Sunday, May 26, 2019

Color TV, Thomas Aquinas, Tantra

In high school Nick builds a primitive color TV
Growing up in Columbus, Ohio in the 50s, after Catholic grade school I attended a Catholic prep school and preseminary academy called St. Charles Borromeo. For the convenience of those boys with a priestly vocation, the seminary was on the same campus as my high school. Since the school was designed to educate priests, we got four years of Latin and a lot of Catholic theology. I would sometimes joke that St Charles educated you for life in the 13th-century, but once you graduated you were forced to cope with the superstitions of the 20th-century. Joking aside, St Charles was a superb educational experience for which I am immensely grateful.

Looking in my files for something else, I ran across an April 1952 edition of our student newspaper, The Carolian, featuring me on the front page with a color TV I had built from plans that I got from a radio magazine and parts from my dad's shop. Dad was a self-taught electrical technician who ran his own company, Herbert Electric, which specialized in everything electrical from radios to refrigerators. (Dad was on call with every bar in the neighborhood whenever one of their freezers would go kaput.)

In the early 50s, we had only black-and-white TV, but CBS and RCA were experimenting with ways to transmit color programming. One method, called field sequential color (FSC), used a sequence of red, green and blue filters in front of a black-and-white camera and a synchronized RGB color wheel at the receiving end to decode and display the color image. For a short time certain FSC programs were available in my area and I was actually able to view color TV. Note that the size of the TV display in the picture above is not much bigger than the screen of today's iPhone.

Msgr Glenn's Tour of the Summa
One of the most important classes at St Charles was Theology for which the primary text was not the Bible but St Thomas Aquinas's Summa Theologica which 8 centuries later still forms the bedrock of much Roman Catholic belief and practice. We students read the original text, not in Latin, but in a good English translation, so we got not only the gist of St Thomas's conclusions but also became familiar with his style of reasoning. I was particularly impressed by St Thomas's method of organizing a theological argument. First he would state his proposition, Second he would present a series of Objections to the proposition. And only then, after showing that he clearly understood the arguments of his opponent, would the Angelic Doctor display his own reasoning concerning the matter. I highly admired this style of argumentation and vowed to imitate it whenever I could.

St Thomas (1225 -- 1274) introduced the 5 classic proofs for the existence of God which he regarded not so much as proofs in the mathematical sense but as a demonstration that God's existence (which Aquinas held on faith) was not incompatible with reason.

Recently, at a local thrift shop,  I came across a copy of a textbook Tour of the Summa by my old teacher, Msgr Paul Glenn, whose writings had earned somewhat of a reputation in Catholic theology. (Coincidentally, the same issue of The Carolian that features my TV story, also celebrates Msgr Glenn's 25th year of teaching at St Charles.) Reading Msgr Glenn's book I was able to reacquaint myself with some of St Thomas's ideas about the nature of worldly creatures and things. In particular I found that Saint Thomas taught that God created the world and continually keeps it in existence, just as my old grade-school Baltimore Catechism states in its very first question. "Q: Who is God? A: God is the Supreme Being Who made all things and keeps them in existence".

In Thomistic cosmology the universe is in some sense recreated moment by moment, a notion that some physicists have revived in certain models of quantum reality conjecturing that until "the wave function collapses" (via some yet unknown mechanism) the universe exists as mere possibility, as insubstantial as an idea or a promise. None of today's physicists, as far as I know, resort to a Supreme Being to collapse the wave function, but a few of them (beginning with John von Neumann and Pascual Jordan) have invoked consciousness to do the dirty deed.

It is worth mentioning that towards the end of his life, Thomas Aquinas underwent some sort of mystical experiences including levitation of his body. After these experiences he was famously known to say that all of his writings seemed "mere straw" compared to the visions of reality which had opened up for him a few years before his death.


Can you read Hebrew? She asked
As She opened Herself
Like the Torah.

Do you understand Arabic? She asked
As She opened Herself
Like the Koran.

Do you speak English? She asked
As She opened Herself
Like the King James Bible.

Do you happen to know Latin?
As She opened Herself
Like the Summa Theologica.

Diana Warnok: Spiralesque Belly Theatre

1 comment:

Bellybetty said...

Ahh! One of the best pics of me eveh! Spiralesque Belly Theatre was the name of mine & Lazara (Lesley) Blackburn's company.the Mystical Caravan was the show's name. Much love & appreciation, Wonderous Jahbir! 💓💓💓💓