||"dawnbreak in the west"|
Monday, March 19, 2018
I learnt about the Enuma Elish epic poem when I was about thirteen years old. The first (nonbackdated) post on this very blog, in February 2002, sported an Enuma Elish reference. Paul Cooper posted a thread about that work last December, to which hbdchick has linked. Cooper's thread doesn't say anything new that I hadn't posted here, scattered about; but Cooper has delivered an excellent summary, for those who haven't read it, or (like me) haven't bothered to lay it out in full.
Here's a point I'll post a riff on:
That the white(ish) Ukrainian "androcrats" had defeated peaceful European mother-goddess villagers, had long trickled around the scholarship; to name one name besides Graves, this was a hobby-horse of Marija Gimbutas, discussing the Kurgan culture which she associated with Indo-European languages. We kids of the 1980s weren't reading Gimbutas; no-one had told us about her yet. To my knowledge, the Gimbutas-driven Patriarchy talk impinged upon the popular culture most sharply during the early 1990s - during the Clinton candidacy for President. That's about when I first became aware of Political Correctness, in 1992. The Toys For Bob (anti-Reagan) crew bowed to this when discussing the Syreen in Star Control 2: in their world, (female) agriculture had never allowed (male) pastoralism to overpower it.
Gimbutas (an IndoEuropean, and one often attacked as a a neoNazi romantic) faced some detractors, and you'll be unsurprised to hear that these detractors were often Semites. Larry Gonick's first Cartoon History publications proposed that patriarchy came to the Near East long before the Kurgan. Gonick as - more specifically - a Jew wondered about pastoralists on the agricultural fringe.
Lately we've exonerated Gimbutas inasmuch as the Kurgan folk were in fact Indo-Europeans and were in fact bringing a new and warrior-focused way of culture. On Gimbutas' claims that the Mother Goddess at the time was presiding over a peaceful people... not so much. Also any talk of Indo-European culture doesn't transfer well to the lower Mesopotamía.
And gynocentric / gylanic cultures aren't seen in human nature today. So to project them into the past demands a VERY high burden-of-proof, which Gimbutas did not provide. Let alone Graves.
The ancient myth behind Enuma Elish should be understood instead as men defeating chaos and then subjecting chaos to the plough. The fertility goddesses were not defeated as fertility goddesses. Before they were deities they were mere Anarchía; in the plural Semitic, Tiamât. It is only when man subdued the Lovecraftian horrors that some could become goddesses.
Sunday, March 18, 2018
The demon in Arius
The Cyrenian priest Arius conjectured a time when the Father preceded the Son. He used this to argue the Father's utter sovereignty.
I note that if we concede this point, then God was not a Father, and had nothing to love. In this schema God was a Lovecraftian horror like the rest, unworthy of worship. God only became God when He expressed love.
It is a longstanding joke that when churchmen are asked, but what was God doing before, they snap "He was creating Hell for those who ask such questions!". Maybe we shouldn't laugh.
If God existed before He loved, this implies that Rahman, Rahim, Ghaffar aren't among His attributes. If He acts on them it is just out of His arbitrary Will.
So the Christian answer to, what was God doing before, is that God didn't exist as God before. This is why Christians need Jesus at His right hand. (And not Arius.)
Why Marduk is male
Human women have agency, and nowadays our feminists claim that to gender God as a male is "patriarchy". Feminists would have us ignore the intrinsic social merits of patriarchy, and dismiss whatever we might glean from Scripture and its (often-gendered) languages.
Which is fine. God is masculine anyway.
The genetic function of any creature is to survive and to procreate, and the function of a female is to bear children - or at least eggs. In biology the first organisms are those which spawn themselves by mitosis. Feminists agree with this, assuming they don't simply desire death (and we dismiss these); radical feminists question instead whether or not a man is needed. In that spirit I say that to asexual eukaryotes should be given the female gender, as do amoebae.
In the mythic / Platonic ideal, the feminine - left alone - is passive, with no mind or agency. This has been demonstrated in humans over the course of a Dutch "Survivor" show. Women might not need us men... but they sure don't get far without us. The feminine principle is chaos. Chaos selforganised and some of it became sentient.
To reach out into chaos could well stir up a reaction within chaos: the Babylonians named this reaction "Tiamat". But, still, the act of reaching out is intrinsically masculine - it defined the first male. This is why Marduk is male, and Tiamat female. Exploration is male; conquest is male... evangelism is male.
Zarathustra the so-called prophet who thought up the Mazdaite religion was probably a woman; it is often women who compose hymns, even among the old Mesopotamians. But Mazdaism failed. Mazdaism could not be made consistently active and a passive god, in the end, is not worth the worship.
As a root based on `Ayin - Khâ presents
Satzinger speaks of Semitic and Egyptian as, each, a
`Ayin and Khâ, in Semitic, are done in the back of the mouth or further; such variations of "H" are "velar" or "pharyngeal" fricatives. Apparently the character Coptologists have been transcribing `Ayin... wasn't. Satzinger thinks it was a dental originally.
To this ex-Englishman this looks like a glottal-stop situation. A hamza. Similar happened on the way to whichever Iranian passed on Zarathustra / Zardosht to Herodotos as "Zoroaster". Maybe Herodotos heard the name in Egypt?
COMMENT: Orthography is a pain in the ass, especially for a moving target. The Egyptians never chanced upon the consonantal-style alphabet. The Canaanites / Phoenicians did it first, often borrowing from Egyptian hieratic and demotic models. But Canaanites writing in Egypt did use Egyptian simplified demotic to inscribe Canaanite hymns and poems. Maybe Egyptologists should adapt that script when transcribing Iron Age pre-Coptic Egyptian literature, generally. Worry about the pronunciation later - as in, do a best-estimate in the paper and then an appendix mapping the neoDemotic to Latin.
Saturday, March 17, 2018
Origins of free-will
Since God as Lawful is countable / finite, true free-will must express freedom from God - that which God cannot control. Freedom, then, has its ultimate origin from outside, the Chaos. The myth of the Virgin (in Luke and John) and the myth of Creation both relate to God experiencing and working with Chaos. (This has the knock-on effect of spawning a borderland, which I call The Fey.) We as sentients choose whether or not to follow God. On this, all major monotheisms agree. We differ on what this means.
That God allows His children to have (or to keep) freedom can imply that God is a loving sentient. This is especially true if God reached out to The Fey first. In the Biblical tradition this is a masculine act; Mazda by inviting Chaos inside is arguably feminine here, but I'll leave that discussion to the Parsees. In Christianity this elevation of sentient free-will to the mythic Creation is the core of dyotheletism - of Catholicism.
One could propose alternative myths. God might have allowed free-will but not out of love. Worshippers of such a god don't like to think of God's inherent limits, and so find comfort in his power. Such a mythos will begin with power-play: invasion or rebellion. Perhaps God wins, but love doesn't. It can't; such a god has been raped. Men and jinns in this fallen world, if pious, seek to annihilate their own souls, through suicide (gnostics) or submission (Muslims).
Personally I think the Catholics are healthier here.
The reconstruction of a jihad state
Adam Gaiser in 2013 published "Slaves and Silver across the Strait of Gibraltar: Politics and Trade between Umayyad Iberia and Khārijite North Africa". This argues that "quietist" Haruris - Ibadi / Sufri, not quite distinguished yet - inspired rebellions against the Umayyads of Rusafa (Damascus was already no longer a thing). But they made peace with the Umayyads of Spain later on.
Northwest Africa and southern Spain by then shared a "Maghrebi" geography (relative to the Arab / Islamic core) and a mutual "Andalusi" history. They also shared mutual enemies - as of the 130s / 750s, most saliently the 'Abbasid usurpers. The pan-Gibraltar Maghreb agreed that slavery was the Islamic model between subordinates and superiors, and that God has prescribed jihad for Islamic propagation.
The neo-Umawis barely holding out in Spain couldn't be the arbitrary Shi'a-like monarchists as they had been in Syria, and as the 'Abbasids were (then) establishing themselves. Without eastern support, neither side of the Strait had the might to conquer the other.
Gaiser proposes all the Maghrebis borrowed from the Asha'itha and the Muhallabids. I add that at least the former were known Murji'ites, the proto-Sunnis (plug! Throne of Glass!).
Of the known Sunni schools at the time, the Awzaʿiya seems most conducive to a light touch by the court in jihad with wide allowance to righteous jurists. This is likely when the neo-Umawis went for that madhhab. I would even hazard that the Haruris did the same - in this early stage, being a "Haruri" or an "Umawi" was more politics than it was religion or law.
John's autographed gospel
Here's a bombshell: James David Audlin, The Gospel of John Restored and Translated; which he has presented in "The Gospel of John in the Palestinian Lectionaries: A Mere Caesarean Anomaly or the Closest Text We Have to the Original?".
Audlin looks at the mediaeval Galilean lectionary in Aramaic, presently lumped in with a "Caesarea" miscellaneous-category in the same way Arabian epigraphers dump their crap into "Thamudic". Audlin identifies the Galilean texts in their own text-type, adds to them the fragments which Jan Pieter Nicolaas Land published in Anecdota Syriaca, and traces them to a Greek Vorlage.
As noted this text behind the Galilean lectionaries is not like any NT text known today - to the extent it cannot be used to triangulate the Greek NT. Audlin says the lectionaries' Greek Vorlage is a translation itself: from a MS of John's Gospel which the Palestinian Christians jealously retained for their own use. This now-lost MS was in a first-century dialect not the Edessene dialect which later became "Syriac" - although later copyists would call it "Syrian". The Aramaic was - claims Audlin - composed by a "John", who was already by the second century associated with the Disciple of that name. Audlin argues that here is the edition prepared by Prochoros, Papias, and Polycarp - the autograph, or near-enough. Polycarp took the Greek to Ephesus, and Prochoros the Aramaic to Roman Palestine. The Aramaic was subsequently lost; but in Ephesus, the Greek was remembered as being from John's "Syrian" version. So during the Middle Ages, enterprising Palestinians visited Ephesus to translate their original back. To restore it, as Audlin would restore it.
I would add that this Yohannes who dictated his gospel did not, himself, pretend to be the Disciple. Yohannes was male, and in the text insistent that the Beloved Disciple was a female. This implies that "The Gospel According to John" was, like "Mark" from Peter, a transcription from an earlier Christian faction, in this case from an anonymous woman. As some Christians plead for real-life Mark and Luke as those Gospels' actual authors, understanding that these were working from earlier written sources: Christians could plead for (a) John as most-prominent redactor of "John". The proliferation of Johananîm and -ât throughout first-century Judaica is hardly a problem in historical studies, and already most Christians distinguish John's Disciple from the apocalyptic (male) John of Patmos.
Audlin lets loose some minor errors. Historically "Textus Receptus" refers to the Byzantine text-type, which is what King James used; the modern Nestle-Aland Alexandrine-based edition is, I believe, properly termed "Textus Criticus". I don't think Prochoros - a deacon in Acts 6:5 - was John's literal "son"; Luke does not tell us, and I also cannot find this lineage in the hagiographies. It is sometimes difficult to understand, when he speaks of the colophon following "the gospel", if he intends the end of all The Gospel Of John - or the end of that particular gospel reading, the "lection" pericope from which the preacher will deliver his homily. And b'syrh should read b'swrh; although I allow that hylnsṭy for hlynsṭy is inherited from a drowsy Aramaean scribe.
Beyond that, I have little problem with Audlin's argument. John's gospel bears the marks of layered redaction; I have argued (in 2000ish) that it develops the Egerton Papyrus 2, specifically. So it's late. If it's late enough, early Christian memory should remember something of its composition, which said memory might not remember of - say - Mark, or of Egerton itself. To the extent Audlin's reconstruction is wrong, the burden of proof is upon his critics to prove him wrong.
As for the Beloved Disciple, naming her a Joanna like that of Luke's Acts feels like a punt, a cop-out. I have my eye more on Sapphira.
Friday, March 16, 2018
The road to Camazotz
Madeleine L'Engle posed her Jesus as a fighter against the Dark Thing. But Jesus is only that: equal to Gandhi and to Buddha. A few years later L'Engle might have added Martin Luther King to that roll of honour.
If Oprah and Disney have made hash of her work, which they have done... L'Engle had opened that door at the start.
A Wrinkle In Time in our time
I discovered Madeleine L'Engle at about nine years old and I became an instant fan[atic]. I reread The Trilogy several times - and I reread her "Meet the Austins" parallel series at least twice, despite that the latter was basically (female) Young Adult dreck, not wholly comprehensible to me (male) at that age. In all these books I loved the characters and the libertarian themes. But then adolescence hit me, and I found other books to read - like Susan Cooper's. Now there's a Wrinkle movie out, which is controverted. So over the last couple nights I've re-read Wrinkle.
(I agree with VoxD that it is difficult, in hindsight, to choose a winner between Wrinkle and the sequel to its sequel, A Swiftly Tilting Planet.)
Reading L'Engle's Wrinkle as an adult, I note it parallels several themes from CS Lewis' Out of the Silent Planet and That Hideous Strength from 1938-45. L'Engle, as a sort of Christian, writing in circa 1960 America, was certainly conscious of Lewis' oeuvre and of these two books in particular. I detect some Voyage to Arcturus here as well. I think we can declare all these books to comprise a Genre.
In this Christian Space Fantasy genre, the protagonists are gifted (/ cursed) with a form of magic that (1) exists on top of the physical laws we know and (2) is beholden to mathematics - which is, as my readers should remember, theology. The genre allows humans (with knowledge) to hack into the rules of the Multiverse - such can skip over to other worlds. This doesn't mean humans should do this; some Wilsonian villains do it in Lewis' books, and a goof of a scientist does it in Wrinkle. The protagonist of these books follows the trail, and saves what s/he can.
L'Engle's theme was a paean to free-will and love; not in its late 1960s corruption, but in its pure form buttressed with copious quotes from the second Isaiah and from the New Testament. L'Engle poses Jesus himself as a fighter against the Dark Thing. The Dark Thing is a creature of lovelessness - not of hate, although It knows hate. L'Engle has Camazotz stand in for a human-dominated world which It has seduced. The Thing has regimented everything here, in a perfect socialism. Its citizens (subjects!) do what they do to further the collective. Its sovereign - no longer concerned with resistance - boasts of Its "sadism".
Today's Christian must grade all these decades-old works on a curve. I had problems with Silent Planet on a moral and humanistic level. I couldn't side with its villain
My problems with L'Engle's vision are theological and long-term but we'll get to all that later. Short-term, L'Engle correctly diagnosed the endstate of Progressivism. I am reminded of Eric "Orwell" Blair the socialist: like him, L'Engle was an ally to the Good, if secondarily and accidentally. We may recommend her A Wrinkle In Time... to short-term thinkers. To small children.
Thursday, March 15, 2018
Dyotheletism is intrinsic between the Father and the Son
Arius and "The Eunomos" (was this a personal name or a title?) and those after them would agree that, when Scripture and Church Tradition speak of The Father and The Son, this subordinates the latter to the former. The Catholics deny this.
The salient point about the father / son relationship is that it develops. In some cases, ideally most, the son makes his own way in the world and becomes independent. The independent son may use his father for advice (especially if he is wise); but the son does not, anymore, accept his father's commands.
A relationship of command applies in a subset of the father / son dynamic - the subset of the son's immaturity. Arius confused these dynamics; Emperor Constantine and his immediate heirs encouraged that confusion - for their own ends, of despotism.
As for the Christian mythic reality of Father and Son: in dyotheletism, the Father maps to God's Will. His Son maps to Divine love and mercy, to humanity, and to the Church (or at least to the head of it). If God is alone, or surrounded by 'abd robots, all He can have is will. Only by recognising a free-willed other can He express love. And the first such Being He creates or spawns must be His firstborn child.
When Christians assert that Jesus is the Word, they are saying that God's Will was toward all things good and humane, from the start. They are saying that God never intended to be served only by robots.
North Africa was Near Eastern first
Via Razib: Marieke van de Loosdrecht and others have delivered "Pleistocene North African genomes link Near Eastern and sub-Saharan African human populations". DOI is 10.1126/science.aar8380 for those with understanding.
The abstract's date is 15000 years ago, an annoyingly round number; you have to go to the full text to learn they mean 13100-11900 BC. At any rate the remains sequenced in this region - Morocco - precede Moist Sahara. Also, since no European signatures were found here (modern-human Europeans already existed by then, like "Ursula" U5 and "Katrine" U8b) this genome also precedes the U5 (female) flight into Africa from the Ice Age. The females here are U6 and M1.
As their males go, they are E1b1b1a1... this blog's familiar E-M78, now confirmed as Near Eastern. None of that Chadic or subSahara is here yet.
North Africa entered the Holocene as a Near Eastern province, and remained so under J-M267 and the Phoenicians. Or, to put this another way: southwestern Europe remained marginal to Mediterranean events until Rome. People fled thence in hard times, to North Africa; just like people from the south fled the growing Sahara.
We're still unclear about E-M183 and their sons the M81 Imazighen. But I suspect they're not going to be much different from E-M78.
Denisova and paraDenisova
A decade back the geneticists sequenced Denisova Cave - in Central Asia - and "found" that this population interbred with proto-Melanesia(!), faaar to the south. Then - as East Asian genetics were better-tuned - they found 0.2% Denisova in East Asia's genome too, more explicably.
It turns out that the Melanesians had bred with a population descended from Denisova's ancestor (though still in the same family that split from the Neanders). True Denisova was a different albeit related population in Eastern Asia.
ADDENDUM: John Hawks believes we know enough Denisoviana that we can, now, declare the Native American populations to be Denisova-free. If any of that East Asian introgression into Beringia had a touch of that, it was bred out of them.
Monday, March 12, 2018
Events in my lifetime
The 1989 revolutions proved President Ronald Reagan right insofar as Communism was doomed.
9/11 2001 proved Reagan wrong insofar as American-driven liberal capitalism be the natural victor over all alternatives.
The roots of #gamergate
Back in the 1980s some of us had a rough time in school, even in the tony private schools - or "public" as we'd called them in the olde countrie. Some of the boys were Alpha Males, especially if they were stars in the school's sports-programmes; and the higher-ups in the schools' administration acknowledged jock supremacy. The "jock versus nerd" dynamic of that era's movies was A Thing.
What hasn't been adequately documented is the dynamic between nerds. It took awhile but, in 2006, one film has explored this dynamic, wherefrom the Jocks be absent: Grandma's Boy. At Slate at the time Reihan Salam accurately diagnosed this Allen Covert vehicle, alas the only one AFAIK, as the then-definitive
Covert's character Alex is the Beta - as befits this gifted comedic actor who'd never quite got to star in a movie himself before then. Alex is content to earn his keep in quality-assurance (the ultimate Beta profession, although it does pay) and to compose games by himself which no-one else will ever get to see. The villain J.P., in that movie, is... some other Greek character entire. J.P., back when he was a teenager, had stumbled upon stardom in his own niche (somehow). As an adult, J.P. coasts upon the world's consensus that he is a genius. But under Capitalism, you don't get credit for being a genius. You get credit for delivering product. And that's J.P.'s problem: he is good only for delivering bullshit anymore. Vox Day would diagnose J.P. as a Gamma.
At the time, the critics hated them some Grandma's Boy. I mean, they panned this thing, like they'd panned Deuce Bigalow; like they'd panned Super Troopers and a whole sheaf of Sandler. Salam, though, found something in Grandma's Boy to like (and there were some other defenders, such as in National Review).
In high-school and in college, some non-jocks found their own ways to ingratiate themselves with the administration and faculty. They'd got to college on their verbal IQ; once there, they leveraged their high GPAs (in non-STEM) and extra-curriculars into the media, law-schools, and MBA programmes. At my university these were the "academs" and they had little time for the gooks, kikes, and general ass-burgers down in the comp lab.
I think that deep down, the Academs've always known that they'd got through their educational experience by bullshit. And when the gamers and other real nerds called out pretentious twats for being pretentious twats - which Grandma's Boy did, but while not even aiming at the High Verbal SAT Chosen Race - the pretentious twats felt the sting. So the critics retaliated.
Sunday, March 11, 2018
Robert Ross's revenge
Serious nations have common rituals including, since music is important to humans, common hymns. The United States of America shares a repurposed drinking-anthem by Francis Scott Key: "Defence of Fort M'Henry", 1814. As befits a national anthem - intended for salience equal in New Hampshire and in Louisiana (incorporated in 1812, but whose star was not yet attached to the fifteen-star flag which Key observed) - this work looks to common threats and to a common defence (sic).
Since my Anglo-Irish family served the Queen until we moved here four decades ago: I here approach this anthem as a fellow Ross might, in the 1810s.
#Woke authors today dismiss Key's poem as a celebration of slavery. In later stanzas, the poem sneers at
I say opportunistically, because at this time we British were still commanding our own slave-states, in Jamaica and Barbados (I have pointed this out before). So Key was contextually in the moral right, to mock us for that hypocrisy. Much as it might irritate American blacks, for being looked down on. Much as it might annoy me, for being called out.
The 1812-14 context no longer applies, on either side, since 1832 (UK) and 1865 (US). Those stanzas are no longer sung in the anthem.
What remains in the anthem is the common experience of Americans, united against a common foe (I repeat: that would be me); and of blacks, who are being used, by another slave-state (me again).
So when I hear about anthem-protests, and I include the Texans' locking-of-arms and the NBA's demand for equality for "Lift Every Voice And Sing" as anthem-protest, I see... that maybe we Brits didn't lose 1812, in the end. Our hirelings and slaves are still doing the Major-General's dirty work.
If I were still British, I would have a good laugh at this. As it stands now I just think it's pathetic.
Lewis's Narnia versus Smith's Kolob
Monte Cook's game supplement Beyond Countless Doorways included some young planes. CS Lewis in The Magician's Nephew proposed that Narnia was one such, immediately attached to The Wood. The god or angel Aslan, from outside all the Wood-reachable worlds, brings Narnia into being.
In BCD cosmology, a plane can create itself. There is room for Mazdaite planes, self-organising and non-hellish. For my part I don't assume this is universal, but I assume it as default.
A young and self-organising plane represents the universe of the early "Zoroastrians" - or, maybe, of the LDS. The plane's first sentient minds have chosen not to be despots. They work for the order of their Creation, out of love. Upon a job well done, these now-gods retire to their seat upon Firmament, or on Kolob - whichever, either way these Creators are inextricable from their Creation.
The Mazdaite plane floats almost-alone through the multiversal foam of Chaos. Surrounding such is a Fey boundary-plane; and each likely also is plagued by dissident-gods in their own personal hells. Pace Moldbug the multiverse is rife with protoMazdaite planes of "Chaotic Good" - I expect they are Uncountable. They're just adrift in the foam, of no account to any entity.
But the Mazdaite gods are good gods, and care about order. They work toward the Celestial Asymptote. As independents they do not (yet) have proof the Asymptote exists. But eventually a nexus finds the young plane: linking that plane with other planes, its Creators with other gods. The game demands it; but more to the point the axiom of No Chaotic Good forces good planes into Law and therefore toward Countability.
One of Cook's planes was Colaris.
These are the first gods. Narnia is a secondary creation.
CS Lewis when writing his Narnia fiction did not seem to be aware of the Mazdaite alternative. I do not think he would have approved its implicit henotheism - despite that the Bible preserves some henotheism. For Lewis, Earth was born a Narnia.
Wednesday, March 07, 2018
Policing someone else's heresy
A homosexual infiltrator into Judaism has promoted some false and evil notions. Vox Day, a Christian, asks some questions:
So, what's the plan? Declare he's not a Jew? That's straight-up Hitlerism! Declare he's not a true rabbi? What sort of anti-semite polices another religion? They can't, of course, simply declare that he is evil, because that would not be inclusive and welcoming.
Christians cannot tell Jews what they should or should not believe, of course. But... they can put on their hats as Biblical scholars. Non-Jews have as much right to the study of texts as have the rabbis, if not more so; and the tools used against "fundamentalism" in Christianity can assuredly be used against cranks like this rabbi. Need I bring up Jeremiah and Joshua again?
Actually yeah - we need bring it up again. Christians can and should hold this rabbi's opinions out as yet one more example of Pharisees corrupting their own scripture beyond the desires of the God Who inspired it, thus forcing righteous men to join offshoots like Christianity and Islam.
There is a sickness in Judaism. Either Jews cure it themselves or else non-Jews will have to conclude that the whole religion was doomed from birth. As is mutually agreed, gentiles cannot involve themselves in the former... but they do have a vote on the latter.
Razib, on Stephen Oppenheimer 1999:
Eden in the East is a weird book. Written in the late 1990s before modern-day genomics, its central thesis about the origin of Southeast Asian people in Pleistocene Sundaland seems likely to be wrong (at least most of their ancestry). But the author, a polymath medical doctor, marshals an enormous amount of archaeological and textual data supporting old ideas of cultural diffusionism, much of it plausible.
I only became aware of Oppenheimer's book recently - but I've been aware of its argument for some time. This, I'd learnt from Peter Watson's The Great Divide: it argued for a deep-mythology of the Flood, affecting the Old World and the New, from Sundaland. Razib is discussing the Old World part, which is necessary if insufficient for Watson.
Sundaland is usually given as sinking 10000 BC. New-World Natives (barring very-hypothetic outliers) come from Beringia millennia prior to that. Despite this gap (comparable to the gap plaguing Solutrean Hypothesisers, on the other end) Watson was at least aware of genetics, so I've given his book some leeway.
Native Americans, we now know, mostly don't come from Sundaland (nor Sahul) any more than from Europe. But some portion does come from "east Asia" which might have taken on some Sunda immigrants, since bred out of the Native genome like they've bred (almost) all of their Denisovan out. Also, there was a push out of southeast Asia... toward the west. There were also (later) pushes into the Pacific, one ancient such may have ended up in Colombia (although this likely did not contribute to New World myth).
If people left southeast Asia: suppose they won some battles, in India; and lost some, along the South China Sea. Either way the locals, to whatever extent they got genetic influx, assuredly heard of the disaster which brought a horde of hungry aliens to their border. The horde too could be expressed in the metaphor of flood. And so the Flood myth spread around the Old World. Oppenheimer, and this part of Watson, still seem to hold up here.
But Beringia fell before Sundaland; the proto-Americans were long removed from new developments across the new strait to their west. The big Sundaland flood could have had negligible, if any, effect on the New World. The New World had its own experience of submerged land... starting with Beringia itself. So Watson overreached.
Tuesday, March 06, 2018
The Torah over the last six years
I had a hobby in Biblical higher-criticism twenty years back, but I gave it up when I went into Islamic studies. So my knowledge has gone out of date. Lately I've seen some books out, so I'll try to summarise them.
Richard Elliott Friedman proposes in The Exodus that the "E" source reflects Levi: which, Friedman proposes (from Freud!), are an elite of Egyptians. These Egyptians practiced their own customs, like circumcision, which were not done in the Canaan commons. These also bore Coptic names: Miryam, Moses, Phinehas. Later tellers of this story, like E or maybe the "JED" redactors, retroactively made them Israelites.
Calum Carmichael - the name I hadn't heard before - in 2012 proposed The Book of Numbers: A Critique of Genesis. This (if true) solves a problem I'd had with the post-Exodus books: the constant complaints about what the Hebrews had done in Egypt. Of course the pre-Exodus parts of the book of that name don't complain about what the Hebrews had done - the Calf shows up later. The early parts complain about what the Egyptian aristocracy had done, to the Hebrews. Carmichael would have Numbers react to sins of Jacob and the regime of Joseph.
James Kugel hits upon a Great Shift in Jewish conceptions of God. The God Of Old existed alongside spacetime (as a Lawful being) and was able, or deigned, to interact with us through the spirit-plane. Hellenistic Judaism felt that God was above all this (subhanahu!); it allowed angels only. Thus the visitation to Manoah and his wife in Judges 13 - an angel of YHWH in most of the present text, but slipping to El in v. 22.
Philip Jenkins notes this account as part of the Crucible of Faith. Most of the Judaism of the first century termed "AD" had its roots in Greek philosophies that had impinged upon the Semitic Near East under the Macedonians. This includes Plato's notion that One God exists above all the cosmos. Visitations to men (and to women) must be by His spiritual servants and messengers.
To nuance these a bit, several of these Greek philosophies had come out of the Near East in the first place, like the notion that the world is organised from chaos. Already the "E" source preferred angels to God's direct manifestations. Really what Hellenism had done was to disprove west-Semitic henotheism; the national gods were no match for Alexander's God.
To return to Carmichael: I observe that over centuries, "copyists" of the Hebrew Scriptures could rarely resist adding little tweaks, corrections, glosses, and harmonisations. The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Septuagint have preserved this debate on both sides: pre-tweak, and additional-tweak. Septuagint 1 Kings is expanded. Cave 4 Judges MS "a" lacks 6:7-10 (we don't here decide on whether this was an addition by the one or a deletion by the other; it was deliberate either way). Jeremiah in the Hebrew is notoriously interpolated and juggled-about. Even Torah was not spared: for a start, Gerizim used to enjoy more importance. And Cave 4 Joshua MS "a" agreed; when the MT altered 8:30-35 / 9:3-8 LXX, it spoilt the narrative so that the Gerizim partisans - the "Samaritans" - had to abandon the book wholesale.
As for who wrote the relevant part of Numbers, Carmichael distinguishes between God who brought us out of Egypt - the Deuteronomist's concern, cf. noncontroversial Judges 6:13 - and God who brought Egypt out of us. Where "E" and then "JE" in Genesis consider Jacob a patriarch and Joseph a hero, Numbers confutes both and, thereby, implies that both were false.
These Numbers stories are usually deemed Priestly and so associated with "the Jewish Temple". If Jerushalmi, however... shouldn't they react to Babylon, either directly or else mediated through the Persians? But they react mainly to the E parts of "JED": to Egypt, and to the old North.
To me these bits of Numbers look like they come from an Egyptian-located temple: Elephantine, perhaps; or Leontopolis. Or Ptolemaic-dominated Jerusalem.
Sunday, March 04, 2018
The Palace of a Thousand and One Doors
CS Lewis, multiversalist, in The Magician's Nephew introduced The Wood Between The Worlds. He pretty much lampshaded it as a plot-device: the action wasn't happening there (and magic couldn't function!), but it was needed as a nexus for travel between worlds. Tim Burton used something like this in Nightmare Before Christmas. Grossman tried to use it in The Magicians as well but Viking's lawyers forced him to reskin it as the "Neitherlands". Several other nexi have featured in Dungeons & Dragons.
The Wood device is related to the Library Of Babel concept, a nexus of infinity. Michael Ende adapted this much in his Temple of a Thousand Doors; and there is in fact a library in Grossman's Neitherlands. However for Lewis - and, for different reasons, Grossman - the Wood is finite or at least countable. It joins worlds that do or, in Charn's case, used to, exist.
The Nexus is of the Aniran. Mazda can create only Its own universe, whence if He links to the Nexus he does so as an inferior; the Irani universe could connect itself, at most, to a Chaos-aligned fey-plane and be vulnerable, thereby, to worse. So the Wood implies the Iraqi model of Divinity: God is an outsider.
A mightier God is still lawful so countably-infinite. He has built the worlds and links those He chooses. This God's imagination is greater than ours but, if lacking mathematical limits, does follow metamathematical rules. God would not link to Hell Himself; but He might allow some of His linked planes to weaken, such that their denizens had gotten to Chaos and/or Hell by themselves.
UPDATE 3/3-4/2018: moved all this from a Gateway post.
The first conqueror of Iraq
The Ancient Near East had two models for how the universe came into being. We in the West have inherited from the Jews, and the Jews from Iraq, that elohim from outside came across the primordial waters, organised the raw-material, and on the seventh day assumed the Throne - not to take a nap (lol), but to hold court. However: this creation-myth is not inevitable for all civilisations. In the Iranian schema, God is the sovereign space, and It organises Itself.
Many cultures, when disunited, prefer outsiders for rulers. Historically, the Iraqis in the south rarely united on their own, at least not long-term, until Hammurabi. It is typical some outsider did it for them: Sargon, of the Semites; the Assyrian empire, from the north; and of course several Iranian and Greek dynasties, and lastly the Arabs.
I propose this happened in the Uruk Empire as well. Whoever took over and united Uruk was not a Mesopotamian by ancestry. Memory of this inspired their creation-myth and, later, paved the way for Sargon to call precedent.
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