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Part 2 - Ch. 1: Emanations 
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Post Re: Part 2 - Ch. 1: Emanations
The literalism is still difficult to pin down. Freud offers a possible origin explanation in Moses and Monotheism but there's no concrete solution on the table. I don't know how there could be. The way Origen speaks of the creation account it makes me wonder how many of the leaders actually took it completely literal. It's complete nonsense when taken literal and that much was evidence enough even back in Origens day. He believed that a God created the world but he didn't take the myth literally to the letter.


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Post Re: Part 2 - Ch. 1: Emanations
tat tvam asi wrote:
The literalism is still difficult to pin down. Freud offers a possible origin explanation in Moses and Monotheism but there's no concrete solution on the table. I don't know how there could be. The way Origen speaks of the creation account it makes me wonder how many of the leaders actually took it completely literal. It's complete nonsense when taken literal and that much was evidence enough even back in Origens day. He believed that a God created the world but he didn't take the myth literally to the letter.


I agree, Tat. I just posted that footnote because it came up in my reading.

I'm not familiar with Freud's thoughts on the subject, but I would imagine that this "aberration" (the move to a more literal view of a culture's myths) must evolve with religion itself in its transition from animism to polytheism to monotheism as societies themselves evolved from chiefdom, to nation-state, to empire. As a society progresses and becomes more complex, the role of religion seems to change. As Tat says, a metaphorical religion is far weaker in terms of social power and control as opposed to a literalist reading. If this is true, we are indeed tools of religion.

Apologies to Wright.


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Post Re: Part 2 - Ch. 1: Emanations
tat tvam asi wrote:
Campbell never established any point on an historical chart and says, 'literalism all started right here.' That isn't really what he's talking about anyways. I don't even think that Tulip would make that claim either because there seems to have always been a mix of literalists and non-literalists. But the myth makers who constructed many of these organized sets of symbols obviously knew what they were organizing as they did it. The solar mysteries about the seasonal changes and life cycles are obviously about nature, not literal Gods and God-Men. Did the creators of the Horus myth really believe that a Falcon headed God-Man walked and ruled in Egypt? Not likely. Did common folks think that Horus was really an ancient ruler of Egypt during the Neter reign? Probably so...

The flexibility regarding the historical question is helpful. Probably today we still have roughly the same proportion of those who head for the exoteric content vs. the esoteric. Exoteric=popular, I would think is a fair generalization. I also see the value in flexibility about whether texts have primarily an eso- or exoteric thrust. Again, there is likely to be a mixture, especially for writings like the Gospels, whose authors didn't exercise strong authorial control over the contents. They apparently tried to summarize both the events and the theology rather than injecting novel content. Of course their own perspectives played some role in what they emphasized. For me, the exoteric purpose of the gospels stands out as the reason they were written in the first place. I can't see these narratives being written as allegories of ancient symbolism, though that may be seen as a constituent in them. There is too much that relates to the situation, socially and religiously, that the writers looked out on. The Gospels as well as Acts are propaganda, if I can use that word without the highly negative meaning it usually has. The exoteric nature of the Gospels could be what recommended them to the church fathers compiling the Bible in the 4th Century, as opposed to the gnostic books. So considering every text individually seems to be the best approach.


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Tue Mar 22, 2011 7:36 pm
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Post Re: Part 2 - Ch. 1: Emanations
Geo, this is a fast forward in time from the Hero but here's a bit from "Thou Art That: transforming religious metaphor" p.43 - 49

Quote:
"Two mythologies are found in the story of the flood. One is that of the planting culture, the old-city mythology of cyclic karma - of the ages of gold, silver, bronze, iron, during which the worlds moral condition deteriorated. The flood then came and wiped it out to bring about a fresh start. India abounds in flood stories of this kind, for the flood is a basic story associated with this cyclic experience through what we might term a year of years.

The second mythology is that of a God who created people, some of whom misbehave. Then he said, "I regret that I have created these people. Look what I have done! I am going to wipe them all out." That is another God, and certainly not the same God as in the first mythology. I emphasize this observation because two totally different idea of God are involved in the word "God." The latter God is one who creates. One thinks of that God as a fact. That we might say, is the Creator. We conceptualize that God as an IT. On the other hand, in the impersonal dynamism of the cycles of time the gods are simply the agent of the cycle. The Hindu gods are not, therefore, creators in the way that Yahweh is a creator. This Yahweh creator is, one might say, a metaphysical fact. When he makes up his mind to do something, it is promptly accomplished. This one of the mythologies of God in the Bible was brought in by the nomads who, as herding people, had inherited the mythology of the hunting process in which God is considered out there. The planting people have a mythology of God in here as the dynamism that informs all of life.

To give a sense of the real meaning of this agricultural mythology, one must examine the actual number of years it takes for the spring equinox to pass through all of the signs of the zodiac. Called "the precession of the equinoxes," it takes 25,920 years to complete a cycle of the zodiac. Divide 25,920 by 60, and you get 432. This number, as we shall see, provides the link between the agricultural mythology and the actual cycles of time...

These numbers, anchored in the Sumerian discovery that the order of the universe can be discovered mathematically, are found almost everywhere. In the Hindu sacred epics, the number of years calculated to the present cycle of time, the Kali Yuga as it is known, is 432,000, the number of the "great cycle" (mahayuga) being 4,320,000. In the Icelandic Eddas, one reads of the 540 doors in Othin's (Wotan's) hall, through which, at the end of the current cycle of time, 800 divine warriors would pass to battle the antigods in that "Day of the Wolf" to mutual annihilation. Multiplying 540 by 800 equals 432,000. An early Babylonian account, translated into Greek by a Babylonian priest named Berossos in 280 B.C., tells us that 432,000 years passed between the time of the rise of the city Kish and the coming of the mythological flood (the biblical story derives from this earlier source). In a famous paper on "Dates in Genesis," the Jewish Assyriologist Julius Oppert, in 1887, showed that in the 1,656 years from the creation to the Flood, 86,400 years had passed. Divided by two, that again produces 43,200.

That is a hint, buried in Genesis, that two notions of God are to be found in the pages. The first was the willful, personal creator who greived at the wickedness of his creatures and vowed to wipe them out. The other God, in complete contrast, is found hidden in that disguised number, 86,400. a veiled reference to the Gentile, Sumero-Babylonian, mathematical cosmology of cycles, ever recurring, of impersonal time. During this cycle, kingdoms and peoples arise and recede in seasons of the mulitple of 43,200. We recall that the Jewish people were exiles in Babylon for half a century and could, indeed, have absorbed these notions that, exquisitely hidden, provide a subtext of recurring cycle of time in their scriptures.

The mysterious procession of the night sky, then, with the soundless movement of planetary lights through the fixed stars, had provided the fundamental revelation, when mathematically charted, of a cosmic order. The human imagination reacted from its core, and a vast concept took form: The universe as a living being in the image of a great mother, within whose womb all the worlds, both of life and death, had their existence... ...The old mythologies, then, put the society in accord with nature. Their festivals were correlated with the cycles of the seasons. That also put the individual in accord with the society and through that in harmony with nature. There is no sense of tension between individual and society in such a mythological world....

Genesis

It is very interesting to note, in chapters five and six of Genesis, how the priests worked out the relationship between the Mesopotamina Kings, who lived for that period 43,200 years, and the ten Jewish patriarchs. They thereby united the two mythologies of Yahweh and of the mathematically worked out cycles of time.

The first part of the book of Genesis is sheer mythology, and it is largely that of the Mesopotamian people. Here we have the Garden of Eden, for this si the mythological age in which we enter a mythological garden. The story of not eating the apple of the forbidden tree is an old folklore motif, that is called "the one forbidden thing." Do not open this door, do not look over here, do not eat this food. If you want to understand why God would have doen a thing like that, all you need do is tell somebody, "Don't do this." Human nature will do the rest...."


And what Campbell didn't delve into, which he knew of course, is this evolution from polytheism to monolatry and finally to monotheism. The creator God in Genesis was not a God, but rather the "Gods", the Elohim of Canaanite origins. So it was really two stories of "Gods", both of which came from a more remote Middle Eastern period and then were eventually interpreted in singular God terms much later. Campbell, for the sake of the audience, relayed the myth in terms of how it's generally understood by modern monotheistic understanding audiences. It's evident that these creation and flood myths were not originally on the literalistic level that came much later with the late evolution of a monotheistic reading. But the deeper mythological roots founding it all is evident and can be brought to the surface for closer analysis. There's a clash of Nomad myth with agriculturalist myth and the whole thing is sort of thrown together...


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Tue Mar 22, 2011 9:33 pm
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Post Re: Part 2 - Ch. 1: Emanations
DWill wrote:
The flexibility regarding the historical question is helpful. Probably today we still have roughly the same proportion of those who head for the exoteric content vs. the esoteric. Exoteric=popular, I would think is a fair generalization. I also see the value in flexibility about whether texts have primarily an eso- or exoteric thrust. Again, there is likely to be a mixture, especially for writings like the Gospels, whose authors didn't exercise strong authorial control over the contents. They apparently tried to summarize both the events and the theology rather than injecting novel content. Of course their own perspectives played some role in what they emphasized. For me, the exoteric purpose of the gospels stands out as the reason they were written in the first place. I can't see these narratives being written as allegories of ancient symbolism, though that may be seen as a constituent in them. There is too much that relates to the situation, socially and religiously, that the writers looked out on. The Gospels as well as Acts are propaganda, if I can use that word without the highly negative meaning it usually has. The exoteric nature of the Gospels could be what recommended them to the church fathers compiling the Bible in the 4th Century, as opposed to the gnostic books. So considering every text individually seems to be the best approach.


Thanks, DWill, you make some excellent points. It does seem that with any religious text you will get the full gamut of interpretation--from exoteric to esoteric, probably from the start. The proportions may fluctuate some over time in response to conditions on the ground. When things are bad, for example, a more exoteric perspective is called for to summon hatred for the enemy. Asserting that the myths were intended as esoteric from the start may be farfetched. Though I still think it's difficult from the 21st-century to really understand the ancient perspective. With so much uncertainty in their lives, certainty would have been a strange concept to them. It seems possible that stories were told as possible explanations for the way things were, one easily substituted for another or all held equally valid. Another factor is that a great many of the ancient myths we are talking about existed, in some cases for many centuries, strictly as an oral tradition. As such, the stories would have been in a constant state of flux, adjusted to suit differing cultures and conditions, before eventually being written down. The bards would have told the same tale in different ways. The medium itself was inconsistent.

There are many such creation myths and flood myths that resemble one another in some ways, but also differ significantly in other ways. The Iliad seems to bolster DWill's view that myths were viewed more literally early on and more metaphorically later. The scholarly view is that the ancient Greeks (1000 BC) possibly would have literally believed the instances of divine interventions in the epic poem, but around Homer's time, the Greeks supposedly were more skeptical of those deities and probably read them as entertainment or nostalgia of ye olde days.


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Post Re: Part 2 - Ch. 1: Emanations
What you've written, geo, is a good illustration of my signature line by Thomas Sowell: "All that makes earlier times seem simpler is our ignorance of their complexities." I truly believe that things were no less complex in 2,000 year-old societies than they are today. There are different dimensions of complexity, so our society might be more complex on one dimension, but perhaps less complex on another.


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Wed Mar 23, 2011 7:36 pm
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Post Re: Part 2 - Ch. 1: Emanations
Not to beat a dead horse, but the question of whether or not the primitives literally believed their myths is addressed somewhat in part II, ch. 6 Folk Stories of Creation.

"It is difficult to know how seriously or in what sense these stories were believed. The mythological mode is one not so much of direct as of oblique reference: it is as if Old Man (of Blackfeet legend) had done so-and-so. Many of the tales that appear in the collections under the category of origin stories were certainly regarded more as popular fairy tales than as a book of genesis. Such playful mythologizing is common in all civilizations, higher as well as lower. The simpler members of the populations may regard the resultant images with undue seriousness, but in the main they cannot be said to represent doctrine, or the local "myth." The Maoris, for example, from whom we have some of our finest cosmogonies, have the story of an egg dropped by a bird into the primeval sea; it burst, and out came a man, a woman, a boy, a girl, a pig, a dog, and a canoe. All got into the canoe and drifted to New Zealand.54 This clearly is a burlesque of the cosmic egg. On the other hand, the Kamchatkans declare, apparently in all seriousness, that God inhabited heaven originally, but then descended to earth. When he traveled about on his snowshoes, the new ground yielded under him like thin and pliant ice. The land has been uneven ever since.™ Or again, according to the Central Asiatic Kirghiz, when two early people tending a great ox had been without drink for a very long time and were nearly dead of thirst, the animal got water for them by ripping open the ground with its big horns. That is how the lakes in the country of the Kirghiz were made." (pg. 248)

I'm reminded of the Brer Rabbit tales which were transplanted to the American south from Africa with the slaves. It seems unlikely that the slaves actually believed these tales, but at some point in their lineage, perhaps their ancestors ancients did. Although, again, the original tales were likely very different. For some reason this subject fascinates me.


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