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Monday, April 14, 2014

Into the Darkness

Late tonight we will be treated to a total lunar eclipse. Slate has a detailed writeup on where and how to view it.

Do you live in North America, South America, Australia, or eastern Asia? Then you get to see a lunar eclipse on the night of April 14/15! And while North America is the best place to watch—we’ll get to see the whole event—the real action doesn’t begin until 05:58 UTC on the 15th, which is just before 02:00 EDT, so it’s a bit late. You might just want to stay up for it, though.

It will also be broadcast live by the Griffith Observatory.

But this is just the attention getter for a series of celestial alignments that astrologers are claiming is one for the books. This Easter will bring with it a collective crucifixion as a Grand Cross in the Cardinal signs.

I'm not an astrologer, but I wasn't surprised to read any of that. My fear is that it lines up all too perfectly with a sense of nameless dread that I've had for months. As I was discussing with some lovely people on this thread (search page for: earthquake), what I keep getting from my guides is "major global realignment."

Something massive is about to shake loose and I've frankly been too scared to look, but the energy of it has become overwhelming. After recovering from the dizziness associated with that Chile quake and its aftershocks, I have found myself over the past week experiencing the worst ascension symptoms I've felt in years. I can't think straight half the time. The fatigue is bone crushing. I've just been inhaling benzoin resin (psychic, emotional exhaustion), reading, watching movies (because stories are medicine), and sleeping whenever possible.

When it finally occurred to me to check in with the latest Karen Bishop update, I learned that I am not alone in this.

Well, okay. Ascension has cranked up, that is for sure. Because not only are we experiencing the ususal increase in vibrational frequency as we move along, but we are also beginning to feel the effects of the Grand Cross alignment due to arrive on April 20.

I can remember the Grand Cross of May 5, 2000. We were all so excited for it to come, as we believed it would usher in the new world. Instead, we felt totally squished and squeezed. It reminded me of a spine with a perfect line and anything that did not fit within it was pushed out. An emptiness. A blankness. A speechlessness.

I recommend reading this one if only for the awesome roundup of symptoms many of you may be experiencing as we run the gauntlet of this crazy set of energy dynamics.

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Sunday, April 13, 2014

"Gospel of Jesus's Wife" Papyrus Authenticated

The papyrus fragment that touched off a firestorm because it refers to Jesus's wife appears to be authentic. Tests of the papyrus fibers and ink confirm that both are of ancient origin.

For two years, researchers carried out a number of tests, including two radiocarbon tests, microscopic imaging, and micro-Raman spectroscopy, to examine the fragment.

One of the radiocarbon tests indicated that the piece of papyrus must have originated from some time between 659 and 859 CE. Using micro-Raman spectroscopy, researchers confirmed that the ink's carbon character matched with similar samples of other old papyri fragments. The handwriting was examined, and imaging scientists assessed the damage caused to the document to examine if there was a possibility of the document being forged or doctored.

After weighing the evidence, the scholars and scientists agree that the GJW fragment is old and definitely "a product of early Christians, not a modern forger," according to a press release from Harvard Divinity School.

Dr. Karen King, who announced the discovery in 2012, hopes the findings will change the conversation from debate over its authenticity to its historical relevance. That seems doubtful as it is still meeting with resistance from some academics and the subject matter is so charged.

The new information may not convince those scholars and bloggers who say the text is the work of a rather sloppy forger keen to influence contemporary debates. The Harvard Theological Review, which is publishing Dr. King’s long-delayed, peer-reviewed paper online on Thursday, is also publishing a rebuttal by Leo Depuydt, a professor of Egyptology at Brown University, who declares the fragment so patently fake that it “seems ripe for a Monty Python sketch.”

. . .

However, Dr. Depuydt, the Egyptologist at Brown University, said that testing the fragment was irrelevant and that he saw “no need to inspect it.” He said he decided based on the first newspaper photograph that the fragment was forged because it contained “gross grammatical errors,” and each word in it matched writing in the Gospel of Thomas, an early Christian text discovered in Nag Hammadi, Egypt, in 1945. “It couldn’t possibly be coincidence,” he said.

A forger could easily create carbon black ink by mixing candle soot and oil, he said: “An undergraduate student with one semester of Coptic can make a reed pen and start drawing lines.”

Tests on the ink at M.I.T. using infrared spectography refute the charge and found the ink to be genuine.

Much of the debate has centered around the straw man argument over whether or not this proves Jesus to have been married. Dr. King has never claimed this as evidence of an actual marriage but, at best, as proof that some early Christian sects taught that he was married.

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Homeless Jesus

A public art installation in an affluent North Carolina suburb is causing some consternation amongst the locals. One woman even called the police when she noticed what appeared to be a homeless person sleeping on a bench outside St. Alban's Episcopal Church. Another complained in a letter to the editor of the local paper. But the vagrant cast in bronze is artist Timothy Schmalz's conception of Jesus.

Some neighbors felt it was an insulting depiction of the Son of God, and what appears to be a hobo curled up on a bench demeans the neighborhood.

The bronze statue was purchased for $22,000 as a memorial for a parishioner, Kate McIntyre, who had loved public art. The rector of this liberal, inclusive church is Rev. David Buck, a 65-year-old Baptist-turned-Episcopalian who seems not at all averse to the controversy, the double-takes and the discussion the statue has provoked.

"It gives authenticity to our church," he says. "This is a relatively affluent church, to be honest, and we need to be reminded ourselves that our faith expresses itself in active concern for the marginalized of society."

. . .

"We believe that that's the kind of life Jesus had," Buck says. "He was, in essence, a homeless person."

No kidding, huh? Isn't it funny how people forget that. Just as they forget that he told people to sell all they owned and give their money to the poor. (Luke 18:22 and Matthew 19:21)

Schmalz's inspiration for Jesus the Homeless came from Matthew 25:31-46:

When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.

Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

Homeless Jesus may be disrupting more communities as Schmalz presses forward with his plan to install his masterpiece at churches all over the world. The holy vagrant can now be seen sleeping on benches in front of St. John's Episcopal in Grand Haven, Michigan and the Jesuit School of Theology at the University of Toronto.

And while the devout Catholic artist was declined by St. Patrick's Cathedral in Manhattan and St. Michael's Cathedral in Toronto, approval is pending in Rome for the installation to appear on the avenue leading to St. Peter's Basilica. A miniature presented at the Vatican received a blessing from Pope Francis.

"He walked over to the sculpture, and it was just chilling because he touched the knee of the Jesus the Homeless sculpture, and closed his eyes and prayed," Schmalz says. "It was like, that's what he's doing throughout the whole world: Pope Francis is reaching out to the marginalized."

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Sunday, March 16, 2014

Bill Maher on Noah and his Genocidal God

I like Bill Maher. His New Atheist views less so. I think his views on religion are often under-informed and facile. That said, I find little to disagree with in his latest anti-religious rant. It is a little frightening that so many in the US take Biblical myths literally. Maher claims that 60% of Americans believe Noah's Ark is a true story. I assume this isn't in the sense that it is reflective of similar catastrophe myths found around the globe or that it probably derives very directly from the Sumerian legend of Utnapishtim.

The statistic Mahar cites most likely comes from a 2004 ABC poll. That same study found that literal belief is strongest among evangelical Christians, much as one would expect. But this is always the problem with New Atheist arguments. They focus on their direct nemeses, those as dogmatic in their views as they themselves are. And, in fairness, there really is no arguing that literal belief in this story poisons our thinking for the central reason Maher states. This Old Testament god they worship is a genocidal maniac. Belief in such a god sets the stage for all manner of cruelty and consciously or unconsciously justifies atrocities.

Joseph Campbell has said much the same and I have cited the following more than once. Maher just says it funnier.

[The Bible is] the most over-advertised book in the world. It's very pretentious to claim it to be the word of God, or accept it as such and perpetuate this tribal mythology, justifying all kinds of violence to people who are not members of the tribe.

The thing I see about the Bible that's unfortunate is that it's a tribally circumscribed mythology. It deals with a certain people at a certain time. The Christians magnified it to include them. It then turns this society against all others, whereas the condition of the world today is that this particular society that's presented in the Bible isn't even the most important. This thing is like a dead weight. It's pulling us back because it belongs to an earlier period. We can't break loose and move into a modern theology.

One of the great promises of mythology is, with what social group do you identify? How about the planet? To say that the members of this particular social group are the elite of God's world is a good way to keep that group together, but look at the consequences! I think that what might be called the sanctified chauvinism of the Bible is one of the curses of the planet today.

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Monday, March 10, 2014

Anthony Peake on Philip K. Dick and the Nature of Reality

Note to self: Read more Anthony Peake and Philip K. Dick.

Sometimes I think the only way to tell the truth is to write SF and Fantasy. This is a fascinating interview... more of an Anthony Peake monologue with a few interruptions, really, and all the more excellent for it. Recommended.

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Sunday, March 09, 2014

Pope Francis Sex Abuse FAIL

Pope Francis has delighted many, myself included, as the kinder, gentler pontiff. But I've said from the outset that when it comes to Catholic leadership the sex abuse crisis is where the rubber meets the road. So when His Holiness addressed the crisis with the same tired rap we've been hearing from Church apologists for years, he brought predictable disappointment and outrage.

When challenged in an interview about his less than proactive response to the crisis, his reaction was to rest on the laurels of all the progress the Church has made. And in a second thoroughly typical reply he deflected criticism of the Catholic Church by making vague statements about how badly everybody else has handled the issue.

“The Catholic Church is perhaps the only public institution that moved with transparency and responsibility,” the pope continued, arguing that most abuse occurs in the home or other community environments. “No one else did as much. And yet, the church is the only one being attacked.”

Does the Catholic Church train its clerics in self-righteous blame throwing?

I suppose if fighting one costly legal battle after another to protect files, cataloging decades of complicated schemes to protect pedophile priests, can be called "transparency," the Catholic Church could be called transparent. I just don't think most people define it that way.

“His comments reflect an archaic, defensive mindset,” said Barbara Dorris of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP.

“He is triumphalist about clergy abuse of children and silent about the complicity of bishops,” said Terence McKiernan, head of BishopAccountability.org.

“Hearing the Pope use the abuse-occurs-elsewhere excuse is truly disheartening,” said the U.S.-based church reform group Voice of the Faithful, echoing a sense of disappointment among many Catholics who hoped the pope’s pledges and moves to reform the church on many levels would extend to an examination of conscience on clergy abuse.

The Vatican seems to be as tone deaf as ever as its spokesman explained away delays on a sex abuse commission by pointing to other priorities such as reforming the Vatican bureaucracy.

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said Wednesday the upheaval of those reforms had delayed getting the commission off the ground. But he said there was no doubt it would, and that it would eventually propose new initiatives to protect children and be a model for the church and society at large.

"I'm waiting for it, and I hope with all my heart (and I know that qualified experts have been contacted in an exploratory way to see if they would be available)," Lombardi said in an email.

So the message from the Vatican is still that this pivotal issue is not a top priority.

They've made their reforms, of which they're very proud. They've handled it better than anyone else has. (???) And now they'd like to move it to the back burner, thank you very much.

Three priests and one former priest in Scotland will give the Vatican another opportunity to demonstrate this transparency of which Pope Francis speaks, as they demand information on the elusive Cardinal Keith O'Brien. Their local church's commitment to transparency has led them to stonewall the investigation, so these four men, who experienced O'Brien's abuses directly, are appealing directly to the pontiff.

Describing the church as a "formidable machine" that had blocked any investigation, one told the Observer: "The abuse we received at the hands of Keith O'Brien is dwarfed by the systematic abuse we have received from church officials. They have passed the buck, misrepresented the truth, engaged in cover-up and, having asked for our trust and co-operation, shamelessly procrastinated and hidden behind a veneer of diplomacy and charm. I want to ask Pope Francis, can you sort this out?"

They would like the Church to be transparent about a number of issues related to Cardinal O'Brien's record and an apology. The Church can only be transparent in its apologies with Vatican permission, apparently. Or so states O'Brien's successor Archbishop Leo Cushley.

Cushley, a former Vatican diplomat, insisted he could not take action independently, but would pass requests to the Vatican. He offered a private apology to the men for their suffering, but said a public apology required Rome's approval. A spokesman for the archbishop said: "Archbishop Cushley has listened to the parties concerned and will transmit any information to the Holy See. Any decision on further action will rest with the Holy See as jurisdiction in the matter rests with the pope."

Much about O'Brien's crimes remains murky and so has the Vatican's corrective process where he is concerned. After graciously bowing out of the conclave and subsequently resigning, little is known, except that he has bizarrely started circulating pictures of himself dressed in cardinal's robes. This seems a rather brazen move from a cardinal who resigned in shame.

O'Brien's four known victims seek that good old Vatican transparency on four major issues:

  • how O'Brien had come to be appointed,
  • the extent of his predatory behavior
  • whether those close to him had been maneuvered into positions of power under his leadership and
  • about potential sacramental abuse by O'Brien.

Given how much better the Catholic Church is than everybody else at handling abusers in its midst in an open, above-board manner, I'm sure that won't be a problem.

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Friday, March 07, 2014

Rhode Island Legionaries to Face Lawsuit

A lawsuit against the Rhode Island chapter of the Legion of Christ will proceed. A previous lawsuit, discussed here, here, and here, was dismissed on the basis that the plaintiff lacked legal standing to bring the suit. That case is on appeal. As discussed Mary Lou Dauray's lawsuit inspired reporters to seek and win a treasure trove of documents pertaining to the Legion of Christ. They revealed the organization's long history of concealing its founder's many abuses and its pattern of extracting large sums of money from its devotees.

Enter Paul Chu whose father also willed a sizable donation to the Rhode Island Legion.

A federal judge in Rhode Island has agreed to let a lawsuit move forward against the Roman Catholic religious order the Legion of Christ, turning down an attempt by the disgraced order to end the lawsuit brought over a late Yale University professor's $1 million bequest.

. . .

It's the second lawsuit making its way through the courts in Rhode Island that raises questions about how the Legion secured large donations from elderly supporters. The other is in state court and involves around $60 million left by a wealthy widow. It was dismissed because the judge found the woman's niece did not have standing to sue, but a state Supreme Court appeal is pending.

In the federal lawsuit, Chu, the son of retired mechanical engineering professor James Boa-Teh Chu, says his father was wrongly coerced, defrauded and deceived into signing over $1 million to $2 million to the Legion before he died in 2009. He says his father, who lived in East Providence, R.I., was led to believe the Legion's founder, the late Rev. Marcial Maciel, was a saint, even as the Vatican was investigating serious sexual abuse allegations about him.

Like the late Gabrielle Mee, James Chu had joined Regnum Christi, a sort of lay monastic order that requires the relinquishment of all assets. The membership of Regnum Christi is made up largely of elderly rich people. They are required to take a vow of poverty that ironically adds to the substantial wealth of the Legion of Christ.

A jury trial could be very embarrassing for the Legionaries of Christ, its Rhode Island chapter, and the Vatican, whose favor towards the organization and its late leader figured heavily into the recent findings by the UN.

Meanwhile, the Vatican deflected the criticism by this international panel of experts by seizing on tangential issues to blame the messenger. It is a pattern so predictable, at this point, that these stories pretty much write themselves.

In a recent editorial, the National Catholic Register called on the Church to take the findings seriously and pick up the pace on reform.

Critics have faulted the U.N. report for not keeping its focus on the sexual abuse of minors and instead also criticizing Vatican policies (we would call them teachings) on abortion, birth control, homosexuality and even corporal punishment. Bringing up these issues -- which the committee may not have been able to avoid because of its wider mandate -- made the report too easy to dismiss by the very people it should have roused to action. It also focused too much on the historical record and ignored some recent progress the Vatican has made. Because of this, the report comes off as dated, giving critics more ammunition to dismiss it. A more politically savvy report could have had greater impact. Commentators even on the NCR website called the report poorly done, sloppily executed and an opportunity squandered.

While acknowledging these weaknesses, we should not lose sight of the truth the report contains: When it comes to sex abuse, church officials continue to cloak themselves in secrecy, deceive the faithful and act with impunity.

NCR goes on to list multiple cases which have underscored just how far the Catholic Church has not come in reform and accountability on its sex abuse crisis. The editorial urges Pope Francis to move forward with an alacrity that is still consistently lacking.

In a typically timely manner, the Legionaries of Christ finally got 'round to denouncing their former leader... last month.

The Legionaries of Christ have elected a new leader, and issued a statement apologizing to the victims of the late Father Marcial Maciel and acknowledging that the order was guilty of “excessive exaltation” of its founder.

Father Eduardo Robles Gil, a Mexican priest, was elected director general of the Legionaries by the general chapter of the order, meeting in Rome. His election was confirmed by Archbishop José Rodriguez Carballo, the secretary of the Vatican’s Congregation for Religious.

In a statement released on February 6 along with the announcement of the order’s new leadership, the Legionaries addressed the difficulties that the order has experienced since the revelations that Father Maciel had led a double life. The statement says that “we hope to be able to redeem our painful history and overcome with good the consequences of evil.”

I can't help thinking that relinquishing their claim to millions of dollars bequeathed by people like Mee and Chu would be a good place to start redeeming themselves but it doesn't look like that's going to happen.

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Monday, March 03, 2014

Sexy Jesus, Pt. II: The Gallery

Well, it took years, a Portuguese sex symbol, and a trending hashtag, but they finally got there. The major media has noticed the strange tendency to portray Jesus as the sexy white guy he almost definitely wasn't. Well, he might have been sexy. We don't really know. But white, not so much.

Son of God has been doing big box office as the striking Diogo Morgado reprises his role from The Bible. But strangely it seems the first time the press has seriously entertained the question: Why is Jesus so sexy?

It's something I've been asking for quite some time. Why is Jesus always hot? He was kind to prostitutes and adultresses, so the story goes, but never had sex with any of them. He never had sex at all. Any suggestion that he may have sends the Vatican into a full-blown tizz.

There is something deeply disturbing about these endless portrayals of Jesus as a very handsome -- and emotionally available -- but asexual man. Yet, Jesus has been dead sexy down through the ages.

Iconic Jesus with just the barest hint of seventies rock star:

Seventies rock star with just the barest hint of Jesus:

Ted Neeley as Jesus Christ Superstar

Mary Magdalene just totally gone on rock star Jesus:

Carl Anderson, Ted Neeley, and Yvonne Elliman in Jesus Christ Superstar

Handsome, sensitive Jesus definitely not flirting with Samaritan woman:

Why do birds suddenly appear, ev'ry time you are near... other seventies Jesus:

Brian Deacon as Jesus

Holy face, handsome face:

Also known as that totally hot detective from Law & Order:

Jeremy Sisto as Jesus

Whatever you do, don't think about Valentine's Day:

Sacred Heart Jesus

I said don't think about Valentine's Day. Not even if it's the inimitable Jeffrey Hunter playing the King of Kings:

Jeffrey Hunter as Bling Jesus

Yes, that Jeffrey Hunter, aka., Captain Pike of the USS Enterprise:

Jeffrey Hunter as Jesus in King of Kings

Handsome, blue-eyed, Swedish Jesus:

Handsome, blue-eyed, Robert Powell Jesus:

Robert Powell as Jesus of Nazareth

Sad but totally ripped Jesus:

The very handsome Jim Caviezel transformed into a somewhat more Semitic looking and devastatingly gorgeous Jesus in Mel Gibson's tour de force Passion of the Christ:

Jim Caviezel as Jesus in Passion of the Christ

Also known as BDSM Jesus:

Jim Caviezel as Jesus in Passion of the Christ

Sweet, sincere, if somewhat naive, Jesus making Bill Maher look like about a half a man:

Bill Maher and Jesus in Religulous

Ouch! Even atheist Jesus is, like, totally hot:

Sean Douglas as Jesse in Mr. Deity

Ya gotta admit, this is one #hotjesus:

Diogo Morgado as the Son of God

Part one of Sexy Jesus can be found here.

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Friday, February 28, 2014

Rewriting Jesus

This was my comment to Arizona Governor Jan Brewer when I signed the petition asking her to veto SB1062:

Whom would Jesus refuse to serve? This bill isn't just un-Constitutional. It's un-Christian.

I'd love to think that her decision to veto the bill was because of people like myself who petitioned and protested this legislative abomination. I'm not naive. I'm quite sure it had much more to do with the business leaders who brought their cumulative corporate weight to bear. Arizona doesn't want the opinions of the little people so much as it wants their tourism dollars.

Either way, that particular crisis was averted. But hate is a hydra. A similar bill is gathering momentum in Georgia.

Georgia -- with its tumultuous past of discrimination -- is following Arizona's recently failed attempt to pass what amounts to anti-gay legislation with the Preservation of Religious Freedom Act.

The state may shift from the cradle of the civil rights movement to the vanguard of legalized 21st-century bigotry with the consideration of this legislation, modeled on Arizona's, that would allow businesses to refuse service to gay and lesbian customers on the basis of alleged religious conviction.

When did we get the idea, in this country, that the First Amendment protects the right of certain religious groups to control other people? Since when is religious freedom about stuffing your beliefs down everybody else's throat?

And what funhouse mirror version of Christianity tells us to condemn anyone we think is sinning and refuse to associate with them?

Zack Hunt asks, "What if Jesus had been more like the Arizona House of Representatives?"

Answer: The Sermon on the Mount would have been quite different as would much of the New Testament.

But I tell you, have nothing to do with your enemies and denounce those who disagree with you. If you love those who don't love you, what reward will you get? Are not sinners to be shunned? And if you serve people you don't agree with, are you not subliminally supporting their ideas and way of life? Be judgmental and exclude others, therefore, as the Pharisees and Sadducees judge and exclude others.

Remember that leper Jesus embraced and healed? No more miracle service for him. Lepers in the Bible get leprosy because they sinned or their parents sinned, so they must be avoided at all costs, for their own good and the good of the community.

The woman caught in adultery would have died, pummeled to death under a pile of stones. She was a sinner and undeserving of any advocacy service Jesus could provide her.

I liked that compassionate Jesus I learned about in church much better.

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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Graham Hancock: Exploring Consciousness

Graham Hancock here offers an excellent synthesis of some of his more recent work. The "hard problem of consciousness" is turning out to be one of the most divisive issues in the sciences, as the TED fiasco made abundantly clear. Here Hancock discusses why TED was so challenged by his short talk and goes into a lot of depth on his own personal and professional processing of that question. The talk primarily focuses on three of his recent books. I've read them all and I've loved them all. Supernatural, in particular is on the short list of my very favorite books of all time. Enjoy!

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