I have always looked upon alchemy in natural philosophy to be like enthusiasm in divinity, and to have troubled the world much to the same purpose.
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I have always looked upon alchemy in natural philosophy to be like enthusiasm in divinity, and to have troubled the world much to the same purpose.

-William Temple

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Tom Paine has almost no influence on present-day thinking in the United States because he is unknown to the average citizen. Perhaps I might say right here that this is a national loss and a deplorable lack of understanding concerning the man who first proposed and first wrote those impressive words, 'the United States of America.'But it is hardly strange. Paine's teachings have been debarred from schools everywhere and his views of life misrepresented until his memory is hidden in shadows, or he is looked upon as of unsound mind.We never had a sounder intelligence in this Republic. He was the equal of Washington in making American liberty possible. Where Washington performed Paine devised and wrote. The deeds of one in the Weld were matched by the deeds of the other with his pen.Washington himself appreciated Paine at his true worth. Franklin knew him for a great patriot and clear thinker. He was a friend and confidant of Jefferson, and the two must often have debated the academic and practical phases of liberty.I consider Paine our greatest political thinker. As we have not advanced, and perhaps never shall advance, beyond the Declaration and Constitution, so Paine has had no successors who extended his principles. Although the present generation knows little of Paine's writings, and although he has almost no influence upon contemporary thought, Americans of the future will justly appraise his work. I am certain of it.Truth is governed by natural laws and cannot be denied. Paine spoke truth with a peculiarly clear and forceful ring. Therefore time must balance the scales. The Declaration and the Constitution expressed in form Paine's theory of political rights. He worked in Philadelphia at the time that the first document was written, and occupied a position of intimate contact with the nation's leaders when they framed the Constitution.Certainly we may believe that Washington had a considerable voice in the Constitution. We know that Jefferson had much to do with the document. Franklin also had a hand and probably was responsible in even larger measure for the Declaration. But all of these men had communed with Paine. Their views were intimately understood and closely correlated. There is no doubt whatever that the two great documents of American liberty reflect the philosophy of Paine....Then Paine wrote 'Common Sense,' an anonymous tract which immediately stirred the fires of liberty. It flashed from hand to hand throughout the Colonies. One copy reached the New York Assembly, in session at Albany, and a night meeting was voted to answer this unknown writer with his clarion call to liberty. The Assembly met, but could find no suitable answer. Tom Paine had inscribed a document which never has been answered adversely, and never can be, so long as man esteems his priceless possession.In 'Common Sense' Paine flared forth with a document so powerful that the Revolution became inevitable. Washington recognized the difference, and in his calm way said that matters never could be the same again. It must be remembered that 'Common Sense' preceded the declaration and affirmed the very principles that went into the national doctrine of liberty. But that affirmation was made with more vigor, more of the fire of the patriot and was exactly suited to the hour... Certainly [the Revolution] could not be forestalled, once he had spoken.{The Philosophy of Paine, June 7, 1925}

-Tom Paine

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I have no idea how long Quisser was gone from the table. My attention became fully absorbed by the other faces in the club and the deep anxiety they betrayed to me, an anxiety that was not of the natural, existential sort but one that was caused by peculiar concerns of an uncanny nature. What a season is upon us, these faces seemed to say. And no doubt their voices would have spoken directly of certain peculiar concerns had they not been intimidated into weird equivocations and double entendres by the fear of falling victim to the same kind of unnatural affliction that had made so much trouble in the mind of the art critic Stuart Quisser. Who would be next? What could a person say these days, or even think, without feeling the dread of repercussion from powerfully connected groups and individuals? I could almost hear their voices asking, "Why here, why now?" But of course they could have just as easily been asking, "Why not here, why not now?" It would not occur to this crowd that there were no special rules involved; it would not occur to them, even though they were a crowd of imaginative artists, that the whole thing was simply a matter of random, purposeless terror that converged upon a particular place at a particular time for no particular reason. On the other hand, it would also not have occurred to them that they might have wished it all upon themselves, that they might have had a hand in bringing certain powerful forces and connections into our district simply by wishing them to come. They might have wished and wished for an unnatural evil to fall upon them but, for a while at least, nothing happened. Then the wishing stopped, the old wishes were forgotten yet at the same time gathered in strength, distilling themselves into a potent formula (who can say!), until one day the terrible season began. Because had they really told the truth, this artistic crowd might also have expressed what a sense of meaning (although of a negative sort), not to mention the vigorous thrill (although of an excruciating type), this season of unnatural evil had brought to their lives.("Gas Station Carnivals")

-Thomas Ligotti

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Religion has clearly performed great services for human civilization. It has contributed much towards the taming of the asocial instincts. But not enough. It has ruled human society for many thousands of years and has had time to show what it can achieve. If it had succeeded in making the majority of mankind happy, in comforting them, in reconciling them to life and in making them into vehicles of civilization, no one would dream of attempting to alter the existing conditions. But what do we see instead? We see that an appallingly large number of people are dissatisfied with civilization and unhappy in it, and feel it as a yoke which must be shaken off; and that these people either do everything in their power to change that civilization, or else go so far in their hostility to it that they will have nothing to do with civilization or with a restriction of instinct. At this point it will be objected against us that this state of affairs is due to the very fact that religion has lost a part of its influence over human masses precisely because of the deplorable effect of the advances of science. We will note this admission and the reason given for it, and we shall make use of it later for our own purposes; but the objection itself has no force.It is doubtful whether men were in general happier at a time when religious doctrines held unrestricted sway; more moral they certainly were not. They have always known how to externalize the precepts of religion and thus to nullify their intentions. The priests, whose duty it was to ensure obedience to religion, met them half-way in this. God's kindness must lay a restraining hand on His justice. One sinned, and then one made a sacrifice or did penance and then one was free to sin once more. Russian introspectiveness has reached the pitch of concluding that sin is indispensable for the enjoyment of all the blessings of divine grace, so that, at bottom, sin is pleasing to God. It is no secret that the priests could only keep the masses submissive to religion by making such large concessions as these to the instinctual nature of man. Thus it was agreed: God alone is strong and good, man is weak and sinful. In every age immorality has found no less support in religion than morality has. If the achievements of religion in respect to man’s happiness, susceptibility to culture and moral control are no better than this, the question cannot but arise whether we are not overrating its necessity for mankind, and whether we do wisely in basing our cultural demands upon it.

-Sigmund Freud

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I don't believe that the Scots were always frugal, now that I have read our mean history. Once the land was without mankind and was covered with trees - most of these heaths and moors are modern - and heather grows on the moor because the peasants snapped the limbs they could reach from the trees as high as they could reach, which slowed the growth of the trees, and their pigs rooted up saplings in the forest, and with branches beyond reach men chopped down the trees, trees that had leeched the shallow soil but at least held it with their roots, so that with fewer trees the rains carried off the thin layer of soil, trees became more scarce, winds blew wilder, dry land grew drier and wet land grew more wet, as one peasant here and another peasant there, gathering infinitesimal sticks for paltry winter fires, first raised the trees into the shapes of trees in a medieval hunting scene, and a courtier or if you will a laird might ride horseback through the forest, which looked as cultivated as he did, and he might hunt stags or roes visible among the visible trunks of allegorical trees, as allegory to us was naturalism to them, but their trim and vertical forests quickly deforested to vacant heath and moor, sheep and cattle grazing, nothing much taller than heather, and stone cottages built, a small dairy, smoke curling from chimneys in the morning, thick blue-grey ascending into blue, the old landshape become a landscape, and stones shaped into walls that curved with hilly fields, poisonously quaint, so that modern Scotland-Scotland by the seventeenth century-has been gardened, with no un-policied nature anywhere, and the only worse yet to come the townscape, the rustic villages, towns shaped with a view to the view, town hall spire rhyming with church steeple, a skyline constructed because they saw themselves as others would see them as they drove around the curve of the road, and they wanted to be ready for them, one tree left at the margin of a hill to catch the sunset in its branches, a grove of trees in the middle of a city as a park or square or green, the whole of Scotland a manshape, and the interferences of men applauded everywhere by men as they drove out to view the scenery and viewed the sum of infinitesimal greeds, the history of Scottish appetites, uncalculated and incalculable intrusions into the forest until the forest became a moor... ("Interim")

-William S.

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Like the most of you, I was raised among people who knew - who were certain. They did not reason or investigate. They had no doubts. They knew that they had the truth. In their creed there was no guess — no perhaps. They had a revelation from God. They knew the beginning of things. They knew that God commenced to create one Monday morning, four thousand and four years before Christ. They knew that in the eternity — back of that morning, he had done nothing. They knew that it took him six days to make the earth — all plants, all animals, all life, and all the globes that wheel in space. They knew exactly what he did each day and when he rested. They knew the origin, the cause of evil, of all crime, of all disease and death.At the same time they knew that God created man in his own image and was perfectly satisfied with his work... They knew all about the Flood -- knew that God, with the exception of eight, drowned all his children -- the old and young -- the bowed patriarch and the dimpled babe -- the young man and the merry maiden -- the loving mother and the laughing child -- because his mercy endureth forever. They knew too, that he drowned the beasts and birds -- everything that walked or crawled or flew -- because his loving kindness is over all his works. They knew that God, for the purpose of civilizing his children, had devoured some with earthquakes, destroyed some with storms of fire, killed some with his lightnings, millions with famine, with pestilence, and sacrificed countless thousands upon the fields of war. They knew that it was necessary to believe these things and to love God. They knew that there could be no salvation except by faith, and through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ.Then I asked myself the question: Is there a supernatural power -- an arbitrary mind -- an enthroned God -- a supreme will that sways the tides and currents of the world -- to which all causes bow?I do not deny. I do not know - but I do not believe. I believe that the natural is supreme - that from the infinite chain no link can be lost or broken — that there is no supernatural power that can answer prayer - no power that worship can persuade or change — no power that cares for man.Is there a God?I do not know.Is man immortal?I do not know.One thing I do know, and that is, that neither hope, nor fear, belief, nor denial, can change the fact. It is as it is, and it will be as it must be.We can be as honest as we are ignorant. If we are, when asked what is beyond the horizon of the known, we must say that we do not know. We can tell the truth, and we can enjoy the blessed freedom that the brave have won. We can destroy the monsters of superstition, the hissing snakes of ignorance and fear. We can drive from our minds the frightful things that tear and wound with beak and fang. We can civilize our fellow-men. We can fill our lives with generous deeds, with loving words, with art and song, and all the ecstasies of love. We can flood our years with sunshine — with the divine climate of kindness, and we can drain to the last drop the golden cup of joy.

-Robert G.

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Long before there were effective treatments, physicians dispensed prognoses, hope, and, above all, meaning. When something terrible happens-and serious disease is always terrible-people want to know why. In a pantheistic world, the explanation was simple-one god had caused the problem, another could cure it. In the time since people have been trying to get along with only one God, explaining disease and evil has become more difficult. Generations of theologians have wrestled with the problem of theodicy-how can a good God allow such bad things to happen to good people? Darwinian medicine can't offer a substitute for such explanations. It can't provide a universe in which events are part of a divine plan, much less one in which individual illness reflects individual sins. It can only show us why we are the way we are, why we are vulnerable to certain diseases. A Darwinian view of medicine simultaneously makes disease less and more meaningful. Diseases do not result from random or malevolent forces, they arise ultimately from past natural selection. Paradoxically, the same capacities that make us vulnerable to disease often confer benefits. The capacity for suffering is a useful defense. Autoimmune disease is a price of our remarkable ability to attack invaders. Cancer is the price of tissues that can repair themselves. Menopause may protect the interests of our genes in existing children. Even senescence and death are not random, but compromises struck by natural selection as it inexorably shaped out bodies to maximize the transmission of our genes. In such paradoxical benefits, some may find a gentle satisfaction, even a bit of meaning-at least the sort of meaning Dobzhansky recognized. After all, nothing in medicine makes sense except in the light of evolution.

-Randolph M.

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Marx was troubled by the question of why ancient Greek art retained an ‘eternal charm’, even though the social conditions which produced it had long passed; but how do we know that it will remain ‘eternally’ charming, since history has not yet ended? Let us imagine that by dint of some deft archaeological research we discovered a great deal more about what ancient Greek tragedy actually meant to its original audiences, recognized that these concerns were utterly remote from our own, and began to read the plays again in the light of this deepened knowledge. One result might be that we stopped enjoying them. We might come to see that we had enjoyed them previously because we were unwittingly reading them in the light of our own preoccupations; once this became less possible, the drama might cease to speak at all significantly to us.The fact that we always interpret literary works to some extent in the light of our own concerns - indeed that in one sense of ‘our own concerns’ we are incapable of doing anything else - might be one reason why certain works of literature seem to retain their value across the centuries. It may be, of course, that we still share many preoccupations with the work itself; but it may also be that people have not actually been valuing the ‘same’ work at all, even though they may think they have. ‘Our’ Homer is not identical with the Homer of the Middle Ages, nor ‘our’ Shakespeare with that of his contemporaries; it is rather that different historical periods have constructed a ‘different’ Homer and Shakespeare for their own purposes, and found in these texts elements to value or devalue, though not necessarily the same ones. All literary works, in other words, are ‘rewritten’, if only unconsciously, by the societies which read them; indeed there is no reading of a work which is not also a ‘re-writing’. No work, and no current evaluation of it, can simply be extended to new groups of people without being changed, perhaps almost unrecognizably, in the process; and this is one reason why what counts as literature is a notably unstable affair.

-Terry Eagleton

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Forgiveness Grows From UnderstandingIf you find forgiving difficult, bear in mind that it does not mean giving in, but letting go. Whether or not you think someone deserves your forgiveness, you most certainly are worthy of forgiving them, because that is the only way of dissolving the karmic chains and shackles we created for ourselves and each other, in the course of many lifetimes, and of setting each other free. Holding on to anger is a way of trying to compensate for the powerlessness we feel when someone hurts us. It is important to find a way of letting go of anger, by talking with the person who hurt us, without attacking or blaming them, but by describing the effect their behaviour had on us and the world of our feelings. Listening to another’s point of view helps us to see things from a different perspective. It makes us more tolerant and shows us the way to true and lasting forgiveness that comes from our heart, instead of our head. If, for any reason, it is impossible to communicate with the people who have hurt us, writing down what happened the way we experienced it can be a good release. Talking the matter over with a friend or a counsellor is another way of letting go. In my view, forgiving does not necessarily mean forgetting. It is not easy to forget hurts, but even partial forgiveness is beneficial because re-living past painful incidents in our minds time and again is bad for our health, as this increases our susceptibility to illness. Forgiving is good for all parts of our being, mind, body, spirit and soul. If it is more than we can manage on our own, God and the Angels are waiting to be called upon for their assistance. After all, to err is human and to forgive is Divine. And forgiveness brings inner peace. Meditation, quiet reflections and prayers are the best ways of finding both. It’s never too late to send forgiveness to anyone, especially not those who returned to the world of light ahead of us. They are neither dead nor asleep but probably more alive than we are, because they are once more fully aware of their true nature and have been shown by the ministering Angels the karmic debts they left behind. Our loving and forgiving thoughts reach them through the ethers without hindrance. If you have unresolved issues with someone or maybe several people on the other side of the veil of consciousness and long to make peace with them, go right ahead. God and the Angels are delighted whenever one of us requests their help. Ask them to show you how to resolve the issues and through this dissolve the karmic chains that still exist between you. Forgiveness is the most important ingredient in our quest for more harmonious relationships. It grows from and is a natural consequence of a growing understanding of the true purpose of our present existence and human relationships in particular. Though this can be an extremely arduous task, being merciful is essential for becoming whole – meaning healed – through the integration of all the qualities that are our Divine inheritance. This is our opportunity for learning how to take possession of each one of them and the most important one of them is learning how to love God’s way and acquiring the ability of a love that understands all, forgives all and heals all. This kind of love isn’t blind, but because it understands it forgives. Loving this way opens our heart’s and soul’s willingness for doing so. Understanding opens our inner vision to the necessity for forgiving and we perceive with great clarity that without it, we shall remain stuck in the past and cannot move on. The trouble with life is, as the Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard put it: ‘Life must be understood backwards, but has to be lived forwards.’ How very true! The best thing about this life is that we are all allowed to make mistakes – nay, maybe we are even. Rays of Wisdom - Astrology As A Lifehelp In Relationships

-Rays Of

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...What I have denied and what my reason compels me to deny, is the existence of a Being throned above us as a god, directing our mundane affairs in detail, regarding us as individuals, punishing us, rewarding us as human judges might.When the churches learn to take this rational view of things, when they become true schools of ethics and stop teaching fables, they will be more effective than they are to-day... If they would turn all that ability to teaching this one thing – the fact that honesty is best, that selfishness and lies of any sort must surely fail to produce happiness – they would accomplish actual things. Religious faiths and creeds have greatly hampered our development. They have absorbed and wasted some fine intellects. That creeds are getting to be less and less important to the average mind with every passing year is a good sign, I think, although I do not wish to talk about what is commonly called theology.The criticisms which have been hurled at me have not worried me. A man cannot control his beliefs. If he is honest in his frank expression of them, that is all that can in justice be required of him. Professor Thomson and a thousand others do not in the least agree with me. His criticism of me, as I read it, charged that because I doubted the soul’s immortality, or ‘personality,’ as he called it, my mind must be abnormal, ‘pathological,’ in other, words, diseased... I try to say exactly what I honestly believe to be the truth, and more than that no man can do. I honestly believe that creedists have built up a mighty structure of inaccuracy, based, curiously, on those fundamental truths which I, with every honest man, must not alone admit but earnestly acclaim.I have been working on the same lines for many years. I have tried to go as far as possible toward the bottom of each subject I have studied. I have not reached my conclusions through study of traditions; I have reached them through the study of hard fact. I cannot see that unproved theories or sentiment should be permitted to have influence in the building of conviction upon matters so important. Science proves its theories or it rejects them. I have never seen the slightest scientific proof of the religious theories of heaven and hell, of future life for individuals, or of a personal God. I earnestly believe that I am right; I cannot help believing as I do... I cannot accept as final any theory which is not provable. The theories of the theologians cannot be proved. Proof, proof! That is what I always have been after; that is what my mind requires before it can accept a theory as fact. Some things are provable, some things disprovable, some things are doubtful. All the problems which perplex us, now, will, soon or late, be solved, and solved beyond a question through scientific investigation. The thing which most impresses me about theology is that it does not seem to be investigating. It seems to be asserting, merely, without actual study....Moral teaching is the thing we need most in this world, and many of these men could be great moral teachers if they would but give their whole time to it, and to scientific search for the rock-bottom truth, instead of wasting it upon expounding theories of theology which are not in the first place firmly based. What we need is search for fundamentals, not reiteration of traditions born in days when men knew even less than we do now.[Columbian Magazine interview]

-Thomas A. Edison

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