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

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

  1. Nelson

    Nelson Member

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    A couple of other examples from Herodotus, that illustrate his analyses of stories on a case by case basis, without a dogmatic interpretative framework. Herodotus writes (emphasis added):

    ‘The cause then of the death of Polycrates is reported in these two different ways, and we may believe whichever of them we please.’

    And here, a longer passage, about what appears to me a katabasis story (descent to the underworld and return to life), yet Herodotus doesn't give a strong opinion on the meaning of this either:

    'This Salmoxis I hear from the Hellenes who dwell about the Hellespont and the Pontus, was a man, and he became a slave in Samos, and was in fact a slave of Pythagoras the son of Mnesarchos. Then having become free he gained great wealth, and afterwards returned to his own land: and as the Thracians both live hardly and are rather simple-minded, this Salmoxis, being acquainted with the Ionian way of living and with manners more cultivated 94 than the Thracians were used to see, since he had associated with Hellenes (and not only that but with Pythagoras, not the least able philosopher 95 of the Hellenes), prepared a banqueting-hall, 96 where he received and feasted the chief men of the tribe and instructed them meanwhile that neither he himself nor his guests nor their descendants in succession after them would die; but that they would come to a place where they would live for ever and have all things good. While he was doing that which has been mentioned and was saying these things, he was making for himself meanwhile a chamber under the ground; and when his chamber was finished, he disappeared from among the Thracians and went down into the underground chamber, where he continued to live for three years: and they grieved for his loss and mourned for him as dead. Then in the fourth year he appeared to the Thracians, and in this way the things which Salmoxis said became credible to them.

    Thus they say that he did; but as to this matter and the chamber under ground, I neither disbelieve it nor do I very strongly believe, but I think that this Salmoxis lived many years before Pythagoras. However, whether there ever lived a man Salmoxis, or whether he is simply a native deity of the Getai, let us bid farewell to him now.'
    http://www.gutenberg.org/files/2707/2707-h/2707-h.htm
     
  2. Alex

    Alex New

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    great example. Tolkins remark kinda reminds me of the problem of implementing controls on a prayer study... I mean, you can't really stop people outside the experiment from praying. Similarly, I don't think we can tell ourselves not to allegorize:)
     
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  3. JoeR

    JoeR Member

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    Sorry for being late to the party, but I am new to Skeptiko and just listened to this podcast a few days ago. I found this interview and David's theory to be fascinating and it triggered a thought in me I wanted to share.

    In ancient times, pre-book, pre-alphabet and even pre-language, man would have had to reference the "Terrestrial" and the "Celestial" in the earliest forms of communications. While the "Terrestrial" could change drastically over time and location, the Celestial would be an (almost) Universal Frame of Reference for man and subject of great study and debate. It would make sense that the stars would become the first storybooks used to communicate and convey ideas resulting in the myths after language was developed.

    Also, the leaders, shamans, and members of all cultures would naturally be interested in and perplexed by the mysteries of the heavens, so the celestial bodies would certainly remain an important part of their cultures, studies, teachings, religions and ceremonies. The heavens would be the object of considerable scrutiny by the most educated and powerful members of a tribe or primitive society for thousands upon thousands of years.

    Over time as culture(s) advanced, contracted, migrated, and evolved, the myths would endure but then also evolve. The myths would be recast by various different cultures many times to fit the current worldview, political climate, location, environment, needs of the people, or due to misinterpretation/translation. This would reoccur over and over as new tribes formed, new ideas emerged, human race expands/migrates/progresses/retracts, etc. etc..

    The stars and these myths may have been the first "communication technology" used by man, and the reason we see elements of these myths in all cultures. Those myths would have remained the primary communication technology for many thousands of years, later enhanced by the written (and later printed) word.

    In fact, it may be the emergence of the written word and texts that ultimately changed everything. Before books existed it would not have been possible for anyone to take something "literally". Man may have actually lost something profound when books emerged, and replaced the heavens as the primary source of teachings.
     
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  4. dwm

    dwm Member

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    Hi JoeR -- thanks for your comments, and glad that you listened to the podcast and found it to be fascinating. I certainly find the subject fascinating as well! Those are some important insights about the transmission of knowledge prior to what we might term the "technology" of writing. The authors of Hamlet's Mill, published in 1969 and one of the seminal texts elaborating the abundant evidence from around the world for a connection between the stars and the myths, seem to have felt that this same subject (the preservation of knowledge in written form) was pertinent and important to their discussion, because they conclude the last chapter of their book (prior to the numerous appendices) with a passage from Plato's Phaedrus dealing with that exact subject. Speaking to Theuth or Thoth, the god of writing, Plato has the character Thamus, the "god and king of Egypt," declare of this technology that:
    "this invention will produce forgetfulness in the minds of those who learn to use it, because they will not practise their memory. Their trust in writing, produced by external characters which are no part of themselves, will discourage the use of their own memory within them. You have invented an elixir not of memory, but of reminding; and you offer your pupils the appearance of wisdom, not true wisdom, for they will read many things without instruction and will therefore seem to know many things, when they are for the most part ignorant and hard to get along with, since they are not wise, but only appear wise."

    Then the authors of Hamlet's Mill conclude with these words regarding the ancient system that appears to lie in fragments and ruins among the myths and monuments of the past:
    "Now that Plato's apprehensions have become fact, there is nothing left of the ancient knowledge except the relics, fragments and allusions that have survived the steep attrition of the ages. Part of the lost treasure may be recovered through archaeology; some of it -- Mayan astronomy, for instance -- may be reconstructed through sheer mathematical ingenuity; but the system as a whole may lie beyond all conjecture, because the creating, ordering minds that made it have vanished forever."

    So, powerful observations in your post above!

    The only thing I'll add is that your hypothesis seems to posit the formation of myths in various parts of the globe and various cultures independently, and the later evolution of those myths into different forms. The evidence I have found (as well as evidence offered in Hamlet's Mill) strongly suggest that all the myths are variations or evolutions within a single unified and coherent system. There are numerous examples of very specific constellational and mythological patterns appearing in widely dispersed cultures, patterns that we would not expect to be consistently selected independently of one another. I speak of examples such as the envisioning of Corona Borealis as an infant (Corona Borealis does not resemble an infant at all -- it does resemble a necklace, and it appears in numerous myths worldwide as a necklace -- but it also appears quite frequently as an infant, and across vast distances separated by oceans, and we would not expect numerous cultures to independently look up and say "I'm going to write a myth that envisions Corona Borealis as an infant"), or the outlining of the stars that make the constellation Hercules as a powerful figure in a deep lunge (it takes some effort to see that in the sky -- and even the outlines for Hercules that we see today for this constellation, given in various books and on places like Wikipedia, do not envision Hercules that way, and yet this can be shown to have been a consistent way of envisioning these stars around the world, from artwork that goes back to the cylinder seals of Mesopotamia, and which can be seen again and again in statues and stone carvings around the world). Thus, I believe that the myths and sacred stories from around the world are the descendants of some far more ancient, unified source.

    You can see more about this argument and some of the evidence that I believe supports this conclusion by visiting some of the videos on my website at starmythworld.com, as well as in books I've published and in my blog (all of which can be accessed from that star myth world website).

    Cheers (and welcome to the party)!

    David
     
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  5. JoeR

    JoeR Member

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    Hi David,
    I certainly will visit your site and read more about your work. I'm not very familiar with the subject matter, but I believe man has somehow "lost" something from our ancient past. When I downloaded the Podcast I really didn't expect to hear a theory that may provide an explanation. Perhaps what was lost is this "single unified coherent system".

    Also, I didn't intend to imply that all of these myths emerged independently, but that they may be extensions of a "core working system" and an origin point. Such an origin point could be many things, from a single advanced culture, ancient aliens, God, or perhaps even the emergence of consciousness itself.

    I'm proposing the constellations were the communication medium and associated myth's were used to propagate this "core system" around the world and up and down through many cultures and civilizations, and why the correlations are widespread. This is more of a general opinion, I've not done research to gather evidence to support or dismiss it, but perhaps you already have?

    As you mentioned in the podcast, I also don't believe these things were meant to be taken literally. However it never occurred to me before I sat down to write my post above that the emergence of the written word may have been damaging in any way. I had no idea Plato foresaw and warned of such a thing either. I think I need to read Hamlet's Mill now as well, so thank you for that insight.

    Regards,

    Joe
     

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