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Posts tagged ‘God’

The Monster’s Doctor

Mary Shelley’s horror story, Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus, is a classic examination of the ‘science vs. religion’ debate. Written during the Industrial Revolution, Doctor Victor Frankenstein is so taken by the technological achievements of the time he forgets the soul of his creation; his Monster, and ultimately loses all he loves as a result.

Scientists conducting electrical experiments at the time certainly provided much of the inspiration for Shelley’s maniacal doctor, but one man is cited as a possible model for the theme of her novel.

1673 – 1734

Johann Conrad Dippel was born in Castle Frankenstein in south central Germany in the region of Hesse. As was the custom of the day, he acquried Franckensteinensis or Franckensteina-Strataemontanus as a surname and became forever linked to the place of his birth. He received a Master in Theology in 1693 at the University of Giessen where he also studied philosophy and alchemy and gained a prominent position among Europe’s intellectual elite.

Influenced by the Age of Reason while remaining a fervently religious man, Dippel authored several controversal theological papers under his nom de guerre; Christianus Democritus, a name that represented the duality of his views. In them he called for the demise of the traditional church organization and a rejection of the Bible as the literal word of God in favor of a more personal approach to faith. They were widely circulated throughout Europe and earned him both praise and criticism. One enthusiastic follower, Emanuel Swedenborg, later criticized him as a cultish opportunist who was “bound to no principles, but was in general opposed to all, whoever they may be, of whatever principle or faith…becoming angry with any one for contradicting him.” Swedenborg also accused Dippel of being the ‘most vile devil…who attempted wicked things.’ This opinion was surely based upon his suspected experiments in alchemy. In his Maladies and Remedies of the Life of the Flesh, Dippel announced his discovery of the ‘Elixir of Life’, as well as, a method to exorcise demons through potions produced from the boiled bones and flesh of animals. Even more alarming to the public were rumors of his attempts at ‘soul-tranference’ on human cadavers, where he was viewed as playing God on desecrated corpses.

In the end, it was reported by his contemporaries that after having been thoroughly trashed by the religious leaders of the day Dippel gave up his faith altogether, directing all his energy to his experiments in alchemy. He never backed down from his arguments or the experiments that he felt supported them and may have even actively encouraged rumors that he was in league with the Devil, having sold his soul to become a dark sorcerer.

So, in the end, Mary Shelley may have used this real-life ‘mad scientist’ as inspiration but the moral lesson she provided her Doctor Frankenstein was lost on Johann Conrad Dippel.

 

The Passing

The Passing 

My life peels away from me, leaving my soul bare against the harsh wind. Icy cold, it cuts me like daggers forged from each of my sins.

I’m in a void.

The landscape around me is an ocean of parched earth. Empty and endless. No North, South, East or West. Nowhere to go and yet,

I walk.

There’s a light ahead. It fills the sky and instinctively I know it has no origin. Warmth flows from it and embraces me. I’m compelled to move forward but with each step I struggle against the bitter wind.

Across the great emptiness joy appears and attaches itself to me through the light. Tingling sensations rise to a crescendo inside me, shooting out the top of my head in a shower of white sparks.

I smile with my whole self.

Hours pass in seconds and the shore of this strange land soon stretches out before me. The ocean I’d been walking upon ends in waves of light that wash up on a pristine beach.

It’s nighttime here.

In the distance shadows await me, but not darkness.

As I approach I begin to hear familiar voices. Individually and in chorus, I’m welcomed by everyone I have ever known with the love we’d always shared. Intense joy explodes inside every cell of my body.

I’m in Heaven.

Heaven & Earth

I stepped out of the sputtering rickshaw and onto the dusty road leading to Jama Masjid Mosque. There was a hill to climb, so steep I could only see the tops of the mosque’s two minarets, but the crowd was moving in that direction which made the ascent much easier.

Jama Masjid is the largest mosque in India and one of the most notable in the world. Built during the reign of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in 1628 AD, it reflects the majesty and symmetry of his more famous masterpiece, the Taj Mahal. It’s an anchor in the center of Old Delhi, however, it alone did not provide me with my most lasting impression.

As I crested the hill an awesome sight stretched out before me. To the right was the mosque; grand, serene…a beautifully peaceful place. To the left; Chawri Bazaar. Crowded, frenetic, and intimidating in almost every way. Streets crowded with people cut lines through the ramshackle buildings. Merchandise stacked in piles six feet high spilled out from shacks where workmen welded, hammered and polished copper and brass ware. Motors, shoes, pots and pans…While the courtyard of the mosque was quiet, the noise from the bazaar rose up the hill as a muted roar. Everything material needed in this life, contrasting with the emptiness of the mosque. Peace reigned there.

I watched the two scenes below me and saw the manifestation of heaven and earth. I had never before experienced such a clear example of the differences between the spiritual world and the human world.

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