Taoist mythology, Lanna history, mythology, the nature of time and other considered ramblings

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Location: Chiangrai, Chiangrai, Thailand

Author of many self-published books, including several about Thailand and Chiang Rai, Joel Barlow lived in Bangkok 1964-65, attending 6th grade with the International School of Bangkok's only Thai teacher. He first visited ChiangRai in 1988, and moved there in 1998.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Holy, Holy Books and Knowledge.

Although it’s clear there’s more at work in our world than our rational facilities can comprehend or even much deal with, it’s also clear that our rational facilities are the best tool we have to work with, and should not be neglected. They can certainly be of more value than any book; if only we can find ourselves able to be not afraid. That we should think more than follow should be clear, but most manifestly isn’t, at least to most. Which is a big problem. As are democracy – rule by capitalists, and capitalism – rule by deception.
Balancing several competing, oligarchic departments of power might be wiser, but oligarchs tend to forget how little wisdom they really have, and also forget that the “downtrodden” often retain much that their “leaders” have lost. The ignorant and poor, despite being unlikely to use it well, also need power. And that failure to use it well might prove a blessing.
Jerusalem based Armenian historian Roupen Shahakian says, “If there is peace, Israel will disintegrate. It’s the Palestinians that are keeping them together.”
How believable – violent obnoxiousness a kind of cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face. All that’s necessary for reason to prevail is reason, and for irrationality, irrationality.
Israelis and other True Believers need enemies, and will fight among themselves rather than cease being bossy. Having “divinely inspired” books, it’s clear, has made nothing clear. What’s holy, anyway, but loving kindness, goodness, beauty and things which inspire? Certainly not the aspects of the Biblical “God” – full of jealous hatreds, resentments and punitive desires (at least as shown in the book “He” supposedly provided for us to know of Him).

Biblical narrative doesn’t even fit with coordinates of geographic Palestine, and what remains from ancient Greek scholars and writers on history and geography offers amazingly little mention of Jews. As with swords and shields mentioned in the Book of Mormon, external verification of much narrative in “holy books” is hard to come by.
In 1985, Lebanese scholar Kamal Salibi (Emeritus Professor at the American University of Beirut), published “The Bible Came from Arabia”; it offers rigorous linguistic and geographic analysis, showing that scenes of Old Testament action took place not around what we recognize as Palestine, but in the West Arabian highlands of ‘Asir, (“Difficult Country”), a region of southwestern Saudi Arabia immediately north of Yemen and south of Mecca, on the eastern side of the Red Sea – one of the wettest and most temperate places in that desert area. Salibi shows an amazingly high concentration of Biblical place names in a narrow portion of the ‘Asir region, and an astounding degree of correspondence between those places and ones of Old Testament action. Salibi found hundreds of corresponding place-names (between the Bible and towns and villages of ‘Asir), and on the basis of linguistic analysis, has built a strong case for ‘Asir as the actual local of biblical stories. However, this isn’t at all a new idea; ancient Arabic texts contain numerous mentions of “Israelites” as a West Arabian people, and many people previously pondered the quandaries presented. The Saudis bulldozed much of the area, soon after release of Salibi’s presentation of this theory, and allow no archeological research there.

It’s said that knowledge is transmitted in story, but people don’t very much really like truth (no matter what they claim), and do like stories (and especially TV). It’s also said all religions purvey the same truth – and there may indeed be truth in that, in that they at least all involve story. Also allegory, allusion, misrepresentation, and at least some pompous formality, if not pageantry.
Gautama Buddha was born in what is now southeastern Iran, and has no followers nearby. Biblical Palestine was part of what’s now the Islamic Holy Land. The ‘Sermon on the Mount’ had been written down by 70 BCE, and much else in Christianity predates its purported founder. Also, much in religious text has been lost in translation – and become but as copies of copies. Even the Quran was set down through recollection, after time, and not, exactly as it stands, by its central Prophet. It existed in various versions until about 20 years after his death (although some will deny this).

There’s no nothing (no absolute vacuum), nor any true unity – only duplicity (well, and maybe duality). A story is a representation, as is authority. We feel secure being led, happy entertained, and scared of the release of death, which is truth.
Real death is when you allow yourself to be misled, abandoning the self and its governance to someone else. Who will die, too. It’s been told, that for ancient Greeks, loss of self-control was worse than defeat, more dread than Hades!
Organized religion is but politics, and sexual repression exists because the meek are easy to control. The same pertains to hallucinogens – sex and drugs don’t make you smarter (even travel doesn’t necessarily “broaden” the mind), but joyful experiences do tend to make one more independent, or, at least, less group dependent, and thus harder to control.
But without others sharing story, sense of place in context, and values, we aren’t just vulnerable, but defenseless, and unable to continue on. Always there is compromise and change. That everything changes doesn’t change; where else is truth?

A friend tells of his grandmother in Bavaria, who had him haul water from a specific place in the forest, for her herbal infusions, which helped many. He asked her to write her knowledge down. She didn’t. He asks way. And I think, in all likelihood, if she had, it would just have been misinterpreted. Sometimes, what we know, we can’t even know how we know.

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