Indo-European And Indo-Europeans

A bit of time travel… The scene: Calcutta, India. The year is 1783; it is the time of the Honourable East India Company (or John Company, as it was often called), which administered Bengal through the governor-generalship of Warren Hastings.

In 1783, then, a thirty-seven year old jurist, a native of London, landed in Calcutta to take up the post of judge of the Supreme Court. This man was Sir William Jones, who not only possessed a brilliant legal mind but also had an innate gift for languages.

When he landed in Calcutta, he could speak all the European languages, along with Hebrew, Arabic, Turkish, and Persian, and even a bit of Chinese. When he came to Calcutta, he was extremely interested in learning Sanskrit, the classical language of northern India. This he set out to do almost immediately, hiring local pundits as instructors.

By 1784, he had established the Asiatic Society of Bengal, which had its own journal, Asiatic Researches. Jones went on to translate many of the classics of Sanskrit literature and laid the foundations of Indology, or the study of Indian culture. Given his propensity for languages, it is not surprising that he began to see patterns and similarities in languages that lay separated by thousands of miles. He says in one of his letters, dated September 27, 1787: “You would be astonished at the resemblance between that language [namely, Sanskrit] and both Greek and Latin.”

This astonishment reached its fullest expression in the early months of 1794, just a little before his death in April of that year. The astonishment, we will note, has now become a certainty, pointing perhaps even to a methodology:

The Sanskrit language, whatever may be its antiquity, is of wonderful structure; more perfect than the Greek, more copious than the Latin, and more exquisitely refined than either; yet bearing to both of them a stronger affinity, both in the roots of verbs and in the forms of grammar, than could have been produced by accident; so strong that no philologer [linguist] could examine all the three without believing them to have sprung from some common source, which, perhaps, no longer exists. There is a similar reason, though not quite so forcible, for supposing that both the Gothic and Celtic, though blended with a different idiom, had the same origin with the Sanskrit; and the old Persian might be added to the same family.

Here, we should acknowledge the fact that Jones was not the first person to see this affinity of the languages India, Iran and Europe.

As early as 1581, the Italian merchant Filippo Sasseti saw the same similarity, as did the English Jesuit Thomas Stevens who was in India in 1583.

In the seventeenth century, the Dutch scholar Marcus Boxhorn grouped together Latin, Greek, German and Persian. In 1768, the Jesuit, Gaston-Laurent Coeurdoux saw Sanskrit, Latin, Greek, Slavonic and Germanic as all derived from the same source.

And in 1767, James Parsons published his voluminous study, The Remains of Japhet, Being Historical Enquiries Into The Affinity and Origins of the European Languages.

In this book, Parsons gave a lengthy list of words that were similar. The list had over 1,000 words and included all the major Eurasian languages: Irish, Welsh, Latin, Italian, French, Spanish, German, Dutch, Swedish, Danish, Old English, English, Russian, Polish, Bengali and Persian.

In order to highlight his argument of similitude, Parsons compared the same words with other languages, namely, Turkish, Hebrew, Malay, and Chinese. This simple, yet extensive exercise proved beyond a doubt that the languages of Europe and those of Iran and India showed a marked resemblance.

For Parsons, this resemblance pointed to the verity of the biblical account of Noah. In the eighteenth century, the labels used for languages derived from the three sons of Noah, whose progeny came to populate the earth, after the great flood. Thus, the Jews and Arabs were descended from Shem and were hence Semites; the Egyptians were descended from Ham, and were labeled Hamites; and Noah’s third son, Japhet, was the forefather of all the remaining races of the earth; hence the linguistic parallels between India, Iran and Europe pointed to an original Japhetic language, from which all the rest were derived.

Before we scoff at this notion, it is important to keep in mind that it was only in the nineteenth century that this biblical paradigm was abandoned. Even Jones himself postulated Japhetic origins in order to explain the astonishing parallels. Historians in the eighteenth century thought within the structure of Book of Genesis when it came to the remote past. Thus, when the world was destroyed in the Great Flood, it was presupposed that Noah’s Ark came to rest in Armenia, from where Noah’s sons issued forth to repopulate the earth.

But what were these connections that Jones and the other saw?  Let us briefly look at these ourselves in order to get a sense of the astonishment. Here’s a random, brief list to help us along in our discussion.

English:      father          brother          son        daughter       sister

Celtic:         athair         brathair        —         duxtir            siur

Latin:         pater           frater            —         —                  soror

German:    Vater           Bruder          Sohn      Tochter          Schwester

Greek:        pater           phrater          uius       thugater         eor

Sanskrit:    pitar           bhratar          sunu      duhitar          svasar

Persian:     pidar          bradar           hunus     dukhtar          —

Russian:    pyat            brat                syn         doch               sestra

Lithuanian:   —         brolis             sunus      dukte              sesuo

 

Although Sir William Jones understood the commonalities between the languages of Europe, India and Iran, he himself stayed entrenched in the biblical schema of the Great Flood, when it came time to explain why these affinities existed in the first place.

It was only in the nineteenth century that scholars of language (or philology) could move beyond Noah, and consider other reasons for the correspondences.

Thus, scholars sought to arrive at a “system” whereby these affinities could be scientifically examined. Here was an attempt to move beyond the “astonishment” that mesmerized the eighteenth century towards an understanding of the rules that governed and predicated linguistic parallels.

This meant it was no longer enough to merely construct long lists of words that were similar; it was more important to examine the underlying set of laws that sought to answer the question as to why each word was not exactly the same in all of the languages. Thus despite the similarities, there were also discernible patterns of change that made Celtic “behave” a certain way, when compared to Sanskrit or Germanic. Thus was born the science of comparative philology.

The father of this new science was Rasmus Christian Rask (1787-1832), the Danish professor, who could speak 25 languages. In his monumental work, Essay on the Origin of the Ancient Scandinavian or Icelandic Tongue (1812), he set in place a system that explained the changes within European languages.

For example, he demonstrated the Greek ph = the Germanic b. Thus, it was that the Greek phrater equaled the German Bruder, or the English “brother.” In the same way, the Greek g always corresponded to the Germanic k. Therefore the Greek agros (“field”) was the same as the Old Norse akr, or the English “acre.”

These rules did not stop merely at sound shifts, but could be discerned in the very structure of the languages in this large familial group. For example, the Latin and Sanskrit word for “fire” underwent the very same declension:

 

Case                                              Latin                                      Sanskrit

Nominative Singular                  ignis                                       agnis

Accusative Singular                    ignem                                     agnim

Dative Plural                               ignibus                                   agnibhyas

 

Such a methodology initiated a great effort to synthesize comparative linguistics. Chief among these was the massive work, A Comparative Grammar of Sanskrit, Zend, Greek, Latin, Lithuanian, Old Slavonic, Gothic and Germanic, which came in six volumes and took nineteen years to complete (1833-1853). Its author was the great German philologist Franz Bopp (1791-1867).

As for the term “Indo-European,” it was coined by that most learned physician, physicist and Egyptologist, Thomas Young (1773-1829). The term remains popular in English and the Romance languages. German scholars prefer the term “Indo-Germanic.” The meaning of both is the same: the great family of languages that covers most of the globe.

But having arrived at the linguistic similitude, the next question that was inevitably asked was, “Who were the Indo-Europeans?” Thus began the “problem” of the Indo-Europeans, a problem that remains unresolved to this day, despite a great many advances.

And just what is the “Indo-European problem?” Very simply: since there is no dispute as to the similarities that exist between the languages of Europe, Iran, and India, does this not imply that there was once a time in hoary antiquity when there was only one language, from which all these similar languages stemmed?

Scholars have constructed a hypothetical version of this unified language; it is known as Proto-Indo-European (or as the Germans would have it, Urindogermanisch). And if there was this time of linguistic unity, there must have been one tribe, or group of people that spoke this undifferentiated language. And by extension, where upon this earth did this tribe of Indo-Europeans live?

Given this implied unity, can we discern a cohesive Indo-European culture? A shared mythology, religion, and even concepts? As is immediately obvious, the drive towards scientifically examining the likeness in the Indo-European languages also greatly enlarged the scope of study.

It is this broader, and infinitely more interesting, examination of Indo-European and Indo-Europeans to which we shall now turn.

Once we postulate a linguistic unity, we must then consider a time-frame and a geographical location. This is another step in linguistic archaeology, namely, language as paleontology. Methodologically, this means that we must use those words, which describe physicality, geography, the flora and the fauna, and from these “clues” try to find a match in the archaeological record. And sure enough, there are several intriguing possibilities.

Scholars have looked at the common words for trees, animals, plants, and even physical features, such as mountains, lakes, and rivers. But none of these provide enough evidence to pin down the Indo-Europeans with any degree of certitude. However, when we move into the realm of domesticated animals, we are immediately on fertile ground.

One of the advantages of linguistic paleontology is the fact that it provides researchers with markers that can be traced in the archaeological record. Now, when we consider the Indo-Europeans, one of the most important markers is the domesticated horse. First, all the Indo-European languages share a common word for “horse.”

When the speakers of these languages burst onto history, they are always associated with two things – the domesticated horse and the chariot (which we will examine a little later). We also know from the study of ritual in all the Indo-European cultures that the horse played a vital role.

All scholars agree that the horse was an important component of Indo-European culture. Since we are attempting to locate the original home of the Indo-Europeans, we need to consider the fact that if the horse played a central in Indo-European society, then it might be fruitful to look at those locations where is the horse is known to be indigenous.

This brings us to the region that extends east from the Dnieper river to the Volga, or the Eurasian steppe, where herds of wild horses are known to have roamed from the Neolithic period onwards. By the fourth millennium BC, the horse is already domesticated and cane be found as far east as the Afanasievo culture of southern Siberia, and as far west as the Balkans and the Carpathian basin. It is here that the home of Indo-Europeans is to be located. But all that we should discuss another time.

 

 

The photo shows, “The Dream of Ossian,” by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, painted in 1813.

The Ruin Of Nimrud

“The ziggurat, the shrine that rises to heaven, was hurled into a heap of rubble…its shining door hacked down…the lion-faced gate…they utterly shattered it. O, sorrowful was [the city’s] destruction.” These words date back to about 1925 BC and perhaps were sung with harp and tambourine in mourning for a city’s devastation.

Mourning such despoliation of cities is a very ancient literary genre in Iraq which eventually stretches out into Biblical tradition with the various laments for Jerusalem.

Now that we see “incendiary or bigot” (to borrow a phrase from W.B. Yeats) bulldozing Nimrud into rubble, and piously shattering with sledgehammer and drill all the graven images – our response can only truly be the ancient one of lamentation, which is a call not only to weep but to remember that which has vanished.

What must be remembered about Nimrud? First and foremost as the city which engendered the very discipline of Assyriology, which is the study of the various Mesopotamian cultures which used cuneiform writing.

This came about in 1854 when an extensive and successful exhibition was held at the Crystal Palace, in London, where recent finds from what was then Ottoman Iraq were displayed. Pride of place went to relief panels, artifacts and two giant iconic lamassu (those tri-morph creatures, part lion or bull, part eagle with bearded faces of men) that were painstakingly brought back to Britain by Austen Henry Layard.

Long fascinated by the East, Layard took to a life of an adventurer at 22 and rambled about in the Middle East until he came upon a plain, just where the Upper Zab River flows down to meet the Tigris.

The year was 1839 and he was in the vilayet (province) of Mosul in Ottoman Iraq. The Arab villagers referred to the mounds as Nimrud which the well-read Layard knew to be the city through which Xenophon and his Ten Thousand once passed and which they called Larissa.

Here is Layard describing his first view of Nimrud: “…we looked down upon a broad plain, separated from us by the river. A line of lofty mounds bounded it to the east, and one of a pyramidical form rose high above the rest….There was a tradition current among the Arabs that strange figures carved in black stones still existed among the ruins; but we searched in vain, during the greater part of the day in which we were engaged in exploring the heap of earth and bricks, covering a considerable extent of country on the right bank of the Tigris… These huge mounds of Assyria made a deeper impression upon me, gave rise to more serious thought and more earnest reflection, than the temples of Balbec or the theatres of Ionia.

Seven years later, he would return and uncover ancient Nimrud and, in the process, launch the process which would become the systematic study of the history and culture of ancient Assyria. He would forever therefore be named, “the Father of Assyriology.”

And what his shovel uncovered was rich indeed. Long, carved alabaster walls, bearing reliefs of kings in their chariots, hunting or slaying enemies, two palaces with rooms that still bore faded paintings, beautiful cared ivories of intimate scenes, of faces carved in ivory and alabaster, gazing from millennia past into the present, and massive lamassu, two of which would end up at the Crystal Palace exhibit, and later would become permanently housed at the British Museum.

Layard also uncovered the renowned Black Obelisk, which declares the victories of an Assyrian monarch and includes the earliest mention of a king of Israel, who is shown crouching and kissing the ground before the Assyrian king. The Israelite ruler is identified in the inscription as “Jehu, son of Omri,” who has brought as tribute gold, silver, a bowl of gold, a covered dish of gold, golden buckets and vessels, tin, royal staffs and a spear.

There were also curiosities. One was a lens, perhaps toroidally ground to correct astigmatism. This is the Layard Lens, or more commonly, the Nimrud Lens. It was once mounted and used like lorgnette. It is likely that one of the diggers that Layard employed found it and prised out the lens from its mount, which may have been made of gold.

Layard often said that his Arab workers thought he was intent on his mad scheme only because there was much buried gold about.

The lens was found along with many glass objects, indicating the complexity of the technologies available in the Assyrian world. One is a small bottle on which is written the name of an Assyrian king, Sargon II. There were also fragments of colored glass plaques, as well as two complete glass bowls.

Layard’s pioneering work led to further excavations in the ensuing years, led by Swiss, Italian, and British archaeologists.

And it was Sir Max Mallowan, the husband of Agatha Christie, who methodically studied and excavated Nimrud, from 1947 to 1961, uncovering some wonderful treasures, such as, delicate faience rosettes, the famous ivory panel showing a lioness killing a Nubian boy, and the pair of faces made of ivory and likely painted and given the idiosyncratic names by Mallowan, the “Mona Lisa of Nimrud,” and her “Ugly Sister.”

Christie who had a great interest in archaeology worked alongside her husband and later wrote about her experiences in the Middle East and Nimrud in a rare nonfiction work, Come, Tell Me How You Live.

The work of these many hands showed that ancient Nimrud had a history stretching back nearly three thousand years, and for more than one hundred fifty years it had been in the very limelight as the capital city of the Assyrian Empire.

The Assyrians called the city by another name, Kalḫu, the Biblical Calah. There is indication that the site was inhabited as early as the third millennium BC and served as an unassuming provincial town until about 1076 BC.

Its fortunes changed within two hundred years after that when King Ashurnasirpal II (883 – 859 BC), decided to transform the little town into the imperial capital of his empire. By the time construction was completed in 879 BC, the results were impressive.

The new city now stretched across nearly nine hundred acres, all encircled by a four mile fortified wall, which had four massive gates, where lamassu stood as reminders of wisdom one of the greatest attributes of any good Assyrian king.

The showiest of the buildings was a new palace (now known as the Northwest Palace), built on a monumental scale. It covered seven acres and was divided into three section, one for administrative and state duties (where a small library has been found), one as the royal residence, and the third as apartments for the royal wives and concubines.

The walls of the palace were covered in reliefs and paintings, showing battle and hunting scenes, the homage of tributary cities, Ashunasirpal’s piety and his protection by the gods, and gentler scenes showing the king relaxing in gardens with his attendants and women.

Surrounding the palace were vast parks where exotic trees, flowers and plants were cultivated and where animals, brought from all over the empire, freely roamed.

To show his affinity for the gods, Ashurnasirpal erected nine great temples, including the one dedicated to Nabu (where many literary texts have been found, as well as the names of a family of royal scribes).

Next to it was a temple to Ninurta, the god of victory and author of many heroic exploits. It is likely that his name endures in the modern name of the city, Nimrud.

At the entrance to his new throne room, Ashurnasirpal set up sandstone stele which shows him flanked by various royal and divine symbols; underneath is a rather remarkable text, in which ihe summarized what he had accomplished at Kalḫu.

These are his words: “In my wisdom, I came to Kalḫu and cleared away the old hill of debris. I dug down to the water level. I built up a terrace…and upon that erected my royal throne, and for my own enjoyment I built eight beautiful halls… I painted on the walls of palaces, in bright blue paint [my heroic deeds]… I had lapis lazuli colored glazed bricks made and set them above the gates… I brought in people from the countries I rule…and settled them [in Kalḫu]… I provided the lowlands along the Tigris with irrigation. I planted orchards at [the city’s] outskirts that had all kinds of trees… [In the city itself] the gardens vied with each in fragrance… the pomegranates glow in the pleasure garden like the stars in the sky, they are entwined like grapes on the vine… in the garden of happiness… [here the text is fragmented].”

In the same stele, Ashurnasirpal describes the grand party that he threw once his new city was completed. The guests numbered “69,574…from all the countries including Kalḫu,” and the feast was suitably gargantuan, for which were slaughtered a thousand cattle, a thousand calves, ten thousand sheep, fifteen thousand lambs, five hundred gazelles and stags, along with twenty-four thousand ducks, geese, doves and other fowl, ten thousand fish of various kinds, ten thousand eggs, and even ten thousand jerboas.

There were ten thousand loaves of bread baked and served with many side-dishes of seeds, nuts, olives, pickled and spiced fruits, as well as many prepared vegetables, most of which cannot be identified because their ancient Assyrian names defy translation – the abaḫšinnu-stalks, the raqqute-plants, the šišanibbe-plants, and so on. These plants cannot be identified.

All this was washed down by ten thousand jars of beer and ten thousand skins of wine. At the end of his description, there is the assurance that a good time was had by all: “I did them {the guests] due honor and sent them healthy and happy back to their own countries.”

Ashurnasirpal lived in his city for twenty years, and upon his death he was succeeded by his son, Shalmaneser III (859 – 824 BC), who continued his father’s work of beautifying the capital.

He added the great ziggurat, one of the very remaining ones from Assyrian times, which must have dominated the skyline of ancient Kalḫu, although it is difficult now to determine just how high it stood when it was built; in its present, and certainly incomplete, state it rises to about fifty-five feet. And on that Black Obelisk, Jehu is shown crouching before Shalmaneser.

Also, at this time, another palace was added, now simply called the “Governor’s Palace” because it is smaller than the royal one built by Ashrunasirpal. In its prime it must have shone like an exquisite jewel, for its walls were panted with concentric designs in red, blue, white and black. Found within it were finely crafted pottery and an extensive archive of letters, and legal and administrative documents which cover the period from 802 to 710 BC.

The latter date is important because it in this year that Kalḫu was abandoned as the royal capital by the Assyrian king, Sargon II (721 – 705 BC), in favor of a newly-built city, Dur-Šarruken (The Fortress of Sargon), near the modern-day village of Khorsabad.

Sargon’s son and successor, Senneachrib (705 – 681 BC), who is mentioned in the Bible as the destroyer of the northern kingdom of Israel, in turn abandoned Dur-Šarruken  in favor of Nineveh, where Assyrian kings would remain until the downfall of the empire in 605 BC to the Babylonians.

In 539 BC, all the regions that comprised the Assyrian world became part of a new empire, the Persian one, led by Cyrus the Great.

In these years of turmoil, Kalḫu was neglected and evidence indicates that eventually it became a refuge for squatters fleeing the various incursions by the armies of Cyrus, so that by the time Xenophon passed through it in 401 BC, he saw only ruins and a tumbled-down ziggurat.

After the Persians fell to Alexander the Great, the city saw a brief revival as a series of small villages whose inhabitants have left behind coins, some statues, and a bread oven, which yield a date of habitation from about 250 to 140 BC. Afterwards, there is only silence, though ancient Kalḫlu had one more surprise to offer to the world – and a most fabulous one at that.

In 1989, the Iraq Department of Antiquities, which has done meticulous and detailed work at Nimrud, made a startlingly discovery – intact tombs beneath the Northwest Palace, three of them belonging to queens.

The queens were interred in bronze caskets, bearing their names and curses which are really wishes to be left alone.

The earliest among them is of Queen Yaba, wife of King Tiglathpileser III (744 – 727 BC). The next one belongs to Queen Banitu, the wife of King Shalmaneser V (726 – 722 BC). The third tomb belongs to Queen Ataliya, wife of King Sargon II. As well, there were fifteen burials, some of them children.

There was also an empty stone sarcophagus of Ashurnasirpal’s queen, Mullissu. There is a rather poignant link between the two through their names. Ashurnasirpal’s name means “the god Ashur protects the heir.” The goddess Mullissu was Ashur’s wife.

In the coffins was a royal treasure – hundreds of pieces of gold jewelry, such as, rings, earrings, necklaces, anklets and bracelets, gold plaques to adorn clothes, shaped into stars, triangles and cowrie shells, diadems, vessels of gold and crystal, small sculptures of gold and faience, including one erotic one, and seven mirrors pf bronze and electron. There were more fragile finds, too – fragments of textiles, some with tassels that show a predominance of flax over wool.

Another intriguing find was a silver omphalos bowl that had an inscription in hieroglyphic Luwian, which might spell out the name, Sandasarme who, around 650 BC, was the ruler of Hilakku, a city in Cilicia, in southern Turkey. As an Indo-European language, Luwian is often considered to be the native tongue of the Trojans.

On a funerary tablet that was meant for Mullissu’s tomb is a curse, which states: “…anyone who later removes my throne from before the shades of the dead, may his spirit receive no bread. May someone later clothe me with a shroud, anoint me with oil and sacrifice a lamb.”

Now that Nimrud has been bulldozed, it is hard to say what now survives. Perhaps the destruction is as complete as the Buddhas of Bamiyan. A lot of the ivory plaques and the gold jewelry of the three queens was housed in the museum at Mosul.

Since that too has been ransacked, there is little hope that much of these artifacts are still around. Perhaps someday in the future, when the smashing has finally ended, the shattered city of Nimrud may again be gathered (or clothed and anointed, in the words of Mullissu) and reconstituted, if not physically then at least in memory of the royal capital that once stood by the River Zab, and which ideology destroyed.

May that time come soon, for many, many have already been the “sacrificial lambs” slaughtered in that antique land.

 

The photo shows the entrance to the palace in Nimrud, an anonymous watercolor, painted 1849-1850.

Review: 12 Rules For Life

A friend of mine has been pushing me to look into Jordan Peterson for the past six months.  I thought, since my friend is conservative, that Peterson offered right-wing politics, and it is true that he has recently been in the news for his thoughts on certain charged topics.

However, Peterson does not, in fact, offer politics, which is refreshing in these days of rage.  Rather, 12 Rules For Life is a self-help book constructed like a Russian matryoshka doll, a nested construct.  It talks, and works, on multiple levels, some of which may have political implications, but if so, they are incidental to what the book offers to each human person, both the broken and the whole.

The nested, complex nature of this book really should be no surprise, because Peterson’s life’s work is the study of the infinitely layered human mind, and his one earlier book, Maps of Meaning, was an exhaustive analysis of intricate human myths, their roots in our moral beliefs, and their implications for today.

In Peterson’s view, all moral traditions are, at their root, exemplifications and explications of the opposition of order and chaos, as well as a way of creating shared beliefs, which are immensely valuable to any human society.

The basic point in his Rules is that every individual can avoid the extremes of menacing chaos and tyrannical order by following the Way, the line between order and chaos, “through the willingness of everyone to shoulder the burden of Being and to take the heroic path.” This is to “live properly,” and if we can do this, we can “collectively flourish.” Thus, his 12 Rules are guides to this end.

As I says, this is not a political book, but politics is downstream of this book—that is, if you buy into what Peterson is offering, it probably changes some of your political views.  Peterson’s basic principle is the imperative need to recognize that reality exists, and given that so much of politics today is built around a wholesale denial of reality, Peterson’s statements often seem political.

In fact, they are political, even if that is not Peterson’s intent, or at least not his major intent.  This is especially true of his view of men and women, which permeates the book.

But let’s treat the book as it is, rather than treating it as some form of archetype, for it is, if nothing else, highly original, and it is therefore hard to summarize.  Peterson, both an academic and a practicing clinical psychologist, has spent a lifetime talking extensively to many people, most of them troubled, and he thinks very deeply about every word he says (as is clearly evident if you watch interviews with him available online).

That doesn’t mean he’s didactic—his writing tone is conversational and packed with anecdotes, carefully chosen to illustrate or add impact to the points he makes.  But it does mean that nearly every sentence is crowded with meaning.

Rule 1 is “Stand Up Straight With Your Shoulders Back.”  This is the backbone of all the rules, really, for in its Peterson explains that we are how we are.  We are not malleable beyond a certain point. His illustration is lobsters, who were already incredibly ancient at the dawn of the dinosaurs, yet who have much in common with humans—so much so that anti-depressants perk defeated lobsters up.  Lobsters have a dominance hierarchy.

And, critically, male and female lobsters are radically different—they act differently, yes, but more broadly, male and female lobster teleology, their purpose, is different, and that is reflected in how each behaves.  For lobsters, and all other creatures, “The dominance hierarchy, however social or cultural it might appear, has been around for some half a billion years.  It’s permanent.  It’s real.  It is [rather than capitalism, or patriarchy, or some other ephemeral manifestation] a near-eternal aspect of the environment. . . . Dominance hierarchies are older than trees.”

Males, lobster or not, who fall in the dominance hierarchy have bad lives that get worse, often in a self-reinforcing loop; and they rise in the dominance hierarchy by fighting and winning, which means they get the best food, the best mental and physical health, the best shelter, and the best females.

Similarly, females who rise (who fight only in their maternal stage, but compete otherwise) in the dominance hierarchy have the best mental health, and better physical circumstances by virtue of attracting high-quality suitors, that is, those high in the dominance hierarchy, whom they identify and pursue; those who fall; the reverse.  Whether we like to admit it or not, humans are essentially the same as lobsters. They always have been, and they always will be.

Unlike lobsters, though, humans can self-diagnose that they are at the bottom of the hierarchy, or heading there in a downward spiral, and they can take action to improve their situation.  (Peterson’s book is about taking action, most of all.)  Falling in a human dominance hierarchy basically means you are being bullied, and though some can’t fight back, almost always, it’s that people won’t fight back.

While fighting back can be as simple as changing your view of life, “to accept the terrible responsibility of life, with eyes wide open,” and “accepting the end of the unconscious paradise of childhood,” ultimately “[t]here is very little difference between the capacity for mayhem and destruction, integrated, and strength of character.”

Given that I have always believed that violence, or at least its threat, is the solution to most problems of human oppression, this certainly resonates with me, though reconciling that with turning the other cheek is difficult, and not something Peterson has much use for, despite obvious deep sympathy with Christianity.

Through standing up for oneself, straight with your shoulders back, using force as necessary (and the willingness to use force likely means it will not be necessary), leads the path to human flourishing, for all.

In Rule 2, “Treat Yourself Like Someone You Are Responsible For Helping,” Peterson addresses why people sabotage themselves.  He first delves deeply into human mythos, closely analyzing the first chapters of Genesis in particular, though also offering nods to other traditions, such as the Vedic.

This is in service of a deeper exploration of the eternal opposition of order and chaos.  Order is masculine; when good, it is the structure of society, the ice on which we skate; when bad, it is tyranny and stultification. Chaos is feminine; when good, it is the origin of all things and the maker of all things new, the substance from which all things are made; when bad, it is the dangerous unknown, the chthonic underworld, and the dark water under the ice.

Calling these categories of reality masculine and feminine is not arbitrary; in fact, it comports with what may be the ultimate fundamental fact of human existence, the division into two very different sexes, male and female, “natural categories, deeply embedded in our perceptual, emotional and motivational structures.”

(You now begin to see why the transgender ideologues are not thrilled with Peterson.)  As with Adam and Eve and their self-sabotage, we sabotage ourselves, not viewing ourselves as worthy of respect, since we are capable of stupidity and evil.  “And with this realization we have well-nigh full legitimization of the idea, very unpopular in modern intellectual circles, of Original Sin.”  But we can choose to embody the Image of God, instead.  “Back is the way forward—as T. S. Eliot insisted [in Little Gidding]—but back as awake beings, exercising the proper choice of awake beings.”

For Christians, though, this poses a perceived difficulty.  Yes, as Peterson notes, Christianity reduced evil and barbarism in the areas it conquered.  But it encouraged excessive self-sacrifice through erroneous thinking.  “Christ’s archetypal death exists as an example of how to accept finitude, betrayal and tyranny heroically—how to walk with God despite the tragedy of conscious self-knowledge—and not as a directive to victimize ourselves in the service of others.”

We have to care for others as we care for ourselves; only in that way can both of us flourish.  Peterson explores this line of thought at considerable length; it is impossible to shorten his words and retain the meaning, but it is both fully compatible with Christian belief and an antidote to a certain line of Christian excessive self-abnegation (a failing I found in Thomas à Kempis’s The Imitation of Christ, though I hesitate to criticize a book of such renown).

Rule 3 advises us to choose and to see our friends clearly.  You must not only see the best in people. You can show them to what they should aspire, but you cannot lift them up unless they wish to be so lifted.

“Not everyone who is failing is a victim, and not everyone at the bottom wishes to rise.”  “But Christ himself, you might object, befriended tax-collectors and prostitutes.  How dare I cast aspersions on the motives of those who are trying to help?  But Christ was the archetypal perfect man.  And you’re you.  How do you know that your attempts to pull someone up won’t instead bring them—or  you—further down?”  Again, nearly every word is perfect:  “Success: that’s the mystery. Virtue: that’s what inexplicable. . . . . Things fall apart, of their own accord, but the sins of men speed their degeneration. And then comes the flood.”

Rule 4 returns to an internal focus, advising us to “Compare Yourself To Who You Were Yesterday, Not To Who Someone Else Is Today.”  Just because you can always find an area where someone, or everyone, is better, does not mean that area is or should be relevant to you.

A myriad of games are possible in each person’s life; choose your game, choose your starting point, and improve yourself, incrementally and gradually.  In fact, you should reward yourself for doing so, as silly as that sounds.

And if you resent someone else, you need to realize it is either stupid immaturity, in which case you should stop it, or it is a legitimate complaint, in which case you must address it, or it will only get worse and cause more problems.

Next, on Rule 5, “Do Not Let Your Children Do Anything That Makes You Dislike Them,” Peterson switches gears, from the world of adults to the world of children as it intersects with adults.

He strongly objects to certain psychological tendencies in child-rearing, especially the protection of children from dangers at the expense of making them fully functioning and competent human beings (a problem mainly with male children and their mothers, he says).

Children must be socialized; they are not inherently good (or inherently bad, for that matter).  Individual problems do not call for social restructuring, which is mostly stupid.  “Each person’s private trouble cannot be solved by a social revolution, because revolutions are destabilizing and dangerous.”

Socialization means limitations; limitations facilitate creative achievement, not crimp it.  Along the way, Peterson discusses tangential topics, such as that hierarchies are rarely, if ever, arbitrary.  He recognizes, of course, that each child is very different (as I know, having five myself), but certain basic approaches (including “discipline and punish,” I assume a joke at Foucault’s expense) are the most likely to lead to success, for all of child, parents, and society.

In Rule 6, Peterson returns to adult self-help, “Set Your Own House In Perfect Order Before You Criticize The World.”  He evaluates here, as he does in more than one place in this book, the nihilism of the smarter Columbine killer, Eric Harris.

This is of course topical, with the present focus on school shootings.  True, they have not actually increased in recent decades, but they have increased from forty or fifty years ago, when children carrying guns to school was unexceptional, and the reason is almost certainly some form of this nihilism.

Peterson is violently opposed to the idea that humans are some kind of plague, as Harris maintained, and he identifies this sort of thinking, common among certain elites today, who adhere to the self-definition of Goethe’s Mephistopheles as “the spirit who negates,” as among the worst in the modern world.  (Peterson would prefer Normal Borlaug to William Vogt, in Charles Mann’s excellent, The Wizard and the Prophet.) Yes, life is very hard, and suffering, great suffering, is nearly inevitable for everyone.

But transformation, not vengeance, is the answer.  Abel, not Cain. Rather than blaming everyone else for what is wrong, stop today what you know to be wrong, and start doing what you know to be right. Thereby, you help yourself, and you strike a blow for Being, for the Way, and against nihilism.

Peterson continues the focus on suffering in Rule 7, “Pursue What Is Meaningful (Not What Is Expedient).”  Here, he dives into Egyptian mythology, as well as several passages from the New Testament.  He returns to, and expands on, his earlier thoughts about the impact of Christianity and the resulting new problems, noting that, “In consequence [of Christianity], the metaphysical conception of the implicit transcendent worth of each and every soul established itself against impossible odds as the fundamental presumption of Western law and society.  That was not the case in the world of the past, and is not the case yet in most places in the world of the present.”

(I’ve been saying this for years, but it’s nice to find someone prominent who agrees with me!)  But in addition to the tendency toward self-abnegation, long a potential problem for flourishing in this life, Christianity’s decline has left a void.

Here Peterson talks of Nietzsche, Dostoevsky, Milton, Solzhenitsyn, and much more, including his own personal moral development, and returns again to suffering and nihilism, which are bad, but which at least point out, when addressed directly, that there is something good that opposes them.

Expedience is lying and not facing up to your sins and the reality of things.  Meaning is the balance between chaos and order, and it leads to good.  “Meaning is the Way, the path of life more abundant, the place you live when you are guided by Love and speaking Truth and when nothing you want or could possibly want takes any precedence over precisely that.”  And by much the same token, but more personal and humanized, Rule 8:  “Tell The Truth—Or At Least, Don’t Lie.”  Deceit leads to evil, which leads to, and is embodied, suffering.

Rule 9 tells us to “Assume That The Person You Are Listening To Might Know Something You Don’t.”  Here a plea for, in essence, humility, along with some fascinating ideas about how to conduct disagreements with one’s spouse, and related thoughts on memory and wisdom.  Rule 10 says “Be Precise In Your Speech.”

As I say, Peterson embodies this rule.  I like to say (which probably says something about me), in the context of political arguments, that I am a professional killer.  I have nothing on Peterson, though.  You can see the wheels turning when he is asked a question, and what comes out is precise and irrefutable, each word weighted with meaning and exquisitely interlocked, intertwining and supporting, with every other.

(He never seems to say “um,” that’s for certain.)  Lack of precision leads to chaos; lack of precision may be a failure of vocabulary, but it is more often a failure to communicate at all, to identify and address problems between two people before they grow to enormous, malevolent proportions.  But, “If we speak carefully and precisely, we can sort things out, and put them in their proper place, and set a new goal, and navigate to it—often communally, if we negotiate; if we reach consensus.  If we speak carelessly and imprecisely, however, things remain vague.  The destination remains unproclaimed.  The fog of uncertainty does not lift, and there is no negotiating through the world.”

Next to last, in Rule 11, Peterson returns to children, “Do Not Bother Children When They Are Skateboarding.”  Danger, especially for men, is part of growth.  And young men are the element of society at greatest risk today—this is not a major theme of this book, but it is a major theme of Peterson’s public thought.

They are protected from developing properly, they are deliberately socialized like and as girls, yet they are blamed for the world’s ills, and as a result, some turn to nihilism, and fascism, encouraged by certain other men who, in essence, Peterson calls evil.

Here, Peterson returns emphatically to his proclamation of the deep and abiding differences between men and women.  “[Some] insist, ever more loudly, that gender is a social construct.  It isn’t. This isn’t a debate. The data are in.”  For example, in the “emancipated” Scandinavian countries, girls choose traditionally feminine pursuits and behaviors at extremely high rates.

And in the United States, it is just a lie that there are few women law firm partners due to discrimination; the reason is, purely, women’s choice.  (I know this from personal experience, although you are forbidden to say it at a law firm—you would be fired instantly, yet another of many distortions of reality today, and a form of coerced lying and mass collective self-delusion).

The dominance hierarchy is only one example of this, but it is enormously important, like it or not, for young men, and making it so they can’t win in any aspect of it is catastrophic for men—and for women, who have a reduced selection of competent partners to meet their different, but complementary, needs.

The movie Frozen is “deeply propagandistic,” an embodied falsehood, not because a woman necessarily needs a man to rescue her, though she probably does to some extent, as does a man need a woman to make him whole, but because it pretends that masculine traits are of no consequence to human flourishing.

The “oppression of the patriarchy” is a pack of lies.  “The so-called oppression of the patriarchy was instead an imperfect collective attempt by men and women, stretching over millennia, to free each other from privation, disease and drudgery.”

The miserable result of denying this is what we see today.  “We do not teach our children that the world is flat.  Neither should we teach them unsupported ideologically-predicated theories about the nature of men and women—or the nature of hierarchy.”

He even boldly directly attacks transgender ideology.  “Gender is constructed, but an individual who desires gender re-assignment surgery is to be unarguably considered a man trapped in a woman’s body (or vice versa). The fact that both of these cannot logically be true, simultaneously, is just ignored.”

The answer is simple.  Rather than feeding or believing all these lies, men and women should each do, and be, what they are.  “A woman should look after her children—although that is not all she should do.  And a man should look after a woman and children—although that is not all he should do.

But a woman should not look after a man, because she must look after children, and a man should not be a child.  This means he must not be dependent.”  In this is found what men should do, not in a turn to nihilism or fascism, and equally not in a turn to emasculation and feminization to avert stupid accusations of “toxic masculinity.”

Finally, in Rule 12, “Pet A Cat When You Encounter One On The Street,” Peterson turns most personal, describing the trials and suffering of his daughter from juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.  It is moving stuff, and Peterson returns again to his theme of the inevitability of suffering.

But being open to cats, and myriad other joys, means you can “get a reminder that for just fifteen seconds that the wonder of Being might make up for the ineradicable suffering that accompanies it.”

Peterson ends with a series of fascinating brief questions and answers, along with short explanations of the answers, posed from himself to himself, on everything from “What shall I do with my life?” (Answer: “Aim for Paradise, and concentrate on today”), to “What shall I do with a torn nation?”

(Answer: “Stitch it back together with careful words of truth”), to “What shall I do with my infant’s death?” (Answer: “Hold my other loved ones and heal their pain”).  These are meant to, in a type of stream of consciousness, embody some of the basic principles underlying the rules in the book.

Really, though, they are more; they are nearly an entire philosophy of life, which is probably why this book is so popular.  If you are broken, there is much in it for you.  But Peterson’s point is that everyone is broken, sometimes more, sometimes less—so there is something in this book for everyone.

Charles is a business owner and operator, in manufacturing, and a recovering big firm M&A lawyer. He runs the blog, The Worthy House.
The photo shows, Chaos, by George Frederic Watts, painted ca. 1875.

On The Nature Of Spirit: A New View

“Blessed are the dead…“Yes.” saithe the spirit, so, they may rest from their labours and their works live on after them” (Revelation 14:13) “Dust thou art, and onto dust thou shall return” (Genesis 3:19)…  “You are a soul, burdened with a corpse” (Epictetus)

 

Biologically, You Are More Than Your Flesh.

Think of yourself. Think of the flesh that clings to your bones. But you’re more than that, aren’t you?

Biologically speaking, you are more than just your immediate flesh. Bones continuously crack and are replaced through time. The meal you had for lunch soon becomes your flesh. Oxygen cycles through you with every breath you take.

Your atoms mingle in the great cosmic dance of nutrient cycles. All men die. They are eaten by microbes. Soon they enter plants and animals, and are then consumed by us.

“A man may fish with the worm that hath eat of a king, and eat of the fish that hath fed of that worm.”

To the biologist, you are more than just your immediate flesh. To the evolutionary thinker, the body is merely a conduit for the genome.

Your children, brothers, sisters, kinsmen, and all the members of your species carry your genes. They bear your likeness!

Charles Darwin shows how populations evolve, not individual organisms.

Co-evolution is critical to understanding life on this planet. We co-evolve with the organisms around us. A flower doesn’t make any sense without the bee that pollinates it.

We are walking chimeras. Most of the human genome came from bacteria who transferred their genes into our cells.  We are a mutated fusion of organisms!

If a human being is just an amalgamation of proteins made solely by human genes, then most of a human being isn’t even human.

It makes more sense to think of an “individual” as a community of bacteria than a single organism. We are the forest, not the tree. You are more than just your flesh.

If selection, the Logos of nature, favors you, then your likeness will go on. These traits, these forms of likeness, are your spirit. In this way, your spirit echoes through time, generation after generation, through the ages of ages.

 

Existentially, You Are More Than Just Your Immediate Flesh

The Existentialist claims that an individual’s dynamic existence goes beyond the existence of a mere static object. We do not exist in the same way coffee-mugs do. We dream, fear, hate, hope, and love.

We are the sum of our actions and deeds! The mason is more than his flesh, there is a piece of himself in every stone he lays down. His stone-works stand long after his flesh is laid to ruin.

Attempt to fathom the entirety of your own works. Think of dreams you possessed made flesh by your toil. They are your children, they are you insomuch as they bear your likeness.

Dreams beget dreams, and works beget works. The earth blooms with the seeds we’ve planted, and we reap what we have sown.

Each of us has our own personal butterfly effect which ripples through time. Try to fathom the depths of the one that cascades from you. These are the forces that stem from your incarnation.

Look back at the all the forces that led to your incarnation. The labours of your ancestors not only gave birth to you, but the city we take for granted. Even the breakfast you ate in the morning had a history. Did you ever wonder why Americans drank coffee and the English drank tea?

Our past goes beyond our birth. We are rooted in our history, our lineage, and our traditions. They give us shape.

We ARE they sum of our butterfly effect and our past. This is the spirit of our incarnation, the flesh that clings to our bones.

 

On The Nature Of Spirit

The spirit is greater than the flesh! It has a greater timespan, occupies a greater space, and presses on with a greater force.

The fleshly lives of human-beings last only for a moment, but how long does their spirit prevail?

Which traits unceasingly continue through the ages? What is the nature of that which is eternal?

Ultimately, that which is eternal is that which is good, self-sustaining, just, harmonic, and loving. These are the parts of our spirit that continue.

Evil consumes itself, it is unsustainable. You can’t build a city where everyone is always lying, discordant, and entangled in a stasis of self-conflicts. The ancients knew this, hence why Plato professed it.

Disharmony consumes precious energy, whereas harmonic systems are far more competitive because of their greater efficiency.

The dis-harmonic works we spawn disintegrate in their conflicts.  The holocausts of violence, chaos of political treachery, and the pollution of the Earth are not sustainable. These works are the weakness of humanity, not its strength.

But goodness begets goodness! The righteous ally with the righteous, but the wicked are alone.

Our good works are sustainable. The city founded on virtue continues in as much as it adheres to virtue. The worthy city shines like a city on hill.

Inasmuch as we are righteous, our spirit is righteous. Inasmuch as our spirit is righteous, it will pass on though the ages of ages.

You are more than just your flesh. Our spirit is the incarnation of all the forces that led to our existence and all the forces that proceed from it. These forces hail from the dawn of all existence and proceed to the end of time, they are our immortal soul.

In this way, the spirit is greater than the flesh. Try to understand that you are a spirit burdened with a corpse.

 

 

The photo shows, “All Souls’ Day,” by Jakub Schikaneder, painted in 1888.

God Is Not Nice!

As I so often complain, the quality of modern discourse is atrocious.  Probably this is due to everyone being told for decades that his opinion always matters, along with a belief that democracy means all opinions are equally valid regardless of reasoning, capped off by modern avenues of communication that allow easy, free broadcasting of stupidity, when in the past dumb people had very limited ability to force the rest of us listen.

Worthless discourse exists across the political spectrum, of course, although that the Left dominates  popular media means the average person probably has to suffer more from being bathed in drivel from that side of the spectrum.

A subset of this general problem is that religious discourse is of equally low level, though rather (in most cases) being vicious irrationality, it is vacuous irrationality.  It is this vacuous irrationality, at its core the idea that God is “nice,” that Roman Catholic theologian Ulrich Lehner is here to dismantle, in this brief and accessible book.

Lehner’s point is that the usual modern American view of God, that he is “nice” in the same way as an avuncular grandfather, is a pernicious innovation.  God is not here to make us feel good, nor is he here to dispense treats if we ask in the correct way.  Rather, he has created us to make us, Lehner says, “partakers of the divine nature.”

In short chapters, Lehner outlines certain characteristics of what Christians believe that divine nature to be:  one of thunder, terror, surrender, intimacy, consolation, incarnation, rebirth, and adventure.  The author, a professor at Marquette, begins by talking about what his students usually believe about God—namely, they have uninformed, sentimentalist, egocentric thoughts about God, when they have any concrete thoughts at all.

Most of all, they deny, implicitly or explicitly, both that there are truths to be had, that those truths exclude contradictory falsehoods, and that those truths are difficult, especially in the demands they necessarily make of us. Lehner then briefly covers older (though better thought-out) tendencies similar in content, such as, Pelagianism and deism, all as background to explaining the real Christian view of God.

Each subsequent chapter is short and to the point, and written to a general audience, not to theologians. When Lehner says God is a God of thunder, he means that the simpering emotivism that characterizes most discussion about God not only fails to capture, but is antithetical to, God’s real nature.

Such emotivism is also used to undermine religious discourse, with facile phrases about “forgiveness and love” being used as the sole rationale for the claim that God does not require anything substantive of us, and also for the necessarily related defensive claim that anyone who says otherwise hates both forgiveness and love, each more than the other.

But, “As a theologian, I ask why God is love and what forgiveness entails and whether it can be bestowed on someone who does not ask for forgiveness. I look for reasons, not opinions.”  We are to search for objective moral standards, not, as is the usual pattern today, to claim that they do not exist, because love.  (As the atrocious slogan goes that is used to justify whatever dubious activity wants justification today, “Love is love is love is love”).

If we fail to appreciate that God demands certain things from us, we end up with the usual modern situation, where “The God of Abraham, Isaac, has become the god of Walmart,” a pleasant greeter saying hello and helping you to find what you want, not what he wants.

It’s not just demands, though—God is actually a God of terror, not in the sense of panicked fear, but of awe, “trembling and enchanting.”  Here, Lehner takes on the task of reconciling the Old and New Testaments, a challenge early taken up by Christian theologians, responding to attacks by pagans centered on the apparent contradictions in the description of God’s nature between the two Testaments.

He outlines (it can’t be more than that in a short chapter) the standard response, that apparently un-Christian actions and directives of God in the Old Testament are to be understood allegorically.  To his credit, he leads with one of the most difficult passages, Psalm 137, verse 9, “Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.”  In that verse, “thy” refers to the Edomites (Lehner says it refers to the Amalekites, but that is wrong).

As Lehner says, “the [Church] Fathers interpreted such passages as metaphorical and thus made them consistent with their belief system.  The babes were not innocent humans but an image of the evil offspring we produce—our sins—and the stone against which they should be smashed was the ‘rock’ whom the master builders had rejected, Jesus Christ.”

In the Enlightenment, such allegorical readings were rejected as irrational and unsupportable, leading Christians to increasingly wholly reject the strict and demanding moral requirements of the Old Testament as embarrassing (and to reject the miracles of the New Testament, including the Resurrection, as well).

Lehner thinks we should restore those allegorical readings (which have never actually been abandoned), and understand that the writers of the Old Testament tried to communicate the “awe-inspiring experience of the divine” with the “nearest analogy they had at hand—the ‘irrational,’ unpredictable, unreasonable, odd behavior of fellow humans!”

Next Lehner covers the utter surrender God demands; he liberates us because he loves us, but that implies nothing less than a total commitment in response.  What this should do for us is make us understand that sin is not a stain we can simply brush off, but a rupture with God, that needs substantive repair.

And God’s liberation of us also implies a total commitment to loving our neighbor, a “thou,” not the general category of neighbors (as is common in these days of virtue signaling and substitution of political activity for concrete actions toward concrete people).

Love does not mean absolving yourself or others of guilt, though—quite the opposite.  Finally, Lehner covers the intimacy, the self-exposure, being open to God requires; the question of the consolations offered in this life by God; incarnation and rebirth (in which he treats original sin, freedom and redemption); and the adventurous, enchanting nature of God, who offers us an adventure as well.

As far as the consolation of God; Lehner touches on theodicy, but he does not touch on the most common “Nice God” response to that problem, which is to recite in a talismanic fashion, “I believe everything happens for a reason,” by which is meant that God has a hidden purpose behind the most hideous events, which will be revealed to us in the fullness of time.

I have been blessed with, so far, no immediate tragedy in my life, so perhaps this is easy for me to say, but as David Bentley Hart has pointed out, what God promises us is not the unveiling of such a grand synthesis, but the wiping away of tears, and the remaking of all things:  “Behold, I make all things new.”

Lehner does point out that part of Christian theology is the ultimate revelation of the downstream effects of our sins, but that is, if you think about it, the opposite of showing how those sins were part of God’s plan.

Related to theodicy is Lehner’s criticism of the modern tendency to see health as the highest good.  This is also a product of the Enlightenment—I am currently reading Paul Rahe’s New Modes and Orders in Early Modern Political Thought, which exhaustively catalogues the philosophical turn to human comfort as the highest good during the Enlightenment (something Rahe appears to endorses, as a Straussian, but I will discuss that in my review of that book, not this one).

Of course, those who worship a (factually inaccurate) picture of the Enlightenment, like Steven Pinker, also agree that this change to the effective worship of health is an improvement, which it is—if, and only if, God is merely, or at all, nice.

I want good health for myself and my family, and for everyone, as much as the next person.  I am greatly blessed in that regard, but I will not always be, and Lehner informs us it is not the highest good.  In fact, we should not be heard to complain when God fails to deliver us perfect health, or even good health.

In an interview about this book, Lehner tellingly cites, from Luke 17, the story of the ten lepers that Jesus healed, only one of whom returned to thank him.  It’s that view of God that Lehner realizes is a timeless temptation, because it’s easy.  You might call that version of Christ “turnkey Jesus.”

God Is Not Nice is only a gateway to thinking about this problem; the book touches on many of the most tangled and troubled theological issues of Christianity, which it cannot possibly cover in detail, and therefore I think its main value is in exposing to the interested reader the basic concepts of Christianity that are alien to the beliefs of most Christians today.

They won’t know all the details after reading this book, but at least they’ll have good reason to question the unexamined beliefs they hold, and to explore further.

Charles is a business owner and operator, in manufacturing, and a recovering big firm M&A lawyer. He runs the blog, The Worthy House.
The photo shows. “Noah On The Eve of the Deluge, painted by John Linnell in 1848.

Self-Annihilation?

Knowledge has been successfully hijacked – because its purpose is no longer truth. We live in a world governed by a particular worldview that no longer sees truth as the foremost necessity to the good life.

This leaves only feelings which alone are truly authentic. In other words, opinions are far better than thought, and reason is merely another system of oppression. All previous pursuits of learning were therefore merely constructs contrived by dominant groups to sustain and extend their power over the oppressed.

Such is the post-truth world that we now inhabit, where reality can only be governed by human emotion, which apparently demands socio-political justice for the “historically” downtrodden and ignored.

This is often labeled as, “postmodernism,” but this is inaccurate. The hydra indeed has many heads.

In fact, it’s best to call it, The Grand-Conglomerate Ideology (GCI), whose texture is woven from divergent threads, namely, Marxism, relativism, feminism, eugenics, corporatism, Stalinism, Hiterlism, Protestantism, secularism, scientism, multiculturalism, atheism, postfoundationalism, naturalism, technologism, transhumanism, transgenderism, environmentalism, progressivism, and nihilism.

The tentacles of this beast reach into all facets of life. The very purpose of western society is now simply an extension of GCI. Nothing lies outside of it. Even our habit of mind no longer makes sense without GCI. Our society exists to justify it, and our politics and laws sustain it. All validations of human existence can now only exist in the purview of GCI.

People may content themselves with one or more threads of its latticework, but that it is merely the play of labels, for each thread leads to the same telos.

And what is that telos – what is the purpose, or chief end of GCI?

Very simply – annihilation, or what the Buddhists call nirvana. We have only to look at the “virtues” which are held up as laudatory – abortion, anti-genderism, anti-nationalism, antinatalism. Why are each of these an inherent good, when each of them also denies humanity its dignity?

But why annihilation? Why the deep loathing of humanity itself? Again, very simply because we have managed to relegate the transcendent into the realm of the ridiculous. In other words, when humanity denies God, it stops being human, and can no longer justify its own existence. Its ideal no longer becomes life (both physical and ghostly), but its very opposite – that is, death.

When we can no longer believe in a panoramic purpose for all of humanity, we veer into a purpose closer to hand – murder in all its manifestations. Why do all tyrants want to kill as many people as possible? Why the carnage of totalitarian states in the twentieth-century?

The spilling of blood is a very necessary element in humanity’s worship of itself. This is why human sacrifice was an essential component of paganism, for the pagan gods were simply extensions of humanity. It’s violence alone that makes us feel human when we no longer know how to look beyond ourselves. All this was once known as, “evil.”

Is this what Simone Weil meant when she called Aristotle “the bad tree that bore bad fruit?” Aristotle turned the human gaze inwards, and by doing so, he mechanized thought, made it a system. All of creation thus became an enclosed system, a self-contained micro-world functioning in an endless plethora of other systems.

But so what? And more importantly, what is to be done (to borrow a phrase form Nikolai Chernyshevsky)?

First question first – so what? In the words of Rémi Brague, “If God doesn’t exist, then why should humanity exist?” We may content ourselves with diversions like saving the planet, or seeking social justice and the like. But this is only delaying the more obvious question – what’s the point of being alive? Should the planet be saved and humanity destroyed?

These may appear to be stark queries, but they do point us to the very heart of our darkness – we no longer really believe that we should continue to exist, because we no longer believe that life has any true purpose. Everything else is a diversion until nirvana.

Second, what is to be done? But to really answer this question we have to accept that humanity actually has a purpose on this planet – and a life beyond it. Fighting the hydra requires far more than clever slogans; it requires that we return value to that which is moral.

Given our deep addiction to “-isms,” we have made ourselves morally bankrupt – in other words, we have made ourselves receptive to all kinds of foolishness, for though we might have displaced God as the giver of meaning, we have been unable to replace him with anything meaningful. None of the “’-isms” can assume the role of god, no matter how hard their valiant followers may try. Therein lies the various conflicts of our time.

As the thought of John Hare shows, humanity cannot be moral without God – it can certainly try (by seeking rights and justice), but it will fail because there is an unbridgeable gap between the human ability for goodness and the human duty to do the good.

Why be good? Ability and duty can only come together via God, in that morality must a purpose – not a reward, but a purpose. Here people often misunderstand God as some dispenser of rewards and punishment. That is a very childish view, though it does serve to advance one strand of GCI (atheism).

Given the omnipresent hydra, humanity must return to its root, which is God. But not any god – only the God of the Judeo-Christian faith. God has made us to live life through morality, and we should live this way because He has made us so. A life outside morality is not human at all – it’s not even bestial. It’s meaningless, for even beasts have meaning. Only man can give himself meaninglessness.

To continue with Hare, we must answer two important questions – Can we be good? And, why should we be good? Neither question can be answered without God.

To return to GCI, it’s now easy to see that it is an attempt to find a substitute for God, an all-inclusive transcendence which might provide some sort of God-less meaning to life.

However, humanity is incapable of providing justification for itself, let alone why it must be good. GCI quickly erodes into tyrannical tribalism, where baser desires of winning and subduing become foremost, because humanity cannot free itself from its condition to create truth. Humanity can only discover truth, not create it.

Likewise, humanity cannot create morality; it can only live within it, or outside it, because it’s one of the necessities of human existence like air and water.

The first step in breaking free from the grip of the hydra is to destroy the ground in which it’s rooted. Since the GCI is rooted in the education system, citizens needs to dismantle the entire education system which has now become nothing mora than an intricate mind-abuse system that destroys the minds of the young.

Parents need to stop sending their children into the maws of this Moloch. They need to stop sacrificing their children upon the high altar of GCI.

Instead, parents need to build independent schools, colleges, universities where their children may once again learn the richer form of human life – one rooted firmly in the morality guaranteed by the Judeo-Christian God.

In other words, parents alone have the ability to starve the monster of CGI to death. Otherwise, the beast will only grow more and more powerful, with each child that it devours. All of society needs to say – enough!

 

The photo shows, “The Death of Chatterton,” by Henry Wallis, painted in 1856.

Fair Trade Coffee?

Fair-trade coffee as a product which is being produced and consumed within a complex of values such as ethics, economic disparity, geographical boundaries, political realities, and environmental considerations.

And this complex involves the largest consumers of coffee who live in the richer northern hemisphere of this planet, and the various growers of coffee who inevitably live in the poorer, and often impoverished southern hemisphere, such as, Mexico.

But is appears that fair-trade coffee has forced the consumer to make ethical choices about personal consumption, since eating can no longer be a neutral act – it involves a whole array of forces that must be negotiated before coffee can be poured into a cup.

In the area of food production, globalization has meant that an industrial model has replaced the traditional family farm. Food is no longer produced by a farmer, but by large conglomerates whose aim is to produce food on an immense scale in order to minimize cost and increase profit.

This means that the bulk of the food we eat is produced not by farmers but labourers or workers who simply tend crops on land owned by conglomerates. Even when small farmers do grow product, such as coffee, they usually must sell it middlemen who are part of the conglomerate structure, since they have no other method to sell what they have grown.

And in this industrial structure, the profit is at the top-end; the worker in the field simply gets a wage. In effect, the very role of the family farm has been eradicated by this industrial model of food production, since the individual cannot access the marketing structures of the conglomerate food growing operation.

Moreover, by selling to the conglomerates, the individual farmer does not control the fluctuation of commodity prices that is the reality of trade when carried out in vast quantities. All too often, individual farmers tend to one-crop operations. For example, in North America, most farmers grow corn to be used as feed for the massive beef and dairy industries. Most farmers do not grow food that can be sold directly to consumers.

Food, as a result, is now produced in a highly centralized fashion, and distributed to the consumer by equally large grocery store chains, which also share the same corporate structure as that practised by the producers of food – namely, bulk production to lower production cost and increase profit.

Such vast structures in food production and distribution has led to dissent – those that see such structures as inherently unethical, in that the production of food has been taken away from the individual farmer and placed into the hands of food factories, for lack of a better term.

One such form of dissent is the “fair-trade” movement, which seeks to restructure the production and distribution of food (as well as other items) so that the family-farm can again be made important in the job of feeding people. Briefly, the fair-trade movement suggests that the “conglomeratization” of food production is inherently an ethical issue – that it is unfair that the money is made at the top-end of the food production chain, while those that actually get their hands dirty, literally, and cultivate the crops, see very little of that profit, other than their wages.

As well, this often meant that the imbalance further distanced the have and have-not nations of the world, with the haves being in the northern hemisphere and the have-nots being in the southern hemisphere. It was in Europe that this dissent first acquired a formal organization under the term, “alternative trade organizations,” or ATOs.

The purpose of these ATOs would be to purchase goods from family-farms or farming cooperatives, more of than not in the southern hemisphere, and then establish a system of distribution of these goods in the northern hemisphere.

These ATOs would also do two things. First, they would get rid of the various middle-men who profited from food production by simply facilitating the movement of goods from source to consumer (such middle-men are part of the food conglomerates); and second, they would instil in the consumer the sense that eating, or consumption, is not a neutral act – it can either be ethical or unethical.

The point being that by consuming goods distributed by the conglomerates, one was enriching the rich, and therefore being unethical, while on the other by purchasing fair-trade goods one consumed ethically, by ensuring that labour was properly paid for, and profit shared in direct opposition to the tradition industrial mode – the bulk of it going to the bottom-end, that is, at the level of the individual consumer.

The largest fair-trade commodity, and the first to be handled using the ATO model, is coffee, which is a product that clearly highlights the level of economic disparity between the coffee consumer (almost always in the rich northern hemisphere), and the coffee grower (always located in the impoverished southern hemisphere).

This means that coffee has become an important cultural product, in which social values, economics, and politics have blended. Since the issues of economics and politics lie well beyond the scope of this paper (although they cannot fully be treated as bearing no influence on the topic at hand), the focus will primarily be on the social values that are set into motion each time a cup of free-trade coffee is drunk. And these social values are clearly demonstrated at the level of consumption.

Ethics is the most important value that comes to the fore. When a consumer sees the label “fair-trade coffee” in the context of other, non-fair-trade coffee, there is a subtle manipulation at play.

The consumer is being told that free-trade coffee is not a product of the conglomerate, the immense “coffee factory.” Rather, by purchasing fair-trade coffee, the consumer is being asked to support a structure that markedly works against the conglomerate. In other words, the consumer is being made aware of an important fact – that spending money is not only a form of personal acquisition – it is also an ethical act – that money must be spent in such a way that it gives equal value to all.

There is a big difference between the terms “value” and “profit.” On an immediate level, “profit” lies at the heart of the industrial model and is intimately linked to another important term, “growth.” Industry needs to continually grow in order to maintain its profitability.

This is why there is always a stress on growth, so that the one year must show greater gains than the previous year. Not showing such gain means stagnation – that one year is as same the as previous. “Value,” on the other hand, means involves an altogether different emphasis. Instead of “growth,” the stress is on “sustainability” – the notion that production should be maintained at a certain level.

Sustaining the livelihood of an individual farmer carries an entirely different set of assumptions than growth and profitability in industry. Therefore, the consumer is asked to contribute, by purchasing fair-trade coffee, towards sustainability – and at the same to walk away from the industrial model.

However, this choice becomes a complex one when retailers who are conglomerates themselves become involved. For example, what does fair-trade coffee become when being sold at Starbucks? And is sustainability possible if large retailers demand more and more fair-trade coffee? Or the danger that the profit model will be re-manipulated?

Perhaps in response to this involvement of large retailers, there has been a further refinement of fair-trade coffee – namely, “shade coffee,” which is coffee grown beneath the canopy of forests, since the coffee plant is shade-loving. Shade coffee has brought the issue of the environment in the choice that the consumer must make. And sustainability means not only sustaining the individual farmer, but sustaining the environment.

The opposite of shade coffee is sun coffee which is a plant that has been genetically altered to yield a higher crop. But, sun coffee requires cleared land that then needs to be heavily fertilized.

Sun coffee is having a devastating effect on the environment – it is contributing to the disappearance of various species of birds. Shade coffee, on the other hand, uses traditional approaches to growing coffee beneath trees and is therefore environmentally friendly, as it encourages biodiversity, and is often grown on family farms.

Since shade coffee needs the canopy of trees to grow, the participation of large retailers in marketing and selling shade coffee will mean greater environmental sustainability, since trees will not have to cut down.

But will this mean the small coffee farmer can also be sustained? It would appear that slapping ethical labels on food is part and parcel of our continuing moral decline – we want to be good, but we no longer know how to be good – and this opens us up to all kinds of economic exploitation.

 

The photo shops, “Automat,” by Edward Hopper, painted in 1927.

The Noble Savage?

The idea of the savage as a foil for civilization is an ancient one, harking back to Enkidu in The Epic of Gilgamesh and the Biblical story of Cain and Abel.

Later, it was the Greeks who further categorized the savage as also a barbarian, someone who was not beyond the pale of city but also, and perhaps therefore, beyond the pale of comprehensible language – for the Greek term, barbaros, has as its root the idea of someone speaking gibberish.

More interestingly, Homer refers to civilized men as “bread-eaters,” opposite whom is the barbarity of the Cyclops and Laestygonians.

The savage, in effect, stands in enmity to civilization, which is mankind’s highest form of striving, in that it embodies virtue, morality, truth and beauty. Indeed, it is the entire absence of beauty which marks the savage.

It is also commonly assumed that Jean-Jacques Rousseau attributed nobility to the savage, with the term “Noble Savage.” But this is a false attribution, since Rousseau never really uses this term. Rather, this term has its root in English literary history, from Dryden to Smollett.

In our own time, there has been a strong reaction against such characterization of people, and many academic careers have been established railing against “Eurocentrism” which supposedly grades people according to race, and so forth.

This is the classic argument of those that seek to portray Europeans as arch-racists, going about the world, enslaving everybody. Suffice to say those that till this field have secured cushy jobs in academia.

In place of the savage, it is now commonplace to seek out all manner of “wisdom” among primitive societies, especially among the so-called indigenous inhabitants of various lands, who are seen as holders and preservers of some sort of arcane, hidden knowledge, passed on from one generation to the next. Of course, no one bothers to ask why all this “wisdom” always tends to pander to the “spiritual” vacuity of the West.

Thus, the indigenous “native” is touted as possessing innate expertise in all things environmental and occultish, with deep words about harmony and nature and preservation. Never mind that moist of this “wisdom” is simply a reduction of the various psychoses that occupy the West, which has chosen to jettison its own culture history, religion and morality – and having emptied itself, now falls victim to anything that looks attractive.

It’s really the “pizza effect,” where the Italians had no notion of what a pizza was, because it is an American invention. But with the popularity of the pizza, and its attribution to Italy, it wasn’t long before the people of Italy claimed the pizza as their own. The same can be said of yoga and India (but that’s another topic).

All this romanticizing of the Other, in order to destroy the Self, obscures the fact that the savage has nothing noble about him; his world is determined by animism, ritualism, and monism. All three, point to one conclusion – that the savage has no mind.

But to be clear, the state of mindlessness does not mean being brainless. The savage may well be animated by emotion, motivation, and certainly will (especially in the practice of magic). Nevertheless, the mind is a different state of being.

Briefly, the mind is not invented, but rather discovered through a gradual process of questioning. This means that the mind seeks not to harmonize individual existence with the forces of nature – for that is simply instinct – but rather it seeks to understand, explain and then create. This threefold process is not available to the savage mind, which is animated but not creative.

But what is the savage?

First and foremost, he is a shaman (this peculiar word stems from an old Turkic root, kam with cognates in Tungush and Mongol, which means “dancer,” “mover”).

The shaman seeks to manage (not control) the myriad forces of natural objects and creatures, in order to either forestall harm, or gather benefit.

In other words, the savage is someone who seeks not to understand reality, but to control it by way of ritual and magic. Thus, the savage is an animator of nature. This leads him to a monism of sorts, where all of creation is made alive by one essential, unchanging force – the one in all.

As a result, ritual and magic justify and explain all human action. Some may mistake this as a version of scientific thinking, in that it is seems to point to a cause-and-effect approach. But that would be wrong.

Ritual and magic are not about cause-and-effect at all. Rather, both are part of monistic thinking which imagines that the one spirit animating all of nature is open to manipulation through the will of someone in the know (the shaman).

It’s in this triad of will, secret knowledge, and force that the savage opens himself up to all kinds of violence and abuse – because in order to exert his will, magic and ritual are the weapons he deploys to counter and manipulate the influence of all that surrounds him.

In this contention of the shaman against supernatural influences, there is only the matter of control, whether effectual or not. And control means material benefit. There is no individuality here, only a desire to become a mindless force that does what it does, without an explanation. In other words, the savage has only one recourse in order to live – violence.

Therefore, the savage has no moral structures, because he does not need them. Force can only be met with counter-force. Hence all the blood rituals, violence and cruelty…

Such as, the kanaimà among the natives of South America; marriage of women to animals in India; child sacrifice; self-impalement; scalp dancing and cannibalism among natives of North America; endocannibalism along the Yanomamo; the prolonged torture of children before ritual murder among the Aztec, the Maya and the Toltec; female genital mutilation; the beating girls in Uaupes; placenta eating; the murder of mingi-children in Ethiopia; semen-drinking by Edolo and Sambia boys; La Esperanza rain ceremony; the Kusasa fumbi of Malawi; the Kuthiyottam ritual; tooth-chiselling of young girls.

This is all about the manipulation of flesh, the spilling of blood, and the inflicting pain in order to gain some perceived benefit, and then to animate the shaman.

And this brief litany of savagery is not only meted out to humans. Animals undergo far greater and crueler treatment, which it would be gruesome to catalogue here.

Savage societies, far from being noble to the environment have undertaken deforestation, extinction of animal and plant species and often have had radically altered the landscape. So, the entire nobility narrative rings false – thus, it’s really about the concerns of present-day society, which seeks a utopia to hold high as a example.

The “noble savage” never existed. Nobility is the result of profound moral insight and conduct. Savagery, on the other hand, is the absence of morality, the absence of civilization, and the absence of rationality. When mankind is bereft of these three structures of enabling the good like – what is left but savagery – blood, flesh, and pain?

Is it any wonder that as the West slowly loses its connection with its root, namely, Christianity, there is the sudden re-emergence of paganism, shamanism, animism, and savagery?

Once we walk away from those ideas that create civilization, there can only be chaos.

 

 

The photo shows, “Cannibal Feast on the Island of Tanna, New Hebrides,” by Charles E. Gordon Frazer, ca, 1891.

Are Palestinians Indigenous?

In the on-going agon that is much of Middle Eastern politics, history has been the first victim. This is readily apparent in the question of Palestine. In other words, to whom does the land that’s now Israel belong? Alas, the answer comes not from history but from postcolonial ideology.

This is the familiar narrative: the Palestinians were the original indigenous inhabitants of what is now the state of Israel. Then, nasty Zionists from Europe showed up, took over the land, and forced the helpless Palestinians into fringe settlements.

Thus, the Intifada, or the wrestling match between “the conquerors,” and “the conquered,” for the vanquished must overcome their defeat by winning back their native land from the Zionist occupiers.

This is the narrative propounded by western media and politicians, and it has consistently brought desired results – peace-talks, negotiations, mega-cash, much handwringing, and the customary committed do-gooders eager to have their bleeding hearts be thoroughly exploited.

The usual logic of postcolonial ideology is deployed to assert that Jews stole the land from the native Palestinians. This Pavlovian trick succeeds in raising the emotions to feverish pitch. And the narrative will likely continue long into the future.

But here is the problem – Palestinians are not indigenous inhabitants of Israel who have been usurped from their native soil by evil exploiters. “Palestine” and its “people” were created precisely as a weapon against Jews. History clears this up rather quickly…

 

FACT:

The term “Palestine” is not Arabic – it’s borrowed from Europe. Ultimately, this word goes back to the ancient Greek “Palaistinoi” (“Palestinians) refers to people inhabiting parts of modern-day Syria in antiquity.

However, this Greek term itself is not Arabic either, for it stems from a place-name, that is, Palaeste, which was a city in the region of Epirus, and mentioned by both Julius Caesar and Lucan. In other words, the “Palaistinoi” were inhabitants of Illyria (the Balkan regions).

How did these European people end up in parts of the Middle East? During the great Bronze Age Collapse (1200 BC to 900 BC), when civilization vanished in Eurasia (over forty great city-states were destroyed), because of massive invasions. One such group of invaders were known as the “Sea Peoples,” who were a conglomerate federation of pillagers who went from one city-state to the next, leaving vast swaths of ruination.

Among the Sea People were the Palaistinoi, that is, Illyrian raiders who eventually settled in Syria and Canaan. These would become the Philistines of the Old Testament, whose champion, Goliath, David famously slew.

As a side note, the name “Goliath” is Philistine, but it is not Semitic. Rather, it a “Hebrewized” Carian name, Wliat (which means, “Mighty”). The Carians were Indo-European people living in regions of present-day Western Turkey – and were closely associated with Illyrians.

This explains why “Palestine,” or “Philistine” has no Semitic etymology. By the way, the Koran also does not mention this term anywhere.

 

FACT:

The term, Filastin, which is the Arabic form of “Palestine” (Arabic lacks the “p” sound and replaces it with closest sound, “f”), was brought into Arabic, from English, as a specific designation for Moslems living in the Levant. As such, the term was “invented” by Haj Amin Al-Husseini (1893 – 1974), whom the British called, “The Grand Mufti.”

Al-Husseini is the father of Palestinian nationalism, and it was he who established the parameters of the logic of the Palestinian desire to oust Jews from Israel and “take back” the land. This self-imposed victimhood cannot be backed up by any historical evidence.

Thus, “Palestinian” is not an ethnic designation whatsoever – rather, it’s the name of an ancient European, co-opted by Al-Husseini into a political agenda, which seeks the removal of all Jews from the Holy Land. In effect, “Palestinian” is code for anti-Semitism.

 

FACT:

Moslems were never the majority population in the Levant. If we look at any early account which describes the Levant, no one mentions any Arabs – and obviously, there is never any mention, or record” of an “indigenous” population called the “Palestinians.”

When populations are mentioned, those living in the Levant are identified only as Jews and Armenian and Arab Christians. There are hardly any Moslems to be found anywhere in these early records. As well, most of this area is described as being poor, desolate and very sparsely inhabited.

 

FACT:

Since those living in the Levant were Jews and Christians, the legal landholders in this area were either Jews or Christians.

When European Jewish migrants began arriving into this area in the late 1890s and early parts of the last century, they bought parcels of land from these legal landowners and on this land established communes, farms, and eventually cities. The landowners were eager to sell this land, since it was considered barren and worthless. These parcels of land would eventually become the core of the state of Israel. So, the notion that evil Jewish colonizers “stole” the land of peaceful Palestinians is more rhetoric than fact. This is simply postcolonial ideology being transposed on to a spurious claim of ownership by a “people” created as a tool to achieve anti-Jewish ends.

 

FACT:

This influx of European Jews into the Levant, greatly upset Al-Husseini (who was an avid hater of Jews), and he began to openly advocate violence against the new Jewish settlers – while also promoting the wholesale inrush of Syrian Moslems as settlers in the Levant, to counter the Jewish settlers. Toward that end, he very actively cooperated with the Nazis (and some have even suggested that it was Al-Husseini who encouraged Hitler to undertake the Final Solution against European Jews who were funding the settlers in the Levant).

When the state of Israel was established in 1948, these same Moslem settlers were encouraged, by other Arab states, to leave the places they inhabited, because they were told to get out of the way so that Israel could be destroyed. Around 630,000 such Arabs heeded the call and rushed into neighboring Arab countries, where they were put into “refugee camps.”

The other side of this coin that no one bothers to mention is that when Israel was established in 1948, Jews historically living in Arab lands for far longer than Arabs in Israel were systemically expelled. Thus, all the Moslem countries created Jewish refugees, who moved to Israel, having no other place to go to.

It is indeed curious that Arab states refuse to integrate “Palestinian refugees” into their own societies, even though there is no cultural, linguistic, religious difference. Rather, these “refugees” are kept in the very same camps they came into in 1948. Why? Could it be that these “refugees” are needed to fulfil Al-Husseini’s initial purpose?

 

FACT:

Jerusalem has no religious or cultural importance in Islam – this has simply been a political move to give legitimacy to the Palestinian cause.

The Koran never mentions Jerusalem. There is only the vague reference to a “mosque far away” (al-masjid al-aqsa), from where Mohammed supposedly took a quick trip to Paradise. The location of this far-away mosque was never given in the Koran.

The present-day Al-Aqsa mosque is actually, a seventh-eighth century Byzantine basilica dedicated to St. Mary. The inscriptions inside this Christian church record this history clearly.

These many facts only lead to one conclusion – the various claims of indigenous status by the Palestinians are false, and therefore, their demands for some sort of restitution is hardly a viable grievance.

The Arabs labelled as, “Palestinians,” rather, fulfill a convenient role for housing and politicising anti-Jewish hatred – and in this cause, history has been the first victim, having been twisted and fabricated in order to serve anti-Semitic propaganda.

So, the question that now needs to be asked is simple enough – why has a group of Arabs co-opted an ancient Indo-European ethnic designation for itself? There is much cash and political advantage in playing the victim. And besides who really knows any factual history anymore to be able to cogently ask the questions that need asking?

 

The photo shows, “David with the head of Goliath,” by Jacon van Oost, the Elder, painted in 1648.

Antony And Cleopatra: Failed Politicians

In 31 BC, the outcome of a sea battle off the West coast of Greece forever changed Roman history. As a result, the young and ambitious Octavian would become Rome’s first emperor, Augustus. Octavian’s victory firmly established his military power and dealt Marc Antony a serious defeat, which would prove fatal.

This battle took place between Octavian’s fleet on one side and the combined naval forces of Marc Antony and Cleopatra VII in the other. The battle is considered a major turning point in the history of Egypt and marked the beginning of Octavian’s complete takeover of the rich North African kingdom. The Roman Senate gave Octavian the title of Augustus four years later.

The struggle between Antony and Octavian was actually about the question of who would rule the Roman World. Antony had allied himself with Cleopatra, queen of Egypt, a descendent of the Ptolemaic Greek kings.

Furthermore, Antony and the foreign queen were lovers, even having gone through an Egyptian wedding ceremony. Most Romans disliked such a close relationship between an important governing Roman and a foreign queen. They suspected that he would either give her a large area of Roman territory for her own kingdom, or, worse yet, make her queen over the Romans and himself king in the process. Octavian played on the Roman’s intense dislike of the idea of being ruled by a king and denounced Antony’s supposed plans.

Soon, Antony divorced his legitimate wife Octavia, who was Octavian’s sister. It was not long before there was a full-scale civil war between the two powerful Romans. Antony had anchored his fleet in a small harbor on the Dalmatian side of the Adriatic Sea, and soon Octavian’s fleet had him trapped within his harbor.

Octavian also had his land armies placed in strategic positions to cut off all supplies to Antony’s army and fleet. Antony also had a large army encamped on the shores of the Ambracian Gulf (on the Dalmatian Coast across the Adriatic Sea from Italy). There had been skirmishes and indecisive battles all throughout the Summer of 31 B. C. Near the end of summer, Antony’s supplies were getting low and so was the morale of his troops.

Finally, on September 2, Antony came out to fight. His 220 heavy Roman warships were equipped with stone throwing catapults. They attacked Octavian’s 260 lighter vessels at close range.

Octavian’s lighter vessels were more maneuverable, though, and could use their rams more effectively than Antony’s ships could. Also, Octavian had the great advantage of having the brilliant general and military strategist Marcus Agrippa in command of his fleet. Cleopatra had 60 warships in the battle, including her treasure ship with its purple sails.

The fighting continued throughout the day, with Romans on both sides staining the sea red with Roman blood and killing their fellow citizens in about equal numbers. Then, a very strange thing happened. Cleopatra decided to take her ships and flee.

This act of cowardice dealt a serious blow to the morale of Antony’s men and cheered Octavian’s sailors on to ultimate victory. The battle was nowhere near lost, there was not even a clear indication of which fleet was ahead before Cleopatra cut her cables and ran.

Then, the final blow to Roman morale was struck by Antony himself. Upon seeing his beloved queen fleeing, he chose to abandon his stalwart Roman legions and follow her.

After a desperate chase, he finally caught up with her. Meanwhile, Octavian’s ships made short work of mopping up Antony’s fleet. Many of Antony’s brave seamen surrendered to Octavian and the battle was over.

The issue was not over for Antony and Cleopatra, however. Over the next few months, Octavian’s armies won victory after victory as they advanced through Greece and the East toward Cleopatra’s Egypt.

With their armies falling before Octavian’s advance on every occasion of battle, the two lovers soon saw that their cause was lost. Antony tried to commit suicide by falling on his sword. The wound was not immediately fatal and he found the strength to make his way to Cleopatra’s tomb, where she was awaiting news of the end. Antony died in the arms of his lover.

Cleopatra, meanwhile, had made plans of her own. Rather than be forced to walk in Octavian’s triumphal march through the streets of Rome as a captured foreign queen amid the jeers and insults of the Roman people, she would commit suicide. One of her serving girls brought her a basket of fruit containing a poisonous asp.

When Cleopatra heard Octavian’s victorious troops noisily milling about the streets of Alexandria, she put the snake to her breast and let it bite her. Her death was supposed to be completely painless.

The two serving girls she had also killed themselves by asp-bite, and when Octavian’s troops entered the tomb, one of the girl, still alive, had barely the strength to tell the soldiers that Cleopatra had escaped them in death.

And so ends the tragic tale of the last Ptolemaic queen of Egypt and the sea battle upon which turned an empire. The Battle of Actium was not a massive battle between huge fleets; in fact, it was a rather small one.

But after the Battle of Actium was won and lost, there was not a single obstacle in the way of Octavian becoming the first Roman emperor, titled Augustus and master of the entire Western world.

Thus, the marriage between Antony and Cleopatra was a clever bit of political maneuver. This fact is clearly brought out in the Battle of Actium, where each of them sought personal gain, rather than the support of each other. Their suicides were the accepted, noble way out for the vanquished – for in the end, they were failed politicians.

 

The photo shows, “The Death of Cleaopatra,” by Achille Glisenti, painted ca. 1870s.