A little background. I’m a runner. I started running back in June of 2009, and have only stopped occasionally for sickness or injury (got the flu once, probably H1N1, and Achilles tendinitis). Since that time I’ve logged 723 miles in 193 runs, and just recently surpassed 100,000 calories burned. Last year I ran the Utah Valley Half Marathon in 2:06, and am planning on the Shamrock Half Marathon next month, and hopefully the Utah Valley Marathon in June.
Music is a fundamental part of worship, and was even more so anciently than it is today. Before the printed word made the sacred word so accessible to the masses, it was passed on from generation to generation orally. But this was not just the spoken word. In order for the word to be remembered and said the same way over and over again, over decades and centuries, a mnemonic device was employed to facilitate the reciter. This device was music. The sacred word, every word, was put to music.
This can be seen in the way the Bible is written in Hebrew, one of the oldest languages in the world. In Hebrew, particularly the Hebrew Bible, there are cantillation marks that specify how the text should be sung: [Read more…]
The Christmas story from Luke 2 reads in part:
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them,
Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another,
Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them. (Luke 2:8–20)
Most of us are very familiar with these scriptures, as it is tradition in many families to read this story at Christmastime every year to remind us of the true meaning of Christmas.
But who were the shepherds? Have you, like me, considered the angelophany to the shepherds in their fields something that was completely random? Were the angels announcing the birth of the Savior abroad in the land, and this was just one of the accounts that was recorded in scripture? Or was there a greater purpose to the angelic revelation specific to these shepherds? [Read more…]
(This is a continuation of my thoughts about The Lost Symbol from my previous post.)
One of the themes taken up again and again in Dan Brown’s latest novel The Lost Symbol is the idea of power in group thinking and concentration. Katherine’s character in particular is engaged in the scientific study of producing physical changes through the power of group thought and concentrated collective intention. In connection with this, the practice of prayer circles is brought up:
The shocking discovery, it seemed, paralleled the ancient spiritual belief in a “cosmic consciousness”—a vast coalescing of human intention that was actually capable of interacting with physical matter. Recently, studies in mass meditation and prayer had produced similar results in Random Event Generators, fueling the claim that human consciousness, as Noetic author Lynne McTaggart described it, was a substance outside the confines of the body . . . a highly ordered energy capable of changing the physical world.1
In another place, Brown continues:
Galloway knew, of course, that one needn’t go to a lab to witness proof of this bold new idea, this proposal of man’s untapped potential. This very cathedral held healing prayer circles for the sick, and repeatedly had witnessed truly miraculous results, medically documented physical transformations. The question was not whether God had imbued man with great powers . . . but rather how we liberate those powers.2
Katherine smiled down at him. “We have scientifically proven that the power of human thought grows exponentially with the number of minds that share that thought.”
Langdon remained silent, wondering where she was going with this idea.
“What I’m saying is this . . . two heads are better than one . . . and yet two heads are not twice better, they are many, many times better. Multiple minds working in unison magnify a thought’s effect . . . exponentially. This is the inherent power of prayer groups, healing circles, singing in unison, and worshipping en masse.”3
Prayer circles have been defined as where participants join hands in a circle of prayer, often as part of a vigil4. Such circles have existed for a very long time (see my paper “The Genesis of the Round Dance“). They are witnessed today in even the simplest act of joining hands around the dinner table while saying grace. Hugh Nibley wrote extensively about their use in early Christianity in his paper “The Early Christian Prayer Circle.” In that paper he said: [Read more…]
Last Friday I was able to attend the symposium entitled “Temples and Ritual in Antiquity,” sponsored by The Students of the Ancient Near East (SANE) and the Religious Studies Center at Brigham Young University. It was an excellent symposium about the temple, with a wide range of topics related to the temple presented by students and scholars. I was also fortunate to help organize videotaping the symposium so that it will be preserved and available online for many others to see and study. In addition to the great things that were shared, I was also able to meet several of the people I have become acquainted with online, such as David Larsen, “Particle Man,” Kathy Larsen, Donna Nielsen, and several others. It was a great experience. I hope SANE will continue to sponsor such symposiums in the future.
I am grateful for the SANE organizers for allowing us to videotape the symposium and make it available online, particularly Dan McLellan for his support. I’d also like to thank Steve Smoot and Tyler Livingston for their help with the video cameras, digitizing and uploading.
Below are all the videos that we were able to record at the symposium (that have been uploaded to date). You can see short bios of each presenter here or here. David Larsen also took some great notes in the Ancient Israel sessions. Note: I will update this post with links to more of the videos as soon as they become available. Enjoy! [Read more…]