Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Monday, September 13, 2004

Esoterrorism; in process

ALOT more explaining needs to happen here for this blog to make sense, but here are the bits so far.

A page of Talmud (vol. Shabbat 31), features the famous story of a prospective convert to Judaism (known as a Ger), who seperately approached two famous rabbis of the time, Hillel and Shammai, seeking their counsel. He queries Shammai regarding the number of "torahs" (primary bodies of knowledge regarding the Jewish way of life), that Judaism has. Shammai tells him there are two, "the Written and the Oral"; the gentile denies the oral, and says he accepts the written, whereupon Shammai rebukes him with a measuring stick (sounds weird, but remember the image). Hillel however accepts him provisionally as a potential convert in Training. This is regardless of the potential-converts denial of the existance of an interpretive mechanism that accompanies the Text (which, in Orthodox Judaism, is considered THE Given facts), i.e., Oral Torah (maybe this understanding I give is Jewishly reasonable, maybe not).
Another incident regarding a prospective Ger is mentioned on the same page of Talmud, where a different Ger asked both Hillel and Shammai to sum up the whole of the Jewish way of life and worldview in a short enough time for him to stand "on one foot"; Shammai sends him away, but Hillel accepts him and answers his question by saying "the whole of Torah is embodied in 'love your neighbor as yourself'; the rest is commentary".
In yet another incident, a potential Ger approaches the same two sages, and wishes to convert so long has he is allowed to become the High Priest (the main functionary in the ancient temple in Jerusalem who did major heavy cosmic stuff). Shammai rejects him (1, probably because..thats silly!...2, because it's common knowledge that a convert may not take a position that depends on hereditary eligability). Hillel, however, agrees to teach him, and begins with a (rather obscure...), Law regarding capital punishment for anyone who is not of priestly lineage who engages in a specific act, even if he is the King.

Each time Hillel accepts a potential convert, he does so with reference to the Oral Torah;
1)In the first story, the issue is the basic existance of the Oral component as such, and the authority of those who live out the Whole Torah.
2)in the second, the simplicity, "commentary nature" of the Oral law in "fractaling out" from "love you neighbor..".
3)the authority of the Oral Law comes into play; certain capital offense laws apply to even the king, who it would seem (based on the Ancient Israelites contemporaries), is THE arbitor of laws of conduct and death penalities.

2 and 3 to be discussed/worked in later.

Regarding the "two torahs" convert, Hillel gives him his first lesson on the spot; learn Aleph Bet (the alphabet). The guy comes back the next day, and R. Hillel tests him- but reversed the order of letters. The guy says basically "hey wait a minute; didn't you tell me yesterday 'a,b,c,d,etc", and Hillel responds "must you then not rely upon me?; likewise regarding the Oral Torah". Part of what I think he says regards an essential, ever present 'oral' component without which EVEN THE MOST ESSENTIAL BUILDING BLOCKS of language, and hence of worldview - OF EXISTENCE CANNOT BE UNDERSTOOD (from the perspective of Kabbalah, Jewish 'theology' as it were, the letters are even considered the "building blocks" of all Creation, of the visible and invisible universe).
I think this applies to all rubrics (christian, Naturalism, Islamic, Buddhist, Primal/Indigenous, etc), in that they entail some pre'textual', pretheoretical Assumptions that EVERYTHING is understood (explained/misunderstood/"mystified", etc). In the modern world, the source for much of this is from Tanach as well as "Biblical" (christian), systems, even secularisms (which are Xtian heresies; Clouser/Dooyewerd/Voeglin, etc)...


damn...lost my train of thought...anyways, I'm very interested in the relationship of orality to literacy, and the transmission of "The Givens", pretheoretical assumptions that can't be doubted if you want your language-game-of-choice to's most often the case that in the West, most prime "language games" derive from essentially Torah/"Biblical" perspectives, either in reaction against it or from it, or from the presumptions shared by it/the ensuing Churches/social systems, etc. Greek/classical thought would not have survived if not for Monastic christianity and certain schools of Islamic thought that placed a value (though often polemic), in preserving the works. And with the renaissance (NOT the first time Classic works were translated), there were more Esoteric ways Ancient world-presuppositions were transmitted (the first texts translated weren't Classical, but Hermetic (i.e "occult") works, and with Freemasonry and Freethought movements, Rambam's influence in Latin translation of Moreh Nevukhim ("The Guide to the Perplexed"; especially on skepticism and Liebniz), with vernacular printing the accessabilty of "The Bible", it's perceived errors and inaccuracies, and it as an opponent, something to be revised, understood, amended, disputed, etc., also the death of "Scholarly Languages", of greek and latin or at least their STATUS as such...scientific/philosophic texts made accessable in local tongues; also "mystification" of languages that needed "translating", a new concept in some ways since printing flourished (yeah, Chinese printed, but didn't disseminate/foster the practice) and the Works themselves; also DEmystification of said texts, particularly religious texts of Others becoming "philosophical", when a pan-language-game-logic is assumed/accepted...the dissemination of "esoterism" in groups that required trappings of "mystery religion"; initiation, "code", etc...and what's "worse" (depending on your secondary commitments epistemologically/intellectually/morally-speaking), is...there are lots of good reasons to believe not only that Torah Givens aren't simply true pragmatically (Jamesian, some PoMo perspectives), but that they are TRUE in the most function-making ways possible in Olam HaZeh (this world). Where was I?


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