What would you have done?

What would you have done if—after having already given up on all esoteric (i.e., traditional) religions for good because of the “obscurity” of the meanings of their writings—you happened to remember that the esotericist Christians’ idea of paradise was a place where everything would finally be “clear, clear, clear, clear, clear”?

And what if—after having already come to the conclusion that all “prophets” (i.e., esotericists) are necessarily liars—you happened to notice that one of the ancient Jewish prophets (namely Zechariah, in 13:2-4) envisioned the “day of the Lord” as ushering in an age when there would be no more “prophesying”—and, moreover, that the reason for this would be that a “prophet” was actually someone who “spoke lies” and “deceived” people?

That’s the position in which I found myself at one point.  If you found yourself in that same position, would those “ironic coincidences” have sparked your curiosity at all?

Might they have raised the possibility in your mind that perhaps there was some unconscious “hidden message” contained in the Bible that the authors were passing along to the reader—even, to a large extent, in spite of themselves?

Continue reading “What would you have done?”

The Crucifixion understood as equivalent to the fall of Babel/Babylon; both events being understood to signify the end of religious esotericism (i.e., cryptic “prophecy”)

At one point in Romans 3:1-8 (which I plan to discuss in the near future), Paul quotes Psalm 51:4.  A comparison of the Hebrew Masoretic and Greek Septuagint versions of Psalm 51:4 suggests that the “overcoming, prevailing, conquering, being victorious” (Greek nikaō) spoken of in Romans 3:4 was understood by the translators of the Septuagint to be equivalent to “being made pure, being made clean, being made clear” (Hebrew zakah).  This should be kept in mind when considering the use of the Greek word nikaō in passages such as Revelation 21:6-7 (especially when that passage is read in conjunction with Revelation 22:1).

Such an equivalence between the idea of “overcoming” or “prevailing,” and “being made pure” or “being made clear,” would also tend to reinforce the hypothesis that I offered in a previous post that the purified “spirit of Jesus” may have been regarded by the authors of the New Testament as something that would ultimately come to replace the “unclean spirit” or “impure spirit.”  This would indicate that the figure of “Jesus”—which I believe should be regarded as an archetype representing all of the schizophrenic “prophets” at once—was understood to “prevail” (i.e., “be made clean, be made clear, be made pure”) at the symbolic moment of his “death” on the Cross.  And I think that it was Jesus’s speech or language that was, more than anything, understood by the authors of the New Testament to have been made “pure” or “clean” or “clear” at that symbolic moment—that is, from the perspective of those listening to him—when he finally gave the “great shout” or “loud cry” that he had been holding back prior to that.  (Cf. Matthew 10:27.)

I think the belief of the authors of the New Testament was that non-schizophrenics would acquire the ability to speak in “schizophrenese” to some extent, even at the same time as their doing that would provide the schizophrenic “prophets” with a greater feeling of safety, giving them the freedom to speak less schizophrenically themselves.  I think the hope or expectation of the authors was that the two groups would “meet each other half-way,” so to speak—and doing this is what would accomplish the “fulfilling” (or “completing,” or “finishing,” or “perfecting,” or “bringing to an end”: teleō or teleioō) of “prophecy.”

Continue reading “The Crucifixion understood as equivalent to the fall of Babel/Babylon; both events being understood to signify the end of religious esotericism (i.e., cryptic “prophecy”)”

Why society’s tolerance of lying is not rational

(The following constitutes the entirety of Chapter 1 of Part I of my “Against the Lie” essay.)

I strongly believe that all of the problems facing human society can be traced to people’s collective choice to embrace the Lie, with the Lie being viewed as a metaphysical force in the world.  That, however, is not how most other people see things.  They might agree that—as a general proposition—lying is the source of many problems in the world.  But even though they will claim not to like lying, they continue to tolerate the people and institutions that do the lying so long as none of the specific lies they tell happens to greatly disadvantage or displease them personally; and, needless to say, they also tend to be quite tolerant of their own lies.  In other words, they often have a very easy-going attitude regarding lies they consider “harmless”—but what they really mean by “harmless” is harmless to them and their narrow range of goals and concerns.

Continue reading “Why society’s tolerance of lying is not rational”

Sociologist Georg Simmel on truthfulness and lying (1908)

“Truthfulness and lie are of the most far-reaching significance for relations among men.  Sociological structures differ profoundly according to the measure of lying which operates in them. … [I]n very simple circumstances the lie is often more harmless in regard to the maintenance of the group than under more complex conditions.  Primitive man who lives in a small group, who satisfies his needs through his own production or through direct cooperation, who limits his intellectual interests to his own experiences or to unilinear tradition, surveys and controls the material of his life more easily and completely than does the man of higher cultures.  To be sure, the innumerable errors and superstitions in the life of primitive man are harmful enough to him, but far less so than are corresponding ones in advanced epochs, because the practice of his life is guided in the main by those few facts and circumstances of which his narrow angle of vision permits him to gain directly a correct view.  In a richer and larger cultural life, however, existence rests on a thousand premises which the single individual cannot trace and verify to their roots at all, but must take on faith.  Our modern life is based to a much larger extent than is usually realized upon the faith in the honesty of the other.  Examples are our economy, which becomes more and more a credit economy, or our science, in which most scholars must use innumerable results of other scientists which they cannot examine.  We base our gravest decisions on a complex system of conceptions, most of which presuppose the confidence that we will not be betrayed.  Under modern conditions, the lie, therefore, becomes something much more devastating than it was earlier, something which questions the very foundations of our life.  If among ourselves today, the lie were as negligible a sin as it was among the Greek gods, the Jewish patriarchs, or the South Seas islanders; and if we were not deterred from it by the utmost severity of the moral law; then the organization of modern life would be simply impossible; for, modern life is a ‘credit economy’ in a much broader than a strictly economic sense.”  [From The Sociology of Georg Simmel, translated and edited by Kurt H. Wolff (Free Press, 1950), pp. 312-313; the emphases are mine.]

On some of the problems with “white lies”

A correspondent wrote the following to me:  “I like your idea of truth groups, and I would be willing to join one if it could accept my white lies.  I know that you allow lying for self-protection, and that is good.  Occasionally, I lie to protect others.  When my elderly grandmother asked me if I liked the pudding that she made, I lied to protect her feelings; and I am glad that I did.”

(To learn more about the idea of “truth groups,” please read the last section of Chapter 6 of Part I of my essay Against the Lie; or, for a quicker summary, read this post.)

I suspect that in this individual’s comment (which I include with his permission), he is expressing the general sentiments of many other people as well.  But I would contend that “white lies” are not necessarily as harmless as they might at first appear to be, and that a person’s desire to retain the ability to keep telling them does not necessarily provide a good reason to avoid joining a truth group whose members agreed not to tell any “white lies.”  The following story might help to illustrate why:

Let’s say that I make some pudding for you, and you actually think that it’s barely edible; but, to spare my feelings, you tell me that it is absolutely fantastic, the best pudding you’ve ever tasted, the best in the world.  And I make my pudding for various other people, and they all tell me pretty much the same thing.  I’m getting rave reviews from everyone who eats my bad pudding, because I’m “lucky” enough to be surrounded on all sides by a bunch of “nice people” who all supposedly want me to “feel good” about myself.  Everybody’s happy, right?

Continue reading “On some of the problems with “white lies””