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Friday, November 2, 2007

Wondering

I'm considering releasing online versions of my earlier books. Out of print for over a decade. They had a limited distribution in the '90s, and were never meant to be money-makers. But they have a value, to those interested in the subject matter, that merits broader exposure. And right now they're just gathering digital dust in a virtual drawer.

But they are books. Long books. And tiresome in their specificity. Fascinating, in some regards, but a chore -- the way reading a heavily-documented and highly detailed book would be a chore.

I don't know. If I decide to, the first will be The Serpent in Babel. Let me see. Ah, here it is. I've already posted two of its chapters. The good two. The rest of them are just a lot of details about ancient mythology. Not, frankly, easy reading. Should I?

It's a lot of work. Formatting them. Lots, and they don't come out right. Let's see what the introduction looks like.

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Introduction

Pagans in the Garden: euhemerism

The Druidic Triads of old Britain teach that once, long ago,a tempest of fire arose, which split the earth asunder to the great deep”; the only survivors werethe select company shut up together in the enclo­sure with the strong door”, led by thepatriarch dis­tinguished for his integrity”.[1] Of another part of the world, we learn that a patri­arch called Wodan was the founder of a Mexican tribe, for whom, as with our Wed­nesday, a day of the week was named.

According to the an­cient traditions collected by the Bishop Fran­cis Nunez de la Vega, the Wodan of the Chiapa­nese was the grandson of that illus­tri­ous old man, who at the time of the great deluge, in which the greater part of the human race per­ished, was saved on a raft, together with his family. Wodan co-operated in the con­struction of the great edifice which had been undertaken by men to reach the skies; the execu­tion of the rash project was inter­rupted; each family received from that time a different language; and the great spirit Teotl ordered Wodan to go and people the country of Ana­huac.[2]


Again, the Ta­hitian god of war was called ‘Oro’ — philo­­logically the same name as the Egyptian ‘Horus’, who had the same attributes.

These are just a few of the many bizarre correspon­dences among the folk­lore of count­less disconnect­ed races. There is no glib answer which will explain away the simi­lari­ties. For exam­ple, that there is no Europe­an corrup­tion in the transmission of the Mexican myth is assured by the logical observa­tion that a Spa­nish bishop would hardly be likely to include a Norse pagan deity in his account of Mexico. The further possibility — that Norse elements were intro­duced into meso-Amer­ica by earlier contact with Norsemen — is ex­cluded by the fact that such pagan explor­ers would hard­ly tie their god Odin to the Bibli­cal ac­count of the Flood and Babel. Finally, if Norse Chris­tian mis­sionaries intro­duced the idea of Odin, why did they not intro­duce the infinitely more impor­tant idea of Jesus Christ? So it seems un­likely that either the Spaniards or the Norsemen, pagan or Christian, are responsible for reports of the pres­ence of someone named ‘Odin’ at the Tower of Babel.

What then is the solution? Skepticism was invented in the Classical Age. A philoso­pher named Euhemerus (4th century bc) taught that the characters in the mythology of his culture were nothing more than mortals whom later gen­erations elevated to superhu­man status. The characters and events were real, but the de­tails were distorted and exaggerated. From this principle, we have the word ‘euhemer­ism’ — which describes the ap­proach of this work.

Here, we will start with several basic assumptions. First, it is axiomat­ic that the Bible is written accord­ing to the plain mean­ing of words, in which truths may be expressed poetically, but the point is not poetry, but truth. Second, while poetry is used, passages which use prose are meant to state histo­r­ic events in a straightforward manner. So there was a literal Garden of Eden, in which the first man and woman lived; there was a liter­al world-Flood, which only a single human fam­ily survived; there was a literal confusion of lan­guages at a liter­al ‘ziggurat’ in Babel, af­ter which the newly formed ‘nations’ dis­per­sed. And third, virtually all of the most ancient myths have survived as degen­er­ate mem­ories of the history of humanity prior to and shortly after the events at Babel. From these pre­mis­es, we arrive at the conclusion that the an­cient pagan reli­gions had a common source. Thus, bothVeda’ in India, andEdda’ of the Norsemen, come from the root ed, a "testi­mony" or "religious record."

This book was originally meant to be a chapter in Most Ancient Days, the first volume of my reconstruction of ancient history. Obviously, there was too much material to limit to just one chapter, and so I wrote this study as a separate volume. Here we will consider the his­tory which is buried in myths. We will use the Bible as a ‘code book’ to decipher the ima­ges. We will read of the very inven­tion of paganism, in the Garden of Eden by a Ser­pent in a Tree. We will learn how myth-makers recast the godly and the ungodly alike in the guise of gods. We will see how figures which the Bible gives slight atten­tion to, in mythol­ogy cast the shad­ows of giants.

For example, we know of the events at Babel only from a few brief verses in chapter 11 of Genesis. There is good reason to infer that this section was written by Shem, who was better qualified than anyone else to sum up these events, because he played a major role in the sub­se­quent era. The Bible tells us very lit­tle of this era, but we can recover many details never­theless.

Shem tells us, in the very briefest of terms, of the con­quests of Nimrod. Nimrod subdued the newly formed language groups, which of course did not imme­diately flee to the most remote parts of the earth. It was only with the increase of population pressure, and of politi­cal oppression from Nimrod's empire — and certain natu­ral disasters — that mi­grations occur­red. While the lone male may explore simply for the sake of explo­ra­tion, a family man does not pull up stakes on a whim. Several gen­erations would have been spent under the rule of Nim­rod, be­fore such peoples as the fore­bearers of the Tahi­tians, or Mexi­cans, or what have you, fi­nally decided to migrate. By that time, the cast of charac­ters had solidified, in the myth-systems of the various ethnic groups. So Nimrod, and his father, and his wife, and ‘son’, and adver­sary, all could be remem­bered — euhemerized — by peoples which are now utterly remote.

With the work of such scholars as Joseph Camp­bell, mythology has gained a great deal of credibility in recent decades. In­deed, Camp­bell was a passion­ate and eloquent writer, who present­ed his belief system in compelling and seductive terms. But for all his adroit insights, for all his psychological acu­men, his writings suf­fer from a fatal flaw, in that their foun­da­tion has no integrity whatso­ever. That is, mythology means anything you want it to mean. Any given myth is told so many dif­ferent ways, with so many conflic­ting details, that you can prove anything with it. In effect, myths are a bag of colored tiles, from which you can create any mosaic your skill will allow. Campbell was a very skilled mosaicist, but his theology was the prod­uct of his imagi­nation, rather than any ele­ment of the objec­tive world, or even of the more universal ele­ments of human psychol­ogy. The unity of his world view derived not from any unity of mytho­logy, but rather from his careful selec­tion of the evidence. The critical reader (my favorite) might turn these words against me, and suggest that I too have misused the "tiles" of mythology in just the same way that I say Campbell did; to this I make no defense save to point to the text, and its internal integrity, and its agreement with the external witness of the Bible. Be that as it may, we will meet in the pages to follow several most an­cient theo­logians of paganism. Campbell was such a theolo­gian, for this age.

In these pages we will also meet a tremendous amount of very com­pactly presented informa­tion. I wrote this book for two types of reader: the person who al­ready shares a biblical world view, and the person seeking to test that world view. Individu­als of either type may have a sense of being over­whelmed by all the names and ideas which I give. Do not despair: the de­tails really are not all that important — I include them because it is only in the details that a case is proven. And although this is not a lengthy book, I think you will find that it will not be quick reading — for all that I have striv­en for clari­ty and organiza­tion, you may need to re-read para­graphs, simply to absorb what is being said. In short, this volume is not for the faint-heart­ed, but the story is worth the effort.

I would like to give special thanks to Donald Y, who so graciously volun­teered his time and talent to produce the draw­ings of the constellations con­tained in Chapter Two.[3] I would also like to thank Armen T, who read this manuscript several times and offered a number of useful suggestions to make it more reader-friendly. Aside from their specific generosity, each of these men has acted simply as a friend. To both of you, my most sin­cere thanks. I would also acknowledge the heavy depen­dance upon Alexander Hislop, a scholar of the 19th centu­ry: his researches, if not all of his conclu­sions, are the foundation of this pres­ent work.

There are many caveats which might be giv­en with regard to taking myths seriously. I will leave such warnings to the com­mon sense of the reader, and trust that the reader will grant that I also am aware of them. But what must always be held in mind, what I trust I always make explicit, what is truly impor­tant, is that behind all the fantasies, all the dis­tortions and cor­ruptions, all the exploited innocence and outright evil, the single, over­arching truth is contained in the Bible. There are countless religions, but only one which is acceptable to God: the reli­gion of grace. This is the theme which will be devel­oped here, through the plot of euhem­erism, with its myth and its history.



Introduc­tion: eu­hemerism

[1].Da­vies's Dru­ids, p. 226; in A. His­lop, The Two Baby­lons (Nep­tune, NJ: Loi­zeaux Bro­thers, 1943), p. ­231.

[2].Hum­boldt, Re­searches, Vol. 1, p. 320.

[3].The drawings are copies of those contained in the books by Seiss and Bullinger, refer­enced in Chap­ter 2.



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Well, that doesn't look too bad. Maybe. We'll see.


J

2 comments:

akfox said...

Is this book available in a physical form anywhere? It seems fascinating, but I'm not a big fan of reading books off of a computer screen.

Jack H said...

Long since out-of-print. Of course, these things can be downloaded and printed. I've done it with any number of Esperanto texts. It's a lot of printing, but probably still much cheaper than buying a book new.

I used Internet Explorer to view it now, and it's got all kinds of coding visible for the endnotes. Didn't show in Firefox. That's what I mean about hassle.

J