Politics, God and Religion vs. Science

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Dr. F.

Trad climber
SoCal
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 2, 2013 - 10:07pm PT
The American Christian Right Wingers are one of the most divisive cults to emerge in 60 years.

They have directly caused the political and religious division that we see today with their propaganda campaign based on pure lies and BS talking points.
It's despicable to the level of the worst element of evil that humans are capable of, mostly based on greed and the quest for power.
Ward Trotter

Trad climber
Dec 2, 2013 - 10:16pm PT
They have directly caused the political and religious division that we see today with their propaganda campaign based on pure lies and BS talking points.
It's despicable to the level of the worst element of evil that humans are capable of, mostly based on greed and the quest for power.

This comment is illustrative of the fact that the psychological need for " mythology" is not restricted to the nominally religious.
Dr. F.

Trad climber
SoCal
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 2, 2013 - 10:18pm PT
No mythology involved, just looking at the facts of reality
Sorry that it offends you
Ward Trotter

Trad climber
Dec 2, 2013 - 10:37pm PT
Sorry that it offends you

Not offended.

I just thought it important to point out that mythological thinking often occurs demonstrably in areas of life we don't ordinarily associate with mythic experience---such as politics.
Hence the cult of personality swirling around historically preeminent political figures : such as Napolean, Hitler, Marx/Lenin , and Mao. To say nothing of the ideologies in and of themselves. (Even JFK was revered in a way stretching credulity. )

Political factions opposed to one's own convictions are often considered "evil" in this well-worn mythic environment. One's own political passions are therefore, by contrived stark contrasts, considered as de facto "good" and "true" and saviors of mankind, and so on.

One of the chief replacements or substitutes for the enduring human need for traditional mythological experience in the modern world is ---politics.
"Facts" or "reality" are often the favorite glossing imprimatura for political assertions and crusading initiatives by the current crop of bad actors reared on "scientific materialism" and other brave new world political idioms.

Largo

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Dec 3, 2013 - 12:02am PT
No mythology involved, just looking at the facts of reality
Sorry that it offends you


Last offer, Craig. Do you want to discover how you "look at the facts?" The rest will come clear once you understand that part. It's an easy process.

JL
bluering

Trad climber
Santa Clara, CA
Dec 3, 2013 - 12:32am PT
Ah jeez, there goes John trying logic on Dr. F.

Good luck with that!
FortMentäl

Social climber
Albuquerque, NM
Dec 3, 2013 - 12:47am PT
Think how much of our lives would be missing without any kind of story. It's almost unimaginable. People would be providing facts and analyses to one another without any beginnings, middles, or ends--just facts, just analyses, just emotional exclamations, and instinctual responses. Monty Python could have made a terrific skit of that kind of scenario. (I'm tempted to, here.) I'd bet all of us could count at least 20 stories being seen or related to us daily. Probably more.

Complaining about inaccuracies or lack of realism of myth would be like complaining about the passions / emotions in our lives. Without them, living would not be very human.

There is a wide body of literature that indicates some myths, especially the long lived ones, are founded on elements of fact. Noah's Flood come to mind. In some of these cases, myths are repeated by travelling story-tellers. In these ways the essential body of the myth is preserved through time, though the details might be embellished. Consider that the biblical flood is an account of the flooding of the Black Sea Basin which occurred 6,000 years before the Old Testament was written.

Why myths and stories need to be told and heard may have more to do with how the mind processes that kind of information than any desire to "make art". The brain thinks differently when it reads 'fiction', for still poorly understood reasons.

One of the chief replacements or substitutes for the enduring human need for traditional mythological experience in the modern world is ---politics.

I'd say it's comics books.....but that's just me; I hate 'em.
Ward Trotter

Trad climber
Dec 3, 2013 - 01:08am PT
Why myths and stories need to be told and heard may have more to do with how the mind processes that kind of information than any desire to "make art". The brain thinks differently when it reads 'fiction', for still poorly understood reasons.

I've always thought the origins of myth-making had its genesis in the food gathering needs of early hominids. The risky and ever-calculating adventure which is the nature of the primitive hunt required a tremendous amount of rehearsal and reenactment to insure proper hunting strategy , assignment of roles, and brave initiatives. The investment of imaginative and predictive mythic elements in the prey itself insured a proper respect for the talent and resources of the hunted. These elements were likewise transferred to animals that routinely preyed upon humans.

Around the ancient campsite hair-raising tales were continually being told and retold, embellished and re-embellished . It could be likened to a Paleolithic entertainment center---but all with a very practical end in mind, namely ,the furtherance of the human group's survival in a competitive world populated by unrelentingly real adversaries challenging both the bodies and minds of our earliest ancestors.

Cave paintings ,Lescaux
Cave paintings ,Lescaux
Credit: Ward Trotter
MikeL

climber
SANTA CLARA, CA
Dec 3, 2013 - 06:10am PT
I like very much the image of the painting.

Ward:

If possible (and I mean that strongly), let's try to reconsider this from another structure of consciousness than what we occupy today.

Let's assume that we live in that time period, and we are at-one-ment with our surroundings magically. Let's assume that we see ourselves no differently than the very trees or the animals we draw on our walls. They are our brothers, our sisters, the other life we live with, the world being the mother of us all. All of us (life) are highly interdependent and inter-related, ying and yang, takers and givers in this world. We don't think too much at all about what has gone on before us, nor what will go on after us; those are murky notions--not nearly as immediate and impactful as what we see and live right here, right now. As for lifelessness (death) and the emerging of life (birth) of ourselves and other life, we might not have any sense of how or why any of it occurs. Birth and life for us might be completely magical--without any "rational explanation." Forget the hereafter, and forget what's gone on before. Everything is right here right now--sacred, profound, and totally meaningful. There are no coincidences or accidents: everything happens for a reason, and those reasons are completely magical.

In this kind of world, how much a part of life is (as you write) . . .

the group's survival in a competitive world populated by real adversaries challenging both the bodies and minds of our earliest ancestors.


To my mind and way of thinking, the way you express your ideas is contemporary, almost economic, analytical, and highly rational. Although I believe that fear and danger would lurk at every turn in caveman times, I just can't see how cavemen would see it as you write it.

I might think that death, danger, and ever-constant immediacy of that world and consciousness would present a world that is truly incomprehensible to our modern minds. I honestly don't think we could get there cognitively or gain empathy into the consciousness of cavemen today by "thinking" about it. Their worlds and consciousness could only be lived, not conceptualized.

No disrespect. Your characterization is most likely factual and keen, but from the consciousness of the human beings who lived in those times, I think your characterizations would be irrelevant, alien, and incomprehensible.


If any reader can understand this argument, then it might also possibly imagine that are things (here in this thread, viz., "awareness") that cannot be imagined with a discursive, intellectual, rational, conceptual, modern mindset.

And beyond even that is where and what awareness might be without a consciousness altogether (in certain meditative states). It's why words, labels, categorizations, conceptualizations, imagination, and analysis could be not only useless, but just plain wrong.


Would you say that those primitive cavemen were less human than we? Some rugged folk here might say they were much more so than most modern men and women in today's life.

I look at the image of the cave painting, and I see mystery, wonder, and awe that completely transcends and defies rationality and mental concepts. We can't get there from here with these minds that we have today.
Jan

Mountain climber
Colorado, Nepal & Okinawa
Dec 3, 2013 - 09:03am PT
Along those lines, we can see a very interesting progression in the cave paintings of Europe First we find paintings of individual hunting scenes - one hunter, one animal. Then we find piles of bones where whole herds of horses were driven off cliffs and only a few butchered with the rest left to rot as the social aspects of hunting became more co-ordinated. These are followed by many scenes of pregnant animals. From this we can conclude that they did not understand they were the cause of the decline of the big game, but rather, thought in magical fashion, that not enough young animals were being born.

Magical thinking is found throughout human history. People in Nepal used to tell me that God didn't make enough land. When I told them that the problem was people making too many babies, I could tell that this was a whole new way of thinking for them. Likewise, in modern times, we have a large number of people waiting for a messiah to rescue the earth from the mess they themselves have made.

As for imputing motives to ancients, there are other aspects of survival almost alien to us today, but still important in traditional societies around the world. Childbirth and the continuity of generations is one of them. Why else does the ancient literature, starting with the Bible, take such pains to list the genealogies of the important characters? Why else are the oldest fired clay objects not practical pots and dishes, but rather, female fertility figures?

A proper relationship with God(s)is thought to be more important in these societies than anyone's skills. If the shaman says don't hunt, the herd passes by unharmed. Illness is thought of as the result of black magic on the part of humans or spirits. How many times I have been told in Nepal even, that first the proper rituals must be performed to the proper spirits, and only then when the important matters are taken care of, can the sick person take my modern medicine.

As for what the ancients would think of us, I am sure it would be similar to what people in countries with more traditional societies think of us now - very clever with material things but very simple and one dimensional, lacking in proper manners and understanding of human relationships, and totally oblivious to the mystical, magical world about them. No sense of gratitude to their own ancestors, their surrounding community, or their own good fortune. Lots of knowledge, but not much wisdom. Rich in possessions, poor in spirit.
Randisi

Social climber
Dalian, Liaoning
Dec 3, 2013 - 09:41am PT
Are those the real Lascaux paintings? Or the fakes the tourists get to see?

Which itself raises interesting questions.
FortMentäl

Social climber
Albuquerque, NM
Dec 3, 2013 - 09:59am PT
the group's survival in a competitive world populated by real adversaries challenging both the bodies and minds of our earliest ancestors.

Yeah... no kidding. Paleolithic Europe is littered with sites of localized mass murder, where a small community was slaughtered to the last infant, usually for it's land. Ancient peace-niks living in harmony with their world were usually found in places too inhospitable for practical conquest- by man or animal; 16th century Spaniards passing through Utah's Henry Mountains hardly gave a passing thought to the indigenous Indians living there, a stunted malnourished people whose main diet was insects and seeds. For that matter, neither did the other Indians of the area...acknowledged murderers themselves, despite our fantasies of their "harmonious" existences.
rSin

Trad climber
calif
Dec 3, 2013 - 11:52am PT
wow! what a goddamn racist ^^^^^

and here i thought there wasnt a good reasons, after we had killed all of them whod fight back, for stealing the few remaining children to give to christians schoolmasters whos god told them that raping the little bug eaters senseless and not letting them speak their own language or practice any skills of self-suficency was holiness...
Largo

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Dec 3, 2013 - 12:11pm PT
Myths were most often an attempt to frame archtypal experiences with metaphors that gave some sense of the ebb and flow of processes and powers that did not lend themselves to more basic representation. That is, where literal representation leaves off, myths rush in to fill the void. A common misunderstanding to those not steeped in the work (Jung, et al), myths are either survival strategies or primitive efforts to do proper science.

There's reason they call it the "Twilight Zone," as opposed to the Black and White Zone. What do you think that reason is? It's a fascinating question to some of us.

JL
Reilly

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Dec 3, 2013 - 12:28pm PT
This is a good page with well-expressed thoughts. I've always found the
rock art powerful because the artist, who doubtless didn't think of herself
as such, knew she was communicating directly with her god on the behalf of
others.

Jan, do you know when the first people started forced conversion to their
own religion? Methinks it must go back a long ways.

Perhaps more a propos, Jan, do people really write papers interpreting the
thoughts and prayers of the rock artists with a straight face? I actually
mean no disrespect but it really seems like a stretch, if not mildly
sacreligious. ;-)
MikeL

climber
SANTA CLARA, CA
Dec 3, 2013 - 12:37pm PT
In the twilight of falling asleep, in dreams, and when the elaborations of thought go quiet, one can get a sense of archetypes. One becomes dimly aware of them, as though they were on the other side of a thin wall talking / communicating to us, except that the medium or language is indescribable, inexplicit and ungraspable. It's a very odd feeling to know that you are seeing or hearing or aware of something that you cannot make clear or put your finger on.

What good could it be? What purpose could such "experiences" or "knowledge" serve? I ask those questions facetiously.

Note how immeasurable, intangible, ungraspable those notions are that are being pointing at. Can't say what they are, and we're unwilling to be rid of them. Archetypes are well-springs of mysterious intelligence.

The wont to rid ourselves of (and damn to hell) myth, magic, emotion, and even instinct is akin to throwing out the baby with the bathwater.
FortMentäl

Social climber
Albuquerque, NM
Dec 3, 2013 - 02:21pm PT
The wont to rid ourselves of (and damn to hell) myth, magic, emotion, and even instinct is akin to throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

...and, just who are the people who want to do this?
Ward Trotter

Trad climber
Dec 3, 2013 - 02:43pm PT
MikeL :
Your stated prescription for a worthwhile attempt at understanding any important aspect of early human life is mired in an inescapable obscurantismo (as the Spanish put it) that begins nowhere and ends nowhere. What you are advancing,in the opening paragraph of the post at the top of this page, is a blueprint for nothing less than an endless labyrinth of dead end speculation and conjecture--- as regards arriving at any real knowledge of ancient humans as subjects of inquiry.

What kind of data can we glean from positing a given ancient human group so submerged in magical , existential existence that they effectively can be regarded as thoroughly cut off,severed,from the natural environment they inhabited (as you have outlined )
Your's is a private crusading project to retroactively superimpose a current philosophical ideology tens of thousands of years into the past --- a viewpoint proceeding without reference to the functioning of the natural environment ,or without reference to what we know , and have discovered about human biological functioning.

Human beings are never so thoroughly cut off from the past , or the future, that the present moment and the experience that fills it ---ever becomes the overriding, non-referential determinant of human existence.
If we chose to swap out our collective past for our collective present, in an exclusive way ,our DNA will snap us back to reality and tell us who we really are---whether we chose to listen or can listen at all. Our behavior and our very identity is nothing less than the vast accumulation of billions of years of evolutionary history. You personally may regard this as a "conceptualization" lacking authenticity ---but I consider it central to the human story, and to life on our planet.

This is why I also cast my generalized speculation about mythology into the distant past. I sought to in some way solidly,but in a brief way, connect the elemental, de novo origins of mythic experience to what we know ,and are still discovering about human life "on the ground" in the period of the Lescaux caves.

A common misunderstanding to those not steeped in the work (Jung, et al), myths are either survival strategies or primitive efforts to do proper science.

Next we'll be told that we've misunderstood schizophrenia because we have failed to be properly "steeped" in the Freudian explanation .
On the subject of myth I would defer to Joseph Campbell or even James Frazer long before Jung. (Bless his heart)

A proper relationship with God(s)is thought to be more important in these societies than anyone's skills. If the shaman says don't hunt, the herd passes by unharmed. Illness is thought of as the result of black magic on the part of humans or spirits. How many times I have been told in Nepal even, that first the proper rituals must be performed to the proper spirits, and only then when the important matters are taken care of, can the sick person take my modern medicine.

Jan,
My first reaction is to question how widespread such a " God Override" functions among traditional peoples throughout the globe. Was the preeminence of supernatural authority determined primarily by the particular status of the shaman culture within certain groups and not others? By that I mean would the Plains Indians generally ignore their medicine man if he advised against the buffalo hunt while the Nepalese would never consider ignoring their religious authorities over such comparably weighty matters? The difference being the relative difficulty and time-consuming nature of the Sioux in obtaining buffalo versus the relatively trouble free access to animal protein by the herding Nepalese?

In other words, do these matters reside not so much in the supernatural power of religion but rather in the practical power of the stomach?
Largo

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Dec 3, 2013 - 04:06pm PT
Next we'll be told that we've misunderstood schizophrenia because we have failed to be properly "steeped" in the Freudian explanation .
On the subject of myth I would defer to Joseph Campbell or even James Frazer long before Jung. (Bless his heart)
-


You've whiffed again - handsomely. One of the definitive works on Jung was written by - Joseph Campbell, who provided the great mythologist with his theoretical understanding of work.

I can understand your impulse to look at myths in terms of data about "real" things - after all, when all things are seen as nails, a hammer is an appropriate tool.

But the telling thing about your POV is the believe that our DNA can tell us who we "really are." That's a materialist right down to the wood.

JL
Jan

Mountain climber
Colorado, Nepal & Okinawa
Dec 3, 2013 - 04:12pm PT
I think both the biological survival and the mythical cultural perspectives are important for understanding our ancestors and ourselves. In answer to Riley, yes, we do try to understand the mind of ancient man, being always aware of course, that we could be making mistakes about it.

One of our best tools in anthropology is to look at modern hunters and gatherers to see how they live and think and then compare that to what we find in the archaeological remains. This is not to say that a modern day hunter is going to think exactly like an ancient, but will be closer to them than to the five other levels of subsistence that have developed since then. The history of anthropology is littered with misinterpretations (in case of doubt label an unknown item a ritual object) but we are also able to come to some pretty good conclusions based on similar behavior at many different and widely separated archaeological sites, when compared to widely separated hunting and gathering groups.

As for the ancients themselves, I think they would be amused and probably flattered that we are interested in them, just as modern research subjects are when visiting anthropologists start asking questions about their way of life.

In answer to Ward, I don't think that MikeL's viewpoint is obscurantism at all, rather, a necessary antidote to the overly rational modern western point of view. With both lines of reasoning together, we begin to close in on the topic, hopefully with humility. One of the reasons anthropology is so interesting I find, is that it includes material objects, biology, sociology, and touchy feely humanism integrated together in an attempt to understand the whole person and the whole society.

One of the reasons I find Asia so fascinating is that they have kept a great deal of the mystical magical world view at the same time they have a modern scientific education. They compartmentalize many different philosophies and world views at the same time. Thus a modern Chinese or Japanese scientist will tell you (but only if they like and trust you) that they believe in physics and ghosts, traditional and modern medicine, and practice Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, the ancient animistic religion and a little bit of Christianity all at the same time.

Believing there is only one truth and trying to force others to it, is a recent phenomenon connected primarily to the middle eastern originated monotheistic religions. Up until the advent of agriculture just a few thousand years ago, one believed the religion they were born into which nobody not born in that group could convert to. The Jews were one of the first groups to say you could convert if you weren't born a Jew. That is what the Old Testament story of Ruth is about.

In Japan, the equivalent was when people began demanding that the Samoan descended Hawaiians who were defeating all the Japanese sumo wrestlers, be made grand champions. The reply (which may well have masked ethnocentric racism as well) was that the grand masters had to pray at Shinto shrines and no one could be Shinto unless they were born to it. The first Samoan-Hawaiian sumo master put them on the spot by saying that he was not Christian, that he had a Japanese wife and half Japanese children along with permanent residency in Japan, and he would have no problem praying to the traditional Japanese gods at a Shinto shrine. His reply caused a great deal of soul searching in Japan but in the end he was made a grand master along with several others later on, and they all perform the traditional Shinto rites.

There's a whole interesting world out there, so don't get too hung up on any one world view even if it is your own personal truth and passion.
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