Written 1924, was rather inspired by Levy-Bruhl to keep within the genre. Although this was in no ways as inspiring.
This was - well, you are looking at the same issues through different lenses. This is the fascination with this - in a way, to be like a judge, you have to learn to read the author, and judge him, then you read the people he is telling you about, and judge them realizing that it's through his eyes, and then finally you have to mentally construct or imagine that tribe from some point in the middle of what the author's telling you, what he's omitting, his own, often limited understanding, and what the tribe is explaining or choosing to explain to him or her.
And there are, of course, the abundant shortfalls of language, the culturally taking for granted that which cannot be taken for granted.
So - all this said, in light of the Authors clearly displayed prejudices, and given the thorough lack of SYSTEMATIC study, in which different cultures are examined and broken down - often on completely different axis, make this perhaps less of a textbook than part of a whole understanding that (as far as I can tell) has yet to be assembled.
Ideally, anthropologically speaking, there would be a map or spreadsheet of the different cultural taboos, listing first the tribe, their location - equatorial, jungle, desert, polar, island, their climate, their foods, drinks, taboos, broken down into things like menstruation, adolescence, hunting, war, agriculture, we'd be able to correlate the migrations and patterns of belief, at the moment we are merely reading travelers tales cherry-picked to support the authors own cognitive bias.
So, this said - onto my notes:
First of all, the author attributes a much more liberal view to most of the tribes he examines than does Levy-Bruhl. Is this because he's examining different tribes, or is it a result of him projecting himself into it? That said, I found Levy-Bruhl to be considerably more "Liberal" in his outlook than Lowie - so odd they should regard so differently the objects of their studies. In substantiating this Lowie points out that while most North American Indians are implicitly bound up in their cultures, there are fewer explicit taboos prohibiting contrary views within the tribe. You are welcome to think different, if you can escape the lens of culture you've been raised within.
Examples he provides of this are certain Hawaiian Chiefs, who announced themselves free from God and Superstition, as far as their culture would let them. This was often attended by a certain awe by their tribe, who awaited the wrath of the gods or spirits, and - while it may seem a great liberality to renounce God and Superstition it should be noted that this has almost always been a licensed privilege granted Kings and Chiefs, and rarely tolerated in anybody else. So perhaps he's misreading "Privilege" as "Liberality".
Second, Lowie, American, has a fair amount of first-hand experience with Tribes of the North American Indian, and exhibits a great deal of favoritism for them. SO most of his information comes from first-hand association with them. With them he talks about their beliefs regarding "Trans" people, or the third gender, which seems to be acknowledged and socially accepted with most of the North American Tribes he notes, and he compares it to Shamanistic traditions in Siberia, but the author in examining it declares the people "Pathological", reflecting a lack of objectivity that would be preferable in describing them. While understandably very much a product of his time - understanding eschews judgement.
Similarly he ascribes greed to the selling by the tribesman of "supernatural prerogatives" to his children when - in my view it seems clear - it is simply that by charging them dearly for his "lifetime's accumulation of juju/fetishes/bundle/etc" he is merely ensuring they value it as much as he did.
Note - that in this evaluation there is raised 2 problems - the evaluation or examination of someone else's religious beliefs by either:
- - Someone who has none of their own.
- - Someone who has their own firmly held beliefs.
Both of which seem to preclude objectivity, and with this the question - how to be objective in this?
He also makes passing reference to superstitious and magical thinking in animals - with no follow up, but it does inspire one to consider. Is religion/magic/spiritual thinking exclusively the domain of men?
Taking a moment to think on this myself I'm inclined to think not. There are, of course, Skinner's Pigeons, whom displayed all manners of "religious" behaviors in their efforts to get fed. But consider as well the mating displays of fish, and almost all birds - the dances of the birds of paradise or the bower bird, and go on. How - specifically - did they evolve to the point of the elaborate ritual to summon a mate? And this seems largely to be instinctual. There is - to my eye - any perceivable difference in nests, yet one will draw a mate and the other will fail. And so it continues.
Noteworthy is the custom - apparently almost universal - of tribes modeling the "afterworld" of the deceased on the world of the living, with a few differences and embellishments. Note that different cultures give different weighing's to it - the Crow tribes of Montana paid it little interest, the dead were gone - yet in Africa and other places entire ancestor cults sprang up. What they have in common is the resemblance of heaven to earth, only slightly improved. Here we have Christianity, Mormons (if you can stomach the perpetually bad 80's decor as an 'improvement'!), Muslims, certain Chinese interpretations of Buddhism where you need burn "Hell Money" as an offering to the dead to facilitate the incomprehensible bureaucracy and bribery that comprise their version of heaven/hell. The Tibetans provide for a metaphorical journey and series of rituals to guide and placate the spirits on their final journey, which, as it seems precisely to be ritual and metaphorically bound seems to offer a more thought out ritual approach.
There is the almost universally regarded "Inferiority" of women in most respects, I've yet to see an instance where women where yet accorded an "equivalent" status. Not that it doesn't exist, I just haven't read about it. There are the abundant cross-cultural taboos regarding menstruation (which he updates later) - that while menstruating they must isolate their tents from the camp, prepare no food, have restrictions on diet, etc. etc. This seems to be largely a Taboo on the bleeding - which, in supernatural context - might have it's roots in the "Blame the Victim" mentality.
He makes note of the Australian Aborigines - described as: "The rudest savages as to whom we possess accurate information," "Universally practice magic and eschew religion; they are all magicians, none of them priests."; which he later opposes, but - in this he's correct - Australia is currently regarded as having the "Oldest Civilization", with over 50,000 years of history, and, really, if you're properly indoctrinated into the tribe nobody has need of priests.
While searching his sources and other salacious points regarding the Aboriginals I came across a few interesting articles:
And, additional: Mention of a "Father & Son" set of bones (for divination) the author was eager to acquire - the "Father" is for at home, the "Son" is for travel -> hence - we have - again, in cultures separated by tens of thousands of Millenia - the father=thought son=action, followed by:
Some Notes on Synesthesia - That synesthesia seems to be a result of firmly formed correlations & associations n childhood - so why am I still read about this 100 years later...
And so, a far less enriching read than the preceding, but - everything adds to the canon.
- Category: Books
Woke up at 1:30, having had a very odd dream...Notes largely illegible, but I remember it well enough.
That somehow, now, I had traveled back in time to help a University Friend, Stephen-not-Stephen, with some politics. There's a rally or something. We go to the University/Banker's Hall (Calgary) - not either of them, someplace else, a dream-hybrid of places, elevators up, rally. Lots of the same looking uniform business-people types in suits. The light is dark, formal, the light holds the same the entire dream. I meet someone - Lucy Lu (??) - I don't remember her from University, but she must of been there, she was, is, the picture of desire. Tall, lithe, elegant, charming. And so we leave the rally, the concierge is telling me how young I look, and I'm playing the game of guess, and throwing out there numbers, 55? 50? 45? No, no, younger, younger....
...and it comes to me that not only have I gone back in time to help Stephen I'm now younger myself, we grab a couple of chicken sandwiches from the tray and someone tries to get us to identify ourselves and we just leave...
This second chance, me and Lucy Lu are hitting it off fine and going forward in life...
cue forward, we're well dressed, her and I, older now, and we're in some sort of high rise apartment, dark, nighttime, the same lighting as the beginning, only there's an older man, 50's, 60's writing at a desk, he's in black and white formal attire, he's a fine Rolex on his wrist I notice. His face, way too large, a big chin that connects almost directly to his chest, he gets up when he sees us. Just out of his office, a desk lamp, in the room adjacent there are some people dressed in red, yellow, green lycra suits, cleaning up the bed, and the man gets up from the desk, he can see us, and explains...
That we'd been dead for a while, we'd died in our bed, he's our son, we'd had a couple of daughters only they didn't make it, fighting in the family, and now, yes, the clean up crew, they've taken our bodies, and now it's time for us to be moving on....looking at Lucy Lu and I'm so glad to have met her, second chances, she was the one, and will we meet again? Or are we going together...?
This dream, WTF, the same colors - vivid pointy lights, warm lights from the desk lamps, sheltered, dark outside, going back in time to meet someone I never met, to meet her once again and start it all over, strangely poignant, heart wrenching imagery - vivid to life in another world, the whole leaving me a little out of sorts when I woke and with a whole shit-ton of questions...like why "Lucy Lu"? anyways...
- Category: Dreams
Now, this is going to be pretty straightforward to many of you, for me there was a few cascading epiphanies before I properly figured it all out, but - let me explain.
I mean, I was raised Catholic, and they make nothing straightforward, the abundance of ritual is designed to obscure the truth until you're ready to figure it out.
At which point it's classed as some form of "Enlightenment", which - well, given how they've raked it over and insisted upon a blind vs reasoned faith, is amongst one of any number of their shortcomings (to be addressed).
We'll come back to that. All their errors aside, Catholicism is still the main trunk of the religion, with most of the others merely spinoffs or branches of the main tree. By this I mean Protestant, Evangelical, Lutheran, Etc. The errors merely multiply as they get further from the trunk.
But before we even get to Jesus and the Bible we're going to start with an understanding of Myth and Fairy Tales.
Fairy Tales are not merely stories told to amuse children, they're moral instructions and ideology slipped into their subconscious to prepare them for their later experiences in life. Proof of this lies in their wide distribution and their adherence to clear-cut themes and symbolism. Hence Jack & The Beanstalk, which I've previously laid out here.
We can add to this Cinderella - 500 versions in Europe alone, with other versions found as far away as China.
Cinderella - to briefly dissect - is a girl kept in abject circumstance, as a servant to her grasping & evil stepmother and older step sisters. Fairy Godmother comes, gives her a night out, she shines at the Ball, meets Prince Charming, the incident with the glass slipper, and she assumes her rightful place as Princess soon-to-be-queen.
In this, we have every child's feeling of being put upon, we have their chance to shine (usually by friendly and occasionally supernatural forces), we have the discovery of "Sex" (the foot is sex), we have her triumph and validation via comparison to ugly, less worthy contenders. It reveals and conditions the child to her ideal social place.
Objections to the Patriarchy - while they must arise, and are just - are not to be discussed here.
In Snow White we have the same, evil stepmother who poisons daughter in guise of wicked witch, child falls into a slumber -the slumber of adolescence - hence the ridiculous names of the dwarves (Doc, Sleepy, Dopey, Grumpy, Happy, Bashful, Sneezy) - as anyone who's raised one knows they are for the most part not only descriptive but accurate.
Come Prince Charming, who discovers her - the leaving of the dwarves behind - the natural rebellion of the parents, the overcoming or winning of the prize or Bride, and again - Snow White prevails to become Queen of her own kingdom.
So what we see here in all these instances is the conditioning of the child's mind, through fairy tales, to what will become some form of their ideal reality or place in relation to the world around them. Now this - as I've dissected above - is the simplest of interpretations and if you'd like a more in-depth (and fascinating) analysis I'd refer you to read Bruno Bettelheim's "The Uses of Enchantment".
From here we look at Myths, and to understand any Myth we must understand it's relation to the socio-political world that surrounds it. A Myth may be thought of a grown-up fairy tale, to instruct people in the taboos, morals, and expectations of the society in which they find themselves a part. Myth - by it's nature, it's essence, MUST BE PERSONAL!!!!.
Prometheus, therefore, discovers fire, shares the boon, and is punished by the Gods. Prometheus is the man who UNDERSTANDS THE MYTH!!!!
Prometheus, the ancient explanation for fire, is only a part of it. He must be understood at some level to be the hearer of the tale.
And so on and so forth down the line.
Now, to Church, and to Jesus. We'll start with the historical evidence, and - having considered it from an unbiased perspective - neither for nor against, BUT - from a historical perspective, with over 140 contemporaneous sources recording no evidence of his existence, it seems beholding that we should conclude that he - or at least the singular version of Jesus of "Walk on Water", "Water into Wine", etc, etc, did not exist.
This is, however, a very unpopular point of view. One best kept to oneself, as you'll find yourself dealing with people who've done no pertinent reading on the subject opining to you endlessly. It's not worth the trouble. And - more, and MOST important - it doesn't matter. They have come to their own understanding of the myth on Blind Faith.
Now, you can guess my views on Blind Faith. No one is trying to persuade a child that the fairy tales they hear are true. The child accepts the "truth" of them on a very different level. And Cinderella - while on no level can be true - the aggregate and summed experience of thousands and millions of children give it it's truth.
Thus the fiction surpasses the lies and - ideally, becomes the Truth.
Adulthood, however, demands a reasoned faith, and while a Fairy Tale puts no obligations upon the hearer, Myth very much does. It's an idealized telling of the social contract. It's an outline - however unpopular, as to what should be your ideal life.
The purpose of this myth is to create an idealized template for your own existence. God - in the Old Testament - is largely represented as the Will of Man, an expatiation for all his grubby deeds. It is highly symbolic and the countless translations and telling's of it - before it was written down - have largely obscured the truth from all but the most ardent and skeptical of inquiries.
The New Testament - however - breaks from that. It provides a Messiah. It lays forth the truth, so to speak. And properly understood - again - translation errors and attempts to simplify it for the masses have largely dumbed it down. Jesus - the fiction, the Messiah, the aggregate of 100 zealots poorly remembered wandering, proselytizing around Jerusalem some 2000 years ago - must be understood as a PERSONAL MYTHOLOGY. Not a relationship, he is YOU.
So you go to these Church meetings, and they talk about Jesus in the Third Person, and you know, you know, they didn't get it.
The Jesus of the Cross, the Jesus of the Resurrection, guys, guys, guys, ladies, lay off...
Now here are a few of my thoughts.
First of all, if you don't get the gist of what the gospels are telling you than you are going to end up as the thieves on the crosses next to Jesus, just beginning to figure it out, too little and too late. The people that like the Jesus on the Cross, what they're liking is the "He died for our sins", not realizing, no, no, it wasn't him, it's YOU that will be crucified for YOUR SINS - and resurrection is only possible when you realize that.
Jesus, he was crucified for Speaking Truth to Power. Mythically speaking, of course.
People, ex cons, AA, junkies, that have been through trauma and seize upon the myth as their salvation, zealots, talk about him as if he were their personal friend, argue about him, talk about him constantly, the "Other", who loves Jesus More? I DO I DO, the biggest argument for undiagnosed mental illness and a complete lack of understanding, for it's always easier to put the sins on somebody else, to abdicate personal responsibility, to find a scapegoat, and this "Gratitude" for Jesus being your personal Scapegoat, well...
You didn't get it.
But they, the Churches of so many, they don't want you to know. The Crucifixes on the wall, the countless tutelary Saints - breaking both the first and second commandments - explicitly; and the prohibition when understood makes perfect sense. The Mohammedans have the same. This is for a reason - YOU ARE GOD, TAKE SOME FUCKING RESPONSIBILITY. Look within yourselves, not without. Purify your own thoughts and actions.
Consider the Catholic Ritual of Communion. "This is the Body - This is the Blood of Christ". Of course it's not, it's wine and bread, the transformation occurs in you, the wine becomes blood, the Host becomes the body, because - that is what your body does!!!! You EAT! You're not becoming Christ - YOU ALWAYS WERE!!!!
Of course, there is always the hopes that - when you realize this and strive to become a better "Christian" - ie: "MAN' - and this - given all the nonsense they've put you through to get here - this is the Miracle of Transformation. This is where the Mundane becomes the Sublime.
So, when I hear people talking about Jesus in the Third Person, (He-She, not YOU-ME), I'm reminded of Oedipus and the riddle of the Sphynx. If you don't know, The myth of Oedipus is that he goes off to conquer a kingdom and meets along the way a Sphynx, who under pain of death riddles him with the question: "What Has 4 Legs when a Child, 2 as an Adult, and 3 in Old Age". The answer, easy enough for Oedipus, is Man, in his youth he crawls, as a man he walks, and in his old age he requires a cane.
He has answered the question, and is allowed to pass, but - in consequence of his answer he is subject to terrible punishments (Killing his Father, Marrying his Mother).
You see, when he answered "Man" he failed to generalize from the abstract to himself - he answered "Man", where he should have answered "Me".
And so it goes with Jesus.
- Category: Ideas & Questions
This, overheard in the Library the other day, someone at the front desk loudly asking about the Lost & Found. Loudly, of course, because I'm 50 yards away and can hear everything and because, of course, I'm at the library and it's the community soapbox, open-mic, town-rag, merely sit and try to find some solitude and you'll be brought up to speed on all of the town gossip.
Anyways, man, I can't see him, presumably homeless (why? Just the conversation...)
"Has anyone turned in a $50 bill? Last couple of days...I may have left it at the store or spent it or lost it here...just checking...not sure exactly when..."
And so the clerk is pulling out the lost & found box and going through it with him and I'm thinking, my god, this is brilliant!!! I should do this, go around to all the shops and stores with my own lost & found list....
- "Has anyone turned in a wallet brimming with money but without ID?"
- "Has anyone turned in a large duffel bag filled with drugs?"
- "Has anyone left a full or mostly full or not quite empty bottle of Vodka/Pack of Cigarettes?"
- "Has anyone turned in a solid gold/diamond ring/bracelet/..."
- "Has anyone found a key fob to a newer model Jeep?" !!! THIS
- "Has anyone a turned in a brunette, 5'6", glasses, fine ass, smart?"
I mean, I got a shopping list, I should spend the day out and about and see what treasures I can turn up...
Regarding dude with his $50 bill, I would have answered: "Yes, yes, somebody turned one in just yesterday, I'll just need to confirm the serial number with you...".
- Category: Conversations
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