confession of faith.
Eusebius Episcopal Letters from Nicaea

While untold hundreds of thousands of pages of commentary have been written on the nature of the Trinity and of the basics of the church, I ask you to consider the above and realize that for 300 years there was only a single binding concept:  Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior.  Then, there was a truly catholic church, temporally headed by the Emperor and the 5 metropolitan bishops of the most important dioceses of the Empire:  Constantinople, Antioch, Rome, Jerusalem, and Alexandria.  This remained essentially the case until 1453 when the next to last city of the Pentarchy and the Emperor himself fell to the Muslims.  However, despite the demise of the Empire, the one catholic and apostolic church formed at this council remains the one that from snake handling holiness to Orthodox billions of Christians believe in without question, world without end, amen.

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Are you religious?

ReligionAre you religious?


What kind?


What kind?

The kind who believes in Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior.

That’s not what I mean. I mean what church do you belong to?

The one holy catholic and apostolic church.

Oh, you are Catholic.

Of course, all Christians are.

Oh. So you believe those who aren’t Catholic aren’t Christian?

Of course they aren’t. How could they be if they are not part of the church?

Pretty harsh.

I didn’t make the rules.

No. I guess your pope did.

My pope? I don’t have a pope.

I thought you said you were Catholic.

No, I said I am catholic.


Sorry. Didn’t know you meant capital “C” as in “Roman Catholic.” Never have been happy with the Church of Rome getting away with that. Don’t much care for it in print as it is, by both dictionary and theological definition, a misuse, but the fix has been in so long few even understand that “catholic” is an adjective, not a proper noun. There is only one church, but it worships in a variety of ways and through a variety of business units made of those of like minds and preferences. All but a few percent are in harmony with the Nicene Creed and the vast majority use it or the similar Apostles Creed regularly.

You’re weird.   So, what denomination are you?

My preference is for the Anglican rite, which I practice on a regular basis. But I am quite happy where 2 or 3 are gathered in His name.

You are being evasive.

Perhaps. But division is not a good thing, and my loyalty is to THE church, not some piece of it. If called to witness, I witness only the risen Lord and His church…which has no earthly headquarters.

But many denominations require their priests and ministers to practice only within their denomination and do not recognize the ministry of others.

Yes, and I find that rather odd. As Christians, we join Christ in His eternal priesthood and are enjoined to minister to all peoples. I have seen many ordination papers on walls and the majority say that person is ordained to the one holy catholic and apostolic church. No qualification at all.  Why should a priest or minister be constrained from doing that which all Christians are required to do by His command?

You mean they can minister to anyone?

Yes, and no. While not privy to the things that go on in seminaries, I am told they also swear loyalty to their denomination and promise to act only within its belief structure. I find that theologically unsupportable and personally don’t believe God would recognize such an oath as valid. Such an oath would bar me from ministry. Perhaps that is why it is there…

Fascinating. The idea of a church made of diverse groups, differing in worship but all accepting those from other rites as Christian brothers and sisters, is a powerful idea.

Indeed. Pretty much in line with my understanding of what He had in mind.

Such a church would be an incredible force for good, and a light to all nations.

Pretty much also in line with my understanding of what He had in mind.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!



Posted in Theology and Faith | Tagged , | 2 Comments

The Day the Music Died

SoundCube recording an immersive soundfield.  If you play this recording back correctly, you will hear what you would hear if you were sitting where the device is.
SoundCube recording an immersive soundfield. If you play this recording back correctly, you will hear what you would hear if you were sitting where the device is.


The CD killed “high fidelity.”  Before turning away in disgust, read a little more.  The advent of 4 channel sound in the 70s was pretty awful.  The master recordings could be pretty good, but there was no way to reproduce them properly at home.  The results were extremely disappointing.  However, so were the first mechanical recordings.  The first electrically produced recordings were, in turn, described as “remote” and “unnatural” compared to their mechanical predecessors. The first LPs were considered “lofi” compared to 78s.  Audiophiles shunned the initial stereo release as “gimmicky” and not true to the music.  However, all these innovations were finally refined and accepted.

Except for surround. Quad was at its most confusing and worst in the early 1980s when the CD exploded onto the scene with and easy way to “perfect sound forever” requiring nothing but a single standard player. Quad had 6 different systems, all except for 4 track reel to reel with serious drawbacks, both sonic and technical.  The CD used the proven 2 channel recording techniques and a standard device.  This technology was incredibly advanced and on the bleeding edge of the possible.  A 4 channel version was feasible, but it would only have held 30 minutes of music.  That’s less than an LP of the time and nobody in the audio business was going to go there, plus they had already had enough.  They were in the business to make money, not advance high fidelity.  Within a few years, quad was a bitter memory in the minds of the music industry and the public as well.

Let me state this clearly and categorically: 

Nothing that follows should be construed as suggesting that satisfying musical experiences cannot be obtained by other methods.  Proof this is not the case resides in my own listening library.  David Hafler obtained a degree of Virtual Presence over 40 years ago in his DynaQuad sampler LP, though the effect was quite localized to a “sweet spot” and variable over the disk.  Others have succeeded to some degree or the other using various approaches.  However, other methodology relies on decades of experience, luck, good karma, and a variety of other things one may or may not have access to or possess.  For the beginner, or the experienced audio engineer wishing to simply “capture the moment,” the Six Cardinal Rules offer a methodology that guarantees a recording with Virtual Presence.  Also, note that if you use microphones other than the PZMs, you must have an in-depth understanding of their pickup patterns and interactions with each other in order to approximate or match the 360° pickup of the SoundCube.  The same caveats go for variances in speaker type and placement.

Virtual Presence

“Virtual Presence” is the term I use for the process of providing the human brain with precisely the information required to recreate the original soundfield.  Today, highly complex and sophisticated circuitry attempts to, and in many cases, succeeds in, creating an involving, immersive, and sometimes even relatively accurate soundfield.  However, many times it also fails, and fails miserably.  Experience suggests that the reason for this is that modern circuitry, even at its best, is no match for the human brain.  You just can’t fool Mother Nature.

Those older audiophiles who remember or heard about the “quad” debacle of the 70s, and those younger ones who’ve heard nothing but the generally ghastly more current attempts at “surround” sound and are absolutely convinced that stereo is the best we can hope for please note this logic:


Yes, shouting.  It’s necessary as the bias towards any advances in audio recording are so ingrained as to have ended real progress towards high fidelity decades ago.  Please read the following with open mind and ears.

Six Cardinal Rules of Sound Acquisition

It was a visit to the laboratory of the late “Legend in Sound” Paul W. Klipsch in the early 1970’s that ignited my quest for Virtual Presence.  For that reason, I don’t believe he will begrudge using his “Cardinal Rules” descriptor to attempt to describe for acquisition what he did for reproduction.

  1. Conventional “Stereo” is simply dual channel mono and is incapable of delivering Virtual Presence.
  2. To achieve “Virtual Presence,” 4 identical microphones must cover 360° with seamless overlap.
  3. Mixing = editorializing, no matter how well it is done and inhibits the achievement of Virtual Presence.
  4. The simplest possible signal path from microphone to storage must be used.
  5. There must be a minimum delta from master to distribution copy and the ideal is none.
  6. Reproductive conditions must be as close as possible to the inverse of acquisition.

1. Conventional “Stereo” is simply dual channel mono and is incapable of delivering Virtual Presence.

In recent years, home theatre systems with their 5 or more channels have rapidly become ubiquitous. This has produced renewed interest in surround audio. Many in the audio world eschew anything beyond stereo as unnecessary and gimmicky. On the other hand, we heard exactly the same thing from their fathers and grandfathers when stereo debuted. Both they and their fathers/grandfathers were correct.  Early stereo WAS gimmicky and full of “Hey! Listen to this ‘Ping-Pong’ effect.”

In fact, it is not possible to record certain events with any degree of reality in only 2 channels.  I have rarely ever used more than two microphones for stereo, and the most often asked question in the field was always “Why only two microphones?”  My stock answer was always the same: “I have only two ears!”  That answer was, and remains true, for simple 2-channel stereo.  However, it does not apply to “Virtual Presence” where 4 microphones are the required.  The reason that 2 microphones cannot provide a realistic soundfield when 2 ears can is simple: no brain.  In the 1970’s, attempts were made to fix this with what amounted to “artificial brains.”  The first, simplest, and possibly the best was David Hafler’s “DynaQuad” system, which used passive circuitry (unnecessary to get into the theory here) to extract out-of-phase information from normal stereo recording and route it to the rear.  At its best, the impact was marvelous, and I have Hafler circuitry in my stereo even today as it adds much to stereo sources.  However, there is a fundamental flaw in this approach when re-creating a “Virtual Presence” as true to the original soundfield as possible:  it is in no way comparable to the natural “Hafler circuitry” built into our brains.  The point is this: Give your brain the data points it needs and let it do the work.

2. To achieve “virtual presence,” 4 identical microphones must cover 360°

By placing 4 microphones in the “best seat in the house” you provide the brain with the data points it needs to triangulate the origination point of every sound in the acoustic space-time event.  In order to test this concept, I developed the MBS SoundCube.  The SoundCube is based on the Crown PZM (Pressure Zone Microphone) microphone.  The PZM is the only microphone design aside from the ribbon and the omnidirectional to have a “natural” pickup pattern.  While many different microphones have been developed with a wide variety of pickup patterns, all of them rely on phase cancellation to achieve the desired performance.  While effective for news people, moviemakers, and the NSA, they are not the best choice for Virtual Presence.  Of the 3 “natural” pickup patterns, I have experimented with ribbon microphones (figure of 8 pickup pattern) and the PZM (semi-circular pattern).  The SoundCube is the result of my experiments with the PZM, and the easiest to use in this explanation of Virtual Presence.

PZM 180 degree pickup pattern. Perfect for virtual presence recording.

PZM 180 degree pickup pattern. Perfect for virtual presence recording.

The diagram at the left shows the natural 180° pickup pattern of the PZM.  Omni’s and ribbon mikes pickup sound reflected from the walls, floors, and other objects in a room.  For stereo, and with the mikes properly positioned, this doesn’t impact the recording too much.  However, these out of phase signals confuse the extremely sensitive direction finding capabilities of the human brain. Further, it is extremely difficult to perfectly overlap conventional microphones such that the areas covered by each mike overlap perfectly.  If the overlap is imperfect, the human brain will interpret this as spurious directional information.  Considerable experience and knowledge is required to apply either omnis or ribbons to 4 channel use.

SoundCube setup for an experimental recording of ambient sound.

SoundCube setup for an experimental recording of ambient sound.

Enter the PZM and SoundCube.  Each square has a hole in the center for mounting a PZM microphone with a butterfly nut.  This arrangement provides all the data points required by the human brain to recreate Virtual Presence with 4-180° zones with a 90° transition zone yielding the requisite seamless coverage.

Nothing in the above should be taken to suggest that only PZM microphones are capable of achieving Virtual Presence.  I have achieved Virtual Presence with ribbon microphones, which are my personal favorite microphones for acoustic instruments and natural sounds.   All audio engineers have their bias and preferences in microphones, and despite my personal dislike of phase-based directional microphones, it is possible to achieve virtual presence with them if they are properly deployed in accordance their design specifications and the above principles.  However, the use of PZMs in the SoundCube configuration reduces the highly complex task of microphone configuration and placement to that of simply locating the “best seat in the house” and placing the SoundCube there as a proxy for the listener. 

3. Mixing=editorializing, no matter how well it is done and prevents the achievement of Virtual Presence.

Let me be clear:  Mixers are a good thing.  There would be no Dark Side of the Moon or thousands of other great audio experiences without them. But those are not recordings of acoustic space/time events and only become so when played back on the target system they were designed for.  However, in the quest for Virtual Presence, they have no place.  For one thing, they violate one of the cardinal rules, that dealing with the simplest signal path being the best, but most importantly, they represent editorializing.  What it means is that the audio engineer does not believe it possible to deliver a quality recording without tampering with the soundfield.  In my case if confronted with such a situation I just walk away.  If there is no “best seat in the house” then I really can’t expect to enjoy the performance.  So why would I want to preserve it.

4. The simplest possible signal path from microphone to storage must be used.

The mantra of many audiophiles is “The perfect preamplifier is a straight wire with gain.”  While this goal is, at present, unattainable, the criterion it represents is something all recording engineers should strive for.  Modern audio processing circuitry is frightfully good, but every issue it seeks to address in the acquisition of acoustic music in fine environments can be eliminated by following the rules as stated so far.  Therefore, only the essential paths should be followed: microphone to preamp, preamp to Analog to Digital (A-D) converter, thence to storage.  Even modest microphones, preamps, and A-D converters used within this framework can provide a more satisfying Virtual Presence than 6 figures worth of gear passing through endless processes, mixing, and conversion.

Now, all you have to do is deliver it.

5. There must be a minimum delta from master to distribution copy and the ideal is none.

At this point, we run into a bit of a problem.  To date, every MBS recording has been a master.  That is, recorded either at the 16/44.1 resolution of CD to begin with or at exactly twice that rate so that reduction to Redbook is divisible by two.  Since no mixing, processing, or any other alterations of the original file takes place, each CD was identical to the original master.  This is how it should be, and as such, exceeds even the legendary “direct to disk” LP’s of old in that the analog disk reproduction processes made delivery of a master to the end user impossible.

However, Virtual Presence requires 4 channels and a delivery medium.  The ideal method would be to deliver the files as raw data but few listeners have either the skills or the equipment to replay these.  I’ve experimented with a number of formats, but have remained with PCM largely for reasons of cost.  Since I make no money from this I don’t have much to spend on it.  My current recorder is the Roland-R44E 4 channel device.

As to delivery medium, as of this writing I am still playing back directly from the Roland.  However, I have also succeeded in creating a 4 channel interleaved FLAC file.  I understand that the OPPO BDP series players can handle these directly from a USB drive, as well as VLC Media Player and JRiver on the PC.  At this time I am re-configuring a room for my Virtual Presence experiments and hope to be able to provide a complete “how to” guide for easy playback, as well as examples, in the not too distant future.

6. Reproductive conditions must be as close as possible to the inverse of acquisition.

With four identical speakers spaced at equal distances, your head should hear "virtually" what SoundCube did.

With four identical speakers spaced at equal distances, your head should hear “virtually” what SoundCube did.

The ideal playback is as close to the inverse of the original 4 microphones.  That is, four identical speakers equidistant from the listening point.  If the principles have been followed so far, then a person sitting dead center in this array should have an uncanny sense of “Virtual Presence.”  They are now positioned as if they had been at the original event sitting in the center of the SoundCube.  The outer square represents the SoundCube, with the loudspeakers in the same position as the PZMs.

One thing that SHOULD be obvious but which I learned from experience was that a lounger or any object must not interfere with the rear channels or the illusion is significantly impacted.  As in a concert venue, you need seating that ensures that the sound from the rears arrives as directly as that from the front pair.  I have some theories about the best height for speakers in a Virtual Presence setup I will experiment with when the basics are complete.

Does it work?  I did some test recordings with the SoundCube on my front porch about a decade ago right after constructing the first SoundCube.  During the recording, I went outside to check on something or the other and as I went out, the wind caught the front door and slammed it pretty hard.  When I played the recording back on 4 identical Frazier Mark IV loudspeakers, the environment was very convincing and involving.  The speakers were positioned precisely mimicking the position of SoundCube outside.  Then the door slammed.  I immediately jerked around and looked towards the door to see who had come in, as my brain was completely fooled and I fully expected to see someone entering the room.  I did not realize what had really happened until I got up and verified that no one was present.  I repeated this with several other people, and all behaved exactly as I did.  I got a lot of laughs from this.  More importantly, it proved the point:  Realistic reproduction must be the inverse of the source recording and Virtual Presence IS possible.  A few years later I made a recording from the street position in front of my Seabrook home using the setup as shown in one of the photos above.  A helicopter flew over during the recording.  My daughter was in the listening room when I played it back, and when the helicopter flew over she LOOKED UP at the ceiling!


Antiphonal organ on church rear wall.  This sound should come from behind the listener just as in the real world.  If it doesn't,  it may sound great but cannot be called "high fidelity."

Antiphonal organ on church rear wall. This sound should come from behind the listener just as in the real world. If it doesn’t, it may sound great but cannot be called “high fidelity.”

Consider the pipe organ. The space housing the instrument is very much a part of it. A pipe organ sitting out in the open would not sound very good at all, nor does a fine instrument housed in a poor space. The amount and manner of the return reverberation of the sound is very much a part of the overall experience.  Four microphones producing 4 discrete channels of information from a single point, preferably the best seat in the house, are required to approximate the experience. This is even more important for antiphonal instruments or bombarde divisions. It is very strange to hear bombarde division emanating from the front! Of course, the same is true of live performances, environmental recordings, and many other sources.  Doesn’t the idea of hearing audience noise emanate from the performers strike you as, well, wrong?  Are they applauding for themselves or what?  The enjoyment of such recordings is a learned experience, much like the “realism” of the flat-as-a-pancake video and film we enjoy even though it won’t fool my cat.

Here is one more example before closing.  Many environmental recordings have been made over the years, and sold quite a few copies. However, the public appetite gradually faded. This is not because people do not want to experience the ambience of the beach, forest at night, or a Texas thunderstorm up close and personal, but because of the two dimensional nature of stereo. Today’s home theater systems are ideal for this, and the unique “SoundCube” provides the perfect perspective to experience these natural symphonies.

Virtual Presence offers no use for the center channel.  Nor is the “.1” or bass management necessary for the vast majority of the repertoire if you have speakers capable of covering the musical spectrum.

With 4 identical full range loudspeakers spaced equidistant from the listening point and material recorded in compliance with the Six Cardinal rules, you will find yourself in another time, and another place.  Hopefully, you will want to return there often.


The quest for Virtual Presence has gone on now for over a decade.  During that time a lot has changed in available technology.  Besides having to earn a living and raise a family, I really wasn’t in a rush as, while I knew the principles were sound, there was really no way to deliver it to anyone in the “master” form that I consider essential to either stereo or Virtual Presence.  It was always the main challenge.  In the days of “quad,” we had such a medium:  4 track reel to reel.  However, even only a few audiophiles had them and the other means of distributing multi-channel audio were absolutely horrid and the recording engineering wasn’t much better.

In the past couple of decades, SACD and DVD-A came along.  Mastering SACD remains priced out of the hobbyist market, and while I tried a few DVD-A masters the results simply did not match the original recordings.  I kept being told this was a “discrete” format.  I do not know what the issue was, but it certainly didn’t sound discrete.

However, in the past decade the situation has become a lot more promising.  We finally now have PC file formats for multi-channel that are as easy for users as any download, and, while as mentioned above, I’ve not tried any of them yet, both hardware and software players that can play them back.  So I am encouraged and ready to move ahead.  Perhaps soon I will update this with instructions and downloads so you can make your own judgment about whether it is possible to experience a reasonable facsimile of an acoustic space/time event.

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HoloDeck…Coming Soon to a Home Near You

Flexible in fact, and even more so in application.

My son was asking me about OLED technology the other day. This is the result of that conversation as I explained to him what it is and what the future will hold for it. Once he had the basics, his mind ran with it and we waxed rhapsodic with a vision of the house of the future where “convergent technology” is realized in ways the scifi authors of the golden age did not foresee. Perhaps the closest to it was the “HoloDeck” on Jean Luc Picard’s Enterprise. But even that failed to capture the full potential of this technology.

Organic Light Emitting Diodes

An OLED is made by placing a series of organic thin films between two conductors. When electrical current is applied, a bright light is emitted. The films can be so flexible as to be rolled up, and now they are making progress towards what will eventually be completely transparent panels. OLED technology remains expensive, though prices are dropping rapidly. The 55” Samsung was introduced only a year ago at 6500.00 and is now available at 3500.00. In theory, OLED screens will drop well below the cost of LCD and similar technology as they are far simpler and may be scaled to any size. If you want to get into the depths of the technology the Internet is rotten with information. However, rather than leave you reeling with complex terms and concepts I am going to leave the technical projections simply to this:

  • very thin > 0.25mm, light, unbreakable
  • Bendable, ready for production (Galaxy Round, LG-Flex)
  • Rollable, completely flexible –> ready 2016
  • Printable, displays like a paper –> ready 2018-2020

Yes, friends…it’s just around the corner.


You might ask just what is “organic” about a screen. OLED’s are made entirely of carbon and hydrogen. That’s about as green as one can get. No heavy metals or toxic gases required.

But What is it GOOD for??

Ah, now we can let our imaginations soar! And not with fantasy, but based on the above industry projections. So, let’s take a look at a living room, ca. 2025…perhaps YOURS.

First you notice that there are no signs of any light fixtures you’d recognize. There are no windows, yet there is a perfectly even light in the room. Paintings by old masters hang on the walls, and the floor is a carpet of the most exquisite weaving you can imagine. You sit in your lounger and lean back. The sky is above you and white, fluffy clouds speed along. In spite of the blue sky and white clouds you suddenly hear thunder. You gesture towards the outside wall and you can see outside…and the actual sky where a storm is brewing. As the lawn needs mowing, you gesture again and you are in a villa overlooking the deep blue waters of a Greek isle.

All the lights, blue sky and clouds, masterworks on the wall, and even the “carpet” below is from high resolution OLED technology. As it is “active,” when not charge it is totally black and dark as the inside of a Pittsburgh coal bin at midnight. When fully lit, it is blindingly bright.

So far, we are in the reasonably known expectation for development. But let’s take a leap and some not yet on the horizon possibilities that would make this even more Enterprise-like. Not much research has been done on the sticky issue of holographic projection for several decades. The Russians did quite a bit of work in the 70s and even produced some color motion holograms, but significant technical hurdles stubbornly remain. I think that as OLED moves forward as described above that a LOT more resources will be spent working out the bugs in holography.  So, you might be sitting in your lounger watching an approaching steam engine. As it comes to within a few feet of you it is in full 3D and you look to your right as it roars by your chair and begins to recede into the rear wall as the smoke drifts upward into the blue sky.

The holography part is speculative…though entirely plausible. The rest is based on industry projections and will happen, and soon. Let your own mind consider the possibilities. Virtual parties with friends from all over the world, gliding through space in your lounger with infinity on all sides of your lounger. Near invisibility of machines…or persons…wearing or coated with OLED materials with the surroundings projected by them. Ladies, never worry over the right shoes.

One pair of shoes, any color or pattern you want.  Will it take the fun out of shoe shopping?

One pair of shoes, any color or pattern you want. Will it take the fun out of shoe shopping?

With just a gesture your shoes take on the color or pattern of the outfit you are wearing.

Change the look of your car, or even make it disappear.  This is a real Toyota concept car.

Change the look of your car, or even make it disappear. This is a real Toyota concept car.

Don’t want the neighborhood Nazis sending you nastygram about your camper in the drive? Just project the surroundings on it and it will disappear.

The Ever Increasing Speed of Change

When I was 6 years old we’d visit my grandmother in DeQueen, Arkansas. She lived in a board-and-batten (single wall, no drywall) weather house. It was heated by a potbellied stove in the living room and a wood range in the kitchen-dining room. There was a single power line in that ran lights and a radio in the living room and kitchen. When you went to bed, you took a kerosene lamp with you. The bedrooms had neither lights nor heat. Bathing on a winter day was in a steel tub on the back porch. You shivered and you teeth chattered, then you’d scrunch up in one end as grandma or someone approached with a pot of boiling water from the stove. That would make it tolerable for a few minutes…but you did NOT linger. I make that description to allow the reader to open their minds to the images of the future I have just painted. I suspect my grandmother would have simply laughed if I attempted to tell her of the autonomous vehicles only a half century away, of cell phones able to almost instantly locate any piece of information from any point on the globe, of robotic surgeons and a space station. But those tales would not begin to describe the next half century. Even the most absurd fantasizing probably falls short of the changes our children will see. My son already realizes that he may only actually drive a car for a decade or less. His own children will listen in disbelief about traffic jams, drunk drivers, and 50,000 deaths a year on the highways, as by that time the highways will be as safe as an airplane today. Embrace, enjoy, and remember a scratch-made pie baked in a wood fired oven. It will only be a 100 years from that to a scratch made pie hot from another oven, and delivered by a drone. My grandmother might or might not appreciate that.

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ecce homo

Detail of "Creation of Adam" by Michelangelo where our Creator passes the spark of reason to man.  At least, that is how I see it.

Detail of “Creation of Adam” by Michelangelo where our Creator passes the gift of reason to man. At least, that is how I see it.

Our evolutionary response is to kill our neighbor and take his stuff.  It is our reason from which we learn to get along.  Our reason serves no identifiable evolutionary purpose.  It destroys the natural balance sought by the evolutionary process by so biasing the survivability of a single species that all are endangered…including us.  Reason not only has nothing to do with our ability to survive, it creates burdens unnecessary for survival, as is proven by the quadriplegics and others who may live long lives.  No animal will suffer one among them who cannot fend for itself.  Only Man.

This reason is so profoundly part of us that the Eskimo elderly, when they found they could not contribute to the family, would walk away and expose themselves on the ice for the better welfare of family and tribe.  Find an animal who will do that.

So, what is the “reason” that, alone in all the universe we can see,  sets us apart from all things?  I maintain it is that which is referred to in the ancient writings when it is said that we were created “…in His image.”  To think this refers to someone who looks like George Burns and smokes cigars is, well, a bit of a stretch.  The first story is that of how we recognized our ability to reason.  Eve saw the fruit, and that it was good.  Recognizing that they have been willfully disobedient…an ability not known in nature…they cover themselves, yet another thing no other creature would understand.  In the introduction to “2001, A Space Odyssey” we see a distant ancestor at the moment he transits from pure animal to “cogito ergo sum.”  I find it interesting that the last word in English translates as “I AM,” which is the name God provides Moses to explain who sent him to Pharaoh.

In Principia Philosophiae (1644), Rene Descartes says:

“While we thus reject all of which we can entertain the smallest doubt, and even imagine that it is false, we easily indeed suppose that there is neither God, nor sky, nor bodies, and that we ourselves even have neither hands nor feet, nor, finally, a body; but we cannot in the same way suppose that we are not while we doubt of the truth of these things; for there is a repugnance in conceiving that what thinks does not exist at the very time when it thinks. Accordingly, the knowledge, I think, therefore I am, is the first and most certain that occurs to one who philosophizes orderly.”

He was not the first to make that argument.

Many have heard “cogito ego sum” and in most cases it’s attributed to Descartes.  However, if “A Guide to Modern Revision” had been required back then he’d either have properly footnoted it or been kicked out of class as a plagiarist.

Plato spoke about the “knowledge of knowledge” (Greek νόησις νοήσεως – nóesis noéseos) and Aristotle explains the idea in full length:

“But if life itself is good and pleasant … and if one who sees is conscious that he sees, one who hears that he hears, one who walks that he walks and similarly for all the other human activities there is a faculty that is conscious of their exercise, so that whenever we perceive, we are conscious that we perceive, and whenever we think, we are conscious that we think, and to be conscious that we are perceiving or thinking is to be conscious that we exist… (Nicomachean Ethics.)

In De Civitate Dei Augustine of Hippo writes “Si fallor, sum” (“If I am mistaken, I am”) (book XI, 26), and deals with some of the modern arguments of it being a syllogism in advance.  He also states “dubito, ergo sum or “I doubt, therefor I am.”  Gotta love that one!

In the Enchiridion Augustine further states, “By not positively affirming that they are alive, the skeptics ward off the appearance of error in themselves, yet they do make errors simply by showing themselves alive; one cannot err who is not alive. That we live is therefore not only true, but it is altogether certain as well”  Here it is well to substitute “human” for “alive” as he is making that distinction between a horse and a human.

In the 8th century, the Hindu philosopher Adi Shankara wrote: No one thinks, ‘I am not’, arguing that one’s existence cannot be doubted, as there must be someone there to doubt.

The story of humanity begins with the recognition that we are not of this earth and are set apart.  Thousands of years pass and much of our time is spent trying to puzzle this out.

“God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. Yet his shadow still looms. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?”

—Nietzsche, Die fröhliche Wissenschaft

In the last line, Nietzsche alludes to that which I have felt at times is our destiny and God’s plan.  Clarks Third Law: “Any sufficiently advanced science will appear as magic.”  I do not believe in the supernatural.  I believe in a 100% organic God with no additives.  Even our own crude science has developed means to rapidly cure conditions that would have resulted in a lingering and painful death for the majority of all who have ever lived.  Is it so hard to believe that He might cure with a gesture that virtually instantly caused cells to resume normal function and wounds to close before one’s eyes?  Even what we see as “routine” pit stops at the Indianapolis 500 today would be viewed with awe by those mechanics at an auto race in 1910.  How have we developed these utterly contra- indicatory to evolution abilities?

During my period of wandering agnosticism as I looked for some reason, any reason, to place faith in the values I was taught as a child.  The study of German 19th century philosophers brought me to Nietzsche, Hegel and others who mooted the “God is dead” movement.  These people were proponents of dialectic as the key process of the universe.  That last line in Nietzsche and similar allusions by others brought me to the concept of creation and humanity being the process of God “working Himself out.”  At the moment of creation when He said “…let there be light” he spread Himself throughout all of us as divine sparks processing a question whose answer may be “42” as per Douglas Adams or something even more incomprehensible.  It was something that required TIME to process, something God didn’t have as a non-temporal being.

Consider the process of human reproduction.  Millions of sperm, each with the potential for an Einstein, a Hitler, or a Lao Tzu.  But only one will successfully penetrate the egg.  However, and it’s a big HOWEVER, the success of one is the success of all.  In miniature, it is the moment of “…let there be light” repeated over millennia and eons to continue the process.  The yin/yang can readily be interpreted as a symbol of this great dialect, and even the cross carries an ancient interpretation as the quartering of the universe into active and passive elements…fundamental requirements for the difference between “something” and “nothing.”

Back to the Germans…  One must not confuse the “God is dead…” concept with atheism.  It’s more of an Arthurian “once and future king” concept at its logical end.  To massively oversimplify and bring this mental meandering to a close, it points to a human destiny to keep learning, to spread to the stars in search of “…strange new worlds…” and, eventually, reach a point at which a single human reaches out for the last piece of the puzzle, gazes upon it, and says “LET THERE BE LIGHT.”

I must stop, as I hear a mob approaching bearing torches and ropes…

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