The Lovely (… or Not so Much …) Osho

On July 26, 2014, in Religion, by prosario2000

Introduction

Give me a nickel for every single time I’ve seen Facebook or Google+ Osho related memes.

“The moment you accept yourself you become beautiful. When you are delighted with your own body, you will delight others also.”

“Respect life, revere life. There is nothing more holy than life, nothing more divine than life.”

These wise sayings are obviously associated with someone who looks like this:

Osho

What a kind, holy man!

Yet, for some reason, people forget that he also looked like this:

Osho Mug Shot

Aaaand, aaaaand, he also said “wise” stuff like these:

“Homosexuals, because they were perverted, created the disease AIDS.”

“[Hitler] killed people in the most up-to-date gas chambers, where you don’t take much time. Thousands of people can be put in a gas chamber, and just a switch is pressed … Within a second, you evaporate. The chimneys of the factory start taking you, the smoke – you can call it holy smoke – and this seems to be a direct way towards God.”

“If a child is born deaf, dumb, and we cannot do anything, and the parents are willing, the child should be put to eternal sleep.”

Oh….  such an inspiration! ~ little tear in my eye ~.

But if that were not enough, just remember something very important: that this “holy” man supervised a sectarian group which carried out one of the most notorious bioterrorist attacks in U.S. history, and an assassination plot on a politician.  What?!  You didn’t know that?


Searching the facts regarding Osho

It really makes me furious every time I see a lot of people who share sayings from this guy. He was a sectarian leader who established a cult around him and his teachings. Recently, I’ve been seeing his books everywhere in pharmacies, stores, shopping malls, and so on. People find his “wisdom” in his books, but never make an actual search for this guy. Wikipedia has everything you need to know about him (click here) and his group’s questionable doings (click here, and here). For more details still on his group’s criminal activities, feel free to read all of the articles, and watch pictures and videos about the group in Oregon here. Osho said that he was innocent of all of this. I DON’T BUY IT! As everyone who has studied his group will note, in a cultic environment, people do whatever their leader wills. Sheela did his dirty work, and Osho denounced her when he had absolutely no other choice on the matter. ALL of the people involved were the individuals closest  to him.

I don’t have to write about this issue, since all of these articles provide much more information than I could ever write about the subject. Yet, I wish that people could actually do a serious search about the people they quote. EVERYONE (even evil guys) can say wise stuff every now and then. Just because you said something wise some time, does not mean that you will say wise stuff all the time. Whenever you see a saying by someone you don’t know, please make a serious little RESEARCH on the person who said it before you share it in a social network.

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Astrology and the “Christ-Myth” Myth

On July 25, 2014, in Religion, by prosario2000

Very recently, an ex-student and a dear friend had serious questions regarding a video placed in Youtube. Here it is!

When I saw this, I realized that I lost miserably about 10minutes 46 seconds of my life I would never recover for something more useful. I was shaking my head so much, that I think that I’m going to sue my ex-student for “shaking adult syndrome”. Practically everything in this video is historically wrong. Needless to say that I’ve already talked about the Horus-Christ falsity before, but the video adds more deities like Attis, Krishna, Dionysus, Mithra, and so on. The author of this video evidently did not make any research, except with some popular books with questionable information. He has not checked the reliability of these claims, nor has he actually checked the primary sources (the documents or original stories themselves) to claim what he claims.  I cannot refute every point regarding these deities, it would take too much of my time, and would make my blog post needlessly infinite. Yet here are some facts: Attis had no resemblance to Jesus in any way.  Here is a summary and some ancient texts on Attis –a reliable secondary source –, after reading this can somebody honestly hold that Attis resembles Christ or any of the features ascribed to him in this video? People who include Mithra in the discussion often fail to distinguish between Persian Mithraism and Roman Mithraism. The Persian Mithra had little resemblance to Jesus: he was not born of a virgin, but of a rock; there is no sign of a crucified or resurrected Mithra anywhere, his most representative icon is him fighting with a bull. Romans assumed a modified version of Mithraism, and in this case, he was born on December 25 ….  but that was by the third or fourth century CE (i.e. centuries after Christ was born). Regarding Krishna, just an elementary research reveals that Krishna was born in July 18, 3228 BCE (nope … it was not December 25th), he certainly was not born of a virgin (when Visnu descended to the womb of Vasudeva, she was not in a virginal state, she had intercourse with her husband and had 7 children before Krishna). The Dionysus talisman where he appears crucified, has been found to be a XIX century forgery.

I could go on and on making a field day about the gazillion ways the author of this video was a lazy researcher regarding his knowledge of these deities. Yet, I want to address the core statement of the video.

The Video’s (Lazy) Historical and Astrological Analysis

What follows is essentially my response to my ex-student (with a bit of more details along the way). I hope this is an adequate response to a lot of friends, students, and other people who keep asking me these questions.

  1. There are two stories of Jesus birth and infancy, one in the Gospel of Matthew and another in the Gospel of Luke. Both are late traditions (about the year 80 CE) and, as many Bible scholars know, none of these stories hold historical water, and seriously contradict each other. The story about the Wisemen visiting Jesus appears only in Matthew. The video does not dwell on Luke’s version of events, so its analysis is necessarily incomplete.
  2. According to the Gospel of Matthew (Mt. 2:1-12), those who visited Christ were not “kings” but “MAGI” (often translated as “Wisemen”), the Magi are religious figures from Persia who, presumably, were following a particular star in the sky. The star itself was clearly in motion. They were not kings!
  3. The tradition that the Magi were “kings” was a later elaboration by Christians from the second century to the sixth century. This is because the Magi story in the Gospel of Matthew reminded many Christians of a prophecy made by Isaiah who actually did talk about kings (Is. 60:1-7).
  4. The Magi were not following “the” Star of the East, but a star in the East. The text of the story is very explicit that it was not a usual star in the sky and that it was in motion guiding the Magi.
  5. The Gospel of Matthew does not say how many Magi went to Bethlehem. A later Christian tradition assumed they were three because of the three gifts: gold, incense, and myrrh.
  6. I do agree that the Orion’s belt is now called “the three kings” in many parts of the world … but it was not the case back then! They were called the “three kings” centuries later when some Christians associated the three stars in Orion’s belt with the tradition of the “Three Kings” after this tradition was already formed. Yet, they are not called that way in all societies, not even Christian societies. In some Christian societies, they are called “the three sisters”, in others “the three Marys”. There is no record of Egyptians, Persians, Greeks, Jews, etc. who called these three stars “the three kings”.
  7. During the first three centuries, Chrisitans did not celebrate Jesus’ birth on December 25. In fact, our earliest tradition is that it was celebrated on January 6. Some authors, based on Luke’s account, conjecture that maybe Jesus was born during the Spring. Regardless of the fact that we will never know exactly when was Jesus born, centuries later Christians started celebrating his birthday on December 25. There are two explanations for this:

    1. We know for a fact that Christians started a weekly celebration of Sunday in the Pagan world and not Saturday, mainly because it was the day when Jesus resurrected. They were perfectly aware that it coincided with the Pagan celebration of the Sun (as the writings of Justin Martyr make clear). Although more information is needed to confirm this, it may be that after the fourth century, Christians had adopted December 25th as Jesus birthday to substitute the Pagan celebration of the rebirth of “Sol Invictus” (Unconquered Sun) which was celebrated that day. Assertions made by John Chrysostom point in that direction.

      (NOTE: This is the point when I have to stop and laugh. Every time I see memes in Facebook about how different deities around the world were born on December 25, they are wrong in each and every case. Yet, if they mentioned Sol Invictus, they would have been right!!!! Yet, they forget Sol Invictus in every one of them!!!! And even when this video describes perfectly well why the Unconquered Sun was born every December 25th, it also forgets Sol Invictus!!!!!!! This is hilarious!  … But I digress … )

    2. The other explanation is that is rarely discussed is the fact that, apparently, from the fourth century, Christians celebrated the Annunciation of the Archangel Gabriel to Mary on March 25 of the Western liturgical year. For the liturgical calendar, if the Annunciation is to be celebrated that day, then that means that Jesus’ birth should be celebrated nine months later (December 25). This does not exclude the first explanation, given that March 25 happens to be the celebration of Spring equinox at the time.
  8. None of the Pagan deities died on a cross. Crucifixion simply did not form part of any Pagan mythological story in or before Jesus’ time. The very idea of a worshipped entity dying on a cross was repugnant to the Pagan mind. Crucifixion was an extremely humiliating process of defeat and unworthy of gods you might want to worship. When Paul preached a crucified Christ to gentiles in the Mediterranean, it was rejected by the vast majority of Pagans as being “crazy” or “foolish” (e.g. see 1 Cor. 1:18ff). We even have second or third century graffiti that mocks the very idea of worshipping a crucified god (e.g. the Alexamenos graffito, which makes fun of a Christian).
  9. The reason why Jesus had twelve Apostles had nothing to do with constellations. Jesus was a first-century Jewish apocalypticist. This means that he thought that the end of times was very close, that Yahweh would intervene in history and replace the forces of darkness with the forces of light, and that a new kingdom would be established. Furthermore, in that kingdom, the twelve Apostles would rule as judges the twelve tribes of Israel, with Jesus as the supreme king of the Kingdom of God (Mt. 19:28).
  10. The reason why the number twelve is repeated in the Bible is totally unrelated to constellations. The twelve tribes of Israel emerged from a very complex interaction of historical events, and internal economic, political, and religious issues of the time.
  11. The Christian Cross has nothing to do with the Zodiac, but with Jesus having been crucified. This was adopted by Christians because it was through the Cross that Jesus redeemed humanity for its sins, and with his resurrection he conquered death. The video shows a Celtic cross at the top of the Church, which superficially looks like the cross in the Zodiac. In reality, though, as any expert in Celtic art will tell you, it is only a stylized cross of many that were developed in Europe. The vast majority of these crosses have no circle. It seems that the Celtic circle in the cross is just artistic, nothing more.
  12. Finally, again, the research for the video is simply lazy. It does not establish the big differences between the Egyptian, Greek, Persian, Essene, etc. astrological maps. Egyptologists alone have a hard time identifying the figures of an ancient zodiac map with certain stars. This is because the Ancient Egyptian zodiac is so remarkably different from the one we use today, and it evolved adopting and rejecting some aspects of other cultures’ astrological beliefs.

You can check my claims if you want, but I checked the videos’ claim … and it is definitely bogus! No question about it!

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You are your body … and more than that!

On June 6, 2014, in Philosophy, by prosario2000

I am a body … and more than that too!

I say this because a lot of people out there think that we are souls but we have a body (rephrasing a statement by C. S. Lewis). Yes! You are more than a body! But you are a body, it is an integral part of you without which you wouldn’t be who you are.

A great part of what you are is in your genes. Many of our own genetic predispositions along with the environment we interact with during our lifetime shape who we are in a very real sense. Scientists have found that a lot of our inclinations depend in part on our genes: our taste of food and clothing, our political views, our sexual  orientation, the jokes we like, and so on.

Another great part of our body is our brain, without it, it would be impossible for us to live, breathe, and relate to society in any sensible way. To make decisions, you need the frontal lobes of your brain, without them, it would be impossible for you to create your own projects, build your own future, and know what to do with your life. Without your limbic system, you wouldn’t be able to establish an empathic relationships with anyone: not with your parents, nor with your children, nor with your siblings nor your friends. As many studies on serial killers have shown, the brain plays a great role in your behavior towards others. And, as it turns out, without key features of your limbic system, it would be impossible for you to make rational decisions either. Emotions play a great role regarding those sorts of decisions (e.g. acts of caring for others).

The way your body is built (with all of its strengths and weaknesses) serves as a foundation for your own relationships: it is your body that determines who your parents are, or who your children are, or who are your friends and neighbors. Without your body, your relational life is simply gone. There wouldn’t be any form for you to grow as a human being. Your body is the one that gives you the opportunity to smile, to see a landscape, to enjoy a meal with family, to watch the sky.

And speaking of sky … one thing that is extremely important is to realize and is missed when we state that we are a soul and not a body … is the realization that we are part of the cosmic story. When we look at the stars, we look at our ancestors. Everything our body is, which make our minds possible, come from them. The iron that flows through our veins, the oxygen we inhale, the nitrogen that nourish plants, and so on, they come from stars. And here we are! We are their offsprings through billions of years of evolution. Thanks to our bodies, we realize that we are the universe conscious of its own existence, looking through the telescope, and be amazed by the millions of wonders that await to be revealed every day about who we are, where we come from, and how we came into being.

And as Neil Shubin (based on Charles Darwin) has shown in his book and his video series Your Inner Fish, a lot of our bodily features, are the footprints of so many creatures of the past. They are the ones who gave us the gifts that let us react towards immediate dangers, see colors, count numbers, walk to the park, smile, among all of the things we hold dear and treasure.

Yet you are more than your body … you are your body, and part of who you are is determined by it, but you are also what you do with it. As a matter of fact, it is the way we use our bodies (i.e. the way you treat others) that your soul is a good one or not. Nature is constantly revealing the truth that we are not apart from it, that what we do actually matters to others. Your soul arises from the depths of matter and your gazillion relationships with everyone and everything in the planet.

This is how God breathed on the Earth to give it life, because active matter is creative, building living things and making souls arise out of them. This is how the Creator created life in a world that is endlessly giving us existence in every instance and every moment.

Who are we to deny this beautiful way with which God kisses every being on Earth?

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Desgracia (“Poema” – also in English version)

On March 17, 2014, in Poetry, by prosario2000

Licencia de Creative Commons
Este obra está bajo una licencia de Creative Commons
Reconocimiento-CompartirIgual 4.0 Internacional
.

Tanto que ansío verte y tocarte
acaricias mi vista en el horizonte abierto.

Pero por dulce que sea la melodía de tu voz,
la vida me encierra fuera de tu cuerpo.

¡Qué desgracia la mía
cuando tu piel no puede besar mis labios!

============================

(English version)

I so wish to see and touch you,
you caress my sight before the open horizon.

But as sweet it is to hear your voice
life locks me out of your body.

How disgraceful it is for me
when your skin cannot kiss my lips!

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Review – Bible Secrets Revealed – Episode 3

On January 17, 2014, in Religion, by prosario2000

Ok … this is the episode that really, really reveals the SENSATIONALISTIC (with bold, italics, capitalized, and underlined) dimension of these series. If Episode 2 was better than Episode 1, Episode 3 is significantly worse in relationship with Episode 2, and also an abysmal way to establish its credibility. The show has completely lost it, and, as I said in my review on Episode 1, it shows that these series exist for entertainment purposes only with very little regard to historical facts. So, expect me to make a very long list of historical and scholarly mistakes made in it.

Episode 3 is titled “The Forbidden Scriptures”. As expected, it talks about how “evil Christianity” hid books to keep secret the embarrassing subjects that it didn’t like.

People Interviewed in the Documentary

Here is a list of people interviewed in this documentary, scholars and non-scholars:

Academic scholars and historians:

  • Bart Ehrman
  • Robert R. Cargill
  • Peter T. Lanfer
  • Jordan Smith
  • Francesca Stavrakopoulou
  • Dale B. Martin
  • Marc Goodachre
  • Elaine Pagels
  • James Tabor (although his involvement with some of his statements made by his work, and his participation in the documentary Lost Tomb of Jesus make me question his credibility, but he is a credited scholar and historian).
  • Daniel Smith-Christopher
  • Bryan Givens
  • Jonathan Kirsch

Non-academic scholars:

  • Kathleen McGowan (of an extremely low reputation: she claims to descend from Jesus and Mary Magdalene — see here and here– I rest my case!). She also says that she has visions of Mary Magdalene. Why was she interviewed and made her appear as someone with credibility? Beats me!!!! …  Oh! I forgot! … The one thing that the History Channel wants:  MONEY!!!!
  • Joel M. Hoffman (see my review on Episode 1)
  • Reza Aslan (see my review on Episode 1)

 

True Statements Made in the Episode

I want to clarify that the statements that I’m going to mention are true, but have omitted very important information that I’m going to deal with in the “Misleading Statements” section.

  • Ehrman appears with a very accurate description of early Christianity’s conception of the term “apocrypha”, which just means a book not accepted in the canon. THAT’S IT!!!  That is all that the word “apocrypha” meant at the time. It is also true what Jordan Smith says, that there are far more apocryphal books than books in the Jewish or Christian canon.

 

  • It is true that the Gnostic Gospels were forbidden reading in most of the Church liturgy and that these books were burned. Cargill and Mark Goodachre are correct when they said that these writings did not agree with general Christian teachings.

 

  • Cargill also brings a very important point regarding the issue of Christian diversity. Although scholars are not unanimous about this, it is an increasing conviction among them and historians that during the second and third centuries, Christianity was not a particular movement, but a variety of movements, many of them claiming different things against the others. So, Christians felt the need to “hammer out” what they believed and what they didn’t believe. There is where influential people (of authority, politics, economics) came in to be able to decide what was orthodox and what unorthodox. This activity by itself was also not a coherent activity either, since many church leaders opposed each other regarding a variety of elements of doctrine.

 

  • It is true that the Gospel of Mary, which was a Gnostic writing, suggests that Jesus shared with “Mary” some teachings that were not shared with the rest of the Apostles. It is suggested that it is highly probable that this “Mary” was Mary Magdalene, but we don’t know for sure.

 

  • It is true that at the very beginning, women held a role of leadership in the first-century Church, but were later repressed by a male-dominated Christian leadership. This was exacerbated by the adoption of Christianity by the Roman Empire.

 

  • The Testimony of Truth was repressed because it portrays a different account of Genesis, and that perhaps there was a misogynistic attitude for its rejection. However, what was glaringly obvious to most of the orthodox Christians is that the Testimony of Truth corrupted the true understanding of the Gospel. Orthodoxy was here the main criterion, because it portrays Gnostic teachings. The attitude towards women were secondary in this sense, although it may have played a significant role.

 

  • The Life of Adam and Eve was an ancient manuscript whose function is to “fill in the blanks” of what Genesis doesn’t say.

 

  • It is true that there were some Jewish archeological findings regarding Yahweh and “his asherah“. In this case, Francesca Stavrakopulou displays her knowledge on this subject very well, although, I must clarify, that the meaning of the word “asherah” in these archaeological findings is disputed among scholars today. It may mean Asherah as Yahweh’s consort, but it also may mean a stick (some other discoveries seem to support the latter).

 

  • It is true that there were other apocalyptic writings that did not make it into the Bible, and that the Apocalypse of Peter almost made it into the Bible (it was widely used in liturgies by the third century), and that Dante based his Divine Comedy on it. It is true that the Gospel of Peter was kept out of the canon for being too strange. However, these two books were rarely considered heretical, and were not suppressed by the Church, they were just kept out of the canon.

 

Misleading Statements

  • The documentary continually misleads the public  by stating that there were books “deleted” from the Bible. This way of talking is historically incorrect. Much of these books did not form part of the Bible, because during the first, second, third, and much of the fourth century, there was no Bible. So there was no “bible” where these writings belonged to, and that were “deleted” from it. These books were excluded or kept out as being non-canonical by the second half of the fourth century, when the Bible was finally created.

 

  • One of the things that people must keep in mind is that it is true that there are different Bibles in the huge realm of Christianity, much of it because of influential people. So,in this aspect, the documentary is correct. However, many times the reason why they were adopted went beyond “influential people”, as we shall see, it had to do also with the liturgical tradition since the end of the first century, the content of the books (as Dr. Cargill correctly points out), and their antiquity. I also question Cargill’s statements that “other books may have been true and accurate, but that didn’t have the backup of influential people.” Really? Can someone give me one case where this is true?

 

  • Although it is true that there are far more apocryphal books than those in the Christian canon, the documentary misleadingly seems to imply that all of apocryphal books were considered heresies and/or were burned. This is not the case. A lot of apocryphal books were also considered orthodox, but did not comply with much of the criteria for canonicity. Examples that can be mentioned:  The Book of Enoch, The Proto-Gospel of James, the Shepherd of Hermas, and the Apocalypse of Peter. Most of these books have reached us today, because many Christian copyists considered them devout books, but they were not considered as authoritative as those in the canon. So, contrary to what the documentary implies, not all of the apocrypha remained hidden.

 

  • Contrary to what the charlatan (Kathleen McGowan) states, the Book of Enoch was not the “most forbidden” book in the Bible. As a matter of fact, it was preserved throughout the centuries. One of those who preserved it was the Orthodox Ethiopian Christian Church. Their earliest manuscript goes back to the eleventh century. Early Christianity (in the first century) did seem to support the idea that the Book of Enoch was authoritative, since it was quoted in the New Testament, specifically in the Letter of Jude. It also greatly influenced in Christian mythology about angels for centuries to come. The fact that it was not accepted as part of the canon in most Christian denominations, did not mean that the Church wanted to suppress and hide it from the public. Nothing in the Book of Enoch threatened any belief in the Church. In fact it was an elaboration of many passages we find in Genesis.

 

  • She also states baselessly that the God of the Book of Enoch is completely different from the God of the Old Testament: this book present him as just loving and non-judgmental. …. To that statement I ask … did she actually read the Book of Enoch? This book belongs in the apocalyptic genre and it talks about a God who is going to judge the world!  Don’t believe me?  Here you have access to the Book of Enoch.

 

  • As the moron (Kathleen McGowan) states, it is true that the Gnostics claimed to have received their teachings directly from Jesus … AS EVERYONE DID AT THE TIME. The Gnostics were truly unremarkable in this aspect.  Do Bible scholars in general believe that Gnostic transmitted the genuine teachings of Jesus? About 99.99% of Bible scholars in the world (Christian, Jewish, agnostic, atheist… you name it) do not think that these Gnostic teachings reflect the actual teachings of Jesus … and that much of it was antithetical or a negation of his actual teachings. All Bible scholars agree that Jesus was an apocalyptic Jewish prophet who believed in the Jewish God, Yahweh. Yet Gnostics taught exactly the opposite. They mostly mixed the figure of Jesus with mostly Platonic and Zoroastrian teachings, two things Jesus knew nothing about. Finally, they negated the Jewish God, and considered the material world evil. McGowan completely distorts the history of the Gnostics …  but … I get it! She needs to legitimize the Gnostics, so that she can base her unfounded belief on she being Jesus’ descendant basing herself on some historically questionable passages in the Gnostic Gospels…  Great!!!

 

  • Elaine Pagels said that Athanasius of Alexandria forbid the reading of all Gnostic books except the 27 books that we now call the New Testament. Let me clarify that he clearly condemned the Gnostic Gospels, but that condemnation did not extend to other books that were not Gnostic. Again, not all apocryphal books were condemned as heretical. The requirement made by Athanasius referred exclusively to the reading of the 27 books in the liturgy of the Church in Egypt, it did not extend anywhere else. It only extended by a gradual centralization of Church authorities in the Roman Empire as time went by (see my comments about it in Episode 1).

 

  • Although Pagels says that Jesus could have been influenced by Buddhism, there is not an ounce of evidence that this is the case. Later Christians (perhaps the author of the Gospel of Thomas) may have been influenced by Buddhism or Indian teachings, but their content cannot be construed as the actual teachings of Jesus.

 

  • Jesus did not travel to India. No Bible scholar or reputable historian supports this view. This idea came from the so-called discovery made by Nicolas Notovich of a book about Jesus (Issa) in the Hemis Monastery, a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in  in 1887 (read all about this guy). According to this writing, Jesus went to India to learn from the earlier avatars and returned to Galilee. However, this story has been shown to be a complete hoax, and the book as written by Notovich was a falsification. Later he confessed to have fabricated the story. Today you can go to the Hermis Monastery, and you won’t find any such book. All of the actual teachings of Jesus can be accounted perfectly well by the historical context of first century Galilean and Judean realities of the time. Ockam’s razor: we don’t need to suppose that Jesus went anywhere else in the East to teach what he taught.

 

  • The documentary wants to portray the Gospel of Mary as if it said that Jesus had an “astonishing” relationship with Mary. Yet, this unfortunate choice of words make people think that this Gospel was rejected for showing Jesus as being too human. Yet, it surprises people when I say that this is not the case. It is exactly the opposite, in this Gospel there was little humanity in Jesus! As a matter of fact, when Peter asks her for information, Mary does not say that she had a love affair with Jesus. She said that she had a “vision” of Jesus, as a spirit. He taught her some esoteric teachings clearly associated with Gnosticism.  Of course, you may ask, “why didn’t Jesus show Himself physical?” Answer: Apparently the authors of the Gospel of Mary were very close to being docetists. Docetism is the belief that Jesus did not have a physical body, because as a pure spirit, he could have not been contaminated with the evils of matter or of human pleasure. There is an indication that this was not exactly what the Gospel of Mary portrays, but it is pretty close to it: that Jesus freed himself from the body after the crucifixion. And to make matters worse, the Gospel of Mary, far from embracing sexuality (as some popular and questionable authors seem to suggest) it rejects it implicitly by stating that believers should embrace an ascetic form of life (i.e. a life purely devoid of bodily pleasures). In fact, it says that the pleasures of the body, which is a material object, are the sources of ill. In fact, matter itself is evil! Don’t believe me? Here is a link to the Gospel of Mary … knock yourself out ;-)A point of clarification is also in order. The attribution of secret teachings of Jesus to a particular person is nothing new in Christian literature. Its first case appears in the Gospel of John (non-Gnostic), where Jesus preferred a “beloved disciple” (who remains nameless in the whole Gospel) above the rest of the Apostles and Jesus’ family members. In the case of the Gnostics, they trace their teachings to certain people: in this case Mary, in other cases, Judas Iscariot (as in the case of the Gospel of Judas), and James.  This is a literary device used by the Gnostics to place themselves in a privileged position in relationship with the rest of Christianity (usually represented in their literature by the the Apostles). However, none of these Gospels tell us anything about the historical Jesus, and actually misrepresent his original teachings. So whatever McGowan says … just take it as BS.

 

  • The BSer (McGowan) said that there was no debate about Mary’s authority in the Gospel of Mary. Umm… yes … there was … McGowan just stated that Peter and Andrew challenged her authority. Is she paying attention to herself?!

 

  • Regarding the Life of Adam and Eve, the main reason to reject it in the Christian canon was very simple and pretty straightforward … because it was not included in the Septuagint, the version of the Hebrew Bible written in Greek about II to I century B.C.E., and that the Christian Church adopted very early. We could speculate if there were any other reason for the acceptance of the Life of Adam and Eve, but the main reason is that Christianity stayed with the books of the Greek Old Testament already considered sacred by Christians in the first century. This apocryphal book contains no Christian teachings, and, as far as I know, it was of little concern by early Christian thinkers.

 

  • Despite of what McGowan says about Yahweh and Asherah as being a divine couple that defines what God is … we must point out that this is not the case. The cult to El-Yahweh and Asherah existed at first as a form of a polytheistic environment, that later evolved into henotheism. Henotheism means that the people of Israel was dedicated to one sole god (in this case Yahweh) while recognizing the existence of other gods. It is in the context of an henotheistic cult that this should be understood. It is little different from a cult centralized in Zeus as the main god whose consort was Hera. As Cargill points out, as henotheism evolved into a more centralized monotheism, the cult of Asherah was relegated and later considered a pagan idol.

 

  • Contrary to what McGowan (or the documentary) seems to imply, the Yahweh-Asherah relationship is culturally and historically unrelated to the Gnostic belief in the God-Sophia relationship.

 

Conclusion

The episode as a whole is BS, and whatever is of historical value is submerged in misleading information, especially with the unwarranted intervention of Kathleen McGowan. It is so frustrating to find that such reputable scholars who do contribute every day to history and Bible scholarship with so much of their effort and time are being mixed in a documentary with questionable people and misleading ways to read historical material. It is very sad.

Review – Bible Secrets Revealed – Episode 2

On January 10, 2014, in Uncategorized, by prosario2000

On Episode 2 of Bible Secrets Revealed, we are confronted with one of the most heated issues we know today. The show is titled “The Promised Land”, and it talks about the land of Israel as the promised land. I’m pleased to say, that this particular episode had much less inconsistency with history than Episode 1. It is also a bit less sensationalistic, and it is directed mostly at the fact of how the three major Abrahamic religions approach this very sensitive subject today.

This episode portrays very well the stories of Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad just as it was told by the Hebrew Bible, the Christian New Testament, and the Koran. So, in that area I have no objections whatsoever. Yet, that does not mean that I have no comments whatsoever regarding the historical aspect.


Some Historical Holes in the Episode

Again, I repeat, compared to the earlier episode, this one is great at portraying accurately both the historical material as determined by historians, and its comparison with the stories of the Bible, and shows how the latter can be historically unreliable, at least regarding Abraham and Moses. Yet, there are some things that I think are missing in this episode.

For example, according to the Hebrew Bible, the ancient Hebrews followed Moses for forty years in the desert until they reached the Promised Land. The episode does say that there is no evidence for such an exodus. At best, we could say that the story of the Exodus was based on a core story of some slaves fleeing Egypt and establishing themselves in the land of Israel, but that the evidence for this is lost. However, I really missed what archaeology has been revealing in the last few decades regarding the time of ancient Canaan during the supposed time of Moses and Joshua. First, there is no evidence that the Hebrew destroyed most of the cities mentioned in the Hebrew Bible. For example, the Book of Numbers and of Joshua tell us that Hebrews invaded Neguev, Sijon, Jericho, Ai, and Hasor. Yet all of the archaeological evidence points at the fact that either they were destroyed long before the Hebrews arrived, or that they were not destroyed by any invasion.

Apparently all of the archaeological evidence points in one direction: there was no violent takeover of Canaanite towns and cities. There was, instead, an uprising from people of the lower classes against those of higher status who lived in high terrains. After this uprising, these different tribes organized into equalitarian societies, where there were no central rulers. If they needed to go to war, they would be under the command of a judge, but as soon that defense was no longer needed, they all returned to their equalitarian way of life. That was the way Israel was born in Ancient Canaan. This uprising was directed against vassal kings who operated under the rule of Egypt in the Middle East at the time, and this may be symbolized by a certain Moses who “freed” ancient Israelites from the hands of Egypt.

Regarding the Ark of the Covenant, many people think that it was an actual object, first worshipped in Shilo, under the Northen Hebew priestly leadership. Later, it was moved to Jerusalem under David’s rule, to then be housed in King Salomon’s Temple. However, the images of the cherubim in the Ark were wrong in the documentary (ironically the cherubim in the Temple were represented almost well). The cherubim were figures adopted from ancient Akaddian karibu and from similar depictions in other Middle Eastern civilizations. A cherub was a being with the head of a man, the body of a lion, the feet of a bull, and wings of an eagle. For some reason, the documetary decided to go with the “Indiana Jones‘΅ look of the Ark.

Contrary to what the documetary says, the discovery of the Ark of the Covenant would not prove conclusively that the Exodus occurred. It is widely accepted among scholars that much of the Covenant we have today in the Bible came from later traditions that existed centuries after Moses (namely the Yahwist, Elohist, Priestly and Deuteronomic traditions). Each of these traditions elaborated and revised earlier ones as time went by. They also changed considerably Moses’ story in order to respond to their own reality at the time. For example, the whole story of Moses and the Golden Calf was a reaction from the Northern priesthood against Jeroboam’s new golden calves cult in the cities of Dan and Bethel. The famous ten commandments we find in Exodus and Deuteronomy were written by the Priestly and the Deuteronomistic tradition respectively with some changes among them. Most scholars think that the former is based on the latter (although personally I agree with Richard Elliott Friedman that it may have been the other way around). If Moses ever existed, then what we have in the Bible is not necessarily the original Covernant legislated by him.

Regarding Helena finding Christ’s Cross, we have to point out that, although it is said that she did this, the story is highly questionable. We have absolutely no evidence that the fragments of this cross come from the Cross where Jesus was crucified.

I can’t say much about Islam, since I don’t know them as well as Judeo-Christianity. I do agree with the scholars that a lot of the stories about Muhammad were adaptations of the Judeo-Christian Bible. However, I do have a huge respect for that religion, its prophet, and the Holy Koran, even when I don’t believe in Islam.

Finally, regarding the way that it deals with Jerusalem, the episode talks extensively about the conflict among the different religious denominations regarding territory and their place in different temples, churches, and places of worship among religions. However, I miss another social scientific perspective, the one dealing with ethnic relations in the area. The ethnic conflict between Israelis and Palestinians has an impact on religious groups in Jerusalem and vice-versa. However, I do love the fact that it shows the huge problem that some Christians represent to the whole issue: by supporting Israel, they promote the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s Temple, as a way to accelerate Christ’s Second Coming.

That is all I can say for the episode.

 

Review – Bible Secrets Revealed – Episode 1

On January 7, 2014, in Uncategorized, by prosario2000

Introduction

I want to begin a series of reviews regarding the series Bible Secrets Revealed. Today, I wish to begin with the first episode, titled: “Lost in Translation”.

Before I begin, I want to say two or three things about the History Channel. I do not respect this channel at all. The single fact that it misleads many people with the Ancient Aliens series has been one of the biggest headaches I have ever had when teaching history to my students. After I don’t know how many seasons (I think 6?), many of my students have been misled by the outright false and fraudulent claims made by these series, forcing me as a teacher to dedicate time to clarify them. Also, at the time when I stopped watching cable, I was aware that it was showing a lot of “reality TV”. Some of my students who still watch it, tell me that it is now rare to find genuine historical material in it.

What does this mean? Something very simple: The History Channel is primordially entertainment. It is not meant to inform the public.

That does not mean that it offers no information whatsoever (for example, I do use the Barbarians series when I teach about the Middle Ages). There are also many other of their series that I like. However, informing people is not the primordial goal of the channel … it is to entertain and make money. We should look at the series Bible Secrets Revealed from this perspective. There is a lot in these series that is informative, but there are some statements that disinform the public, and make sensationalist claims.

———

Scholars and Theologians who Participated in Episode I: “Lost in Translation”

I want to begin with my evaluation of the scholars and theologians being used in this episode. The fact that both groups appear together represents a problem for the series (as it says in the beginning that it exposes a variety of points of view). The problem is that theologians and Bible scholars (who are historians) engage in two very different activities. The latter evaluate critically the Biblical texts from a literary and historical standpoints (what does it actually say, and what of the content is fatual). The former rely on faith and the particular interpretation of a Biblical text from that framework. The two can coincide, but they can also diverge, since there are many different faiths that intepret the same text from a variety of standpoints. These may be based on history, but they are not strictly historical as a criterion.

The second problem is that it mixes the opinions of real Bible scholars with “scholars” of dubious reliability. Here are the Bible scholars that appear in this episode who are credited Bible scholarship and are genuine history (although not all equally reliable … more on that later):

  • Bart Ehrman
  • Candida Moss
  • Robert G. Cargill
  • Robert Mullins
  • Elaine Pagels
  • Francesca Stavrakopoulou
  • Dale B. Martin
  • Jeffrey Georgeghan
  • Chris Keith
  • Mark Goodachre
  • Lori Anne Ferrell
  • Peter T. Lanfer
  • Bradley Hale
  • Jennifer Wright-Knust
  • Pnina Shor
  • Yuval Peleg
  • Jonathan Kirsch

However, also in the episode, there are people who are not Bible scholars (in the historiographical sense) nor historians:

  • Reza Aslan (to a certain extent a scholar of religion, but certainly not a Bible scholar)
  • David Wolpe (Rabbi)
  • Joel Hoffman (does not hold a degree in either history or Bible scholarship, yet he has written amazing works on the Hebrew Bible and history)

There are some points I want to make about these three. When I make this list, I don’t mean that they cannot say anything historically true about the Bible. As a matter of fact, they all made positive contributions to this episode. However, many people will see them and have the immediate impression that they can be, in principle, reliable Bible scholars (in the historiographical sense). David Wolpe is a Rabbi who is primarily focused on teaching Jewish religion, even when he pays very close attention to Hebrew Bible scholarship as every responsible Rabbi should. I greatly admire his spirituality, but let us not forget that his primordial criterion is spiritual. Reza Aslan has suddenly risen as a sort of “expert” on the historical Jesus in the eyes of the public. Yet, Bart Ehrman wrote a series of blog posts on the historical and scholarly mistakes that permeate all of his book Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth. (For those who are members of Ehrman’s website, here are the links to his blogs: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13; for those who are not members, here are the partial blog posts on the matter 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12). Despite this problem, I want to clarify that as far as I’ve seen (at least in this episode), nothing that Aslan said is historically or scholarly false.

Historical Mistakes and Scholarly Errors in the Episode

These historical mistakes are the ones I was able to identify in the episode. They are not necessarily the only ones.

  • It is a huge historical error to say that, under the Roman rule, Christians were frequently put to death. Don’t get me wrong, it is not that there were no martyrs at all during Roman rule, but this was not the Roman modus operandi. As a matter of fact, I was shocked by the fact that the episode claimed this, since one of the scholars interviewed in this episode was … CANDIDA MOSS!!!!! She has been known to have worked on this issue. In fact, she has published at least two books on the subject: Ancient Christian Martyrdom and The Myth of Persecution, the latter being the popular version while the former is more academic. Based on tons of research made on this issue by previous scholars, she demystifies completely the historical understanding of the Romans as being ruthless persecutors of Christians.

 

  • The way this episode is edited, it seemed to imply that the Gospels were forgeries (pseudoepigrapha), and that apparently Ehrman supports this idea. I know that this is not the case. Ehrman wrote two books, one called Forged and the most recent Forgery and Counterforgery (both books that I highly recommend). In both of them he did not say that the Gospels are forgeries, rather that they were wrongly attributed to certain authors. In fact, of the four Gospel writers, he only identifies the author of Luke’s Gospel as being a forger, but not regarding its Gospel, but only in relationship with the Acts of the Apostles, where this anonymous author falsely claims to have been the Apostle Paul’s companion. Yet, none of the Gospels claim falsely to be written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John … hence, they are not forgeries. So, the episode misrepresents Ehrman’s position on the matter (see Forgery and Counterforgery chapter 3: “Terms and Taxonomies”, especially the section “False Attributions”).

 

  • Constantine did not make Christianity the official religion of the empire. The Edict of Milan simply legalized it and other religions in the empire (Read the text here: “When I, Constantine Augustus, as well as I Licinius Augustus fortunately met near [Milan] … we thought, among other things … those regulations pertaining to the revence of the Divinity ought certainly to be made first, so that we might grant to the Christians and others full authority to observe that religion which each preferred … “). The imperial decrees made by Constantine reaffirm the idea that this was granted as a way to guarantee freedom of worship to many religions including Christianity (Read text here: “As we long since perceived that religious liberty should not be denied, but that it should be granted to the opinion and wishes of each one to perform divine duties according to his own determination, we have given orders, that each one, and the Christians among the rest, have the liberty to observe the religion of his choice … “) This mistake is particularly annoying, since it is a repeated error in too many documentaries.

 

  • Constantine was not the author of the Bible. As the scholars in this episode rightly point out, Constantine wanted to maintain order in the empire and there was a political interest for him regarding Christianity. Yet, this issue is not contextualized in the episode at all. Ever since he legalized Christianity, he had to deal with disputes among Christians (problems with the Donatists, Gnostics, Arrians, among many others). Contrary to what people think, he was not interested in these issues!  If you don’t believe me, just read a letter written by Constantine to Arius and Alexander, bishop of Alexandria, quoted in Eusebius’ Life of Constantine (Book II, 64-72). There, he said that the Arian and Alexandrian dispute regarding the nature of Christ as “truly insignificant in character, and quite unworthy of fierce contention”, an issue “suggested by the contentious spirit which is fostered by misused leisure”, dealing with “sublime and abstruse” subjects, “very small and insignificant questions”,  full of “trifling and foolish verbal differences” between Christians, discussions that are “unbecoming, but positively evil”, and “rather characteristic of childish ignorance”. Still don’t believe me? Read it for yourselves (click here, and follow the “Next” arrows, until Section LXXII to read the whole letter). If he was not interested in Christian doctrine, what did he really do? Since Christians had ardent dissensions between them, and this could fragment the Roman Empire which he devoted so many years to keep together under his rule, he had the idea of placing Eusebius of Caesarea in charge of collecting those writings that were commonly shared by Christians in the empire to be used by Christians during their liturgical ceremonies. And the list of sacred books included those adopted and widely accepted by Christians since the second century (long before Constantine was born). Constantine thought that this would help unify Christianity better, even when he was not himself interested in Christian doctrinal issues. His concern was only Christian unity, hence Imperial unity. Contrary to popular opinion (and what the episode seems to imply), the list of books included in these copies was not the New Testament as we know it today. The New Testament and the Christian Bible as a whole took its final form (as we know it today) during the second part of the fourth century: in 367, Athanasius (bishop of Alexandria) required it for Alexandrian lithurgy, in 380 a synod by the Bishop of Rome approved the same New Testament list, and in the councils of Hippo and Carthage (under the sponsorship of St. Augustine of Hippo) in the years 393 and 397 respectively, adopted the same list for African churches. All of this occurred after Constantine died.

 

  • Although I highly respect Stavrakopoulou, I really differ from her in her characterization of the virgin birth as “the beginnings of a misogynic culture”. I think that is a bit of a historical stretch. Yes, the Virgin Mary has been used throughout Christian history to legitimize a patriarchal culture and many misogynistic attitudes (See, for instance, Marina Warner’s Alone of All her Sex). Yet, this does not mean that the Gospel authors had this in mind when they wrote the virgin birth stories.

 

  • Talking about Dr. Stavrakopoulou again, there is another thing that I disagree with her. She stated somewhere in this episode that the books of the New Testament were written in Greek in order to convert Romans and have collect money from them. With this criticism, I don’t know if it is directed at her or the lousy way that this episode has been edited to give the viewer the impression that this is actually her opinion (see Ehrman’s case above). However, the books of the New Testament had a variety of purposes, not all of them directed at collecting money. For example, many of the authentic Pauline letters were just directed at mediating disputes, clarifying his theological position, and in many cases deal with the class conflicts within the ecclesiastical communities. In the case of the latter, this was also the concern of whoever wrote the Letter of James. In the case of Matthew’s Gospel, we see a book that it is clearly directed at Jews in the diaspora. It would be extremely hard for the author of the Apocalypse of John to attract money from the Romans, especially due to its highly apocalyptic content. Can we argue that the Letter to the Hebrews was written to attract the Roman elite?  I think it is more prudent to approach these books in a case by case basis. I don’t exclude the fact that some of the books or some of their content were written in Greek to attract the Roman elite, but to generalize it to all of the books of the New Testament is a bit questionable.

 

  • A Codex is not “individual pages”, it is essentially a physical book, much like we know it today (but not printed by a printing technology). Apparently this was a careless phrasing.

 

  • The Gospels do not say that Jesus appeared “three days after his death”. They said that he appeared “the third day” (counting the day of death as being the first one).

 

  • Regarding the end of the Gospel of Mark, the episode says that the page had been deleted or destroyed, yet the scholars suggest one of other two possibilities: that the page has been lost! The other possibility is that Mark really ended in 16:8.

 

  • The episode mistakenly confuses several crimes accused against John Wycclife. Wycclife was not declared a “heretic” for translating the Bible from Latin to English. Translating the Bible in and of itself  was not a heresy, it was a crime, but it was not heresy.  The heresy that he was accused of was to expouse a strong belief in the predestination of those who would become part of the “invisible church of the chosen” while diminishing the importance of the “visible” Catholic Church. He also attacked the hierachy of the Church, particularly the papacy, and identified the Pope with the Antichrist. These and other challenges to Church doctrine, made him a “heretic” in the eyes of the Church.

 

  • William Tyndale was not accused of “heresy” for translating the Bible. He was accused of heresy for stating his total rejection of the papacy and the Church. However, he did translate the Bible to English as an act of defiance against Catholicism, and the Church itself questioned the way Tyndale purposely translated several terms to English in a way that favored his position against Church’s doctrine. This led to the Church charging him of disobeying the law, and simultaneously with heresy. However, the act of translating was not in itself a “heresy”.

I wish to make a final point. There is one thing that the episode does not clarify at all. The initial impression that people will have is that “the Bible” has been changed so much that it is practically totally unrelated to the original writings. This is not the case. Today, most Bibles out there are closer to the original than those versions of the Bible that were published in the Middle Ages or even the Reinaissance. That is due to the arduous work made by Bible scholars since the nineteenth century, and discoveries such as the Dead Sea Scrolls. Archeological discoveries, historiographical critical evaluation, and so on, have led us to reconstruct versions of the original books of the Bible that are closer and closer to their original meaning.

On the other hand, it is a mistake to say that the Dead Sea Scrolls represent the “original” Hebrew Bible. This is a mistaken idea, because there is a possibility that Essene scribes altered some of the texts to adjust them to their own worldview. So, even the Dead Sea Scrolls should be looked at critically.

Virtues of the Episode

One of the most important aspects of this episode is the exposition of some of the actual contradictions you may find in the Bible, and how translations actually distorted the original meaning of the texts. These two factors combined have shown that the books of the Bible are not historically reliable. Some of them have higher historical reliability than others, so, we must take the book critically, and listen to what scholars have to say about it. If you keep all of what I said above in mind, you can watch the episode and learn a lot of the history of the Bible and its importance today.

 

The Building Blocks of the Universe (“Poem”)

On December 31, 2013, in Poetry, by prosario2000

Drop of water up close

In the beginning …
in the depths of the first radiant glow,
you swam in the waves of the wrinkles of time.
From an exploding point you were lit,
formed … energized … and become alive.

The word that denotes you
reminds me of a life-giving womb,
the sweet breath of the first love I received.
And in the plasmic ocean of chaotic harmony
does everything new arrive in delight
when the fabric of space becomes a world’s eve.

I was shaped by your holy hands,
You made me flesh, and time transformed me,
as my soul was emerged,
and became conscious of all that I see.

In you I live, move, and exist.
And from the brightest, ancestral stars,
which are spread as far as the eyes can see
in warmth, you made me your offspring.

And so I spread my arms and feel free.
Your blind, but creative, and emergent gift
of searching new ways for beauty to see,
twinkles possibilities for me to expand
on a carpet of time that unravels for me.

In my mind I trek, travel, run, and engage
in my efforts to grasp your depths,
I can only reach a small taste
of the juiceful fruits of hidden knowledge.

And, within it, as slight as it is,
I find it filled with smiles, wonder,
and a noetic perception of the Holy
to Whom I kneel with gratitude and praise.

Forever grateful for
surrounding my life with adventure,
I absorb the infinite moments
of love, calm, beauty, and light …
for the most precious gifts you could ever give
you gave me for once the sweet kiss of life …

And, with you, I saw the Face of the Divine
I embraced my brothers and sisters in relational love,
and pray to the One Who breathes every wisp
of musical Power, Wisdom, and Life.

I will deny you no more
with the lie that you solely exist
to oppose my sad soul,
for within you it extends
and in joy does it rise.

From you I was born,
and in you I’ll dissolve
into the sparkles of dust that will spread
as heat is made cold.

And so is the grace of everything
engraved in the a sacred tale,
a myth expressed in the Cosmic Text,
being written in entangled tapestry
of an infinite scale.

And there, I have been,
and always be in the end.

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Why I Don’t Like Shyamalan

On December 29, 2013, in Movies, by prosario2000

For the life of me, I don’t know why Shyamalan keeps writing and directing movies which are mostly failures. I have nothing against the guy personally, and I wish him the best in the world, yet I don’t wish he touches anything related to the big screen again. For me, the only movie that worked very well for me was The Sixth Sense, Stuart Little, …. aaaaand that is about it! Many people want to argue in favor of other movies, such as Signs. I initially liked it, but as I kept watching it repeatedly, it made less and less sense. The same with practically all of the rest of the movies that people have found to be great … or just plain OK.

I think that the main problem that is constant in almost all of his failed movies is the fact that he includes what strikes me as a shallow view of spirituality, God, religion, and related subjects. Once you analyze his movies, you suddenly see how these spiritual views are nonsensical. I was amazed when Confused Matthew (one reviewer I really, really admire) said that Shyamalan is a very good story teller. Really?!!!

I want to share three Nostalgia Critic’s reviews regarding three of Shyamalan’s movies, so that you get what I mean about this. Be amazed at Shyamalan’s stupidity!

Criticism to Signs

Criticism to The Last Airbender

Criticism to Devil

I know that Shyamalan works on other TV projects. That is alright. I still like Family Guy, where he is still collaborating. Keep him there and similar projects. Just don’t let him write a new screenplay… and if you do … PLEASE … let it be a GOOD movie before financing it!

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Some Points about Process Philosophy

One of the things I have been looking at recently is the metaphysics proposed by A. N. Whitehead, and many of its variants, especially those proposed by John B. Cobb, Jr. and David Ray Griffin (the latter was one of the most recent editors of Whitehead’s Process and Reality). I want to question some of its central aspects of this philosophy in light of several issues related to current discussions of mathematical platonism.

My platonist framework is that of Husserl, who conceived categorial logical forms as ideal structures, and not as in the case of Gottlob Frege as “objects” (in the sense of saturated entities). As it happens, just as process philosophy’s emphasis on relationality, these logical forms are conceived as relational.  Yet, these logical relations are not themselves in process, hence, not actual.

Process Philosophy’s Criticisms to Aristotelian Metaphysics

Aristotelian philosophy is wholly based on the notion of substance, which has been problematic for many philosophers for ages. Its metaphysical standing has been disputed by many for being inadequate as a conceptual basis for science.

According to Aristotle, we can distinguish substance from attributes. A substance is, by definition, something that is self-subsistent, while an attribute is a property of a substance. A horse is a substance, a chair is a substance too. They can be conceived as existing with independence from other objects. Yet, the color blue cannot be a substance. Have you seen a color blue just floating in the air?  No. It is necessarily an attribute of a substance, it cannot exist without a substance. Given this, a substance can be conceived as the subtract of all the attributes of an object.

For Aristotle, in every substance we can find matter and form. Matter is whatever the substance is made of, but form is what defines what the substance is. For example, a chair is made out of wood, that is its matter (but it doesn’t define what the chair is). Yet, the form (the shape or the specific material arrangement of matter) that the wood takes in order to function is what defines a chair as a chair. Aristotle calls “essence” what a substance is (being a chair is precisely the essence of the substance we are talking about, and its form (among other things) determines its essence). The object itself was called by Aristotle “primary substance“, while its essence (the kind of thing that the primary substance is) would be the “secondary substance“.

For him, we can conceive a substance as unchanging, while its attributes do change. For example, if I have a green chair, and I paint it yellow, it continues to be one and the same chair, while its color attribute has changed. By changing its color, the chair has not stopped being what it is (its essence is unaltered). But if I take the wooden chair, burn it, and it becomes ashes, the chair has ceased to be what it was, to become something else (ashes).

Finally, for Aristotle, states that relations themselves are founded on substances. Substances are primordial, while relations are secondary.

Process philosophers challenge the very notion of substance. Their objections are not new, and are presented today as the most convincing arguments against this sort of metaphysics. They point at the way some Modern Idealists criticized the whole idea of the notion of substance as being primordial. Wildman (2013) gives us the example of a keychain within a given relational context. What makes the key what it is? Its essence, so-to-speak, is derived, not from its shape or form, but its relational context: Its essence changes, when the relational context changes: if we change all of the locks, the purpose of the keychain changes completely –before it was to open the lock, now they are useless–. They lost the essence of being keys (i.e. to open locks) (Wildman, 2013, p. 86). As process philosophers have pointed out, in this case, we can see clearly that the relational aspect is primordial. From this perspective, the idea of a substance or essence that does not change while attributes change become incomprehensible.

Process Metaphysics

Whitehead, Cobb, Griffin, and the rest of process metaphysicians, establish relationality and not substance, as the primordial factor of their metaphysics. According to them, the primary entities of the world are not objects (saturated entities), but what they call actual occasions or occasions of experience. These terms are the primordial concepts with which they describe change (in the Heraclitean sense). The way they conceive actual occasions is like a series of droplets of occasions that constitute temporality. The future is open-ended (there is no future at all), the past occurred already (but in a sense, endures), and the present is a set of actual occasions that become, change, and pass. (Note: I find this somewhat problematic from a scientific standpoint, especially in light of special and general relativity. I will elaborate this problem further in another post.)

I wish to point out something that is perhaps susceptible to misunderstandings regarding process. The fact that change is the rule in the physical world does not mean that literally everything real changes. In fact, process philosophy recognizes a level of nomic permanence, something that reminds us of the notion of logos as conceived by Heraclitus and the Stoics. In the words of John Cobb, Jr.:

Process thought … does not assert that everything is in process; for that would mean that even the fact that things are in process is subject to change. There are unchanging principles of process and abstract forms. But to be actual is to be a process. Anything which is not a process is an abstraction from process, not a full-fledged actuality (Cobb & Griffin, 1976, p. 14).

This statement is very important, because we are going to discuss some aspects of this nomic aspect proposed by process, and the issues raised by a platonist-structuralist view of mathematics.

Finally, I wish to mention the fact that for process philosophy, no individual is a strict object (in Fregean language, a saturated entity). Each unit of change can be described as an individual, but every individual is in itself a society of individuals interrelated with each other organically. Each individual has an inner reality, as well as an external interconnectivity with other individuals. In this sense, process thought conceives relationality “all the way down”, each individual is made up of an interactivity of individuals, which simultaneously are made up of further interactive individuals, and so on. A cell is an individual, but a rock is not. A rock is made up of individual molecules, but it is not organized in such a way as for the rock to relate organically with individuals.  Each human is nothing but a society of individuals. As it turns out, from a strictly biological standpoint, this is exactly true!

Husserl’s View of Categorial Forms as Ideal Relations

I would like to point out some aspects of Husserl’s philosophy that are pertinent in this discussion. He made the distinction between relations-of-ideas and matters-of-fact, a distinction inspired by David Hume. In the realm of relations-of-ideas, we can include logico-mathematical relations, as well as essences themselves (by “essences”, Husserl refers to a certain sort of meanings, the concepts). All true judgments about relations-of-ideas (i.e. truths-of-reason) are:

  1. Analytic-a priori statements: Which include analytic laws, statements devoid of all material concepts that are always true; and analytic necessities, particular instances of analytic laws. For instance: a + b = b + a would be an analytic law, but the statement “two apples and one apple always is an apple plus two apples”, expresses an analytic necessity.
  2. Synthetic-a priori statements: These are always true, but they cannot be formalized salva veritate. For example, the statement “no color can exist without a colored surface”.

Analytic and synthetic-a priori statements are true due to the essence of what they propose. However, all true statements referring to matters-of-fact (i.e. truths-of-fact) are synthetic-a posteriori.

Since all analytic and synthetic-a priori statements are necessarily true, then that means that they establish a ideal nomic realm (i.e. “laws” that will rule this realm out of logical necessity). In the case of the analytic-a priori statements, we are given logical-mathematical truths, what Husserl called a mathesis universalis.

According to Husserl, in all judgments we can identify formal components that relate other concepts and other judgments. These formal components are called by him “meaning categories“, which are ruled by laws that we today call “rules of formations” (laws to prevent non-sense or meaningless judgments), and “rules of transformation” (laws to prevent contradictions). None of the analytic laws in this realm refer to anything to matters-of-fact, nor are they “actual” (in the process sense of the term). Some of the meaning categories include: Subject-predicate structure, conjunction, disjunction, forms of plural, forms of combining new propositions from simpler ones, and so on. In this sense, formal logic is formal theory of judgment or formal apophantics.

Judgments or propositions refer to states-of-affairs (facts), i.e. sensible objects arranged in a specific ideal manner. These ideal arrangements or ideal relations of objects are called by Husserl, “formal-objectual categories” or “formal-ontological categories“. These elementary forms of arrangements of objects can be: unity, plurality, sets, cardinal number, ordinal number, part, whole, relation, among others. Mathematics develops a theory based on each of these formal-objectual categories: for instance, from the category of sets we develop set theory; from the category of cardinal numbers, we can develop an arithmetic of cardinal number; from the correlative concepts of parts and wholes, we can develop a mereology, and so on.

Husserl’s mathematical Realism and Platonism is evident once we realize that he ontologized these categories. For him, the concepts of cardinal numbers, sets, parts and wholes, etc. refer to ideal and self-subsisting entities. This is due to the fact that mathematical statements being necessarily true, must refer to these existent ideal structures in order to be true (this is now called the “ontological commitment” factor in mathematics). Not only that, but these formal-ontological categories can themselves become objects of still higher abstract states of affairs. For example, If I have, the set {A,B}, I can include as element another set to create a set of a higher order {{A,B},{C,D}}, in which case, the sets {A,B} and {C,D} become objects (elements) of the set of a higher order. We can study these formal-ontological categories and their theories completely devoid of all sensible or material components (essentially by substituting objects with variables). In this way, mathematics is a formal theory of object or formal ontology: it studies the forms of being of any object whatever!

Both, formal apophantics and formal ontology form together a mathesis universalis, what Leibniz considered the supreme form of mathematics.

Critical Evaluation of Process Thought in Light of Husserl’s Platonist Philosophy

Notice that in each of the cases, judgments and states of affairs, we can distinguish between “matter” and “form”. In the case of states-of-affairs, sensible objects constitute the matter, while the formal-objectual categories are the form in which they are arranged. In a sense, they are their own unit constituted in the world, and as such, they can be experienced (phenomenologically speaking).

This has important consequences for process. For this way of viewing reality, the world is made up essentially from occasions of experience. We can say the same thing from a Husserlian standpoint. After all, for Husserl, the “world” or the “universe” is the sum of all existent objectualities (states-of-affairs) in the temporal realm, which is the correlated with the deductive network of truths-of-fact. Neither Husserl nor process philosophers conceive the world as made up of mere objects, but of the way these objects are related. There is a difference between Husserl and process, though. For example, every individual is in a relational organic relationship with other individuals. Husserlian states-of-affairs are specific ideal arrangements of objects (any sort of objects, not just individuals). The rock forms part of the set of objects in the garden, but it is not an individual in terms of process, nor does it have the sort of arrangement that would make it have an “inner life” so-to-speak.

In this sense, the organic relations among individuals are nothing more than a subset of possible formal-objectual abstract relations that objects have. In this sense, individuals are nothing but an organic whole made of many sorts of states-of-affairs, all objectually arranged and based organically on one another “all the way down” … but not “infinitely down”. Some relations are clearly based on ultimate subtracts. This can be seen more clearly in the debate between Platonism and Structuralism. For Structuralism, abstract relations are primordial over the mathematical entities themselves, mathematical objects are defined by the places they fill within a given structure. However, when you look at sets, these forms make sense as relations based on any objects whatever. If this is the case, structuralism cannot give us an account for sets at all (Brown, 1999, pp. 62-66). We find the same defect in process.

Considering this way of viewing things, from a Platonist-Husserlian standpoint, problems begin to emerge for process philosophy. For instance, if organic relations are nothing but subsets of all possible formal-objectual relations of given objects, then by essence relations cannot be the “most” fundamental components of occasions of experience. On the contrary, Husserl’s views on states-of-affairs seem to be closer to Aristotle than to Whitehead. If there are relations in the realm of matters-of-fact, there must be subtracts that become the objectual elements of those relations. It would be non-sense to insist that relations are primordial, since the ultimate elements of formal-objectual categories must be objects (in this case, material). There cannot be a second-order set without at least a first-order set. There cannot be any relation among individuals in the physical world if the individual is not itself a physical object (in the broad sense of the term “object”). The objectual relationships occur from bottom-up, not from up to bottom. So, in a very real sense, individuals cannot be made up of “societies all of the way down” (at least not literally). It can only go down to a point, and that point must be in some sense substantial.

Alternative Proposal: Nuanced Conception of Substance (Object) and Relationality

Since it is clear that the Aristotelian notion of substance (and even the most radical conception –the Cartesian version–) is not adequate, nor is the process version either, then we must choose a better alternative, one I rarely see discussed: the notion that substance (object) should be co-fundamental with the one of relations.

We can talk about objects and their formal relationships in a state-of-affairs. Whitehead said that our experience (subjective and objective) is of occasions of experience. Here I want to suggest a return to Husserlian phenomenology and recognize that what is experienced are states-of-affairs as such, and that objects and their formal relations are given to any consciousness (any ego) simultaneously or any other sort of individual. Not only do objects arrange themselves according to form according to ideal laws (that are ideal, necessary, and unchanging), but that is the only way we perceive and know them. Only in this way, we can know and experience certain kinds of states-of-affairs that we can term “occasions of experience” (in the realm of temporality), and we can understand ourselves as individuals in the process sense of being a hierarchy of relational networks of individuals. No object would be understood necessarily as a Fregean saturaded object.These objects can be space-time, superstrings, forms of energy, material objects, entangled quanta, quarks, and so on. However, we should keep in mind that to suppose an “infinity” of relationality “all the way down” begs the question. For this reason, we can also open the possibility of foundational objects (in the general sense) that are not constituted by a further relationality of actual occasions, and that, despite this, are themselves in a relationship with other objects.

References

Brown, J. R. (2008). Philosophy of Mathematics: A Contemporary Introduction to the World of Proofs and Pictures. London: Routledge.

Cobb Jr., J. B. & Griffin, D. R. (1976). Process Theology: An Introductory Exposition. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press.

Husserl, E. (2008). Logical Investigations. London & New York: Routledge.

Rosado Haddock, G. E. (2003). 14. On Husserl’s Distinction between State of Affairs (Sachverhalt) and Situation of Affairs (Sachlage). In Husserl or Frege? Meaning, Objectivity, and Mathematics. C. O. Hill & G. E. Rosado Haddock (eds.). pp. 253-262. IL: Open Court.

Whitehead, A. N. (1978). Process and Reality. NY: Free Press.

Wildman, W. (2013). Una introducción a la ontología relacional.  In La Trinidad y un mundo entrelazado. J. Polkinghorne (ed.). pp. 81-102. Navarra, España: Editorial Verbo Divino.

 

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