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Thread: great paragraphs from what you're reading

  1. #401
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    Knowing C'mell had been adventure incarnate. She had led him to things which he had not even imagined, including a knowledge of himself and of others. He had been places in the wet rich air of Earth, on the old streets and the complex cities, which no Norstrilian at home would ever believe; he had faced dangers, and now Rod knew that his time was drawing to a close. At last she was asking something of him and he could not refuse. All the time he had known her—days which seemed as long and busy as years—she had been giving: of herself, her time, the risk of her life. Now, for the first time, it was she who asked. He could not refuse.

    He went with her down to a store….
    It was called the Department Store of Hearts' Desires.

    Cordwainer Smith, The Store of Heart's Desires

  2. #402

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    Quotes from: Jordan B. Peterson (2018) 12 Rules for life: An antidote to chaos. United States published by Random House Canada.

    Birds—and Territory
    [...] Chickens, like suburbanites, live communally. Songbirds, such as wrens, do not, but they still inhabit a dominance hierarchy. It’s just spread out over more territory. The wiliest, strongest, healthiest and most fortunate birds occupy prime territory, and defend it. Because of this, they are more likely to attract high-quality mates, and to hatch chicks who survive and thrive. Protection from wind, rain and predators, as well as easy access to superior food, makes for a much less stressed existence. Territory matters, and there is little difference between territorial rights and social status. It is often a matter of life and death. [...]

    If a contagious avian disease sweeps through a neighbourhood of well-stratified songbirds, it is the least dominant and most stressed birds, occupying the lowest rungs of the bird world, who are most likely to sicken and die. This is equally true of human neighbourhoods, when bird flu viruses and other illnesses sweep across the planet. The poor and stressed always die first, and in greater numbers. They are also much more susceptible to non-infectious diseases, such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease. When the aristocracy catches a cold, as it is said, the working class dies of pneumonia. [...]

    Because territory matters, and because the best locales are always in short supply, territory-seeking among animals produces conflict. Conflict, in turn, produces another problem: how to win or lose without the disagreeing parties incurring too great a cost. This latter point is particularly important. Imagine that two birds engage in a squabble about a desirable nesting area. The interaction can easily degenerate into outright physical combat. Under such circumstances, one bird, usually the largest, will eventually win—but even the victor may be hurt by the fight. That means a third bird, an undamaged, canny bystander, can move in, opportunistically, and defeat the now-crippled victor. That is not at all a good deal for the first two birds. [...] (p. 3-4)


    Conflict—and Territory
    Over the millennia, animals who must co-habit with others in the same territories have in consequence learned many tricks to establish dominance, while risking the least amount of possible damage. [...] (p. 4)


    The Nature of Nature
    First, it is easy to assume that “nature” is something with a nature—something static. But it’s not: at least not in any simple sense. It’s static and dynamic, at the same time. The environment—the nature that selects—itself transforms. The famous yin and yang symbols of the Taoists capture this beautifully. Being, for the Taoists—reality itself—is composed of two opposing principles, often translated as feminine and masculine, or even more narrowly as female and male. However, yin and yang are more accurately understood as chaos and order. The Taoist symbol is a circle enclosing twin serpents, head to tail. The black serpent, chaos, has a white dot in its head. The white serpent, order, has a black dot in its head. This is because chaos and order are interchangeable, as well as eternally juxtaposed. There is nothing so certain that it cannot vary. Even the sun itself has its cycles of instability. Likewise, there is nothing so mutable that it cannot be fixed. Every revolution produces a new order. Every death is, simultaneously, a metamorphosis. [...]

    Nature is not simply dynamic, either. Some things change quickly, but they are nested within other things that change less quickly (music frequently models this, too). Leaves change more quickly than trees, and trees more quickly than forests. Weather changes faster than climate. If it wasn’t this way, then the conservatism of evolution would not work, as the basic morphology of arms and hands would have to change as fast as the length of arm bones and the function of fingers. It’s chaos, within order, within chaos, within higher order. The order that is most real is the order that is most unchanging—and that is not necessarily the order that is most easily seen. The leaf, when perceived, might blind the observer to the tree. The tree can blind him to the forest. And some things that are most real (such as the ever-present dominance hierarchy) cannot be “seen” at all. [...]

    The part of our brain that keeps track of our position in the dominance hierarchy is therefore exceptionally ancient and fundamental.17 It is a master control system, modulating our perceptions, values, emotions, thoughts and actions. It powerfully affects every aspect of our Being, conscious and unconscious alike. This is why, when we are defeated, we act very much like lobsters who have lost a fight. Our posture droops. We face the ground. We feel threatened, hurt, anxious and weak. If things do not improve, we become chronically depressed. Under such conditions, we can’t easily put up the kind of fight that life demands, and we become easy targets for harder-shelled bullies. And it is not only the behavioural and experiential similarities that are striking. Much of the basic neurochemistry is the same. [...]

    Consider serotonin, the chemical that governs posture and escape in the lobster. Low-ranking lobsters produce comparatively low levels of serotonin. This is also true of low-ranking human beings (and those low levels decrease more with each defeat). Low serotonin means decreased confidence. Low serotonin means more response to stress and costlier physical preparedness for emergency—as anything whatsoever may happen, at any time, at the bottom of the dominance hierarchy (and rarely something good). Low serotonin means less happiness, more pain and anxiety, more illness, and a shorter lifespan—among humans, just as among crustaceans. Higher spots in the dominance hierarchy, and the higher serotonin levels typical of those who inhabit them, are characterized by less illness, misery and death, even when factors such as absolute income—or number of decaying food scraps—are held constant. The importance of this can hardly be overstated. [...] (p. 11-15)


    T
    op and Bottom
    There is an unspeakably primordial calculator, deep within you, at the very foundation of your brain, far below your thoughts and feelings. It monitors exactly where you are positioned in society—on a scale of one to ten, for the sake of argument. If you’re a number one, the highest level of status, you’re an overwhelming success. If you’re male, you have preferential access to the best places to live and the highest-quality food. People compete to do you favours. You have limitless opportunity for romantic and sexual contact. You are a successful lobster, and the most desirable females line up and vie for your attention. If you’re female, you have access to many high-quality suitors: tall, strong and symmetrical; creative, reliable, honest and generous. And, like your dominant male counterpart, you will compete ferociously, even pitilessly, to maintain or improve your position in the equally competitive female mating hierarchy. Although you are less likely to use physical aggression to do so, there are many effective verbal tricks and strategies at your disposal, including the disparaging of opponents, and you may well be expert at their use.

    If you are a low-status ten, by contrast, male or female, you have nowhere to live (or nowhere good). Your food is terrible, when you’re not going hungry. You’re in poor physical and mental condition. You’re of minimal romantic interest to anyone, unless they are as desperate as you. You are more likely to fall ill, age rapidly, and die young, with few, if any, to mourn you. Even money itself may prove of little use. You won’t know how to use it, because it is difficult to use money properly, particularly if you are unfamiliar with it. Money will make you liable to the dangerous temptations of drugs and alcohol, which are much more rewarding if you have been deprived of pleasure for a long period. Money will also make you a target for predators and psychopaths, who thrive on exploiting those who exist on the lower rungs of society. The bottom of the dominance hierarchy is a terrible, dangerous place to be. [...]

    If you are judged by your peers as of little worth, the counter restricts serotonin availability. That makes you much more physically and psychologically reactive to any circumstance or event that might produce emotion, particularly if it is negative. You need that reactivity. Emergencies are common at the bottom, and you must be ready to survive. [...]

    Unfortunately, that physical hyper-response, that constant alertness, burns up a lot of precious energy and physical resources. This response is really what everyone calls stress, and it is by no means only or even primarily psychological. It’s a reflection of the genuine constraints of unfortunate circumstances. When operating at the bottom, the ancient brain counter assumes that even the smallest unexpected impediment might produce an uncontrollable chain of negative events, which will have to be handled alone, as useful friends are rare indeed, on society’s fringes. You will therefore continually sacrifice what you could otherwise physically store for the future, using it up on heightened readiness and the possibility of immediate panicked action in the present. When you don’t know what to do, you must be prepared to do anything and everything, in case it becomes necessary. You’re sitting in your car with the gas and brake pedals both punched to the mat. Too much of that and everything falls apart. The ancient counter will even shut down your immune system, expending the energy and resources required for future health now, during the crises of the present. It will render you impulsive, so that you will jump, for example, at any short-term mating opportunities, or any possibilities of pleasure, no matter how sub-par, disgraceful or illegal. It will leave you far more likely to live, or die, carelessly, for a rare opportunity at pleasure, when it manifests itself. The physical demands of emergency preparedness will wear you down in every way. [...](p. 15-17)


    Malfunction
    Sometimes, however, the counter mechanism can go wrong. Erratic habits of sleeping and eating can interfere with its function. Uncertainty can throw it for a loop. The body, with its various parts, needs to function like a well-rehearsed orchestra. Every system must play its role properly, and at exactly the right time, or noise and chaos ensue. It is for this reason that routine is so necessary. The acts of life we repeat every day need to be automatized. They must be turned into stable and reliable habits, so they lose their complexity and gain predictability and simplicity. [...]

    It is for such reasons that I always ask my clinical clients first about sleep. Do they wake up in the morning at approximately the time the typical person wakes up, and at the same time every day? If the answer is no, fixing that is the first thing I recommend. It doesn’t matter so much if they go to bed at the same time each evening, but waking up at a consistent hour is a necessity. Anxiety and depression cannot be easily treated if the sufferer has unpredictable daily routines. The systems that mediate negative emotion are tightly tied to the properly cyclical circadian rhythms. [...]

    The next thing I ask about is breakfast. I counsel my clients to eat a fat and protein-heavy breakfast as soon as possible after they awaken (no simple carbohydrates, no sugars, as they are digested too rapidly, and produce a blood-sugar spike and rapid dip). This is because anxious and depressed people are already stressed, particularly if their lives have not been under control for a good while. Their bodies are therefore primed to hypersecrete insulin, if they engage in any complex or demanding activity. If they do so after fasting all night and before eating, the excess insulin in their bloodstream will mop up all their blood sugar. Then they become hypoglycemic and psycho-physiologically unstable.22 All day. Their systems cannot be reset until after more sleep. I have had many clients whose anxiety was reduced to subclinical levels merely because they started to sleep on a predictable schedule and eat breakfast. [...] (p. 17-18)


    Rising Up
    [...] If you can bite, you generally don’t have to. When skillfully integrated, the ability to respond with aggression and violence decreases rather than increases the probability that actual aggression will become necessary. If you say no, early in the cycle of oppression, and you mean what you say (which means you state your refusal in no uncertain terms and stand behind it) then the scope for oppression on the part of oppressor will remain properly bounded and limited. The forces of tyranny expand inexorably to fill the space made available for their existence. People who refuse to muster appropriately self-protective territorial responses are laid open to exploitation as much as those who genuinely can’t stand up for their own rights because of a more essential inability or a true imbalance in power. [...]

    To stand up straight with your shoulders back is to accept the terrible responsibility of life, with eyes wide open. It means deciding to voluntarily transform the chaos of potential into the realities of habitable order. It means adopting the burden of self-conscious vulnerability, and accepting the end of the unconscious paradise of childhood, where finitude and mortality are only dimly comprehended. It means willingly undertaking the sacrifices necessary to generate a productive and meaningful reality (it means acting to please God, in the ancient language). [...]

    So, attend carefully to your posture. Quit drooping and hunching around. Speak your mind. Put your desires forward, as if you had a right to them—at least the same right as others. Walk tall and gaze forthrightly ahead. Dare to be dangerous. Encourage the serotonin to flow plentifully through the neural pathways desperate for its calming influence. [...](p. 23, 27-28)

  3. #403
    C-ESI-Se sx/sp ashlesha's Avatar
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    I'm reading a book about the mind body connection.


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    Quote Originally Posted by ashlesha View Post
    I'm reading a book about the mind body connection.

    sounds like joe dispenza?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kalinoche the Child View Post
    sounds like joe dispenza?
    It's some dr called elliot dacher. Had 0 goodreads reviews.

  6. #406

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    The original word sin means to miss. It doesn’t mean to commit something wrong; it simply means to miss, to be absent. The Hebrew root for the word sin means to miss. That exists in a few English words: misconduct, misbehavior. To miss means not to be there, doing something without being present there — this is the only sin.

    ....

    If you are alert, many things simply drop; you need not drop them. In awareness certain things are not possible. And this is my definition, there is no other criterion. You cannot fall in love if you are aware; then falling in love is a sin. You can love but it will not be like a fall, it will be like a rise.


    https://o-meditation.com/category/osho/on-heraclitus/

  7. #407
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kalinoche the Child View Post
    The original word sin means to miss. It doesn’t mean to commit something wrong; it simply means to miss, to be absent. The Hebrew root for the word sin means to miss. That exists in a few English words: misconduct, misbehavior. To miss means not to be there, doing something without being present there — this is the only sin.

    ....

    If you are alert, many things simply drop; you need not drop them. In awareness certain things are not possible. And this is my definition, there is no other criterion. You cannot fall in love if you are aware; then falling in love is a sin. You can love but it will not be like a fall, it will be like a rise.


    https://o-meditation.com/category/osho/on-heraclitus/
    The writer in the link seems to be advocating a philosophy of “desire nothing”. I don’t think I agree with that. But perhaps I am unenlightened.

    My own experience in relationships is mixed, with respect to desire and attention. My ex-wife and I made a decision to live together so we had each other’s attention every day. We loved each other but desire for each other was low.

    My last GF and I did not live together. We loved each other and desire was high, but we found it difficult to give each other the attention the other person deserved. The two cases are different; each specific to each one’s circumstances. The amount of attention I gave each woman depended strongly on where I happened to be. The desire depended on her Erotic Attitude. (It faded with Caregiver-Victim, and just got stronger with Aggressor-Victim). My love in both cases was a decision I made and stayed constant in both cases.

    Life is full, we have to either consciously make time for each other, or we can arrange our lives so that we pay attention to each other through default circumstances.


    This is just common sense. Try to apply the writer’s philosophy to running a business. A philosophy of “Desire nothing” will get you a failed business. On the matter of attention, I tried to run a business where the principals lived hundreds of miles apart, and ithe business did not get the attention it needed and it failed.

    Additionally, I have a side business with an Extinguishment partner and it is seriously not going well, despite our best intentions and close physical proximity. So it takes both attention through habit and proximity, and inherent compatibility, to succeed.
    Last edited by Adam Strange; 02-24-2020 at 11:38 AM.

  8. #408

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    Hi
    Quote Originally Posted by Adam Strange View Post
    The writer in the link seems to be advocating a philosophy of “desire nothing”. I don’t think I agree with that. But perhaps I am unenlightened.

    My own experience in relationships is mixed, with respect to desire and attention. My ex-wife and I made a decision to live together so we had each other’s attention every day. We loved each other but desire for each other was low.

    My last GF and I did not live together. We loved each other and desire was high, but we found it difficult to give each other the attention the other person deserved. The two cases are different; each specific to each one’s circumstances. The amount of attention I gave each woman depended strongly on where I happened to be. The desire depended on her Erotic Attitude. (It faded with Caregiver-Victim, and just got stronger with Aggressor-Victim). My love in both cases was a decision I made and stayed constant in both cases.

    Life is full, we have to either consciously make time for each other, or we can arrange our lives so that we pay attention to each other through default circumstances.


    This is just common sense. Try to apply the writer’s philosophy to running a business. A philosophy of “Desire nothing” will get you a failed business. On the matter of attention, I tried to run a business where the principals lived hundreds of miles apart, and ithe business did not get the attention it needed and it failed.

    Additionally, I have a side business with an Extinguishment partner and it is seriously not going well, despite our best intentions and close physical proximity. So it takes both attention through habit and proximity, and inherent compatibility, to succeed.
    I see where you are coming from. I am not done reading it and so far indeed there is no mention of ‘desire nothing’. In any case, when one pursues awareness in this sense, what we call desire is broken down to its components. In that sense, it can also be that a business can succeed without you necessarily ‘wanting’ it to succeed (in a certain way).

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    Continue to act thus, my dear Lucilius – set yourself free for your own sake; gather and save your time, which till lately has been forced from you, or filched away, or has merely slipped from your hands. Make yourself believe the truth of my words, – that certain moments are torn from us, that some are gently removed, and that others glide beyond our reach. The most disgraceful kind of loss, however, is that due to carelessness. Furthermore, if you will pay close heed to the problem, you will find that the largest portion of our life passes while we are doing ill, a goodly share while we are doing nothing, and the whole while we are doing that which is not to the purpose. What man can you show me who places any value on his time, who reckons the worth of each day, who understands that he is dying daily? For we are mistaken when we look forward to death; the major portion of death has already passed. Whatever years lie behind us are in death's hands.

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    e8 for sure:

    A Smoothie Recipe Written By a Cop In a Small Town That Just Had Its First Murder in 50 Years



    by Maeve Dunigan


    https://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/...er-in-50-years

  11. #411

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    ‘Your neighbours and friends have ideas about you. Do not be taken in by these ideas or in turn have ideas about them. Don't imprison people in your memory. Circumstances never repeat; life never repeats. It is only the ego which desires a known security that labels every being and situation. So live in your surroundings as if for the first time. Be without qualifications. In this nakedness you are beautiful and every moment is full of life.’

  12. #412

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    That first brush with Hollywood was instructive in good ways and bad. A studio executive on the film insisted that the characters played by Cruise and Demi Moore sleep together. Sorkin strongly disagreed, arguing that these two young lawyers are in way over their heads on the murder case and would be doing nothing but working. "The note I got from the studio executive was, 'If Tom and Demi aren't going to sleep together, why's Demi a woman?' " he reveals now. "I think about that note when I read about some one wondering why we never see Molly with a boyfriend. No one ever asked why Brad Pitt didn't have a girlfriend in Moneyball. https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/fe...s-game-1062019
    Last edited by Kalinoche buenanoche; 05-10-2020 at 08:37 AM.

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  15. #415

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    " “Adulthood” in our culture begins fairly early on - between ages 7 to 10 according to
    developmental psychologist Jean Piaget - as we learn to substitute mental activity for
    actual sensory experience. This is also a viable description of what the loss of
    innocence consists of, and is arguably a good working definition of insanity.
    I can safely bet that fantasy, interpretation and preoccupation are deeply ingrained
    habits of yours (resulting in a sense of things being separate, static, mundane, normal,
    a little dull, known - with perhaps a bit of anxiety lurking at “the edges”), and certainly of
    the culture - hard habits to see let alone break.
    Unfortunately, this is an understatement.
    Fortunately, these habits seem to dissipate on their own through noticing, which are
    what the notes address in detail.
    It is also fortunate that the juice of experience is not hidden - it is conversely so obvious
    and ubiquitous (and subtle) that we don’t even see it, it is taken for granted. These
    notes are about thawing out that ignoring. It would be accurate to say that these pages
    are about turning the process of “adulthood” around: substituting actual sensory
    experience for mental activity (which actually is a sensory experience too)."



    @Adam Strange this relates to a recent post of yours where you mentioned that babies should understand that an object keeps existing even when it goes out of sight. The supposed usefulness of the learning/ unlearning process is interesting.

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    Perfect purity is possible if you turn your life into a line of poetry written with a splash of blood.

    Yukio Mishima, Runaway Horses

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    Enlightened Hedonist Subteigh's Avatar
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    1. The world is all that is the case.
    2. What is the case—a fact—is the existence of states of affairs.
    3. A logical picture of facts is a thought.
    4. A thought is a proposition with a sense.
    5. A proposition is a truth-function of elementary propositions. (An elementary proposition is a truth-function of itself.)
    6. The general form of a truth-function is [p, E, N(E)]. This is the general form of a proposition.
    7. What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence.
    6.1 The propositions of logic are tautologies.
    6.2 Mathematics is a logical method. The propositions of mathematics are equations, and therefore pseudo-propositions.
    6.3 The exploration of logic means the exploration of everything that is subject to law. And outside logic everything is accidental.
    6.4 All propositions are of equal value.
    6.5 When the answer cannot be put into words, neither can the question be put into words. The riddle does not exist. If a question can be framed at all, it is also possible to answer it.
    6. The general form of a truth-function is [p, E, N(E)]. This is the general form of a proposition.[...]
    6.4 All propositions are of equal value.
    6.41 The sense of the world must lie outside the world. In the world everything is as it is, and everything happens as it does happen: in it no value exists—and if it did exist, it would have no value. If there is any value that does have value, it must lie outside the whole sphere of what happens and is the case. For all that happens and is the case is accidental. What makes it non-accidental cannot lie within the world, since if it did it would itself be accidental. It must lie outside the world.
    6.42 So too it is impossible for there to be propositions of ethics. Propositions can express nothing that is higher.
    6.43 If the good or bad exercise of the will does alter the world, it can alter only the limits of the world, not the facts—not what can be expressed by means of language. In short the effect must be that it becomes an altogether different world. It must, so to speak, wax and wane as a whole. The world of the happy man is a different one from that of the unhappy man.
    6.44 It is not how things are in the world that is mystical, but that it exists.
    6.45 To view the world sub specie aeterni is to view it as a whole—a limited whole. Feeling the world as a limited whole—it is this that is mystical.
    Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus by Ludwig Wittgenstein

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    Enlightened Hedonist Subteigh's Avatar
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    The Evolution of Religion
    Then when the whole earth moves beneath our feet, and cities tumble

    To the ground, hit hard, or cities badly shaken, threaten to crumble,

    Is it surprising mortal men are suddenly made humble,

    And are ready to believe in the awesome might and wondrous force

    Of gods, the powers at the rudder of the universe?

    Lucretius, De Rerum Natura, Book 5, lines 1236–40

    On the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, Adam and God touch fingers. To the uneducated eye it is not clear who is creating whom. We are supposed to assume God’s the one doing the creating, and much of the world thinks so. To anybody who has read the history of the ancient world, it is crystal clear by contrast that, in the words of the title of Selina O’Grady’s book on the subject, Man Created God. God is plainly an invention of the human imagination, whether in the form of Jahweh, Christ, Allah, Vishnu, Zeus or Anygod else. The religious impulse is not confined to conventional religion. It animates ghosts, horoscopes, ouija boards and Gaia; it explains all forms of superstition, from biodynamic farming to conspiracy theories to alien abduction to hero worship. It is the expression of what Daniel Dennett calls the intentional stance, the human instinct to see purpose and agency and power in every nook or cranny of the world. ‘We find human faces in the moon, armies in clouds . . . and ascribe malice and goodwill to every thing that hurts or pleases us,’ wrote David Hume in his Natural History of Religion.

    The urge to impute the shape of every leaf and the time of every death to the whim of an omnipotent deity may seem to be as top– down as it gets. Yet my argument will be that this phenomenon can only be explained as an instance of cultural evolution: that all gods and all superstitions emerge from within human minds, and go through characteristic but unplanned transformations as history unfolds. Thus even the most top–down feature of human culture is actually a bottom–up, emergent phenomenon.

    O’Grady vividly tells the story of how Christianity emerged in the first century AD from among a bewildering ferment of competing religious enthusiasms within the Roman empire, and was far from being the most obvious candidate to win global power. The ‘single market’ of Rome was ripe for a religious monopoly. Empires usually do become dominated by one religion to a great extent: that of Zeus in Greece, Zoroaster in Persia, Confucius in China, Buddha in the Mauryan empire, Mohamed in Arabia.

    In first-century Rome, every city had scores of cults and mystery religions competing alongside each other, usually without much jealousy – only the god of the Jews refused to tolerate others. Temples to Jupiter and Baal, Atagartis and Cybele, lay one beside another. Consolidation was inevitable: just as thousands of independently owned cafés were replaced by two or three mighty chains such as Starbucks, with superior products more slickly delivered, so it was inevitable that religious chains would take over the Roman empire. Augustus did his best to pose as a god himself, but that cut little ice with the merchants of Alexandria or the peasants of Asia Minor.

    In the middle of the first century, the cult of Apollonius of Tyana looked a better bet to conquer the empire. Like Jesus, Apollonius (who was younger, but overlapped) raised the dead, worked miracles, exorcised demons, preached charity, died and rose again, at least in spiritual form. Unlike Jesus, Apollonius was a famous Pythagorean intellectual known throughout the Near East. His birth had been foretold, he abjured sex, drank no wine and wore no animal skins. He was altogether more sophisticated than the Palestinian carpenter. He moved in grand circles: the dead person he raised was the child of a senator. His fame spread well beyond the Roman lands. When he arrived at Babylon, the Parthian King Vardanes greeted him as a celebrity and invited him to stay and teach for a year. He then travelled east to what is now Afghanistan and India, never to re-emerge. Long after his disappearance his cult competed with the Jewish, Zoroastrian and Christian creeds. Yet eventually it petered out.

    Blame Saul of Tarsus, also known as St Paul. Whereas Apollonius had a plodding Greek chronicler as his evangelist, named Philostratus, Jesus was blessed with a peculiarly persuasive if rather eccentric Pharisee who set out to reinvent and convert the Jesus cult into a universal, rather than a Jewish, faith designed to appeal to Greeks and Romans. And St Paul was acute enough to realise that the Jesus cult could be aimed at the poor and dispossessed. Its strictures against wealth, power and polygamy were well designed to appeal to those who had little to lose. Quite how the Christians eventually (three centuries on) persuaded an emperor, Constantine, to convert to their cause remains a little mysterious, but it surely had much to do with the populist appeal of the new creed. After that, the conquest of large swathes of the planet by the Christian religion owed as much to power as to persuasion. All competing religions were ruthlessly and violently stamped out wherever possible, starting with the Emperor Theodosius.

    In short, you can tell the story of the rise of Christianity without any reference to divine assistance. It was a movement like any other, a man-made cult, a cultural contagion passed from mind to mind, a natural example of cultural evolution.

    The predictability of gods
    Further evidence for the man-made nature of gods comes from their evolutionary history. It is a little-known fact, but gods evolve. There is a steady and gradual transformation through human history not only from polytheism to monotheism, but from gods who are touchy, foolish, randy and greedy people, who just happen to be immortal, to disembodied and virtuous spirits living in an entirely different realm and concerned mainly with virtue. Contrast the vengeful and irritable Jehovah of the Old Testament with the loving Christian God of today. Or philandering, jealous Zeus with the disembodied and pure Allah; or vengeful Hera and sweet Mary.

    The gods in hunter-gatherer societies manage without priests, and have little in the way of consistent doctrine. The gods of early settled societies, though organised, codified and served by specialised personnel with rituals, were (in the words of Nicolas Baumard and Pascal Boyer) ‘construed as unencumbered with moral conscience and uninterested in human morality’. This moral indifference characterised the gods of Sumer, Akkad, Egypt, Greece, Rome, the Aztec, Mayan and Inca empires, and ancient China and India.

    Only much later, in certain parts of the world – apparently those places where sufficiently high living standards caused some people to yearn, like hippies, for ascetic purity and higher ideals – did the gods suddenly become concerned with moral prescription. Priests discovered that demanding ascetic self-sacrifice induced greater loyalty. Sometimes the switch happened through a reformation, as in Judaism and Hinduism; more often through the emergence of a new and morally prescriptive god cult, as in Jainism, Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity and Islam. These moral gods proved very jealous, and more or less elbowed aside not only the morally neutral religions, but those moral codes that lacked superstitious belief, such as Pythagorism, Confucianism and stoicism. Remarkably, they all seem to recommend some version of the golden rule – do as you would be done by – as illustrated by precepts of Buddhism, Judaism, Jainism, Taoism, Christianity and Islam. They thrived, argue Baumard and Boyer, by appealing to human instincts for reciprocity and fairness – by emphasising proportionality between deeds and supernatural rewards, between sins and penance. In other words, gods evolved by adapting themselves to certain aspects of human nature, the environment in which they found themselves. They were doubly man-made, unconsciously as well as consciously: human-evolved as well as human-invented.

    Just as Rome was ripe for Christianity, the same is true of Arabia and Islam. The vast Arab empire was bound to spawn a universal religion of its own, and probably one that was jealous of others, but that it should be Mohamed’s version that would win the prize was far from inevitable. (Religion is predictable; religions are not.) Yet in this case, we are assured, it happened the other way round: a religion spawned an empire. In AD 610 Mohamed received the Koran from an angel, while living in a pagan desert town called Mecca, which was a thriving crossroads of the caravan trade, and he went on to win a remarkable battle with divine assistance and conquer Arabia. As is often said, we know a great deal more about the biography of Mohamed than we know of the life of other religious founders.

    The evolution of the prophet
    Or do we? In fact, every one of those biographical facts is doubtful. Except for one brief Christian reference to a Saracen prophet in the 630s, nothing was written down about the life of Mohamed during his lifetime, the first public mention in the Muslim world coming in 690. The detailed biographies were all written two centuries after he died. And what historians can reconstruct about late antiquity in the Near East tells us that Mecca was not a major centre of trade, indeed it is not mentioned till 741. Clearly, too, the Koran was written down not in a pagan society, but in a thoroughly monotheistic one – it has huge amounts of Christian, Jewish and Zoroastrian lore in it. The Virgin Mary features more frequently in the Koran than in the New Testament; as do a few concepts shared with the long-lost Dead Sea scrolls, which would have been obscure in the 600s, and must have been passed down from older traditions. The Koran is too full of details about Jewish and Christian literature to have been a compilation of notions picked up by a trader, let alone one from a pagan and largely illiterate society.

    Indeed, there is nothing to tie the life of the Koran’s compiler to the middle of the Arabian Peninsula at all, but lots to tie it to the fringes of Palestine and the Jordan valley: names of tribes, identification of places and mentions of cattle, olives and other creatures and plants not found in the Arabian desert. The story of Lot, Sodom and the pillars of salt is mentioned in the Koran in a way that implies it happened locally – and it almost certainly refers to salt features found close to the Dead Sea. The northern part of Arabia, just outside the bounds of the Roman empire, had long been a fertile breeding ground for exiled Jewish and Christian heresies, each drawing on different traditions and some with an admixture of Zoroastrianism from Persia. It is here, many scholars now suggest, that the Koran is actually set.

    The traditional alternative requires, of course, a leap of faith. As the historian Tom Holland, author of In the Shadow of the Sword, has put it: ‘Mecca, so the biographies of the Prophet teach us, was an inveterately pagan city devoid of any largescale Jewish or Christian presence, situated in the midst of a vast, untenanted desert. How else, then, are we to account for the sudden appearance there of a fully-fledged monotheism, complete with references to Abraham, Moses and Jesus, if not as a miracle?’

    To those who do not accept miracles it seems more likely that the Koran is almost certainly a compilation of old texts, not a new document in the seventh century. It is like a lake into which many streams flowed, a work of art that emerged from centuries of monotheistic fusions and debates, before taking its final form in the hands of a prophet in an expanding empire of newly unified Arabs pushing aside the ancient powers of Rome and Sassanid Persia. It is, in Tom Holland’s vivid words, a bloom from the seedbed of antiquity, not a guillotine dropped on the neck of antiquity. It contains bits of Roman imperial propaganda, stories of Christian saints, remnants of Gnostic gospels and parts of ancient Jewish tracts.

    Holland goes on to speculate about how the Arab civilisation arose, and minted its new religion as it did so. The (bubonic) plague of Justinian in AD 541 devastated the cities of the (Byzantine) Roman and Persian empires, but left the nomads on the southern fringes of both empires relatively unscathed. Nomads have fewer flea-infested rats in their tents than city dwellers do in their houses, which makes plague much less of a problem. In the wake of the plague, parts of the imperial frontier were depopulated, left undefended and ruined, leaving fertile land for the nomads to expand into. A great war between Constantinople and Persia in the early 600s, in which first Persians then Romans triumphed, further exhausted the hegemonic powers and further emboldened the nomadic tribes on the fringes. The Koran contains hints that it is set against this backdrop of a great war, and includes echoes of the campaigns of Heraclius and his attempt to don the mantle of Alexander.

    It is only in retrospect that Mohamed is enshrined as a prophet, the Sunni tradition is crystallised and the Hadiths are written down to give Mohamed a realistic and detailed life. By then the Arabs had established a wide empire with firm but brittle self-confidence, and there was clearly a determination to extinguish any hints of intellectual ancestry of Islam within the infidel faiths of Christianity and Judaism. So the sudden, miraculous, a nihilo invention of Islam by Mohamed becomes the story that is told. In fact, what was going on in the 690s was that a newly entrenched Umayyad Amir, Abd al-Malik, set about deliberately cultivating the legend of the prophet, naming him for the first time. ‘In the name of God. Muhammad is the messenger of God’ was stamped on his coins. He did so deliberately to separate his empire’s religion from that of the rival Romans, establish that it was not just a reformed version of Christianity, and ‘rub Roman noses in the inferiority of their superstitions’, to use Tom Holland’s words: ‘Out of the flotsam and jetsam of beliefs left scattered by the great flood tide of Arab conquests, something coherent – something manifestly God-stamped – would have to be fashioned: in short, a religion.’ Thus, Islam was more the consequence than the cause of Arab conquest.

    There is nothing uniquely Muslim about this. It is what Christianity and Judaism did also: construct elaborate backstories to obscure their origins. We can see it most clearly in recent religious innovations, like Mormonism and Scientology. Consider the bald facts of the matter about the Church of Latter-Day Saints: in upstate New York in the 1820s, an impoverished amateur treasure-seeker who had stood trial on a charge of falsely pretending to find lost treasure, named Joseph Smith, claimed he had been directed by an angel to a spot where he dug up gold plates on which was written text in an ancient script and language, which he found he could miraculously translate. The plates had since, he said, been put in a chest, but the angel had told him to show them to nobody. Instead he was to publish a translation. Some years later he dictated 584 pages of this translation, which proved to be written in the style of the King James Bible and to be a chronicle of some early inhabitants of North America who had somehow travelled there by ship from Babylon hundreds of years before Christ, but who none the less believed in Jesus.

    Of the two possibilities – that this is true, or that Joseph Smith made it up – one is far more plausible than the other. Yet to me there is nothing, except the grandeur granted by the passage of many centuries, to distinguish the implausibility of Mormonism from that of Christianity, Islam or Judaism. After all, Moses too went up a hill and came down with written instructions from God. All religions look man-made to me.
    ~ The Evolution of Everything: How New Ideas Emerge by Matt Ridley

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    Quote Originally Posted by Subteigh View Post
    ~ The Evolution of Everything: How New Ideas Emerge by Matt Ridley
    I have this book. Obviously, I should read it.

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    I was just sitting down to start weil's waiting for God and I remembered this thread exists <3 and I have pictures on my phone that I took of a book I was reading, a week or so ago, bcuz I was feeling it <3 but I didn't know what to do w them cuz I don't feel comfy about sharing that on fb or sth. Anyway! Sitting down for Weil reminded me, bcuz Kierkegaard is the other author i place in the same category, which is "Christian thought that is totally my jam"

    So here's those Kierkegaard book pics that have just been sitting on my phone <3


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    Weil

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    ^ I like the “perfect obedience” part, but I probably shouldn’t.

    Reminds me of the disturbing lyrics of Dusty Springfield.

    Personally, I think that imperfect collaboration is better for everyone.
    Last edited by Adam Strange; 12-26-2020 at 04:23 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Subteigh
    Further evidence for the man-made nature of gods comes from their evolutionary history. It is a little-known fact, but gods evolve. There is a steady and gradual transformation through human history not only from polytheism to monotheism, but from gods who are touchy, foolish, randy and greedy people, who just happen to be immortal, to disembodied and virtuous spirits living in an entirely different realm and concerned mainly with virtue. Contrast the vengeful and irritable Jehovah of the Old Testament with the loving Christian God of today. Or philandering, jealous Zeus with the disembodied and pure Allah; or vengeful Hera and sweet Mary.
    An understanding of Zeus as a "philanderer" evolved too. Zeus was conflated with gods from different cultures, many of which had their own mythologies about important figures being descended from the god. Or aristocrats might claim to be descended from a god. This understanding of Zeus as a "philanderer" comes from people realizing thousands of figures claim descent from Zeus and satirizing their own religion.

    In early mythology gods are painted as human -- often more human than actual humans. In the Iliad you notice that people seemingly aren't written with much of a sense of agency. They're usually described as taking action either because of the influence of a god, or because of some emotion or impulse arising out of some part of their body (Achilles might act because his thumos, for instance, inspires him, but you rarely just see "Achilles acted" if some consequential decision is being described). Gods have to be "human" because they're really the only forces with agency, and everything that happens is directly due to their influence. If something good happens one day and then something bad happens the next, it's either because the god in charge of the event was capricious, or you did something wrong and he punished you. The gods are right there; you can directly experience their influence; you might even believe for whatever reason that you see the gods themselves physically in front of you. Gods might even be conflated with their representations in the form of idols; the idols might talk to you, or even move around on their own. But as people gain more an idea of agency idols go away; if there are physical representations of gods they're moved to temples, and there's an understanding that they aren't really the gods themselves. The number of gods also declines. Every force of nature you encounter doesn't necessitate a god to explain it anymore, and you maybe don't need a different god to protect every room of your house. Instead of 12,000 gods you worship you might lower that number to 12. The gods can then become more abstract -- they created the world, maybe, but don't directly cause every single blade of grass to grow or wind to blow. The idea of monotheism is also made possible: all you really need at this point is a creator god who occasionally interacts with the world.

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    What's the purpose of SEI? Tallmo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Subteigh View Post
    Further evidence for the man-made nature of gods comes from their evolutionary history.
    Gods are obviously personifications of psychic forces, but it depends what we mean by "man-made". Are dreams man-made? Some things to consider:

    If you are overcome by rage you might do something stupid. Later you calm down and you say "I don't know what went into me". Is rage man-made?

    You meet a beautiful girl and fall in love so that you loose your mind and you can't work and only think about her. Is erotic love man-made?

    It is a little-known fact, but gods evolve.
    I've read that there is also a backwards movement were gods regress. They go from gods to heros to characters in literature/ entertainment.

    I think that at least for more secular people Jesus has regressed from the redeemer archetype with actual spiritual content to become some kind of general "good guy" that he is now. The spiritual content of Christianity has been lost and we are left with only the message of love.
    A true sense-perception certainly exists, but it always looks as though objects were not so much forcing their way into the subject in their own right as that the subject were seeing things quite differently, or saw quite other things than the rest of mankind. As a matter of fact, the subject perceives the same things as everybody else, only, he never stops at the purely objective effect, but concerns himself with the subjective perception released by the objective stimulus.
    (Jung on Si)

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    Enlightened Hedonist Subteigh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tallmo View Post
    Gods are obviously personifications of psychic forces, but it depends what we mean by "man-made". Are dreams man-made?
    They're an aspect experienced by us. I don't know if we can be meaningful said to create our dreams

    Quote Originally Posted by Tallmo View Post
    Some things to consider:

    If you are overcome by rage you might do something stupid. Later you calm down and you say "I don't know what went into me". Is rage man-made?
    That's a state experienced by us. I don't know if by man-made, you mean something which is created by Man, or something which is experienced by Man.
    Quote Originally Posted by Tallmo View Post
    You meet a beautiful girl and fall in love so that you loose your mind and you can't work and only think about her. Is erotic love man-made?
    That's a state experienced by us. I don't know if by man-made, you mean something which is created by Man, or something which is experienced by Man.
    Quote Originally Posted by Tallmo View Post
    I've read that there is also a backwards movement were gods regress. They go from gods to heros to characters in literature/ entertainment.

    I think that at least for more secular people Jesus has regressed from the redeemer archetype with actual spiritual content to become some kind of general "good guy" that he is now. The spiritual content of Christianity has been lost and we are left with only the message of love.
    My understanding of Christianity that it is primarily a message of hate. There is nothing loving about "follow me or be punished".

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    I don't wanna create a tangent in this thread but I wanna mention that I was thinking earlier about a post I made mentioning diff approaches to the Bible and thought how (though not a definitive factor) I would say that @Subteigh decidedly takes an approach I would categorize as logical in socionics. I saw his name here and assumed it had something to do w my own reading pics, but I see there is another conversation and it's not about me, carry on lol

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    What's the purpose of SEI? Tallmo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Subteigh View Post

    That's a state experienced by us. I don't know if by man-made, you mean something which is created by Man, or something which is experienced by Man.
    I think it's really interesting to examine psychic forces. A man falls in love with some pretty girl that he barely knows. He stops eating, becomes pale, can't work. Some men have died from this. Obviously it was not her fault personally. She only matches an image in his mind. If something like that can kill you it is in a way reasonable to call it a god.

    The point is that this is what the gods always were. They were just projected into images and mythological stories. It's a matter of definition, but in some way gods actually exist as real terrifying powers.

    My understanding of Christianity that it is primarily a message of hate. There is nothing loving about "follow me or be punished".
    I'm thinking more about the "living Christ" in the minds of people. It was definitely a genuine experience 2000 years ago with all the hype and myth formation. People still have an image of Christ but it is very much watered down in my opinion. But it probably varies a lot.
    A true sense-perception certainly exists, but it always looks as though objects were not so much forcing their way into the subject in their own right as that the subject were seeing things quite differently, or saw quite other things than the rest of mankind. As a matter of fact, the subject perceives the same things as everybody else, only, he never stops at the purely objective effect, but concerns himself with the subjective perception released by the objective stimulus.
    (Jung on Si)

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    Enlightened Hedonist Subteigh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tallmo View Post
    I think it's really interesting to examine psychic forces. A man falls in love with some pretty girl that he barely knows. He stops eating, becomes pale, can't work. Some men have died from this. Obviously it was not her fault personally. She only matches an image in his mind. If something like that can kill you it is in a way reasonable to call it a god.

    The point is that this is what the gods always were. They were just projected into images and mythological stories. It's a matter of definition, but in some way gods actually exist as real terrifying powers.
    Reality doesn't become more powerful by using intangible definitions.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tallmo View Post
    I'm thinking more about the "living Christ" in the minds of people. It was definitely a genuine experience 2000 years ago with all the hype and myth formation. People still have an image of Christ but it is very much watered down in my opinion. But it probably varies a lot.
    There are so many Christs that I have absolutely no idea what you are talking about.

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    https://www.academia.edu/9768942/Met...ract-read-more

    "That is why surpassing capitalism will mean surpassing philosophy and philosophical metaphysics (since, as demonstrated above, metaphysics does not necessarily have to be philosophical)."

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    "And although we live in the most debased of all ages, it’s still possible, as you will see, to break this Babylon and have the eternal fire of youth surge you to the heights of power. In your own life you can break their power and ascend to a chaos of joy and destruction. And in our future I already see like faint image far on horizon of vast ocean in violet evening—I see the islands of Hyperborea, on the edge of this Leviathan, where we will be able to establish new outposts and subdue this great beast from the outside."

    BAP. (2018). Bronze Age Mindset.

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    And herein, I think, all the philosophers of the newest age are open to a serious criticism. What they do not possess is real standing in actual life. Not one of them has intervened effectively, either in higher politics, in the development of modern technics, in matters of communication, in economics, or in any other big actuality, with a single act or a single compelling idea. Not one of them counts in mathematics, in physics, in the science of government, even to the extent that Kant counted. Let us glance at other times. Confucius was several times a minister. Pythagoras was the organizer of an important political movement akin to the Cromwellian, the significance of which is even now far underestimated by Classical researchers. Goethe, besides being a model executive minister — though lacking, alas! the operative sphere of a great state — was interested in the Suez and Panama canals (the dates of which he foresaw with accuracy) and their effects on the economy of the world, and he busied himself again and again with the question of American economic life and its reactions on the Old World, and with that of the dawning era of machine industry. Hobbes was one of the originators of the great plan of winning South America for England, and although in execution the plan went no further than the occupation of Jamaica, he has the glory of being one of the founders of the British Colonial Empire. Leibniz, without doubt the greatest intellect in Western philosophy, the founder of the differential calculus and the analysis situs, conceived or cooperated in a number of major political schemes, one of which was to relieve Germany by drawing the attention of Louis XIV to the importance of Egypt as a factor in French world policy. The ideas of the memorandum on this subject that he drew up for the Grand Monarch were so far in advance of their time (1672) that it has been thought that Napoleon made use of them for his Eastern venture. Even thus early, Leibniz laid down the principle that Napoleon grasped more and more clearly after Wagram, viz., that acquisitions on the Rhine and in Belgium would not permanently better the position of France and that the neck of Suez would one day be the key of world dominance. Doubtless the King was not equal to these deep political and strategic conceptions of the Philosopher.

    Turning from men of this mold to the “philosophers” of today, one is dismayed and shamed. How poor their personalities, how commonplace their political and practical outlook! Why is it that the mere idea of calling upon one of them to prove his intellectual eminence in government, diplomacy, large scale organization, or direction of any big colonial, commercial or transport concern is enough to evoke our pity? And this insufficiency indicates, not that they possess inwardness, but simply that they lack weight. I look round in vain for an instance in which a modern “philosopher” has made a name by even one deep or far seeing pronouncement on an important question of the day. I see nothing but provincial opinions of the same kind as anyone else’s. Whenever I take up a work by a modern thinker, I find myself asking: has he any idea whatever of the actualities of world politics, world city problems, capitalism, the future of the state, the relation of technics to the course of civilization, Russia, Science? Goethe would have understood all this and reveled in it, but there is not one living philosopher capable of taking it in. This sense of actualities is of course not the same thing as the content of a philosophy but, I repeat, it is an infallible symptom of its inward necessity, its fruitfulness and its symbolic importance.

    We must allow ourselves no illusions as to the gravity of this negative result. It is palpable that we have lost sight of the final significance of effective philosophy. We confuse philosophy with preaching, with agitation, with novel writing, with lecture room jargon. We have descended from the perspective of the bird to that of the frog. It has come to this, that the very possibility of a real philosophy of today and tomorrow is in question. If not, it were far better to become a colonist or an engineer, to do something, no matter what, that is true and real, than to chew over once more the old dried up themes under cover of an alleged “new wave of philosophic thought” — far better to construct an aero engine than a new theory of apperception that is not wanted. Truly it is a poor life’s work to restate once more, in slightly different terms, views of a hundred predecessors on the Will or on psycho-physical parallelism. This may be a profession, but a philosophy it emphatically is not. A doctrine that does not attack and affect the life of the period in its inmost depths is no doctrine and had better not be taught. And what was possible even yesterday is, today, at least not indispensable.

    To me, the depths and refinement of mathematical and physical theories are a joy; by comparison, the aesthete and the physiologist are fumblers. I would sooner have the fine mind begotten forms of a fast steamer, a steel structure, a precision lathe, the subtlety and elegance of many chemical and optical processes, than all the pickings and stealings of Present day “arts and crafts,” architecture and painting included. I prefer one Roman aqueduct to all Roman temples and statues. I love the Colosseum and the giant vault of the Palatine, for they display for me today in the brown massiveness of their brick construction the real Rome and the grand practical sense of her engineers, but it is a matter of indifference to me whether the empty and pretentious marblery of the Caesars — their rows of statuary, their friezes, their overloaded architraves — is preserved or not. Glance at some reconstruction of the Imperial Fora — do we not find them the true counterpart of a modern International Exhibition, obtrusive, bulky, empty, a boasting in materials and dimensions wholly alien to Periclean Greece and the Rococo alike, but exactly paralleled in the Egyptian modernism that is displayed in the ruins of Rameses II (1300 B.C.) at Luxor and Karnak? It was not for nothing that the genuine Roman despised the Graeculus histrio, the kind of “artist” and the kind of “philosopher” to be found on the soil of Roman Civilization. The time for art and philosophy had passed; they were exhausted, used up, superfluous, and his instinct for the realities of life told him so. One Roman law weighed more than all the lyrics and school metaphysics of the time together. And I maintain that today many an inventor, many a diplomat, many a financier is a sounder philosopher than all those who practice the dull craft of experimental psychology. This is a situation which regularly repeats itself at a certain historical level. It would have been absurd in a Roman of intellectual eminence, who might as Consul or Praetor lead armies, organize provinces, build cities and roads, or even be the Princeps in Rome, to want to hatch out some new variant of post-Platonic school philosophy at Athens or Rhodes. Consequently no one did so. It was not in harmony with the tendency of the age, and therefore it only attracted third class men of the kind that always advances as far as the Zeitgeist of the day before yesterday. It is a very grave question whether this stage has or has not set in for us already.

    Spengler, Decline of the West.

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    That sunny dome! those caves of ice!
    And all who heard should see them there,
    And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
    His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
    Weave a circle round him thrice,
    And close your eyes with holy dread,
    For he on honey-dew hath fed,
    And drunk the milk of Paradise.
    Rereading the classics.

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    It was in the reign of George II that the above-named personages lived and quarrelled; good or bad, handsome or ugly, rich or poor, they are all equal now...
    From The Luck of Barry Lyndon.

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    Chapter 10: A Revisionist Scenario

    After the investigations of the preceding chapters, here is what we know about the traditional account of Muhammad's life and the early days of Islam:

    • No record of Muhammad's reported death in 632 appears until more than a century after that date.

    • A Christian account apparently dating from the mid-630s speaks of an Arab prophet “armed with a sword” who seems to be still alive.

    • The early accounts written by the people the Arabs conquered never mention Islam, Muhammad, or the Qur'an. They call the conquerors “Ishmaelites,” “Saracens,” “Muhajirun,” and “Hagarians,” but never “Muslims.”

    • The Arab conquerors, in their coins and inscriptions, don't mention Islam or the Qur'an for the first six decades of their conquests. Mentions of “Muhammad” are nonspecific and on at least two occasions are accompanied by a cross. The word can be used not only as a proper name but also as an honorific.

    • The Qur'an, even by the canonical Muslim account, was not distributed in its present form until the 650s. Contradicting that standard account is the fact that neither the Arabians nor the Christians and Jews in the region mention the Qur'an until the early eighth century.

    • During the reign of the caliph Muawiya (661–680), the Arabs constructed at least one public building whose inscription was headed by a cross.

    • We begin hearing about Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, and about Islam itself in the 690s, during the reign of the caliph Abd al-Malik. Coins and inscriptions reflecting Islamic beliefs begin to appear at this time also.

    • Around the same time, Arabic became the predominant written language of the Arabian Empire, supplanting Syriac and Greek.

    • Abd al-Malik claimed, in a passing remark in one hadith, to have collected the Qur'an, contradicting Islamic tradition that the collection was the work of the caliph Uthman forty years earlier.

    • Multiple hadiths report that Hajjaj ibn Yusuf, governor of Iraq during the reign of Abd al-Malik, edited the Qur'an and distributed his new edition to the various Arab-controlled provinces—again, something Uthman is supposed to have done decades earlier.

    • Even some Islamic traditions maintain that certain common Islamic practices, such as the recitation of the Qur'an during mosque prayers, date from orders of Hajjaj ibn Yusuf, not to the earliest period of Islamic history.

    • In the middle of the eighth century, the Abbasid dynasty supplanted the Umayyad line of Abd al-Malik. The Abbasids charged the Umayyads with impiety on a large scale. In the Abbasid period, biographical material about Muhammad began to proliferate. The first complete biography of the prophet of Islam finally appeared during this era—at least 125 years after the traditional date of his death.

    • The biographical material that emerged situates Muhammad in an area of Arabia that never was the center for trade and pilgrimage that the canonical Islamic account of Islam's origins depends on it to be.

    In short, the lack of confirming detail in the historical record, the late development of biographical material about the Islamic prophet, the atmosphere of political and religious factionalism in which that material developed, and much more suggest that the Muhammad of Islamic tradition did not exist, or if he did, he was substantially different from how that tradition portrays him.

    How to make sense of all this? If the Arab forces who conquered so much territory beginning in the 630s were not energized by the teachings of a new prophet and the divine word he delivered, how did the Islamic character of their empire arise at all? If Muhammad did not exist, why was it ever considered necessary to invent him?

    Any answer to these questions will of necessity be conjectural—but in light of the facts above, so is the canonical account of Islam's origins.
    ~ Did Muhammad Exist?: An Inquiry into Islam's Obscure Origins by Robert Spencer

    He's supposedly a controversial figure (I mean Robert Spencer in this instance), but it is difficult for me to find any of his points here wrong.

    It is currently my view that we cannot really say anything definitive about Muhammad or Jesus as historical individuals who actually existed. My current position is to doubt they did and that I am open for others to persuade me otherwise. I think with a truth claim, I ideally believe in proportion to the evidence and if there is no evidence then my default position should be to not believe it rather than to disbelieve it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Subteigh View Post
    ~ Did Muhammad Exist?: An Inquiry into Islam's Obscure Origins by Robert Spencer

    He's supposedly a controversial figure (I mean Robert Spencer in this instance), but it is difficult for me to find any of his points here wrong.

    It is currently my view that we cannot really say anything definitive about Muhammad or Jesus as historical individuals who actually existed. My current position is to doubt they did and that I am open for others to persuade me otherwise. I think with a truth claim, I ideally believe in proportion to the evidence and if there is no evidence then my default position should be to not believe it rather than to disbelieve it.
    In university one of the classes I took was on early Islam. The professor made sure to emphasize that nothing of the time of Mohammed can be known by reliable sources, including whether he even existed. I didn’t receive an impression that this was controversial, for what that’s worth.

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    Quote Originally Posted by FreelancePoliceman View Post
    In university one of the classes I took was on early Islam. The professor made sure to emphasize that nothing of the time of Mohammed can be known by reliable sources, including whether he even existed. I didn’t receive an impression that this was controversial, for what that’s worth.
    By level of the number of people who would strongly disagree, it must be highly controversial.

    He is probably the second most written about figure in history, but there must be tens of thousands of books entirely lacking in substance. I only know of a small handful of books that actually do have something substantial to say (the one I consider the best and most neutral is "In The Shadow of the Sword" by Tom Holland although I feel those who would be most interested would stop reading very quickly because they fundamentally disagree about what is said about a topic that is emotive for them).

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    So let’s go back to the original question posed by Anthony Downs. Suppose you were deciding whether to vote in the 2008 election. When, given all this, does it make rational sense to vote?

    First, you have to put a value on the difference between a McCain presidency and an Obama presidency. One way to arrive at this value is to ask yourself, How much would I be willing to pay to be the only person who gets to choose whether McCain or Obama is president? You can go to the bank and withdraw any amount you like. How much would you hand over to be the kingmaker, the one person who chooses who runs the country for the next four years? One dollar? Ten dollars? One million dollars? When undergraduates answer this question, they usually give amounts of less than $10, which is astonishing since this is probably the greatest value anyone could get for a $10 purchase. However, for the sake of argument, let’s say you think it is a very important decision and you are willing to spend $1,000 of your own money to be the only person who chooses the next president of the United States.

    Second, you have to account for the fact that, by voting, you get the opportunity to determine the election’s outcome only when there is an exact tie. Otherwise, the outcome will not change whether you vote or not. So the value of voting is not $1,000; instead, it is a 1 in 10 million chance to obtain the $1,000 value.

    Third, and finally, you have to compare your anticipated benefit to the costs of voting. Most people say that the costs of gathering information and going to the polls are not that great, so for convenience let’s assume they are $1. They could be much higher, of course, but they are almost certainly greater than zero.

    Hence, now that we have your costs and benefits all worked out, the rational analysis of voting suggests that the decision to vote equates roughly with the decision to pay $1 for a lottery ticket that gives you a 1 in 10 million chance of winning a $1,000 prize. Las Vegas would love to sell these tickets. If they could sell 10 million tickets, they would make $10 million dollars and owe just $1,000 in prize money. But even the most ardent gambler would probably refuse to buy them, knowing that the odds are extremely unfair. The average person would probably need other inducements to buy a ticket, because slot machines, blackjack tables, and roulette wheels all have vastly better odds. Even state lotteries that use funds from ticket sales to provide public services rather than prize money typically offer people millions of dollars in winnings, not thousands, for odds like these. And so we are left with the same puzzle we began with. Why do millions of people vote in spite of these odds and payoffs? What is it about elections that make them different from lotteries?
    Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives (2008) by Nicholas A. Christakis & James H. Fowler

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    In the summer of 2009, fifteen young tourists made a pilgrimage to Belgrade, the capital of Serbia. After walking them around the city’s square, the tour guide, a lanky Serbian in his midthirties, regaled them with stories about the country’s recent history of inflated potato prices, free rock concerts, and wars with neighboring countries. But as the guide sprinkled his comments about Serbia with references to Monty Python humor and Tolkien fantasies, the tourists grew impatient. They weren’t just an ordinary group of travelers. They had come to Belgrade to learn how to overthrow their own country’s dictator.

    Searching for a way to fight back against a tyrant, they asked the tour guide about how his countrymen had defeated the Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic. You don’t need to take big risks, the guide told them. You can demonstrate your resistance in small ways—drive slower than usual, throw Ping-Pong balls onto the streets, or put food coloring in fountains to make the water look different. The foreigners scoffed at his advice: such trivial actions wouldn’t make a dent in an iron curtain. It can never happen in our country, a man insisted. If we stand up to him, a woman challenged, our dictator will simply make us vanish. How can we even plan a revolution, when he has made it illegal to gather in groups of more than three?

    They didn’t know it, but the tour guide had heard all these objections before. He heard them in 2003 from Georgian activists, in 2004 from Ukrainian activists, in 2005 from Lebanese activists, and in 2008 from Maldivian activists. In each case, they overcame fear and apathy and took down their respective dictators.

    The tour guide, Srdja Popovic, had trained them all.
    ~ Originals: How Nonconformists Move the World by Adam M. Grant

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    All religions are not equal in their capacity to mete out violence and genocidal hate. To say otherwise is to be hopelessly misguided or profoundly duplicitous. Two other popular deflections are 'But what about the crusades?' and 'But the Bible also has violent passages.' The crusades were a response to hundreds of years of Islamic aggression, and they took place within a very restricted time and place, nearly a millennium ago. As for the Bible, you can count on one hand the number of individuals who have used violent passages from Deuteronomy to justify act of terrorism in the twenty-first century. On the other hand, innumerable Jihadis around the world use Islamic doctrines to justify their violent actions. Scale matters. Another classic ploy used by apologists is the 'No True Scotsman' fallacy. This argues that entire Islamic countries, Islamic governments, and leading Islamic scholars are "fake" representations of the true faith. If you point to sharia law in Saudi Arabia, the retort is that this does not represent True Islam. Similarly, Iran's mullahs apparently do not represent True Islam. Osama Bin Laden was a "fake" Muslim. Other "fake" Muslims include Amin al-Husseini (the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem who was on friendly terms with Adolf Hıtler), Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi (arguably the leading Sunni theologian today), and Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (the late leader of ISIS).”
    ~ Gad Saad, The Parasitic Mind: How Infectious Ideas Are Killing Common Sense

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