There can be too much focus on texts relative to the amount of focus on thinking and interpretation. Both are always needed. Many people focus microscopically on texts. This is important work that, if lacking, restricts knowledge of the real origin of Christianity and Jesus, and their real original meanings. Same with research in Western esotericism.
Interpretation and thinking, too, are crucial important work that, if relatively lacking or impoverished, restrict knowledge of the real origin of Christianity and Jesus, and their real original meanings. Should most postings cite primary texts? If they currently do, more postings may be needed to balance out, by reflecting on that research into primary texts.
I'm a huge advocate of the idea of paradigms and self-reifying interpretive frameworks. That lessens my trust in the power of researching the primary texts. I think much usage of primary texts forces them into a bad, false, distorted paradigm. Evidence (primary texts) suggests; it doesn't absolutely prove.
We need more attention on how interpretive paradigms work, relative to the amount of attention paid to primary texts. For example, if we ought to double the work on primary texts, we ought to increase the work on brainstorming interpretative frameworks tenfold.
Key concepts are degree of compellingness and degree of plausibility. People do change their minds, their belief about what happened, based on arguments and evidence -- why? What compels one to believe a mythic-only Jesus scenario of Christian history, when that person formerly assumed or tentatively believed in a "historical Jesus kernel" view of Christian history?
The same problem arises in establishing visionary plants as the main basis and main continuing fountainhead of inspiration for the religions and systems of high philosophy. The scenario is unthinkable and beyond absurd in the official paradigm, but rings true with much compelling evidence, in the paradigm which is optimized for it. From the point of view of the entheogen-theory paradigm, the official worldview's postulations and suppositions about religion and religious experiencing are also beyond absurd.
The entheogen theory of the origins of religion has only recently been assembled; in fact the basic framework or model is still being put together. We're only in the early initial stages of formulating the hypothesis, *much less* conclusively supporting it. At this point we need many researchers and theorists to commit to trying on this lens and interpretive framework.
Conjectural assertion of a new hypothesis can be mistaken for a final conclusion put forth as certain. The entheogen theory shouldn't be taken as anything more than a "plausible and promising hypothesis" and the entheogen scholars shouldn't be read as claiming any more than that. Just because someone says "the ancients used entheogens heavily" doesn't mean that that assertion is being put forth as a certain fact -- rather, it's put forth as a "conjectured fact".
Castaneda is the entheogenist most guilty of dishonestly putting forth conjectural fact as certain fact. There is a spectrum or degrees of this distortion, with entheogenists at the other extreme always being cautious and saying "it appears possible and interesting that the ancients used entheogens heavily". It should all be read as promising conjecture, at this early point.
It's unprofitable to debate about particular points of argument. The real action happens at the level of paradigms and interpretive frameworks. Individual doubts about particular entheogen-religion evidence is of little import. One can doubt the entheogen-religion evidence of Wasson, and doubt that of Graves, and doubt that of Watts, and so on. Yet the overall paradigm, "entheogens are the main origin of religion", is unaffected by an infinite number of such doubts.
A long list of such doubts, no matter how long, fails to call into question the entheogen explanation of the origin of religion. Listing such doubts reminds me of the Literalist Christians, how they explain away each problem raised against their worldview. The entheogenist today must be resigned to the fact that we have to conjecture without any forcefully persuasive evidence. We have to take it on faith that the evidence will come in its own sweet time.
It's the same situation in mythic-only Christ research. It's a matter of faith and beauty contest whether we accept the Literalist Christian explanation of the origin of Christianity, or accept the mystic/Gnostic/allegorist explanation. Even science has the same problem; no evidence is absolutely compelling, and evidence is extremely subject to interpretation -- consider Bohr/Heisenberg Copenhagenism vs. Bohm/Einstein Hidden Variables, for example.
The entheogen theory of the origin of religion deserves commitment because it is simple, beautiful, and elegant. It would explain everything effortlessly. There is currently no evidence that will force people to accept this theory if they are committed to some other theory of the origin of religion. Such forcefully compelling evidence may or may not turn up, at some time.
Look from the plane of Theory: if the evidence doesn't fit the Theory, then too bad for the evidence; the Theory is correct. The entheogen theory of the origin of religion makes sense; other theories don't make sense. And this theory is more beautiful and elegant than the others, and more deserving of commitment -- regardless of the evidence that we happen to have today and tomorrow.
Researchers of the mythic-only Jesus and of the entheogenic origin of religion shouldn't let themselves be slowed down by anything so temporary and weak as the lack of evidence. A superior explanation is vastly more important than evidence, because evidence can always be plugged into bad theories as well as good theories. What's required for progress of knowledge is a complete appreciation for the effective total malleability of evidence.
The eyes deceive. Evidence can just as well lie as tell the truth. Evidence can only suggest a worldview or interpretive framework. In a contest of the importance of paradigms versus evidence, paradigms win by a long shot. A good paradigm is worth more than thousands of pieces of evidence. Evidence is valuable, but subservient to (or less important than) paradigms. In practice, knowledge proceeds by the appeal of paradigms, much more than the appeal of evidence.
Established paradigms are impervious to evidence, just as Josh McDowell's apologetics book "Evidence that Demands a Verdict" is a demonstration that no amount of evidence can persuade those who are committed to preserving a paradigm. Nothing is easier than plugging any and all evidence into whatever paradigm you happen to be committed to. Evidence *is* important, but far less so than interpretive frameworks. One paradigm is worth about two thousand pieces of evidence.
Cornelius Van Til (1895-I987) was Professor of Apologetics at Westminster Theological Seminary. From pages 704 -705 of THE NEW DICTIONARY OF THEOLOGY edited by Sinclair B. Ferguson, et al. -- "Van Til's distinctive approach is 'presuppositionalism', which may be defined as insistence on an ultimate category of thought or a conceptual framework which one must assume in order to make a sensible interpretation of reality: 'The issue between believers and non-believers in Christian theism cannot be settled by a direct appeal to "facts" or "laws" whose nature and significance is already agreed upon by both parties to the debate. The question is rather as to what is the final reference-point required to make the "facts" and the "laws" intelligible. The question is as to what the "facts" and "laws"really are. Are they what the non-Christian methodology assumes they are? Are they what the Christian theistic methodology presupposes they are?' (Defense of the Faith, Philadelphia, 1967). ... Van Til vigorously criticized the traditional apologetic approach of both Catholics and Protestants as failing to challenge the non-Christian view of knowledge, as allowing sinners to be judges of ultimate reality, and of arguing merely for the probability of Christianity. He considered himself in the line of Kuyper and Bavinck in his presuppositionalism and opposed the 'evidentialism, of Thomas Aquinas, Joseph Butler and Warfield."
In today's age of reason and facts, proof, rationality, and evidence, how can the superstition and impossible miracles of Literalist Christianity be upheld? Only by being impervious to evidence.
The only way to be impervious to evidence (rather than vulnerable to evidence) is to be able to plug any evidence into your framework of interpretation. That's why it's nearly hopeless to expect that we can dig up some lost ancient textual evidence that will "threaten", in a brute-force compelling way, the Literalist Christianity paradigm.
From the article "Now Playing: The Gospel of Thomas" by Stephen J. Patterson, in the December 2000 issue of Bible Review (http://www.bib-arch.org/bswb_BR/brd00thomas.html): "No text, no matter how dramatic its contents, could "bring down the church as we know it." In the Gospel of Philip, a third-century apocryphal text well known among scholars, Jesus is said to have "kissed" Mary Magdalene "on the lips." If that didn't bring down the house, I can't imagine what would!"
The Gnostic gospels *will* likely eventually cause Literalist Christianity to collapse into a heap of rubble. I'm not asserting that evidence is of no import and completely inconsequential. The power of evidence has been greatly overestimated and the power of paradigms -- interpretive frameworks -- has been greatly *under*-estimated.
We used to think that a handful of pieces of evidence -- or maybe a larger number -- would be enough to change one's worldview. But now it's clear that it takes more like two thousand pieces of evidence to even *begin* to seriously start shaking a paradigm.
We need to acknowledge that evidential proof goes both ways: Literalist Christians begin by adopting that paradigm, and then claim that there's not enough evidence to warrant adopting a different paradigm. There isn't enough evidence to compell people to adopt the entheogen theory of the origin of religion, but there isn't enough evidence to compell rejecting that theory, either.
It's early and we don't have *nearly* enough evidence to support rejecting or adhering to the entheogen theory. Same with the mythic-only Jesus theory: it's still quite early and we're only beginning to clearly formulate the hypothesis, paradigm, or interpretive framework. It's too early to talk of compelling evidence that can forcefully persuade inveterate doubters.
In the domain of mythic-experiencing allegory and the study of religious experiencing, and the nature and origin of religion, we're now in the Age Of Hypothesis Formation, not the Age Of Compelling Evidence. So all writings about shamanism, entheogens, Christian origins, religious experiencing, and the mind are *all* conjectural -- not just the entheogen theory of the origin of religion.
*All* the books about mind, cognition, shamanism, mystery-religion, religious experiencing, and ego death (and quantum mechanics) are conjectural and subject to revision and obsolescence. It took centuries for philosophy of science to realize that all science is conjectural, interpretive, and subject to profound revision.
We are still in the midst of the Dark Ages, only beginning to struggle to wake up -- strangely, despite assumptions of Progress, this situation seems nothing new. As always, the apocalyptic revelation of world enlightenment is dawning, as it has so often been. In this Web Age, the Truth will stand up taller and manifest more of its complete shape than the many previous times it has managed to arise more or less before being suppressed by the aristocrats in league with the clergy.
The inability of the official worldview to integrate the known fact that "oinos" meant "inebriating plant mixture"
>http://www.google.com/search?q=%22mixed+wine%22+greek -- 500 hits
>It's pivotally important that we show that "mixed wine" 500 BCE-500 CE was understood to be an entheogenic mixture. It would be good if people could start searching the Web for confirmation.
The Christian abstinence Web pages sometimes portray the ancients as watering down their "wine" so as not to get drunk. Other times, they contradict that view by stating that the Greeks felt undiluted wine was too strong for mortals to drink (it would kill them or drive them insane). You can trust and count on Christian apologists to provide very distorted clues.
It is trivial to prove concensus that the ancients mixed "herbs" and "spices" into their "wine", and that their "wine", whatever it was, was certainly entirely different from our wine. It is extremely deceiving to use the word "wine" for the ancients -- that's like calling Absinthe "wine", or calling liquid LSD "wine" -- a gross misrepresentation. Even the phrase "wine-based psychoactive mixture" may be misleading, conjuring a picture of today's wine with mashed mushrooms, hash oil, and opium added.
Far closer would be the connotations of "elixir" instead of "mixed wine" or "wine". A good compromise bridge term would be "wine-elixir".
At the seder, symposium, love feast, or other sacred ritual meal, the ancients drank several cups of elixir. "Wine" as conjured up in today's mind is wholly irrelevant. When two things become so different as today's wine and the "wine" of the ancients, it is a lie and total misunderstanding to use the same word. So I'd say "wine -- or rather *elixir*"... The ancients *didn't* drink "wine"; they drank *elixir*. "Wine" or "oinos" in fact was: a mixture that included alcohol and inebriating plants.
There's really not much contention about this -- instead, there is a bad habit of mind, from a shoddy mental framework, of reading "wine" as today's wine, when scholars actually know better and know that "wine" was a general term meaning a mixture that included alcohol and inebriating plants.
Definitions of "elixir": A sweetened aromatic solution of alcohol and water, serving as a vehicle for medicine. Philosophers' stone. A substance believed to maintain life indefinitely. Elixir of life. A substance or medicine believed to have the power to cure all ills. An underlying principle. From Greek xrion, desiccative powder, from xros, dry, a dry powder. A tincture with more than one base; a compound tincture or medicine, composed of various substances, held in solution by alcohol in some form. A liquor capable of transmuting metals into gold; also, one for producing life indefinitely. The refined spirit; the quintessence. Any cordial or substance which invigorates. The grand elixir, to support the spirits of human nature.
If the godman says "Drink this wine to receive the Holy Spirit and transcendently unite with me", we should read "Drink this mixture that includes alcohol and inebriating plants to receive the Holy Spirit and transcendently unite with me". Or "Drink this elixir of inebriating plants to receive the Holy Spirit and transcendently unite with me". The correct and perfect translation of "oinos" into today's vocabulary is "elixir of inebriating plants".
Research on the Web will dig up a lot of nonsense but it will confirm this. The ancients definitely didn't drink what we call "wine"; they definitely did drink elixirs of inebriating plants. The only real question is how this obvious and once-common knowledge has become so suppressed to the degree it has. Like most esoteric knowledge, it was never wholly suppressed, despite the claims of official and conventional thinking to that effect.
The true understanding of what "oinos" meant -- elixirs of inebriating plants -- was only more or less suppressed from official knowledge.
Knowing the official and the esoteric paradigms, I can predict before doing more serious research what such research will turn up. Semi-ambiguous clues and hints, with the official Literalist Christians working hard to either show that the good Christians greatly watered down their wine to avoid any psychoactive effects, or that the evil Pagans liked strong wine... the official Christians have no coherent story -- it's a mess.
It's a messy, rotten, heavily distorted research topic, as frustrating as it is positively challenging. Researching this is just like researching the true history of entheogen use and the true origin of Christianity, and for me, the true nature of High Classic Rock, or for conspiracy theorists, the truth about political scheming and disinformation. It's disgusting and frustrating how the truth has been distorted so far out of proportion that you have to cross your eyes to see it even when you know what it is.
We know that oinos was for the ancients was elixir of inebriating plants, yet even knowing that, it's tough to find confirmation. Why is there so little -- or is there actually tons of confirmation, but scholars are simply not used to looking for it? So we can ask why it *seems like* there is so little confirmation that oinos was generalized elixir of inebriating plants.
Why does it *seem like* there is little confirmation that "oinos" was the generalized term for any elixir of inebriating plants? Because the dominant paradigm blurs the reality and has put in place a vivid substitute, today's word "wine". The official connotations of "wine" act to block us from *building up* the correct connotations; the dominant paradigm prevents one from perceiving the suppressed paradigm.
The elements for confirming the correct connotations of "oinos" are present but undeveloped, un-built-up, in contrast to the official connotations, which have been fully built up. A parallel is the way the assumption of a historical Jesus actively blocks and prevents us from considering the mythic meaning of the godman.
Our supposed paucity of evidence for ancient entheogen use is *not* primarily a matter of lacking "evidence", but rather, lacking the conceptual framework, paradigm, and perspective, the connotation matrix, to recognize and assemble the great amount of evidence we do have. Smoking gun? We have a hundred smoking guns, forcefully compelling proofs -- if we could only perceive them.
Paradigms can blind, paradigms can reveal. So it is actually *more* important to work on our paradigms than on collecting "proof" -- it's as though we already are wallowing in an extreme overabundance of proof and evidence, but lacking the right paradigm, that evidence is completely invisible: our wrong paradigm has systematic blind spots. Our official paradigm has a huge blind spot when it comes to perceiving that oinos was mixtures of inebriating plants.
In practice, this means that even when the official mind sees that oinos is a mixture of inebriating plants, it still *doesn't* see that; that perception doesn't register; in one ear, out the other -- it leaves or builds up no impression and we immediately revert back to the official connotation matrix, assuming oinos = wine.
The same dynamic shows why it takes 3 (or 7) exorcisms to cast out the ego demon; multiple altered-state sessions to be able to mentally retain the transcendent mental worldmodel rather than having it inexorably slip away as we fall back into sin and incarnation and the sinful fleshly body (the deluded egoic mental worldmodel), reverting back to losing our head again, having not successfully attained the perseverance of sainthood yet.
You have to *hammer* the official worldview repeatedly and relentlessly, like a powerful monster on a high level of a video game, with the fact:
"Oinos" meant not fermented grape juice, but a mixture of highly inebriating plants!
You have to become rapidly forceful, overemphasizing the point, before the fact starts to finally *register* and *stick* in the mind that's blinded by the official mental worldmodel in which oinos means our "wine".
So the "evidence" we have on the Web about oinos does include the fact that "oinos" meant not fermented grape juice, but a mixture of highly inebriating plants -- but that's just a mere impotent fact, totally overdominanted by the wrong *paradigm*. Facts are impotent; paradigms are all-powerful. We have the mere impotent, meaningless, empty fact about oinos, but we utterly lack the potent and all-important *paradigm* or worldmodel about oinos.
This is comparable to the supposedly determinist Calvinists who adopt the angelic principle of determinism, and yet adhere to an overall worldmodel that is thoroughly corrupted by the devilish freewillist way of thinking. I'm becoming extreme and dogmatic about this: worldviews are *everything*, facts and evidence are *nothing*. It takes several thousand facts to even begin to rattle a paradigm or mental worldmodel or Wilsonian "reality tunnel".
There is no possible evidence that can persuade an insane deluded person; all evidence will undergo transformation or dismissal in order to preserve the worldmodel and interpretative and observational framework. Yes, admittedly some people are persuadable to convert worldmodels -- that's metanoia, repentance, conversion, and it's not uncommon.
But we should keep the extreme strength and resiliance of worldmodels firmly in mind to answer the question of how scholars can so well know what oinos meant and still fail to understand and remember it. The truth about oinos is rediscovered again and again but it slips off the official worldview like Teflon -- it refuses to stick; it cannot be integrated and incorporated; it's an alien fact.
The official paradigm is completely unable to retain the fact about oinos; only the suppressed paradigm can incorporate the fact about oinos. The Web reflects this inability to incorporate the "known" fact about oinos which is so well known and yet so completely unknown due to incompatibility between that fact and that worldview.
The misunderstanding of oinos is compatible with the official worldview and so by damn, that is what oinos means in the official worldview, never mind the facts that scholars know.
The correct understanding is provably correct, and even uncontroverted -- but too bad; it's incompatible with the official worldview and therefore will not, cannot possibly be registered, comprehended, grokked, or retained -- it can be understood as an isolated island of fact, but it cannot be integrated, so the worldview reverts to thinking "wine" even though the fact of "inebriating plant mixture" is so-called "known" and "accepted as fact".
Our isolated fact-mind knows "oinos" is "inebriating plant mixture", but our full-scale worldmodel nevertheless cannot but persist in thinking "oinos" means what we call "wine".
It is essential that we strive to gather evidence for the suppressed paradigm. However, it's essential to realize that paradigms are primary and evidence is only secondary, and a distant second at that. That's perhaps my biggest gripe about the mode of discussion at the JesusMysteries discussion group -- they foolishly assume that evidence is primary, and that the worldview follows the evidence, when in fact the worldview is primary, and the evidence follows the worldview.
Discussion or handling of *evidence* must take place within a more dominant discussion or handling of *paradigms*. Otherwise, what always is bound to happen is that all evidence is merely shuffled around within whatever paradigm (worldview) happens to already be dominant -- the "oinos is wine" paradigm or the "historical Jesus" paradigm or the freewillist-egoic paradigm.
The Calvinists and Pelagians debate about determinism and freewill without discussing paradigms, and therefore both sides end up inadvertantly reinforcing whatever the dominant paradigm is: egoic freewillist thinking, which the mere adoption of an abstract, dry doctrine of determinism is helpless to shake (though I suspect such shaking was going on in the tent camp revival meetings).
Those who believe there was a historical Jesus and those who don't, conduct their debate without discussing paradigms, and therefore both sides end up inadvertantly reinforcing whatever the dominant paradigm is. We end up with people who assert the "mythic-only Jesus" position while retaining the whole gist of the official story of Christian history.
They attempt to negate one item in a system while neglecting to even consider making wholesale changes throughout the system -- which would amount to tossing everything we thought we knew about Christian origins into the garbage can and starting from a completely fresh slate -- not just questioning everything, but fully rejecting everything and seeking anew to understand what happened.
The problem with our usual meaning of "question everything" is that we have a strong habit of questioning only one aspect of a paradigm at a time, and you can never really change a paradigm one piece at a time. Most spirituality, which Wilber calls merely "translative, not transformative", involves exactly such a habit of retaining ten thousand elements of a paradigm, while seeking to revise only a few at a time.
Yes, we must "question everything", but with a much more sweeping understanding of the scope of "everything", and a much deeper meaning of "question". We must *extremely* "question", *extremely* "everything". Most people's idea of questioning everything amounts to proposing that three of the Disney characters are just fictional, while taking for granted, without even thinking of questioning, that the rest really existed.
They don't get it. *All* the pantheon of Disney characters are fictional. Most people balk at questioning more than 3 elements of their accustomed worldview. But the official worldview is *far* more distorted and alienated from reality than most people are even able to consider possible -- almost to the degree of the movie The Matrix, where the real world is people in hibernation in a machine, while they believe the official propaganda that says they're living normal lives in late modernity.
Today's official worldview about oinos, entheogens, and the origin of Christianity is almost that far from reality. No wonder we are incapable of hanging onto and integrating the "well-known fact" that oinos was a mixture of highly inebriating plants.
We have a well-stocked vending machine (the official paradigm) and a handful of incompatible foreign coins (established, correct, widely accepted facts), but we cannot use the coins in this machine; cannot incorporate these isolated facts with the incompatible paradigm we hold.