toxic thought waste site

Theological whimsy, metaphysical larks, and other spiritually radioactive waste products.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Great Transformation: Chap 05 - Suffering

600 - 530 BCE.

Well, let's see what trouble those crazy children of Israel can get into today. I think one thing I had never realized growing up as a Christian was the overall plot summary of the OT. In Sunday school you get a family friendly version of Genesis plus some Judges and a little Saul and David. The rest would be a little hard to make palatable for kids. But the Sunday school stories are such a small part of the OT. The rest is largely a tale of a people who basically just got beaten up by their neighbors and exported here and there. They were a tiny beleaguered nation that really didn't accomplish *anything* except write this one certain book. Granted that that book has some staying power but otherwise we probably wouldn't even know anything about the Jews (at least their early history). They don't seem to have been a military power. They didn't produce any interesting technology or art. They just wrote one book...

OK, so Jeremiah basically invents what we now know as Judaism in this era. He puts forth the idea that the reason the Jews are being treated so shabbily is that they have broken the covenant that they had made with Yahweh and so he is allowing the neighbors to stomp all over them. If they become moral, faithful people again then Yahweh will restore them to greatness. Of course it's hard to fault the Jews for turning their back on god. Clearly the gods of the Babylonians and Assyrians are more powerful. As an interesting aside its interesting to note that most of the mythical sounding stories (Garden of Eden, Flood, Job, etc) seem to have been borrowed from their conquerors and reformulated during this period. So if you like those stories thank Nebuchadnezzar and friends. It's amazing just how directly these stories are ripped off. The 7 days of creation, Adam and Eve, the flood. Just cut and paste jobs. The interesting additions are basically showing that unlike the *other* gods of the region, Yahweh worked alone and was completely self sufficient. "P" (the priestly editors) are now active and create the long boring sections of the OT with the precise instructions on how to follow the laws in detail, and census results (they call it Numbers for a reason) and genealogies.

Meanwhile to the North West the Greeks were coming to the conclusion that the gods didn't intervene in human affairs. This would lead to a secular government ruled by reason. It wasn't just reason, reason, reason all the time though. There were the "mystai" rites that were like a haunted house experience with the aim of providing new insights. Even Pythagoras saw mathematics as a religious act of sorts.

The Indians develop (or at least formalize) what we would recognize today as yoga. Of course unlike the relaxing muscle stretches we know today is was "a systematic assault on the ego". Which doesn't sound relaxing at all. In addition the Indians continue to develop meditation techniques.

The Chinese tradition of "gentlemen" warfare is almost completely expunged by this point. Obviously anyone who doesn't follow those rules will find easy victims. Not too much spiritual development goes on during this period but the stage has been set for the first of the great Chinese sages: Confucius



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