Divine Business

I have been informed by a friend in Burgos that the Spanish Catholic Church early this year acquired the ownership of the Mosque of Cordova. For a song. To be more exact, the cost of registering the deed, the total price required, was approximately €30.

The entrance fee to visit this monument is €8, and it receives about a million visitors a year. A simple arithmetical calculation reveals a guaranteed yearly return of 266,666% on the initial investment for as long as the religious tourist trade lasts. And it must be added that there is no further expense to be taken into account: the Spanish government pays all costs of maintenance and restoration.

One for the Guinness Book of Records, undoubtedly. Even the profits from cocaine, expressed as a percentage of production costs, pale by comparison.

This extraordinarily good deal, or chollo as they say in Spanish, which has wonderfully concise vocabulary for dealing with everything sleazy and underhanded, is the result of a law passed in 1996 by the government of José María Aznar (aka Ánsar by Citizen Dubya) which awards to the Church the right to acquire for the asking the property of any public building in Spain.

This, mind you, still according to our man in Burgos, and I have to suppose that it’s a slight exaggeration, must be publicly owned buildings of a somehow ecclesiastical nature, otherwise they would already have acquired the seat of Congress and all the Court buildings. (Well, in fact, I recently saw a photo of the Constitutional Court convened in a church or cathedral with all that gilt and the big crucifix presiding: so this may be in the works, perhaps the acquisition of the Mosque is merely a test case to see if there’s any reaction.) Or have they already done so?

But even with that restriction, it still represents some big chunks of property, or so I imagine: I don’t have the list at hand.

Shocking as this may be, if you live in Spain it’s not at all surprising. In Franco’s time, in 1953, an agreement, called Concordato, was made between the Holy Apostolic Seat and the Spanish State which defined things in this way:

“The Catholic, Apostolic, Roman religion continues to be the only religion of the Spanish Nation and will enjoy the rights and privileges that belong to it in conformity with Divine Law and Canonical Law.” (Two different words are used here, Ley and Derecho, to distinguish between two different types of law.)

The document goes on to grant the Church hierarchy just about every right it could possibly desire – including the provision that whatever ecclesiastical rules the Church may promulgate and foist on the population will have the force of law! – with the sole restriction of an obligation to inform the Spanish authorities beforehand of what they intend to do. Most relevant to this post is the following: “The Spanish State promises to provide for the economic needs of the Dioceses which in future shall arise, sufficiently increasing the endowment established in Article XIX.” Article XIX provides a long list of the economic needs of the Dioceses which assures that the Spanish State, using of course the taxes of the Spanish Nation, will provide for anything and everything the Church may fancy.

Since that time some changes have been made. But economically the Church is still a parasite of the Spanish State, which according to the 1978 Constitution is “non-confessional”. In the tax system, one has the choice of assigning or not a part of one’s taxes to the support of the Church. Given that the sum of money assigned to the Church by the Concordato is fixed, this choice is irrelevant, but it means, presumably, that those who are willing will give a greater part of their tax money for every other taxpayer who withholds his, and therefore will be the more virtuous, and one hopes, the more greatly rewarded in Heaven.

Introduction to a still unwritten book to be titled TEACH YOURSELF SHIATSU

Can you really teach yourself shiatsu?

In fact it’s the only way you can learn it. Or anything else. The dichotomy of self-instruction and learning from teachers is false. The so-called autodidact always relies in large part on information accumulated by others who have studied before him, and the personally instructed student, if he does not learn by his own efforts whatever the information he receives from the teacher, devising for himself new questions to answer, will learn very little in the end.

Therefore let there be no doubt that the title is meant seriously. What I propose is to provide a series of exercises by which the student can begin the practice of shiatsu by steps, with the understanding that to reach a level of effective treatment one will have not only to build on experience, but also make a leap beyond what I can teach, synthesizing personal experience and the information gathered from this and other books, and whatever further instruction the student seeks.

It should be clear then that I do not view shiatsu as a system to be reproduced mechanically in order to produce previously determined results from a series of diagnostic methods and treatment techniques – although I admit their value. In other words, shiatsu is not in my view a scientific study, so I do not intend to try to put the round peg of shiatsu into the square hole of science, or much less to apologize because it doesn’t fit, or somehow conjure a fit that doesn’t exist. We live under the reign of scientific totalitarianism, in which every sort of discipline, from history to cooking, is either advanced as a science or condemned to irrelevance as ‘unscientific’: as an extreme example, consider the subtitle of George Steiner’s book After Babel, ‘Toward a science of translation’, meaning the literary variety – a perfectly absurd proposition. The reader who is cowed by this sort of pseudoscientific intimidation should proceed no further in this book. My attitude does not represent an opposition to science, which, when it is practised without the preconceived notion that certain propositions are not to be investigated because in themselves they are ‘unscientific’, I respect unreservedly. The problem is that with respect to everything outside the limits of its own methods and conclusions, in particular when they harden into established truths, science has been turned into a kind of religion, perhaps the most perverted of all. Its very name is derived from the Latin word for ‘knowledge’, and clearly many scientists and devotees take seriously the implication that nothing outside science can legitimately claim to be any such thing: ‘Thou shalt have no other knowledge before me.’ No other knowledge at all, in fact. Let me give two examples of what I mean.

First: Clay is known by hundreds of thousands, probably millions of people, as well as many animals, to be an extraordinarily effective medicine, applicable to a wide range of health problems. It has, however, no place in scientific medicine because such claims have not been substantiated by scientific investigation. Of course they never will be because using clay is disqualified a priori as a ‘pagan’ practice, and no qualified scientific researcher would dare investigate such a thing for fear of being labelled a ‘heretic’. It is condemned beforehand as ‘unscientific’. To make the matter clearer, clay is not useful to the pharmaceutical industry, which is the master, and allopathic medicine the servant. This is not science, but plutocratic bondage.

Secondly, there is a group of some eight hundred scientists in the world who claim that AIDS is a scientific fraud, that the observed degeneration of the immune system known by that name is not caused by a virus, whose existence has not been proven according to the requirements of virological science. Their arguments can be found at the website www.virusmyth.com. That is, they cannot be found in scientific journals because their position is forbidden and cannot be exposed in official publications. The point is not whether their position or the official one is correct, but that they are labelled ‘unscientific’, in effect ‘heretics’, and scientific debate is suppressed, again by the plutocratic pharmaceutical establishment.

My purpose in speaking of this is not to rescue science, which is not within my power, but to note the context of my view that scientific validation or condemnation of what is put forth as knowledge outside the field of scientific research is irrelevant. Any claims I may make in this book are to be submitted, not to the laboratory, where they cannot be dealt with, but to the court of the reader’s experience and personal experimentation.