INDEX

Topics are arranged alphabetically in the INDEX.

Saturday, February 24, 2024

Carlos Castaneda's Limitations



This essay is the third in a series on the failure of leading 20th century mythologists or religionists to uncover significant antecedents of the religions they studied. The first considers the work of Joseph Campbell and the second addresses Raimon Panikkar's Limitations.


Dr. Alice C. Linsley

Carlos Castaneda (1925-1998) was born in Peru. In 1951 he moved to the United States. He studied sculpture at the School of Fine Arts in Lima and hoped to make a living as an artist. He worked a series of odd jobs and took classes at Los Angeles Community College in philosophy, literature and creative writing. Those who knew him remember him as a consummate storyteller.

He studied anthropology at the University of California, Los Angeles, earning a Ph.D. in 1973. He, along with Timothy Leary, is considered a father of the New Age movement which certainly gained momentum through his tales of shamanic mysticism.

Even before his arrival in the United State Carlos and his then wife Margaret Runyan became fascinated by the occult. He later divorced Margaret and had multiple lovers, some of whom are believed to have taken their own lives upon Castenda's death. (See The Dark Legacy of Carlos Castaneda.)

Under the tutelage of don Juan Matus, a Yaqui shaman, Castaneda entered what don Juan called "a separate reality." This reality was explored through peyote and exposure to "sacred" ceremonies and surreal Mexican environments. Casteneda claimed that his shaman tutors made his car disappear before his eyes. He also claimed to have a bilingual conversation with a coyote, turn into a crow, and learn how to fly. 

Castaneda considered don Juan his "teacher" while another shaman, don Genaro is described as his "benefactor" (Tales of Power, p. 226). Castaneda claims that don Genaro's actions had an extraordinary effect on him. "Every time I had come into contact with him I had experienced the most outlandish sensory distortion." (Tales of Power, p.6

Castaneda had a voracious appetite for the occult. At one point, he sought advice from Yogi Chen, a practitioner of esoteric Buddhism on how to produce a “double” of himself. Yogi Chen replied that there were methods for producing up to six emanations of oneself. “But why bother? Then you only have six times as much trouble.”

From 1971 to 1982, Castaneda's books sold at least 10 million copies. Castaneda's most popular titles, "A Separate Reality," "Journey to Ixtlan" and "Tales of Power," sold 10,000 copies in 2006, 8 years after the author's death. None of Castaneda's titles have ever gone out of print -- an impressive achievement for any author. His books became international best-sellers and have been translated into some 17 languages.

Castaneda's books stirred widespread interest in shamanism. It hardly mattered that his claims were debunked. His books are listed as nonfiction and don Juan and don Genaro are fictional characters. Nevertheless, having read Journey to Ixtlan and Tales of Power, I understand the appeal of his work. There is a freshness to the dialogue and at times a compelling glimpse of shamanic life, in spite of the fictional character of the works.



Tungus shaman with drum


Castaneda's Limitations

While Castaneda's works reveal an expansive imagination and fanciful literary style, his anthropological research is undisciplined, lacking in factual substance, and entirely anecdotal. It is as if he read what he could find about shamanism and then invented the perfect shamans to befriend him. His tales include all the classic elements of shamanic practice: drug-induced visions, progressive levels of skill at hunting, mystical bodyless flights, and rituals to gain the help of spirits. However, the tells are there! Castaneda's writings do not reveal understanding of the place of shamanism in the history of religion.

I may have more first-hand experience of shamans than Castanedo. I have sat through shamanic cleansing rituals in sweat lodges, and I conducted a year-long correspondence with a Umani Lenape shaman who I invited to speak to my World Religions students. I am not a nay-sayer when it comes to the realness of their occult powers. It is seductive. 

My intention is to clarify the distinction between the offices of shaman and priest, the oldest known religious offices. Both serve as intermediaries between their communities and the supernatural. They share some common symbols such as the Tree of Life, serpent symbolism, and the Sun as the emblem of the High God. However, they represent different worldviews, different ways of reasoning, and different practices.

Underlying shamanism is the belief that there are powerful spirits who cause imbalance and disharmony in the world. The shaman’s role is to determine which spirits are at work in a given situation and to find ways to appease the spirits and restore balance or harmony. This often involves use of psychoactive substances to induce a trance state. Rarely, does the shaman perform blood sacrifice. The hides used to make their drums come from animals that have been hunted for food.

Underlying the priesthood is belief in a supreme High God to whom humans must give an accounting, especially for the shedding of blood. The ancient laws and received traditions governing priestly ceremonies, sacrifices, cleansing and healing rituals clarify the role of the priest as one who offers sacrifice for the people according to sacred law.

In the priest's understanding, the High God holds the world in balance, and it is human actions that cause disharmony. Offending spirits (demons) contribute to the chaos. Therefore, priests are to discern or test the spirits, recognizing that evil spirits can masquerade as beneficent. In my experiences with shamans, I noted that they also recognize that the spirits sometimes lie. They have their own ways of testing the spirits. (Only one Spirit never lies.)

Shamans can be found among many populations around the world: Africa, Asia, Australia, and the Americas. They tend to serve small tribal communities or nomadic clans, whereas priests historically serve at shrines and temples under the authority of high kings and rulers. Another difference is the gender-transgressive (cross-dressing, transvestite) practice that occurs with shamanism. However, transvestism was prohibited among the Hebrew ruler-priest caste, the oldest known order of priests.


Related reading: Hallucinogenic Substances Found in 3000-year Hair of Shaman; Males as Spiritual Leaders: Two Patterns; Female Shamans; Belief in the High God; The Oldest Known Religion

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Raimon Panikkar's Limitations


Portrait of Raimon Panikkar (pencil on paper), Wikimedia Commons



This essay is the second in a series on the failure of leading 20th century mythologists or religionists to uncover significant antecedents of the religions they studied. The first considers the work of Joseph Campbell and the third addresses Carlos Castaneda's Limitations.



Dr. Alice C. Linsley


Mr. Raimon Panikkar (1918-2010) was a Roman Catholic priest and a professor of philosophy at the University of Madrid. His first trip to India in 1954 was a turning point in his life and a connection to the spiritual roots of his Hindu father. Panikkar's Spanish mother was Roman Catholic. As a scholar, Panikkar specialized in comparative religion.

While studying Indian philosophy at the University of Mysore and Banaras Hindu University, Mr. Panikkar began conversation about Eastern expressions of Christianity with several Western monks. About that experience Panikkar later wrote, “I left Europe as a Christian, I discovered I was a Hindu and returned as a Buddhist without ever having ceased to be Christian.”

The rest of his life was dedicated to promoting an expansion of the Judaic and Greco-Roman foundations of Christianity to embrace the insights of non-Western religions.

Joseph Prabhu, a professor of philosophy at California State University, Los Angeles, and the editor of “The Intercultural Challenge of Raimon Panikkar” (1996) concerning Panikkar:

“He was one of the pioneers in opening up Christianity to other religions and learning from them,” and “We can see the new waves of Christianity moving toward the non-European world in the 21st century, and he prepared the ground for an authentic dialogue between Christianity and other faiths, and beyond that for the cross-cultural conversation which marks our globalized world.”

 

Panikkar was a prolific writer. He wrote more than 40 books and 900 articles. His complete works are being published in Italian. His 1989 Gifford Lectures were published in English by Orbis in 2009 under the title "The Rhythm of Being." His books include “The Trinity and the Religious Experience of Man” (1973), “The Cosmotheandric Experience: Emerging Religious Consciousness” (1993), “Christophany: The Fullness of Man” (2004) and “The Experience of God: Icons of the Mystery” (2006).

He explained, “Writing, to me, is intellectual life and also spiritual experience… it allows me to ponder deeply the mystery of reality.”


Panikkar's limited scope

As with many who study world religions, Panikkar's research and experiences were limited to the religions that emerged in the Axial Age (c. 1000-200 BC). He did not delve into the earlier religions of the ancient world, which would have exposed the Messianic elements in Vedic texts

Hinduism is older than Judaism, but not older than the religion of the early Hebrew (4200 BC) who dispersed out of the Nile Valley into Arabia, Canaan, Mesopotamia, Anatolia, and the Indus Valley. The Rig Veda, the oldest Vedic text dates to between 1900 and 1200 BC, about 1000 years after the time of Abraham the Hebrew. Judaism emerged closer to 600 BC. The term "samhita" refers to the most ancient layer of text in the Vedas. Parts of the Vedic Samhitas constitute the oldest layer of Hindu tradition and include material that resembles early Hebrew concepts.

In the Rig Veda, for example, the number seven is sacred, and the Word of God is called Speech and is described as "a loving wife, finely robed." She resembles the Wisdom of Sirach (Ecclesiasticus), personified as a female (Sirach 24:8). In Sirach, Wisdom declares that she “came forth from the mouth of the Most High” as the first-born before all creatures.

In Srimad Bhagavatam 10:16 we find a parallel to Genesis 3:15 where we are told that the serpent's head will be crushed under the feet of the Woman's Son. The Hindu text reads: "The Ancient Man danced on the serpent, who still spewed poison from his eyes and hissed loudly in his anger, and he trampled down with his feet whatever head the serpent raised, subduing him calmly..." (Cited in Andrew Wilson, Ed. World Scriptures, p. 449.)

The same idea is found in Psalm 91:12-13 - "They will bear you up in their hands, that you do not strike your foot against a stone. You will tread upon the lion and cobra, the young lion and the serpent you will trample down."

However, this expectation was expressed about 1000 years before Psalm 91 in the Pyramid Texts, a collection of mortuary texts. Utterance 388 says, "Horus has shattered (tbb, crushed) the mouth of the serpent with the sole of his foot (tbw)." 

Scholars from India acknowledge the Nile-Indus connections. The Indian linguist Ajay Pratap Singh explains, "Comparisons of Akkadian and Sanskrit words yielded at least 400 words in both languages with comparable phonetic and semantic similarities. Thus, Sanskrit has, in fact, descended from Akkadian."

The Indian scholar Malati J. Shendge has concluded that the language of the Harappans of the Indus Valley was Akkadian, the language of the territory of Nimrod the Kushite Hebrew. 

Akkadian is the oldest known Semitic language. he Bible scholar, E.A. Speiser, found that names taken to be Indo-European were often labeled "Hurrian" [Horite] only to be identified eventually as Akkadian. The Horite Hebrew were widely dispersed and spoke the languages of the people among whom they lived. Scholars today use terms like Hurro-Akkadian, Hurro-Urartian, and Canaano-Akkadian.

Further evidence of the connection between the Nile Valley and the Indus Valley is demonstrated by comparing early Egyptian and Indus pottery inscriptions. Note that 17 figures under the headings "Indus Valley" and "Egyptian" are almost identical.




The Indian archaeologist, B. B. Lal contends that the Dravidians came from the Upper Nile (Nubia/Kush). Lal writes:
"At Timos the Indian team dug up several megalithic sites of ancient Nubians which bear an uncanny resemblance to the cemeteries of early Dravidians which are found all over Western India from Kathiawar to Cape Comorin. The intriguing similarity extends from the subterranean structure found near them. Even the earthenware ring-stands used by the Dravidians and Nubians to hold pots were identical."

 

Some old Hindu fire altars were constructed in the shape of a falcon. The falcon was the totem of Horus (HR), who among the Horite Hebrew was the archetype of the son of the High God. This explains why the Shulba Sutras state that "he who desires heaven is to construct a fire-altar in the form of a falcon."

 Anatomical Evidence

The German archaeologists Friedrichs and Muller identified some of the skulls of Mohenjo-Daro as "Hamitic." The term "Nilotic" would be more accurate.

Paleontologists B.K. Chatterjee and G.D. Kumer reported in "Comparative Study and Racial Analysis of the Skeletal Remains of the Indus Valley Civilization" that the 18 Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa skulls that they examined are "similar to skulls from Nubia during the third to second Millennium B.C." (See Wayne Chandler: "The Jewel in the Lotus: The Ethiopian Presence in the Indus Valley Civilization" in African Presence in Early Asia, Ivan Van Sertima et. a1. eds., 1985 p. 87)


Conclusion

I propose that the universality of what we might call the "Proto-Gospel" is due to the wide dispersion of the early Hebrew ruler-priest caste that moved out of Africa well before 3000 BC. It appears that the widely dispersed early Hebrew caste spread elements of their belief in God Father and God Son wherever they settled in the service of high kings. They expected a universal ruler to overcome death. The idea of a universal king who is divinely appointed to rule is found in the oldest layers of Hindu thought. The Sanskrit word cakravartin and the Pali word cakkavattin refer to a righteous king who rules over the entire world. His "messianic" rule is called sar-vabhauma. From Africa to Nepal the words sar and sarki refer to rulers and priests. This is the root of the royal title Sar-gon, which means High King or King of Kings. Nimrod's Akkadian name was Šarru-kīnu, which is usually translated “the true king.”

These words are related to the Akkadian words šarratum - queen, šarri - divine, and šarrum - king.

Sunday, February 11, 2024

Joseph Campbell's Limitations

 

Joseph Campbell in the late 1970s (Wikipedia).


This is the first essay in a series on the failure of leading 20th century mythologists to uncover significant antecedents of the religions they studied. The second addresses Raimon Panikkar's Limitations, and the third essay concerns the limitations of Carlos Castaneda.


Dr. Alice C. Linsley

Joseph Campbell (1904-1987) was the most notable mythologist of the twentieth century and a prolific writer. His thought was influenced by the work of Carl Jung, James Joyce, and Heinrich Zimmer on Indian myths and Hindu philosophy.

I have read most of Joseph Campbell's books including The Masks of God: Occidental Mythology (1964); Myths to Live By (1972); Primitive Mythology (1987); and The Hero's Journey (1990). As an anthropologist with a strong background in philosophy, I appreciate his extensive cultural research and range of thought. The enduring power of myth and symbol is evident in what he has written. He makes significant connections between the religious traditions of the world and provides examples of how mythic themes and motifs are enacted ritually.

Campbell was attuned to the unification hopes of many intellectuals of his time, and he hoped that his work might contribute to "human mutual understanding" (Introduction of The Hero's Journey). As Robert Ellwood notes in his book The Politics of Myth (1999), Campbell believed that ancient myths are a valuable resource for people "baffled by the ambiguities and superficiality of modern life".

In his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949), Campbell discusses his theory of the journey of the archetypal hero common to most world mythologies. He called this the monomyth. Campbell does not offer a detailed explanation for how this emerges universally, but he suggests that it is deeply rooted in Mankind's collective unconscious (The Hero's Journey, p. 57). I propose that the universality is due to the wide dispersion of the early Hebrew ruler-priest caste that moved out of Africa well before 3000 BC and spread what might be called the "Proto-Gospel" wherever they settled.

Campbell delves into myths of Native Americans, Hinduism, Judaism, Islam, and animistic religions. He sometimes strays with seeming reluctance into the territory of the Roman Catholic faith in which he was raised, but never to elevate it above the other faiths. He stopped attending Mass as a communicant in his twenties.

Perhaps Campbell embraced the symbolism of Christ, the Immortal Hero, on his deathbed in a Catholic hospital. In an interview with his widow entitled "Campbell and Catholicism", the Catholic journalist Pythia Peay reports that Campbell "experienced profoundly the depths of the Christian symbol" during the last weeks of his life. She quotes his wife Jean Erdman as saying, "He was thrilled to see that [Christus Victor Cross] because for him this was the mystical meaning of Christ that reflected the state of at-one-ment with the Father. It had been through this image that he had come to a resolution the problem of his Catholic religion. While he didn't say it in so many words, "he was probably preparing himself for eternity." In the hospital, according to his wife, "he experienced emotionally what he had before understood intellectually."

However, Campbell did not receive the Last Rites and there was no formal religious service at his burial.


The Limits of Campbell's Exploration

Most of the myths that Campbell explored come from religions that emerged in the Axial Age (c. 900-200 BC): Hinduism (the Upanishads), Judaism, Buddhism, Jainism, Daoism (Taoism), the Mediterranean mystery cults, and Zoroastrianism.

Even his discussions of Nilotic myths involve the late syncretistic expressions of Egyptian imperialism. He does not explore the antecedents of the Ra-Horus-Hathor narrative among the early Horite Hebrew at Nekhen (4200 BC).

The core dogmas concerning the life-generating Spirit, God Father and God Son, including the Son's divine conception by overshadowing, his third day resurrection, his descent to the place of the dead to declare good tidings, and his co-substantial and co-equal nature with the Father were already held by the early Hebrew long before Judaism.

The Edenic Promise of Genesis 3:15 foretells how the Woman (not Eve) would bring forth a son who would crush the serpent's head and restore paradise. Psalm 91, recognized as a Messianic psalm, says, "You will tread on the lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot." This early Hebrew expectation was expressed about 1000 years before Psalm 91:14 in the Ancient Pyramid Texts. "Horus has shattered (tbb, crushed) the mouth of the serpent with the sole of his foot (tbw)" (Utterance 388).

Horus is the Greek for the Ancient Egyptian HR, meaning "Most High One" or "Hidden One". He is hidden by His own radiance. The terms for ritual purity in Sumerian, Akkadian, biblical Hebrew, Hittite, and Ugaritic are related to the idea of radiance. (See The Semantics of Purity in the Ancient Near East, p. 5). The ancient Nilotes associated purity with the radiance of the sun, the emblem of the High God Re. In Ancient Egyptian, Re means "Father".



Hathor overshadowed.


As the sun was the symbol of the High God and his Son among the early Hebrew, divine appointment was expressed by overshadowing. When the Virgin Mary asked how she was to become the mother of the Messiah, the angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God." (Luke 1:35)

A Horite song found at the royal complex at Ugarit, speaks of HR (Horus) who descends to the place of the dead "to announce good tidings." The text reads: Hr ešeni timerri duri - "below in the dark netherworld" and has the Hittite phrase Šanizzin ḫalukan ḫalzi - "to announce good tidings". (See Note 2 on page 2012.) 

Horus is described as rising on the third day and ascending to the place of the immortal stars. (The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts, Utterance 667).

In the Pyramid Texts, a priest's prayer on behalf of the King, he says, "Horus is a soul and he recognizes his Father in you." (Utterance 423) 

In the Egyptian Book of the Dead, Horus is called the "advocate of his father" (cf. 1 John 2:1). The Son's advocacy is militant as described in Psalm 110:1 - The Lord says to my Lord: "Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet." This belief is expressed 1000 years earlier in the Coffin Texts (Passage 148). "I am Horus, the great Falcon upon the ramparts of the house of him of the hidden name. My flight has reached the horizon. I have passed by the gods of Nut. I have gone further than the gods of old. Even the most ancient bird could not equal my very first flight. I have removed my place beyond the powers of Set, the foe of my father Osiris. No other god could do what I have done. I have brought the ways of eternity to the twilight of the morning. I am unique in my flight. My wrath will be turned against the enemy of my father Osiris and I will put him beneath my feet in my name of 'Red Cloak'." (Myth and Symbol in Ancient Egypt by R.T. Rundle Clark, p. 216)


Conclusion

Joseph Campbell's work remains a rich source of valuable information for anthropologists, philosophers, and students of world religions. He was writing before some of the information I have provided about the early Hebrew was available. R. O. Faulkner's English translation of the Pyramid Texts had only appeared in 1969. My own research into the myths of the early Nilotic populations, including the Horite and Sethite Hebrew, began only 3 years before Campbell died in 1987.

Sunday, January 14, 2024

Richard Hooker Matters More than Ever!

 


Richard Hooker wrote, "What Scripture doth plainly deliver, to that the first place both of credit and obedience are due; the next whereunto, is what any man can necessarily conclude by force of Reason; after this, the voice of the church succeedeth." (Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity 5,8,2)

Richard Hooker (1554-1600) wrote Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity to stake out a middle course between Calvinism on the one hand and the Roman Catholicism on the other. Hooker was unsparing in his censure of Rome, yet his contemporary, Pope Clement VIII (died 1605), said of Hooker's book: "It has in it such seeds of eternity that it will abide until the last fire shall consume all learning."

Hooker's book set a path for historic Anglicanism. He wrote with the rationality and seasoned reasoning of a lawyer. The Anglican Way relies on the faculty of reason in opposition to sensation and emotion. It is a reasonable faith that finds expression in the works of great thinkers such as Anselm of Canterbury, Richard Hooker, and John Keble. Empiricism flourished in the British Isles among members of the Church of England, and though British Empiricism took an anti-Church turn, it owes much to the Anglican intellectual environment.

In our day, many Anglicans, Protestants, and Roman Catholics have become unhitched to the core doctrines of the received tradition that we call "Christianity." Reading Hooker, as challenging as that may be for modern readers, is a grounding experience. 

In this video, Dr Andrea Russell (University of Nottingham) explains why Hooker's book is still important today. It is about how we discern God's presence in the world and how Scripture is our authority. 




Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Kierkegaard on Abraham, a "Knight of Faith"

 



Dr. Alice C. Linsley

Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) was a brilliant philosopher who was critical of Romanticism’s emphasis on naturalism and Empiricism’s claim that moral judgment must be based on reason and verifiable data. He believed that the basis for forming moral judgment is always subjective and that it requires surrender to God.

Although the term “existentialism” never appears in Kierkegaard’s writings, he is regarded as the founder of Christian Existentialism. Kierkegaard believed that the value of philosophers’ thoughts should be judged by their lives rather than by their intellectual conceptions because ultimately, the individual’s life is the basis upon which he is judged by God. As important as a writer's work is to his existence, it is his life as a whole that ultimately matters to God. This is why Kierkegaard was attracted to the lives of saintly figures, especially biblical Abraham, who he called a “knight of faith.”

Kierkegaard and Nietzsche shared the realization that anything decided to be meaningful must come from within the individual. It is the human race itself that attributes meaning. In Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling and in Nietzsche’s On the Genealogy of Morals, each philosopher sets out to discover the importance of subjective human emotion, and the role of human freedom in the universe.

While Nietzsche’s immoral Superman is the embodiment of his philosophy, Abraham is the embodiment of Kierkegaard’s existentialist philosophy. For Kierkegaard, true individuality comes through surrendering one’s individuality. Abraham discovers his meaning in the cosmos through losing himself in God, but when one tries to explain this to another person, the explanation seems absurd.

Kierkegaard recognizes an existential duty to a Creator whose moral authority outranks all social norms. He views Abraham's near sacrifice of his son as a consequence of a “teleological suspension of the ethical” rather than as an expression of obedience to social norms (this assumes that child sacrifice was practiced among Abraham’s people). From Kierkegaard's perspective, the distinction between good and evil is dependent exclusively on God. Therefore, it is possible for Abraham to live and act beyond the prescribed norms of his day to fulfill a spiritual destiny that he alone could fulfill.

In Kierkegaard's scheme it makes little difference whether the son bound was Isaac (as Jews claim) or Ishmael (as Muslims claim). The story is not about recognition of the firstborn son, but about the surrender of Abraham's very being in an existential sacrifice that by faith overcomes despair.

Ethical cases such as Abraham's are problematic since we have no public policy to guide our decision about whether Abraham is obeying God's command or is delusional. For this reason Kierkegaard’s existential philosophy can’t be used to formulate specific ethical guidelines for society. It is simply too personal and too subjective. However, for Christians it is extremely relevant because it points to the necessity of spiritual ascent, divine enlightenment, and a deepening of communion with God.

Kierkegaard found inspiration in both Abraham and in the lives of the saints, especially the sixth-century monk, John Climacus, who spent his days in solitude, prayer and fasting at the monastery on Mount Sinai. Climacus wrote “The Ladder of Divine Ascent,” a work arranged into thirty chapters or “steps.” Each step details the vices that the individual must conquer and the virtues that the individual must perfect in order to ascend the spiritual “ladder” to the Kingdom of Heaven. Here are some of his famous sayings:

Step 1: A Christian is one who imitated Christ in thought, word and deed. A lover of God is one who lives in communion with all that is natural and sinless.

Step 5: Repentance is a contract with God for a second life. A penitent inflicts his own punishment upon himself.

Step 9: If you forgive quickly, you, too, will be quickly forgiven.

Step 15: Purity is putting on the nature of angels. It is the longed-for house of Christ and the earthly heaven of the heart.

Step 17: He who has tasted the things on high easily despises what is below. He who has not, only finds joy in possessions.

Step 25: Humility is a divine shelter which prevents us from seeing our achievements.

Step 50: There remain three virtues that bind and secure the union of all: Faith, Hope and Love--- and the greatest of these is Love.

Kierkegaard published Philosophical Fragments using the name “John Climacus”. In this work, he poses 3 questions:

What is the relationship between history (temporal existence) and human consciousness (eternal existence)?

Is there any purpose or meaning to events in our temporal existence other than historical interest?

Is it possible to base eternal happiness upon historical knowledge?

Kierkegaard’s solution was to find a link between the historical/temporal and the eternal/non-temporal. He does that by explaining knowledge as miraculous. He agrees with the Socratic-Platonic view that there is no learning, since one can’t learn what one already knows. Drawing on John Climacus’ understanding of spiritual enlightenment, Kierkegaard argues that learning involves a mysterious change that takes place in the learner at a specific moment of his existence - a moment of enlightenment. In this moment, the learner is absolutely certain that he/she has grasped eternal knowledge. Kierkegaard maintains that this is miraculous and supernatural because it can only be initiated by God through a series of historical/temporal events. This learning (or enlightenment) is individual, subjective and unique for every learner.

Kierkegaard argues further that individuals are unable to know anything that is certain except through this supernatural intervention in history. In this sense, Kierkegaard is a Skeptic who doubts that humans are able of our own faculties to learn or know anything.

So what makes learning or enlightenment possible? Kierkegaard recognizes that human existence involves suffering, anguish, pain, sickness and death. That being our plight, we naturally desire an escape. This desire is very powerful. It is a yearning for the eternal that leads us to “leap into absurdity”.

What is the absurdity? For Kierkegaard, it is the supernatural intervention of the divine Person Jesus Christ entering history, making it possible for us to know that God exists. The existence of God cannot be proved by reason, by experimentation, by logic or through observation. Only by faith in this divine intervention can one hope to escape the suffering of this life and move from ignorance to enlightenment. Here we see how Kierkegaard’s “supernaturalism” is clearly the opposite of the naturalism of Nietzsche and the Romantics.

Whereas Nietzsche rejected the prevailing morality in favor of his unique brand of “immoralism”, Kierkegaard presents social norms as "the universal" measure of service to the community. Even human sacrifice is justified in terms of how it serves the community, so when Agamemnon sacrifices his daughter Iphigenia he is performing a tragic sacrifice in order that the Greek expedition to Troy may succeed. Were Abraham’s intention in sacrificing Isaac to gain worldly success, he would simply be another tragic hero like Agamemnon. But as Kierkegaard understands the story of Mount Moriah, it is Abraham’s absolute surrender to God that makes possible his receiving back his offering and much more. Kierkegaard explains, “Infinite resignation is the last stage before faith …for only in infinite resignation do I become conscious of my external validity, and only then can one speak of grasping existence by virtue of faith.”

Kierkegaard's philosophical approach to the "Binding of Isaac" does not take into account the Horite Hebrew understanding of what happened in the Lamb-to-Ram sequence. The biblical narrative today is best understood through the science of anthropology, not philosophy. What Abraham discovered on Mount Moriah concerned the solar symbolism of his religion. 

As Abraham and Isaac ascended Mount Moriah, Isaac asked his father, "Where is the lamb for the sacrifice? Abraham replied that God would provide the lamb. However, God provided a ram instead. To understand what this would have meant to Abraham, we must investigate the early Hebrew beliefs concerning the expected Righteous Ruler who would die and overcome death on the third day.

For Abraham the Horite Hebrew, the lamb was associated with the east and the rising sun. The ram was associated with the west and the future. The solar boat that makes its daily journey from east to west was ridden by Horus and his father. The boat of the morning hours was called "Mandjet", and the boat of the evening hours was called "Mesektet". While Horus was on the Mesektet, he was in his ram-headed form. Horus was the Lamb in his weaker (kenotic) existence, and he was the Ram in his glorified resurrection strength. Both are associated with the death and resurrection expectation of Abraham's Horite Hebrew people. 




Sunday, July 30, 2023

The First Lords and Messianic Expectation

 


Dr. Alice C. Linsley


My book, The First Lords of the Earth: An Anthropological Study, is available on Amazon. The book identifies the social structure and religious beliefs of the early Hebrew ruler-priest caste (6200-4000 years ago), their dispersion out of Africa, their territorial expansion, trade routes, and their influence on the populations of the Fertile Crescent and Ancient Near East. 

The book traces the antecedents of the Messianic Faith that we call "Christianity" back to its earliest known adherents, the Horite and Sethite Hebrew. The oldest known site of their worship was at Nekhen on the Nile, and it predates the step pyramid of King Djoser (Third Dynasty) who ruled for 75 years. Djoser inaugurated an era of monumental stone buildings that inspired the Great Pyramids. The oldest known tomb at Nekhen, with painted mural on its plaster walls, dates to c.3500–3200 B.C.

This is a paradigm-shifting book!

The research took 40 years, but I was able to make a rather complex subject easy to understand. I hope you will buy the book and discover answers to some perennial questions, such as:

  • Who were the Horite Hebrew and the Sethite Hebrew?
  • Where is the oldest known site of Horite Hebrew worship?
  • Why did many Hebrew men have two wives?
  • What was the difference in status between wives and concubines?
  • What types of authority did the biblical Hebrew recognize?
  • How did their acute observation of the patterns in Nature inform their reasoning? 
  • If Judaism is NOT the Faith of the early Hebrew, what did they believe?

Given what is known today about the biblical Hebrew, we must make a distinction between the doctrine that the Godhead is fully revealed in Jesus Christ, and the chronological snobbery of believing that only after his appearing can the Gospel be understood. These are two distinct assertions.

The book questions the assumption that the biblical writers did not have a grasp on the significance of what they wrote and that the true meaning is only is apparent in the light of events which happened after they were dead. (This is asserted by many commentators on the Bible, including C.S. Lewis.) The evidence set forth in my book indicates that this is not an accurate assessment. The Hebrew writers had a better grasp of the pattern of the Gospel than many Christians do today. They believed in God Father and God Son, and they hoped for bodily resurrection. This pattern of belief implies that the core dogmas of Christianity have very deep roots.

One evidence that the early Hebrew expected the Son of God to come in the flesh was their belief that his victory over death would be proclaimed first to those who rested in anticipation of his appearing. This happened when Christ descended to the place of the dead to proclaim glad tidings. A Horite Hebrew song found at the royal complex at Ugarit speaks of HR descending to the place of the dead "to announce good tidings." HR in ancient Egyptian means "Most High One".

Purchase options include Kindle, paperback, or hard cover and all are priced to accommodate the book lover on a tight budget. 

I hope you will find the book helpful and informative. The sequel "The First First Ladies" will be available in July 2024.

Best wishes,

Alice C. Linsley


Related reading: The First Lords and Their AuthorityJesus Christ in the Hebrew Scriptures; Binary Reasoning Informs Christian Morality and Ethics; C.S. Lewis on "Pagan Christs"



Friday, July 14, 2023

The Value of Studying Philosophy

 



Alice C. Linsley

I enjoyed reading Shannon Rupp's article Be employable, study philosophy. He believes that "The discipline teaches you how to think clearly, a gift that can be applied to just about any line of work."

This is an excerpt from that essay:


The philosophy of science was also surprisingly useful. That's where I learned about journalism's misunderstood concept of "objectivity." Journalists borrowed the notion from science in the 19th century, but by the late 20th century many people confused it with being fair or denying personal bias. As newspapers began introducing advertorial copy and advertiser-driven sections, they retrained their staff to talk about "balance" instead of objectivity. As if printing opposing opinions somehow makes up for running half-truths.

What objectivity really means is to test for accuracy -- regardless of what you suspect (or hope) might be true. In science they test knowledge by trying to poke holes in each other's research. News reporters were taught a variation summed up by the cliché, "If someone tells you it's raining, look out the window."

 

I agree that "disciplines that train us to think more clearly in any field never lose their value." I have seen the benefits reaped by former students who learned to think clearly and to articulate their thoughts in a thoughtful way. They are successful in their lines of work. Some work in the Thoroughbred horse industry. Some are secondary school teachers, marketers, recruiters, business owners, investment advisors, and journalists.

It may be true that students who study philosophy do better in science and math. Or perhaps it is the other way around? Students who excel in science and math are more likely to be attracted to the study of Philosophy.

I have taught Philosophy to high school students and to university students. Most took my courses as an elective which means that they came into the classroom voluntarily. Most came with a desire to learn. Many were surprised by how much they gained from the courses.

My classes exposed students to the major thought trajectories of history from 3000 B.C. to the 20th century. For some students an effect of this overview was intellectual humility. All their great ideas had already been played with by greater minds.

Another effect was a broadening of their worlds. Beyond their circles of family and friends, beyond their gaming and devices, there is an expansive world full of fascinating people and provocative ideas.

I am reminded of something that Albert Einstein wrote in 1944. "So many people today—and even professional scientists—seem to me like somebody who has seen thousands of trees but has never seen a forest. A knowledge of the historic and philosophical background gives that kind of independence from prejudices of his generation from which most scientists are suffering."