“suicidal self-hatred of Western Left-wingers”

Over at WSJ, there is an article about The Late, Great American WASP by Joseph Epstein.

I won’t say much about the article itself. The author is essentially talking about an enlightened aristocracy as related to ethnocentric nationalism, plutocratic ruling elite, landed gentry, primogeniture and noblesse oblige. It’s an interesting topic, but the author simplifies and in doing so falsifies history a bit. Still, the topic should be discussed for its continuing relevance.

My purpose here, however, is simply to make note of a couple of comments. The two commenters were speaking to a more side issue that is another interesting topic. I’m not entirely sure what to make of this side issue, but I thought I’d share it because I found it curious.

Frank Pecarich, in his comment, offered a quote by Collin Cleary:

“Even within the most modern of Western men – yes, even within our politically correct academics – we still see some glimmer of the old, Indo-European thematic nature. One sees this, of course, in the polemical nature of Leftist scholarship. And, as Ricardo Duchesne has pointed out, their critique of the West embodies the perennial Western negativity about itself, and Western “self-doubt.” This may be the hardest point for Right-wing critics of the Left to understand. The suicidal self-hatred of Western Left-wingers is something that seems utterly mad, and defies explanation.

“Of course many Right-wingers do, in fact, have a ready explanation: the self-hatred that currently grips Europeans, and European-Americans, is a kind of plague germ spread by non-Europeans who wish to manipulate us for their own ethnic self-interest. But such manipulation would be impossible if Europeans did not already exhibit an innate capacity for ruthless, sometimes suicidal self-criticism. The anti-Western animus of the European Left may be foolish, dishonest, and disastrous – but it is not un-Western.”

I’m not familiar with Collin Cleary. I wondered what was the larger argument he is making, but the source of the quote wasn’t offered. Fortunately, a quick web search brought up the article which begins with that quote. Cleary is a neo-pagan of the neo-reactionary variety. His argument is basically that left-wingers take too far what is otherwise fundamentally true and good about the Western tradition. This he describes as our “tragic flaw”, individual freedom brought to its self-defeating extreme.

It seems a bit melodramatic with the author’s description of the “suicidal self-hatred of Western Left-wingers”. Still, I’m intrigued by the general idea of the “old, Indo-European thematic nature”. In this view, the Left isn’t un-Western and as such neither is it un-American. However it is described or judged, it can claim an ancient lineage of sorts.

In response to that quote, James Nedved wrote:

Very interesting. I never thought about that in relation to Leftist criticism of the West, that “even it” is really part of the Western “tradition” as it were.

We in the West when you think of it do have a penchant for self-criticism on BOTH the “Jerusalem” and “Athens” side of our patrimony: Jerusalem: search our hearts, find our sin and get rid of it. Athens: Socrates was the original asker of the question, “What is the right way to live?” (An aside: If he would have just shut up, he wouldn’t have had to drink the hemlock.)

Both sides of our patrimony ask us to criticize ourselves / our laws / our “way” to find and then to prove (in the sense of “test”) ourselves.

With this comment, Nedved adds another layer of Western tradition from two other sources of the Mediterranean variety. Levantine Judeo-Christianity obviously didn’t originate in Europe, but it has become so syncretized with the “old, Indo-European thematic nature” that is impossible to separate the two. Protestantism is very much an European creation and Calvinism particularly embodies the attitude of self-doubt and harsh judgment. As for the Greek influence (by way of Hellenism and Rome), we have another strain of Axial Age influence that later fully bloomed in the Enlightenment Era. Combined, the doubting prophets and philosophers were overlaid upon the ancient dark imagination of the European pagans.

In a The Phora discussion thread about Cleary’s article, someone with the username Petr wrote:

I myself would be ready to acknowledge and celebrate the genius of Aryan peoples (as a non-Aryan Finn myself ), but yet I think that writers like this often overstate their generally correct case concerning the exceptional altruism and idealism of Indo-European peoples by over-generalizing and not noting similar traits in other peoples as well.

Here, for example, the brazen attitude of Leftist polemics is attributed to Aryan high spirits. But in other New Right writings, Jewish or Semitic fanaticism is blamed for that same thing…

The Jews had enough suicidal idealism to rebel repeatedly against the might of Rome, inspired by their messianic ambitions, until they were almost destroyed. On the other hand, the Asiatic Aryan peoples of Persia and India do not seem to have displayed that Faustian individualist attitude that writers like Cleary seem to consider as typically Indo-European.

That is a good point. Cleary is a true believer seeking to defend his conception of European traditionalism. His analysis, although interesting in parts, is ultimately apologetics and should be taken as such. Even so, I’m always fascinated by exploration of origins.

Labels, Religion, and Falling in Love

Labels, Religion, and Falling in Love

Posted on Apr 22nd, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Explorer Marmalade

“If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything; it is open to everything. In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities; in the expert’s mind there are few.”

Shunryu Suzuki-roshi : Japanese Buddhist scholar & Zen master, founder of the San Francisco Zen Center Shunryu Suzuki-roshi (1905 – 1971)

I’m wary of labels… especially when placing them on myself.  The moment someone identifies with a label, I’m pretty sure they’re no longer in beginner’s mind.  I don’t mind labels to any great extent because I use them tentatively.  At its best, a label is just a way of looking at things.

I was criticizing a certain type of Christian in my previous blog post, and this is related.  A label is a way of looking at things.  And when one identifies with that label, it limits the way one can look at things.  Comparative mythology and integral theory is more interesting to me because they both allow one to switch perspectives.

I’m attracted to Christianity and to that extent I’m Christian.  But, to me, Christianity is a very loose network of ideas, myths, and cultural paradigms.  There is no one true Christianity.  Christianity is a confluence of trends that come from diverse cultures much of which predates or was concurrent with Christianity.

I’m also wary of hegemony whether of the Christian, perennial, or integral varieties.  I do believe there is a universal truth of some sort, but within that infinite specific differences.  Yes, all gods point to the mystery beyond but so do all humans.  Monotheism doesn’t negate polytheism.  The powers that be(archetypal or whatever) are as distinct from eachother as one human is to another.  When you consider all of the saints and angels and demons, its easy to see that Christianity isn’t essentially different in kind from Hinduism for instance.  Its more apparent in Hinduism how Monotheism and Polytheism relate.  To be technical, most modern world religions are henotheistic… which means they have a favored deity but still aknowledge the reality of other lesser deities(powers, spirits, angels, demons, etc).

For certain, all the monistic and monotheistic religions arose from and were largely based upon polytheism.  Whenever looking at different views, I’m often mildly annoyed and amused at how ignorant most people are of this fact.

Similarly, is the phenomena of conversion.  How do people know what they’re converting to?  There is a whole lot of biased interpretation in the conversion process.

As an example, I was reading of an agnostic lady who while on vacation visited a Christian shrine.  She had a vision and became a Christian.  I find this amusing because many shrines were built on pagan holy ground.  She saw a spiritual vision, but how does she know that this spirit wasn’t the ancient spirit of that holy place?  Just because Christians built a shrine there(possibly incorporating some of the pagan shrine) it doesn’t mean that this particular spirit converted to Christianity.  The spirit of that place may not give a hoot about Christianity.  Maybe that spirit likes anybody with sufficient devotion no matter what there religious affiliation.  Maybe the spirit was simply saying hi.  Furthermore, the shrine this lady visited had a statue of Jesus.  I’ve read before that the image of Jesus was based on previous pagan savior god-men.  So, which god-man came to save her?  Maybe it was Mithras and he was disappointed after she left because she didn’t sacrifice a bull for him.

She took an ineffable experience and effed it up with Christian theology.  =)  Now she is a Christian who filters the world through a theological lense.  She has gained something, but I suspect she lost even more.

But nobody ever said religion is rational… sort of like love.  Essentially, conversions is just a form of falling in love… and that goes a far way in explaining the insane things that some religious people do.  Its not accidental that a monotheistic religion like Christianity promotes monogamy.  God is jealous and so are his followers.  There is a difference between falling in love with a god and falling in love with a person.  Many people when they fall in love with a god become devoted in a way that is rare when they fall in love with another person.  Falling in love with another peson usually doesn’t lead one to deny the existence of all other people or else deem everyone else as evil.  Could you imagine if people treated their romances the way that many treat religion?  What if when people fell in romantically fell in love, they felt they had to deny their love for their parents and family?

(Here is the thread for this post at the God pod.)

Access_public Access: Public 14 Comments Print // Post this!views (229)  

2 days later

Domi333 said

marmalade,
it’s always been like that…have you heard about ‘our lady of guadalupe’ appearing on the hill of Tonantzin(trad. Goddess)?
and yes, spirituality is nameless, I once read a piece which said that the mother goddess appearing as Kwan Yin to Chinese, Mary to Europeans etc, she appears in forms common to the people living nearby…
I also think you touched on the ‘God is a jealous god’ topic…so then wouldn’t there be other gods to make him jealous? monotheism and polytheism are related…Allah was high God become only god, JHWH-God may have been El or Ea(poss. combination of both)
ahh i see now, we can express belief without being dogmatic and through different expressions, one loves one’s wife and mother just like one expresses spirituality on different levels and in different(sometimes contradictory)ways…
Peace

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

4 days later

Marmalade said

Howdy Domi333,

You’re a very new member of Gaia.  I’m glad you found my blog and responded.

I’ve read a little about the story behind ‘our lady of guadalupe’, but I haven’t looked into it much.  Have you ever heard of the Evil Saint?  I have a picture of him and I find him very fascinating.

As for goddesses, I most definitely feel there is immense connection with the Virgin Mary and all the other Marys.  I’ve read that some of the Black Madonnas in Europe were probably originally statues of Isis that were bought from traders.  The churches that bought them assumed they were statues of the Madonna.  Maybe they saw it as the Madonna because the imagery of the Madonna was based on pagan goddesses in the first place.

Yep about the El and Ea origins of JHWH-God.  And yep I think you get what I was saying about love and belief.

Blessings,
Marmalade

Nicole : wakingdreamer

12 days later

Nicole said

Ben, I think that we tend to be polytheists, really, even when we think of ourselves as monotheists. the important thing is to realize the unknowable God behind all the “gods” or knowable one God. it’s when we think that the God or gods we “know” is/are all there is, that it gets out of balance. cause that is just the tiny bit of the elephant in the parable of blind men that we can touch. love and light

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

12 days later

Marmalade said

Yep, right you are.  We do forget that there is an essential common truth behind all “gods”.  But we also forget that there is an essential common truth within all people.  When we’re in love(with a god or a person), we can become unbalanced.  We become focused on our love object and forget all else.

Song of the day:
Let the Mystery Be
by Iris Dement

12 days later

Domi333 said

What do you mean by the evil saint?
and also you just went into two concepts: deus absconditus(hidden god) from Thomas Aquinas…or deus otiosus(idle god) yet not hidden… then we have the closer active forces in the universe- relating to shakti(creative forces) in hinduism…anyways, as long as we experience whatever it is, that’s what’s important..
Dom

FastDart : Peaceful Arrow

12 days later

FastDart said

You guys rock my world. I am one in Spirit and remember that my source is always available.

Marmalade : Gaia Child

12 days later

Marmalade said

Dom,

Two names of the Evil Saint are San Simón and Maximón.  They’re also related to the Santa Muerte, a female personification of death.  Maximón is a combination of Mayan deities, Judas Iscariot and Pedro de Alvarado, the conquistador of Guatemala.  He represents evil, but he is also a protector of sinners.  As such, he is a favored saint amongst prostitutes.  San Simón is similar, but his name may be a reference to Simon the Magus.

These saints are revered by some Catholics in Central America even though they aren’t aknowledged by the Catholic church.  I’ve read about a festival where a statue of the Evil Saint and a statue of Jesus are paraded through the streets and then meet in confrontation… of course, Jesus always wins.  🙂

“as long as we experience whatever it is, that’s what’s important”

True.  Experience is the important aspect, but there is another aspect that motivated my posting this blog in the first place.  We need to trust our own experience over dogmatic interpretations and cultural expectations, and we must continually return to our own direct experience and question our own direct experience.  In doing this, we need to remain humble in our limited understanding and open to new understandings.  We must remember that our experience is filtered by unconscious assumptions and beliefs, that we’re caught in collective reality tunnels.

13 days later

Domi333 said

OK, I know a bit of Maximon, the mayans never totally abandoned their old beliefs, there was a lot of syncretism, an evil saint who’s evil yet protects sinners, that’s a strange paradox…then again the mayan and aztec gods weren’t pure god or evil they were powerful beings(maybe not quetzalcoatl, my fav.)

yes, experience is limited by all that…i think i meant that what we ultimately perceive to be true(although we may keep changing), after breaking through what we have learnt to believe, subconscious motivations etc. Buddha once said: With our thoughts we make the world.(and we are living in the world of our underlying assumptions etc.)
Ben, do you believe that ultimately most people are totally stuck in these ‘collective reality tunnels’, then ultimately how do we know what is really real?
the subjective perceived truth versus the objective reasoning

Marmalade : Gaia Child

13 days later

Marmalade said

BTW you rock too FastDart!

Okay, Dom..
“i think i meant that what we ultimately perceive to be true(although we may keep changing), after breaking through what we have learnt to believe, subconscious motivations etc.”

I think I agree with what your pointing at here.  I sense there is a truth to be perceived.

“do you believe that ultimately most people are totally stuck in these ‘collective reality tunnels’, then ultimately how do we know what is really real?”
 
I do believe we are for the most part stuck in reality tunnels, but I don’t feel it has to be a bad thing.  I feel there is something inherently good to the world even if I don’t fully understand it.  Reality is infinitely creative and will always defy the mind that attempts to constrain it with knowledge, but its a fun game to play anyways.  We don’t ever know what is really real.  We just can have experiences that feel real and we can have faith in our own experiences.  And from that we live our lives.  Mystery trumps all, but we too are Mystery!

“the subjective perceived truth versus the objective reasoning”

Simply put, I don’t believe those are the only two choices… nor do I believe that those two choices are entirely distinct.

So, what do you think of reality tunnels and the possibility of knowing reality?

Nicole : wakingdreamer

13 days later

Nicole said

hi dom! thanks for joining the God Pod! i can see it will be fun having you with us!

Ben, getting back first to your response to my comment, yes, you are right about getting unbalanced when we are in love… that’s what you see in “Jesus freaks” – i remember my Jesus freak days – and that’s what happens when you get lost in the gaze of anoher human being and you can’t eat or sleep, can’t work, can’t think of anything else but that person.

thanks be to God for falling out of love! lol

so, on to your dialogue with Dom. fascinating stuff here about the evil saints. the latin culture is so interesting around religion, with the Days of the Dead and so on… but i wasn’t aware of the evil Saints, reminds me of the movie The Saint with Val Kilmer, a modernising of the old British book/series, and this Saint’s past as an orphan preached at by priests at how they were bastard children of sinful women etc… anyway there is more than meets the eye to that movie, don’t know if you and Dom have seen it.

now, here’s something else new to me. reality tunnels… i do think that many people i know struggle to know what is real. first of all, the media are so all pervasive, and benumb and bemuse people in TV, movies, internet, gaming, newspapers, radio shows… these are not reality but webs of overlapping mental/emotional/spiritual constructs that inform how we think about and live our actual lives to the point that i wonder if we really “see” our lives or live them, or just sleep walk through them.

Marmalade : Gaia Child

14 days later

Marmalade said

Sweet dear Nickel,
 Yeah, we become unbaanced in love… but that is what makes it so much fun.  🙂  The “Jesus freaks” aren’t wrong.  They just need to step their love up a notch.  If they’d truly lose themselves in love Sufi-style, then there’d be no problem.  Superficial love of God makes God into a symbol of the ego.  Deep love of God transforms the ego.

And there is power in falling out of love.  For the mystic, this is the Dark Night of the Soul…. what felt so good, so right disappears… a sense of abandonment and loss, emptiness and loneliness.  On the human level, to really love someone means a willingness to let them go.  The sorrow comes from the fact that even though the object of love is gone love itself remains.  Its difficult to learn to sit still in the fires of love.  At first, we love God.  Then, we realize God is love, that God isn’t elsewhere to be loved but right here in our hearts.

so, on to your comments about my dialogue with Dom.  I haven’t watched The Saint.  But becasue you like it, I’ve put it in my Netflix queue.  So, I’ll be watching it soon.

Ahhh… something new for you…  lovely reality tunnels.  I think I probably first learned about them from reading Robert Anton Wilson years ago.  Timothy Leary coined the term, but it was RAW who popularized it.  There are many other ideas and terms that are simiar.  Maybe I’ll blog about it sometime.  It is a fascinating subject.

14 days later

Domi333 said

These reality tunnels, would they justify the interlocking of separate minds in the same stream? I guess, people who are close to each other tend to have a strong mental connection…
Objective and subjective analysis, rightly so would not be so concrete and distinct as only ways of seeing things, they both interlock…one needs to be subjectively experiencing something to look at it objectively(or the observer’s paradox, even though the observer can affect the subject)
There could be a possibility that we’re stuck in a plato’s cave-matrix paradox, yet even exiting the cave, would that too be real? defining what is ‘real’ and what is ‘true’ is not exactly constant, an anomaly can come and become the force for a paradigm shift…but it’s the way that we personally want to see things…
Would it be personally possible to traverse these reality tunnels and affect their comings and goings? or maybe I’m just getting a bit far out…

Marmalade : Gaia Child

14 days later

Marmalade said

Dom – All that you said sounds good to me.  Feel free to go as far out as you like.  If you’re familiar with Robert Anton Wilson, then you know that the out goes quite far.  🙂

Reality tunnels can be applied to almost anything. 

At its most basic, they’re the psychological and bio-sensory limitations of our individuality.  But you can step this up to include the social in terms of paradigms.  If you don’t take it any further, then its not anything too far out, nothing that goes beyond mainstream understandings of ‘reality’.

However, once you start considering how much overlap there is between the objective and subjective, you’re stepping into different territory.  If reality has a collective/consensual factor and if perception is an act of creativity, then reality tunnels aren’t merely something we’re stuck in, not just something that happens to us, not simply the limits of the way the world is.

So, there is the modest view of reality  tunnels that says that objective analysis and observation can allow us to see beyond our reality tunnels.  And there is the radical view of reality tunnels that says that even objective reality is just another reality tunnel.

Its not a matter of what is absolutely real, of what is the correct view.  Reality is about how we relate and the motivation that is behind our way of relating.  Subjective experience and objective analysis are both useful to the degree they help us achieve our goals in relating better to the world and to others… however we define those things.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

14 days later

Nicole said

uh huh, still making me pay for that Binyamin eh? lol well, at least i’m worth five cents!

 Yeah, unbaanced in love is so much fun – i just love totally losing it in my life.  🙂  I agree with you about losing self in love Sufi-style, that deep love of God transforms the ego. That’s my path!

And the power in falling out of love,  Dark Night of the Soul, been there last year with God, this year with ___, “what felt so good, so right disappears… a sense of abandonment and loss, emptiness and loneliness.  On the human level, to really love someone means a willingness to let them go.  The sorrow comes from the fact that even though the object of love is gone love itself remains.  Its difficult to learn to sit still in the fires of love.”

It gets easier. The first time I very deeply loved and let go, it really really hurt for the first three or four years.  This time, I was much better prepared so while there are days or hours or moments when it is harder, I accept it thoroughly so the fires pass through me. I don’t resist as much so suffer much less.

“At first, we love God.  Then, we realize God is love, that God isn’t elsewhere to be loved but right here in our hearts.” Yes, yes, more and more I know that deeply to be true.

Glad to hear you will be watching The Saint soon, just because I like it! 🙂 Thank you, and I very much look forward to your comments. I think I shall add mention of that to the God Pod discussion of the Illusionist, because it too is about smoke and mirrors…

Every day there is something new for me! But the reality tunnels are especially enticing. I must get more into Robert Anton Wilson, I keep hearing about him on the I-I pod mostly. Good old Timothy Leary, eh? If you do want to blog about it, that would be so cool and you know i will read, mark, learn and inwardly digest. :).

I agree, from the sound of them, they sound far from something to be “stuck” in, something that is gloriously freeing. Wheeeee!

 – – –

Comments from the forum thread:

Nicole : wakingdreamer  

Re: Labels, Religion, and Falling in Love

Nicole said Apr 22, 2008, 5:44 PM:

  Hi Marmalade,

Wow, this is interesting… 🙂 as having recently fallen intensively in love, I thought i should comment on this.

You make an excellent point about conversion being like falling in love, and there are also many things in life like conversion, for example joining a new company and being really excited about it, or doing the job you are used to and getting a whole new perspective on it.

I think that as humans we filter our experiences through our physicality, so we often interpret our strong feelings romantically when they perhaps are quite different, operating on a spiritual or mental or different kind of emotional level.

What do you all think?

Peace and light,

Nicole

 
  Marmalade : Gaia Explorer  

Re: Labels, Religion, and Falling in Love

Marmalade said Apr 23, 2008, 2:42 AM:

  Thanks for the reply Nicole!  Ain’t love a funny thing?

As for conversion, Buddhism has an interesting take.  When the Buddha became enlightened, some of the Hindu gods(according to the Buddhists) showed deference.  In Tibetan Buddhism, some of the deities are considered to be converted from the Bon religion.

This makes sense.  In the ancient world, when a people were defeated it was assumed that the god of the people was defeated.  So, if a people were converted, they very well might see it as their god being converted… that is submitting to the power of a ‘greater’ god.  Conversion isn’t always through love.

Related to this, is a Jungian idea that I think I may have mentioned to you before.  Jung said that a person wasn’t genuinely a Christian until they had faced the pagan gods within themselves.  This is very intriguing… an internal conversion of archetypes?

Blessings,
Marmalade

 
  Nicole : wakingdreamer  

Re: Labels, Religion, and Falling in Love

Nicole said Apr 23, 2008, 3:23 AM:

  conversion of gods and archetypes! wow, that is mindblowing, marmalade. i will have to ponder that…. you always give me so much food for thought, dear friend.

love and light,

nicole

 
   

Re: Labels, Religion, and Falling in Love

Dave [no longer around] said Apr 23, 2008, 4:28 AM:

  Marmalade… “an internal conversion of archetypes”…
These 5 words are extremely important… and reflect the specific reason I have difficulty with Integral Theory. 

IMHO, Integral is too focused on evolution, and not transformation.  Evolution suggests a slow, methodical, concerted effort to develop new physiological and psychological capabilities for increasing consciousness and spiritual awareness.  I am not sure, but evolution also suggests moving up a hierarchy of archetypes… one to the other to the other.

Nothing could be further from the truth.  Every being on this planet, has it within themselves, to “complete their evolution’ in an instantaneous transformation.  Some call it enlightenment, others born again.  Whatever one calls that… it is a transformation of consciousness… a quantum leap… rather than an evolutionary one.

Appreciate your thoughts.

Dave

 
  Nicole : wakingdreamer  

Re: Labels, Religion, and Falling in Love

Nicole said Apr 23, 2008, 5:34 AM:

  Hi dave

I’m not sure why you see integral this way. To me it definitely is more of a quantum theory, transformation kind of approach. Transformation is not always instant though. For example when the new testament speaks of us being transformed into the likeness of God it is something that takes our whole life and is not complete. Experiences of enlightenment that we have are states not permanent. That is why we are exhorted to work out our salvation with fear and trembling though we can be initially saved in the blink of an eye. The working through of that takes much longer.

Love and light

Nicole

 
  Negoba : A Simple Seeker  

Re: Labels, Religion, and Falling in Love

Negoba said Apr 23, 2008, 9:40 AM:

  I think the reason that many of us are here is that in a global society, crosspollenation of religious and spiritual thought is a fact of life. Dismissing other religions is just not possible for most thinkers anymore. This is probably why Integral thought is finding such an audience right now.

Similarly, we may see less and less traditional “conversions” but we will see more and more episodes of people falling in love with traditions that are new to them. And that seems ok to me.

I agree that “tranformation” or “diversification” seem better substitutes for the word “evolution.” Despite Wilber’s (sometimes reasonable) meandering about the Mean Green Meme, I still have suspicions of linear heirarchy. The word evolution itself implies linear, up, more, better, bigger. And it’s not that transformation doesn’t include that. It’s just that it’s that and more. Similarly, I wish the field started by Darwin wasn’t named “evolution” because that’s not really the best descriptor. Perhaps his “On the Origin of Species” is better, but of course that’s too many words and not catchy enough.

Enough rambling….till tonight

 
  Marmalade : Gaia Explorer  

Re: Labels, Religion, and Falling in Love

Marmalade said Apr 23, 2008, 11:26 AM:

  An internal conversion of archetypes.  I’m not sure what I meant by that, but it sounded good at the time.

As for integral, I don’t think that transformation and development need be opposed.  But integral does seem more focused on development because it can more easily be mapped.  Ultimately, though, development is transformative because each new stage is emergent.

Myth, Religion, and Social Development

Myth, Religion, and Social Development

Posted on Apr 7th, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Child Marmalade
I’ve been reading several authors recently that are related.

I just finished The Gospel & the Zodiac by Bill Darlison.  I’m now reading Christianity: the Origins of a Pagan Religion by Philippe Walter.  I’ve also been perusing two of Joseph Campbell’s works: Thou Art That and The Flight of the Wild Gander, and Alexander Eliot’s The Universal Myths.

They all are related(in my mind).  First, they’re all about mythology.  Second, they all speak about Christianity.

There are 5 mythic/archetyapl characters that fit closely together.  There is the Trickster, the Primal Man, the Titan/Giant, the Hero, and the Savior.  The Hero and the Savior are obviously related as Jesus fits fairly well into the Hero’s Journey.  The Primal Man is known as Adam in Christianity and Jesus is known as the Second Adam, one causes death and the other conquers it.  The cause of death is normally an element of the Trickster which is closely related to the Primal Man.  Loki connects the Titan/Giant with the Trickster, and Prometheus fairly well brings together the different categories.

In Walter’s book, he theorizes about a European pagan mythology that was incorporated into Christianity of the Middle Ages.  He sees at the center of this was a Giant and also related was the class of Birdwomen.  Birds have been related to shaman’s and their visions for as long as man has been thinking about such things.  He mentions the difference between myth and ritual, and how rituals are more reliable evidence of ancient religions because rituals are more stable and unchanging even as the explanations(stories) surrounding them change.

Campbell writes about the differences betweem visions and rituals in reference to what he calls the ‘Titan-shaman’.  He also details how this can be understood through looking at the differences of hunter societies and planting societies.  This relates to paganism and Christianity and the development of religion in general, and Campbell also mentions the differences of religions that emphasize the individual vs the collective.  All of this fits into the insights from Spiral Dynamics.  I also thinks this relates to Jasper’s notion of the Axial Age.

Furthermore, I’ve been thinking about the distinction between symbol and sign, connotation and denotation.  And also what Campbell was saying about tender-minded vs tough-minded.

I plan to go into more detail, but I wanted to do an intro blog to set out the ideas I’ve been pondering.

Access_public Access: Public 4 Comments Print Post this!views (604)  
Nicole : wakingdreamer
about 3 hours later

Nicole said

this would be a great series for the God Pod. what do you think?

love,

nicole

Marmalade : Gaia Child
about 7 hours later

Marmalade said

Yeah… most definitely.  I was actually thinking of posting it in one of the pods, and it probably fits well into the theme of the God pod.  Feel free to add it, or if you’d prefer I could start a thread.  My next entry should give more detail to my thoughts, and I’ll try to get to it tomorrow.

While I’m here in the comments, let me add two other related archetypes.  I was reading the chapter about the Trickster in Jeremy Taylor’s book The Living Labyrinth.  He mentions how the Divine Child and the Shadow are polar opposite faces of the Trickster.  As an example, the child who points out the king is wearing no clothes is simultaneously playing both roles.  Also, two well known examples of the Divine Child Trickster are Hermes and Krishna.  As for the Shadow, I’d think the Trickster archetype would be inseparable from it.

Marmalade : Gaia Child
about 20 hours later

Marmalade said

Here is the link to the thread where I posted this blog entry in the God Pod.

Nicole : wakingdreamer
1 day later

Nicole said

I’m really intrigued by your comment about the Divine Child, Shadow and Trickster… If you’re willing to take the discussion into archetypes and these kinds of interactions, it could really help get things rolling by sharing that in the thread on the God Pod. Many are not sure how to comment on something as intellectually challenging as your posts there, but these archetypal aspects are more accessible and intriguing to more people… what do you think?

 – – –

Here are comments from the forum threads:

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer  

Re: Myth, Religion, and Social Development: A series by Marmalade

Marmalade said Apr 8, 2008, 5:36 PM:

  By the way, if anyone has any info to add, I’d be glad to hear it.  Specifically, I’m interested in anything about the relationship between comparative mythology and Spiral Dynamics.  I know of various theories about the development of myth, but I’ve never come across a Spiral Dynamics analysis.

I’ve always wondered why comparative mythology doesn’t get much inclusion in integral discussions.  I know Julian has blogged about comparative mythology and has blogged about Spiral Dynamics, but I don’t know that he has blogged about their possible connections.

I’ve done thorough searches about this on the web, and have yet to come up with that many leads.  There is only one that comes to mind is James Whitlark who wrote about Jungian archetypes of individuation in the context of Spiral Dynamics.  However, Whitlark wasn’t looking at myth in terms of social development.

 – – –
Marmalade : Gaia Explorer  

Integral Comparative Mythology?

Marmalade said Apr 9, 2008, 2:44 AM:

  I’ve been recently thinking about comparative mythology.  I’ve been reading some books on the subject including Campbell of course, and the developmental perspective often comes up.  I thought Spiral Dynamics would be a good model to analyze theories such as Campbell’s, but I was wondering if there were any in-depth integral interpretations of comparative mythology.

In doing a web search, I see that Wilber speaks about Campbell in Sex, Ecology, Spirituality.  Its been a long while since I’ve read that book and I don’t have a copy of it on hand.  I also came across this old discussion of Wilber on the Joseph Campbell Foundation discussion board, but I haven’t had a chance to look through it thoroughly.

Does anyone know of any other info out there… websites, articles, books?
Does anyone know Wilber’s most recent thinking on mythology and mythologists?
Does anyone have any personal opinions or theories on this subject?

My thoughts at the moment are primarily focused on a particular set of archetypal characters that are often closely related in mythology.  Included in this are the Savior, God-Man, Man-Beast, Primal Man, Titan, Trickster, and Divine Child.  But I’m always interested in all aspects of mythology.

 
  Balder : Kosmonaut  

Re: Integral Comparative Mythology?

Balder said Apr 10, 2008, 9:57 AM:

  Hi, Marmalade, I’m just checking in to let you know I’m not ignoring your question – just waiting for an opportune time to write.  And to research something.  I have some books at home that discuss the works of some folks who might be of interest to you, but I haven’t had a chance to look them up yet.  I’ll try to get back to you this evening or tomorrow morning.

Best wishes,

B. // <![CDATA[
SHARETHIS.addEntry({
title:'Re: Integral Comparative Mythology?',
url:'#/conversations/view/270408#271097′
}, {button:true} );
// ]]>//

 
  Marmalade : Gaia Child  

Re: Integral Comparative Mythology?

Marmalade said Apr 10, 2008, 1:16 PM:

  Balder, I’d appreciate anything you had to offer. 
 
  theurj : dancer  

Re: Integral Comparative Mythology?

theurj said Apr 10, 2008, 2:18 PM:

  I received my indoctrination into mythology via iniitiation into a hermetic and qabalastic Order. Tarot study was one of the vehicles into the meanings of myths. One of the early pioneers of tarot study is A. E. Waite, also a member of said Order. He (and his artist) published one of the most widely-used tarot decks today. His free e-book, The Pictorial Key to Tarot, can be found at this link. Enjoy.

 
  theurj : dancer  

Re: Integral Comparative Mythology?

theurj said Apr 10, 2008, 2:37 PM:

  Jung was also fascinated with tarot and it is claimed that he got his four basic personality types from the tarot court cards. Sallie Nichols wrote an interesting book on Jung’s study of it: Jung and Tarot: An Archetypal Journey.
 
  Marmalade : Gaia Child  

Re: Integral Comparative Mythology?

Marmalade said Apr 10, 2008, 4:25 PM:

  I’ve studied Tarot a bit.  I became interested in myth through Jung, but it was through Tarot that I became interested in Jungian typology.  I’m not familiar with what Jung knew about Tarot, but he was knowledgeable of Temperaments in its pre-Kiersey form.

And it’s good that you posted that image of the Fool.  That is definitely another archetype closely related to the Trickster and Divine Child. // <![CDATA[
SHARETHIS.addEntry({
title:'Re: Integral Comparative Mythology?',
url:'#/conversations/view/270408#271339′
}, {button:true} );
// ]]>//

 
  theurj : dancer  

Re: Integral Comparative Mythology?

theurj said Apr 10, 2008, 6:58 PM:

  It is ironic that part of the curriculum of the Order was assumption of God forms through ceremonial ritual. Comparisons have been made with Tibetan deity yoga. We also used Tarot for pathworking, i.e., stepping inside the tarot card and interacting with the characters and symbols via imagination. Of couse we were first inculcated over years in the symbolical meanings of the images and other hermetical, alchemical, astrological etc. lore so that our “astral” travels were fairly pre-ordained by “right view.” On the other hand I did have some rather unique and idiosyncratic journeys with the cards, often revealing my personal and familial psychodynamic material. // <![CDATA[
SHARETHIS.addEntry({
title:'Re: Integral Comparative Mythology?',
url:'#/conversations/view/270408#271436′
}, {button:true} );
// ]]>//
 
  Bill : practicioner & free  

Re: Integral Comparative Mythology?

Bill said Apr 11, 2008, 1:47 AM:

  I did have some rather unique and idiosyncratic journeys with the cards, often revealing my personal and familial psychodynamic material.

Me too. Fun times. // <![CDATA[
SHARETHIS.addEntry({
title:'Re: Integral Comparative Mythology?',
url:'#/conversations/view/270408#271565′
}, {button:true} );
// ]]>//
 
  Balder : Kosmonaut  

Re: Integral Comparative Mythology?

Balder said Apr 11, 2008, 10:01 AM:

  Hi, Marmalade,

One of the authors I was thinking of is Lawrence Hatab – and in particular, his book, Myth and Philosophy.

I just looked on the web and found the following brief summary of (and editorial response to) this book:

Myths make sense in (and of) a cultural context. When the context changes, the old myths stop making sense. That’s what happened to the Greek myths over twenty-five hundred years ago, when philosophers like Xenophanes began to question the reality of the traditional gods and goddesses. In a similar spirit, our own philosophers have been chipping away at the Judeo-Christian mythos for the past couple of centuries, attempting to replace it with a secular substitute.
In Myth and Philosophy: A Contest of Truths, philosopher Lawrence J. Hatab of Dominion University has argued that myth cannot and should not be reduced to other modes of expression (such as rational explanation in philosophy, mathematics, or science), and that in its own way myth offers truths as real and important as those of rational discourse. Moreover, according to Hatab, when philosophy tries to break completely with myth, it loses its way; and it is this attempt on the part of modern science and philosophy to demythologize human consciousness that has weakened our ties with the deepest truths of our cultural heritage.


The materialist philosophers that Hatab opposes say that we should get rid of myths altogether, become more rational, and wean ourselves from superstition. Myth, they say, should retire in favor of science. But science, though it is formulated in a way quite different from traditional myths, still serves a mythic function: It tells us how the Universe began, where the first people came from, and how the world came to be the way it is. This suggestion that we do away with mythology is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of myth and of the human psyche. Myth in some form is inevitable and necessary. Our knowledge is always finite, and is always overlapped by our need for meaning. Our thoughts and aspirations seek some symbolic language through which we can talk about, and participate in, what we otherwise cannot see, touch, or taste. What is our goal, our meaning, our purpose as human beings? These are the questions a myth can answer.

Virtually every thinking person sees the need for dramatic global renewal if our world is to survive; and, as the greatest politicians, artists, spiritual leaders, and even scientists know in their bones, only a new myth can inspire creative cultural change. But where will this bolt of inspiration come from?


Ironically, while many scientists have sought to undo myth altogether, it is science itself that seems to me to be serving as a primary source for a new myth. Science’s great strengths are its continual checking of theory with experience and its ability to generate new theories in response to new discoveries. While it is still a very young enterprise, and capable of generating its own irrational dogmas, science is in principle malleable and self-correcting. Currently, it appears that elements of a new myth are emerging through quantum and relativity physics, though more directly and powerfully through the findings of anthropology (which is “discovering” the wisdom of native peoples), psychology (which is only beginning to develop a comprehensive understanding of human consciousness), sociology (which offers a comparative view of human economies and lifestyles), and ecology – as well as through the profound, nearly universal human response to the view of planet Earth from space, an image that owes more to technology than to theoretical science.


Each of these sources is, I believe, contributing to the formulation of a myth whose general features are becoming clear enough that it can be articulated in simple story form. We could call it the myth of healing and humility. It starts out somewhat like the old myth, but diverges rather quickly.”
// <![CDATA[
SHARETHIS.addEntry({
title:'Re: Integral Comparative Mythology?',
url:'#/conversations/view/270408#271713′
}, {button:true} );
// ]]>//

 
  Lionza : Sweetfire  

Re: Integral Comparative Mythology?

Lionza said Apr 14, 2008, 3:50 PM:

  Quoting from Balder´s post :

´´Currently, it appears that elements of a new myth are emerging through quantum and relativity physics, though more directly and powerfully through the findings of anthropology (which is “discovering” the wisdom of native peoples), psychology (which is only beginning to develop a comprehensive understanding of human consciousness), sociology (which offers a comparative view of human economies and lifestyles), and ecology – as well as through the profound, nearly universal human response to the view of planet Earth from space, an image that owes more to technology than to theoretical science. ´´


It is all too apparent that Science Fiction, particularly in the last 40 years, has combined all of these fields;  physics (warp speed…), anthropology (…and new civilizations, to boldly go…), psychology ( I did not kill your father:  I am your father…) sociology (… we cannot interfere with…), ecology (… this is project Genesis…) and much more – and has unoficially become a steady source of modern mythological reference.  Not many Western kids can refer to Hanuman but they probably know Chewbacca.   And as these things go, Science fiction was/is heavily inspired from Ancient mythologies the world over. 

It seems that now movies such as the ´Lord of the Rings´ Trilogy, has joined this esteemed loop of neo-mythology.  Wasn´t the horned demon  Balrog a superb mix between Satan and the Minotaurof Crete? 

Yes, our new Mythology is here already and the great thing is that we don´t have to be conned into any crazy belief systems or worship rituals to call it ours – maybe we can re-organize it a bit…

L. // <![CDATA[
SHARETHIS.addEntry({
title:'Re: Integral Comparative Mythology?',
url:'#/conversations/view/270408#273327′
}, {button:true} );
// ]]>//

 
  Marmalade : Gaia Child  

Re: Integral Comparative Mythology?

Marmalade said Apr 16, 2008, 3:12 AM:

  I’m looking at several books I own right now that are about the connection between mythology, religion, and culture including pop culture.

The Secret Life of Puppets by Victoria Nelson

The Melancholy Android by Eric G. Wilson

The Gospel According to Science Fiction by Gabriel McKee

I read The Secret Life of Puppets several years ago, and its a great book.  The other two I haven’t read all of the way through, but I have read another book by Gabriel McKee which he wrote about Philip K. Dick. // <![CDATA[
SHARETHIS.addEntry({
title:'Re: Integral Comparative Mythology?',
url:'#/conversations/view/270408#274130′
}, {button:true} );
// ]]>//

 
  Marmalade : Gaia Explorer  

Re: Integral Comparative Mythology?

Marmalade said Apr 11, 2008, 10:29 PM:

  Balder – Thanks!  That is the kind of book that interests me.  I have some books about Jung and philosophy.  Jung certainly felt mythology and philosophy were related. // <![CDATA[
SHARETHIS.addEntry({
title:'Re: Integral Comparative Mythology?',
url:'#/conversations/view/270408#272032′
}, {button:true} );
// ]]>//
 
   

Re: Integral Comparative Mythology?

Zakariyya [no longer around] said Apr 16, 2008, 2:08 PM:

  I really think that modernism and post-modernism doesn’t understand spiritual mythology, Including Ken Wilber.

Mythology is only the outer face of spiritual cosmologies that explain very intimately the workings of the inner [human soul] and outer universe
[UNIVERSOUL]

A GROUP OF IGNORANT PEOPLE MISINTERPRET THE MYTHS THEREFORE MODERNIST AND POST-MODERNISTS THROW THE BABY OUT WITH THE BATHWATER

The wisest humans in history have left great pearls of knowledge in these myths. A group of secular philosophers want to label them as obsolete, though these philosophers, not a single one of them can come up with knowledge that can replace any of the real meaning of the ancient myths // <![CDATA[
SHARETHIS.addEntry({
title:'Re: Integral Comparative Mythology?',
url:'#/conversations/view/270408#274356′
}, {button:true} );
// ]]>//

 
  Marmalade : Gaia Child  

Re: Integral Comparative Mythology?

Marmalade said Apr 16, 2008, 3:23 PM:

  I hear what you’re saying about modernists and post-modenists… and Wilber too.  I do feel that most people don’t have much understanding of mythology.  This isn’t surprising as its not a subject widely taught in schools.

I don’t know to what degree that someone like Wilber does or doesn’t understand mythology, but it does seem that he doesn’t see much value in studying it as he doesn’t talk about it much.  Is this just a personal bias in that it doesn’t interest him?  Or does he see mythology as being limited to a specific quadrant at a specific level of development?

So, what would second-tier mythology look like?
What is a genuine trans-rational perspective that integrates both the rational and non-rational?

 
   

Re: Integral Comparative Mythology?

Zakariyya [no longer around] said Apr 17, 2008, 4:14 PM:

  Wilber looks at mythology as “ myth of the given” metaphysics. In other words the great thinkers don’t need it anymore because the myths are obsolete.

There is nothing further from the truth!

The myths HAVE NEVER BEEN FULLY DECIPHERED!

People are impressed by the highly intellectual scientific mystics like Wilber because of their appearance of knowledge.

In my opinion their knowledge isnt that deep

Some important points about mythology:

1.Mythology has nothing to due with stories or fables.

2.Mythologies are just allegories that describe universal subtle laws on all levels of understanding.

3. A myth is usually based on a real event, simply because myths are always playing themselves out in the real world in some form. It is important to understand that myths have levels of interpretation

For example: The statement in the mythological New testament of Jesus:

“I and the father are one”

Is a description of the path of the mystic merging with the universal idea of cosmic science? This is the high level interpretation.

The lower level [for the exoteric believers] is a description of being one with “God”

Another myth– that of the Garden of Eden story– is also HIGHLY misunderstood.

The tree of in the Garden of Eden is really very lofty states of “Paradise” not a real tree with an apple.

The Garden of Eden itself is the inner structure known as The Essence, that which rules all of our states of consciousness.

These are just two examples of the very rich dynamic knowledge and wisdom that are cloaked in mythology.

The modernist, and postmodernists, personified by folks like Mr Wilber apparently dont understand the higher levels of interpretation of mythology.

 
  Lionza : Sweetfire  

Re: Integral Comparative Mythology?

Lionza said Apr 25, 2008, 11:12 PM:

  Yes I agree.  Myths ARE multy layered coded stories of the major  principles, havoc and games playing in  nature and her creatures, human emotions, stellar events, etc.   But since many of them have not only been coded but have also been warped by additions and twists along the corridors of time , it  gets difficult to see how consistently they do this. 

I too have been perplexed as to why Ken Wilber practically dismisses them without a close examination. Jung first understood the idea of archetypes when a bizarre dream of one of his European patients described an image of the Sun exacly like a Mithraic myth which the patient had never known.  

And I also agree that advanced laws of science are coded in myths.  For example, the idea of all of creation springing out in a Big Bang from a ´tiny seed´of compressed potential was described centuries ago in myths of the Indian sub- continent . 

Definately, treasures would be had if myths were to be deciphered  AND weeded out of warped additions.

C.S. Lewis and Myth

C.S. Lewis believed the pagan myths were mere creations of man and so conveyed the truths of men, but that Christianity was a true myth.  Lewis was convinced of the Christian story as real because of an atheist he knew who accepted Jesus as having historically existed.  This is strange that he put so much validity to this atheist’s claims while he apparently ignored the conclusions by others who contradicted historical proof.  Whatever his reasoning, Lewis seemed to have made the leap that historical reality equates to divine reality. 

Two things must be forgiven Lewis for his knowledge was limited.  First, the doubts about Jesus having historically lived have only continually grown stronger since that time.  Even during Lewis’ lifetime, there were plenty of intellectuals doubting the supposed historical proofs of Jesus, but Lewis was ultimately looking for any reason to believe.  He simply wanted to believe.  Second, either he wasn’t knowledgeable in the field of mythology or else certain issues weren’t well known among scholars of his day.  Anyways, his assumption that the Christian myth was the only one claimed to be historical is utterly false.  The rational framework (i.e., the apologetics) of Lewis’ Christian beliefs fall apart under the careful scrutiny of contemporary knowledge.  These arguments still are powerful though partly because ignorance of such matters is still immense.  One can still find biblical scholars who seem ignorant or dismissive of the fact that other religious myths have been claimed to be historical, but I suppose that is simply the danger of academic specialization in particular when in service of dogma.  The question that comes to mind is that even if Lewis had more knowledge would this have changed one iota his desire to believe and hence his ultimate conclusion of belief.  If his desire was strong enough, he could’ve found other ways to rationalize his belief.

I should point out an important factor.  Lewis was attracted to pagan mythology.  It affected him in a way that the Christian myth initally didn’t.  His intellect got in the way of his appreciating Christianity.  He wanted to rationally understand how Jesus life could have influence on him now besides merely being an example (which wouldn’t be enough to support conversion).  Tolkien helped Lewis to realize he was putting Christianity on a different level than Paganism, and that he needed to approach Christian myth in the way he did with Pagan myth.  Tolkien’s more poetic mindset helped Lewis understand his own intellectual bias.  Christianity was myth as well, but it was true myth… the Word of God incarnate.

This is all fine and dandy, but doesn’t make for good apologetics.  By this, I mean that it wouldn’t convince anyone that isn’t already a Christian or isn’t already looking for a reason to believe.  His dismissal of pagan myths as merely human stories hints at a tremendous lack of insight and understanding.  The Pagans were similarly inspired by divine visions when creating their stories.  Also, like Christians, many Pagans conflated mythology with history.  His separation between Christianity and Paganism is artificial and unhelpful.

I will, however, give credit where it’s due.  Lewis did come to a middleground position that no Christian fundamentalist could ever accept.  He didn’t simply dismiss pagan myth.  He had studied myths for himself and he realized they held powerful truths, but ultimately the apologist in him had to limit this insight.  He required that a myth be absolutely true or else just a story.  As I see it, the point of myth is that it can never be clearly defined.  Clear definitions are of man and not of the divine.  The intellectual desire of apologetics in trying to prove Christianity ultimately undermines the very value of Christianity… not that ignorance is the answer.  Whether or not Jesus (or any mythological character for that matter) actually lived is ultimately insignificant.  The teachings that are claimed to be from Jesus had been spoken before by others.  They’re either true or false based on their value.  Besides, God could just as easily speak through any mythological character or actual human as through Jesus… and Jesus never claims otherwise.  Plus, even if Jesus had existed, it proves absolutely nothing.  First century teachers and prophets making astounding claims (such as being Christ, Messiah, Son of God and Son of Man) and having astounding claims made about them (such as healings, miracles and salvation) were dime a dozen.

Basically, if Lewis (like any other Christian) wished to believe, then he was free to have faith.  But such faith is at best a spiritual experience and so rationality is besides the point.  Anytime rationality is used to support faith it inevitably fails as it becomes mired in rationalization.  Lewis, of course, became aware of the limitations of rationality.  But, differently than Tolkien, he had a stronger tendency towards relying on intellectual understanding.  He necessitated an initial “belief” in a rational groundwork for Christianity (i.e., belief in the historical Christ) before he could embrace belief on its own terms.  His problem was that he couldn’t imagine Christianity as being respectable or worthy without this initial claim of proof.  To me, this puts the whole edifice of Christianity on rather shaky ground.  For one, it can’t be proved by secular standards of historical and scientific scholarship.  Secondly, even if it were true, there is no way to distinguish it from all of the other historical claims of equal validity.  Why not be Jewish, Muslim, Manichean or Buddhist instead of Christian?  All of the founders of these religions have been claimed to be historical.  Furthermore, many early Christians outright denied Jesus being historical.  They actually believed the historical claims undermined his spiritual value.  Whether or not you agree with this assessment, it demonstrates that a Christian almost two thousand years later has no reason to feel secure in historical claims when the earliest Christians couldn’t even agree.

The problem for Lewis’ apologetics comes down to a single factor.  All myths have to be judged on the same level.  Claims of historical proof or divine status aren’t original or exclusive to Christianity and so can’t be used to distinguish it.  Even the theology of Christianity mostly isn’t original and exclusive.  I don’t mean to dismiss the truth of Christianity, but I’m only trying to convey that Christians will have to dig a bit deeper to find it.  Lewis intuitively sensed a truth in Christianity and that is what is important.  The problem comes when a person believes what intuitively makes sense to them must be absolutely true for everyone.  I do suspect there are something like universal truths, but even so I doubt they exist on the surface level of any given story or doctrine.  Lewis maybe should’ve stayed closer to his actual experience rather than looking for a Christian explanation.  Instead of trying to bring his personal truth into the context of collective religious myth (i.e., orthodox Christian doctrine), he might’ve found even more insight by following it into the depths of the poetic imagination, the spiritual substratum.

I shouldn’t be so critical of Lewis.  I respect a person who struggled with trying to understand such difficult issues.  He did have a very questioning attitude.  He was as openminded as someone could be and still retain some connection to orthodox Christianity.  He has helped many Christians to have a more open relationship to traditions outside of Christianity.  Along with Carl Jung, Lewis aided the interfaith dialogue and helped lay the groundwork for the for the contemporary interest in comparative mythology.  Lewis represents the beginning of a transition from traditional apologetics towards a more sophisticated analysis of religion, but ultimately Lewis is still an apologist even if above average in intelligence.

Conclusion on Christian Scarab Symbolism

These are my concluding comments to my previous blog Church Fathers on Christ as Scarab.

Many scholars over the last couple of centuries have been quoting various Church Fathers in reference to Christ as Scarab.  This is  a truly profound fact and it’s utterly amazing how ignorant the average Christian is of early Christianity.  Some apologists dismiss these quotes out of hand.  Going by my research, even academic scholars have seemingly ignored this topic for the past century, not even attempting to disprove anything.  Apparently, these quotes and the claims about them, correct or not, were widely known in the 19th century and then there was deafening silence.  It reminds me of what Robert M. Price has written (in his Introducing the Journal of Higher Criticism).  He points out how old scholarship has been forgotten without ever having been refuted and new scholarship has become very conservative.

Gerald Massey’s scholarship is an example of this which D.M. Murdock discusses in her book Christ In Egypt. In my research, I confirmed a point that Murdock made numerous times (also with an extensive analysis in the introduction). Throughout the book, she compares Massey’s scholarship against that of other scholars. By doing this, she verified that at least some of his sources were reliable and that he wasn’t just inventing his claims out of thin air, although there remains much question about what the Church Fathers actually said in reference to the scarab (it makes me wonder about the original sources as many people, not only Massey, were quoting various sources over several centuries).

Two of the critics of Massey’s scholarship are Stanley E. Porter and Stephen J. Bedard.  In their book Unmasking the Pagan Christ, they respond to Tom Harpur’s use of Massey.  But it seems telling that they don’t even mention Augustine’s quotes about the scarab.  It is true that Massey’s writings are a century old and so much has been discovered since then.  Also, it’s true that he had no formal education.  Still, he relied on the scholarship of the best scholars of his day including having his work proofed by some of these academic scholars.  Porter and Bedard are apologists, and so they’re criticisms aren’t fundamentally academic.  If they were to research as deeply as Murdock has, then they couldn’t as easily dismiss Massey’s work, whatever one thinks about the scarab issue.

Another critic is James Patrick Holding (AKA Robert Turkel).  His Tektonics website is seemingly the most popular apologetics site as it always comes up top in websearches.  It says a lot about our society that apologists get top page rankings.  He is your typical online Christian apologist.  He is notorious for immature behavior and a lack of intellectual honesty.  It isn’t fair to put him in the same category as Porter and Bedard.  Those latter two, even though lacking in a fundamental understanding of mythicist theories, are actual New Testament scholars.  Even so, Holding likewise criticizes Harpur and Massey.  He demands that others provide the sources of the Augustine and Ambrose quotes about the scarab, but that is just his sophistry talking.  If he actually wanted to know the sources, he could’ve done the research I’ve done just by doing websearches.  Doing research at a university library would bring up even further citations.
 
Anyways, I don’t know why these quotes, assuming they are true, from the Church fathers should be surprising.  Augustine and Ambrose were called Church Doctors because of their Greco-Roman educations.  The Greco-Roman tradition was grounded within Hellenism which was a mix of Greek philosophy and Egyptian religion. The scarab itself was an important symbol in Greek writings centuries before Christianity arose (for example, Aesop and Aristophanes).  Augustine grew up in North Africa which was a hotbed for hereticism, and he was a Manichaean for about a decade before becoming a Christian.  Manichaeanism arrived in Roman North Africa from Egypt (Ancient Gnosticism, by Birger A. Pearson, p. 310).  Roman religions based on and influenced by Egyptian religion were the most popular religions of the time (e.g., Serapis whose worshippers included early Christians).  Also, early Coptic Christians inscribed crosses on scarabs and invoked Jesus side by side with Horus.

Re: Meri, Mary and the Mother of the Saviour

Meri, Mary and the Mother of the Saviour by Stephen J. Bedard

And my response:

Those are good criticisms. D.M. Murdock responds to them, but you’d have to be the judge of how well she does.

The main point probably is that, by the Christian era, Isis was one of the most (if not the most) well known Egyptian deity, and one of the most widely worshipped in the Roman Empire. So, it’s possible that the term Meri was beginning to be identified with her. However, Isis (and Isis syncretizations) were referred with meri and similar terms all the way through the centuries prior to Rome being Christianized.

Even though the Egyptian term Meri could refer to even inanimate objects, I don’t know if there is any evidence that Jews and Romans would’ve been familiar with that meaning. It probably would’ve been most known as an epithet or, as Murdock argues, maybe even as a name. Very few non-Egyptians could tell an ipethet or a name apart when it was stated both as Isis-Meri and Meri-Isis. Murdock sees evidence that Meri was beginning to be used by itself.

As for the second problem, Mary isn’t used exclusively for either Egyptians or for Jews. Mary was a common name for Pagan goddesses. So, it isn’t surprising that it was a popular name for people as well. As for the 6 Marys of the NT, Murdock mentions this and hypothesizes a possible connection to 6 Hathors (as Hathor was the goddess of love that became identified with Isis).

All of this is is just one tiny aspect of the mythicist theory. It doesn’t stand or fall on one single detail. Meri is just a possible connection that many reputable scholars have written about. There are many other possible connections that mythicists point out. As the possible connections increase so does the probability of those connections.

Response to Bedard’s Laozi, Jesus and the Virgin Birth

My response to Bedard’s blog post about Laozi:

http://1peter315.wordpress.com/2009/01/06/laozi-jesus-and-the-virgin-birth/

“You are correct that most often it is a supernatural birth and not a virgin birth. But that is not how Jesus myth proponents state it. They describe pagan myths using New Testament language, even if it is not accurate in describing the myth,”

This is irrelevant.  Yes, there are different words in different languages.  But often meanings are similar if not the same.  Words even etymologically evolve between languages as do other cultural elements such as religious motifs.  For instance, Egyptian meri and Christian Mary may be etymologically linked.

Many goddesses were called virgins even after they gave birth.  This is because their virginity was an inherent characteristic.  When speaking about these issues, we are talking about mythology and not biology.

Another issue is that scripture says that Jesus has brothers and scripture doesn’t say that they weren’t Mary’s children.  If they weren’t Mary’s children, scripture would’ve mentioned it.  Anyways, Mary gave birth  and still was considered a virgin.  Obviously, her hymen was broken at least when Jesus came out.  Also, considering that Paganism had examples of goddesses and women remaining or regaining virginity after sex, there is no reason to assume Joseph and marry never had sex.

Responding to Bedard’s Christ as Orpheus

Stephen J. Bedard had another blog I commented on: Christ as Orpheus.

http://1peter315.wordpress.com/2009/02/27/christ-as-orpheus/

And he linked to an article in the Biblical Archaeology Review, but it cost money and so I didn’t read it.  The article he mentioned supposedly disproved that Christians borrowed from Pagans.  However, I can’t argue against that article as I don’t know what it says.  Interestingly, I did find another article at the Biblical Archaeology Review which supports borrowing.

Borrowing from the Neighbors: Pagan Imagery in Christian Art
by Sarah K. Yeomans

http://www.bib-arch.org/e-features/pagan-imagery.asp

You are correct that, for  Christian apologetics, “It does not help that there seems to have been some sort of early Christian building that had a mosaic of Orpheus as a picture of Christ.”  Nonetheless, it is a fact.  And images like this are numerous.

Showing a pagan parallel doesn’t prove a Christian borrowing from Paganism, but the cumulative evidence is immense.  Nothing is proved absolutely in that we can only speak of probabilities.  Specific examples are only telling in relation to other examples.  This is why scholars of comparative religion and comparative mythology tend to provide many examples to back up any hypothetical connection.  To argue against the connection, you would need to argue in detail against the whole body of evidence. 

Anyways, what all of this does show is that early Christians were knowledgeable of other religions and incoporated into Christianity motifs from those religions.  Also, it causes one to suspect that the incorporating went further.

These Pagan images weren’t merely stylistic conventions.  Within the Christianized Pagan images, there are obvious Pagan mythological motifs.  Let me use some examples from another article I found at the  Biblical Archaeology Review website.

The use of the image of Helios within both Judaism and Christianity is telling because it goes beyond imagery.  Some of the respectable early Church fathers referred to Jesus as the “sun”.  This was simply a common way in the Pagan world to refer to a savior god-man, but it also entails a complex solar theology that was pervasive throughout the Graeco-Roman world.

More relevant to this blog are the images of the Orpheus-Christ.  Orpheus descends into the underworld and this same motif was used by Christians.  Significantly, as far as I know, this motif isn’t supported by Christian scripture even though it was found within early Christian tradition.  If it didn’t come from scripture, where did it come from?  Maybe the same place the images came from.  Also, the descent into the underworld was another common motif of solar mythologies in general.

The article also states outright that Christians borrowed the image of Mary nursing baby Jesus from the Egyptians.  Isis was one of the most popular deities worshipped in the Roman Empire.  Temples, shrines, statues, and icons of her were found all across Europe.  As you know, many have theorized the Black Madonnas were originally Isis statues.  Murdock spends about a hundred pages detailing the similarities between Isis and Mary.  She does this by referring to Egyptian scholarship including that of Christian scholars, and she analyzes the relevant hieroglyphics of virgin birth nativities.  Hieroglyphics are important to keep in mind because they’re not merely images and artistic styles but also a religious language based in religious concepts.

So, you seem to be admitting that early Christians borrowed imagery from the Pagans.  Also, I think I noticed in another blog you admitted that Christians borrowed their holidays from Pagans.  Are you trying to argue that all of this is mere superficial detail?  If you took awasy all of the Pagan elements, what would be left?

All of the elements of Christianity can be found in prior Pagan religions: historical god-men, virgin births, slaughter of the babes, resurrection deities, salvific messages, and the list goes on and on.  Some of these elements preceded Christianity by thousands of years.

No one can prove that there wasn’t a historical Jesus and no one can prove there was.  Even if you could prove a historical Jesus, it doesn’t disprove that the stories of him were partly lifted from Pagan mythology.  Removing the Paganism won’t prove the Good News of Christ’s coming to earth.  Paganism and Christianity have become so entangled that I would argue they’re practically fused together.  Considering what may be original to Christianity is important.  But, ultimately, that may be more of question for faith than for scholarship.

Despite your criticisms of Harpur’s scholarship, why not embrace his vision?  Wouldn’t a Christ figure that revealed himself to all cultures all over the world be more inspiring than a historical figure that no one of significance took notice of while he was alive?  Anyways, plenty of reputable scholarship can be found elsewhere (such as in the Biblical Archaeology Review article).

The other article you linked, I couldn’t read because I don’t have the money to spend.  If you could tell me the basic argument, I could respond.

The Non-Unique Messiah: It Doesn’t Matter.

I came across an intelligent blog about the Jewish tablet that describes another supposed messiah prior to Christianity.  What is interesting is that this messiah was resurrected after 3 days.  But this isn’t anything new.  This 3 day motif related to a savior is found withn pre-Christian Paganism.  It’s an astrotheological motif about the solar cycle.  Similar 3 day motifs can be found within Jewish scripture as well, but what is significant is that it is directly related to the messiah in this tablet.  If orthodox Christianity was actually based on the evidence of historical documents, there would be a mass loss of faith at hearing such news.

Below is an excerpt from the blog and below that are some excerpts from the comments.

The Non-Unique Messiah: Does It Matter?

Frankly, if you’ve been paying attention or looked into history at all, this shouldn’t be that surprising.  That a story about rebirth and resurrection should crop up while the Roman Republic was reinventing itself, and while its newly appointed Princeps Augustus was touting his reign as rebirth on a national scale, is no coincidence.  During the first half of what we now call the first century C.E., rebirth was a common religious theme: mystery cults built around rebirth, like the cult of Isis and Osiris, were cropping up everywhere.  New religions always mirror and appropriate temporal events to the divine (look at Mormonism).  Christianity is no different, and it’s not immune from history.  That the non-uniqueness of the Christian story should be so strikingly and starkly presented by this tablet may be shocking, but that human events beget religious beliefs is an anthropological Law.

What I wonder is whether that should be troubling.  No doubt many believing Christians will feel threatened by the discovery that their religion has roots older than the name “Jesus,” and no doubt it proves that religion is always affected (and at least partially inspired) by humans.  It may even suggest that it therefore might be fabricated.  But if you really believe in the truth of the underlying story – i.e., if you’re truly spiritual and not just religious – that shouldn’t matter.

9 Gotchaye // Jul 8, 2008 at 10:03 pm

…it seems to me that a witness who maintains that someone performed a miracle is a whole lot more persuasive by himself than he would be if we’d already heard (and discounted the testimony of) other witnesses making similar claims about other people.

12 Gotchaye // Jul 10, 2008 at 6:08 pm

…as the number or likelihood of possible explanations for something increase, the likelihood of any other explanation being correct decreases. This tablet is at least suggestive of other explanations for our observation that modern Christianity (or something indistinguishable from it beforehand) exists, and so other explanations (including that Jesus actually rose) must be seen as less likely.

Egyptian Symbols within Christianity

Besides the obvious crosses and crucifixes in many religions across the world that predated Christianity, there are also other non-Christian symbols found within Christianity.  As I’ve been focusing on Egypt lately, I’ll give two examples from that culture.  But realize there are many other such symbolic similarities that can also be shown.  I also chose the following quote because the author demonstrates that early Christians (including Augustine) were aware of these symbols and their meaning.

The Pagan Christ, Tom Harpur

pp 88-89: The Egyptian Christ, manifested in the sign of Pisces, was fore-ordained to be Ichthys (Greek word for “fish”), the fisherman and to be accompanied by fishermen followers.  Doctrinally, he was the “fisher of men”.  Horus, the best-known Egyptian Christ figure was associated  from time immemorial with the fish, and Massey’s Natural Genesis features a reproduction of an Egyptian engraving showing Horus holding a fish above his head.  Several of the early Christian Fathers refer to Christ also as Ichthys, or “that great fish,” and the mitre worn by succeeding popes “in the the shoes of the fishermen” is shaped exactly like a fish’s mouth.  It’s well known that the Greek word ichthys forms an acrostic meaning “Jesus Christ the Son of God (Our) Savior.”  Having been in Rome numerous times during my dozen years covering religion around the world for the Toronto Star, I have seen first-hand how frequently the outline of a fish occurs in catacombs as a Christian symbol.  It also doubled as a sign of the Eucharist.  Prosper Africanus, an early Christian theologian, calls Christ “that great fish who fed from himself the disciples on the shore and offered himself as a fish to the world.”  Commenting on this same passage from the end of John’s Gospel, St. Augustine says that the broiled fish in the story “is Christ.”  The art found in ancient Egyptian tombs commonly shows fish, fishermen, nets, and fishtraps of varying kinds.  All have the same spiritual meaning.

Much more important, however, is the fact that the Egyptian texts bear witness to an “only begotten god” (meaning begotten of one parent only), whose symbol was the beetle because in ancient science this creature was thought to be “self-produced, being unconceived by a female.”  Massey says, “The only begotten god is a well-known type [symbol], then, of divinity worshipped in Egypt.  In each cult, the Messiah-son and manifestor was the only-begotten god.  This, according to the Egyptian text, is the Christ, the Word, the manifestor in John’s Gospel.”  In fact, in one early version of the Greek text of the New Testament’s Gospel of John, the phrase “the only begotten son of God” actually reads “the only begotten god”!  Its very unorthodoxy makes it likely that it is the preferred, original reading.

The truth thus came forcefully home to me that this Egyptian Christ is indeed the express image of the Christ of John’s Gospel, who begins in the first chapter without father or mother and is the Word of the beginning, the opener and the architect, the light of the world, the self-originated and only-begotten God.  I found that the very phraseology of Jonh often echoed the Egyptian texts, which tell of he who was “the Beginning of the becoming, from the first, who made all things but was not made.”  Some of the Fathers of the Church knew that the beetle was a symbol of Christ.  Augustine, indeed, writes, “My own good beetle, not so much because he is only begotten (God), not because he, the author of himself, has taken on the form of mortals, but because he has rolled himself in our filth and chooses to be born from this filth itself” – like the dung beetle.

When the god Osiris came to the earth as a savior, he came as his own son, the child Horus.  He was born “like or as a Word.”  The Egyptian text says that he came to earth as a substitute.  Indeed, an ancient Egyptian festival celebrating the birth of Horus was called “The Day of the Child in His Cradle.”

When Horus comes to earth in the Egyptian story, he is supported or given bread by Seb, who is god of the earth, “the father on earth.”  He is thus the divine father on earth of the messiah-son, who manifests in time.  Just as Joseph, the adoptive father of Jesus, provides shelter and food for his son, so Seb (Jo-seph) cares for Horus.  The consort of Seb is the mother of heaven, named Nu; Meri (Mary) is another name for the mother of the messiah.  Massey concludes, “Thus Seb and Meri for earth and heaven would afford the two mythic originals for Joseph and Mary as parents of the divine child.”  There are seven different Marys in the four Gospels.  They correspond with uncanny fidelity to seven Marys, or Hathors in the Egyptian stories.