William Edelen Blog – The Contrary Minister

WILLIAM EDELEN: Myths of Creation

 

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From WILLIAM EDELEN (1988)
The Contrary Minister
[Repost]

The diffusion of mythological themes from one culture to another and one religion to another is well known to religious historians. It is obvious with origin or creation mythologies.

Actually, the oldest Biblical accounts of creation are not the myths of Genesis, but Psalm 104. This psalm was borrowed from the famous “hymn of the Sun” of Akhenation, Egypt’s great monotheistic Pharaoh (1377-1360 B.C.).

As for the creation mythology of Genesis, both accounts were borrowed from other religions and both contradict one another. In Genesis 1, man is the last of the creation myth. In Chapter 2, man is the first to be created, with all else being created later.

These creation stories are recognized as mythological themes in the religion departments of every major university in this country (as well as the world), and also in the theological seminaries of the majority of mainline Protestant denominations. Only fundamentalist schools refuse to recognize the scholarship of these and related Biblical studies.

WILLIAM EDELEN: Can Prayer Requests Change God’s Will?

 

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From WILLIAM EDELEN (1988)
The Contrary Minister
[Repost]

I would like to ask, “Can something called God’s will really be changed by requests from the earth?” And, if so, “What kind of a capricious, chaotic universe would this be?”

The Encyclopedia Britannica says that belief in an unchangeable God or unchangeable force is to be found in all of the higher religions.

Jesus is credited with saying that God makes his rain fall on the just and the unjust alike, the sun to shine on the just and the unjust alike.

What kind of chaos would it be if the eternal will, the eternal God, the eternal design could be changed from time to time as this design was subjected to millions of people in a barrage of requests to make things different?

It is incomprehensible to me how such thought can be entertained. It is the type of thinking done by Eddie Rickenbacker and crew, as expressed after their rescue from an ocean raft in the South Pacific. They uttered desperate prayers for rescue and, when a ship did finally appear, full credit was given God.

Do you know what bothers me terribly? When I think with aching heart of all the thousands of good and fine men who desperately croaked out words of urgent appeal to God through parched and anguished throats and whose answer was to be devoured by shark and barracuda, to die from starvation or drowning.

WILLIAM EDELEN: Time… and the River Flowing — Reflections at Age 93

 
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From WILLIAM EDELEN
The Contrary Minister

I am revisiting this subject… which is so near to my spirit… one that I wrote during my reflections at age 92. I am deeply moved… by the flow of my own river… my own destiny… the challenges that have unfolded for me during this last year. I am living my Taoist practice. The Taoists talk about the willow tree… it bends… and comes back into its shape, whereas, the pine tree… which is rigid… breaks. The willow reshapes its destiny… and the river flows. So, too, am I… adjusting to my new flow.

Sitting by the River, surrounded by the beauty and magic of Oak Creek Canyon, in Sedona, AZ, has been one of the most enduring joys of my 93 years of life. Great TRUTHS about life, the movement of our days, with the decisions and attitudes that create either great happiness and peace, or else fill our days with despair, anger and stress, have come to me from that river and how it relates to time… flowing even as the river flows.

I have dated this essay the 17th of July, the day I entered the world 93 years ago in Stephenville, Texas, (called “the Cowboy Capital of the World”, due to so many of the National Rodeo Champions who live there). I have chosen that date on purpose. WHY? Because I consider this subject one of the most important of ALL my subjects of the last 40 years. We live today in a culture and society filled with human beings living with daily stress, anxiety, frustrations, confusion over values, shallow relationships and the chaos created in the mind and emotions of so many personal lives.

I share with you, now, the answers that have come to me through “time and the river flowing.” In that river is the essence and heart of the time proven philosophies of Zen and Taoism revealed with every moment of time and every new change of the river’s flow… as it moves around obstacles and creates its own path, and beauty of a smooth flow.

WILLIAM EDELEN: The Female Supreme Being (The Goddess) and the Continuing Destruction of the Female

 

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From WILLIAM EDELEN
The Contrary Minister
[Repost]

At first, in primal times. there were only the forces of nature and the unknown power behind it all. Gradually there evolved the concept of a Supreme Being, a female, a She, a Goddess who created the Universe and all of its laws. She was the ruler of Nature, Fate, Time, Eternity, Truth, Wisdom, Justice, Love, Birth and Death. And so, for 25,000 years, there was only the Goddess. Yes, that is 25,000 years.

The earliest agriculture grew up around the shrines of the Mother Goddess, and became social and economic centers as well as holy places. These places were the germs of future cities. Growing cities evolved around these sacred centers, built to honor the divine Mother, the mother Goddess, the Creatress of all life.

The poet and religious historian Robert Graves put it in these words: “the whole of neolithic Europe had a remarkably homogeneous system of religious ideas based on the Mother Goddess. The Great Goddess was regarded as immortal, changeless and omnipotent. The concept of a father God was unknown in religious thought. In Europe, the Great Goddess was thought of as the sole omnipotent deity. Fatherhood was not even a part of religious thinking.”

This same Goddess worship existed much earlier in those areas we know today as Iraq, Iran, India, Arabia, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, Turkey, Greece and Italy.

In Egypt, She was, quote: “the Being, eternal and infinite, the creative and ruling power of heaven and earth and of every creature and every thing in them. Mother Goddess, Lady of Heaven, Eternal Queen, She created all that is in existence. She commands the entire Universe… the giver of life and all that has ever been or ever will be.”

WILLIAM EDELEN: The Fourth of July and Freedom

 

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From WILLIAM EDELEN
The Contrary Minister
[Repost]

When John Kennedy was President, he gave a banquet in the White House that was without precedent. The banquet was for every living American Nobel Prize winner, with about 150 present. At the beginning of the evening, President Kennedy stood and announced he would give a toast. He said:

“Never has so much talent, and so much genius, been assembled in one room, since Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”

The author of the Declaration of Independence that we celebrate today was a brilliant philosopher, scholar, theologian, architect, linguist, statesman, musician, horticulturist, agronomist, humanist, scientist, deist, and master of the civilized arts.

There is no question in my mind that the 4th of July is the most important holiday that we celebrate in this nation.

All of the other holidays, Easter and Christmas included, pale by comparison.

WILLIAM EDELEN: Leviticus and Homophobics

 
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From WILLIAM EDELEN (2002)
The Contrary Minister
[Repost]

Don’t you just love the homophobics, the bigots and clowns of the Christian Coalition and fundamentalists? “The bible is God’s word,” they yell at us… “the bible is true… every word… and by God himself… and we live by that book… and what it says… we do. And it says right there in Leviticus 18:22 that you shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.”

Now, if we live by that archaic, ignorant and superstitious book, just look who else is going to hell. Ah, what fun. Practically all the political leaders in Washington, that’s who. “And God said you shall not marry a woman divorced from her husband.” (21:7). How I love that bible. There went Reagan… Dole… Gingrich… Buchanan and all those other big shot Republicans and Democrats who have broken God’s law and married divorced women.

WILLIAM EDELEN: Using The Bible To Justify Views

 

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From WILLIAM EDELEN (2002)
The Contrary Minister
[Repost]

We are always making God our accomplice so that we can legalize our own inequities. -Henri Frederic Amiel

Those adhering to a strict interpretation of the bible are most often the ones who use the Church and the bible to justify and condone their social, political and moral views. At the same time they inflict these views on others as “gospel,” the only truth.

The abortion or pro-life issue is a good example. If a person wants to simply say “I do not like abortion, I am against it,” that is fine. That is their opinion and they have a right to express it.

It is when they start using the bible and the Church to justify their pro-life position that I cringe. They apparently do not realize how inane and unhinged they appear when thy march around carrying signs quoting the commandment “Thou Shalt Not Kill,” or equally absurd signs using the Church, bible, or God for justification.

After Moses told the people that the “Thou Shalt Not Kill” order came from God, he then proceeded to give some of the most vicious commands in the history of civilization, telling the Hebrews to kill just about everything that walked or moved. Moses told them that God blessed all of this barbaric slaughter. He gave commands for genocide, to kill babies and children. Thousands were slaughtered as a result of the commands of Moses. Quite obviously the commandment not to kill was not taken seriously or literally by the man who presented it to the Jews.

Christians who try to justify the pro-life position and are breaking into clinics should read the history of their church. The church has one of the most horrible, unjust and cruel records in the history of our species, from Constantine through the Inquisition to the Salem witch horror. The torture chambers of the Christian Inquisition were filled with instruments that stagger the human mind and sensibilities: racks, thumb screws, iron maidens, knives, whips, scourges, fire, tongs and hoists. It is painful to read how these were used on innocent human beings. Those using the Church and the bible for justification of the pro-life position condemn abortion as “murder of the unborn,” while the Church itself has a 1600-year history of horrible and brutal murders of the “born.” I would suggest that those mindlessly waving banners, destroying property or calling names take time to reflect on the hypocrisy of their position. Let them simply say, “I am against abortion” and let it go at that.

WILLIAM EDELEN: The Sexuality of Jesus

 

From WILLIAM EDELEN
The Contrary Minister
[Repost]

A very live and contemporary issue today, with many magazines and newspapers covering it, is the question “Was Jesus Married?” This is all due to a lost manuscript that has surfaced. An outstanding article in the New York Times, was Fighting Over God’s Image. Please find a copy and read it if this is a subject that appeals to you.

A number of years ago when Dr. Robert Funk had his Jesus Seminar here in Palm Springs with over 100 leading New Testament scholars present, he asked me to give the lecture on The Sexuality of Jesus. The fear among many of pursuing this subject has been revealing and shocking. Also a number of years ago The Sexuality of Christ in the Renaissance Art and in Modern Oblivion received rave reviews from all quarters. It was written by Leo Steinberg, who delivered the material at a Lionel Trilling Seminar at Columbia University and was honored by the College Art Association of America with its annual award. Some will find it offensive… those who find all expressions of sexuality offensive. The sexuality of Jesus is very obvious in the paintings.

WILLIAM EDELEN: The Torpid, Mindless Mass

 
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From WILLIAM EDELEN (2002)
The Contrary Minister

The question for today is at the heart of the problem we face as a nation… It is Carl Jung’s question: “Why are so many millions willing and eager to turn their lives over to outside authorities?”

Why are so many today, without thinking, willing to turn their mind/brain… soul/spirit… over to outside individuals, institutions, authorities and ideologies? Whether it be to Osma bin Laden or whether it be to Christian, Muslim and Jewish authorities of dogma, or whether it be to Republican or Democratic dogma… or whatever the outside authority or institution might be that is telling you what to think, what to believe and how to live your life?

Carl Jung put it this way in his essays: “It is a delusion when the Christian churches try to rope the individual into some sort of social organization and reduce him or her to a condition of diminished responsibility, instead of raising him or her out of the torpid endless mass and making it clear that he, or she, is the one important factor. Resistance to the organized mass can be effected only by the man or woman who is as well organized in his/her individuality as the mass itself.”

“Once more, we see people cutting each other’s throats in support of childish theories of how to create paradise on earth.”

WILLIAM EDELEN: Worship of the Bible — A Malignant Disease…

 

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From WILLIAM EDELEN (2002)
The Contrary Minister
[Repost]

For a great many the bible itself has become a object of worship, an idol. Perhaps the most malignant disease in the Christian church today, I believe, is biblical literalism: believing that every word is to be read as the divine, without error, word of God.

The Oxford Universal Dictionary defines Christian fundamentalism in these words; “…strict adherence to a literal inerrancy of the Bible.” Inerrancy means “without error.”

The irony of all this is that anyone with exposure to church history knows that a great many of our more eminent church fathers, theologians and biblical scholars have either thrown out, or ignored, various sections of the bible as not being authentic or worthy of canonization.

Martin Luther, the father of our Protestant Reformation, called the book of Esther a ringing tale of sex and slaughter. His loathing of the Jews was an extension of his view of the Old Testament, which he did not regard as divine. He called the Book of James in the New Testament a “book of straw,” and he would have nothing to do with the Book of Revelation, viewing it as beyond human reason or comprehension.

I could continue through church history with similar illustration. The stupidities of Biblical literalism defy the imagination. Example: if I wrote a column stating that we, as human beings, are nothing but animals, like all other animals, and nothing more, I would be excoriated as a “secular humanist,” a blasphemer, an atheist and one who did not believe in the bible.

And yet God’s “without error” word tells me just that. In Chapter 3 of the Book of Ecclesiastes, God tells us: “…the sons of men may see that they are but as beasts. For the fate of the sons of men and the fate of beasts is the same: as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath

WILLIAM EDELEN: Mark Twain and Religion

 

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From WILLIAM EDELEN
The Contrary Minister
[Repost]

Ernest Hemingway paid tribute to Mark Twain in these words: “All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain, called Huckleberry Finn.” T. S. Eliot called it “one of the permanent symbolic figures of fiction.” Willliam Dean Howells has called Mark Twain “The Abraham Lincoln of American literature.”

The word brilliant may be overused, but surely in the case of Mark Twain it applies. He seems forever contemporary. His linguistic needles are as sharp, his observations on the human race as precise, and his sarcasm and humor as glittering today as they were when he originally placed pen to paper.

I guess that everybody has read Huckleberry Finn, but I find few who have read Twain’s Letters From the Earth, a book that is filled with his observations on something that we call “religion.” That book made my summer a few years back.

For several glorious and wondrous weeks I lived in a teepee high on an alpine meadow in the mountains of Montana.

WILLIAM EDELEN: Women Without Superstition

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From WILLIAM EDELEN
The Contrary Minister
[Repost]

Women Without Superstition: No Gods — No Masters, by Annie Laurie Gaylor, is a very moving, educational and inspirational book. Ninety women are portrayed, women who had virtually no status or respect as individuals. And yet, what a tremendous difference thy made in the life of our nation as they challenged the Christian church, the clergy and organized, orthodox religion.

Two women in the book are such inspiring examples of courage, guts, intelligence and integrity.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote: “We need the courage to go to the source and strike the blow at the fountain of all tyranny, religious superstition, priestly power and canon law. I can tell you that the happiest period of my life has been since I emerged from the shadows and superstitions of the old theologies.”

She was the author of the Nineteenth Amendment guaranteeing women’s right to vote. She was the first to call for women’s suffrage in the United States. She fought tirelessly to free women from legal constraints and from the blight of religious superstition.

‘Bible’ Christians…

 

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From WILLIAM EDELEN
The Contrary Minister
[Repost]

I don’t know of any phrase that is more meaningless and nonsensical than “a bible Christian.” You constantly hear it or else read it in letters to the editor.

To illustrate the point, I used to invite representatives from ten different Christian groups to speak to my university class about their beliefs.

Usually I would start with a Christian Science practitioner (who was always the best prepared). Next would be the Jehovah Witnesses (who always came in threes). Then: Seventh Day Adventists, Mormons, Pentecostals, a Roman Catholic priest, a Unity minister, Greek Orthodox, a Unitarian minister, Missouri Synod Lutheran and Methodist and/or Presbyterian. They all quoted from the bible to affirm and justify their positions. The students soon realized they were listening to ten totally different religions, all calling themselves “Christian” and all reading from the same book, to prove their beliefs.

No other religion studied by historians has been — or is — so completely fragmented and splintered as the one we call Christianity. Protestantism alone has disintegrated into more than 400 different denominations, all quoting from the bible to prove or validate their beliefs. Can you see why the phrase “bible Christian” is nonsensical?

WILLIAM EDELEN: Jesus Was a Great Humanist

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From WILLIAM EDELEN
The Contrary Minister
[Repost]

The fact that Jesus was one of civilization’s greatest humanists must be like a burr under the saddle blanket for those who spend mindless hours blabbing about the “evils” of humanism.

In religious humanism, people are the first and primary consideration. People are more important than authoritarian, dogmatic, brittle, religious laws, creeds, rules, theologies, beliefs and man-made doctrines. In a very blunt and direct attack on such absurdities, Jesus placed humans front and foremost.

Nothing so infuriated him as to see religious doctrine become more important than people. It was against the religious law to feed or heal a person on the Sabbath. With scathing words.Jesus let them know that “the sabbath was made for people… people were NOT made for the sabbath.” (Mark 2:27)

Religious laws and institutions are not sacred. Creeds are not sacred. Theological dogma is not sacred. Man-made doctrines are not sacred. Jesus attacked authoritarian religion at every turn, replacing it with a humanitarian, humanistic religion.

WILLIAM EDELEN: Earth Day — A Love Affair With Nature…

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From WILLIAM EDELEN
The Contrary Minister

“…we have come to know what it means to be custodians of the future of the Earth — to know that unless we care, unless we check the rapacious exploitations of our Earth and protect it, we are endangering the future of our children and our children’s children. We did not know this before, except in little pieces. People knew that they had to take care of their own… but it was not until we saw the picture of the Earth, from the Moon, that we realized how small and how helpless this planet is — something that we must hold into our arms and care for.” -Margaret Mead

Earth Day is fast approaching, and for some strange cosmic reason, it is always “nature” that fills me with the most poetic love.

I realize that the writers and thinkers, the philosophers and mystics, who have most inspired me gave been those who brought me closer to nature and the natural world. Thomas Paine wrote “men and books lie… only Nature never lies.” And so it is. I have absorbed the thoughts of Annie Dillard… Loren Eiseley… Lauren van der Post… Goethe on “nature”… and Joseph Wood Krutch among many other men and women who have reminded me that I am a part of the natural world and the animal kingdom as Homo sapiens, but so human and animal.

WILLIAM EDELEN: Robert Ingersoll

From WILLIAM EDELEN
The Contrary Minister
[Repost]

What is surprising is that Robert Ingersoll is so little known in our time. He lived from 1833 to 1899 and was internationally known as the “great Agnostic,” one of the most brilliant thinkers, lawyers, orators, debaters and authors of his day, or any day. Twelve volumes of his works are still available and are a collector’s treasure. He lectured all over the United States and abroad to standing-room-only audiences.

He spoke on many subjects, but thousands upon thousands turned out to hear him demolish the absurdities of orthodox religious dogmas. He found them repugnant due to the damage they did to the human mind and spirit. He and Thomas Jefferson shared similar views regarding organized religion. And yet, on a deep and profound level he had a sense of the mystery that was breathtaking.

I can tell you that without exception his funeral eulogies are the most beautiful that I have read in the English language. The poet laureate of the universe, Walt Whitman, said that only one man could speak at his funeral, and that man was Robert Ingersoll.

Carl Sandburg said of Ingersoll’s eulogy of Whitman, “It was a most precious treasure.”

Mark Twain literally idolized Ingersoll. Twain wrote: “I heard four speeches which I can never forget by that splendid soul Bob Ingersoll. It was just the most supreme combination of words ever put together since the world began. His words will sing through my memory always as the divinest that ever enchanted my ears. America will never again see his equal. Of all men, living and dead, I love Ingersoll the most. Except for my daughter, I have not grieved for any death as I have grieved for his.”

William Edelen: Easter Mythology

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From William Edelen
The Contrary Minister

The image of a god, buried in a tomb, being withdrawn and said to live again, is thousands of years older than the Jesus stories.

Of all the resurrected savior gods that were worshipped before — and at the beginning of the Christian story — none contributed so much to the mythology developing around Jesus as the Egyptian, Osiris. Osiris was called “Lord of Lords,” “King of Kings” and “God of Gods.” He was called “the good shepherd,” “the resurrection and the life,” the god who made “men and women to be born again.” He was the Egyptians’ “god man” who suffered, died, rose again and lived eternally in heaven.

The Egyptians thought that by believing in Osiris and participating in various rituals they would share eternal life with Osiris. Egyptian scripture says: “As true as Osiris lives, so truly shall his followers live.”

The coming of Osiris was announced by Three Wise Men. His flesh was eaten in the form of communion cakes of wheat. And finally, Egyptians came to believe that only through Osiris could one obtain eternal life.

William Edelen: Moon Plays Role in Primal Afterlife Concepts

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From WILLIAM EDELEN (1983)
The Contrary Minister

“On the third day he rose again from the dead”… You may think I am quoting the Apostles Creed still recited in so many churches, but actually I am quoting from primal religious liturgies that are referring to the resurrection of the moon after the third night of darkness.

“As the moon dieth and cometh to life again, so we also, having to die, will again rise,” declared the Juan Capistrano Indians in ceremonies celebrating the resurrection of the new moon, after three nights of darkness and death. Basically the moon was “she,” but in some cases “he.”

For more than 100,000 years it has been believed that death had no finality and that there was more.

A boon to archaeologists has been the discovery of graves in the Neanderthal period with both artifacts and flower remains, combined with the sensitivity of the burial.

What phenomenon played a vital part of their imagining a life after death? It was quite simply… observing the moon. The sun is always the same. The moon, on the other hand, is born new, grows to maturity, dies and is then resurrected. The period of the new moon, the resurrection of the moon, became one of the most important religious celebrations in many cultures.

William Edelen: The Tyranny of God


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From WILLIAM EDELEN
The Contrary Minister
[Repost]

The debris of something called “god”: cosmic bellhop….. celestial hitman…. divine windowpeeker. Thinking human beings everywhere now are clearing the cobwebs of their, so called, minds and finally setting themselves free of the archaic and superstitious “biblical god.”

A major article in the LA TIMES for the week of Nov. 10, 2013 had this heading “ATHEIST ‘MEGA-CHURCHES’ TAKE ROOT” documenting how large groups of non-believers are spreading all over the United States in major cities. They are all saying what I wrote in one of my columns ten years ago:

“Blessed are the Atheists, Agnostics, Deists, Mystics, Humanists, Free Thinkers, Taoists, Buddhists and all others who do not have an archaic, primitive God in their mind-brains.

Blessed are they who do not believe that ‘God’ is on their side.

Blessed are they who do not participate in Holy wars, jihads or Crusades.

Blessed are they for they would never be martyrs for the ‘Glory of God.’

Blessed are they for they do not condemn others as heretics or infidels.

Blessed are they for they do not conduct inquisitions nor slaughter millions of women as witches.

Blessed are they who do not participate in sectarian violence.

Blessed are they who do not twist biblical words to condemn homosexuality as a sin, nor condemn a woman’s right to choose abortion.

Blessed are they who would never say that a terrorist act is God’s punishment against those who do not believe or think as they do.

Blessed are they who know that the only hell that exists is right here on earth created by man. And that it is in man’s hands alone to create a heaven here on earth through intelligence, empathy and love.”

William Edelen: The Future Requires Courage…

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From WILLIAM EDELEN
The Contrary Minister
[Repost]

We live in an exciting and stimulating period of history. One age is dying… and the new age is not quite born.

We see radical changes in sexual patterns, lifestyles, marriage styles, women’s roles, family structures, education, energy, religion, the Christian church and in almost every conceivable aspect of life. We can withdraw in anxiety, or we can become negative and pessimistic. If we choose either of these paths, we forfeit our chance to participate in the creation of the future.

To live in this age, or any age, requires an enormous amount of courage, faith and willingness to take risks. But to participate in the forming of a future is to create. And courage, risk-taking, creativity and faith are the attributes that have continually reformed the structure of civilization.

What is creative courage? It is the willingness to pursue new forms, new symbols and new patterns of truth. The alternative is stagnation.

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