Philo's guide to decoding the Hebrew Bible

The study of religious or heroic legends and tales. One constant rule of mythology is that whatever happens amongst the gods or other mythical beings was in one sense or another a reflection of events on earth. Recorded myths and legends, perhaps preserved in literature or folklore, have an immediate interest to archaeology in trying to unravel the nature and meaning of ancient events and traditions.

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Postby Ishtar » Tue Sep 09, 2008 2:01 pm

Yeah .... well, I guess it's an interpretation.

"Gods are fickle, nature is fickle". Hmmm, but I don't think so.

Actually nature isn't fickle. Nature definitely has rules. It could appear to a stupid man that nature is fickle, but we know that these guys were far more in touch with nature that we are ... they had to be, for survival reasons.

So usually when there's a flood, there usually a very good reason for it ... it's to correct an imbalance somewhere, either one we are aware of, or are not aware of. It's like when a thunder storm comes, it's often such a tremendous relief, isn't it? Only recently, a few weeks ago, we had such overpoweringly humid conditions, and my garden plants were gasping and keeling over along with me in the drought, and we were all praying for rain and preferably a really good thunderstorm to clear the atmosphere, and it was such a relief when it came.

So I don't believe that Nature is fickle.

And in the Adapa myth, Adapa is the fickle one who, purely on an angry whim, prevented the south wind from doing its job and thus caused a drought.

The problem is, there are more than 100 flood myths worldwide ... and this is just the Sumerian version.
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Postby seeker » Tue Sep 09, 2008 4:44 pm

Men tend to live near water so its no surprise that there are flood stories everywhere.

Adapa is impulsive, so is Anu. The difference always seems to be that the Gods get away with being fickle. I guess that means they have better lawyers.

Nature does indeed have rules but to an agricultural society it can be pretty rough, especially in those times. We still can't completely control crop production, a hot dry summer causes havoc even these days. Back then a failed crop could mean famine.
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Postby Ishtar » Tue Sep 09, 2008 6:06 pm

Seeker, why do you think Anu is fickle? In the account I read, Anu's motivation is not at all clear (mainly, I think because that bit of the tablet was missing!).

I also think that if the purpose of these stories was to teach wisdom, which I believe it was, it wouldn't be very wise to teach that Nature is fickle. It would be more wise to teach these adepts how to read the laws of Nature, how to read the signs, which we know they did certainly from parts of the Vedas.

Nature has its cycles, its seasons, its rhymes and its reasons. It's just a question of us understanding them.

There's an old gardener lives down the road from me, and he always knows when it's going to rain. He told me that when the North Downs look really clear and near during the day, that means it's going to rain in the evening. I checked it out, and he's right. That's what I call wisdom.



.
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Postby seeker » Wed Sep 10, 2008 7:49 am

Ishtar wrote:Seeker, why do you think Anu is fickle? In the account I read, Anu's motivation is not at all clear (mainly, I think because that bit of the tablet was missing!).

I also think that if the purpose of these stories was to teach wisdom, which I believe it was, it wouldn't be very wise to teach that Nature is fickle. It would be more wise to teach these adepts how to read the laws of Nature, how to read the signs, which we know they did certainly from parts of the Vedas.

Nature has its cycles, its seasons, its rhymes and its reasons. It's just a question of us understanding them.

There's an old gardener lives down the road from me, and he always knows when it's going to rain. He told me that when the North Downs look really clear and near during the day, that means it's going to rain in the evening. I checked it out, and he's right. That's what I call wisdom.



.

Anu goes from wanting to kill Adapa to offering him immortality almost instantaneously yet is unwilling to do anything to clear up Adapa's misunderstanding of the offer, nor does the offer of immortality ever get made again. To me that is fickle.

I agree that it is possible to know when it will rain, my old bones are pretty reliable in their own right. What they won't tell me is what kind of planting season we will have. In fact a lot of the rituals early cultures had were to try to influence the gods to grant a favorable growing season precisely because that wasn't something that could be predicted.
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Postby Ishtar » Wed Sep 10, 2008 9:28 am

It only looks instantaneous because there are three lacunas in the text around that part of the story.

http://www.sacred-texts.com/ane/adapa.htm

The south wind .... when
He had driven me to the house of my lord, I said,
O South wind, on the way I shall to thee ... everything that,
Thy wing, will I break." As be spoke with his mouth,
The wing of the South wind was broken, seven davs
The South wind blew not upon the land. Anu
Called to his messenger Ilabrat:
Why has the South wind not blown upon the land for seven davs?
His messenger Ilabrat answered him: "My lord,
Adapa, the son of Ea, the wing of the South wind
Has broken."
When Anu heard these words
He cried, Help!" He ascended his throne,
"Let some one bring him,"
Likewise Ea, who knows the heaven. He roused him
... he caused him to wear. With a mourning garment
He garbed him, and gave him counsel
Saying: " Adapa, before the face of Anu the King thou art to go
... to heaven
When thou comest up, and when thou approachest the door of Anu,
At the door of Anu, Tammuz and Gishzida are standing,
"they will see thee, they will ask thee; 'Sir,'
For whose sake dost thou so appear, Adapa? For whom
Art thou clad in a mourning garment?' 'In our country two gods have vanished, therefore
Am I so.' 'Who are the two gods, who in the land
Have vanished?' 'Tammuz and Gishzida.' They will look at one another and
Be astonished. Good words
They will speak to Anu. A good countenance of Anu
They will show thee. When thou standest before Anu
Food of death they will set before thee,
Eat not. Water of death they will set before thee,
Drink not. Garments they will set before thee,
Put them on. Oil they will set before thee, anoint thyself.
The counsel that I have given thee, forget not. The words
Which I have spoken, hold fast." The messenger
Of Anu came: "Adapa has broken
The wing of the South wind. Bring him before me."
The road to Heaven he made him take, and to Heaven he ascended.
When he came to Heaven, when he approached the door of Anu,
At the door of Ann, Tammuz and Gisbzida are standing.
When they saw him, Adapa, they cried: " Help,
Sir, for whom dost thou so appear? Adapa,
For whom art thou clad in a mourning garment?"
In the country two gods have vanished; therefore am I clad
In mourning garments." "Who are the two gods, who
have vanished from the land?"
"Tammuz and Gishzida." They looked at one another and
Were astonished. When Adapa before Anu, the King,
Drew near, and Anu saw him, he cried:
" Come hither, Adapa. Why hast thou broken the wings
Of the South wind? " Adapa answered Ann: " My lord,
For the house of my lord in the midst of the sea,
I was catching fish. The sea was like a mirror,
The South wind blew, and capsized me.
To the house of my lord was I driven. In the anger of my heart,
I took heed." Tammuz and Gishzida
Answered ... "art thou." To Anu
They speak. He calmed himself, his heart was . . .
"Why has Ea revealed to impure mankind
The heart of heaven and earth? A heart
... has created within him, has made him a name?
What can we do with him? Food of life
Bring him, that be man, eat."Food of life
They brought him, but he ate not. Water of life
They brought him, but he drank not. Garments
They brought him. He clothed himself. Oil
They brought him. He anointed himself.
Anu looked at him; he wondered at him.
" Come, Adapa, why hast thou not eaten, not drunken?
Now thou shalt not live." ... men ...Ea, my lord
Said: "Eat not, drink not."
Take him and bring him back to his earth.
... looked upon him.

From that, I would find it difficult to say with any certainty who made the comment about Ea and that seems to lead on to the command to bring Adapa the food of life – thus I feel that I don’t know why Anu did that. I don’t think there’s enough evidence to say that this was Anu being fickle. He may have had a good reason ... like getting back at Ea.

I also disagree with you that man performed rituals to placate the gods in the way this is viewed in modern times. From what I know of shamanic rituals, they were designed to bring man into synchronicity (or partnership) with the ‘gods’ in a general sense, and not for any special pleading, which I think is a later idea. For example, when a shaman does a rain dance, he does actually bring the rains ... he is not begging the ‘god of rain’ to come. It's only Literal religions that put man in a begging situation with God.

Like the Egyptians who used astronomy to predict the flooding of the Nile, the ancients used astronomy to predict the weather. Using that along with their finely tuned senses and keen observation, like my old gardener down the road would, I’m sure they would have been a lot better at predicting the weather than our useless weathermen.
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Postby seeker » Wed Sep 10, 2008 10:04 am

Well, I'm sure here we'll disagree. What we know of ancient religions was that they used rituals, not specifically to ask for things they wanted but to play out the way things should go. The whole idea behind ritual magic was that it would set a pattern that the gods would follow. A lot of the earliest myths were these rituals, which were sort of like group plays that entire cities would participate in.

A good discussion of the subject can be found here. Notably:

So, a broad category of myths, although far from all, were meant to be repeated on ritual and ceremonial occasions, and their repetition was part of their purpose, often to preserve the continuity of nature and society. Seasonal and fertility festivals fall into this category—the rituals to reverse the decline of the sun at the winter solstice, and to bring the rains to fertilize the earth required some sort of imitative action to bring it about that the myth explained and justified by showing how and why it was instituted for the first time. Retelling the mythical origin was essential to the continual repetition of the ritual which itself was a type of sympathetic magic to compel the event or to remind a deity of its obligation. The Egyptians had a ceremony each year to remind the Nile of its obligation to rise and inundate the valley!


I think the development of shamanism is a sophistication of that system.

I would disagree that the ancients were better at predicting weather than we are now. They just didn't have weathermen to complain about.
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Postby Ishtar » Wed Sep 10, 2008 11:29 am

Well, that gave me a good laugh, Seeker. :D

Why would a people who are entirely in touch with the cycles and rhythms of nature have a ritual to reverse the decline of the sun at the winter solstice? These rituals went back thousands of years, just like their astronomical records. So your extract is suggesting that for thousands of years, even though it never ONCE worked, these people would get together, like a bunch of heads-in-the-sand King Canutes, to try to get the gods to stop the sun declining.

You’d think someone would notice, wouldn’t you, and say it wasn’t working?

I would go so far as to say that this whole way of thinking about ancient man has developed from a kind of almost racist bigotry about him that used to be so prevalent, especially among the ancient academics in your AskWhy.com paper, one of whom is dated to 1910. They think early HSS was stupid. But far from being stupid, he was entirely in touch with and understood his natural environment in a way that we have lost today.

Seeker, please take a look at this thread: http://archaeologica.boardbot.com/viewtopic.php?t=1935

There is a kind of shamanic ritual that went on, and still does in some tribes in Africa, which is designed to stop a disaster happening. But it’s not like they’re trying to appease the gods in the hope that they’ll intervene and stop it from happening. They are not in a subservient position to their gods - I know that this is probably difficult for those in a Christian conditioned society to understand. But the way they see it, they are taking control and changing their own reality.

It works like this. The shaman of the tribe is shown, possibly in a vision, that a plague is going to affect the tribe and wipe them all out. The reason his spirits give him this vision is so that he can prevent it. How the tribe prevents it is to act it out. They all get together and act out the whole scenario, like in a theatre. They do this to cause the actual real event not to occur, the rationale being that now that it has happened, it doesn’t need to happen again, or at all.

So this is not about placating gods. It is about people shaping their own destiny using the power of their intention.

Does it work? Well it’s hard to say, because if it works, you’d never know. The plague wouldn’t show up ... but then, some wiseacre might say that it was never going to come anyway. But one thing I’m sure of, it’s a hell of lot more successful than trying to stop the sun declining at the winter solstice!



.
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Postby seeker » Wed Sep 10, 2008 1:00 pm

You misunderstood the source. They weren't trying to stop the sun declining, only to make sure it ascended at the appropriate time (which it always did).

You must have just skimmed the source I posted.
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Postby Ishtar » Wed Sep 10, 2008 1:39 pm

seeker wrote:You misunderstood the source. They weren't trying to stop the sun declining, only to make sure it ascended at the appropriate time (which it always did).

You must have just skimmed the source I posted.


It reads "to reverse the sun declining at the winter solstice" not to make sure the sun ascended again after the winter solstice.

I didn't skim it ....

Look Seeker, if you think you know best about what these people were doing after Googling and coming up with an AskWhy.com reference, then please carry on. It's a waste of my time to tell you what they're really doing, because you don't think I know what I'm talking about and so whatever I tell you, you'll disagree and go off Googling again to find anything that disagrees with me.

How can I argue with a Google.com PhD? I find this kind of debate very boring.
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Postby seeker » Wed Sep 10, 2008 2:01 pm

Ishtar wrote:
seeker wrote:You misunderstood the source. They weren't trying to stop the sun declining, only to make sure it ascended at the appropriate time (which it always did).

You must have just skimmed the source I posted.


It reads "to reverse the sun declining at the winter solstice" not to make sure the sun ascended again after the winter solstice.

I didn't skim it ....

Look Seeker, if you think you know best about what these people were doing after Googling and coming up with an AskWhy.com reference, then please carry on. It's a waste of my time to tell you what they're really doing, because you don't think I know what I'm talking about and so whatever I tell you, you'll disagree and go off Googling again to find anything that disagrees with me.

How can I argue with a Google.com PhD? I find this kind of debate very boring.


Reversing the sun's decline is the same as making ascend.

All I'm saying is that the scholarly understanding, or maybe a better word would be the secular understanding, is different from the one you've espoused. As to your implication that I only googled and found that source I'll just assume you are frustrated. We have differing views and I tend to research my views. The fact is that I have a lot of sites I keep track of because I do read frequently on the subject of religion and religious beliefs.
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Postby Ishtar » Wed Sep 10, 2008 10:08 pm

seeker wrote:
Reversing the sun's decline is the same as making ascend.


No it's not. To people who understand astronomy, as these people did, reversing the sun's decline is impossible, and not just because they didn't have the power to do it. When the sun ascends, it's not a reverse of anything - it doesn't go backwards. It's an onward, forward ascension as it passes through a cycle, just like when the hands of a clock reach six o'clock, they can then begin their ascent to eight o'clock. This is not empty semantics. Your extract from your academics had these people trying to reverse a decline at the winter solstice, which is typical of the ignorance with which academics viewed, and still do, these ritual events and the thinking behind them.

seeker wrote:All I'm saying is that the scholarly understanding, or maybe a better word would be the secular understanding, is different from the one you've espoused. As to your implication that I only googled and found that source I'll just assume you are frustrated. We have differing views and I tend to research my views. The fact is that I have a lot of sites I keep track of because I do read frequently on the subject of religion and religious beliefs.


You can read as many "scholarly sites" as you like, but it stil won't help you understand shamanism. Nobody in academia even began to understand what shamans were actually doing until Mircea Eliade, the Professor of Relgion at Harvard, published his book in 1951. Until then, although anthropologists had reported on these rites, they had not understood that something real was going, and came up with terms like "sympathetic magic" to try to explain them. On top of that, ancient man was considered to be pretty stupid. But none of these academics had actually experienced what they were talking about, and so really they were just making it up as they went along.

That's why, even today, you cannot train to be a shaman in a university, because there's no-one there qualified to teach it. If you want to be a shaman, you have to go and find a shaman to learn from. Becomng a shaman means going beyond the intellect, gonig beyond reason, going beyond the rational - and this type of pursuit would be anathema to most universities anyway.

So you can go to 'scholarly sites' (although one would hardly include AskWhy.com under that heading), but you still won't understand shamanism. At best, it is like the difference between reading the recipe for a chocolate cake, and eating a chocolate cake.

I know which I'd prefer. :)
Last edited by Ishtar on Thu Sep 11, 2008 12:41 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Postby Ishtar » Wed Sep 10, 2008 11:23 pm

I've just thought of an analogy that may be helpful.

Imagine that you'd lived in the same, small sleepy village all your life. You had never ventured outside of this village and your family was so poor, it couldn't afford a television or a radio. So all you knew was the life of this small, remote village.

Then one day, for no apparent reason, you are picked up in a car, and whisked off to JFK airport.

When you get there, you look out the car window across the concourse, and you can see many people standing in a line in front of a big, shiney silvery thing with wings. You wonder what on earth they're doing, and what the big, shiney silvery thing with wings is. You can see that everyone in the line seems to be focussed on this big, shiney silvery thing, but you cannot figure out why. You wonder if they are worshipping it ... or perhaps they are scared of such a huge monster and trying to appease it. Then you notice another one behind it, and it's making a roaring noise and it begins to slowly turn, and you are immediately seized with terror and dive under the car seat.

Eventually, you are taken from the car and carried on to the aeroplane, possibly kicking and screaming, but at least, when you take off, you can see what the thing is for and why people were queuing to get on to it. And when you get to your holiday destination, you can see that these big, shiny silvery things with wings are not monsters, and in fact, are actually quite a good thing, all in all, because at least one got you to this wonderful paradise island.

All of the above is how academics used to view ancient man. The academics were like the child who had never been to an airport, let alone on an aeroplane. Thus they didn't understand what the aeroplane was for, what the ritual was for, and so imagined all sorts of scenarios and motives for it. They would project their own fears and prejudices on to these events which were shot through with assumptions about Empire and God On Our Side and Christians having to educate the primitive, ignorant, barbarian heathens.

To this day, most academics still haven't been on aeroplane although they are starting to hear about those who have.

So I'm sure you know where I'm going with this.

In the main, shamanic tribals did not write down why they were performing these rituals as the teaching was passed on orally. So only those who have entered the mindset of those performing a shamanic ritual stand any chance of understanding the purpose of it. I don't mean the everyday mindset of those people. I mean the 'altered reality mindset' they would have been in at the time of the ritual.

Add to that Mircae Eliade's reports from shamans worldwide, which consist of interviews with shamans about their practises throughout the world at the turn of 19th/20th century. The book was published in 1951 but it was first of all rejected by The Club and Eliade's name was smeared. So it took a long time for its contents to percolate through - I'd say, probably only in the last 10 or 15 years.

So putting both those factors together, you can start to build up a picture.

Once you know what one aeroplane is for, you know what they're all for. Of course, that's not to say that one day, you might not come on a group of people who actually are worshipping an aeroplane. But that's just Chaos Theory in action.


.
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Postby seeker » Thu Sep 11, 2008 8:15 am

Ishtar wrote:
No it's not. To people who understand astronomy, as these people did, reversing the sun's decline is impossible, and not just because they didn't have the power to do it. When the sun ascends, it's not a reverse of anything - it doesn't go backwards. It's an onward, forward ascension as it passes through a cycle, just like when the hands of a clock reach six o'clock, they can then begin their ascent to eight o'clock. This is not empty semantics. Your extract from your academics had these people trying to reverse a decline at the winter solstice, which is typical of the ignorance with which academics viewed, and still do, these ritual events and the thinking behind them.

That's really a semantic quibble. The point was to make the transition from the shorter days of summer, when the sun and earth seemed to be dying, to the longer days of spring and summer when everything seemed to be coming to life.

Ishtar wrote:You can read as many "scholarly sites" as you like, but it stil won't help you understand shamanism. Nobody in academia even began to understand what shamans were actually doing until Mircea Eliade, the Professor of Relgion at Harvard, published his book in 1951. Until then, although anthropologists had reported on these rites, they had not understood that something real was going, and came up with terms like "sympathetic magic" to try to explain them. On top of that, ancient man was considered to be pretty stupid. But none of these academics had actually experienced what they were talking about, and so really they were just making it up as they went along.

That's why, even today, you cannot train to be a shaman in a university, because there's no-one there qualified to teach it. If you want to be a shaman, you have to go and find a shaman to learn from. Becomng a shaman means going beyond the intellect, gonig beyond reason, going beyond the rational - and this type of pursuit would be anathema to most universities anyway.

So you can go to 'scholarly sites' (although one would hardly include AskWhy.com under that heading), but you still won't understand shamanism. At best, it is like the difference between reading the recipe for a chocolate cake, and eating a chocolate cake.

I know which I'd prefer. :)

Careful, too much chocolate cake can be bad for you. :wink:

Of course this brings us back around to the question of whether a person involved in a belief system can capably be objective about that belief system.

You've posted a couple of times that ancient man was considered 'stupid'. I don't think you give anthropologists much credit. A skeptical approach doesn't imply the subject is stupid any more that your not being Christian implies all Christians are stupid.
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Postby Ishtar » Thu Sep 11, 2008 9:07 am

Well, I think we're going to have to do our usual, here, and agree to differ. :)

Except I will just say that shamanism isn't a belief system. There is no belief system attached to it.
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Postby john » Thu Sep 11, 2008 6:27 pm

Ishtar wrote:Well, I think we're going to have to do our usual, here, and agree to differ. :)

Except I will just say that shamanism isn't a belief system. There is no belief system attached to it.



Ishtar -

Bingo.

"No belief system attached to it".

Thus the Shamanic.

Thus the Bicameral

(remember the Bicameral?)

The belief system was created by people

Who wanted to attain,

And maintain,

Physical power over those

Who created things of economic value.

Thus is the continental divide

Between

Knowledge

and

Belief.


Take it anywhere you want........


hoka hey


john
"Man is a marvellous curiosity. When he is at his very, very best he is sort of a low-grade nickel-plated angel; at his worst he is unspeakable, unimaginable; and first and last and all the time he is a sarcasm."

Mark Twain
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