The figure of Jesus seen as the “cut-off member” of the Jewish “body”

I ask you to be a bit patient as I go about helping you to see what appears to be an esoteric meaning contained in one of Jesus’s parables—a meaning which, if I am correct in believing that it was probably intended by the authors of the Gospels (whether consciously or unconsciously), would be quite remarkable.  I recommend that the first time you read the Bible passages quoted below, that you only read the text in red, and skip the bracketed material.  I also recommend that you not refer to the endnotes the first time you read the post.

The particular parable I have in mind can be found in Matthew 5:29-30, in which Jesus says,

And if your right eye causes you to be offended [or to stumble, or to offend, or to become indignant, or to be led into temptation, or to get stuck, or to get tripped up; more literally, to be ensnared: skandalizō], pluck it out [or pull it out, or lift it out, or take it out, or rescue it: ex-aireō][1] and cast [or send: ballō] (it) away from [apo] you.  For it is profitable [or advantageous: sympherō] for you that [hina] one [hen] of your members [melos] should perish [or be ruined, or be destroyed: apollymi, a word that appears to be derived from apo-lyō, which can mean “to cut loose, to detach, to cut off, to cut away”], and (the) whole [holos] (of) your body [sōma] not be cast [or sent: ballō] into Gehenna [or hell: geenna].[2]  And if your right hand[3] causes you to be offended [or to stumble: skandalizō], cut it off [ek-koptō] and cast [or send: ballō] (it) away from [apo] you.[4]  For it is profitable [sympherō] for you that [hina] one [hen] of your members [melos] should perish [apollymi], and (the) whole [holos] (of) your body [sōma] not go away [ap-erchomai] into Gehenna [or hell: geenna].[5]

Compare the quoted passage to John 11:47-53, which says,

So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered together [syn-agō] the Council [or Sanhedrin: synedrion] and said, “What do we do (now)?  For this man does many signs.  If we let him go on in this way, everyone will believe [or be persuaded: pisteuō] unto him, and the Romans will come and will take away [or destroy: airō] from us both the (holy) place and the nation [or people: ethnos].”  But one of them, Caiaphas, being high priest that year, said to them, “You understand nothing at all.  Nor are you considering that it is profitable [sympherō] for us that [hina] one [heis] man [anthrōpos] should perish [or die: apothnéskō] for the sake of the people [laos, not ethnos], and (the) whole [holos] (of) the nation [ethnos, not laos] not be destroyed [or perish, or be ruined, or be lost: apollymi].”  And he said this not of his own accord [more literally, “from himself”], but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus was going to die [apothnéskō] for the sake of the nation [ethnos]—and not for the sake of the nation [ethnos] alone, but also so that he might gather together [syn-agō] into one the children of God who had been scattered [dia-skorpizō].[6]  So from that day (on) they made plans [or purposed: bouleuō] to put him to death [apothnéskō].

In other words:  One “member” of the “body” of the people would be made to “perish” in order to benefit the “whole.”

Continue reading “The figure of Jesus seen as the “cut-off member” of the Jewish “body””

The important conceptual distinction between “meaning” and “belief”

At the heart of the strategy that I propose for replacing esoteric religion with non-esoteric religion lies a crucial conceptual distinction:  the distinction between “meaning” and “belief.”  A “belief” can be thought of as a certain type of “meaning”:  one that a person has accepted for him- or herself as “good” or “meritorious” or “worthy.”  Placing emphasis on this conceptual distinction helps us to imagine a society—unlike the society we now have—in which most of its members who spoke the same language could be expected to assign roughly the same meanings to any given assertive communication of a religious nature—without those people also being required to accept those particular meanings as “good” or “meritorious” or “worthy” for themselves.

In other words, I believe it is possible to imagine a society in which the meanings conveyed by assertive communications of a religious nature would be more or less shared in common by everyone, and in which the commonly and generally agreed-upon determination of meaning would always precede belief in, or agreement with, the meaning that was being asserted.  It would only be after the meaning had been determined with reasonable certainty by society as a whole that it would be considered permissible for the various members of the society to “go their separate ways” in deciding whether or not to accept that meaning as a personal belief.  So it would not be considered permissible for a person to say, “This writing means such-and-such to me, which is why I believe it,” even if the writing did not have roughly that same meaning in the view of most of the other members of the person’s society.  It would also not be considered permissible for a person to say, as esoteric religionists often do, that it is necessary to “believe in” or “have faith in” a religious scripture before it will be possible to determine its meaning with reasonable accuracy.

This would represent a definite departure from the way things currently work with the existing, traditional, esoteric religions.  According to the thinking of esoteric religionists, the particular esoteric writings that they happen to regard as “holy” or “sacred” should always be interpreted in a way that makes the writings “good” or “meritorious” or “worthy” in their own individual minds.  In other words, with an esoteric religion, the reader’s personal belief or wish precedes the determination of the author’s meaning—which is exactly the reverse of how a sane person ought to be thinking.

The mentality found among esoteric religionists is thus essentially the mentality of a spoiled child:  “I wish this writing to mean such-and-such; and so it should mean such-and-such; and so it does mean such-and-such.”  The upshot is that the reader’s own personal desire comes before the meaning that the author actually intended—that is, personally desired—to convey.  So the reader’s desires are always made paramount; and the meaning of an author’s communication is made to conform to the reader’s own idiosyncratic ways of thinking, instead of being allowed to confront the reader on the author’s terms.  The result is that genuine communication between persons is not able to occur.[1]

Continue reading “The important conceptual distinction between “meaning” and “belief””

Is all of human civilization built upon a foundation of psychosis?

(The following is taken from one of the footnotes in the “full version” of my essay “Against the Lie.”)

If there is one thing I hope to convey to the reader, it is the extreme importance to society of the subject matter of schizophrenia itself, especially as it pertains to religion, so that readers who share an anti-esotericist perspective can research it more than I have been able to do.  I would also like to emphasize that the problems and traits associated with schizophrenia cannot be conceptually limited to those persons who have been officially diagnosed as “schizophrenic.”  The striking similarity between religious esotericist modes of communication and schizophrenic modes of communication simply cannot be written off as trivial.  And esotericist modes of communication underlie all of the world’s traditional religions—which in turn underlie all of human civilization.  That means that if esotericist religion is a problem that all human beings have in common, then so too is schizophrenia.  Nobody can live in human society without having been psychologically harmed by such a state of affairs.  As such, I do not think it would go too far to say that all of human civilization as we know it is at least somewhat “schizophrenogenic,” i.e., schizophrenia-producing.

Related to this, consider what the authors of the medical journal article “The Role of Psychotic Disorders in Religious History Considered” write in their conclusion:

We suggest that some of civilization’s most significant religious figures may have had psychotic symptoms that contributed inspiration for their revelations.  It is hoped that this analysis will engender scholarly dialogue about the rational limits of human experience and serve to educate the general public, persons living with mental illness, and healthcare providers about the possibility that persons with primary and mood disorder-associated psychotic-spectrum disorders have had a monumental influence on civilization.

(Evan D. Murray, Miles G. Cunningham, and Bruce H. Price, The Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences 24:4, Fall 2012, p. 424.)

However, I wish to note that my own view is that it is the authors of the ancient esoteric writings who should be considered to have been at least somewhat psychotic, and to have been the persons who received the “revelations,” rather than the characters that they wrote about (such as Abraham, Moses, and Jesus).

I also wish to note that my opposition to esoteric religion is not based on my necessarily having made any determination that the esotericist authors of the sacred scriptures of the world’s traditional religions somehow crossed “the rational limits of human experience”; nor any determination that we ought to extend what we conceive those limits to be.  My opposition is instead based on the fact that those authors failed to communicate their experiences and revelations—whatever they were—in a way that was unambiguous and that would not be likely to mislead or unnecessarily confuse the general readership of their writings; and my opposition to esoteric religion is also based on my belief that by effectively requiring people to immerse themselves in writings of that kind—as the world’s traditional religions all do—those religions tend to promote the development of psychosis in society.

An open letter to Moti Nissani concerning the creation of non-esoteric religious communities

Dear Dr. Nissani,

The article of yours recently published on Veterans Today, “7.4 Billion Cheers for Real Democracy,” resonated with me quite strongly.  Like you, I believe that small-scale communities need to be developed that are essentially democratic and egalitarian in nature.

I approach this matter from a slightly different angle than you, however.  In your article, you wrote, “[I]n real democracies, the truth comes out more readily and it is more likely to lead to criticism, debate, and a change of course.”  I believe that our approach should effectively be the reverse of that:  We would insist on truth-telling, with the expectation that doing so would inevitably lead to more democratic forms of social organization.

Continue reading “An open letter to Moti Nissani concerning the creation of non-esoteric religious communities”

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.]