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Showing 526-550 of 559 posts in this discussion
Posted on Feb 13, 2012 8:22:55 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jun 6, 2012 3:55:01 PM PDT
'probabilist says:
Michael Huggins replied to Daniel Dickson-LaPrade's opening post (on the thread titled "How NOT to Argue against Religion"):

Daniel, your posts are often thoughtful, so I'll respond here, as an atheist, by saying that I think you're overlooking a couple of things.

First, I despise the sort of atheist whose unbelief seems to be founded on little or nothing but personal pique and who feels an uncontrollable urge to get up in the faces of believers and scream out insults.

Having said that, I think religion rightly bears some heavy burdens.

>new atheists--Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens

I personally don't find much value in such a label. As far as I can tell, the "new atheists" are simply saying what many atheists have always believed, except that they are being more feisty about it. If a Christian finds this hard to sympathize with, I would say the Christian should ask himself how he would feel if he woke up in Deseret (later the state of Utah) in the 1850s and found a subtle but ever-present and inescapable pressure to accept the doctrines of Mormonism, take many wives (if he were a man, or, if a woman, let herself become one of someone's many wives), or face legal penalties and social ostracism. Don't you think that the Christian would eventually want to just go out in the public square and shout "I'm sick to death of all this nonsense!"

Don't you think, for that matter, that Christians must feel the same in Pakistan right now, where they must meet in secret for fear of persecution? Don't you think Muslims must feel the same in Murfreesboro, TN where, after years of peaceably meeting in a rented hall, they wished to do nothing but erect their own place of worship, and it provoked a community uproar?

What I often find, in arguments from believers, is that they tend to oversimplify the issue at hand, imagining that there is a stark choice between those who believe as they do and an unbelieving world. In fact, atheists have had centuries to observe how ready people of faith are to subject their fellow humans of different beliefs to savage persecution in the name of God, Allah, or some other figure.

Which leads me to the next point you make:

>Never mind the Jacobins, the Maoists, or the Stalinists.

The Jacobins were not mostly atheists, if that is what you mean to say; Robespierre, the architect of the Reign of Terror, was on record as being disgusted with the "de-Christianizers" among the Revolutionaries and, indeed, put on a "Festival of the Supreme Being" just a month before his death. If you doubt this, check "Citizens," Simon Schama's monumental history of the French Revolution. The prominent Jacobin line was to substitute "Constitutional Clergy" to hold Deistic masses at Notre Dame in the place of the traditional Christian clergy.

It is true that the Soviets and Maoists adopted a policy of state atheism, and few things disgust me more than the sort of ignorant atheist who won't admit this. Lenin actually went so far as to expel a faction of the early Bolsheviks who would not thoroughly adopt dialectical materialism and clung to a more idealist metaphysics. Many Christians, clergy and lay, suffered horribly under these regimes. However, the following should also be noted:

1. Hatred of religion was not a part of their program in the same way that hatred of Jews was part of Naziism. Communists wanted to destroy traditional power structures, and they saw the church, with some reason, as either their determined enemies or the dupes of those who were. A person may be an atheist, as I am, or even a Marxist, as some college professors are, without finding it necessary to call for Christians to be lined up and shot.

2. Even if we consider Communist persecution of Christians in itself, where did they get their models? From Christians. Were you not aware of this? Did you not know that before the Communists came to power, anti-Jewish pogroms were taking place, instigated by the Orthodox Christian Czar? Going back further in history, have you ever read of the schism within the Russian Orthodox Church in the 17th century, between mainstream Orthodox and so-called Old Believers? Do you know what Christians were doing to each other back then? Tying each other to wagon wheels and smashing each other's bones with sledgehammers. And why? Over the issue of whether to make the sign of the cross with two fingers, symbolizing the dual nature of Christ (human and divine) or with three fingers, symbolizing the Trinity. I'm not kidding. If you doubt this, see the relevant chapter in "Peter the Great, His Life and Work," by Robert K. Massie.

Did you know that Stalin was raised in this same Orthodox tradition (as, indeed, were the Serbs who slaughtered Bosnian Muslims 12 years ago under Milosevic)? Do you think it's a stretch to suppose that he didn't have to look very far to learn his cruelty?

Do you know what often happens if an atheist brings this up? We are told "Oh, but they weren't *true* Christians." Is it really so strange, in the light of that, that the atheist is tempted to throw up his hands in exasperation?

>1) Assuming that all things with the adjective "Christian," "Muslim," etc. in front of them refer to the same belief system and the same belief community. Want to attack Catholicism? Just find something which a "Catholic" government or ruler or organization did at any time in the last 1500 years that was terrible. Ta da!

But really, how is that any different from what you just tried to do in linking atheism with Stalinism and Maoism, above? Isn't it a standard Christian argument that whenever atheists are in power, gulags and firing squads follow? Aren't you really objecting to the fact that you think atheists are borrowing from the Christian apologist's script?

>Religious traditions have histories. New Atheists are abjectly ignorant of those histories--which harms their points and their credibility.

But suppose an atheist, old or new, does know something about these traditions? Does that mean he is supposed to discount the Inquisition, or the slaughter of 13th-century Albigensians, or Protestants seizing Catholic emissaries and throwing them out a 3rd-storey window in 1618 because, after all, it's not nice to think about such things? Do you mean that Stalinist torture chambers are fair game for the Christian to mention, but talking about Christian torture chambers only show the atheist's "ignorance"?

>2) Assuming that any evil act done by a self-identified religious group was done PRIMARILY BECAUSE of religion.

Well, again, how is that any different from the argument you have made about the role of atheism in Stalinism and Maoism, above?

>bin Laden also cites western colonialism in the Middle East quite extensively.

And before there *was* a "West," so Edward Gibbons reminds us in his "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" (which goes to the fall of Constantinople in 1453), a Muslim caliph, having fought his way across North Africa, steadily conquering territory for Islam, fell to his knees at the shore of the Atlantic and cried, "O Allah! If I were permitted, I would cross the sea and put to the sword all those who do not profess thy holy name!"

I too believe that it is a misrepresentation to conceive of all Islam as savage, but neither Osama nor I have far to look, in the Quran, for texts that support just such uses. In fact, I was struck, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, in reading the Quran, to come across this passage: "Wherever you are, death shall seek you out, *even in lofty towers*" (emphasis mine, and I am not claiming that anyone took that passage as a direct instigation to fly the planes into the WTC, but I did find the coincidence striking).

So should I understand you to be saying that if a Stalinist quotes Marx and then shoots a Christian, that's a, umm, "smoking gun" about the practical results of atheism, but if Osama quotes the Quran and then 9/11 occurs, that's not particularly significant?

>3) Ignoring religious PRACTICE by PEOPLE in favor of TEXTS.

Well that's interesting that you should bring that up because, in my opinion, religions have often been saved from their own worst tendencies only when they stopped taking their own texts so seriously. So they end up in the rather awkward position of being barbaric if they believe their own teachings and humane and civilized only if they don't. When Christians were really prepared to follow the Bible to the nth degree, we had the Salem Witch Trials. When Muslims are prepared to truly follow the teachings of the Quran, we have fatwas.

So it seems logical to me to ask, "Gee, what if we just didn't have religion? You can be nice to your neighbors without it, and you'll never be tempted to hang them for witches, stone them as adulterers, or behead them as apostates." As you say, "What a concept!"

Posted on Mar 16, 2012 12:17:59 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 16, 2012 12:22:22 AM PDT
'probabilist says:
On the thread titled "Scientists Confront Creationism: Intelligent Design and Beyond ", Ariex wrote:


I. L. Walker says: "A - If the Holy Bible is so full of "primitive folklore rather than history" feel free to disprove anything found within its pages. Use facts instead of assertions and see how far you get."

Ariex: Let's start at the beginning. You just don't grasp just how much of a bind you put yourself into with this challenge. In the beginning, God said, "Let there be light", and he divided the light from the darkness. All right so far? That is quite clear, I'd say. But that idea comes from primitives who believed the earth was flat and the sun moved over it, then sank under it, to make the darkness. Doesn't work that way, does it? The universe is full of galaxies full of stars. Where is the dividing line between light and darkness?

God placed a firmament in the midst of the waters to divide the waters above from the waters below. The firmament was called Heaven. But let's look at that word, "firmament". The Hebrew is "rakia", which means, "a metal lid as on a pot". God placed a metal lid on the flat earth in order to divide the waters down here from the waters up there and made his home on the metal lid. That is essentially what the scripture says.

OK so far? Or are you beginning to see why scholars who understand ancient Hebrew recognize the primitive folk tales that became the foundation for Christianity?

And of course we could quibble over the fact that there are two creation stories with contradictory details, and two Noah's ark stories with contradictory details.

To fully understand the problems faced by those who challenge others to disprove the Bible, I offer a list of reading that demonstrates the overwhelming evidence supporting the position that the Genesis and Exodus sections in particular are based on folklore and primitive but mistaken understandings of the world the ancients lived in:

"The Origins of Biblical Monotheism", by Mark S. Smith,

"Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic", by Frank Moore Cross.

"The Bible Unearthed", by Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman.

"Who Wrote The Bible?", by Richard Elliot Friedman, Prof of Hebrew Bible.

"Ancient Canaan and Israel", Jonathan M. Golden.

"The Sumerians; their history, Culture, and Character", Samuel Noah Kramer.

"Who Were the Early Israelites and Where Did They Come From?", by William Dever. (hint: they did not come from Egypt, as hundreds of archaeological digs in the Holy land demonstrate) It has been said that students of archaeology come to the Holy land with a shovel in one hand and a Bible in the other. They soon find out that they must put down one or the other, for the evidence in the ground does not support the words in the book.

"Out of the Desert?", by William Stiebing, Jr..

Archaeology of the Land of the Bible: 10,000-586 B.C.E., by Amihai Mazar.

"The Early History of God", by Mark S. Smith.

These will give a reasonably thorough picture of the evidence and the conclusions of those who study it.

Posted on Mar 16, 2012 12:31:51 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 16, 2012 12:33:32 AM PDT
'probabilist says:
On the thread titled "Scientists Confront Creationism: Intelligent Design and Beyond ", Ariex wrote:


The Philistines are frequently mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures: Genesis 21:34 "And Abraham sojourned in the Philistines' land many days."

Oops. Anachronism alert. The people known as "Philistines" did not settle in Canaan until the time of Ramses III, about 1180 BCE. The Exodus Hebrews also encounter the Philistines, according to the writings of "Moses", who would have died long before the Philistines arrived to be encountered. The Philistines are said to have blocked the Israelite attempt to enter the promised land.

Then the Israelites try a southward approach, through the Negev Desert, but here they are frustrated by the Canaanites who live in the hill country and turn back to Hormah, southeast of Beersheba. But extensive excavations in these areas show no Canaanite occupation ANYWHERE in the Negev area during the late Bronze Age.

Moses and Co. also encounter the Edomites, but again, archaeology shows that there were no Edomites other than scattered nomad tribes (no kings, no cities) until the 7th century BCE. There are several details in the Exodus story that preclude any such journey until this period. This is why scholars conclude that these texts were written in the middle Kings period, many hundreds of years after the formation of the Israelite kingdom.

There is ample evidence to show that the conquest narratives are fiction, for example. Detailed descriptions of the conquest of Jericho and of Ai are offered, but both Jericho and Ai were ruins long before any possible arrival date of the Hebrews. The pottery and household artifacts from hundreds of digs show that the people who became the Hebrews were Canaanites who gradually changed their cultural identity. These items also show that the monotheistic Hebrews worshipped pagan gods right down to the late 7th century and beyond. In fact, 2 Kings 23:4 and on tell about how Hilkiah, (622 BCE) discoverer (and author) of what is presumed to be Deuteronomy, is ordered to remove the pagan ritual objects from the Temple and expel the priests who held services for their pagan gods in the Temple itself.

Posted on Mar 16, 2012 2:00:57 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 16, 2012 2:01:13 PM PDT
'probabilist says:
On the thread titled "Yes I am against all the religions because I am for the religion", Ariex wrote:


Chance says: " What are the odds of all of these 3 people coming up with the idea of religion? With similarities? Something must be going on. If you can't see that you are in denial."

Ariex: Do you really want to understand why, or are you just going off the top of your head with something that you don't understand, so you simply assume that God must be the answer? Ancient religions seem to have strong similarities TO US. That is, they contain elements of anthropomorphism, spirit beings with human attributes and agendas. In many cases, archaeology and other studies show how primitive religions evolved with the cultures that embraced them. For example:

"Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic", by Frank Moore Cross.

"The Origins of Biblical Monotheism", by Mark S. Smith.

Here is some suggested reading on why the human species is prone to seeing agency, gods, spirits, in things they don't understand:

"Religion Explained", by Pascal Boyer.

"Why We believe in god(s)" J. Anderson Thomson, Jr.

There are several other good examinations of the evolutionary and cultural influences that cause people to see "themselves" in nature. Man created gods in his own image----and a few in every culture have discovered that this is very useful and profitable idea.

Here are a couple of good reads on how the human imagination and perception leads us to be sure of things that we completely misunderstand:

"On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right Even When You're Not", by Robert A. Burton.

"The Invisible Gorilla: How Our Intuitions Deceive Us", by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 16, 2012 9:13:49 PM PDT
that directory is 404

you need more than the subset of forums shown at the bottom of the pages
there are many other active ones that could be much more active if they were listed too

Posted on Mar 18, 2012 1:19:05 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 18, 2012 1:19:23 AM PDT
'probabilist says:
Hanalah wrote, on another thread:

I will admit than when I was a kid in Sunday School, they did not teach us about reincarnation. I only learned about it thirty years ago, and most of the Jews in the United States today, and most of the more secular Jews in Israel, are similarly unaware of it.

We don't call it reincarnation, actually. That means "in meat again". The Hebrew word for it is Gilgul, which means "cycles".

It IS a classic Israelite belief, even though it's not mentioned in the Bible. But the later literature is full of references to Gilgul.

Unfortunately, most modern Israelites are unfamiliar with classic Israelite thought.

Let me refer you to Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz's little book, "The Thirteen Petalled Rose." It is a very small volume but it explains about the four worlds, the Tree of Life, the symbolic meaning of the Sabbath wine, and much more. You can probably get it through interlibrary loan, and I have given you the author and title, which should be enough to enable your library to find it for you.

There are today unfortunately many Israelite sects.
There are dozens of Orthodox communities, some of which are Hasidic and some olf which are nonHasidic.

Then there is the Reform group, which categorically disbelieves in the biblical commandments, except the ethical commandments such as Don't kill, don't steal, honor your parents, give to the needy, and so on.

In between these is the Conservative group, which theoretically believes in keeping kosher and keeping the Sabbath. However, in practice, 90% of the Conservatives do not keep kosher and do not keep Sabbath. But THIER RABBIS DO.

In modern times two more groups have appeared. One is Reconstructionist, which is about "Judaism as a civilization". I think this title (by Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan) misuses the word civilization. A civilization consists of a city or country and the nations it has conquered, and the leisure time which has been achieved by making the people of those other nations do all their work (as slaves or as poorly paid, poorly treated workers). Israel is not a civilization; we are a culture whose main cultural artifact is our worship.

By the way, anyone can join us; usually you have to take classes, lasting about a year or maybe more, and then get circumcised if male; and then go into the mikveh (a pool of living water) and immerse yourself naked.

There may be many others, but I only know of one more, called Jewish Renewal. They focus on the gems, i.e., the delightfully profound ideas. But they do not focus on the practice.

Of all these groups, I am a mixture of Conservative and Orthodox. I try to keep most of the practices of the Orthodox, and to be aware of most of their ideas, but I do not KNOW all of them, because I was raised in Texas in a Conservative congregation. I pray every morning when I wake up and every night when I go to sleep, and off and on during the day when I have something I'd like to say to Gd, such as, "Thank you for helping me with this or that," or "Please help me with this or that," or "Thank you for this food, and please heal X, Y, and Z," and so on.

So now you know all about me, or at least more than you wanted to.

I've got a thread on the Christianity forum called something about Tidbits. I try to focus on the ways in which Jews and Christians are similar. Some of the ways are rather odd. And of course there are enough differences, but to a Buddhist these differences probably seem trivial.

You might like to know that one of the bedtime prayers in the siddur (the prayerbook) is, "I forgive everyone who sinned against me, in this GILGUL or in any other GILGUL. Let no one be punished on account of me."

Posted on Mar 19, 2012 4:26:19 AM PDT
zamboney... what? Dang, wrong thread.

Posted on Mar 19, 2012 6:51:22 PM PDT
'probabilist says:
In the opening post for the thread titled
"The Bible's unbelievability is a good thing",
Eric Pyle wrote:

Enlightenment rationalism renders truth impersonal. We can look at this fact from two directions:

First, what is true must remain true in all times and places. An experiment done by a scientist in Tokyo will be confirmed when scientists in Oxford and Berkeley have reproduced it. The truth must drop interchangeably into different laboratories.

Second, the observers of the truth become interchangeable. If you look at it, or if I look at it, or if someone very different looks at it, it remains the same, with all observers reduced to interchangeable machine parts. The truth doesn't depend on the genius or uniqueness of the observer any more.

Moreover, isolated facts must be made to correspond logically with other facts. If there is contradiction, one fact isn't correct, or the interpretative system must be changed to accommodate both.

Since this approach to the truth took over our world-views, it has made Bible interpretation problematic. Extreme literalism in reading the Bible requires the total shut-down of our reason. Interpretations that allow metaphor break their shins against the necessity of determining what is metaphor and what isn't. Attempts to reconcile apparent contradictions in a rationalistic manner require such contortions that they repel non-believers.

It seems to me that applying Enlightenment reason to the Bible is the wrong approach. There are some other ways of reading it that are untroubled by contradictions or by unbelievable talking snakes. In fact, you could say the reading improves from the unbelievability.

Here are two views. In a sense they are all the same theory, from two perspectives.


1) The William Blake Method

Blake said that the contradictions and inconsistencies of the Bible make it more believable, not less.

His thinking was that God, being infinite and omnipotent, is not bound by logic or consistency in the way that we humans are. God is infinite and therefore contains everything by definition. God contains all contradictions; it is limited human thinking which rules things out. If the Bible contains things we can't believe, or even direct contradiction, we should take that as proof of God's infinity. If we force God to fit into a system of reason, we are reducing what God is.


2) The Theodor Adorno Method

Adorno had a method called Negative Dialectics, that was based in part on good old Negative Theology. The point was to unpack meaning in the world without making any positive statement about the world. Any attempt to state a true fact about the world conceptualizes and reifies what there is, and therefore closes off alternate possibilities. It's better to hold up observations, loosely connected by theory, without subsuming them under an overall system. He called these groups of observations "constellations."

I think we can read the Bible in the same way. The events and statements in the Bible are not to be bound together into a systematic whole. Any system we invent for them will eliminate alternative systems, and God is too big to be contained in a humanly perceivable system.

The "data" we receive from the Bible are best held up in a constellation, with no attempt to force them into a system which would of necessity limit our view of what is possible.


The Bible does us a favor by breaking any over-all system we may have, and reducing us to uncertainty. It reduces us to humility in the face of God and the universe, and removes our right to assert that we are correct in an interchangeable, one-size-fits all kind of way.

Posted on Mar 24, 2012 11:14:00 PM PDT
'probabilist says:
On the thread titled
"The Bible's unbelievability is a good thing",
BruceKen wrote:

That's very interesting. You sure put a lot of effort and learning and analysis into it. I thank you. I especially like the last two sentences I would like to paraphrase them in other discussions. Myself, I don't take a great deal in either the Hebrew or Christian Bible as absolute truth or as stated word by word by Hashem. Dispite the best efforts of Hashem and Man, the greed, the urge for power, the drive for victory over enemies, etc. of man is still unbridled. I believe that man has made modifications in the test ot holy writings to favor a political or economic faction over another. Humans lie, cheat, steal for their own benefit and for the benefit of friends, relatives, and allies. Even to the point of changing, during copying, the holy writings. I know that there passages in the Koran that seem totally out of character for Mohammed to say. Yet they could have been put in later for someone's gain. Then there are errors of interpretation from one language or dialect to another. There are major differences in the way the Hebrews and the Greeks constructed language and thought. The Greeks were more concerned with what was external to them, with analyses, with calculation, mathametical precision. The Hebrews were more concerned with things internal, with sensory information, what they saw, tasted, smelled, etc. The Greeks had many variations and words expressing the meaning of love. The Hebrews probably used terms to show love between parent and child as a sincere and powerful love. The Greeks would have been fine with the term "rocket" while the Hebrews would have described the appearance of a rocket in flight - such as a tube with fire coming out of the back end.
Then there are errors such as the German word jehova which is transliteration of a Hebrew name for Hashem which the English took over and pronounced as if it were an English word. Then there are errors in translation from a descriptive Hebrew that which uses the term "full belly" to express the concept of a "good life." No hunger = good life. The translator then writes down belly unless he/she understands the ancient context.

As far as the parchment, paper, stone, metal foil that is being written upon, it doesn't care correct or incorrect. It just lies there and lets the scribe or writer put whatever he/she cares to write down.

Then you have things such as 2 stories of creation and 2 flood stories. I think that these were the result of two or more related groups forming tighter social and political groupings. As a part of this, their priests combined their closely related holy traditions. However, the creation and flood stories couldn't be merged. Arguments likely followed and a compromise was reached in which both versions were included and the choice between them was postponed until some later date when the original problems were forgotten and both versions had to be kept because they both were included in the holy traditian and thus both were accepted as equally sacred.
Next, you have the problem with Deuteronomy which seems to have been found by a descendent of David, Jer----, hidden away in some dusty corner or something like that. It seems to have been declared authentic by the High Priests and included as one of the books of Torah.
Then you have the problem of Hashem telling the Hebrews entering the Promised Land to slaughter this group and that group. To me, these episodes were likely to have been added later either to show the Hebrews that they were once fierce warriors directed by Hashem to conquer and to kill inorder tobeef up the warrier like traditions of the Hebrews. On the other hand, if the Hebrews were facing a persistant and dangerous enemy that had to be wiped out for survival, the leaders could say that Hashem had directed them to wipe out enemiesin the past and it was permissable to do it now.

So, I read in Tanach some passages and I think upon them, long and hard and I bring my knowledge and analytic ability to bear and I pray and meditate and I work to extract the essence and basic meaning of the words. Some times I am successful and other times it let it rest until another time. Such is the way I come to understand the meaning and purpose of the human approximizations of the thoughts of the Hashem that logic and probilities tell me exists.


Posted on Apr 4, 2012 6:22:17 PM PDT
'probabilist says:
On the "William Blake" thread,
Eric Pyle wrote:


Ithuriel's Spear wrote:

> Pairu-sensei,
> What's your view on Takashi Murakami and his aesthetic philosophies? Any idea on what he means by the term *superflat*?



It's nice to hear from you again. Though I warn you, you may regret having asked this question.

Back in the hotted up days of good old American Modernism, there was a widespread theory that art was progressing on a single track, toward a single goal. Art that didn't conform to this teleological theory was labeled "retardataire."

Several influential critics persuaded a lot of people who should have known better that modern art was on a one-way course to objectivity, with first one illusionistic element and then another boldly eliminated. Manet, for example, had painted things without concealing that the medium was oil paint -- that is, there was no trompe l'oeil effect in which the paint was made to look like some other material. It kept its paint-quality, rather than imitating flesh, for instance, or cloth. (Never mind that Titian had done this, and Velasquez.) Cezanne played with perspective, cubism eliminated it, the Americans then took over and eliminated subject matter, everything. The idea was that paintings were getting rid of everything except their essence, which is a flat surface. Pollock was supposed to be important for that reason. Although there is no benefit at all in looking at one of his paintings, he is considered important historically for having pulled through one station on this one-way train track. Then painters outdid themselves to make paintings with nothing but flat surfaces. This was supposed to be pure.

Round 2: If we create a Far East supplement to Flaubert's "Dictionary of Received Ideas," one of the first entries will have to be: "Japanese art is flat." It is a widespread belief that this notion is true, among people who believe what they read and don't look at Japanese art. The fact that Japanese artists create space by just about any means *other* than Brunelleschian one-point perspective means that somehow most people are incapable of seeing that space.

I haven't read Murakami's "superflat" essay, but I've read other people's discussions of it. I can't figure out why they take it seriously. The fact that the first idea -- of an inevitable march toward flatness -- was thrown out by the postmodernists, and that the second idea -- Japanese art is flat -- was never true probably doesn't bother him.

3: He has reminded us of these two things while also calling up a theory that was fashionable in America about 30 or 40 years ago, when postmodernism was getting going. That is that high art and low art are merging, that there is no more clear distinction between the two. Murakami has taken the word "flat" in another sense, then: a cultural one. Culture has flattened, supposedly there is no longer any gap between the educated cultural elite and the kids watching cartoons. Probably this is tied into the idea of globalization, too. As in that horrible book "Hot Flat and Crowded" which was basically a bit of Fukuyamaist foolishness saying that capitalism has made us all the same now, oh happy day.

So Murakami's "theory" is a mish-mash of the recently fashionable and the downright false. This is a perfect "philosophical" support to his work, since it flatters the people who majored in art history by tickling their memories of these theories that used to be hot. Then they can indulge in the stupid low-level stuff that he sells while vaguely thinking that there is a theory to show why it isn't stupid.

Here is the real case: the rule of capitalism is always: buy low sell high. For a capitalist, the ideal would be to pick up an object which cost nothing and sell it for 20 million dollars. No overhead, no production costs. The nearest thing the world has invented to this perfect capitalist goal is ART. It costs very little to make, and it sells for millions. It is basically some canvas over which Murakami waves his wand and creates wealth.

This is true of Damien Hirst, as well. Their medium is not paint or marble; their medium is exchange value. They are masters at producing exchange value. The works are mere placeholders, and have exactly as much aesthetic value as the decorative border on a stock certificate.

Murakami has an advantage in that US trend-watchers have the vague idea that something big is happening in Japanese culture. All those anime and manga are strong somehow. To American eyes, what Murakami does looks exotic and up-to-date. To Japanese eyes, it looks like anything you could buy at the toy store. But now the Americans say it's important, so the Japanese like it too. Murakami is working through Japanese cliches one by one. He did sexy dolls based on anime characters before, but I could show you the same thing at a dozen shops downtown. It seemed different to Americans. Recently he's done popped-up versions of traditional Buddhist painting, Daruma-san, which are the sort of thing tourists buy on T shirts outside temples in Kyoto, but again, the Americans think it's somehow exotic.

It is empty of meaning, just disgusting enough to appear transgressive while actually challenging no one, and yet obvious enough in its blatant capitalistic appeal to sell to rich people. He has found a masterful balance, he is a great marketer. If you are given one of his works, leave it in the crate, wait a few years, and sell it. Whatever you do, don't look at it.

Posted on Apr 6, 2012 2:41:51 PM PDT
'probabilist says:
On the thread titled ' " What is probable?" Literal and metaphorical if you please. ',
Jeff Marzano wrote:

According to the legends Plato traveled to Egypt and experienced the mysterious Egyptian initiation rites at some level. Those rites were experienced inside the pyramids and involved walking through secret passageways inside and underneath the pyramids. I assume this is where Plato heard about his famous geometric solids.

The initiates were sworn to secrecy about what they learned since this type of information is very dangerous in the wrong hands. It involves knowledge about the mysteries of nature and the human body such as magic and alchemy.

Plato was criticized for allowing some of what he learned to make it into his writings. At least that's what I read in a few places.

It's interesting because using ground penetrating radar people now realize that there is indeed a complex of passageways and artificial chambers underneath the Giza site. This is the fabled Hall Of Records that Edgar Cayce and others spoke about.

How exciting it would be to enter this Hall which was according to Cayce hermetically sealed way back in 10,500 BC.

Egypt still holds many secrets for us even now I think.

Jeff Marzano

Posted on Apr 6, 2012 2:45:52 PM PDT
'probabilist says:
"Atlantis" Lyrics

The continent of Atlantis was an island
Which lay before the great flood
In the area we now call the Atlantic Ocean.
So great an area of land, that from her western shores
Those beautiful sailors journeyed to the South
And the North Americas with ease
In their ships with painted sails.
To the east, Africa was a neighbor,
Across a short strait of sea miles.

The great Egyptian age is but a remnant
Of the Atlantian culture.
The antediluvian kings colonized the world;
All the Gods who play in the mythological dramas
In all legends from all lands were from fair Atlantis.

Knowing her fate, Atlantis sent out ships to all corners of the Earth.
On board were the Twelve:
The poet, the physician, the farmer, the scientist, the magician,
And the other so-called Gods of our legends,
Though Gods they were.
And as the elders of our time choose to remain blind,
Let us rejoice and let us sing and dance and ring in the new . . .
Hail Atlantis!

Way down below the ocean, where I wanna be, she may be . . .
Way down below the ocean, where I wanna be, she may be . . .

My antediluvian baby, oh yeah, yeah, yeah-yeah-yeah,
I want to see you some day.
My antediluvian baby, oh yeah, yeah, yeah-yeah-yeah,
My antediluvian baby.
My antediluvian baby, I love you, girl;
Girl, I want to see you some day.
My antediluvian baby, oh yeah,
I want to see you some day, oh,
My antediluvian baby.
My antediluvian baby, I want to see you;
My antediluvian baby-gotta tell me where she gone-
I want to see you some day,
Wake up, wake up, wake up, wake up, oh yeah;
Oh glub glub, down down, yeah . . .

Artist: Donovan

Posted on Apr 6, 2012 2:46:30 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 6, 2012 2:50:27 PM PDT
'probabilist says:
'Atlantis' still sounds like Minoan Crete or Thera, to me. The size--and the distance from Mycenaean Greece--could easily have been exaggerated in the retelling, during the dozen or so centuries between Thera's Minoan eruption (circa 1625 B.C.) and Plato's time.

All the best,


Posted on Apr 6, 2012 2:52:58 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 6, 2012 2:53:53 PM PDT
'probabilist says:
Well there is an interesting quote from the movie Harvey.

'Years ago my mother used to say to me, she'd say, "In this world, Elwood, you must be" - she always called me Elwood - "In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant." Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.'

- B. Josephson,
on the thread titled "Atlantis, Madame Blavatsky, Edgar Cayce..."

Posted on Apr 15, 2012 9:39:39 PM PDT
'probabilist says:
...Yet the most exciting indication of how history actually transpired has now been unearthed by Yitzhak Magen. Working behind security fences, the archaeologist has been digging on the windswept summit of Mount Gerizim.

His findings, which have only been partially published, are a virtual sensation: As early as 2,500 years ago, the mountain was already crowned with a huge, dazzling shrine, surrounded by a 96 by 98-meter (315 by 321-foot) enclosure. The wall had six-chamber gates with colossal wooden doors.

At the time, the Temple of Jerusalem was, at most, but a simple structure.

Magen has discovered 400,000 bone remains from sacrificial animals. Inscriptions identify the site as the "House of the Lord." A silver ring is adorned with the tetragrammaton YHWH, which stands for Yahweh.

All of this means that a vast, rival place of worship stood only 50 kilometers (31 miles) from Jerusalem.

It is an astonishing discovery. A religious war was raging among the Israelites, and the nation was divided. The Jews had powerful cousins who were competing with them for religious leadership in the Holy Land. The dispute revolved around a central question: Which location deserved the honor of being the hearth and burnt offering site of God Almighty?
At first -- so much is clear -- the Samaritans had the upper hand. Indeed, compared with Jerusalem, Mount Gerizim enjoyed significantly older rights: In the great tale of the history of the chosen people, the mountain plays a key role.
Shortly before his death, Moses issued an important command: The people must first travel to Mount Gerizim. He said that six tribes should climb it and proclaim blessings, while the other six tribes should proclaim curses from the top of nearby Mount Ebal. It was a kind of ritual taking possession of the promised land.
That, in any case, is what stands in the oldest Bible texts. They are brittle papyrus scrolls that were made over 2,000 years ago in Qumran, and have only recently been examined by experts.

In the Hebrew Bible, which Jerusalem's priests probably spent a good deal of time revising, everything suddenly sounds quite different. There is no longer any mention of a "chosen place."

The word "Gerizim" has also been removed from the crucial passage. ...

"Israel's Other Temple: Research Reveals Ancient Struggle over Holy Land Supremacy"
By Matthias Schulz,1518,827144,00.html,1518,827144-2,00.html
Your reply to 'probabilist's post:
To insert a product link use the format: [[ASIN:ASIN product-title]] (What's this?)

Posted on Apr 15, 2012 9:47:03 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 15, 2012 9:47:56 PM PDT
'probabilist says:
'Not a single shred of archaeological evidence has ever been found to confirm the existence of Solomon's Temple.'

"Israel's Other Temple: Research Reveals Ancient Struggle over Holy Land Supremacy"
By Matthias Schulz,1518,827144,00.html,1518,827144-2,00.html

In reply to an earlier post on May 5, 2012 8:45:47 PM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Oct 14, 2012 9:43:33 PM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on May 5, 2012 8:46:30 PM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Oct 14, 2012 9:43:28 PM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 14, 2012 9:44:03 PM PDT
... encore performance

Posted on Oct 15, 2012 9:28:40 AM PDT
One can hope.

Posted on May 18, 2013 7:52:37 PM PDT
'probabilist says:

In reply to an earlier post on May 18, 2013 10:19:52 PM PDT
That is about the most ridiculous statement you could make about Solomon's Temple. That statement alone demonstrates you have no conceptual understanding of the Judeao Christian Religion. Solomon's Temple is more of a mystical idea than a physical one. I just published a book illustrating this point about Solomon's Temple being depicted on both a Jewish and a Christian level. The Sistine Chapel: A Study in Celestial Cartography: The Mysteries and the Esoteric Teachings of the Catholic Church

Someone like yourself can never grasp that both Judaism and Christianity have a symbiosis and neither can be understood without understanding the other. The New Testament is a very terse and succinct commentary on the esoteric teachings codified to the Old Testament. If you don't understand what esotericism is give up trying to understand religion because with your myopic vision you are incapable of grasping its simple nuances.

In reply to an earlier post on May 18, 2013 10:27:58 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 18, 2013 10:28:22 PM PDT
Prob IS a Christian, and a well-educated and learned one at that, so it seems kind of silly to tell him "Someone like yourself can never grasp that both Judaism and Christianity have a symbiosis and neither can be understood without understanding the other."

Smug pomposity is probably not the best tactic to take when trying to sell one's book on Amazon.

In reply to an earlier post on May 19, 2013 6:30:21 AM PDT
Seems to me there is a prohibition here of pushing one's own stuff.

Anyway, esotericism is as esotericism does. Or something like that. heh heh

In reply to an earlier post on May 19, 2013 9:02:05 AM PDT
I was not trying to sell the book. I was rather showing him I knew what I was talking about.
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