24 April 2015

Why "Taxing the Rich" Doesn't Work

There are at least 7 reasons why the idea of taxing the rich and giving it to the poor does not work. I'll break them down for you below.

1. "Not Rich" Syndrome
The definition of who is "rich" is a lot like a number of other terms that belong on sliding scales. Someone who is rich is usually someone who has more money than the person making the definition. "I'm not rich, but that guy over there making $30,000, he's rich." That guy says "Rich? You must be joking! I'm just getting by, but that guy, making $80,000, now he's rich." The third guy says "I'm not rich! Those greedy bastards making $250,000, they're rich, and they should be taxed more!"

2. "Not I" Syndrome
The people who do admit they are rich usually believe they deserve some exemption to having to pay higher taxes. A leftist who wanted to raise taxes on the rich called in to The Savage Nation a few days ago and he admitted that he was, in fact, rich. However, he believed he shouldn't have to pay higher taxes, only other rich people. You see, he takes every tax exemption he can so he only pays a fraction of what a less crafty person would at his income bracket, and he believes that his genius at finding these loopholes means he is entitled to pay less. The caller wanted to raise taxes but did not want to close the loopholes that would shield him from having to pay those higher taxes! Taxes, in this instance, become a penalty for stupid people.

3. Rich People Don't Pay Taxes
The 80 people who possess half the money in the world never pay taxes anyway. Warren Buffett pays as little taxes as possible, so do the Clintons and the Bushes. The really rich people don't get money from income, so they already don't have to pay income tax – the form of tax that people who want to "tax the rich" want to increase, and they have armies of lawyers to find every single loophole to get out of paying the taxes that do apply to them. Warren Buffett always says that income tax should be raised and that his secretary pays more income tax than he does, but what he never mentions is he makes very little income. Most of the money Buffett gets is in the form of capital gains, which he conveniently does not want taxed any higher. He's distracting the public with one hand to disguise what his other hand is doing.

Remember, in the US, the IRS does not care how much you pay beyond the minimum amount you owe. You can legally give them as much money as you want over what you legally owe. If you owe $50,000, you can legally give them a million dollars and they will gladly accept it to buy a new hammer or toilet seat.

4. Corporations Don't Pay Taxes
Just like rich people, corporations (which somehow count as "people" but unborn children are just "tissues") don't pay taxes either. Corporations are to people what Superman is to man. Corporations can deduct expenses, like utilities. If you try to get off having to pay your gas bill or make a car payment you'd get your gas shut off and your car repossessed. A corporation can get a tax break. Corporations can use past losses to offset future gains. In the red last year? It doesn't matter that you've made billions, you can subtract what you didn't make from what you did and get free money from Uncle Sam! Corporations can create smaller, shell corporations in tax havens to launder money and avoid paying taxes. And the big one, corporations that are really super in the red can get bailouts if they have their hands in too many cookie jars. If a big corporation like AIG were to go bankrupt it would cause a depression, so the government can't let that happen. You see, some corporations are "too big to fail."

5. Dekulakization
Whenever taxes are raised the only people who lose more money directly are kulaks. Kulaks are the mythical "tight-fisted" independent farmers (mostly Poles and Ukrainians) who Stalin murdered out of racial hatred while claiming to fight capitalism. In American terms the kulaks are the entrepreneurs. They are the people with two mortgages on their homes to fund a business that employs a couple dozen people. On paper they may be millionaires, but very little of that money is liquid. In fact most of these modern day kulaks are in the red, but few ever speak of real world economics, and so these paper millionaires must be taxed to the point where they lose their businesses. Destroying small businesses is a death sentence for the economy, because that's where most new jobs are created. Raising taxes is like pouring cement into a car's engine.

6. Eat the Poor
The only other group of people hurt by higher taxes are poor people. Fewer businesses means fewer jobs. Fewer jobs means more unemployment, and unemployment tends to go hand-in-hand with being poor. That's not the only way poor people are hurt by higher taxes. Those tax-exempt corporate people can raise their prices if they ever get in a situation where they can't weasel their way out of having to pay a tax, thus forcing poor people to have to pay whatever the corporations owe. Sure, minimum wage might go up every few years, but it's always behind inflation, so an extra dollar an hour is really less than what you were paid five years ago because the price of commodities has gone up. It really is the case that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, whether taxes are increased or not.

7. To Each According to His Need

If we're going to redistribute wealth, and do it globally and do it right, chances are you won't see a dime. A billion Africans take precedent over the average poor person in America, because they are just that much poorer. Poor people in America have a car, a TV, and are obese, while poor people in Haiti literally eat cakes made from mud to eliminate hunger pangs because there's not enough food to eat a real meal every day.

And if we were to do this just in America? The people who would reap the rewards are the same people who reap them now: the welfare scam artists. Deadbeats who have ten children so they can get food stamps to pay for makeup and booze, people living together who all file separately so the household looks really super poor on paper, I've seen all types. There are people who know how to game the system to suck up as much welfare as possible, and they often live better than the people working two jobs who support them with their taxes. Do you think this would change if we just "tax the rich" more? In a country where 80% of government spending on welfare is lost in bureaucratic inefficiency and political slush funds, I don't think so.

Bonus 8th Reason: What is Fair? 
Alright, you've convinced me, let's do this. Let's tax the rich. Let's make them pay their fair share. So, what is their fair share?

The problem with the definition of fairness is that it is even more nebulous than the definition of rich. That's why leftists have switched over to using the word equality, because enough people have caught onto the fairness nonsense. Leftists love to say the rich should pay their fair share, but if you ever press them to give a real world percentage they will turn irate and say you are deflecting the issue. Leftists never say anything concrete because then people would see they're idiots. It reveals the lie to get into details, so they stick to slogans that they repeat Ad nauseam, just like Rules for Radicals tells them to do. How much taxes are fair? More. It's never fair because you can always tax more, but if leftists ever said this you'd see they're not interested in fairness, only control.

21 April 2015

God and Buddha

Robert Thurman and Deepak Chopra rap for an hour and a half on Buddhism, Vedanta, God, primordial awareness, suffering, liberation, contradiction, and everything in between. A lovely dialogue.

05 April 2015

Integral Christ

UPDATE: Integral Christ is now available in PDF format complete with additional pictures and about three errors corrected. 

 If the crucifixion took place in 33 AD then the day was today, 3 April. The last time Holy Week took place at the same time as the first Holy Week was 1942. The next time it will happen again is 2026. If my calculations are correct Jesus was killed 2 weeks before his 39th birthday.

On such an auspicious occasion, the first in the lives of probably most people who have ever visited The Urban Mystic (though I love my septuagenarian readers just as much, probably more), I will take this time to write a very special piece about the most famous man who ever lived.

Who was Jesus Christ? I've already written about his birth, about his life, the conspiracy to kill him, the resurrection, and the possibility that he visited India during those missing 18 years. What is left to write about?

How about the ways in which we interpret Jesus.

I listened to an audio program from Integral Life that was little more than a 45 minute commercial, but it got me thinking about the way people at different developmental levels interpret Jesus and what part of his life and teaching they may focus on.

We hear about magic stage Christianity focuses on Jesus as personal savior who can miraculously alter the world. A child's view of Jesus as a superhero who is there to save you. The miraculous is the focus at this stage; it is what convinces the believer.

Mythic Christianity would focus on Jesus as the Way the Truth and the Life. Jesus prescribes behavior and you have to obey, you have to accept Jesus as your personal savior or you'll go to Hell forever. This is the Christianity of the Crusaders and most of medieval Europe and even going into the Reformation. The difference between the old Catholic church and Luther's church was the interpretation of whether Jesus' Law included belief only or if acts of charity were needed to cement one's place in Heaven.

Rational Christianity, the Christianity of Thomas Jefferson, John Locke, Rene Descartes, and Isaac Newton. We have a God who is grand designer of the universe, and while Jesus is fully divine he is also fully human. Jesus is a wisdom teacher.

There's a pluralistic Christianity would deconstruct Jesus. It would be seen as unchristlike to say Jesus is the only way to God. Belief no longer needs to have any connection with truth, if truth even exists; belief is my own feeling about something and everyone has different, equally valid beliefs.

But what is integral Christianity? Who is the integral Jesus? This question may be too large even for this massive essay. To scale it back I'll focus on a much smaller scale.

The dialogue did ask four interesting questions about what would be included in an integral version of Christianity: Do you need the virgin birth? Do you need miracles? Do you need Jesus dying on the cross? and Do you need the resurrection?

Remember, the key feature of second tier is supposed to be to integrate all of first tier. We're supposed to look at everything that has come before and work it all together. Ken Wilber's working hypothesis is that no one is entirely wrong. Every level is right about some aspect of reality in some way. What I try to do is find what works at each level and put it all together, bridging the gaps, to create a unified whole. What the people over at Integral Life seem to do is talk about the lower levels and then take whatever Green-Post Modern says and declare it the truth of everything. There seems to be a very strong Green bias in the supposedly second tier integral community. But that's a topic for a different discussion. Right now what I will attempt to do is integrate all of first tier into a second tier version of Christianity. I will start by answering the four questions presented in the dialogue.

Now, I have absolutely no idea if Mary was a virgin or not prior to Jesus' birth. Mentioned in Matthew and Luke, the virgin birth went relatively unquestioned for most of the history of Christianity. Matthew makes reference to a prophecy from Isaiah that the messiah would be born of a virgin and he sees Jesus as fulfilling that prophecy. Why did Matthew and Luke tell different versions of the same story, and why did Mark and John not mention the virgin birth at all? We can excuse Paul because his central focus was the resurrection as the singular event in history in which sin and death were overcome, but is the silence from Mark and John any indication of anything?

It is not impossible for such an event as a virgin birth to occur. It has never been observed in mammals in the wild, but scientists have been able to tinker around with mice and rabbits, and in 2007 human embryos were created this way for use in stem cell research. God can do anything that a human can do, so technically God could turn the reptilian gene on and make a fatherless Jesus as a demonstration of sovereignty over nature. The biggest problem is that the offspring of such an event is always female. Again, however, it is possible to tinker with an X chromosome in the lab and create a Y chromosome from it, since they have homologous genes. It is technically possible for a scientist today to create a male embryo from the cells of just the mother, but no one has ever done this before and it doesn't happen in nature, which really would make it a miracle par excellence.

Did it happen? We can't say. Are we required to believe it happened? Well, if we follow what Paul says then technically no. A virgin birth is not a requirement for an integral Christianity.

Do we need miracles? Surprisingly they seem to agree that events that might be considered miraculous actually do happen. There are healers who use methods such as laying on hands and other energetic methods, and not only do they produce statistically significant results, but these alternative methods are sometimes even covered by insurance, so energy healing is not something on the fringe, it is acceptable medicine. Phenomena such as ESP and psychokinesis have been demonstrated to exist with greater scrutiny than any other field of science ever. Double-blind protocol was invented to study psychic phenomena, starting with Mesmerism (a form of hypnotism). Just as ancient people would consider an airplane magic if it were somehow transported back in time, it is safe to say that they would have considered psychic powers to be a form of magic or miracles.

Richard Rose, an iconoclastic physicist and engineer as well as a mystic, certainly accepted what he called "magic," which appears to include psychic phenomena. Looking at Ken Wilber's classification of the developmental levels it is possible that Richard Rose would have been considered third tier, meaning permanently ensconced in states of transpersonal awareness. Rose would almost certainly have been considered integrally developed, and he not only accepted the existence of psychic phenomena, but also demonic possession.

A lot of miracles in the New Testament definitely could be explained through psychic phenomena, albeit at a larger scale than what is seen in a laboratory setting. Miracles can indeed be a part of integral Christianity, and if we're using the word "miracle" as a pre-scientific term to mean "psychic phenomena" then the existence of miracles is already an established fact.

What about the crucifixion? Does integral Christianity need a crucifixion? Well, what exactly is the alternative? The dialogue brings up the swoon hypothesis. They say that people in the Gospels acted like Jesus was still alive. They say he was taken off after only six hours, his body was put in a tomb instead of left on the cross to rot like typically happens with criminals, that the herbs used to anoint the body were typically used to revive people and not to anoint the dead. People are acting like he isn't dead? Really? Only John mentions anything put on Jesus' body, and he says myrrh, aloe, and unnamed spices. Aloe is certainly used in medicine, and so is myrrh, but myrrh is also used in embalming the dead. But what about the swoon hypothesis? I have to say it is the most ridiculous alternative to crucifixion anyone has come up with. People have suggested it was a double who was crucified, some people say that the whole story was made up, some people even say that God replaced Jesus' body on the cross with Judas, but anyone who believes in the swoon hypothesis knows absolutely nothing about medicine.

Let us look at the Shroud of Turin, an object that realistically depicts what is mentioned in the Gospels. Jesus was scourged by a Roman flagrum. The man on the shroud has 120 such marks on his body. There have been people who have died from a few lashes from a regular whip back when capital punishment was legal in the West, in the British navy for example. A flagrum is about 50 times worse than a whip. A flagrum is like a whip with three strips of leather with iron barbells, nails, or broken glass tied to it, wielded by a professional killer. He had a crown of thorns placed on his head. His eye is swollen shut from the beating he received, his nose is broken. His shoulders were dislocated when he was crucified. The nails used in the crucifixion would have rendered his hands nonfunctional, not to mention the excruciating pain from putting pressure on the median nerve in the wrist. After six hours on the cross Jesus' heart would have been beating over 140 beats per minute, he would be near suffocating, dehydrated, exhausted, between 10-20% of his blood would have been lost. Then the Roman centurion thrust a spear through Jesus' side and "blood and water" poured out of the wound. This is a very telling remark from John. The heart is surrounded by a cushion of clear fluid. When the spear pierced Jesus' heart that clear fluid came out with the blood. It is doubtful that even professional executioners in the first century would have known about the existence of pericardial fluid. The fact that John mentions this is strong indication that he witnessed an actual event.

In order to complete the swoon hypothesis the Apostles would have needed to fool professional executioners that Jesus was dead. In the tomb they would have needed to treat wounds that would probably have been fatal even with modern emergency surgery. Jesus would have needed an emergency heart transplant, a blood transfusion, his shoulders would have had to been put back in place and his nose would have had to have been set. 36 hours later Jesus would have needed to roll an enormous stone away using his nonfunctional hands, overpower the guards standing outside the tomb, walk seven miles from outside Jerusalem to Emmaus, sneak into a locked room with no evidence of forced entry, and fool people including his Apostles and his own mother that he was resurrected and had conquered death and not a bloody and beaten mess who had barely escaped death. He would have had to convince people so thoroughly that 11 of the 12 Apostles would overcome their fear of the Romans and go to their death as martyrs to preach a Gospel they knew was a lie.

The swoon hypothesis is absolutely impossible. One thing is certain, the Romans were experts at killing people. If they said Jesus was dead then he was dead. He wasn't in a coma, he wasn't faking, he was absolutely dead.

The dialogue also mentions a supposed lack of documentary evidence of the crucifixion. Lack of documentary evidence? Josephus and Tacitus both say that a man named Jesus was crucified by the Romans. What do you want, a CNN video from 33 AD actually showing the nails going in?

The crucifixion is as close to an historical fact as we can get. We know from historical sources that a man named Jesus preached in Judea in the first century and he was crucified by the Romans. That is fact. If the crucifixion isn't part of integral Christianity that's just plain denying fact. That would be like integral chemistry denying the existence of atoms.

Now we come to the big one. Does integral Christianity need the resurrection? The men in the dialogue dodge produce yet another flippant response. They say something like "Well I don't care, 'he died for my sins', that doesn't mean anything to me." Not only did they dodge the question, I also suspect they enjoy sinning. I mean sinning is fun, at the time, but I suspect they don't repent afterward.

But the answer to the question is an unequivocal yes. You don't need to believe in the resurrection to practice Jesus' teachings, you don't need to believe to accept the existence of an historical Jesus, but to be a Christian the central tenant is belief in the resurrection. That is nonnegotiable. Paul says that there can be no Christianity without the resurrection and that if the resurrection did not happen we should immediately through Christianity out because it is false:

But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. (1 Cor 15:13-17)

Who am I going to believe, Paul, the inventor of Christianity, as the man who took a small following of an obscure Jewish teacher and made it a world religion everyone can belong to, or some guy in 2015 who doesn't even care about the concept of sin?

Here's what Richard Rose has to say:

"Evidently Jesus was able to come back and get his body, since the body disappeared from the grave, and later reappeared on the road to Emmaus. This does not prove that Jesus escaped physically from the grave, but could imply that the spirit of Jesus was able to simulate a body and to discard the mask at will.

"To say that a personality has found a means to travel from one dimension to another and to be seen in both is not unreasonable, although it implies a special talent. The SRF (Self Realization Fellowship) movement claims that some of its masters were avatars who had the ability to come and go between the spiritual planes and they were also reputed to have extensive creative ability. This brings us to the word illusion, for many believe this world to be one of illusion and that some liberated spirits are able to evoke the illusion at will." (The Albigen Papers, p. 84)

Rose is speaking of chapter 43 from Autobiography of a Yogi. Yogananda's guru Yukteswar Giri had died and his body was buried and then a few days later he reappeared in physical form before Yogananda to console him and teach a valuable lesson about life and death:

"Angelic guru," I said, "your body looks exactly as it did when last I wept over it in the Puri ashram."

"O yes, my new body is a perfect copy of the old one. I materialize or dematerialize this form any time at will, much more frequently than I did while on earth. By quick dematerialization, I now travel instantly by light express from planet to planet or, indeed, from astral to causal or to physical cosmos." My divine guru smiled. "Though you move about so fast these days, I had no difficulty in finding you at Bombay!"
(Quote taken from the original public domain version, which I have as a text file, so I unfortunately can't say what page it came from.)

What about A Course in Miracles? If we look at the unpublished "Special Messages" section the Voice (identified as Jesus Christ) says the following about the resurrection:

My body disappeared because I had no illusion about it. The last one had gone. It was laid in the tomb, but there was nothing left to bury. It did not disintegrate because the unreal cannot die. It merely became what it always was. And that is what “rolling the stone away” means. The body disappears, and no longer hides what lies beyond. It merely ceases to interfere with vision. To roll the stone away is to see beyond the tomb, beyond death, and to understand the body’s nothingness. What is understood as nothing must disappear.

I did assume a human form with human attributes afterwards, to speak to those who were to prove the body’s worthlessness to the world. This has been much misunderstood. I came to tell them that death is illusion, and the mind that made the body can make another since form itself is an illusion. They did not understand. But now I talk to you and give you the same message. The death of an illusion means nothing. It disappears when you awaken and decide to dream no more. And you still do have the power to make this decision as I did.

Is resurrection even possible? Resurrection, not mere revival of the body. Both Richard Rose and Paramhansa Yogananda seem to think so. And you may think to yourself, sure Rose and Yogananda may, may, have had a center of gravity in third tier, but Yogananda could still have been cognitively at amber and Rose at orange, or whatever. You might say that the Course was written by Hellen Schucman subconsciously, and she might have been at orange or maybe green, who knows.

Someone with a cognitive level of teal or turquoise, even someone at green, would see this is all a myth, it's impossible, the resurrection is a holdover from a mythic consciousness and it's really symbolic of our spiritual resurrection within Christ consciousness. The death of the separate self sense and the resurrection into nondual spirit as such. This also achieves the conquest of sin, because from a nondual perspective there is no sin. Nonduality transcends good and evil (unfortunately most people today misinterpret the nondual traditions and instead of transcending anything just act egotistically and think they are transcending good and evil). Sin is entirely a product of the separate self, so when we die to the separate self we are eliminating sin. And that's fine. I don't disagree with that interpretation. It is lovely symbolism and capable of producing profound spiritual experiences.

But my question is is it possible for an integral Christianity to include a bodily resurrection of Jesus? I've presented eye-witness testimony of resurrection and spiritual communication. Now let's take another look at the Shroud of Turin. I keep bringing up the Shroud because I think it is strong evidence in favor of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. If we are able to overcome the speculation that it is a forgery then we are left with what appears to me to be two possibilities: that the Shroud was formed through some unknown natural process related to the decomposition of a body that has never been seen before or since, or that the Shroud is a relic of a miracle, a physical testimony to the the ultimate event in history.

The evidence that the shroud is not a forgery is very strong. The first piece of evidence is the dating. One sample from the Shroud of Turin was taken and dated. First off, testing one sample proves nothing. Second, the sample was taken from a corner where a repair was made. The radio carbon date of the sample is off because it did not come from an original part of the cloth.

Next we have an illumination from a Hungarian manuscript the Pray Codex.
Pray Manuscript
The illumination depicts a crucified man who looks like the man in the Shroud with his thumbs retracted (because the nails damaged the nerve) – medical knowledge a medieval monk would not have known. The picture also depicts the man on a cloth with a similar weave as the Shroud, and an L-shaped series of burn marks in the same place as on the Shroud. Crucially, this manuscript was made almost a century prior to the earliest date attested to by the carbon 14 testing of the Shroud. This is strong evidence against the Shroud being a medieval forgery.

Then comes the list of high improbabilities; things that no medieval artist should know or would even think about.

 ● The blood stains – which have been tested and are real human blood – have no image underneath them. That means the blood was placed on the cloth first and the image created afterward. The forger would need to know exactly where to place the blood, correctly depicting the flow of gravity around a three dimensional body, both when held vertical during the crucifixion, and then later when the body was horizontal within the tomb, and then paint over it.

 ● The forger would need to know what an authentic Roman scourging looked like to produce an accurate representation.

 ● The forger would need to know what an authentic Roman crucifixion looked like, including putting the nails in the wrists and not the palms, as was the tradition during the middle ages. The forger would have needed to know that the thumbs would retract from the injury.

 ● The forger would need to put Jerusalem pollen on the cloth to fool 20th century scientists who would conduct microchemistry on the Shroud.

 ● The forger would need to paint using an unknown medium (no paint, no dye, no pigment of any kind was ever discovered on the cloth, there are no indication of brush strokes or any application of any material) in perfect negative of an image that is almost invisible up close and does not become visible until many 40 feet away, in order to produce a positive image only after the invention of photography many centuries later.

 ● The forger would need to encode 3D information within the image so that 20th century computers could extract a full 3D life-sized image of a man.

If the Shroud is a forgery then the forger would need to be the greatest artist who has ever lived and will likely ever live, and yet the forger would have to have produced absolutely no other work during his lifetime.

Now that the idea that the Shroud is a forgery has been refuted it is up to you to decide whether the Shroud of Turin is the natural byproduct of an unknown process of decomposition that has never before or since been observed, or a genuine miracle.

Integral Christianity certainly can include a bodily resurrection. We certainly can have room for interpretation and experiences. It is possible to have visions of Christ, just like deathbed visions of relatives. I'll say this for the first time, I have had a vision of Christ. He reached through my body, touched my spine, and instantly healed a childhood injury that had filled most of my life up to that point with constant pain. No hallucination can do that, that was a genuine miracle. (Unfortunately, six years later I re-injured my back at work. I don't expect Jesus to come back and heal me every time I get hurt, that was a one off event with spiritual ramifications.) Could the Apostles have had such a vision? I certainly think Paul did. But a mere vision does not explain the empty tomb. Remember, people at different levels can interpret the empty tomb and the resurrection differently, but when reading the Gospels we must take into account the writer's original intent. We can read interpretations into the Gospels that the writers could never have imagined, about Christ consciousness and symbolism of this and that, but to know what they were talking about we must take into account their own level of development. First and second century Jews would not have a clue what you're talking about if you start speaking in postmodern terminology.

When Paul was writing his letter to the Corinthians he was not talking about some experience you can have and gee isn't that swell, but other people can interpret things their own way. The Gospel writers were not using the empty tomb as a metaphor for anything. They do not paint themselves as particularly bright within their own Gospels. Jesus has to constantly explain himself in ever more details before the Apostles finally get it in John at the Last Supper. The Gospel writers depict events that would have been embarrassing for a first century Jew. If they were writing metaphor they would not have put so many inconvenient details within the text, they would have presented Jesus as Superman.  These people were writing what they thought was the true account of real events. If Paul says that Christianity cannot exist without the resurrection, he's not talking about an experience he had on the road to Damascus, he's not using the empty tomb to talk about shunyata, they really found a tomb with no body and they explain it by saying Jesus physically rose from the dead. Without that, without the resurrection, there can be no Christianity.

So where does that leave integral Christianity? Well, I've certainly demonstrated that miracles exist, whether we use the word "miracle" or "psychic phenomena," I've shown that the crucifixion was a real historical event, and, most controversially, I have presented evidence in favor of the resurrection, and have argued that our own interpretation, while important, should not be read into the minds of the Gospel writers.

You can certainly love Jesus at any level. You can practice Jesus' teaching in the manner interpreted at any level and have that practice be appropriate for that level. However interpretations should not trump facts. Postmodernism deconstructed the world, and integralism is supposed to reconstruct it, taking what works at every level and synthesizing it into a seamless whole. It is not enough to say every level has its own interpretations, its own value structures, and just leave it at that. While true, that is not the whole picture. Our own interpretation must go hand-in-hand with the interpretations of the Gospel writers and with the facts of Jesus' life in order to complete the picture and create a truly integral Christianity. We must live the teachings of Jesus body, mind, and spirit, exercising our charity and compassion, our rationality, and our prayer and contemplation so that we too may "die daily" to our separate self as Paul did 2000 years ago.

It is Easter Sunday. Rejoice! Christ is risen!

03 April 2015

Holy Sepulchre 3D

If the crucifixion took place in 33 AD then the day was today, 3 April. The last time Holy Week took place at the same time as the first Holy Week was 1942. The next time it will happen again is 2026. If my calculations are correct Jesus was killed 2 weeks before his 39th birthday.

On such an auspicious occasion, the first in the lives of probably most people who have ever visited The Urban Mystic (though I love my septuagenarian readers just as much, probably more), I will take this time to write a very special piece about the most famous man who ever lived. On Easter Sunday I will put up a piece I call "Integral Christ".

For now enjoy a lovely trip through time and space to see how the Holy Sepulchre looks today and as it looked in 1149, 336, 135, and 33. Runs 14 minutes.

02 April 2015

The Dovekeepers

The past two nights I watched the two part movie The Dovekeepers. It's based on a book and produced by the people who made Son of God and The Bible. The movie is about the women who survived the siege of Masada. Part one was mostly adultery. All that adultery didn't sit well with me. It would be alright if we establish ONE of the characters as having an affair in the beginning and then she reunites with the man years later, but both women habitually seduce married men, and those men have a habit of dying, and then the women go on to seduce even more married men without caring a bit about the men who just died. This is the story of the last stand of the Jews against Roman oppression, and the two narrators are notorious whores? Whose idea was that?

Let's begin at the beginning. This woman – claimed to be a witch – is having an affair with a married man who happens to be the best warrior in the whole of Judea, and he has a sexy goatee and black leather pants to prove it (I didn't know they had black leather in AD 70, but it looks really cool, I'll admit that). She has a daughter by him who turns out to be transsexual and lives as a boy. She is cast out of the city and has to live with a nomad who has a son with her. The son is a moron and a weakling and his older sister has to take up the slack of fighting and killing people with a bow and arrow like Robin Hood or Robin Hood knock-off girl movie (Hunger Games). The witch leaves with both children to go to Masada, never to see the nomad man again.

Meanwhile there is an red head girl who has a deeply troubled father because her mother died in childbirth. She has an older brother who is literally the only likable character in the whole movie. The brother goes to Masada after wounding a Roman general while he's out playing Assassin's Creed IRL. Red head and the father then leave months later, I guess, to go to Masada also to find the brother. On the way she has sex with a married man literally five feet from his wife. I'm not making this up. This guy wakes up the red head, who he just met, and says something like "let's go over there, five feet away, and have sex right next to my wife." Then like a week later he and his wife die from some unidentified disease, probably an STD that he got from the red head and then later gave to his wife during make up sex. "Hey, honey, she means nothing to me, I was just really drunk last night and thought she was you. Very drunk." (feel free to use that excuse if you want.) Red head and the father make it to Masada and she gets a job sweeping dove poop. That's literally the only time we see doves in the whole movie, in two scenes where she's sweeping poop.

The tranny is in love with the red head's brother and they frequently run off together to have sex in like warehouses and other places. The witch goes to the cistern to have sex with the chief. I guess no one is worried about sperm getting into the water supply and then several women getting pregnant from bathing. At least half the movie is sex.

A Roman slave – a giant Norwegian man – is taken prisoner by the Jews at Masada and red head seduces him. Red head gives birth to a baby conceived by the dead man who had sex with her one time and the Norwegian man raises the baby as his own, which is awfully nice of him considering that both the Romans and the Jews treat him like a slave. Red head convinces the Norwegian man to go back to Norway in the cover of night but he gets captured and put in jail.

End of part 1.

Part 2. Stuff actually happens in part 2. They really could have made this a single movie. There's so much filler because the book on which it is based is so long.

The witch helps cure the chief's wife's tuberculosis or something and then the wife tries to incite a riot and have the witch killed, but the witch uses her literal magic and causes a rain storm and the mob all of a sudden forgets about killing her.

The witch teaches the red head how to make poison from snake skin and leaves. This is Chekhov's gun, remember it.

The wimpy brother goes off on a raid to kill Romans Assassin's Creed style and the other brother yells at him because he's not even beta and he's going to get everyone killed. He gets stabbed in the leg and cries like a little baby and the other brother carries him back and the witch hates him even though he literally saved his life. The tranny has to dress like the wimpy brother and go off on raids in the future, but she's like Robin Hood and can actually kill people. On another raid, after she's killed like ten Roman soldiers with perfect headshots she sees the other brother – her lover – kill one of the soldiers' wife and daughter, and since only women's lives have value she then hates him forever.

Back at Masada the tranny goes to see the quiet man who saved her life during the raid she wasn't supposed to take part in, and the man says "I'm quiet because my wife died and I promised her to get revenge against the Romans. And I promised her I would never have sex again." Then the two of them have sex right there. I kid you not.

The witch is pregnant again with another kid by the chief. This was thrown in to show just how fertile these people are, I guess.

Red head goes to see the Norwegian and gives him a bow and arrows and tells him to escape, again. I'm not sure what happens to him but we never see him again.

Red head overhears the witch talk to the chief that the chief is injured and needs help when he goes on another raid. Red head makes poison and poisons the Romans secretly and at least fifty of them die and when the Jews get there they don't need to kill anyone because they're all dead already and they're like "woah, how did that happen?"

Other brother confronts tranny and asks her why she hates him but she won't answer him. He gets rough but he lets her go off because he doesn't want to hurt her. He's probably the one good character in the whole movie, not counting the baby who doesn't do anything.

There's a tender moment where the father is playing with the baby and red head walks in and he apologizes for mistreating her because he was heartbroken over his wife.

The Romans have built a siege tower and are breaking down the walls of Masada. They have catapults that launch flaming boulders and set the city on fire. They dunk the boulders in clear liquid that is super flammable and didn't exist back then, but Hollywood adores fire. Even though we've seen maybe two Jews getting killed by the Romans up to this point because the Jews have super ninja powers and can kill a million Romans, the Jews are worried that the Romans are about to rush in and kill everyone. The chief comes up with the plan that everyone die so that the Romans don't have the pleasure of killing anyone. Other brother goes off and kills the tranny and then the quite man kills him. Though I just saw it I don't remember how the quiet man dies. The chief begs the witch to kill him and she does and then she, red head, the baby, and the wimp go off to the cistern to hide while everyone else dies. The next day the Romans break into the cistern and capture them and take them to Josephus to tell what happened inside the city. Hearing everything they've been through Josephus lets them go free. The end.

The movie was terrible, unnecessarily long, and I didn't like any of the characters except the designated bad guy brother. I didn't like how the witch literally had magic powers, I didn't like how men were portrayed as utter crap and the adulterous women who seduce everyone were held up as heroes who "don't even need a man." I don't like how every problem but one was caused by the adulterous women and they get a pass like they did nothing wrong. This was like a Harlequin sex fantasy fourth grade reading level pulp book (which it was). It was just crap. Every time I thought I would like a character that character then went off and did something contemptible.

I know the history of Masada. The real history is the only thing that put any real emotion into the last 20 minutes. It is sad what they went through, and the Romans really were the villains in real life, but the characters in the movie were so bad I was actually rooting for the Romans! I don't even know how to rate this movie. I want to say maybe 45/100.