Rolling Stones, etc.

I wrote this post some time ago but never posted it. A friend of a friend is writing a paper on the topic and was asking for the links and citations. Since I do not know how to send him a draft of a blog post, I will just post this as is. The following are a few loose thoughts and a few music videos from the 60’s and 70’s.


Music videos of the Rolling Stones from the years 1965 – 1972 illustrate the cultural transformation which took root in North America during that same time period. Watch it for yourself.

The Last Time – 1965
Dead Flowers – 1971
Love in Vain – 1972

Timothy O’Leary: “After two years of prison and exile I was cut off from American contacts. No sense of mission, no source of income. Everywhere I went that summer I heard the low-down beat of the Stones celebrating Sister Morphine and brown Sugar, Mick singing about his basement room and his needle and his spoon, wailing the profound philosophic thought of the season: “I stuck a needle in my arm. It did some good, it did some harm.” (Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club, 178)

Pat Buchanan writes in his memoir, “Amid the rising counterculture of the sixties, Nixon sought to celebrate America’s traditional culture, hosting a night at the White House on April 24, 1969, featuring Duke Ellington, who was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Len Garment, a jazz musician himself, had been behind bringing in the legend. In July 1970, after some of us pressed the President, Johnny Cash, the Man in Black, performed at the White House. On August 1, 1972, the Carpenters, Karen and her brother Richard, who were performing in the D.C. area, were invited to the White House to meet the President. Karen, twenty-two, was national youth chair for the American Cancer Society. Nixon would invite them back to entertain at the dinner for West German chancellor Willy Brandt on May 1, 1973.” (Nixon’s White House Wars, P. Buchanan)

The Carpenters at the White House in 1972
Carpenters perform at White House – 1973

Johnny Cash had his own issues with drugs, which he describes in his song “Hurt”. The lyrics to this song read like the book of Ecclesiastes and offer a striking to contrast to Mick Jagger’s more cynical attitude toward drugs. Cash was also invited by Nixon to perform at the White House.

Johnny Cash at the White House – 1970

There is a music video featuring Johnny Cash’s song “God’s Gonna Cut You Down.” Curiously, Mick Jagger, together with other famous actors and musicians, make an appearance in the video. I don’t know the story behind the video’s production but it is either a parody of the song (and of the Gospels), or I am missing something, which is possible since I grew up in the jungle and do not know half these people.

God’s Gonna Cut You Down – Johnny Cash


The First Oracle

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. (Isa. 7:14 ESV)

Who was the child named Immanuel in Isaiah 7:14? Was he the son of a young Judahite girl born c.735 BC who would forever be known as “the virgin”? Or was Immanuel the promised Messiah born to the virgin Mary? Or can both be true? The 18th century rationalist philosopher, Thomas Paine, was quick to dismiss the Christian interpretation of the prophecy. He argued instead that all of the events foretold by the prophet were fulfilled during the prophet’s lifetime.

But it is first necessary that I explain the occasion of these words being spoken by Isaiah. The reader will then easily perceive that so far from their being a prophecy of Jesus Christ, they have not the least reference to such a person, nor to any thing that could happen in the time that Christ is said to have lived, which was about seven hundred years after the time of Isaiah.1Thomas Paine, An Examination of the Prophecies

Paine was a keen observer but his animus against Christianity prevented him from seeing the bigger picture. The prophecy of Isaiah did clearly have to do with events which occurred in his day. But it was not limited to these events. But before looking at the prophetic element in 7:14, let’s consider first how it relates to the events which occurred in Isaiah’s day. As Paine pointed out, Isaiah promised king Ahaz that his enemies, Pekah, king of Israel, and Remaliah, king of Aram, would be destroyed. Isaiah even set a date for their destruction. The two northern kings would be destroyed before the child born to “the virgin” was old enough to know good from evil.

Paine argued that Isaiah’s prophecy turned out to be false since Pekah and Remaliah did in fact attack Judah and took many captive (2 Chron. 28:6). But Isaiah does not promise that Remaliah and Pekah would not attack, but that their attack would not be successful. Ultimately Ephraim and Aram were destroyed, as Isaiah predicted, and Judah was saved, although it too suffered the ravages of war. The suffering of Judah is hinted at in 7:15. Isaiah declares that the child would grow up eating curds and honey. This food was the ancient equivalent of K-rations. As has always been the case during wartime, farm fresh produce disappears from the shelf. Even when the invading enemy is defeated, they will still likely have had enough time to sow fields with rocks and cut down orchards, etc. The inhabitants of the land were therefore forced to return to a ‘nomad’ diet which is whatever nutrition that can be derived from flocks (curds) and whatever can be gleaned from the countryside (honey). It takes at least a year to sow the fields and reap a crop from them and several years before fruit trees are producing again. Thus “curds and honey” portended trouble for a people who expected to eat the food from the fields and orchards. Curds and honey is certainly not the rich food of the court! If Thomas Paine read the Scriptures more sympathetically, he would have allowed for this possibility, but Paine was looking for contradictions.

More importantly, Thomas Paine argued that because the prophecy of Isaiah referred to a young woman and child who were alive when the prophecy was made, it cannot refer to the birth of Christ which took place many centuries later. This is a sensible conclusion if all we had of Isaiah were the few verses in chapter 7 which Paine cites. But the book of Isaiah is much more profound than Paine is willing to allow. While the text of Isaiah chapter 7 clearly does relate to events which occurred in the prophets day, it also transcends them.

Already in Isaiah 7 we sense that the child, Immanuel, is different from the other children named in the text: Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz and Shear-Jashub. We know who the latter two children are. They are Isaiah’s sons. But of Immanuel and the almah we know nothing. There is no indication that Immanuel is Isaiah’s child or that the almah is Isaiah’s wife. The word almah was used to refer to a young girl of marriageable age who is presumably a virgin (which, of course, is why it is translated “virgin” in the Greek). However, the identity of the virgin and child remain hidden.

The name Immanuel is also unusual. There are no other instances of a child given this name that I am aware of. Certainly not in the Bible, and none in ancient inscriptions as far as I know. The name clearly bore great significance.

The Second Oracle

The first oracle is followed by a second:

Since Israel and Judah have rejected the gently flowing waters of Shiloah that bubbled down the Kidron Valley between citrus and olive, they will instead be forced to contend with the mighty water of the Euphrates that will sweep through the land, rising up even to the neck and its outspread wings will fill the breadth of your land, O Immanuel!” (Isaiah 8:6-8, my paraphrase)

The raging torrent is, of course, the Assyrian army. The rapidly expanding “banks” of the river are described as “wings” (“banks” and “wings” are the same Hebrew word), as though the flooding waters were a giant bird whose outspread wings cover the land. Such language brings to mind the Assyrian gods Assur and Shamash who are depicted in Assyrian art as winged deities hovering above the Assyrian king on the battlefield. For listening Judahites, the words of Isaiah must have conjured up an image of one of those nazguls in Tolkien’s novels. But what are we to make of the reference to Immanuel seemingly tacked onto the end of this prophecy of doom?

…and its outspread wings will fill the breadth of your land, O Immanuel!” (Isa. 8:8 ESV)

Most of the major translations make the name exclamatory by adding an “O” to Immanual, and they treat Immanuel like a personal name rather than translating it “God with us”. The context seems to require a personal name since the possessive pronoun “your” needs someone to do the possessing (a pronoun needs an antecedent!). The verse therefore seems to suggest that the land that is about to be invaded is Immanuel’s land. We could go one step further and say that Immanuel must be the king and that the land that is about to be invaded is the king’s land. But as we will see, if Immanuel is the king, he is not an ordinary one.

The deity Shamash or Assur hovering above the Assyrian king, Ashurnasirpal (mid 9th century BC). The British Museum.

The Third Oracle

Isaiah’s oracle of destruction is immediately followed by an oracle of victory.

Be broken, you peoples, and be shattered; give ear, all you far countries; strap on your armor and be shattered; strap on your armor and be shattered. Take counsel together, but it will come to nothing; speak a word, but it will not stand, for God is with us. (Isa. 8:9 ESV)

Rau amim ve chotu! Be broken you armies and be shattered! One may well imagine these words being shouted by men banging swords on shields as they prepare to hurl themselves into the battle fray. Modern translations have chosen to translate the word immanu-el in this final instance. Therefore we read “for God is with us”. The reason it is translated is due to the presence of the particle “ki” which may be translated “for” or “because.” Thus it seems more natural to translate the phrase “for God is with us”. However, it is the same Hebrew word that is translated Immanuel in the other two places where the name appears in this section of text.

What are we to make of these references to Immanuel? Are they veiled references to Hezekiah as many scholars maintain? And is the victory referred to in this oracle a victory over the Assyrians and nothing more? As with the first oracle, there may be a historical element to this prophecy that was fulfilled when Sennacherib’s army was destroyed in 701 BC. This was a momentous event recorded not only in Isaiah and 2 Kings but also probably in the Histories of Herodotus and most likely also in the Assyrian Annals (but this is a topic for another day). However, as we argued previously, just because a passage may have a historical interpretation, it does not follow that it cannot also foreshadow a future event. The Exodus and the Passover are cases in point. Moreover, the breaking and shattering of armies is an important theme in Isaiah and in other places in the Bible where it appears in the context of the War to End all Wars. Take for example this passage from Psalm 46.

The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

Come, behold the works of the LORD, how he has brought desolations on the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire. “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” The LORD of hosts is with us (yahweh tsevaot immanu); the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah (Ps. 46:1-11 ESV)

“Yahweh of Hosts is with us” is repeated twice in this psalm. As with Immanuel in Isaiah 8:9, the name appears in the context of the breaking and shattering of armies. The book of Zechariah also looks forward to a time of peace when Zion’s king rides into Jerusalem on the back of a foal. Then will the horse and chariot be cut off and the battle bow broken. The king will speak peace unto the nations and his dominion will extend from sea to shining sea (Zechariah 9:10). There is no reason, in light of the passages cited above, to confine the redemption foretold by Isaiah to redemption from the Assyrians. Nor must the reference to Immanuel in these passages be limited to a reference to a historical king of Judah. But if doubt remains, the fourth and final oracle should dispel it completely. But first let us try to understand the historical context for this oracle.

The Fourth Oracle

Approximately three years have passed since Isaiah uttered his first oracle in the hearing of Ahaz and all all the people. Summarily dismissed by Ahaz from the court, the prophet must have cut a lonely figure among his fellow Judahites, who were convinced that the deal Ahaz made with Assyria had won peace for their time. While his countrymen spun intrigues and cemented alliances, Isaiah stood helplessly by and watched as the Assyrian nazguls circled overhead. The two northern tribes of Israel, Zebulun and Naphtali, had already fallen to the Assyrian king, Tiglath Pileser III. Damascus would fall one year later. This momentous event brought Ahaz scurrying northward to pay obeisance to the Assyrian king, his supposed ally. Before returning to Jerusalem, Ahaz sent a messenger ahead of him with instructions to remove the ancient altar that stood in the center of the temple courtyard in Jerusalem and replace it with a new design modeled after an altar he had seen in Damascus. The apparent urgency with which Ahaz made the altar swap was no doubt prompted in part by the watchful eye of his benefactor, Tiglath Pileser III. It was a token gesture, apparently harmless, but it opened the floodgates for all manner of wickedness. Unspeakable acts were committed in Jerusalem at this time.

It was during during these tumultuous days that the LORD appeared to Isaiah and spoke to him a fourth time.

For the LORD spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me. Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the LORD of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. (Isa. 8:11-13 ESV)

The fourth oracle continues for the next eighteen verses until 9:7. This is an important point because scholars tend to break this section into fragments which they date to different periods, rendering much of it meaningless, and stripping what is left of its power. But the whole thing hangs together nicely. Based on its contents, the oracle should probably be dated to sometime between the fall of the two northern tribes of Israel in 732 BC and the fall of Samaria in 721 BC. As mentioned previously, this period witnessed a rapid decline in faith and morals, even as increasing numbers of Judahites turned to mediums and necromancers for guidance. With hearts full of contempt, they raised their eyes to heaven and cursed God. And when they looked to the earth, behold the land was enveloped in thick darkness, black as night, impenetrable gloom. The prophet uses seven different words for darkness and distress in just several lines of text.

It is in this context that Isaiah pens one of the most beautiful and hope-filled passages in the Bible. “But there will be no more gloom for those living in darkness,” says the prophet. The land which was held in contempt, Zebulun and Naphtali, on the Way of the Sea, Galilee of the Nations, shall be made glorious. Isaiah provides a peculiarly precise description of the two northern provinces situated between the mountains of Lebanon and the Sea of Galilee that were the first to fall before the Assyrian onslaught and be incorporated into the Empire of Darkness. The apostle Matthew would later point out to his readers that Capernaum lies in this very same region and that Christ is the fulfillment of this prophecy (Matt. 5:14). Isaiah continues by picking up on a theme which he introduced in the third oracle.

For the yoke of his burden, and the staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian. For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire. (Is. 9:4)

Who will break and shatter the Empire? The child born of a woman, the son who is given. And what is the child’s name? We should expect Isaiah to repeat the name “Immanuel” as in the previous oracles but we are met, instead, with a barrage of new names. And he shall be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” And the government (hamisra) shall be upon his shoulders. It is strange that Isaiah should choose to use this word for government. Hamisra only appears in this one place in the Bible.2Qumran Scroll A has mswrh. See Godfrey Rolles Driver, “Isaiah 9:5-6,” Vetus testamentum 2, no. 4 (1952). And for a good reason. It is not a Hebrew word but rather the Assyrian word for government (meshorah). Furthermore, the word sar in the title “Sar Shalom” (translated “Prince of Peace”) also seems to be playing on the Assyrian word for king ‘sarru‘. Isaiah has adopted the language of the Assyrian kings who frequently boasted of having placed their yoke on the shoulders of the peoples. But Isaiah radically transforms their metaphors. The “child who is born” does not impose his government on the shoulders of his subjects, but rather takes the meshorah upon his own shoulders. Instead of vain and violent boasting, the “son who is given” will be called the “King of Peace” and of the increase of his government, and of peace, there shall be no end!

Syrian, probably Israelite men, harnessed to a rope. Each man has a strap across his chest which is attached to a heavy double rope. They are pulling a giant block of stone which will eventually be formed into a lamassu, a bull-man, which stands guard in the palace of the Assyrian sarru. An Assyrian soldier is beating the men with a staff.   “The yoke of the oppressor will be lifted from their shoulder and the oppressor’s staff will be broken (9:3)”


I’ve heard several socially conservative commentators pronounce orthodox Christianity intellectually untenable. They have adopted instead a highly psychologized interpretation of the Bible . Christ is, according to their interpretations, just another mythical subject of the hero’s journey. They look for truth by analyzing the subconscious and following the teachings of spirits which appear to them in trances (I am thinking specifically of Jung’s Red Book and Campbell’s A Hero with a Thousand Faces). We have Isaiah’s view of this approach.

And when they say to you, “Inquire of the mediums and the necromancers who chirp and mutter,” should not a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living?

To the teaching and to the testimony! If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn. (Isa. 8:19-20 ESV)

Isaiah does not give us an archetype for our subconscious but Immanuel, God with us.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. (Lk. 2:11 KJV)


I left out Isaiah 11, which I should not have done. It fits with the theme of Isaiah 7-9 but is separated from these chapters by a series of Woes pronounced against Israel (the Woes actually begin in Isaiah 5, where they are directed exclusively towards Judah whereas the second set of Woes in chapter 10 are directed solely towards Israel). Why the book of Isaiah is arranged this way, I cannot say, but this is what makes it such an interesting and precious book.

Hiring this Spring

This spring I am looking for part time help with data entry for a history curriculum. The application will be open for the month of April. For anyone interested, please apply here.

Censorship in Czarist Russia and Canada

From the Diary of John Korb, a secretary of the Austrian legation at the court of Peter the Great:

11th July, 1698.— The wife of a diak {i.e. a chancery secretary) happening to pass in front of the gibbet that was erected in front of the Czar’s castle of the Kremlin in the late rebellion, compassioning the fate of those that she beheld hanging there, inadvertently exclaimed, “Alas ! what mortal knows whether you were guilty or innocent?” These words were repeated to another person, who forthwith denounced them to the Boyars as an indubitable indication of treason.

A woman’s pity for condemned and public criminals was deemed dangerous. So she was forthwith dragged up, along with her husband, to an examination. Now, when it was proved that there was nothing more in question than unreflecting and womanly compassion for the unfortunate, and that there was no trace of deliberate malice, they were indeed exempted from the penalty of death, but nevertheless condemned to exile. Thus thoughtless and guileless liberty of the tongue is chastised where subjects are coerced to obey through fear alone.


Premier Doug Ford, like his counterpart here in Alberta, is a spineless political hack who fired one of his staffers, Marion Isabeau-Ringuette, for donating to the trucker convoy after she was doxxed by the CBC. In doing so, Doug Ford bowed to the boyars at the CBC and their czarist masters. Featuring prominently in this shameful chapter of Canadian history are the conservative premiers and MP’s who sat idly by while Trudeau ran roughshod over their constituents. One wonders if they have any convictions or principles at all? Or do they think that people protesting the perpetual forced injections of an experimental substance really are terrorists? Not even Peter the Great, who made sport of pulling out the perfectly good teeth of his subjects, would have dared to attempt what our Dear Leaders have done in the past two years. And Peter was a satanist.

A collection of teeth pulled by Peter the Great, many of which were perfectly healthy. From the Kunstkammer Wien.

Manitoba MP, Raquel Dancho, is clearly an exception.

Jason Kenney and Coutts Crossing

Jason Kenney is in no position to declare the barricade at Coutts Crossing illegal. He has spent the better part of a year coercing and manipulating Albertans to take an experimental drug therapy, a therapy which under the Moderna brand has been banned in multiple countries for men under thirty due to its harmful side effects. How many men in Alberta under 30 were coerced into taking the Moderna drug therapy before Hinshaw tweeted that young men should no longer receive it? And don’t forget the lotteries and the “restriction exemption program” for the “vaccine hesitant”. All of this shows the utter contempt Kenney has for Albertans. He has treated us like animals who respond to stimuli rather than human beings who must and can be reasoned with. I would like to see Kenney prosecuted before a court of his peers for coercing Albertans to take an experimental drug therapy. We should be free to take it upon our doctor’s recommendation but not at the point of a bayonet.

The imposition of lock downs has resulted in a debt supernova with total debt in the province now projected to hit 115.8 billion by then end of the fiscal year 2021-2022. Consider for a moment that in 2004 Ralph Klein was widely celebrated for eliminating Alberta’s debt which had previously stood at around 3.7 billion. Contrast this with the 20 billion dollar deficit racked up by Jason Kenney in just the past year! Interest on the debt now stands at 2.7 billion per year, more than the entire operating revenue from the oil sands, even as interest rates remain at historic lows. (Calgary Herald) We have effectively, over the course of the last several years, consigned our children to lives of debt servitude. And to what end? …mountains of plexiglass, rivers and lakes full of masks, a gaping hole in children’s education, and a hollowed out small business sector. Meanwhile the monopolists on Bay and Wall Street are buying everything that isn’t nailed down. This is the real crime.

The beauty of the Coutts barricade is that Kenney can no longer repeal the mandates on his terms. He must do so now on our terms. It is perhaps a matter of optics, but it makes all the difference.

God bless the truckers (and farmers, and the citizens of Coutts who are supplying the truckers with 500 sandwiches and gallons of coffee per day). Stand strong!

Donate here to help with legal fees of truckers at Coutts Crossing.

Les Miserables is set in the early 1800’s. The novel concludes with with June Revolution of 1832. This is not the French Revolution.

Take a Stand

It was the year 735 BC. The kingdom of Judah had already lost most of its territory in the Transjordan to Rezin, the powerful king of the Aramaeans. Sensing weakness, Philistia and Edom had begun to attack from the south and west. Meanwhile, in the northern kingdom of Israel, Pekah and his band of Gileadite soldiers had staged a bloody coup. Pekah was almost certainly a Manchurian candidate whose rise to power was engineered by Aram. Judah’s only consolation was King Jotham, a good king. But for reasons that remain unclear, in 735 BC Jotham was replaced by his son Ahaz. That very same year news reached Judah that Rezin and Pekah were planning to attack Judah and replace Ahaz with a certain Ben-Tobeel from the Transjordan. If successful, Aram would have a client king on the thrones of both Ephraim and Judah. The year 735 BC was a year of conspiracy and fear.

Judah was by no means a weak and indefensible kingdom as some have maintained, but it had little chance of defeating the combined forces of Rezin and Pekah. According to the Kurkh Monolith from a century earlier (c. 850 BC) the combined forces of Aram and Israel at the Battle of Qarqar numbered 3200 chariots, 1200 horsemen, and 30,000 foot soldiers. The battle fought at Qarqar against the Assyrians was at that time the largest land battle ever recorded. It probably ended in a draw which was a good outcome for the western allies. But now these very same forces were massing on Judah’s northern border. The prophet Isaiah captures the mood of the moment: “And the heart of the king and the hearts of the people shook like the trees of the forest before the wind.”

It has sometimes been suggested that Isaiah was a royal scribe. His supreme command of the Hebrew language seems to necessitate some kind of scribal training. But the prophet was most likely an outsider when he was called by God to deliver a message to king Ahaz of Judah. Isaiah addressed the king from outside the walls of the city in the hearing of all the inhabitants of Jerusalem. “Be on guard. Be quiet. Do not be afraid. Don’t let your heart be timid.” Although Rezin and Pekah have devised a plan against you, they will not succeed. It will not happen. It shall not stand!

But Ahaz brushed the prophet off. Isaiah’s message ran counter to the “chirping and muttering” of the necromancers and mediums that surrounded the king. He had already decided to send a messenger to Tiglath Pileser III, the king of Assyria, with enough money to purchase the Assyrian king’s support. However Isaiah was not so easily dismissed. He pressed the matter further by offering to perform a miracle in view of the king and all the people. “Ask for a sign, in the highest of heavens or in the deepest parts of the earth!” But the heart of the young king was already inclined towards evil. He piously declared that he did not wish to put the LORD to the test.

An alliance between Judah and Assyria made a lot of sense in terms of realpolitik. And Ahaz’s policy was successful in the short term. Tiglath Pileser III attacked Aram and the northernmost tribes of Israel which took the pressure off of Ahaz. But the payments to Assyria never ended. In the end Ahaz was forced to strip the temple of its furnishings even as Assyrian “aid” became an unbearable yoke around Judah’s neck.

After Isaiah’s encounter with Ahaz, God spoke to the prophet and commanded him, “do not call conspiracy what this people calls conspiracy, and do not be afraid of what this people fear, nor be in dread. But the LORD of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.” (Isaiah 8:12-13 ESV) This is the central theme of Isaiah 7-8. There is an unholy fear that makes us susceptible to manipulation and drives us to take actions we never could have contemplated before.

In his book, Dark Persuasion, Joel Dimsdale cites historical examples of how fear has been used by governments and corporations as a means of gaining power and changing people’s behavior. The following is a brief summary based on several of his lectures which are available here and here. One of the questions the author addresses is why so many U.S. POW’s collaborated with the enemy (as many as 15%) and why 20 POW’s chose to relinquish their citizenship completely and live in China or Russia after the Korean War.

With a death rate of over 30% the prison camps in North Korea where among the worst in modern history. So when American POW’s were transferred from North Korea to Chinese camps they were surprised by the lenient treatment they received. However, it soon became apparent that the Chinese were using the “iron fist in a veiled glove” tactic in order to break the prisoners. They segregated the enlisted men from the officers, fomented distrust by soliciting informants, and interfered with the prisoners mail by ensuring that the only letters filled with bad news from home were delivered to the prisoners. The Chinese were relentless in their demands, many of which were irrational and absurd, and required tokens of participation from the prisoners, no matter how trivial.

Many POW’s became apathetic, and morale plummeted so low that only 13 percent of the men showed much concern for their fellows; informing on another prisoner was common.1Dimsdale 2021, 77

Jolly West summarized the methods employed by the Chinese communists with the acronym DDD:

  • Dread – make them afraid
  • Debility – inflict suffering
  • Dependency – make them dependent on you

There is a fourth D in one of Dimsdale’s slides which I also think is worth taking note of.

  • Dissociation – isolate them from their leaders, friends, family, church, and community

A commission was established after the war to investigate the conditions American POW’s faced in the Communist internment camps. One of the doctors called upon to give testimony during the hearing was Charles Mayo. Mayo reported that,

“the Communists were using Pavlov’s conditioned reflex tricks. The prisoners resistance was punished by kicks and slaps to the face…with threats of death. Signs of cooperation on the other hand were rewarded with slight increases in rations, with promises of better treatment soon.

No wonder that some of our prisoners… were brought down to that animal level of response where resistance was associated with death,…and where survival on any term seemed more important than moral principles. If anything is surprising to me, it is that so many of our soldiers—both those who [falsely] confessed and those who did not… somehow continued throughout to act like men.”

The Korean War and the Birth of Brainwashing

Mayo makes reference to Ivan Pavlov whose experiments with behavior modification on dogs (and later on humans) were influential in shaping Soviet propaganda. When Lenin visited Pavlov at his Institute of Experimental Medicine, Lenin stayed for over two hours and talked with Pavlov about his discoveries. Lenin wanted to know if, “Pavlov’s experiments could bolster the states efforts to mold the new soviet man…?”

Pavlov: Do you mean you would like to standardize the population of Russia, make them all behave in the same way?

Lenin: Exactly, that is what I want, and you must help us by your studies of human behavior.

Pavlov and the Soviets

And what was the mechanism by which the population of Russia could be standardized? The answer Pavlov and Lenin agreed upon was “proper education.”

Lenin: Does this mean hereditary factors can be overcome by proper education?

Pavlov: Under certain circumstances yes, they can be overcome. Conditioned reflexes can abolish natural instinct.

Lenin: That’s fine, excellent, that’s exactly what I wanted to know.

Pavlov and the Soviets

Pavlov likened proper education to the “conditioning of reflexes,” a reference to Pavlov’s most famous experiment in which he trained dogs to salivate with the ringing of a bell. To equate education with a purely physiological process such as this reveals something about Pavlov’s pathologically twisted mind. Both Lenin and Stalin generously funded Pavlov’s research and gave him access to psychiatric patients upon which to test his theories. (Note: The above description of conditioned reflexes does not come from Dimsdale’s two lectures. It is probably explained in his book which I hope to read at some point.)

In response to Soviet and Chinese advances in human behavior modification, the CIA set up its own research program. They gave America’s foremost neurologist, Harold Wolff, the task of developing new methods of ‘coercive persuasion’ or what popularly became known as ‘brain washing’. Wolff used covert funding provided by the CIA to found the Human Ecology Program. In one telling exchange, a CIA agent inquired about a potential research program.

White (CIA): What is the possibility of working out a graph indicating the state of panic of the enemy, based upon the varying degree of pressure used?

Harold Wolff: Yours is a very provocative notion and I am sure it could be documented. Warm regards.

The Korean War and the Birth of Brainwashing

Warmest regards to you too, Harry… down there.2Harold Wolff collaborated with the CIA to collect information on a wide variety of torture methods, and stated the intention that his research program would: …assemble, collate, analyze and assimilate this information and will then undertake experimental investigations designed to develop new techniques of offensive/defensive intelligence use … Potentially useful secret drugs (and various brain damaging procedures) will be similarly tested in order to ascertain the fundamental effect upon human brain function and upon the subject’s mood … Where any of the studies involve potential harm of the subject, we expect the Agency to make available suitable subjects and a proper place for the performance of the necessary experiments.— Dr. Harold Wolff, Cornell University Medical School (from Wikipedia)

I wonder what graphs are being used today by our health bureaucracies to determine the level of pressure required to induce a “state of panic” that will ensure compliance with the “health” mandates? Media outlets have for more than a year and a half published a constant stream of statistics: cases, hospitalizations, deaths, vaccination rates, variants, etc. The news desk and commentators on our local talk radio station here in southern Alberta, AM 770, have consistently promoted the most extreme measures to combat the pandemic. Dissenting voices such as those of Danielle Smith and Michael Campbell have gone silent.

Our premier, Jason Kenney, has wavered between offering public assurances and panic. On several occasions he warned that without decisive action case numbers would continue to rise and our healthcare system would collapse. What we thought would be a wave, Kenney warned, was about to become a tsunami. He said this even as case numbers were cresting and beginning to decline in other parts of North America. Fear has driven Kenney’s response to this crisis every step of the way. Now his government has imposed truly radical and restrictive policies on Albertans. And every form of persuasive coercion is being brought to bear.

  • wildly inaccurate projections (dread)
  • terrible reports about new ‘variants’ (dread)
  • constant reporting on numbers of dead and hospitalized (dread)
  • threat of job loss (debility)
  • lock-downs (debility and dissociation)
  • exclusion (dissociation)
  • mockery (debility)
  • forced masking (dissociation)
  • silencing of opposition (dissociation)
  • generous government programs (dependency)
  • restoration of freedoms (dependency)

These measures have proven ineffectual and have come at a staggering cost but that is not the point. What is most concerning is how many in Alberta have embraced these mandates and restrictions. In future years historians studying this period in our history will be presented with a paradox similar to that of the American POW’s who embraced their captors during the Korean War. Did Kenney set out to strip Albertan’s of their freedoms, ruin their institutions and destroy their businesses? No, I don’t believe so. But his policies are responding to fear. And I believe this fear is being driven by those who have much to gain from it. We are all Fauci’s dogs now.

De Tocqueville observed that true and lasting success is never achieved by men grasping and clawing after life as though it were an end in itself.

In ages of faith, the final end of life is placed beyond life. The men of those ages, therefore, naturally and almost involuntarily accustom themselves to fix their gaze for many years on some immovable object toward which they are constantly tending; and they learn by insensible degrees to repress a multitude of petty passing desires in order to be the better able to content that great and lasting desire which possesses them… This explains why religious nations have often achieved such lasting results; for whilst they were thinking only of the other world, they had found out the great secret of success in this.”3Weaver, Ideas have Consequences, pg 108

Pavlov’s reflexive conditioning only works on animals. But Christ has called us to a life of faith. Or in the words of Isaiah to King Ahaz,

Lo teeminu
Lo taamenu

If you do not take a stand
you will not be established.

Introduction to Biblical Hebrew

If anyone is interested in studying Biblical Hebrew I am willing to do some tutoring this Fall. I am located west of Innisfail but could meet somewhere more central. I’d like to use the textbook “Basics of Biblical Hebrew” by Pratico and Van Pelt. I know that college and university study is difficult these days so this might be a way to continue with your studies. Please use the contact form at the top of the page if you are interested and would like more information.


Lockdowns in Alberta

In a recent press briefing, Alberta’s health minister, Deena Hinshaw, baldly stated that the 16 MLA’s who opposed Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s lockdown order must not believe that the virus was a real threat. In an unbelievable piece of maternalistic tripe, Hinshaw further suggested that many Albertan’s were not abiding by the new lock-down mandate because they themselves had not personally suffered from the virus. Generally speaking, anyone who opposes the actions taken by the province are depicted as “conspiracy theorists”.

I went to Gracelife Church today and took some photographs of those who gathered to protest the fencing off of the church. Based on what I overheard, and the conversations I had with those who attended the demonstration, people are worried about government spending and the precarious state of small businesses in the province. “There will be nothing left for our children,” was a common refrain. People also expressed skepticism about the effectiveness of lock-downs (our third and last one…) and the wearing of masks (no one was wearing one). I spoke with one lady (this was actually this past Friday while standing in line to get into Lee Valley) who was disgusted that children were being forced to wear masks in schools and while playing sports. No doubt there are many (myself included) who feel the same way about masks in churches, but I think the real concern right now is with the lock-downs and the economic impact it is having on nearly everyone in the province.

There is nothing unreasonable about these concerns. It is our lawmakers who should be fending off questions of sanity… but the gaslighting continues. Of course, there is another layer of fear and concern about what forces are at work behind the scenes exploiting this crisis to gain power. Some of this is necessarily speculative and sometimes unwise, but none of those sentiments (many of which are also valid) were expressed today at the demonstration at Gracelife. There was an impromptu worship service in front of the hastily erected fence around the church where a loudspeaker and a mike circulated freely in the crowd. It could have been a train wreck but not a single person who spoke said anything that could be construed as a conspiracy theory.

I would like to come back to the press conference conducted by our health minister, Deena Hinshaw, this past Friday. None of the journalists in attendance posed a serious question during the Q & A session. But there are many questions that need to be answered by our health minister and premier. What happens when the bid fall out from beneath our bond market due to excessive debt and rising inflation (or cascading defaults)? Are the policies of our government destroying the incentive to work and innovate? What evidence is there for the effectiveness of lock-downs over the long term? How many businesses will fail due to forced closures? Having fostered a climate of fear and hysteria, and having presented the vaccinations as our salvation, how will you restore normalcy if the vaccinations prove ineffective? Should the government be coercing people to receive an improperly tested vaccine? Are lawmakers willing to accept the liability that may ensue? Why has there been so little focus on effective therapies? Why wasn’t the Alberta Pilot Program (which must have cost huge sums of taxpayer money to set up) allowed to work? Why are critics of government policies being de-platformed, harassed, and labelled “conspiracy theorists”? Why did the RCMP close a church and cordon it off with an armed guard while the matter was still being litigated in court and there were no active cases in the church? What happened to the provincial police force?

These questions, and many more besides, are being asked by people in this province in increasing numbers. I think we will be getting some answers in the months ahead.

Mary, the Impractical Woman

El-Azariya is the Arabic name for Bethany. It means “The Place of Lazarus.” The school I attended in Jerusalem was not more than a few hundred meters from Bethany, but since El-Azariya is in the West Bank, one has to take a circuitous route to get there. I had never visited the place until a few years ago, when I took an Arab bus to the village. I was disappointed to discover that the church that marked the grave of Lazarus appeared to be closed to visitors. I tried knocking on the door of the church courtyard. A nun finally appeared and graciously escorted me inside with a slightly bemused look on her face. She did not speak English but she was very kind and showed me to a place where I could sit. Eventually, another nun came and informed me that I was in a convent and that the church was further down the road!

That convent (I think it is more properly referred to as an abbey) was founded by Queen Melisende (1105-1161 AD), a remarkable woman who ruled Jerusalem for 30 years. She was born in Edessa to Morphia, an Armenian woman, and Baldwin, a Frankish knight. Melisende’s son, Amalric, had a daughter named Sibylla, who was raised in the abbey founded by her grandmother. She too was destined to become a queen of Jerusalem. Her life would become the subject of many works of fiction, most recently the movie, “The Kingdom of Heaven.” The Crusader kingdom of Jerusalem had an unusually large number of queens since women had a longer lifespan than men in the besieged kingdom. Their husbands, having fallen in battle, bequeathed their estates to their wives.

But of course, the most famous residents of Bethany are Lazarus and his two sisters, Mary and Martha. Of the three, Mary is accorded a special place of honor. When Martha expressed frustration that Mary remained seated listening to the teaching of Christ while she did all the serving, Jesus responded that “only one thing is necessary” and Mary “has chosen the better part.” When Jesus returned to Bethany in response to the news of Lazarus’ death, Mary did not rush to meet Jesus like her sister Martha, nor did she engage Jesus in a dialogue about the resurrection of the dead; she simply stated that if Jesus had been there, her brother would not have died. These are the only recorded words of Mary in the Gospels. Jesus did not respond to Mary with wise words or use it as an opportunity to teach, like he did with Martha. “Jesus wept.”

Later in the gospel we find Mary pouring expensive myrrh on Jesus feet and wiping them with her hair. Judas hypocritically protested that the myrrh could have been sold and the money given to the poor. He was a calculator, a philanthropist, a public relations manager, a thoroughly modern man, and Mary was none of these things. She was impractical. Her actions had no perceivable utility. Her life stands as a repudiation of all rational systems of ethics and modern architecture. “Do your duty!” says Kant. But Kant’s “categorical imperative” doesn’t work. We are still “anxious and troubled by many things.” But only one thing is necessary. And Mary understood what that was.

Dig at Et-Tell and other Happenings

I’ve been intending to post some pictures from our dig in November… I know, that was a long time ago… seems like ages past. So here is brief update.

We uncovered several important structures from the Bronze Age at Et-Tell. Particularly noteworthy was a bronze age destruction level exposed during the last several days of digging. This was a nice reward for two weeks of digging through what was mostly sterile soil. We were down well over 8′ when we began to uncover pieces of burnt mud-brick and charcoal, and then the corner of a building constructed with large stones typical of the Bronze Age. During final days of the dig we encountered a definite destruction level comprised of compacted mud brick and charcoal. Unfortunately, we did not have time to dig into this level. It will have to wait for another season. It is never easy to find stratification on a site that has already been dug extensively, but we have it at Et-Tell.

Luke was able to come and join us for a week. He is officially the first student of the Jerusalem Field School. He was also the only student of JFS so we dubbed him “the student body.” If we can get more like him then it will be worth it. We packed a lot into the week, including a trip to the Dead Sea, a tour of Tel Balata (Shechem), Gerizim, Samaria, and major sites around Jerusalem.

I stayed in Israel several more weeks to lead a tour for some friends from Nantucket and East Virginia. We spent a day visiting sites in the Shephelah and spent the rest of the time in the Galilee. It was a privilege to tour with them. I fully expect them to reciprocate when I visit the birthplace of Melville’s Moby Dick!

I’ve done a fair amount of travelling since then, in Jordan, Greece and Egypt. One of the fellows I met on the dig joined me in Jordan. I was grateful for his company for that leg of the trip. I made it back back to Canada for a few months at Christmas.

I am envious of the explorers who explored Syria and Palestine on horseback. They got to experience the land in a way that we never will. Gone are the days when you could ride a horse through the Galilee, cross the mountains into Lebanon, survey the great city of Damascus, and then continue on to Baalbek! What a ride that must have been! Their travel diaries make for fascinating reading.

You can still find a decent horse in Egypt although it is hit and miss. I found a guide at Giza who had horses and also knew how to get us into the site after closing hours. Unfortunately a dust storm blew in that afternoon. I told the guide that there was no point in making the journey since I was there to get pictures of the pyramids. He insisted that the storm would pass and the air would clear! Yeah right! But it turned out to be the perfect photo-op.

I met Titus in Cairo and the next day we caught a ride to St. Catherine. It began to rain the day we arrived which is a rare occurrence in the Sinai… and continued raining for the next three days. We just so happened to arrive in the Sinai during a 100 year flood. It was cold, the power cycled on and off leaving us in the dark for much of the time, and the roof of our lodge leaked profusely. But the cook made pretty good shish-kabab and rice and he poured our drinks with all the flair of a Parisian waiter: heels together, slight bend at the waist, arm placed behind his back. That lodge had seen better days but tourism in the Sinai has fallen to barely a trickle.

Although the rain forced us to spend several more days in the Sinai than originally planned, we were able to get some unique pictures of Jebel Musa and the monastery covered in clouds. Father Justin kindly gave us a tour of the monastery library and showed us the high tech cameras they are using to scan manuscripts. This was one of the highlights of the trip for me. The monastery also served real coffee.

Our next stop was Serabit El-Kahdim. The road passed through some beautiful and wild country. The only signs of civilization were the expansive poppy fields. Apparently opium is a major export of the Sinai. That night we stayed at a bedouin camp. I had forgotten how the stars look in the desert on a cool, clear night. It is something we miss in our cities.

The trip back from the Sinai turned out to be more difficult than anticipated since the main highway was washed out in several places and many of the smaller roads were washed away completely. Thankfully, we had a Land Cruiser and an expert Bedouin driver.

Road to Serabit el-Khadim

Titus and I were just about to board a flight for Aswan when a mutual friend of ours called from Jordan. “You have to get out of there!” he warned, even as the gate attendant pressed us to board. Sadly, we had to walk away from that ticket but it turned out to be the right decision. Almost immediately Egypt Air announced that they would suspend all domestic flights. This created a stampede for the exits as people tried to buy tickets out of Egypt. Not many days later all international flights were suspended.

I spent a month in quarantine in a small flat in downtown Calgary. It looked pretty good on Air BnB but after a month in a small flat decorated with IKEA accessories I was ready to get out of there! Thankfully I had plenty to keep me occupied. My main project these days has been an online history curriculum. I had hoped to have a first version up and running by Christmas but obviously that hasn’t happened. It’s proven to be a greater technical challenge than anticipated.

The developers calculations for an interactive timeline.

So what’s next? We plan to continue the excavation at Et-Tell in the Fall. I’ve updated the sign-up page to reflect the new dates. Unfortunately, we will not be able to confirm these dates until one month before the dig begins. Of course, I will not collect payment before then. If you are interested, sign up, and I will keep you posted.