Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Radical Countermeasures against the Money Power

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"The rich rules over the poor and the borrower is the slave of the lender." ~ Proverbs 22:7 (ESV)

The money tree has root-rot that goes deeper (by several centuries) than any "audit the Fed" or "occupy" endeavor can address. The word "usury" has been redefined somewhere between ancient Canaan & Athens...and Jekyll Island & the Masonically labeled "33 Liberty Street" in New York City. The Old Testament condemns usury (Cf. Leviticus 25:35-37). To Aristotle, usury is "justly censured...hated" because it is "unnatural" (Politics 1.10). Plato forbade the practice in his final vision for an optimal State (Laws 742c). What effected the transformation from wholesale condemnation to widespread acceptance? Want to get at the root?
(Click HERE.)

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Saturday, October 13, 2012

The name of "Lincoln" and Judaism

"Lincoln" is the name of an English town that served, for a while, as an important Jewish center and refuge.

"The medieval Jewish community...was probably second in importance in England after London." (C.R., "Lincoln," Encyclopaedia Judaica, 11 [1972], p. 256.)

"St. Hugh, the great bishop of Lincoln, protected the Jews..." (Ibid.). "Hugh ... put down popular violence against [the Jews, great numbers of whom lived in Lincoln] in several places." (Source) "...Great St. Hugh of Lincoln['s]... death was mourned equally by Jew and Christian." (Source)

Another, younger resident of Lincoln, England was the boy who came to be called "Little Saint Hugh of Lincoln." "Little Saint Hugh of Lincoln (1246 – 27 August 1255)...[was a] child martyr supposedly slain by Jews. ...Hugh is known as Little Saint Hugh to distinguish him from Saint Hugh of Lincoln, an adult saint. The style is often corrupted to Little Sir Hugh. ... St. Hugh was the son of a poor woman of Lincoln named Beatrice; born about 1246; died in 1255. ... The boy disappeared on 31 July... In August 1255 [on the 29th] the body of an 8-year old boy was found in a well in Lincoln...belonging to a Jew named Copin...[or] 'Jopin' or 'Joscefin.' ...Copin was put to a cruel death and eighteen Jews were hanged at Lincoln...some...ninety-two...Jews were arrested and held in the Tower of London... Whether there was any basis of truth in the accusation against the Jews there is now no means of ascertaining. ...Hugh was seen as a martyr, and many devotees came to the city and cathedral to venerate him. ...The feast of "Little Hugh" was held on 27 July... [Geoffrey] Chaucer mentions the case in "The Prioress's Tale" [from his 'The Canterbury Tales' - 'a collection of stories written in Middle English by Chaucer at the end of the 14th century'] and a ballad was written about it in 1783." (The text is a composite from the following sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, & 6.)

Chaucer wrote: "O young Hugh of Lincoln, slain also by cursed Jews, as all men know (for it is only a little while ago), pray also for us, sinful unstable people, that God in His mercy may multiply His grace upon us in reverence of His Mother Mary. Amen." (The Prioress' Tale) See, also, Michael Hoffman's "Revisionist History Newsletter No. 13."





(Source; cf. here.)
(Source; cf. here)

The sixteenth U.S. President, Abraham Lincoln is said to have been the "first president to become officially involved in national questions of Jewish equality and anti-Jewish discrimination." (B.W.K., "Lincoln, Abraham," Encyclopaedia Judaica, 11 [1972], p. 257.) For example, President Lincoln worked for the passage of a law allowing "rabbis to serve as military chaplains...for the first time in history..." (Ibid., p. 258). In fact, without Lincoln's sponsorship, the Encyclopaedia Judaica author opines that, "it is unlikely that either house of Congress would have passed the legislation." (Ibid.). Additionally, when "In December 1862, General Ulysses S. Grant issues an order expelling all Jews from the area of his command...Lincoln...in January 1863...issued instructions for its immediate cancellation" (Ibid.).

For more information, see:

 Ariel Toaff's Blood Passover.

"Hue of Lincoln"

More Lincoln HERE.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Going "Postel": The Making of a "Judeo-Christian"

Guillaume Postel was a 16th century mathematician-philosopher, linguist-philologist, and "Chistian Kabbalist"-mystic (cf. M. L. Kuntz, Guillaume Postel, p. ix; & G.E.S., "Postel, Guillaume," Encyclopedia Judaica 13 (1972), p. 932).

He was apparently a language virtuoso, easily acquiring fluency in multiple languages, including, without limitation, Latin, Greek, Arabic, Chaldean, and Hebrew (cf., Ibid., p. 39, et. passim.). "His knowledge of Hebrew and Arabic was rare among his contemporaries, as was his study and use of the Rabbinical, Cabalistic and Islamic literature preserved in these languages." In fact, Postel "attempt[ed] to harmonize Christian, Jewish and Mohammedan thought..." (p. ix) and himself "had prepared a Latin translation of Genesis and of the Midrash on Ruth..." (G[ershom].Sch[olem]., "Zohar," Encyclopedia Judaica, 16 (1972), p. 1214). Moreover, the "book of Kabbalistic magic" (Michael Hoffman, Judaism Discovered, p. 769), "Sefer Yezirah was translated into Latin by...Postel and printed even before the Hebrew edition..." (Supra., "Yezirah, Sefer," p. 787). "In 1548 he published a kabbalistic commentary in Latin translation on the mystical significance of the menorah, and later a Hebrew edition as well. [Postel was among the] authors [who] had many connections in Jewish circles" (G[ershom].Sch[olem]., "Kabbalah," Encyclopedia Judaica, 10 (1972), p. 645).

The Encyclopedia Judaica notes that Postel designated himself "Ish Kefar Sekhanya u-Shemo Eliyyahu Kol-Maskalyah she-Nitgayyer le-Hibbato she Yisrael", that is, "A man of Kefar Sekania, named Elijah Kol- Maskalyah, who converted [to Judaism] out of love for Israel...", commenting that this "suggests that [Postel] had then become some kind of Judeo-Christian..." (op. cit., p. 933).

This mention of "Kefar Sekhanya" recalls a strange Talmudic passage concerning a figure Rabbis euphemistically designate "Jacob the Heretic" ("In several manuscripts his heresy is indicated as Christianity", Ibid.) We read in BT Abodah Zarah 27b: "...'No man should have any dealings [Conversational intercourse...]  with Minim [Christians], nor is it allowed to be healed by them even [in risking] an hour's life. It once happened to Ben Dama the son of R. Ishmael's sister that he was bitten by a serpent and Jacob, a native of Kefar Sekaniah,[A disciple of Jesus] came to heal him but R. Ishmael did not let him; whereupon Ben Dama said, 'My brother R. Ishmael, let him, so that I may be healed by him: I will even cite a verse from the Torah that he is to be permitted'; but he did not manage to complete his saying, when his soul departed and he died. ...  Whereupon R. Ishmael exclaimed, Happy art thou Ben Dama for thou wert pure in body and thy soul likewise left thee in purity; nor hast thou transgressed the words of thy colleagues, who said, He who breaketh through a fence, a serpent shall bite him'? [Eccl. X, 8, applied to those who break through 'legal fences' which serve to safeguard the Torah (V. Ab. I, 1). — ...the ... opinion of R. Johanan is contradicted by this incident which [evidences] that [even] in cases of extreme danger it is forbidden to be attended by a Min!]  — It is different with the teaching of Minim, for it draws, and one [having dealings with them] may be drawn after them. The Master said: 'Nor hast thou transgressed the words of thy colleagues who have said, He who breaketh through a fence, a serpent shall bite him'? But a serpent did indeed sting him! — The bite of the serpent [which is inflicted upon those transgressing the words] of the Rabbis is such as can never be cured.[The fate in the hereafter that meets him who transgresses the words of the wise is more grievous than the sting of a serpent on earth.] Now, what is it that he might have said? ...  — 'He shall live by them,[Lev, XVIII, 5, Ye shall therefore keep my statutes and mine ordinances, which if a man do he shall live by them. 'The Rabbis take these words to mean that God's commandments are to be a means of life and not of destruction to His children. With the exception of three prohibitions — public idolatry, murder, or adultery — all commandments of the Law are therefore in abeyance whenever life is endangered'. Lev. edited by the Chief Rabbi (Dr. J. H. Hertz), p. 175.]  but not die by them.' And R. Ishmael? — This is only meant when in private, but not in public; for it has been taught: R. Ishmael used to say: Whence can we deduce that if they say to one, 'Worship the idol and thou wilt not be killed,' that he may worship it so as not to be killed? because Scripture says, He shall live by them, but not die by them; you might take this to mean even in public, therefore Scripture says, And ye shall not profane my holy name.[Lev. XXII, 32 (Sanh. 74a).]"

The Encyclopedia Judaica calls "Jacob of Kefar Sakhnayya" a "Judeo-Christian disciple of Jesus" (9 (1972), p. 1233). This "Judeo-Christian disciple" is represented as telling the Tannaitic ("repeater" - a "Sage...whose opinions form the Mishnah" - Encyclopedia Talmudica 1 (1969), p. 762) Rabbi Eliezer ben Hurcanus that Jesus claimed that Micah 1:7 taught that it was alright to use money paid to a prostitute for the purpose of building a toilet for a high priest ("...if the hire of a harlot had been consecrated it could be applied to the erection of a privy for the high priest...", Ibid.).

In a sort of reversal of God's judgment on humans after the Tower of Babel, Postel seemed to hold that, in language, was something of a key for "unifying mankind" (p. 35). Moreover, Postel believed "that the Hebrew language [was] the source or parent of all languages." (p. 37). Postel seems to suggest that perhaps Chaldean was more ancient, however, "...he always considered [Hebrew to be the most] sacred and most important of all languages..." (p. 9). "Postel believed that language was a divine gift to Adam, since language enables man to think and to speak and thus distinguishes him from all other animals. ... Since speech is dependent upon hearing and since there was no other man with whom Adam could speak, God in His Wisdom, according to Postel, infused the names of things, as with an inner voice, into Adam's mind. ... Language as an innate idea is a significant aspect of Postel's linguistic theories." (Ibid., pp. 38-39).

Postel espoused a variation of the Pythagorean doctrine of metempsychosis (a "change-in-soul" that is usually construed as a sort of transmigration of a soul from one body to another; reincarnation or "palingenesis," i.e., "to be generated again"), and in this way prefigured the contemporary scene in which people routinely make use of non-Christian concepts such as "karma" and "reincarnation" (see, e.g., Lisa Miller, "We are All Hindus Now"). Postel's concept of reincarnation was modified by his understanding of the Kabbalistic concept of the "Shechinah" (p. 105), which he believed (at least at some point in his life) was embodied in an old mystic woman he called "Mother Johanna" (cf. p. 106, sed etiam passim.). "A marked kabbalistic influence...appears in the career of the humanist Guillaume Postel, who, acclaimed at the court of France for his philological researches in Jerusalem, urged the transfer of the papacy to that city and finally declared himself to be the Shekhinah" (H.N., "Jerusalem: In Other Religions: In Christianity," Encyclopedia Judaica, 9 (1972), p. 1573). Postel also frequently employed the Alchemical language of the "chemical marriage of the Sun and Moon" such that Kuntz classes Postel together with other exponents of "the Gnostic and nature-mystical traditions, such as Reuchlin, Cornelius Agrippa, Paracelsus, Symphorien Champier, John Dee, Robert Fludd, Giordano Bruno, and subsequently, Jacob Boehme, Henry More, F. N. Van Helmont, Emanuel Swedenborg, and William Blake, whose themes resemble those of the Rosicrucians" (Kuntz, p. 106).

Frances Yates has a reference to "...the Abbot Joachim, St. Brigid, Lichtenberg, Paracelsus, Postel, and other illuminati" (The Rosicrucian Enlightenment, p. 48). Curiously: "Stories abound concerning his longevity. Antoine Du Verdier, a contemporary of Postel, states that Postel lived more than one hundred and ten years without any signs of aging. He also states that after one of Postel's voyages, Postel's long grey beard had turned black, even to the roots" (Kuntz, p. 5).

Postel was "...[imprisoned] by the Inquisition at Ripetta (1555-59)..." (Op. cit., 13 (1972), p. 933) and was adjudged "non malus, sed amens" that is, "not guilty, but insane" (Kuntz, p. 3). The Encyclopedia Judaica comments that even though he was "[l]ong derided as a heretic or madman, Postel has emerged as one of the impressive and influential personalities of the Renaissance" (13 (1972), p. 933). This revealing statement seems to imply that the current stream of "Judeo-Christianity" had, as its standard bearer in Century 16, a man whose contemporaries considered to be insane. Perhaps many contemporary "Judeo-Christians" are, like their pioneer, non malus, sed amens: not evil, but crazy.



For further, related information see, especially, Michael Hoffman's:

"Magic and Paganism in the Reign of Elizabeth I" & "The Catholic Church and the Talmud in the Renaissance" (Audio CDs)

Judaism Discovered (From Its Own Texts)

Truth about the Talmud (Weblog)

Friday, September 7, 2012

Opposing abortion as the liberal thing to do [Draft 1]

Think about a slave-holding. Why not hold slaves?

One reason may be that we think there are these entities, call them "persons." And these persons have certain minimal rights - let's just take two commonly mentioned examples: the right to life and liberty.

Now if we think that there are persons and that persons do have the minimal rights to life and liberty, then we can straightforwardly answer the question "why not hold slaves?" And the answer would then be: One should not hold slaves because slavery plausibly violates the minimal rights of persons (in this case, slaves).

But let's consider a recalcitrant slave-holder. That is, let's consider the slave-holder, call him "Caligula," who maintains that his slaves simply are not persons. They are, he says, his property. Therefore, says Caligula, since his slaves are non-persons, he violates no rights in holding them as slaves and he can do what he likes with them.

What I am interested in is what we might say to Caligula.

For sure, several avenues seem open to us. For example, if we have genetic theory at our disposal, we might appeal to a chromosome analysis. One option might be that we simply count the chromosomes looking for a particular number which number (we have decided in advance) marks out "persons" in the relevant sense - say, just to pick a random number: 46. We then might say that any entity that has the requisite number counts as a person. This lead to to troublesome cases - for example, where genetic disorders are present in entities that we might otherwise want to consider persons. But we could perhaps go the genetic route. Before we do so, though, let us explore another option.

We might instead appeal to some axiom - whether religious or philosophical. And here (as the reader might now expect), we could immediately go a "religious" direction. But I want to resist such a direction (at least for the moment) and try an alternative approach (say as a sort of thought experiment).

And it seems to me that there is an obvious alternative candidate. Let me call this candidate "the liberal axiom." And here I mean to trade on a sense of "liberal" whereby the word designates generosity.

So here's the axiom:

The Liberal Axiom: If there is a genuine question as to whether something is a person, let's be generous and say that it is a person.

I think that this axiom has several things going for it. Firstly, I think that it yields the results that we want in slave cases. That is, it turns out that slaves will be counted as persons, simply because there is a genuine question about person-hood in the slave cases. That is, Caligula asserts that his slaves are not persons. But as many rational people have raised doubts about his assertions, there is a genuine question as to whether his slaves are persons. Of course Caligula will assert that he can do what he wants with his own property. But although we might agree that if something really is Caligula's property, then he really could do what he wanted with it. This consideration only applies to a slave if a slave is the sort of thing can that be property. And if a slave really is a person, then we will say that since a person is not the sort of thing that can (justly) be property, Caligula cannot do want he wants with "slaves" because he doesn't (justly) have any claim over them. His assertions to the contrary hardly count as any sort of demonstration - let alone a satisfying demonstration. We could say that, in effect, we put the burden on Caligula to demonstrate that his slaves are not persons. Unless or until he does this, we're justified (besides being generous) in assuming that they are persons.

Additionally, "The Liberal Axiom" makes it "easy" for us to respond to Caligula.By "easy" I mean that we don't have to get bogged down in genetic testing or any technical discussion. I think that genetics route is not altogether hopeless. On the contrary, I think that it has great potential. But, it is, despite it's potential, very sterile, mechanical, and reactive (like we're trying to label a test tube correctly). On the other hand, our axiom seems very organic, social, and proactive (like we're trying to make friends, in other words).

Furthermore, I think that (what I am calling) "The Liberal Axiom" comports fairly closely with other closely associated postures of generosity that we normally associate with "progressive" or "politically liberal"-leaning people. For example, consider the question of whether to give money to a particular person who appears to be homeless. As a first pass, one might think that a (species of) non-liberal position would be to say something like that, "Well, the person who appears to be homeless might be shamming. Or, even if the person is genuinely homeless, he might use our money to buy booze instead of food", or something. And it seems to me that a more liberal approach (in my sense and in something more like the "usual" sense) would be to say, "You know, it's better that we do give the money and it turn out that the person did not need it than that we do not give the money and it turn out that the person did need it. So, let's be generous, and give it."

So, now, let's think about abortion. Why not abort?

One reason may be that we think there are these entities, call them "persons." And these persons have certain minimal rights - let's just take two commonly mentioned examples: the right to life and liberty.

This should sound familiar. Earlier we considered the very same things with respect to slaves. In this case, if we think that there are persons and that persons do have the minimal rights to life and liberty, then we can straightforwardly answer the question "why not abort?" by giving a similar answer: One should not abort because abortion violates the minimal rights of persons (in this case, unborn babies - "fetuses").

But let's consider a recalcitrant mother (pregnant woman). That is, let's consider a mother, call her "Herodias," who maintains that her unborn baby ("fetus") simply is not a person. She may say, similar to what Caligula said about his slaves, that the thing in her womb is her property. Therefore, says Herodias, since her baby is a non-person (her property), she violates no rights in aborting.

As before, let's forego (for the present) traveling down the paths of genetics or religion (as promising as those roads may well be). And let us instead appeal right away to "The Liberal Axiom."

There is a question as to whether the entity in her womb is a person. So, let's be generous and say that it is a person. Or, to put it another way: Let's be liberal about our assumptions of person-hood.

But if we do so, then we must say, just as we said to Caligula: If the entity in question is a person, then it is not the sort of thing that can be another person's property. Rather, it's the sort of thing that should enjoy the basic rights of life and liberty.

And this it seems to me is one of the core values that people who call themselves "liberals" usually prize: Standing up for the basic rights of persons (whoever they may be) - especially those who are voiceless. But, what I think is prior to this, is that we stand up more fundamentally for the recognition of the voiceless (whoever they may be) as persons in the first place. And that's why it seems to me that it is really opposition to abortion that is the truly liberal thing to do.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Sometimes, Sayings Say More than The Sayer Wants Said

Try saying that five times, fast.

Or, consider the saying: "Sow your wild oats."

Users of UrbanDictionary (that august source) suggest the following meanings:

1. "sow one's wild oats, to have a youthful fling at reckless and indiscreet behavior, esp. to be promiscuous before marriage."

2. "to have sex with as many people, [enjoy] life, and have fun before settling down".

And these sentiments seem quite commonly held.

TheFreeDictionary represents about the same range of options, giving the following definitions:

3. "to do wild and foolish things in one's youth. (often assumed to have some sort of sexual meaning.)"

4. "if a young man sows his wild oats, he has a period of his life when he does a lot of exciting things and has a lot of sexual relationships"

Wikipedia notes that the phrase:

5. "...'sowing wild oats' became a way to describe unprofitable activities."

Wikipedia adds: "Given the reputation of oat grain to have invigorating properties and the obvious connection between plant seeds and human 'seed', it is not surprising that the meaning of the phrase shifted towards more or less explicitly referring to the destructive sexual liaisons of an unmarried young male, possibly resulting in unwanted children born out of wedlock."

Now the scientific name for the plant termed the "common wild oat" is Avena fatua. And "Avena" simply means "oats." "fatua" is a cognate of fatuus, which means "foolish, silly, simple[;]...stupid[;]...(of food) insipid, tasteless".

So we see that the idea of "foolishness" is clearly built into the concept of "wild oats," at least as far as the concerns the etymology of the Latin name.

But there's a bit more if we examine some of the characteristics of the wild oat plant itself:

"Avena fatua is spread as a contaminant of cereal seed, by people, by farm animals and through contaminated shared farm implements. ... Avena fatua is considered to be one of the world's worst agricultural weeds ... A  fatua invades and lowers the quality of a field crop, typically wheat or oat fields and competes for resources with the crops. It causes soil dryness and provides favourable conditions for diseases and pests ...".

To summarize: Wild oats are weeds that:

- contaminate fields,
- threaten the viability of nutritious cereals,
- cause soil dryness, and
- encourage diseases

Of course, the assumption in agriculture is that the contamination of a field with wild oats will occur accidentally. It introduces a genuine foolishness, however, if the wild oats are intentionally sown.

"Fool" has the sense, historically speaking, of a person whose head is full of air. A fool is "empty-headed," a "windbag," even "mad, insane".


If we consider human relationships, as opposed to agriculture, I think that we can imagine straightforward applications of our understanding of the wild oat plant to the former. For example, if we take nutritious or profitable plants to correspond to substantial, loving relationships, then the wild oat plant itself will plausibly represent shallow, unloving relationships. Additionally, if we consider fertile, adequately hydrated soil to represent those conditions that are most conducive to the growth of substantial, loving relationships, then we will see that the fact that wild oats promote dry soil, suggests that wild oats will promote conditions that are not conducive to the growth of substantial, loving relationships. Finally, the fact that wild oats encourage disease in an agricultural sense, straightforwardly suggests that persons who "sow wild oats" in a relational sense will similarly encourage sexual diseases. And this latter observation, I take it, has no shortage of independent evidence to support it.

So, given all of this, it does seem insane to intentionally sow one's own field with a weed that is likely to choke out positive relationships, reduce a person's ability to cultivate substantial, loving relationships, and encourage diseases. However, this seems precisely what occurs in the case of a person who "sows his or her wild oats." And thus, it seems to me, the person who explicitly proclaims his or her intention to "sow wild oats" (and perhaps even more the person who proudly summarizes past activities with this phrase) has likely said something far more than he or she likely intended to say. For, in effect, such a person has said that his field (or hers) is a contaminated field. And this is arguably truly spoken.

It serves as a warning too. Any other person who hopes for a nutritious and profitable relationship might be thought wise to plant elsewhere.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Zeitgeist-Style Polemics

Today's image seems created in the geist (spirit) of the movie Zeitgeist. (Note: The movie covers more ground than merely making allegations against the uniqueness of Christianity. I will not presently be mentioning anything other than the material that is relevant to Christianity specifically.)

I won't try to reinvent the wheel. Mark Foreman has a very satisfactory first-pass Christian reply. His article is printed as "Challenging the Zeitgeist Movie: Parallelomania on Steriods" in the volume entitled: Come Let us Reason, Paul Copan and William Lane Craig, Eds. (B&H: Nashville, TN, 2012), pp. 169-185. I will herein summarize a few of (what I take to be) Foreman's most salient points.

As a sort of preliminary, however, I will note that this image has a difficulty that is common to (what I have elsewhere called) "internet polemics" in general - namely, there are little to no sources cited (in this case, no sources cited at all).

(Since it seems likely to me that the single source for this picture is the Zeitgeist movie itself, the image content is only as good as the Zeitgeist sources. And these are questionable, at best. For all of its voluminous citations, the movie relies heavily on a handful of texts, marginal scholars, and several dated works. I myself am open to the possibility that criticisms of, for example, James Frazer's Golden Bough can be at least partially rebutted and his work (to take just one instance) made available for use as a credible source. But this sort of task - of addressing criticisms of Frazer - must actually be carried out. And the necessary work simply has not been done.)

By my lights, Foreman's main points are as follows.

Firstly, responsible "comparative religious study" is carried out by noting contrasts as well as comparisons. Typically, however, in Zeitgeist-style presentations, contrasts between Jesus and the various pagan deities are seldom (if ever) acknowledged. Skipping an honest appraisal of differences tends to give the impression either that there simply are no noteworthy differences (which is simply false) or that the differences are less substantial than, or outweighed by, the similarities (which may be true or false but which can hardly be seriously decided by only looking at similarities).

For example, Attis is a Phrygian deity (also cropping up in Greek mythology) who died (in some versions of his story) through bleeding to death as the result of castration. It may be that, in some versions, Attis' castrated and bleeding body was affixed to some sort of tree - usually a pine. But in other versions, it appears that he merely dies proximate to a pine - perhaps with his blood "fertilizing" the tree (similar to Zeus' fertilization of ground that produced the pomegranate). In any case, the point is that in the myth of Attis there is a distinct focus on castration that is altogether absent in the biblical texts relating the story of Jesus. And this difference seems important enough to mention.

Secondly, in a serious comparative religious enterprise, the comparisons that are made should arise "organically." That is, roughly speaking, they should not be "artificial" or forced comparisons. However, in Zeitgeist-style presentations, at least two difficulties arise at this point. Number one, a comparison can fail to be clearly "organic" (in the relevant sense) if the point of comparison is only obvious once a myth with differing versions has had one version carefully selected in order to make the comparison obvious, when it would not have been obvious otherwise.

Take a case. Let's consider Attis again. There are numerous versions of the Attis myth, as has been stated. In some versions, Attis is said to have castrated himself and subsequently bleeds to death (this may correspond to various goddess cults where male priests ostensibly castrated themselves in acts of worship). In other versions, he is castrated by a rival king (which rivalry may correspond to the sacred king-tanist duality in killing of the divine king type rituals). Sometimes, Attis is said to have been castrated by a wild animal - chiefly, a boar. And, as has been mentioned, these castrations are linked to the pine tree in various ways - for example, Attis may be castrated and die under or near the tree, or he may be castrated and then die on or in the tree, or he may be placed on or in the tree and then castrated, etc. But which version shall we favor? It's not at all clear - at least to me - that a version of the Attis myth where, say, Attis castrates himself and perishes on the floor of a forest, is any sort of Jesus parallel - let alone an obvious parallel. In Zeitgeist-style presentations, the favored version of a myth is decided in advance by the agenda of the film. Since the point of a Zeitgeist-style presentation is to suggest mythological antecedents for Jesus, it is apparent that the favored version of the Attis myth (or any other myth) will be that version that seems the closest to the story of Jesus. Foreman puts it this way: "These writers [such as the Zeitgeist authors] seem to use the life of Jesus as a guide for how to connect the dots for the life of [a pagan god, e.g. Attis or Horus] and then proclaim that the story of Jesus is based on [that god] - when actually [in terms of the direction of comparison] it is the other way around!" (p. 182)

Number two, the comparisons can fail to be "organic" if the comparison is anachronistically or ectopically labeled with distinctly Christian terms. Foreman calls this "the terminological fallacy," by which he means that "events in the lives of mythical gods...are expressed using Christian terminology in order subtly [or not so subtly] to manipulate viewers into accepting that the same events in the life of Jesus also happened in the lives of mythical gods."

Foreman specifically mentions the following illustrations of this phenomenon. "We are told...that Horus, Krishna, Dionysus, and others were 'baptized,' 'born of a virgin,' 'crucified,' and 'resurrected'... . Examples of such locutions, however, involve assertions with no evidence, are ripped out of their Christian context, or are obtained from post-first century [and hence post-early-Christian] sources" (p. 177).

Just take the case of "baptism." Both the baptism of John the Baptist (which Jesus underwent) and the distinctly Christian baptisms (which function as an initiatory rite into Christianity), are theologically "thick" notions. That is, they arguably contain numerous, discrete concepts. Now it would indeed be quite remarkable if a comparison of Christian baptism (in either or both of the relevant senses) with, say, something in the life of Horus, had substantive points of contact with some weighted sum of the various concepts in the "thick" conception. But, such a "thick" conception is usually set aside in favor of a "thin" conception whereby "baptism" is evacuated of most (if not all) of its distinctly Christian constitutive concepts, and "baptism" is reduced to something very common, such as "being in water" (or something). But comparisons employing such "thin" concepts are arguably entirely unremarkable. If "baptism" merely means the very "thin" notion of "being in water," then, of course, numerous pagan gods will be "comparable" to Jesus in this sense, for it is very common for persons to be in water. As I said, "thicker" notions of baptism will get increasingly more interesting - the "thicker" they become. But we need to have a careful explanation of the full concept of "baptism" that is being compared in order to gauge the level of interest that the comparison has. But, Zeitgeist-style presentations typically include nothing remotely approaching "a careful explanation of the full concept of 'baptism' that is being compared". Usually, Zeitgeist-style presentations appear to have a very "thin" concept of "baptism" and use the word "baptism" without qualification arguably in order to obscure this thinness.

As a quick follow-up, the case of Mithraism yields an example of what Foreman termed evidence "obtained from post-first century [and hence post-early-Christian] sources" (Ibid.). For although Mithraism predates the second century, all of the extant evidence for Mithraic beliefs and practices dates from no earlier than the second century. The earliest descriptions of Mithraism that we possess date from an era that comes after the inception of Christianity. Hence, even apparent similarities between Mithraism and Christianity can be explained in one of (at least) three different ways: (1) coincidence, (2) Christianity consciously borrowing from Mithraism, or (3) Mithraism concsiously borrowing from Christianity. Although option #1 is arguably rightly disfavored and set aside, somehow the third option is seldom even mentioned, let alone seriously discussed. But, prima facie, it might seem like the best option. Here's one reason: Mithraism was a famously syncretistic mystery cult; whereas, Christianity was scrupulously exclusivistic (many Christians died, in fact, rather than incorporate foreign ideas into their belief system). Therefore, given a deliberate policy of syncretism, Mithraism is, in might be suspected (antecedently) highly likely to have modified (at least the presentation, and possibly the deeper significance of) many of its beliefs and practices as a result of historical contact with Christianity.

Thirdly, and lastly for present purposes, Foreman makes the point that much of what passes as an insight into legitimate comparative religion, is merely a glossy and lengthy instance of the logical fallacy known as post hoc, ergo propter hoc - that is, the fallacy that starts with a premise that says B happened after A and then automatically tries to conclude, from time sequence alone, that B happened BECAUSE OF A.

A sort of textbook example of this would be something like the following: "I had a cold. I took some over-the-counter cold relief formula and then my cold was gone the next morning. Therefore, my cold was gone the next morning BECAUSE I took the cold relief formula the previous night." But, the conclusion does not automatically follow from the stated premise alone, because it is entirely possible (to consider just one example) that the cold had nearly "run its course" and would have been "gone the next morning" even if I had not consumed the cold relief formula when I did.

In a similar way, the basic structure of a number of Zeitgeist style arguments seems merely to be this: Jesus came after such-and-such god. Therefore, Jesus is based on such-and-such god. But, in this form, the argument seems to commit the "after this, therefore because of this" fallacy.

As a final word Foreman points out, following Hugo Rahner, that insofar as "humans are religious beings" (as Proverbial wisdom often asserts and which Christianity seems explicitly to hold), we should expect that the myriad forms of human religion should have numerous points of similarity and overlap - symbolically, doxastically, and practically. This really should not surprise reflective observers. Of course, substantial comparisons can be interesting. But if they are to amount to more than curious anecdotes, such comparisons will have to be meticulously drawn and contrasts will have to be soberly evaluated. In some cases, two hour presentations fail to be sufficiently meticulous or sober. A fortiori, we should be very suspicious about hastily put together text-images.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The "Gospel of Judas" and "Yezidism" ("Yazidism")

The Gospel of Judas

What is now known as the "Gospel of Judas" is basically one of several texts, written in Coptic between AD 140-160, which is recorded on a document that has been called "Codex Tchacos," and which represents a series of alleged exchanges between "Jesus" and "Judas Iscariot."

Bart Ehrman comments that "[T]he ...gospel...portrays Judas quite differently from anything we previously knew. Here he is not the evil, corrupt, devil-inspired follower of Jesus who betrayed his master by handing him over to his enemies. He is instead Jesus' closest intimate and friend, the one who understood Jesus better than anyone else, who turned Jesus over to the authorities because Jesus wanted him to do so. In handing him over, Judas performed the greatest service imaginable. According to this gospel, Jesus wanted to escape this material world that stands opposed to God and return to his heavenly home." ("Christianity Turned on Its Head: The Alternative Vision of the Gospel of Judas," in Rodophe Kasser, Marvin Meyer, and Gregor Wurst, eds., The Gospel of Judas (Washington DC: National Geographic, 2006), pp. 79-80.)

For example, in the text Jesus is represented as telling Judas: "[Y]ou will exceed all of them [presumably, the other folks we know as the Apostles]. For you will sacrifice the man that clothes me." (Loc. Cit., p. 43.)

So in Christian Tradition and Scripture, Judas is the betrayer of the Son of Man, Jesus Christ. In Gnostic Tradition and Scripture, however, he is the Enlightened enabler of the Gnostic Christ's secret mission. 

Eblis/Iblis/Tawsi Melek

There is an interesting tale told apparently circulated in Persian, Arabic, and Islamic religious tradition. Apparently: 

"Eblis (Iblis, Haris - "despair") - in Persian and Arabic lore, Eblis is the equivalent of the Christian Satan. ... 'Before his fall he [Eblis] was called Azazel. When Adam was created, God commanded all the angels to worship him [Adam], but Eblis refused.' ... Thereupon God turned Eblis into a shetan (devil) and he became the father of devils. ..." ("Eblis," Gustav Davidson, A Dictionary of Angels including the Fallen Angels (New York: Free Press, 1971), p. 101.)

We need to keep careful track of the names, here. "Shetan" is given as a variant of "Shaitan" (also spelled "Shaytan") in: Patricia Turner and Charles Russell Coulter, Dictionary of Ancient Dieties (New York: Oxford UP, 2000), "Shaitan," p. 422.

Aleister Crowley's disciple Kenneth Grant writes that "...that most ancient god whose image was worshipped in the deserts" was named "Shaitan, and, long ages earlier, ...Set, the soul or double of Horus." (The Magical Revival, http://www.hermetics.org/pdf/magick_revival.pdf) Grant further identifies Shaitan with Satan (among other figures): "Shaitan, Satan, or Set, is Hoor-paar-Kraat, the concealed aspect of Horus, whose manifest side is Ra-Hoor-Khuit. Shaitan is the god of the South..." (Ibid.)

Further interesting connections with Eblis/Satan/Shaitan/Set are as follows: "Iblis Eblis (Islamic) The Prince of Darkness. Chief of the Jinn. Originally he was the angel Azazel. ..." (Turner and Coulter, op. cit., p. 231.) Additionally, "Set" or "Seth" is a name with a number of relevant occurrences. First of all, it designates the Egyptian deity that the Greeks called Typhon. Below, Set (with the head of the unknown and so-called "Set-animal") is pictured with the Waas Scepter (staff of chaos or death, or Phoenix Wand) in his right hand, and the "key of life" (ankh, or crux ansata).

Second, "Seth [Hebrew: Shet]" also refers to the third son of Adam and Eve. "After Cain killed his brother Abel and was banished, Eve bore another son to her husband, Adam. She called him Seth, saying, 'God has appointed me for another child instead of Abel, for Cain slew him' (Gen. 4:25). ... The image of God that was conferred upon the human race in Genesis 1:26-27 was transmitted through the line of Seth..." (Who's Who in The Bible: An Illustrated Biographical Dictionary (Pleasantville, NY: Reader's Digest, 1994) "Seth," p. 393.)

Third, "Seth" is "one of the 7 archons in the gnostic system" (Davidson, op. cit., p. 268.) "Archon" is "a Greek term meaning 'ruler'... [and] is the name of a class of entities who played an important role in Gnostic thought and who are roughly comparable to evil archangels" (James R. Lewis and Evelyn Dorothy Oliver, Angels A to Z (Detroit: Visible Ink Press, 1996), "Archon," p. 51).

Fourth, "Sethian" is a name given to one of the groups of Second century Gnostics. It was the Gnostics who held that "...Seth was the founder of a special 'generation,' the chosen ones, the sparks of light" (N.T. Wright, Judas and the Gospel of Jesus (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2006), p. 34.). Ehrman remarks that "...not everyone has a spark of the divine within them: Only some of us do. The other people are the creations of the inferior god of this world." (Op. cit., p. 86.)

Incidentally, Ehrman mentions that another group of Gnostics (which may or may not have been the same as the "Sethians") were referred to by Irenaeus as the "Cainites" (Ibid., p. 90). In general, Gnostics held that the Creator-god (or demiurge) was a fool ("saklas") they identified this entity with the "god of the Old Testament" such that "...all the figures in Jewish and Christian history who stood against God - Cain, the men of Sodom and Gomorrah, and eventually Judas Iscariot - were the ones who had seen the truth and understood the secrets necessary for salvation. ... Anything that God commanded, they opposed, and anything that God opposed, they supported" (Ibid., p. 90.).

This viewpoint practically expresses verbatim the (Rabelaisian) Thelemic mystical worldview of Aleister Crowley.  

Alright, now Grant further states that "[T]he oldest of all deities - Set or Shaitan - was adored in the deserts by the Yezidi." And he elsewhere informs his readers that "the Yezidi" are "the 'devil' worshippers of Lower Mesopotamia." (Op. cit.

The Yezidi (Yazidi), in turn, refer to "Shaitan" as "Tawsi Melek" - usually avoiding the name "Shaitan" so as to discourage his association with Satan. Here is what the Yezidi say about Tawsi Melek:

"The Yezidis believe that Tawsi Melek is every place in the universe at every moment. ... To those who call upon him with great devotion, Tawsi Melek may manifest in a variety forms, including a bright light, a rainbow, a boy, a young man, a snake, and, of course, a peacock. ... The Peacock Angel has been falsely accused of being Satan or the Devil for hundreds of years by censuring Moslems. ... Tawsi Melek is recognized by the Yesidis to be king of the entire universe, including Earth, but over the centuries both Moslems and Christians have ascribed Luciferian connotations to the 'King of the World.' Moreover, the Yezidis belief that Tawsi Melek was the co-creator of the universe with the Supreme God could have inspired a dualistic Islamic philosopher to misconstrue him as an eternally separate and opposite spirit from God. Since God is eternally good, according to Islamic philosophy, this would automatically make Tawsi Melek the Evil One. ... The alternate name for Tawsi Melek they refer to is not Azazel, but Aziz, a name meaning 'something precious.' ... The Yezidis honor the goat because, like the Hindus’ cow, it sacrifices itself and supplies many of their needs. It gives them milk, wool, etc." (http://www.yeziditruth.org/more-about-the-peacock-angel)

Of course, there is much of interest in the above collection. The attribution to Tawsi Melek of (something like) the classical theistic incommuincable divine attribute of omnipresence, hearkens to the description given in Isaiah: "How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High" (14:12-14, KJV).

The mention of manifestation as "a bright light" is suggestive both of Lucifer ("light-bearer," Phosphorus) as well as the "Dog-Star," Sirius of Canis Major, as mentioned by Kenneth Grant in connection with Set/Shaitan/Satan.

The rainbow could be thought suggestive, in a contemporary context, to the gay rights movement (another possible connection comes via Ehrman's lumping together of Cain and the men of Sodom and Gomorrah).

The "snake" is of course reminiscent of the serpent in the Garden of Eden (linked by Crowley and Grant to Kundalini), cf. Revelation 12:9: "The great dragon was hurled down--that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray" (NIV).

The author of the quoted passage explicitly draws the link between Tawsi Melek and the Biblical "god of the age"/"god of this world" as per 2 Corinthians 4:4: "Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don't believe" (NLT; among other passages, e.g., Matthew 4:9 and 9:34; Ephesians 2:2; John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11; et. al.). As "co-creator," he's linked to something like the concept of the Platonic Demiurgos - which introduces a complication in the sense that the Gnostics held that the demiurge was basically a fool. However, this is not, I think, an insuperable difficulty to the present suggestions. Moreover, even the revised "Aziz" (from the overtly evil "Azazel" or "Azaziel") is still somewhat evocative of, and similarly to, "Azza," an alternative name for "Shemyaza"/"Semyaza"/Semjaza/Semiaza (etc.), "a fallen angel who is suspended between Heaven and earth (along with Azzael) as punishment for having had carnal knowledge of mortal women" (Davidson, op. cit., p. 65.).

"He was the leader of the evil angels who fell, or one of their leaders. ... It is said he now hangs, head down, and is the constellation Orion. ... Levi, Transcendental Magic, suggests that Orion 'would be identical with the angel Michael doing battle with the dragon, and the appearance of this sign in the sky would be, for the cabalist, a portent of victory and happiness'," (Ibid., p. 265.)

Jim Brandon relates the strange story, apparently told by some alleged "UFO-abductees" that there is a war of sorts going on between "friendly" aliens from Sirius and "wicked" aliens from Orion (cf. Rebirth of Pan, pp. 232-3, et. al.). Finally, the goat symbolism is patent.

Crowley connects Capricorn, the deity Pan, Baphomet, and Satan (cf. The Book of Thoth [Stamford, CT: US Games Sys. Inc., 1996, 1944], p. 105.) - all of which are represented in the Tarot's "major arcana" ("trumps"). Concerning ATU XV. The Devil, he writes: "This card ...refers to Capricornus [the goat - MJB]...[which] sign is ruled by Saturn...Baphomet, the ass-headed idol of the Knights of the Temple...Pan...Pan Pangenetor..." (Ibid.).

Finally, it is noteworthy that "Melek" ("King") is closely linked to Moloch (alt.: Molech, Molek). "A deity bearing the title Melek, but corrupted to Molek, was worshipped in the next period." (Source: W. Carleton Wood, "The Religion of Canaan: From the Earliest Times to the Hebrew Conquest," Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 35, No. 1/2 [1916], p. 90, <http://www.jstor.org/stable/3259344>.)

"The Gospel of Shaitan"

Recall Davidson's description of the tradition surrounding Iblis/Shaitan. He read in the Koran: "...And when we said to the angels, 'Adore Adam,' they adored him, save only Iblis, who was of the jinn, who revolted from the bidding of his Lord." (Sura 18.48)

The Yezidi say that this is merely a false "allegation" against Tawsi Melek - "part of the Moslems’ attempt to convince the world of his Satanic nature" (http://www.yeziditruth.org/more-about-the-peacock-angel). Yezidi maintain that it simply is not true that: "The Peacock Angel was in the Garden of Eden and because of his pride he refused God’s order to bow to Adam" or that: "This show of pride caused the fall of Lucifer and established an eternal enmity between God and the Peacock Angel" (Ibid.)

The truth, Yezidi claim, is that: "In the Yezidi tradition it is indeed stated that the Peacock Angel was present in the Garden of Eden. He failed to bow down to Adam because he was obeying God. The Yezidis claim that previous to the creation of Adam the Supreme God had informed all Seven Great Angels never bow down to any other entity other than Him" (Ibid., emphasis added).

"[T]he Yazidi story regarding Tawûsê Melek's rise to favor with God is almost identical to the story of the jinn Iblis in Islam, except that Yazidis revere Tawûsê Melek for refusing to submit to Adam, while Muslims believe that Iblis' refusal to submit caused him to fall out of Grace with God, and to later become Satan himself." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yazidi)

"Yazidi accounts of creation differ from that of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. They believe that God first created Tawûsê Melek from his own illumination (Ronahî) and the other six archangels were created later. God ordered Tawûsê Melek not to bow to other beings. Then God created the other archangels and ordered them to bring him dust (Ax) from the Earth (Erd) and build the body of Adam. Then God gave life to Adam from his own breath and instructed all archangels to bow to Adam. The archangels obeyed except for Tawûsê Melek. In answer to God, Tawûsê Melek replied, "How can I submit to another being! I am from your illumination while Adam is made of dust." Then God praised him and made him the leader of all angels and his deputy on the Earth. (This likely furthers what some see as a connection to the Islamic Shaytan, as according to the Quran he too refused to bow to Adam at God's command, though in this case it is seen as being a sign of Shaytan's sinful pride.) Hence the Yazidis believe that Tawûsê Melek is the representative of God on the face of the Earth, and comes down to the Earth on the first Wednesday of Nisan (April). Yazidis hold that God created Tawûsê Melek on this day, and celebrate it as New Year's Day. Yazidis argue that the order to bow to Adam was only a test for Tawûsê Melek, since if God commands anything then it must happen. (Bibe, dibe). In other words, God could have made him submit to Adam, but gave Tawûsê Melek the choice as a test. They believe that their respect and praise for Tawûsê Melek is a way to acknowledge his majestic and sublime nature. This idea is called "Knowledge of the Sublime" (Zanista Ciwaniyê). Şêx Adî has observed the story of Tawûsê Melek and believed in him" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melek_Taus).


Hinduism and Deepak Chopra's "The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success"

Chopra & Hinduism

Metaphysics (What exists?):

I. Being

Spirit [brahman] is ultimate reality and there is nothing real (or at least “really-real”) besides spirit. This is usually construed both as a species of monism – the idea that “all reality is one sort of thing – as well as a species of pantheism – the idea that “all is god.”

3 Components of reality (divisions or aspects of brahman)
1. Spirit – the observer [purusha]
2. Mind – the process of observing [buddhi]
3. Body/Physical/Ego – the (thing) observed [prakriti]

3 Characteristics [gunas] of the physical [prakriti]
1. Activity – energy/passion [rajas]
2. Transparency – goodness/love [sattva]
3. Inactivity – inertia [tamas]

II. Becoming

The process of creation is that of ontologically identical [“Atman is Brahman”], but numerically plural spirits [atman, purusha] in motion [buddhi] manifesting itself as the physical [prakriti].

Epistemology (How does one come to knowledge?)

The process of coming-to-know is that of re-orienting the process of will [buddhi] such that the illusion-self, or ego [prakriti] will be dissolved and the true-self, or spirit [atman, purusha] will overcome its ignorance [maya].

4 practical elements of the will or discriminator [buddhi] being re-oriented to overcome suffering [dukkha] and ignorance [maya]:
1. Silence [Mauna]
2. Meditation [dhyana]*
3. Non-judgment**
4. Nature activities***

* “Meditation,” here, can (seemingly) be narrowly or broadly construed. Narrowly, it would appear to correspond to (something like) the repetition of the so-called “transformative syllables” (like the pranava mantra, “Om”). Broadly, it may be thought to correspond to the entire “8 Limbs” of the Yoga-Sutra, proper: Abstention [yama], observance [niyama], posture [asana], breathing [pranayana], insensibility [pratyahara], concentration [dharana], meditation [dhyana], and “oneness with Brahman” [samadhi].

** There does not appear to me to be a straightforward analog to “non-judgment” in classical Hinduism. On the contrary, one of the “5 Abstentions” in Yoga is a commitment to truth [satya]. And the very concept of “truth” requires a complementary notion of “non-truth” or falsity. And, presumably, the ability to distinguish the true from the not-true depends upon some sort of judgment faculty or discrimination. Additionally, in Samkhya, the form of Hinduism from which Chopra apparently draws heavily (if not exclusively), the very word “Samkhya” means “enumeration” and has to do with the correct explication and recognition – for the purpose of enlightenment – of the categories of reality. In Samkhya, it is the mind [boddhi] which is our “discriminator.” And we need discrimination to rightly construe reality, cast off illusion [maya], and achieve enlightenment [bodhi, moksha, Samadhi, etc.]. Chopra himself posits several fundamental constituents of reality – chiefly, spirit, mind, and ego or body. Hence, Chopra is either recommending these categories to us as true judgments of what reality is, or he is not. Chopra thus faces a dilemma. If he is recommending his metaphysics to us as true, then his principle of “non-judgment” is either blatantly contradictory or selectively applied. If he is not recommending his metaphysics to us as true, then, frankly, we have no motivation at all to consider his recommendation. For why should we consider Chopra’s notions if Chopra himself does not even think that they are the truth?

*** I could find no precise analog in classical Hinduism to Chopra’s advocacy of (a vague notion of) “nature activities”. However, classical Hinduism does think of life as divided into various stages.
4 Stages of Life:
1. Student [brahmacarin]
2. Householder [grhastha]
3. Forest-dweller [vanaprastha]
4. Hermit/renouncer [sannyasin]
The third stage of “forest-dweller” may be what Chopra has in mind. Although, standard presentations of these four stages usually depicts that as at least possibly figurative. However, whether literal or figurative, the notion of forest-dwelling seems compatible with Chopra’s suggestion to commune with nature.

III. Ethics/Soteriology (What is good and right? What is redemption?)

The central problem (the “human condition”): Humans are plagued with ignorance [maya] of our true natures and this ignorance leads to suffering [dukkha].

What is good and right is governed by a sort of cosmic law [dharma]. Chopra actually gives the word “dharma” in his book. He renders it as “purpose in life.” Elsewhere, the term is given variously as: “law”, “truth”, “maintenance”, and “duty”. The idea of “purpose” and “duty” are connected because in Hindu thought one’s purpose is bound up with one’s station [caste] in life.

4 + 1 Hindu Castes:
1. Priests [brahmins]
2. Warrior-nobles [ksatriyas]
3. Merchant-farmers [vaisyas]
4. Servants [sudras]
0. Outcastes/untouchables [dalits]

Additionally, classical Hinduism is very misogynistic. Hence, there is at least a shadow-side side to the caste system, whereby males and females are further differentiated.

Karma” designates the effect of previous lives and actions – whether “positive” or “negative” – on future possibilities. Karma governs reincarnation. It is the impersonal principle of “universal justice”.

One’s present station in life – in terms of genus, species, gender, and caste – is governed by karma. And one’s dharma-purpose is determined by one’s present station in life.

IV. A Few Minor Critical Observations of Chopra's Book The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success

In general, Chopra appears to me to be a fairly orthodox Hindu of the Samkhya-Yoga variety. As such, standard objections against Hinduism would apply. For example, there is a charge that standard formulations of Hinduism are sexist and far too parochial. But, let these general concerns pass.

More interesting to me are the issues of internal coherence is Chopra’s idiosyncratic presentation.

These specific concerns have a common undercurrent. Namely, in order to appear to integrate “Western science” and “Eastern philosophy” Chopra has to depart from standard formulations of both Western science and Eastern philosophy. For instance, Chopra speaks of cells as having “higher selves” and as being “perfectly” able to adapt and respond to their environments. However, he elsewhere connects the ability to create consciously with the possession of a nervous system, which cells plainly do not have. Additionally, it is not clear how cellular perfection can be reasonably inferred from evidence which much surely acknowledge all sort of cytological pathologies, including various cancers, viruses, and the like. Additionally, Chopra detaches “purpose” from the Hindu caste system and introduces the novelty of a sort of broad-based pursuit of affluence. Possibly, Chopra is assuming that his readership, being born in the United States, has, in virtue of being born in the United States and not into the abject poverty of an obviously “third world” country, shown that they have pretty good karma. For if they didn’t, they would have been born somewhere else. But, he doesn’t say this explicitly. In any case, the focus on wealth accrual is not found in classical Hinduism, which focuses upon overcoming ignorance and achieving enlightenment.

Chopra trades both ways on several concepts:

  1. Certainty: Chopra seems to imply that people can be certain that they have a unique talent and purpose. But, he elsewhere holds up uncertainty as a sort of epistemic virtue.
  2. Possibility: Chopra describes his metaphysical system as one in which possibilities abound – infinite possibilities, in fact. However, he explicitly says that out of an infinity of possibilities that presents itself to us every second, only one is the correct choice that will enhance our happiness and the happiness of our friends.
  3. Judgment: Chopra claims to advocate non-judgment (presumably in line with the politically correct, Pollyanna maxim of “tolerance”). However, he presents an entire metaphysical, epistemological, and axiological-soteriological system to his readers as the truth. Additionally, one cannot consistently affirm a “no judgment” principle and also affirm that there are right choices/actions as opposed to wrong ones. But, Chopra does both.
  4. Boundaries: On the one hand, Chopra wants to affirm that there are no real physical boundaries. For example, the entire universe is just an extension of one’s body, he writes. However, he does affirm that different, localized bodies have different, discreet “higher selves” and purposes. It’s not clear where these divisions of intention, purpose, and spirituality come from, if “all is one.” And it’s not clear why “humans” have purposes that are distinct from their cells. And there are many related difficulties.
  5. Response and anticipation: Chopra writes that responding to situations in anticipation is always “fear based.” However, if a reader were to adopt Chopra’s system, it’s not clear that the reader wouldn’t do so precisely because he or she anticipated good things and wanted to respond to reality the way Chopra advocates. But, then, either Chopra’s system is “fear based” also. Or, not all response-anticipation pairs are fear based.

Finally, and more seriously, there seems to me to be a pervasive difficulty running through Chopra’s entire presentation.

V. Major Criticism of Chopra 

To review, Chopra sees humans as composites of spirit, will, and ego. The ego is the “false self”. The will is the “process of observing”. And the spirit is the “true self.” But, there are passages, too numerous for me presently to exhaustively enumerate, in which Chopra uses the word “you” without being clear as to which of the pieces of the composite self he is wanting to designate. For example, he writes: “As you gain more and more access to your true nature, you will also spontaneously receive creative thoughts…” (p. 20). “When your internal reference point is the egoyou spend energy is a wasteful way. … When that energy is freed up, it can be rechanneled and used to create anything that you want. When your internal reference point is your spirit…, you can harness the power of love…” (p. 56). “…seek my higher self, which is beyond my ego…discover my unique talents…ask myself how I am best suited to serve humanity…” (p. 100). “If you put your attention on these laws and practice the steps outlined in this book, you will see that you can manifest anything you want – all the affluence, money, and success that you desire” (p. 109). And examples can be multiplied.

The central difficulty then, or so it seems to me, is that there is a fundamental ambiguity to the word “you” that shoots through Chopra’s entire presentation. For, each occurrence of “you” could designate “spirit” (whether individual or ultimate), “mind”, or “ego”. And it is either not always clear which is intended. Or, when it seems clear, Chopra’s point is either undercut or the motivation a reader has for adopting his system is severely lessened.

Take just one example, the sentence from p. 109: “If you put your attention on these laws and practice the steps outlined in this book, you will see that you can manifest anything you want – all the affluence, money, and success that you desire.”

This sentence could be read any of the following ways:

If ego-you puts the ego’s attention on these laws and practices the steps outlined in this book, the ego will see that the ego can manifest anything that the ego wants – all the affluence, money, and success that the ego desires” (p. 109).

Or:

If the spirit puts the spirit’s attention on these laws and practice the steps outlined in this book, the spirit will see that the spirit can manifest anything that the spirit wants – all the affluence, money, and success that the spirit desires” (p. 109).

But, probably:

If the will puts the will’s attention on these laws and practice the steps outlined in this book, the will will see that the spirit can manifest anything that the spirit wants – all the affluence, money, and success that the spirit desires” (p. 109).

Something like the latter reading is probably correct. However, and here is the practical difficulty, most people attracted to Chopra’s book are probably attracted by the prospect of being able to get what their ego desires. But, plausibly, Chopra’s system is not really designed to fulfill ego-desires. It’s designed to show that the spirit you have is one and the same with the spirit of everyone else and indeed the entire world-spirit. But, then, the real desires that will be fulfilled are not the ones that YOU (the ego) THINK that you have NOW; rather, the real desires that will be fulfilled are the one’s that your true self (the spirit) has and which YOU (as will) will only discover when your ego subsides and you overcome ignorance and gain enlightenment.

But then, at any time:

EITHER:

  1. You – as spirit – are truly, consciously plugged into the creative power of the universe

OR:

  1. You – as ego – have various distinctive, idiosyncratic desires.

But, it won’t be both. Hence, if you have the power to realize the ego’s desires, you won’t have the ego desires any more. And if you do have the ego desires, you won’t have the true power.

But, then, the point of Chopra’s system will have been deflated for many people.

Classical Hinduism strives to realize that the true self is really one with the universe. One gets “affluence” only at the price of losing one’s distinctiveness.

[Matthew Bell (Composed/Compiled Spring 2012, Posted Fall 2012)]