Sunday, March 24, 2013

Palm Sunday, March 24, 2013: Christ, Kennedy and Lincoln

For the past two years we have been celebrating day by day the 150th anniversary of events in the Civil War. This year is  huge. There is the horrific Union loss at Chancellorsville followed by the turning point victories at Vicksburg and Gettysburg in July, followed by the Gettysburg address at which Lincoln  redefined our  Nation, turning us toward the fundamental values of the Declaration of Independence.

This is also the fiftieth anniversary of two events of the JFK presidency. The first was the June speech at American University in DC where he first publicly proposed a ban on the atmospheric testing of Atomic weapons. Both he and Khrushchev had looked into the abyss the previous year during the Cuban Missile Crisis and knew the desperate path the World was trodding toward nuclear annihilation.

Kennedy's speech is best remembered by this phrase about the need for US-Soviet cooperation:

For in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.

Kennedy lost the White House on November 22, 1963. There is substantial evidence that he did plan to pull of Vietnam after the 1964 election and already had drafted an order to pull back our commitment. All that ended in Dallas, His successor gave the military-industrial complex the war it wanted.

Lincoln finally won his war in 1865. He visited vanquished Richmond but a week later he too was assassinated.

I have come to believe the enduring truth of the Christian faith (or myth, if that suits you) is not the resurrection but its transfiguring of all human experience into the divine. Lincoln and Kennedy both enjoyed great triumphs before their assassins struck. The cheers in Dallas were still ringing in JFK’s ears when all went black.

Today is Palm Sunday when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the back of an donkey. Cheers were ringing also in his ears. Then came the crucifixion and three days of black for his disciples. And then came Easter morning and the witness of Mary Magdalene that some thing  marvelous had happened.

Today is Palm Sunday and we can not forget even as we celebrate that Good Friday lies only five days in the future. But then two days more and it is Easter.

I close with a quotation from Elaine Pagels, author of the Gnostic Gospels:

“In its portrait of Christ’s life and his passion, orthodox teaching offered a means of interpreting fundamental elements of human experience. Rejecting the gnostic view that Jesus was a spiritual being, the orthodox insisted that he, like the rest of humanity, was born, lived in a family, became hungry and tired, ate and drank wine, suffered and died. They even went so far as to insist that he rose bodily from the dead. Here again, as we have seen, orthodox tradition implicitly affirms bodily experience as the central fact of human life. What one does physically—one eats and drinks, engages in sexual life or avoids it, saves one’s life or gives it up—all are vital elements in one’s religious development. But those gnostics who regarded the essential part of every person as the “inner spirit” dismissed such physical experience, pleasurable or painful, as a distraction from spiritual reality—indeed, as an illusion. No wonder, then, that far more people identified with the orthodox portrait than with the “bodiless spirit” of gnostic tradition. Not only the martyrs, but all Christians who have suffered for 2,000 years, who have feared and faced death, have found their experience validated in the story of the human Jesus.”[i]

We in this generation are blessed with a new revelation. His Shroud which not only registers the fact of His crucifixion, but whispers the hope of his Resurrection, and ours.

[i] Pagels, Elaine (2004-06-29). The Gnostic Gospels (p. 99). Random House. Kindle Edition.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The image on the Turin Shroud: Is a laser like light the explanation?

There is debate among individuals who study the Shroud of Turin as to whether or not the image of a crucified man that appears on it is a scorch. I think one of the problems when discussing the scorch theory is defining a scorch. In common parlance, perhaps all of parlance, a scorch is the result of extreme heat. However,  pure light can have effects that mimic a scorch when it ages something - as it can do. 

Most of the arguments against a "scorch" theory involve the fact that has conventionally understood a scorch is caused by intense heat. Thus there are real scorch marks cause by the fire in the sixteenth century. The intriguing point was the finding of the Gilberts who examined the Shroud in 1978, that spectra of the Shroud image was identical to the spectra of the lightest parts of the scorch.

In the past two years, I have had cataracts removed from each of my eyes (I have only two, alas). My eyesight has been vastly improved, particularly my night vision. The tool used by the surgeon was not a scalpel but a laser. There was no subsidiary damage caused by the laser. 

The term laser is an acronym for "Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation." If a laser, which is pure light, can be modulated enough to remove tissue from an eye and cause no collateral damage, then the possibility that a laser like light could provide a process that would have "scorched" an image unto the Shroud ought to be considered until another proven method is demonstrated. 

The detail of the image is probably not as fine as the laser that removed my cataracts, or it may be finer. But my cataract removal indicates that a laser can function in very finite spaces and effect human tissue with no collateral damage.

Of course that didn't have lasers circa the 30 CE (AD) or later in 1350. I have a "simple" proposition. There are no scientifically supporter theories of the "method" of transfer of the image to the cloth. Any explanation of forger is very complex and actually so far as we have come, impossible. Thomas de Wesellow  claims that Christ's post-Resurrection appearances were all  expositions of the Shroud. He offers no convincing explanation of image formation. 

Applying Occam's razor, could it be that the "simplest explanation" of the image is in fact the Resurrection? 

The story of Genesis in the first book of the Bible and the introduction to the Gospel of St. John all revolve around light. Could it be that these stories, while not history have in fact a seemingly incredible insight: "And god said, let there be light and there was light." Christ is the alpha and the omega. Light was the Alpha, is his Resurrection and perhaps our own, the Omega.

Monday, March 11, 2013

John Heller and the Shroud of Turin Research Project

Let us now sing the praises of famous men [and women]
                                                                        Ben Sira 44 1

Anyone who is serious about current research on the Shroud, sooner or later, reaches out to Barrie Schwortz, the documentary photographer of the Shroud of Turin Research Project (STURP) and webmaster of I expect they get referred by Barrie  (as  I was) to Dr. John Heller’s intimate look at STURP in action: “Report on the Shroud of Turin,” Macmillan, New York 1983. It’s available used on Amazon if you can’t locate it anywhere else.

I am concluding that part of my work in progress focusing on the pre-Carbon-14 period of the Shroud and will be moving on from the formal STURP process of 1975-1981. This post is not intended to encapsulate their work, but as I read Dr. Heller’s final tribute to his colleagues I was struck by its beauty and relevance to today, when the Shroud world appears to be split into sometime competing duchies.

 Although on a vastly smaller scale, I am reminded in reading of the STURP collaboration of the collaboration that created the atomic bomb (except that STURP team wasn't paid).. If anyone wants to know how an adventuresome scientific collaboration into new, untested waters ought to work, this book is a place to start. But. enough of my drivel. Here is how the late Dr. Heller put it:

"We do know, however, that there are thousands upon thousands of pieces of funerary linen going back two millennia before Christ and another huge number of linens of Coptic Christian burials. On none of these is there any image of any kind. A few have some blood and stains on them, but no image.

"However, there are some remarkable aspects to this voyage of discovery.

"The team itself – its formation, cohesion, diversity, collaboration, as well as its sacrifice of time, talent and treasure – is unique in scientific annals.

"The role of 'coincidence' is awesome.

"Science undertook its specialty, which is measurement. We were supremely confident that the answers would – indeed must – be forthcoming. And we fail.

"Many team members were ordered or threatened to desist from the project, yet they persevered. Though it was believed that there would be a confrontation between science and religion, none occurred. Rather the relationship was harmonious and synergistic.

"All of us have been changed by the project I believe we have grown.
Some years ago, a friend of mine said to me in exasperation, "Heller, why don't you spend less time in Athens and more in Jerusalem?"

"I find the Acropolis much less interesting these days."

R.I.P. Dr. John H. Heller
This is not a promo for my book "Quantum Christ" but if you are interested:

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Evidence and the Shroud of Turin

There was an article in the Denver Post dated March 3, 2013, which reported on a lecture by scientist Rudy Dichtl who was a part of the research group which examined the Shroud in 1978 and conducted extensive scientific tests. The tests established that the Shroud contained blood and a mysterious still inexplicable image of a crucified man. There was doubt shed on the claim that the man was Jesus Christ by C-14 carbon tests from a corner of the Shroud but there has been substantial “factual” doubt about the validity of those test that are explained in the Denver Post article. 
Yet, he says that as scientist, it can’t be said that it has been proven to be the burial cloth of Christ. Rudy Dichtl has made great contributions but there is a point where we have to make decisions on the evidence available. Based upon all the evidence available, the Shroud is a burial cloth of Jesus Christ. It is a matter of probabilities. How many Jews were crucified in 30-33 CE who claimed to be the Messiah?
That is the specific event we are considering. Best bet is probably only one, but I would like to challenged on that with specific cases if they exist. Saying there MAY have been others when there is no historical evidence of any others in that time period does not create doubt, reasonable or otherwise.

Yes, there were other individuals who claimed to be the Messiah, but how many were crucified by the Romans circa 30 CE (AD). The Roman historian Tacitus noted that "Christus" was executed by Pontius Pilot at that time period but that the execution didn't put an end to his superstition which spread to Rome where 20 or so years later Nero launched his persecution of the Christians that ultimately took the lives of Peter and Paul.


It's circumstantial evidence - you betcha. But every year in the United States people are convicted of crimes and sometimes executed on the basis of circumstantial evidence where the burden of proof is "evidence beyond reasonable doubt." We do not order our lives by proof beyond a reasonable doubt. The circumstances are such that they establish the authenticity of the Shroud, and, I believe, beyond REASONABLE doubt.

Reasonable doubt is a not a lingering suspicion that comes in the middle of the night. Where the facts point so strongly in one direction, Reasonable doubt must then be based on facts. When evidence is adduced that a certain event probably happened, doubt not based on facts is not reasonable.

There is no authentic doubt about the Shroud once it is established that it is a linen cloth that once enwrapped the body of a crucified man who was scourged, beaten, nailed to a cross   and his side pierced with a post-mortem (after death) spear wound. There is even evidence that he carried the cross-bar on his shoulders and walked through streets that had limestone stone dust compatible with the streets of Jerusalem. There is also evidence that he fell and because he was carrying the cross-bar, he couldn't break his fall, injuring a knee and the tip of his nose.

The accumulation of facts is overwhelming. The question that nobody has ever answered, given the circumstances is: If not HIM, who?