The Laughing Princess

JAMES GLANZ Of Physics, Friendship and Nazi Germany's Atomic Bomb and the Nazi Atomic Bomb Project, A Study in German Culture Werner Heisenberg, a German theoretical physicist, proposed in

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She died shortly after his birth. By all accounts, Prince Siddhartha and his family were of the Kshatriya caste of warriors and nobles. Among Siddhartha's more well-known relatives was his cousin Ananda, the son of his father's brother. Ananda would later become the Buddha's disciple and personal attendant. He would have been considerably younger than Siddhartha, however, and they didn't know each other as children. When Prince Siddhartha was a few days old, it is said, a holy man prophesied over the prince.

By some accounts, nine Brahman holy men made the prophecy. It was foretold that the boy would be either a great ruler or a great spiritual teacher. King Suddhodana preferred the first outcome and prepared his son accordingly. He raised the boy in great luxury and shielded him from knowledge of religion and human suffering. This was no doubt a marriage arranged by the families, as was customary at the time. Yasodhara was the daughter of a Koliya chief, and her mother was a sister to King Suddhodana.

The prince reached the age of 29 with little experience of the world outside the walls of his opulent palaces. He was oblivious to the realities of sickness, old age, and death. One day, overcome with curiosity, Prince Siddhartha asked a charioteer to take him on a series of rides through the countryside. On these journeys he was shocked by the sight of an aged man, then a sick man, and then a corpse.

The stark realities of old age, disease, and death seized and sickened the prince. Finally, he saw a wandering ascetic. The charioteer explained that the ascetic was one who had renounced the world and sought release from the fear of death and suffering. For a time the prince returned to palace life, but he took no pleasure in it.

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Even the news that his wife Yasodhara had given birth to a son did not please him. The child was called Rahula , which means "fetter. One night the prince wandered the palace alone. The luxuries that had once pleased him now seemed grotesque. Musicians and dancing girls had fallen asleep and were sprawled about, snoring and sputtering.

Prince Siddhartha reflected on the old age, disease, and death that would overtake them all and turn their bodies to dust. He realized then that he could no longer be content living the life of a prince. That very night he left the palace, shaved his head, and changed from his royal clothes into a beggar's robe. Renouncing all the luxury he had known, he began his quest for enlightenment. Here, within the community that subscribes to the same holy writ, offensives are launched when, and inevitably, rival claims arise, as factions demand hegemony over the readings and interpretations of that same sacred book, and the various groupings appropriate the text, and arrogate to themselves the right to pronounce authoritatively upon its teaching.

Such internal dissonance and civil disharmony may simmer almost indefinitely, as they do within some ecclesiastical communities, or they may result in accusations of heterodoxy, in schism and ostracism, in inquisitions and judgements of apostasy, and, indeed, as history has witnessed, in the rack and the fiery stake. Consequently, the accused may be barred from the divine rituals in which they too have been participating, and denied access to the holy sites, which they too have been claiming as their own; or even, in more extreme circumstances, dislodged from their homes and expelled from their communities.

But it may be claimed that contested sacred texts, whether they are the Hebrew Scriptures, the Qur'an, the New Testament, the Upanishads, the Theravada Pali Canon, all belong to the status of 'the classic', and classic texts never tire of speaking. They speak into futures unrecognized in their inaugural moments, and they also speak of futures, which witnesses to their imaginative openness.

They resist closure and definitive readings. Within themselves, classic texts already repel hermetically sealed interpretations. The classic corpus invites readers; and yet the classic itself reads and writes its guests. Those who are watchful companions of, and attentive visitors to, a classic, discover that the classic is addressing them, and, simultaneously, is challenging them and also telling their story. Thus, those who may have entered the arena of the classic as intermittent attenders and occasional readers are transmuted into more diligent conversational partners with the classic. Such a confrontation with a text that speaks 'truths' about the human condition into futurities from out of its own, often distant, past, engenders the realization that the classic sacred text is open and indeterminate and 'live'.

Classic texts invite dialogue. But precisely because classic texts, and, quite specifically, classic sacred texts, inform, and, more usually, map, in an exacting manner, human existence as a meaningful enterprise in its ultimate sense, to impose foreclosure upon that text and pronounce definitively upon its principles and protocols is neither unnatural nor uncommon see Chidester Indeed, the construction of human meaning involves a careful, detailed, and even delicate act of selfexamination and negotiation, in the intellectual and rational, emotional and affective human dimensions, and one that is undertaken within a material context, in an endeavour to seek a worthy and propriate authenticity.

Therefore, summarily to challenge, or to fracture, a carefully constructed worldview of another may be an act of unseemly arrogance. Nevertheless, the very demand for the canonical restriction of sacred writ, which is the very corpus through which life-worlds are negotiated and established, and, as a consequence, the probable ossification of that text, itself engenders an agon about contextual and interpretive boundaries.

And in such an arena of antagonisms, war is waged against both the external and internal enemies of the variously prescribed, dogmatic, and ordered interpretations of the classic holy texts.

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However, if a text achieves the status of 'classic,' its definition implies that it remains a reservoir of perennial disclosure to any visitor and, no less significantly, to its own adherents. Although the 'utterances' of the classic may appear to be repetitive, if the text is to be proclaimed as, and claims for itself the seal of, the classic, it is always, at the very least, gently modifying, but also may be forthright and combative. The ever-unfolding tradition of commentary, and of the lineage of teachers and guides who continue to quarry the ancient, yet ever-contemporary, deposits of sacred wisdom, evince the lack of the obturation of sacred texts.

But this lack of closure is both their liberating challenge, and also their burdensome cost. They hold out the gift of providing new answers to old questions and old answers to new questions in the freedom of an unrestricted inquiry, and, in this practice, they charge their interlocutors to confront themselves anew. The two testaments commonly referred to as the "Old" and the "New" constitute the sacred classic for Christians.

The notion that the purposes of God are unfolded progressively in an evolving revelation that culminates in the later and shortest of any of the holy corpora has led to the exaltation of the latter collection of writings over the former. Although this may controvert "the conviction, in some Christian churches at least, of the equal authority [of] all parts of Scripture" Lombaard , it may be asserted that, for Christians, the Second Testament justifiable may receive comparatively more attention that the First Testament, owing to its accounts of the life and death of Jesus, who is claimed to be the Messiah.


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But this is not to gainsay that, with regard to the vexing issue of the ' spiritual use' of the Bible, the Old Testament may provide a more profound resource, and even, possibly, a deeper well of learning, than the New Testament Lombaard However, the issue of whether it does so or not, as well as the manner in which both Testaments may facilitate and enhance the spiritual quest, is a matter of reading intent and interpretive perspective.

The forthright claims of authoritative and singular readings of sacred texts are contradicted by the contextual milieux both of their authors and of their readers. An eloquent dramatic analogy, proposed by Ford , is instructive:. In interpreting Scripture There is first the performance to which the text witnesses.


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That may invite us to imagine people, events, relationships or practices, whether historical or fictional This very under-determination of the text opens the way for generation after generation of interpretation in many modes, from commentary and liturgy to drama, ethics and systematic theology. These are new performances.

More specifically, it may be advanced that both authors and readers view their environs through perspectival grids, and they participate in their environment as 'gridded' individuals, as persons inscribed upon by their own - partly idiosyncratic and partly communal - worldviews. Such worldviews comprise foundational information about being human, and which, whether unexamined or examined, accepted or modified, is employed to forge meaning and purpose, both at a personal and at a corporate level.

In the quest for comprehensive inclusiveness, worldviews, and not only religious ones, include stories which provide the most adequate answers possible to the fundamental questions about the causative and teleological aspects of human existence, and the consequent import and intent of current tellurian enterprises and activities. These answers are employed in intellectual practices, they inform ethical practices, they prescribe social relations, and they are presented in symbolic forms, and consequently, they generate answers which, in their fidelity to the contextual milieu which gave rise to them, conform to the interrogations which were put to them see Wright ff.

As a consequence, the stories are then 'retold' in the manner and activity of a life lived, and, in this process, the accounts also are qualified to a greater or lesser extent by the new 'teller' and his or her actions, which causes a modulation of the story as it responds to the recensions and additions of the latest 'narrator', and these adjustments ensure that the story remains valid. Therefore, both what the knower may desire to know, and what the knower comes to know, are structured by prior informative worldview factors, which construct the knower and shape what is viewed, but each subsequent knower also shapes the known in a persistently 'live' worldview, and, subsequently, lives it out in a particular and modified way.

Such an understanding of the 'worlds of knowledge' and the 'worlds of the inquirers' rejects the naive, oft-repeated, and almost egotistical statement that the Bible is read "from within the context of a life and a community of believers that lives in the here and now" Perrin It is an assertion as much championed by liberation theology as by an emotive expressionism present in Christian Spirituality - the supremacy of "our condition" or of "my story" - and it evinces self-absorption and a spiritual immaturity. As Lovibond points out with regard to the cognate act of forging an ethical self, initial reactions of indignation, even visceral expressions of anger, require the subsequent explanations for one's reactions both to oneself and to others.

And a constituent part of that subsequent act of accountability is to place one's reaction within the responses of the tradition in which one stands, including the responses as documented in the foundational works of that tradition. Therefore, as much as the "here and now" is of significance, it is imperative to ask about "the context of a life and a community of believers that live[d]" in the there and then.

When both life-worlds are perceived to be wider, more complex and detailed, constructions of both known and recoverable information, as well as unknown and unknowable informative factors, then the singular horizon of the texts of both the author and the reader multiplies.

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And even if the inquirer approaches the text with a specific question, the multi-faceted structural grid through which the perceptive vision operates, already solicits and destabilizes such a singularity, as much as it does so within an 'answering text' itself. Moreover, when the lineage of commentary lengthens to the extent that it does within the great religious traditions as much as for students of classical civilizations, the initial hermeneutical endeavour to read and interpret a text demands a variety of tools, which, within Christianity, is the province of the biblical, philological, historical-critical, systematic and doctrinal, ethical and practical theological areas of scholarship.

In his lectures on hermeneutics, Schleiermacher discussed the range of skill required, as well as the detailed nature of task, so that even. On the objective side this requires knowing the language as the author knew it. But this is a more specific task than putting oneself in the position of the original reader, for they, too, had to identify with the author.

On the subjective side this requires knowing the inner and outer aspects of the author's life. These two sides can be completed only in the interpretation itself. For only from a person's writings can one learn his vocabulary, and so, too, his character and his circumstances. But this intrusive penetration into the world of the text and into the life-world of an author means, inevitably, that, as Schleiermacher tellingly notes, "the task is infinite, because in a statement we want to trace a past and future which stretch into infinity".

That 'past infinity' must be recognized, together with the realization that the subsequent hermeneutical endeavour to "understand the text from the perspective of the life of a current reader" Perrin , must acknowledge the scale and reach of that "life", both in what is purposefully and distinctly present at the point of the current inquiry, as well as what, at that moment, is part of the absent-presence of that "life".

Some ten years after beginning his lectures on hermeneutics in Berlin in , and from which the above citations come, Schleiermacher , with his characteristic hauteur, in an "Academy Address" in , stated that.

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These remarks may be employed not simply to insist upon the complex, agonistic, said and unsaid - and 'unsaid-saids' - conscious and unconscious nature of verbal pronouncements and textual inscriptions, and hence the skill required to quarry them; 5 but also may serve to highlight the 'struggle' nature of textual, and, indeed, verbal statements, in which an internal textual and verbal warfare is waged upon any 'errant voices,' in order to control their influence, and, possibly even, to silence them cf.

Mosala ; Punt In addition, language purposefully may be coded through the selection of vocabulary, the utilization of semantic field-play, and through the deployment of diverse syntactic placements for emphasis - more readily available in inflected languages - and, furthermore, verbal utterances may be accompanied by gestural and sonic qualities which suggest and amplify meaning. With reference to the Bible and Christian Spirituality, the frequent charge that the appreciation of the multivalency of meaning, of the presence of supressed and concealed meaning, and of a range of possible alternative meanings reside in the Holy Scriptures is a neoteric, crypto-atheist plot, which is designed to continue the marginalization of the importance of the Bible in the post-Enlightenment era, and that the conviction that the biblical meaning and message is immutable and constant is the ancient and venerable foundation upon which the Church Fathers and the greatest of Christian thinkers especially of the earlier centuries have relied, and one which the current zealous evangelical and fundamentalist readers and interpreters are recovering with a disconcerting robustness, requires dispelling.

The ecclesiastical historian, Edward Norman 8 , acutely has observed that. With particular reference to approaching the Bible as a deposit of spiritual wisdom, Norman's conclusion is apt:. And the multivalent complexity of being human within worldviews that seek ultimacy is evident less in the singular and monochromatic nature of the questions posed and the answers proffered, than in the diverse and polychromatic nature of the interrogations and the subsequent responses.