David Mathisen is changing the way we think about Hercules |337|

Discussion in 'Skeptiko Shows' started by Alex, Jan 3, 2017.

  1. Alex

    Alex New

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    me too, but I might suggest a slight change to "part of the same"... i.e. not everyone is getting the same download. so, some folks are having a shamanic experience and getting the download about reincarnation and karma and they're not hearing anything about stars and constellations. another is having a NDE and getting the download about love, family and forgiveness... and they're not hearing anything about stars and constellations... but it's still the same body of "information / knowledge / gnosis"

    so, what is part of the star myth download/teaching is unique/special/different?



    I get that... but what happens after we accept that fact? I mean, I don't see where your discovery (as amazing as it is) leads to the conclusion that the Bible and other myths were engineered from top-to-bottom in order to convey this one part of the "ancient wisdom" story.

    moreover, I think looking at star myths as one aspect in a grand, multifaceted, interwoven body of ancient wisdom strengthens your hypothesis.
     
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  2. dwm

    dwm Member

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    Thanks Larry for this question and for your subsequent message to me specifically referencing the work & theories of Carl Jung.

    My reply:

    1. I believe that Jung was attempting to explain some of the same evidence that I am addressing -- specifically, the presence of very clear mythical patterns which are found around the world, in cultures separated by great distances and by oceans, and often by millennia of time as well -- cultures which the conventional "isolationist" paradigm argues could not have had any contact with one another. How to explain this without positing either some contact or else some common "ancestry" for these myths and patterns? Jung's solution -- call them archetypes, argue that they are part of a "collective unconscious," argue for the possibility of transmission of thoughts, memories and ideas from previous generations.

    2. While I don't deny the possibility of a "collective unconscious," or even the possibility of such "transmission of memories" from distant previous generations, I would argue that this proposed solution to the problem presented by the evidence is:

    a) not supported by conclusive evidence (collective unconscious and transmission of generational memory is speculative and not conclusively proven, just because a generation of psychologists or academics latched onto it as a good solution), although I don't deny that it is possible, and
    b) not sufficient to explain the very specific details that we find in myths across cultures separated by great distances and vast gulfs of time. This is very important. If we find indigenous people speaking a very specific form of a language, let's say Cantonese, in a remote part of the Mojave Desert in North America, or in a remote part of the Amazon jungle, we can hardly attribute their speaking Cantonese to a "collective unconscious." Cantonese is not an easy language, it contains specific tones and inflections, and if we find it being spoken in two completely different parts of the planet, we might include (among a long list of possible explanations or hypotheses) that it just happened to evolve in those two places completely independently of one another -- but that explanation would have to rank pretty low on our list of possibilities, no matter how much we want to believe in a "collective unconscious." The specifics of Cantonese are just too complex to make that explanation very compelling. I would argue that the language of mythology includes specific features which are as detailed, precise, and specific as those found in a spoken language -- and just as unlikely to be due to any imagined "collective unconscious."

    3. On the other hand, I can now show hundreds of specific examples where these patterns can be tied to specific features of specific constellations. I can name several specific details of a specific constellation which inform patterns found in multiple cultures around the world, such as the "failed baptism" myth (i.e. that of Achilles), or the "unsuccessful retrieval from the land of the dead myth" (i.e. that of Orpheus and Eurydice) -- and I can show that these are derived from very specific constellations in each case (these patterns pop up in many cultures). If we can see how they relate to specific constellations, then attributing these patterns to a "collective unconscious" is not the best explanation -- even if there is such a thing as a "collective unconscious" (have I mentioned that I do not categorically deny the possible existence of a collective unconscious?).

    4. In closing, I should also point out that Jung's theory was, at least in part, a reaction to Freud's attempts to explain some of the very same pesky evidence (that is to say, mythical patterns that are found around the globe). Freud, of course, had a different proposed mechanism -- that sexual development during the infantile and early childhood years is almost always the same, and falls into the same patterns, and thus ends up creating myths about "Oedipus figures" or "Kronos castrating his father" figures, etc etc. Once again, I would argue that I do not need to deny the insights Freud may have had into human psychology, sexual development, the subconscious mind, or anything else -- but I would argue that once again the same chain of arguments I have presented above in points 2a, 2b, and 3 in regards to Jung's theories apply equally to those of Freud. Whoever first came up with these metaphors and this metaphorical system may well have selected patterns that were influenced by proposed "patterns of human sexual development" and aspects of the unconscious, etc. But the specificity of the match with specific celestial cycles and constellations, which can now be demonstrated with literally hundreds (perhaps over a thousand) examples from around the globe, means that any explanation for the myths that does not take this data into consideration is (in my analysis) missing what I would argue is the biggest key to understanding the language that the myths are speaking.

    [Adding an edit, to continue clarifying a little further]:

    I hope that this answers your questions. You also specifically asked in your direct message to me, "I have trouble seeing the correspondence between what appear to me to be somewhat random placement of stars and planets and specific archetypes. I'd appreciate it if you briefly address my inquiry or refer my to something that directly relates to it."

    In the video I made recently, I showed some very specific connections between verses in the gospel accounts of the "baptism episode" with Jesus and John the Baptist, and the positions in the night sky of the constellations Aquarius, Orion, and Aries (among others that could be shown in regards to this specific episode -- for instance, John the Baptist also refers to a "generation of vipers," which I believe relates to the constellation Scorpio, and see other connections discussed a few years ago on my blog here). The same video also goes on to make specific reference to lines from the text of the Odyssey, which refer to a "fan to winnow grain" which is almost identical language to the language which John the Baptist uses when he describes "the one who will come after me."

    Another video I made not long ago shows specific connections between the position of certain constellations and the Milky Way galaxy and the events described in the Exodus account of the "Crossing of the Red Sea" -- and there are many more details of this particularly famous and important episode which I treat at greater length in my book Star Myths of the Bible (volume three in a multi-volume series). Star Myths of the Bible contains extensive examinations of numerous episodes and characters found in the Old and New Testaments (so-called), and covers 766 pages, and includes 277 color illustrations, 135 of them star charts with constellational outlines and labels.

    If you still don't see correspondences between the placement of stars and the "specific archetypes" (that is Jung's word, and implies that these patterns come from human psychology, rather than from stories modeled upon the stars themselves), you can also consult my website starmythworld.com which contains a section entitled "The Myths" and another section entitled "Video," where there are many more examples and discussions, and yet another section entitled "Podcasts" where you can listen to long-form interviews in which I discuss this subject with other podcast hosts in addition to the Skeptiko podcast that you can find on this site.

    Best wishes,

    David
     
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2017
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  3. dwm

    dwm Member

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    Hi Alex,

    to your first point, I agree of course that "contact with non-ordinary reality" produces different messages (or "downloads") in different individuals. But I would say that our living in a specific time and culture (Baby Boom / Gen X, united states / California) might bias us towards assuming that in ancient times some kind of democratic "everyone's experience is different and valid" was accepted in regards to the formulation of sacred tradition in ancient times. To the contrary, there is some evidence that, whether we are talking about ancient initiatory Mystery traditions, or whether we are talking about shamanic practices found around the world and documented by people like Mircea Eliade in the 20th century, a kind of "master to disciple" or "Yoda to Luke" structure is found, over and over, across cultures from Australia to the Americas to ancient Europe to Asia and so forth [edit: PS -- both mysteries and "master-disciple" relationships were not exclusively male: plenty of examples of female shamanic initiatory traditions in Eliade's research, and of course women participated in and in fact led many of the ancient Mysteria or Mysteries; I add this comment because the terms "master and disciple" or the example "Yoda - Luke" could mistakenly give the wrong impression]. Scholar and writer and mystic Peter Kingsley talks about this pattern in ancient Mediterranean philosophy in his essential book, In the Dark Places of Wisdom -- and argues that ancient "philosophy" was a lot more like mystical shamanism than the "philosophy" that we usually envision when we are given classes on the subject in college. So it is possible that there was some ancient understanding of "what part is special" that was passed on, emphasized, etc, or that the initiate would be guided towards seeing/experiencing/grasping for themselves.

    to your second point, or question, "what happens after we accept the fact?" I would answer,
    Many things! oriented around greater integration with the spiritual nature within ourselves and the cosmos around us
    Perhaps including
    "blessing not cursing,"
    meditating,
    practices such as Yoga, Qigong, Tai Chi, Tantra etc
    all of which can be found in discussions on my blog via the "internal search" feature in the upper left corner of the blog itself.
     
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2017
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  4. Nelson

    Nelson Member

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    Agreed. It's not overstepping to say that David's research convincingly shows a deep celestial connection in many myths. The evidence for this is compelling.

    The questions that naturally follow, are how this myth-celestial connection came to be, and to what degree this excludes other associations in myths.

    To me, there is convincing evidence for other associations in myths, such as myths mirroring rituals (and vice versa), and kernels of historical fact in some myths, etc. And none of this means that the celestial connection is any weaker. A myth can be a celestial metaphor, a ritual, and a distant memory of history, all at the same time...

    That is something beautiful too, I find.

    The ancients also assumed that a mythical figure could mean many things at once. But it was Aristotle who undid this by using (IMO inappropriate) logic, that if something is one thing then it cannot be another... In many situations this may be the case, but when it comes to myths not necessarily...
     
  5. Nelson

    Nelson Member

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    Just to give an example of this: what David shows in his latest video that he linked to above, regarding Jesus as the Fish/Pisces, in relation to John the Baptist as Aquarius; and then how John/Aquarius looks towards "Jesus" and sees the sacrificial lamb/ram/Ares... This seems plausible to me, based on the connections David made.

    Furthermore, maybe the reference to a sacrificial lamb is also a reference to a ritual in the culture. So myth reflecting the stars, and also maybe myth reflecting ritual.

    I don't have conclusive evidence about this ritual connection, but I don't see any reason why one meaning of the myth would necessarily make another meaning invalid.
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2017
  6. Nelson

    Nelson Member

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    Forgive my lack of diplomacy :D but considering Xianity was a psy-op, and given that it is saturated in poison.. -- for example, about the only times the Jesus character interacts with non-humans it is to curse them somehow -- to send demons into pigs and to curse a fig tree...

    This is in direct contradiction to "blessing not cursing," and it is one of the main reasons why this planet could become unlivable for all life...

    So to try redeeming this psy-op is like trying to redeem Monsanto. While it's true that Monsanto uses biological principles to be effective somehow, what it does with these patterns is monstrous.
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2017
  7. Nelson

    Nelson Member

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    So true, and it seems to me that this is especially the case with the star-myth connection, because if one were just to look up at the non-polluted sky, and see thousands of stars, what are the chances that one would come up with such "pictures"/constellations, and that these pictures can be coherently and in great detail compared, including on a >describe the sky as you see it< fashion, through the different times of the year, and what happens during a single night, etc. ...This doesn't sound like it was the work of the "collective unconsciousness", if that even exists...
     
  8. dwm

    dwm Member

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    I would offer the observation that the assertions that

    (a) a literalistic and hierarchical religion based on externalization (and hence inversion) of the ancient Star Myths might be categorized as a "psy-op" and

    (b) the ancient Star Myths themselves, which are found in the stories of the Old and New Testaments and which have clear parallels to the Star Myths in other cultures around the world (with some particularly close parallels between the patterns in the New Testament and the patterns in ancient Egypt and in ancient Greece), are therefore also a "psy-op"

    are two very different things, and that (b) does not necessarily follow from (a).

    It is very clear that the early gnostics were teaching something entirely different than what the early hierarchical and literalistic Christian writers (such as Irenaeus) were teaching -- indeed, much of the early writings that have survived consist of vitriolic attacks on gnosticism in general and gnostic teachers and their teachings in particular.

    It is also very possible that the writer we know as "Paul" was gnostic in his understanding and his teaching -- and when he urges his listeners to elevate the Christ in you, I would put that in the category of blessing (elevating the spiritual nature, not focusing on the external and material surface characteristics of the physical body, etc).

    While I acknowledge (of course) the incidents of the casting down of the swine and the cursing of the fig tree in the gospel accounts, I show in Star Myths of the Bible that both of these specific episodes have clear connections to specific constellations and thus are based on the night sky (the same night sky which shows us the stars sinking down to earth to be "imprisoned in matter" and then later rising back up from the opposite horizon to "soar into the spiritual realms," and which thus provides a vehicle for us to explore subjects such as both cursing and blessing, and why we should be focusing on doing more of the latter).

    I do believe there is ancient wisdom contained in the stories of both the Old and New Testaments (see for instance the several posts I've written about the lessons we can glean from the Thomas stories), but that if certain experiences we've had or people we've encountered have so soured us to the consideration of these stories, we can find very much the same lessons by considering the Iliad and the Odyssey, or the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, if we prefer.

    Finally, let me say that I don't disagree about the dangers of genetically-modified food, and have written several blog posts in the past voicing my concern about and opposition to genetically modifying organisms (including this one, which makes reference to Plutarch, Dionysos, and Demeter).
     
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  9. Nelson

    Nelson Member

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    Hi David,

    As you wrote:

    But as I've been trying to get across, a literalistic interpretation isn't necessarily bad/a psy-op. For example, the ancient Greeks believed that the Trojan War was based on actual history. Yet they also weren't dogmatic. For example, in the Athenian tragedies we see the wonderful and creative myth-making process, in that the characters do things at odds with the same character in other sources, and moral lessons are taken from this. For example, Odysseus tends to be portrayed negatively in the tragedies; and yet he remained a beloved character in myth; it wasn't black and white... Another case in point: at the beginning of his history, Thucydides goes into details about how the Peloponnesian War was greater in scope than the Trojan War, and this sets an awe-inspiring and tragic backdrop to Thucydides' history.

    So in these ways the Greeks were "literalists", yet they weren't dogmatic and they also didn't have a very hierarchical religion in terms of human organization. For example, with few exceptions the priesthoods weren't a career but positions that were rotated for a period of time amongst the general citizenry.

    So in the Greek religious-mythic context I see something that was in aspects literalistic but also open and creative, and created wonderful art and literature.
     
  10. Nelson

    Nelson Member

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    I've nothing against many nominal Christians. There are also those whom I greatly respect who are in this category, such as Rupert Sheldrake and Tolkien, for instance. The main issue I have with Xianity is the immorality throughout it (e.g. regarding one's attitude to the rest of nature, the relationship of men to women, etc.). One can take a gnostic interpretation of Paul, for instance, and I think you are right to do so. But there are also many things that Paul reportedly wrote that I don't like, such as what he wrote about women. And it's not like there was/is tolerance about interpretations in this. Unlike with other sources, where people could freely make interpretations of things, in Xianity there are the dichotomies of orthodoxy-heresy and believer-infidel.

    So my main issues with Xianity are that it is immoral and that one can't even freely discuss these things when it is in power, because one would end up like Hypatia or be burned at the stake.
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2017
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  11. Nelson

    Nelson Member

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    Having thought about this more, it is worth again pointing out that the Jesus character does the EXACT OPPOSITE of the supposed inner teaching. That is, the Jesus character curses the pigs and the fig tree. So he shows contempt for the non-human part of the cosmos by cursing these beings.

    As I questioned earlier in the thread, why would a system of embedding a hidden teaching have the exoteric layer in direct contradiction to the supposed esoteric layer? As far as I can see, the only explanation would be incompetence by the mythmaker, or a psy-op......

    In contrast, there's no reason why a myth-system can't be healthy on the literalistic level and healthy on other levels too.
     
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2017
  12. Nelson

    Nelson Member

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    Final thought for now:

    As previously mentioned, it seems likely that the stellar connection in the case of Christianity was added as a sick joke and/or as bait to gain the more intellectual followers... But in many other cases, such as in the Greek myths, I think David is correct when he says knowledge of the star-connection is 'oriented around greater integration with the spiritual nature within ourselves and the cosmos around us'.

    This is what the Stoics and others explicitly said, for example of the myths of Herakles. (And Herakles was of course also a constellation...)

    The same is true for Greek myths generally. I'd say the most repeated message was that humans are not the center of the cosmos, that it is hubris to think otherwise. So know your place in the cosmos, or there will be bad consequences for outrageous arrogance.

    This is also summarized beautifully in the two most famous maxims at Delphi: "Know thyself" and "Nothing in excess"/do not be hubristic/know thy place in the cosmos (and these central messages were expanded on in less well-known etchings left at the shrine).

    So as David nicely summarized:
    'oriented around greater integration with the spiritual nature within ourselves and the cosmos around us'.
     
  13. dwm

    dwm Member

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    Thanks Nelson for your tenacity in exploring the important question of "is literalism really the problem or is there something else at work here" -- I will concede that we do need to be more precise to get to the bottom of the issue, while still retaining a few points of disagreement (even though we clearly agree on many of the most important points as well as on the core of the thesis, or hypothesis if some prefer that term).

    I admit that I do tend to use the word "literalism" as a short-hand -- and I have even discussed that in some books in which I explain that there are admittedly many "shades" of literalism. But in those discussions I always conclude by saying that I tend to use literalism (with respect to Christianity) as short-hand for all approaches which maintain that the literal and historical existence of the characters is an inviolable doctrine, regardless of whether they are more, or less, open to the "allegorization" of other aspects of the texts (traditionally, some very literalistic approaches have also been very open to the "allegorization" of those same stories, but they would protest vehemently and in fact declare it to be heretical if one suggests that perhaps the literal historicity is not a necessary component).

    Your argument is that belief in the historicity and "literal-ness" of the characters in myth is not necessarily the problem, and I will concede that you present strong arguments to advance that point. Let's concede that point (because I think that you are correct there) and move on to your next argument, which is that "therefore, it is the New Testament myth-making" and the figure of Jesus and his teachings as found there which are the real problem.

    To that point I would counter (as I have already) that we seem to have a group known as the Gnostics (and there were others, such as the Essenes and the Therapeutae, etc) who also used stories describing a figure named Jesus (along with disciples, including more than one named Mary, as well as a figure named Sophia, etc), who did not leave any record of trying to forcibly convert anybody, or take over anything, etc.

    I would also counter that we have the writer calling himself Paul, who makes reference to the Christ, but who very likely was writing before the canonical gospels were composed (he never references specific events from the "stories," as Freke and Gandy have pointed out in their book Jesus Mysteries, 1999). He appears to have been advancing a gnostic understanding which used the understanding of the Christ in a gnostic way, and specifically rejected the approach of the "literalizers." I have argued that "The Bible is essentially shamanic" in a previous post -- and have used some of Paul's writings to support that argument.

    Freke and Gandy also point out that many aspects of the gospels which did make it into "the canon" contain references to gnostic concepts, as well as strong clues that they were not originally intended to be taken literally (such as the number of fish taken in the miraculous catch, which refers specifically to sacred geometry and the vesica piscis -- see for instance discussion here -- or the fact that the description of the visit of the Magi cannot work geographically if you take it literally, although it works quite well if you understand it celestially -- see for instance here).

    Based on this, and some other points I will offer in a moment, I would posit that what we have is not a fundamentally flawed set of metaphors (in the NT myths) but rather a weaponization of a set of metaphors (by those who decided to use them as a form of mind control and as an excuse for forcibly taking over land and eradicating the ancient sacred traditions of other cultures). It is possible that certain verses were added to the canonical gospel accounts to "excuse" or "encourage" the idea that only one belief-system is permissible and that the forcible conversion of others to that belief-system is a positive thing rather than a negative thing (indeed, a violation of universal law).

    If we concede that the ancient Greeks, for instance, understood their stories "literally" (a point which I might contest, based on the fact that they had no problem entertaining stories of Achilles as a baby being dipped in one instance in the fire and in another instance in the River Styx, which is contradictory from a "literalistic" hermeneutic but no problem at all from a "Star Myth" approach, but which I will concede for the sake of argument), we see that the important point to focus on is probably the fact that the ancient Greeks (and other societies where the "ancient received wisdom" had not been "weaponized") still retained a world-view or cosmology that could be termed "shamanic" (to use that term rather broadly): it was shamanic in the sense that it acknowledged the existence of an Invisible Realm, a realm of the gods, which permeates everything, and which requires reverence for the natural world (which we might call the "spirit-infused natural world"). See for instance my essay "Every fountain has its nymph" from April of last year.

    On a related point, it would be foolish to try to argue that "non-Christian" cultures never try to conquer one another, or commit atrocities, etc. But we don't really have evidence that when they conquer one another, they immediately set out to destroy and suppress the culture and especially the sacred traditions of the conquered culture, as literalist Christianity did first to the other cultures of Europe (suppressing and indeed virtually eliminating the Druidic traditions of western Europe and the British Isles, as well as the Germanic traditions of northern Europe and later the Norse traditions of Scandinavia, etc) and then to the rest of the world in subsequent centuries. On the contrary, when the Romans conquered other cultures (pre literalist Christianity) they seem to have had no problem checking out their gods and goddesses and incorporating their worship alongside their own -- because they saw them as all being related to one another, a point you have already made previously, I believe.

    So, I will concede that literalism is not necessarily the issue, per se, but rather a weaponized form of literalistic belief. I just take exception to the argument that this must necessarily be a flaw in the "New Testament myths" per se. As I've said, the Gnostic Library of texts recovered at Nag Hammadi contains plenty of Jesus stories, but they do not seem to support the "weaponized" version (which is probably why they had to be "got rid of" in the first place by the proponents of the weaponized version).

    In fact, I would argue that this understanding (or this distinction), between "literalized" and "weaponized" is also supportive of some of your other observations, regarding Christians you know or historical figures you respect who were Christian and literalist, but who were not particularly supportive of ideas involving the use of these texts as support for atrocious behavior or institutionalized violence and oppression -- although there have been some in history who have indeed used these texts to support institutionalized violence and oppression.

    I will conclude by saying that I think the old Karate Kid metaphor, which I am fond of using in other discussions regarding the nature of "the esoteric," etc, is perhaps useful here as well. Karate itself is not necessarily good or bad. The instructor at the Cobra Kai school in that movie was obviously teaching a "weaponized" form of it, while Mr. Miyagi was obviously teaching it as a means of helping Daniel-San to avoid getting his head kicked in. And, in fact, at the end of the movie, we see that Danny's primary antagonist, Johnny, appears to have a sort of "change of heart" and a realization that the weaponized form of karate he has been learning is not the real path he wants to be on.

    I would argue that the metaphors in the New Testament (along with those found in the Gnostic Library and other suppressed texts from the same general tradition) may well be a "useful form of karate" which can help to actually prevent mind control and to enhance integration with the spiritual nature within ourselves and the cosmos around us. The fact that they have been used in a "weaponized" way by some people does not necessarily mean that the "karate itself" cannot be beneficial to men and women, as long as coercion is not involved -- and I believe that they are much more likely to be understood in a beneficial rather than a weaponized way if the original "language" that they are speaking, which is a celestial and metaphorical language, is understood.

    _/\_
     
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  14. Nelson

    Nelson Member

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    Great post, David! I agree with (almost) everything you said. :)

    I also quite like the term 'weaponized form of literalistic belief'. That seems to encapsulate the phenomenon, and I'll think more about it.

    In the meantime, to underscore the term 'weaponized form of literalistic belief', I can give some examples of how the Greeks and other ancient peoples were reportedly literalistic yet also tolerant and curious of others' opinions.

    A case in point: Herodotus often talks about what others reportedly believe and what he himself believes. Here's a sample (emphasis added, and the cross-cultural identification of gods and celestial connections are also interesting):

    'These same men say also, but I do not believe them, that the god himself comes often to the cell and rests upon the couch, as happens likewise in the Egyptian Thebes according to the report of the Egyptians, for there also a woman sleeps in the temple of the Theban Zeus'

    Another anecdote:
    'This bird they say [the phoenix] (but I cannot believe the story) contrives as follows:—setting forth from Arabia he conveys his father, they say, to the temple of the Sun (Helios) plastered up in myrrh, and buries him in the temple of the Sun; and he conveys him thus:—he forms first an egg of myrrh as large as he is able to carry, and then he makes trial of carrying it, and when he has made trial sufficiently, then he hollows out the egg and places his father within it and plasters over with other myrrh that part of the egg where he hollowed it out to put his father in, and when his father is laid in it, it proves (they say) to be of the same weight as it was; and after he has plastered it up, he conveys the whole to Egypt to the temple of the Sun. Thus they say that this bird does.'

    And of the historicity of the Trojan War:
    'Thus the priests of the Egyptians told me; and I myself also agree with the story which was told of Helen, adding this consideration, namely that if Helen had been in Ilion she would have been given up to the Hellenes, whether Alexander consented or no; for Priam assuredly was not so mad, nor yet the others of his house, that they were desirous to run risk of ruin for themselves and their children and their city, in order that Alexander might have Helen as his wife: and even supposing that during the first part of the time they had been so inclined, yet when many others of the Trojans besides were losing their lives as often as they fought with the Hellenes, and of the sons of Priam himself always two or three or even more were slain when a battle took place (if one may trust at all to the Epic poets),—when, I say, things were coming thus to pass, I consider that even if Priam himself had had Helen as his wife, he would have given her back to the Achaians, if at least by so doing he might be freed from the evils which oppressed him.'

    http://www.gutenberg.org/files/2707/2707-h/2707-h.htm

    There are many other such examples in Herodotus' History, about whether/to what degree various myths can be taken literally. And Herodotus takes each myth on a case by case basis; he is nuanced; and there is no hint that he is fearful or pressured to think one way or another. I.e. freedom from a 'weaponized form of literalistic belief'...
     
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2017
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  15. dwm

    dwm Member

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    Thanks Nelson -- great examples -- I particularly liked the story Herodotus gives about the origin of cinnamon when I was growing up!

    However, for the record, I would also suggest the possibility that these examples you have provided might be an indication that the ancient Greeks (at least some of them) did not in fact take the stories literally and knew that they were not supposed to be taken literally, and were providing some "sly winks" as they told the story in order to let you know that they understood that the myths were not to be taken literally.

    In fact, we also see Plato doing the same thing, through his description of the character Socrates, in some of his writings, particularly Phaedrus. See my discussion here in a post from 2014 entitled "Know Thyself."

    I think we also see other ancient writers doing a similar "sly wink" to let you know they understand the esoteric meaning that lies underneath the literalistic meaning, often by writing passages where they will say, "But some say that . . . , although that is of course ridiculous . . . " and then going on to give two or three actually ridiculous explanations -- the explanation that is the real explanation is the one they offered to you earlier, and then said not to pay attention to that one. We see Plutarch doing this more than one time -- I can't think of all the places that I've seen this, but one example that I mention in a blog post is in his discussion of the name of the god Ammon or Amen or Amoun (the same god referenced in the name of Tutankhamen); I provide a quotation of Plutarch doing this with that discussion here.

    Anyway, I think we're in agreement on most points! I guess in conclusion I would say that, whether understood through literal stories or through esoteric means, the concept of a universe that consist of both an Invisible Reality and a Visible / Material Reality, in which the Invisible is always present and informs the Visible (and which thus requires respect for the gods and goddesses of the streams, trees, fountains, oceans, or if we prefer to say, the "spirit" of the natural places and an obligation to the Invisible source of all the resources we use -- and also respect for every other man or woman who also contains a spark or presence of this Invisible realm of the gods) is the important thing, versus the explicit denial of that worldview and the desire to stamp it out. I also call it the "shamanic worldview" and the "weaponized" form of Christianity can be seen as being anti-shamanic.

    And we can see the consequences of stamping out this understanding, all around us.
     
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  16. Alex

    Alex New

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    exactly... great example. and I'd take this idea one step further. let's say you're a ancient scribe/historian/writer, and a Christian, and believer in the resurrection. might you weave the resurrection story/meme/myth into your writing (either consciously or subconsciously). of course this has been done.

    so, like you, I think David makes a strong case for ancient star myth wisdom, but I don't think examples like the one you've mentioned tell us much about how this wisdom was operationalized within the culture.

    -- BTW I wrote this before reading all the awesome posts that followed. thx for this great dialog!
     
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2017
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  17. Nelson

    Nelson Member

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    I completely agree. And as we also previously agreed :) this makes it virtually impossible to pin down how myths really formed or to identify any one level of meaning as the sole intention of the author(s) of the sacred story. E.g. the story can have entertainment value, a stellar significance, a reflection of a ritual, a kernel of history. It could be all these things, or any combination of them.

    Even in recent times, IMO the most splendid sacred story to appear in our era but which isn't really modern, is The Lord of the Rings. And as you may know, Tolkien stated repeatedly that there are no allegories in his work. He was even vehement about this. On a conscious level he may have believed this (who knows?) but at least on an unconscious level there seem to be many metaphors, such as a reflection of Europe and its history, and also the resurrection story. I heard a Christian scholar once argue that Gandalf dying in the Mines of Moria and coming back to life is a metaphor for Jesus' resurrection. That may be so, but it is even more similar to myths that the Greeks called katabasis: descent into the underworld and coming back alive.
     
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  18. Nelson

    Nelson Member

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    That was a brilliant article! Some very sharp observations. And considering Plutarch was in such a position to know these things, since he was a priest at Delphi, and people traveled from far and wide just to discuss the religion/myths with him...

    Needless to say at this stage, it's undeniable that there is a stellar level of meaning in many myths, and the more one reads with "new eyes", so to speak, the more connections pop out of the pages.

    And yet, as Alex and I were saying, this doesn't exclude that myths (or portions within myths) can have other levels of meaning.

    Plutarch himself is nuanced in this way too. For example, in his biography of Theseus he goes into great detail about his life, even though Theseus is what we would call "mythical". But Plutarch even writes:
    'It is true, indeed, that Theseus married Phaedra, but that was after the death of Antiope, by whom he had a son called Hippolytus, or, as Pindar writes, Demophon'...
    http://classics.mit.edu/Plutarch/theseus.html

    We see the same pattern in Plutarch's biography of Romulus and likewise in his comparison of Theseus and Romulus. The level of detail about these figures' lives is staggering: when, where, with whom, what this suggests about the person's decisions, etc.; as you know, just these two biographies make quite a long read! So considering all this, it appears there is no doubt in Plutarch's mind that somehow Romulus and Theseus were real men and that they were important in history.

    And in recognizing that kernel of historicity, it of course doesn't exclude Plutarch from making fun of absurd-sounding tales. Moreover, as you say, David, he sometimes does this while letting us know what he finds a very important layer of meaning; as Plutarch relates:

    'They say, too, the body of Alcmena, as they were carrying her to her grave, vanished, and a stone was found lying on the bier. And many such improbabilities do your fabulous writers relate, deifying creatures naturally mortal; for though altogether to disown a divine nature in human virtue were impious and base, so again, to mix heaven with earth is ridiculous. Let us believe with Pindar, that-

    "All human bodies yield to Death's decree,
    The soul survives to all eternity."
    '
    http://classics.mit.edu/Plutarch/romulus.html
     
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2017
  19. Nelson

    Nelson Member

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    Just back to Herodotus again and whether he thought the myths had a kernel of historicity.

    In these places, Herodotus does indeed say that he doesn't believe these myths were literally real. But in a wider context, throughout his history he makes such statements often, especially about geography. In the following case he even says that he doesn't believe something, but the contents of the story reveal it to reflect reality (of a reported Carthaginian journey from Egypt along the east coast of Africa, circumnavigating the continent, and back to Egypt again):

    'in the third year they turned through the Pillars of Heracles and arrived again in Egypt. And they reported a thing which I cannot believe, but another man may, namely that in sailing round Libya they had the sun on their right hand'.

    (Naturally, the Sun being on the right hand side fits what a sailor would see heading west around the southern tip of Africa. So Herodotus doesn't believe that this could be true, even though it does fit reality.)
     
  20. Nelson

    Nelson Member

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    Concerning Herodotus' view on the historicity of the Trojan War:

    The wider context of this quote is revealing. Preceding the quoted passage Herodotus wrote (emphasis added):
    'I asked the priests whether it is but an idle tale which the Hellenes tell of that which they say happened about Ilion; and they answered me thus, saying that they had their knowledge by inquiries from Menelaos himself. After the rape of Helen there came indeed, they said, to the Teucrian land a large army of Hellenes to help Menelaos'...
     

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