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The Churches

 

 

With the demise of Communism, religion seems to have reasserted itself on a grand scale; aided and abetted by Putin who uses it to consolidate his power base.

After various tours of churches; in which we were invited to think that the restoration of services was a good thing and/or that there really were such people as saints; I asked a couple of guides what their personal beliefs were, to be told that they were sceptics.  So I conclude that in part this renewed religiosity is partly a front that the 'New Russia' wants to present to tourists - particularly Americans. 

But it is not all 'front'.  The last Tsar and his murdered family have all been sanctified (individually) and now have churches built in their names. Churches previously made into museums or social centres are restored to their previous use and hundreds of (mainly) women, many bizarrely, in mini-skirts or jeans (scarfs on heads), queue to kiss an icon, Our Lady of Kazan, in Kazan Cathedral in St Petersburg. 

 

kissing the icon
Kissing the icon

 

The Russian Orthodox church is in the Eastern Tradition and differs from the Roman Church and its descendents in its view of the Trinity.  This can be seen in the repeated representation of the 'Old Testament Trinity' in and around its churches.  God can't be represented directly, so three angels who visited Abraham (Genesis 18:1-15) appear in proxy.  

 

Old testament trinity
The top centre frame of an Iconostasis (partly obscured by the chandelier)

 

In this tradition Jesus was that part of God who became a man, briefly, before returning to rejoin the Trinity.  This gets around the problem of why God waited 13.7 billion years after the initial creation, and around 100,000 years after creating Man, before deciding to have a human son; and only then splitting himself into three attributes.

As a consequence the Russian Orthodox Church has a different view of apotheosis.  In the Roman tradition apotheosis is the goal of all believers (to be one with God); also described as divinization or deification. 

Latin Christianity clearly has its roots in the earlier pagan beliefs that a dead (or sometimes living) person, for example an emperor or other prominent person, could be recognised as divine by election of the Roman Senate and popular acclaim; this in turn from earlier Hellenistic traditions; where heroes were often, retrospectively, found to be the children of gods. Similar traditions can be found in Egypt and in Hindu and Chinese cultures.  In my earlier notes on out trip to India I noted how many of the Hindu Princes are typically the decedents of gods; the avatars of gods; or the representatives of gods.

In the Latin tradition Saints still need to be endorsed / recognised / canonised by Rome (the Vatican - not the Senate).  Supporters of Mother Teresa of Calcutta are still waiting; but Rome was once less abstemious. 

In Hexham Abbey (in Northern England) from 647 to 789AD nine of the ten 'early rulers', were canonised.   Today bishops have only a one in thirty chance to make it to Cardinal; let alone to Saint.  And what did poor Trumbrith do to miss out?   It's like not getting the Public Service Medal.

 

Hexham_Abbey
Hexham Abbey -  Early Rulers

 

In contrast the Eastern Church talks of 'theosis'.  Humans can't become 'one with God' or divine but can only achieve 'likeness to God'.  Many saints and mystics have achieved this; usually by the purification of mind and body (katharsis).  Through their spiritual insights the faithful may follow.  Thus Eastern churches are festooned with images of saints; each of whom may assist the faithful to attain theosis.

 

Iconostasis
The Iconostasis in an historic church

 

We were told that during the Soviet period Kazan Cathedral was used as a 'museums of atheism'; although I'm not sure how one does that - it's difficult to depict nothing.   But it's obviously a trivial thing to catalogue mankind's many bizarre religious beliefs, be they polytheistic or monotheistic; so I suppose that this is what was done. 

 

Our Lady of Kazan
Another icon of Our Lady of Kazan - this one in a museum



It seems the Russians may have thrown out at least one baby with the Marxist bathwater.

 


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Travel

Bolivia

 

 

In October 2011 our little group: Sonia, Craig, Wendy and Richard visited Bolivia. We left Puno in Peru by bus to Cococabana in Bolivia. After the usual border form-filling and stamps, and a guided visit to the church in which the ‘Black Madonna’ resides, we boarded a cruise boat, a large catamaran, to Sun Island on the Bolivian side of the lake.

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Fiction, Recollections & News

Through the Looking Glass

 

 

 

 

 

On TV I'm seeing senior politicians: Scomo the Liberal PM and a handful of Labor Victorians (it's bi-partisan), gathering in Morwell in Victoria to announce that jobs in the Latrobe Valley have been saved by a Japanese consortium that will build a pilot plant to convert brown coal to hydrogen. Read Here...

Fans of the Reverend Dodgson's (Lewis Carroll's) work will recall some 'weird shit' in Wonderland like: Alice growing and shrinking; a disembodied cat; and babies turning into pigs. She's seen here with Frank L Baum's Dorothy, and her little dog Toto.  I was feeling a sudden affinity for Dorothy who involuntarily found herself in OZ, whence she unsuccessfully attempted to escape from the weird inhabitants in a hot air balloon. But where were my ruby slippers?

Yet these bizarre adventures are put into the shade by Alice's in: Through the Looking-Glass. So I had to pinch myself to check that our screen had not somehow turned itself into Alice's looking-glass and sucked me through to the other side. 

Hydrogen from coal (carbon) - really?  Surely they mean hydrogen from water. You know: 
HO + C   H + CO

 

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Opinions and Philosophy

Gone but not forgotten

Gone but not forgotten

 

 

Gough Whitlam has died at the age of 98.

I had an early encounter with him electioneering in western Sydney when he was newly in opposition, soon after he had usurped Cocky (Arthur) Calwell as leader of the Parliamentary Labor Party and was still hated by elements of his own party.

I liked Cocky too.  He'd addressed us at University once, revealing that he hid his considerable intellectual light under a barrel.  He was an able man but in the Labor Party of the day to seem too smart or well spoken (like that bastard Menzies) was believed to be a handicap, hence his 'rough diamond' persona.

Gough was a new breed: smooth, well presented and intellectually arrogant.  He had quite a fight on his hands to gain and retain leadership.  And he used his eventual victory over the Party's 'faceless men' to persuade the Country that he was altogether a new broom. 

It was time for a change not just for the Labor Party but for Australia.

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