Friday, November 6, 2015

Carson and the Pseudo-Archeologists

Presidential candidate Ben Carson made use of his Seventh-Day Adventist convictions to interpret the Pyramids as grain silos, provoking reactions from many archeologists, such as Kristina Killgrove, who pointed out not only various issues with the claim but also to general recent efforts in combating pseudo-archeology in the first place. The most interesting of these are the initiative to review pseudo-archeological work in archeological reviews and the link to a Fall 2015 university course on that problem.

My take-home quote for right now is
In the second review, The Ancient Alien Question, archaeologist Jeb Card points out, as does Feder, that the origins of this idea lay in Victorian mysticism and Theosophy, a movement that “blended hermetic magic, spiritualism, Western curiosity ab[o]ut Eastern religion, colonial racism, and misconceptions of evolution into a worldview of root races, lost continents, and ascended masters who originated on Venus or other worlds.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Models of FW's Conceptualization of Trinity and Christology

There is a set of pairwise terms that Falk Wagner and his modern interpreters have used to discuss the inner-trinitarian and the christological situation with respect to an interpretation of modern religion guided by religious sociology.

FW himself had used

  • Transzendenz und Immanenz
  • Selbstsein und Anderssein
  • Personalität und Sozietät
to capture the structure of Christology. FW can even speak of "personaler Transzendenz und sozialer Immanenz". The point is always to retain the "Selbstzweck" of the individual in the face of the powerful social systems. In this context, FW dispenses with super-natural subjects and functionalizes them for the construction and build-out of the religious consciousness.

His interpreters accept the transcendent and immanent conceptualization, but propose to use instead pairs such as
  • Offenbarung und Geschichte
  • Glaube und Geschichte
  • Selbstverständnis und Selbstbild
  • Dogmatik und Historie
to capture the Christological structure. The argument goes that revelation and history replace the dual-nature problem in Christ for the Enlightenment theology, and under the impact of David Friedrich Strauss transform the revelation-aspect into the faith-aspect (Ritschl und Herrmann). 

This follows FW's lead in emphasizing the fact that only the individual's religiosity can be the proper subject of study in modern times. This allows to treat Christology as the theory of the symbolic representation in the self-relationship of the religious consciousness. Though nobody has written so, AFAIK, this meshes well with the Reformation notion of a "simul iustus et peccator", where the self-understanding is iustus while the self-image as historical is peccator

The drawback of that strategy is that it truncates the social aspect of the solution FW had sketched. Theology has no longer any contribution to make to the question of the Selbstzweck of the individual, or has to do so using a completely different road.

For the point of departure with FW is that the realization of the self in ignorance of the other is the definition of sin. FW's criticism vis-a-vis Barth is that it cannot be sin if mankind does it but the height of divine majesty if God does it, and that is why the correspondence of self and other in its reflexive logic of acceptance (Anerkennungslogik) has to be placed at the core of the trinitarian description. 

From this point of view, the self-understanding of the religious consciousness is a reduction that leaves quite a bit of the productivity of the FW approach by the wayside.

PS: In this context, FW's critics claim the "Zugangsproblem" that dogmatics and empirical sociology of religion can both only provide the services of "deuten und konstruieren" for the empirical religion as lived. However, the difference that FW seems to be after is the distinction between normative and descriptive, as in linguistics; and to the extent that dogmatic theology is willing to be descriptive only, it has effectively traded places with a sociology of religion that proceeds in an empirical fashion. At least a juxtaposition of the shape "Dogmatik und Historie" does not lend credence to that tack, however.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Trust Discussions

In the late 1980s, Diego Gambetta invited a host of scholars to King's College, Cambridge, to discuss trust from the point of view of a plurality of disciplines.

Diego Gambetta (ed), Trust. Making and Breaking Cooperative Relations,  Cambridge (Basil Blackwell)1988.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Andersson on Alternative archaeology

Alternative archaeology: many pasts in our present by Pia Andersson distinguishes the two approaches that archeologists have taken to the alternative interpretations of the past provided or demanded. She contrasts the derogatory vocabulary [bogus, pseudo, ...] from the vocabulary that focuses on the different stances [cult, fantasy, popular], and gives the following themes to distinguishing the academic from the non-academic world (p.127).

William Stiebing has been influential in his attempts to single out three defining criteria: 1) an absence of scientific methodology and proof, 2) a tendency to seek simple answers to complex problems, and 3) an ambivalent and often hostile attitude toward the scientific establishment (Stiebing 1984). (p.127)
Andersson categorizes the approaches using the following image (p.128):

Andersson then points out (p.131) the classical topics of alternative archeology, ranging from Giza and Stonehenge to Chichen Itza and Carnac in France. Equally there is range of artefacts, so called "OOPAs", i.e. "out-of-place artefacts" (p.133) that hold the attention of alternative archeology, such as the Antikythera Mechanism.

Much of alternative archaeology is based on presuppositions not shared by conventional archaeologists. (p.134) 

Bibliographic Record

Andersson, P. (2012). Alternative archaeology: many pasts in our present. Numen, 59(2-3), 125-137. doi:10.1163/156852712X630743 (UB Wien link)

Cusack on LDS Archeology

Carole M. Cusack (University of Sydney) points out that there are odd dynamics at play within the archeological community.
It is also important to note two further complicating factors: first, new religions may embrace a postmodern openness to interpretation when archaeological confirmation of their position fails to emerge, effectively mirroring the “multivocal” position of Post-Processualist archaeology; and second, scientific archaeology decries alternative archaeology with comparable ferocity to that observed in the repudiation of new religions by established religious traditions, thus creating a “feedback loop” in the interactions between archaeology and new religions.
Cusack reminds us of the early relationship between archeology and religious studies as something to give historical understanding of the many religions discovered.
As the comparative study of religion developed, archaeology became important due to its role in verifying the pasts of many religions: Alexander Cunningham published the facsimile Inscriptions of Asoka (1879) which confirmed the Indian origins of Buddhism; Leopoldo Batres excavated Teotihuacan in 1905, enhancing knowledge of pre-Columbian religion; and in 1921-2 Sir John Marshall excavated Harappa in the Indus Valley, a city that might be evidence of the “forts” destroyed by Indra, the god of the invading Aryans, referred to in the Rig Veda (Breton 1908, pp.34-37; Insoll 2004, passim).
During the twentieth century, there was both a de-coupling of archeology from the religions as well as a flourishing of religious formations and traditions. As a result, religious studies had to abandon its old approach of focusing on the few influential faiths and attend to the vast plurality of religious movements.
Further, the“world religions” approach has been exposed as an Enlightenment construct, implying a false comparativism (Jackson 1995, 276-278).
This is the situation in which present-day archeology finds itself.
Before considering specific case studies, it is necessary to investigate scientific archaeology’s relationship with “pseudoarchaeology” or “cult archaeology”(Fagan 2006; Stiebing 1995). 
Though the delineation is not trivial, there are themes that separate academic archeology from its pseudo or cult forms.
Schadla-Hall argues that, although there is no hard line that can be drawn between “mainstream” and “alternative” archaeology, the core themes of the latter area focus on origins, hyper-diffusionism, ancient knowledge and power, astro-archaeology, and the truth of religion and mythology (Schadla-Hall 2004, pp. 257-258)  
Further, the claims regarding each of these themes are always dramatic and propose revolutionary new understandings, rather than the gradual accretion of information that slowly advances knowledge.
Cusack sees this taking place in the general context of the "buffet of identities" offered by modernity.

[I]n the contemporary West personal identity has undergone significant modification, with the consumption of products and the “trying-on” of roles displacing religion, family and community as the prime factors in how people determine who they are. This plastic sense of self is flexible and experimental, and identity is “amenable to infinite reshaping according to mood, whim, desire and imagination” (Lyon 2002, p. 92). 
This has two effects with regard to the status of information; the individual can choose the explanation that suits him or herself, without concern for whether it is “objectively true,” and is free to discard it when it no longer satisfies. When this realisation is combined with the dense and non-user friendly nature of scientific publications and the degree of specialisation required to understand them, Pascale Boyer’s argument that humans have an evolutionary biological tendency to accept and trust narratives that operate through inference and attribute personal agency as the cause of events ... rather than explanations that posit impersonal forces or complex interrelated factors, receives additional support (Boyer 2001, passim).
Thus, the conventions of science are often perceived by non-scientists to be arcane and restrictive, and the attitudes of its practitioners are experienced as patronising and elitist. Other explanations of scientific phenomena are readily available and the modern individual is empowered to choose them. 
Cusack then gives a reasonable summary of early Mormonism and shows how it was a contribution to Indian origin discussions. [[RCK: She does not emphasis the antiquarian aspects of early Mormonism enough, for my taste.]]
Joseph Smith actively promoted the Book of Mormon as the missing link in the history of America, and revelations and diary entries from Smith’s followers indicate that by the 1830s he was claiming North America as the territory of the Lamanites and identifying archaeological finds at specific sites (Givens 2002, pp. 94-95). 
Citing (Givens 2002, p.112), Cusack points out that 1928 Elder Levi Edgar Young hoped that the successful validation of the Biblical texts in Palestine through archeology might be replicated in the Americas for the Book of Mormon.

During the 1950s, Wells Jakeman interpreted Izapa Stele 5 as a representation of the Tree of Life from the vision in 1 Nephi 8. In the 1960s, a latex cast was taken to BYU and became the origin of a little following of replicas. The interest in archeology waned in the 1970s as the first translations of the Egyptian papyri showed that these were fragments of the Book of the Dead, not a new Book of Abraham. Thereafter, as Armand Mauss had observed (Mauss 1994), the LDS church withdrew "from an increasingly liberal mainstream American society" which reduced interest in science.

At the same time, under Gordon B. Hinckley, the disdain for historical "shrines" turned into an appreciation for historic sites as "sacred ground" (Masden 2006, 58, 62),
This has implications for identity formation among Mormons: authentic experience of their faith may be attained by visiting historic sites, in a form of religious tourism which combines consumerism and the past being manifested through a specific place (Holtorf 2005b, p. 127).
This has clear consequences within the framework of modernity, as the validation function has turned ego-centric.
That the Nauvoo Temple was destroyed in 1850 is unimportant; Gordon B. Hinckley’s $30 million reconstruction is experienced as “genuine”. This parallels a broader social shift, affecting all Western manifestations of religion, where the experience of the self has greater authority and reality than institutional pronouncements, and where affective rather than intellectual proofs are persuasive (Lyon 2002). 
[[RCK: Cusack does not realize how modern Joseph Smith Jr was in the regard to emotive validation.]]
For Mormons, there is no conflict between true religion and true science, and “when it comes to learning gospel truths, Mormons think with their hearts. The scripture conveys the idea that the final word on truth comes via feelings. This is now a fundamental tenet of Mormonism” (Southerton 2004, p. 44). 

Bibliographic Records

Cusack, Carole. 2011. “New Religions and the Science of Archaeology: Mormons, the Goddess, and Atlantis.” In James R. Lewis and Olav Hammer (eds.), Religion and the Authority of Science, Leiden: Brill, 765-796 ( pre-print; eBrill link).
  • Boyer, Pascale. Religion Explained: The Evolutionary Origins of Religious Thought. New York: Basic Books, 2001.
  • Holtorf, Cornelius. Archaeology is a Brand! The Meaning of Archaeology in Contemporary Popular Culture. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press Inc, 2007.
  • Levitt, Norman. “The colonization of the past and the pedagogy of the future.” pp.259-284 in: Archaeological Fantasies: How pseudoarchaeology misrepresents the past and misleads the public, edited by G. G. Fagan. London and New York: Routledge, 2006.
  • Lyon, David. Jesus in Disneyland: Religion in Postmodern Times. Oxford: Polity, 2002.
  • Mauss, Armand. The Angel and the Beehive: The Mormon Struggle with Assimilation.Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1994.
  • Nuckolls, Charles W. 2008. “Archaeology, Mormonism, and the Claims of History.” Marburg Journal of Religion 13,1.
  • Southerton, Simon G. Losing a Lost Tribe: Native American DNA and the Mormon Church. Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2004.

Alternative Archaeology and Religious Legitimation

[[RCK: Excavating tradition: alternative archaeologies mentions LDS in its abstract at least and points out how people come to archeology, and often with alternative strategies to professional academic archeology, with their religious legitimation needs.]]

Lewis (p.203) points out how Mircea Eliade's in illud tempore has been replaced as the target of the rear projections by a historical time in the twenty-first century.
However, rather than an explicitly mythological past (Eliades illud tempus), modern human beings tend to project their idealizations onto a “real,” historical past. Archaeology enters into this pattern by providing the scientific “facts” that are supposed to legitimate these idealized reconstructions. (p.203)
Lewis in 2011 commented on this fact in his chapter contributed to Religion and the Authority of Science [[RCK: does he mean this 2010 Brill handbook?]]  which captures the need of religions to find their claims substantiated by an independent authority, science, given the market place of conflicting religious ideas (p.204).

Part of Lewis' description is based on his 2003 monograph Legitimating New Religions, where he discusses Max Weber's Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft scheme of charismatic, traditional, legal and rational (which are sometimes lumped together, as Lewis notes, already by Weber, cf. (p.204)) legitimation. [[RCK: Lewis also has written on the invention of sacred traditions in a 2007 monograph coauthored with Olav Hammer (p.207), conceptualized as an extension of Hobsbawm and Ranger's classic 1983 The Invention of Tradition] (kindle edition)]]

Lewis sees this rethinking necessary (p.205) because in practice legitimations mix and match; charismatic leaders appeal to traditions when founding new religion, even though it is at least a reinterpreted and sometimes even a recreated tradition in many cases. Thus, the founders of new religious movements will appeal (p.206) to charismatic, rational and traditional arguments for supporting their claims (p.206f), and Lewis gives a few examples not meant to be exhaustive.

Lewis now addresses a fundamental gap in Weber and his own work, namely understanding that the charisma is at the core of the appeal. In that sense, Lewis can talk about the charisma of science and technology.

It has even been said by some observers that science is viewed quasi-religiously, as the ultimate authority in matters of “Truth.״ Thus any religion claiming that it is in some way scientific draws on the prestige and perceived legitimacy of natural science. (p.208)
Lewis cited biblical archeology as an endeavor where the a priori assumption of the correctness of the Biblical record is to receive further validation for archeological investigation (p.209). This is contrasted from the a posteriori archeology of modern Pagans, who want to know how to perform rituals and turn to science for answers (p.209, p.204).

Lewis then (p.209) turns to a discussion of Carole Cusack's 2011 paper on the use of archeology in the LDS church, for Atlantis believers, and in support of the Goddess.  Lewis points out that a claim to the validity of the BoM entails an interest in archeological validation (pp.211f). As far as the relationship between religious movements and archeology is concerned, Lewis distinguishes (p.212) between full immersion (as in LDS), shallow (as in the case of Atlantis believers not interested in funding Bahamas excavations), and half-full/half-empty strategies such as the worshippers of the Goddess, who can either engage with the Çatalhôyük archeology or let it be. The product of full immersion and half-full is a distinctly partisan archeology, akin to the old Biblical archeology or "creation science" (p.213) [[RCK: that is, an archeology looking for support, not for problematization]].

Lewis points out how this approach to the past has the structure of a "pick 'n' mix" (p.213), where modern druids would accept white robes and golden sickles if archeology documented them, but not human sacrifices, if archeology could document those (p.213).

[N]ew religions often justify their innovations by attributing them to the authority of tradition, though it is often only through a reinterpretation of the past that they are able to portray themselves as embodiments of tradition. (p.217)

Bibliographic Record

Lewis, J. R. (2012). Excavating tradition: alternative archaeologies as legitimation strategies. Numen, 59(2-3), 202-221. doi:10.1163/156852712X630789 (UB Wien)

Hindutva, mythistory, and pseudoarchaeology

Hindutva, mythistory, and pseudoarchaeology is a great article on the development of Indology, the notion of the Aryan invasion or migration hypothesis, and the current political concerns underpinning the virulent interest in these matters in present-day India.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

O'Boyle et al on the Chrysalis Effect

A fascinating study of questionable research practices that requires access to SAGE publications to read, however.

Richard Klein's Many Labs replication effort

Richard Klein and many many collaborators performed a multi-lab replication study of some thirteen key social psychology claims.

Chris Chambers on the First Anniversary of Registered Reports'

One year after the introduction of Registered Reports at Cortex magazine (Elsevier) in May of 2013, Chris Chambers summarizes the lessons learned.

Chambers gives not only a useful process chart for the new strategy, but also pokes fun at the hypothetico-deductive method by inserting the cheats that the false incentive structure produces.

Chambers successfully reused that chart in his APS 2014 presentation.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Berger on the Sacred Canopy -- Part I Chapter 3 -- Theodicee

The Problem of Theodicy

Every nomos is established, over and over again, against the threat of destruction by the anomic forces endemic to the human condition. In religious terms, the sacred order of the cosmos is reaffirmed, over and over again in the face of chaos. (p.53)
Nevertheless, human society is faced with anomic and destabilizing phenomena, such as "suffering, evil and, above all, death" (p.53). 
An explanation of these phenomena in terms of religious legitimations, of whatever degree of theoretical sophistication, may be called a theodicy. (p.53)
Berger is especially insistent that theodicies per se need not be theoretically sophisticated (p.53), though he admits that they will vary in rationality (p.54). Fundamentally, theodicy is an attitude that surrenders the self to a social transcendence.
[E]very nomos entails a transcendence of individuality and thus, ipso facto, implies a theodicy. (p.54)
The nomos locates the individual's life in an all-embracing fabric of meanings that, by its very nature, transcends that life. (p.54)
Berger illustrates this insight with reference to social rites of passage.
The social ritual transforms the individual event into a typical case, just as it transform individual biography into an episode in the history of the society. (p.54)
In other words, he may "lose himself" in the meaning-giving nomos of his society. (p.55)
In consequence, the pain becomes more tolerable, the terror less overwhelming, as the sheltering canopy of the nomos extends to cover even those experiences that may reduce the individual to howling animality. (p.55)
This means that the basic theodicy precedes all individual societies.
Theodicy proper, then, as the religious legitimation of anomic phenomena, is rooted in certain crucial characteristics of human sociation as such. (p.55)
Berger analysis this situation through the interplay of masochism and sadism, where the one individual erases themselves to make the other the only reality. Berger correctly points out that this must fail
... the self cannot be annihilated this side of death and ... the other can only be absolutized in illusion .... (p.56)
Berger uses this as an analogy to describe the self-loss of totalitarian submission.
... the self-denying submission to the power of the collective nomos can be liberating in the same way. Here, the concrete other of social experience is vastly magnified in the personifications of collective order. (p.57)
Berger then widens the view to the religious self-abnegation, whose other is properly transcendental and makes no mistakes.
The sadistic god is not handicapped by ... empirical imperfections. He remains invulnerable, infinite, immortal by definition. The surrender to him is ipso facto protected from the contingencies and uncertainties of merely social masochism---for ever. (p.57)
In short
... the masochistic attitude is one of the persistent factors of irrationality in the problem of  theodicy, no matter what degree of rationality may be attained .... (p.57)
Berger reminds us that theodicy does not preserve "happiness", "but meaning" (p.58).
These experiences, however painful they may be, at least make sense now [under "an appropriate plausibility structure", (p.58), RCK] in terms that are both socially and subjectively convincing. (p.58)
The suffering believer desires "to know why these misfortunes have come to him in the first place"  as badly as "relief from these misfortunes" (p.58). This reconstruction allows Berger to distance any claims that all theodicies have to necessarily be coupled to redemption (p.58).

Because societal collectives are made up of individuals, the benefits scale to the social in predictable ways.
Entire collectivities are thus permitted to integrated [sic RCK] anomic events, acute or || chronic, into the nomos established in their society. (pp.58f)
And these anomies need not be external to the social order.
One of the very important social functions of theodicies is, indeed, their  explanation of the socially prevailing inequalities of power and privilege. In this function ... theodicies directly legitimate the particular institutional order in question. (p.59)
[T]heodicies provide the poor with a meaning for their poverty, but may also provide the rich with a meaning for their wealth. (p.59)
And if the same theodicy can serve both groups, Berger argues, it "constitutes an essentially sado-masochistic collusion, on the level of meaning" (p.59). There are cases of multiple theodicies as well, historically speaking (p.59). Berger cannot provide a full classification of theodicies, but observes that the more irrational ones claim that the individual is defined through their group membership.
The individual's innermost being is considered to be the fact of his belonging to the collectivity---the clan, the tribe, the nation, or what no. (p.60)
This identification is typically apprehended as being congenital and thus inevitable for the individual. It is carried in his blood, and he cannot deny it unless he denies his own being. (p.60)
Biographical anomies become episodes in the larger and continuing narrative of the collectivity (p.60). This is helpful because "the collectivity" unlike the individual "can usually be conceived of as immortal" (p.61).

This approach is often found in primitive religions, where mana or some mythological speculative version thereof allows society and nature to be embedded in the same totality of meaning (p.61).  And Berger is adamant about such theodicies not needing any particular story of hopeful afterlife or immortality, as "the ultimately meaning-giving fact" is simply "the eternal eurhythmy of the cosmos" (p.62).  Such religions tend toward "ontological continuity between the generations" (p.62), providing immortality to the line of descent.
The entire collectivity ... carries with it through time the same fundamental life that is incarnate in each of its members. (p.62)
The flip-side of this belief is that enemies must work the much harder to interrupt this flow of life.
To destroy this immortality, an enemy must eradicate every last living soul belonging to the collectivity---a far from uncommon practice in history, it may be added. (p.62)
This solution also has clear answers for the imbalance in resources and power.
The same participation of all in the life of all ... legitimates whatever social inequalities may exist within the collectivity. The power and privilege held by the few is held, as it were, vicariously for the many, who participate in it by virtue of their identification with the collective totality. (p.62)
Berger then points to the Chinese conceptions of ancestors and descendants to show that there are more complex models of the same basic theodicy (p.63).

Another flavoring of the same strategy is any form of mysticism that seeks to become one with the ultimate being.
We can define mysticism, for our present purposes, as the religious attitude in which man seeks union with the sacred forces or beings. ... all individuality vanishes and is absorbed in the all-pervasive ocean of divinity. (p.63) 
[[RCK: Notice how this is also the claim of monophysitism, which perhaps not incidentally came from a country with a strong monastic tradition.]]

Berger underscores how mysticism across cultures tends toward masochism
... as evidenced by the cross-cultural recurrence of ascetic self-mortification and self-torture in connection with mystical phenomena. (p.64)
Where the perfect union is achieved, the annihilation of the self and its absorption by the divine realissimum constitute the highest bliss imaginable, the culmination of the mystical quest in ineffable ecstasy. (p.64)
Berger then cites a mystical poem of Jalalu'l-Din Rumi, a Muslim mystic (p.64), to show that the sophistication and complexity of mystical speculation cannot mask their origin in a "prototypical theodicy of self-transcendence" (p.65).

A different position on the spectrum of irrationality and rationality of theodicies is taken by the Indian thought of the combination of karma and samsara, that is, cosmic causal law and eternal rebirth (p.65).
[T]he life of the individual is only an ephemeral link in a causal chain that extends infinitely into both past and future. (p.65)
It follows that the individual has no one to blame for his misfortunes except himself---and, conversely, he may ascribe his good fortune to nothing but his own merits. (p.65)
The karma-samsara complex thus affords an example of complete symmetry between the theodicies of suffering and of happiness. It legitimates the conditions of all social strata simultaneously and, in its linkage with the conception of dharma (social duty, particularly cast duty), constitutes the most thoroughly conservative religious system devised in history. (p.65)
Berger reminds us that the system spread, via the Brahmins qua "social engineers", from princely house to princely house in the Indian subcontinent. And the advantages to the upper strata of society are in Berger's view documented in the Code of Manu (p.65). [[RCK: E.g. Manu 5:96ff, on the ritual purity of the king as incarnation of the eight guardian deities; Manu 5:147-169, on controlling women and their duties.]]

Berger argues that folk religion---magic and mystical exercises and divinities intervening---managed to soften the blow of such a harsh symmetry (p.66), as well as
the simple faith that obedience to one's dharma will improve one's lot in future reincarnations. (p.66)
The harshness was also dealt with by escaping back to the irrational form of the theodicy, as the mystical union between the individual soul and the divine unity, in the atman-brahman complex (p.66).
Here [in the atman-brahman, RCK] ... the perfect rationality of the karma-samsara, having extended itself to its ultimate limit, overreaches itself and falls back into the irrational prototype of self-transcendent participation characteristic of all mysticism. (p.67)
Buddhism is in Berger's interpretation a radicalization of that rational thought, especially in the Pali tradition (p.67). [[RCK: Berger's dismissiveness of the folk religion of Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianity can be defended as an expression of the fact that this is the rational pole of the theodicic expression, thus requiring special attention to speculation of the experts.]] After purging all gods, demons and magic (p.67), only man remains and the three fundamental insights, "anichcha or impermanence, dukkha or sorrow, anatta or non-selfhood" (p.68), from which man constructs his own salvation to reach "nibbana (or nirvana)" (p.68).
There is no place here for any religious attitudes except the coolness of rational understanding and rational action to attain the goal of understanding. (p.68)
[T]he problem of theodicy is solved in the most rational manner conceivable, namely by eliminating any and all intermediaries between man and the rational order of the universe. (p.68)
As the anomic issues are revealed to be illusionary, they disappear and with them theodicy, now devoid of a problem to solve (p.68). The individual is dispenses with through anatta, the insight of non-selfhood (p.68).

Between these two poles of irrationality and rationality lie multiple rationalizations of theodicy that form Berger's next focus of investigation (p.68). Into this bucket belong all forms of "messianism, millenarianism, and eschatology" (p.68), who promise a resolution of the present anomic state by recourse to a future nomic state (p.68).
For example, the sufferings of the Black Death gave birth to a number of violent millennarian movements, but so did the social displacements brought on by the Industrial Revolution. (p.68)
Though this strategy is prevalent in the Jewish-Christian-Muslim orbit, it also found "[w]ith greater modifications" "in such movements as the Taiping Rebellion, the Ghost Dance, or the Cargo Cults" (p.69).
[T]he anomic phenomena are legitimated by reference to a future nomization, thus reintegrating them within an over-all [sic RCK] meaningful order. (p.69)
Berger correctly points out that the need to have a present and a future requires historiographical capabilities.
[The messianic-millennarian, RCK] theodicy will be rational to the extent that it involves a coherent theory of history (a condition ... that is generally fulfilled in the case of messianic-millenarian movements within the Biblical orbit.) (p.69)
It [i.e. the messianic-millennarian complex, RCK] will be actually or potentially revolutionary to the extent that the divine action about to intervene in the course of events requires or allows human co-operation. (p.69) 
Of course this approach "is highly vulnerable to empirical disconfirmation" (p.70)---and parousia delay is just one case thereof. Thus, a common refinement is to transpose the nomic state into another reality, where "compensation is promised in other-worldly terms" (p.70)---a strategy that suggests itself in settings where "notions of immortality" were entertained (p.70). [[RCK: That this theodicy was "needed" in "the origins" (p.70) of such notions seems to overplay Berger's hand.]]
One now looks for it [i.e. divine compensation, RCK] beyond the grave. There, at last, the sufferer will be comforted, the good man rewarded, and the wicked punished. In other words, the afterlife becomes the locale of nomization. (p.70)
Both Egypt and China worked out such theodicies, and Berger reminds us that there is no revolutionary spirit to be had from these strategies (p.70); the "suffering servant" in DtrJs is another example (p.71). The key contribution of this theodicy is that the empirical verification [[RCK: and typically falsification]] is blocked (p.71).

An alternate solution is the dualistic theodicy (p.71).
In these formations [e.g. Zoroastrianism, Mithraism, Manichaeism, Gnosticism, RCK] all anomic phenomena are, of course, ascribed to the evil or negative forces, while all nomization is understood as the progressive victory of their good or positive antagonist. (p.71)
Here, redemption becomes participation on the right side (p.71).  Theodicies such as the Gnostic one solve the problem by "transposing its terms" (p.72), making the world not part of the cosmos, but either the arena or the realm of chaos (p.72). The effects of negating the world are clear:
... dualistic theodicies tend to be acosmic, ascetic and ahistorical. (p.72)
Theodicy becomes a big problem for monotheistic religions (p.73).
If all rival or minor divinities are radically eliminated, and if not only all power but all ethical values are ascribed to the one God who created all things in this or any other world, then the problem of theodicy becomes a pointed question directed to this very conception. (p.73)
[[RCK: It is in this sense interesting that both the NT and the early Christian Erbauungsliteratur such as the Acta Petri, maintain the dualistic touch of a divine antagonist, the Devil, but project his defeat as having begun and being completed soon.]]

Berger emphasizes not only the soteriological solution of pushing the anomic resolution into an unverifiable future (p.73), but also the Masochistic tendencies that remain in Christian theology (p.73), caused by the "totally powerful and totally righteous God" (p.73), a problem whose locus classicus is the Book of Job (p.74). Berger argues that the rejection of the right of man to question God in this fashion, as Job resolves the issue---Berger calls this an argumentum contra hominem--- leads directly to the iustificatio of man (p.74).
The question of human sin replaces the question of divine justice. (p.74)
Berger then draws out the trajectories of this theodicy to the radical submission of Islam on the one side, and the predestination discussions in Protestantism on the other (p.75).
The Calvinistic glorying in the inexorable counsel of God, who from all eternity has elected a few men for salvation and relegated most men to a destiny in hell, is probably the culmination of the masochistic attitude in the history of religion. (p.75)
Berger reminds us that in early Calvinism, there was no way to tell whether oneself belonged to the elect or not, so one could spend an entire life as a worshipping Calvinist---a dangerous life in the Spanish-occupied Netherlands (p.75)---devoted to a God who "had already condemned the worshiper to damnation from the beginning of time" (p.75). [[RCK: Spoken like a true Lutheran, Berger.]]
The sovereignty of God and the negation of man reach a terrifying climax here in a vision of the damned themselves joining in the glorification of that same God who has sentenced them to damnation. (p.75)
That this theodicy was only for the religious specialist is indicated by the fact that in practice its tenets were quickly softened by positing a future state where the punishing would cease (p.76), or at least knowledge of the certainty of election (p.76).

Berger now turns to christology as the fundamental motif of solving the theodicy problem for Christianity (p.76).
... it is crucial that the incarnate God is also the God who suffers. Without this suffering, without the agony of the cross, the incarnation would not provide that solution of the problem of theodicy to which, we would contend, it owes its immense religious potency. (p.76)
[[RCK: Thus, docetism is not Christian.]]
Only if both the full divinity and the full humanity of the incarnate Christ could be simultaneously maintained, could the theodicy provided by the incarnation be fully plausible. (p.77)
From this point of view Berger rejects the origin of the great Christological controversies in "some obscure metaphysical speculations" (p.77).

However, the solution comes with a barb.
This condition is the affirmation that, after all, Christ suffered not for man's innocence, but for his sin. It follows that the prerequisite for man's sharing in the redemptive power of Christ's sacrifice is the acknowledgement of sin. (p.77) 
Berger discusses the potency of this shift by noting that the horrors of the Nazi regime in World War II led to questions of anthropodicy, other than the earthquake of Lisbon in 1755.
[E]ven the nightmares of Nazism [were, RCK] being taken not as a terrible question about the credibility of the Christian God but as a confirmation of the Christian view of human sin. (p.79)
With the ongoing collapse of the plausibility of Christian theodicy, the call for "replacing the reign of grace by the reign of justice", as Berger quotes Camus, has become the revolutionary goal:
History and human actions in history have become the dominant instrumentalities by which the nomization of suffering and evil is to be sought. (p.79)
Berger there departs from explaining religions and points to the theodicy as the central problem of all Weltanschauungen (p.80).
Our purpose has been accomplished if we have indicated the centrality of the problem of theodicy for any religious effort at world-maintenance, and indeed also for any effort at the latter on the basis of a non-religious Weltanschauung. (p.80)
Unless anomy, chaos and death can be integrated within the nomos of human life, this nomos will be incapable of prevailing through the exigencies of both collective history and individual biography. (p.80)

Bibliographic Record

Peter L. Berger, The Sacred Canopy: Elements of a Sociological Theory of Religion, Garden City, NY (Double Day) 1967.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Berger on the Sacred Canopy -- Part I Chapter 2 -- World Maintenance

Religion and World-Maintenance

Supported by human activity, ... [all socially constructed worlds, RCK] are constantly threatened by the human facts of self-interest and stupidity. (p.29)
The institutional programs are sabotaged by individuals with conflicting interests. (p.29)
The role of keeping everyone with the program and in line is delegated to the process of legitimation.
By legitimation is meant socially objectivated "knowledge" that serves to explain and justify the social order. ... legitimations are answers to any questions about the "why" of social arrangements. (p.29)
At the basis of legitimation is pure ontology, the "what's what" that distinguishes the categories that the rules then utilize (p.30) --- Berger illustrates that with an incest example. These categories should not be confused with ideas.
There are always some people with an interest in "ideas", but they have never yet constituted more than a rather small minority.  (p.30)
Clearly o some extent, all social knowledge is legitimating (p.30).
... the socially constructed world legitimates itself by virtue of its objective facticity. (p.30)
The need for legitimation beyond that is to address the "why?" questions of the new members of society as well as to help all, including the adults, remember (pp.30f). In the face of any challenge, the legitimacy of the social world order must be defended (p.31). Berger divides up the forms of legitimization, which range from the maxims (p.31) to the Weltanschauung (p.32), which Berger glosses as the level where "the nomos of society attains theoretical self-consciousness" (p.32).
The essential purpose of all forms of legitimation may thus be described as reality-maintenance, both on the objective and the subjective levels. (p.32)
Though there is no congruence between legitimation and religion, there is significant overlap.
... religion has been the historically most widespread and effective instrumentality of legitimation. (p.32)
Religion is so good at this because it has access to the category of the "ultimate reality" (p.32).
The tenuous realities of the social world are grounded in the sacred realissimum, which by definition is beyond the contingencies of human meanings and activities. (p.32)
Because of its need to appear just like nature, which is unchanging and from the beginning, society is best served by a legitimization that obfuscates its origin ex nihilo.
Let the institutional order be so interpreted as to hide, as much as possible, its constructed character. Let that which has been stamped out of the ground ex nihilo appear as the manifestation of something that has been existent from the beginning of time, or at least from the beginning of this group. (p.33)
Thus, Berger can recap
Religion legitimates social institutions by bestowing upon them an ultimately valid ontological status that is, by locating them within a sacred and cosmic frame of reference. (p.33) 
There are multiple ways to implement this: The mode of direct reflection means that the down here mirrors the up there (p.34)---Berger calls this the "microcosm/macrocosm scheme" of legitimization (p.34). Berger points out that later civilizations would transform this obvious scheme into something more subtle.

Israel legitimized its institutions in terms of the divinely revealed law throughout its existence as an autonomous society. (p.35)
Thus, in religion,
... the humanly constructed nomoi are given a cosmic status. (p.36)
This is beneficial for institutions and for individuals.
 [Through religious legitimations, RCK] institutions are ... given a semblance of inevitability, firmness and durability that is analogous to these qualities as ascribed to gods themselves. Empirically, institutions are always changing as the exigencies of human activity upon which they are based change. (p.36) 
Looked at from the viewpoint of individual subjective consciousness, the cosmization of the institutions permits the individual to have an ultimate sense of rightness, both cognitively and normatively, in the roles he is expected to play in society. (p.37)
He is whatever society has identified him as by virtue of a cosmic truth, as it were, and his social being becomes rooted in the sacred reality of the universe. (p.37)
Even if society were not to withdraw the identifications, e.g. because the others forget or change the identification (p.37), threatening his own recollections of identity (p.38). The godhead is above such fickleness, becoming "the most reliable and ultimately significant other" (p.38). Such roles are then even stable against the foibles of the individual (p.38). Berger illustrates this with the example of fatherhood (pp.38f).

If social legitimation is tied to the cosmic order, then rebellion is a compact with the dark forces of chaos and the realm of demonic monstrosities (p.39).

Because men forget, religion must remind, and it does so through ritual re-enactment (p.40).
Both religious acts and religious legitimations, ritual and mythology, dromena [i.e. "the things that have to be done", RCK] and legoumena [i.e. "the things that have to be said", RCK], together serve to "recall" the traditional meanings embodied in the  culture and its major institutions. (p.40)
This reconnects the moment to the transcendental history.
It has been rightly said [by Maurice Halbwachs in Les cadres sociaux de la memoire, Paris 1925, RCK] that society, in its essence, is a memory. It may be added that, through most of human history, this memory has been a religious one. (p.41)
This insight implies
the rootedness of religion in the practical concerns of everyday life. (p.41)
Religion thus serves to maintain the reality of that socially constructed world within which men exist in their everyday lives. (p.42)
That reality is challenged by marginal experiences, some of which such as sleep occur very regularly and frequently (p.42).
The reality of everyday life, therefore, is continuously surrounded by a penumbra of vastly different realities. (p.42)
Death radically challenges all socially objectivated definitions of reality---of the world, of others, and of self. (p.43)
Religion, then, maintains the socially defined reality by legitimating marginal situations in terms of an all-encompassing sacred reality. (p.44)
Because the meaning of the marginal situation has been preserved,
[it RCK] is thus possible to have a "good death", that is, to die  while retaining to the end a meaningful relationship with the nomos of one's society---subjectively meaningful to oneself and objectively meaningful in the minds of others. (p.44)
Berger points out that such effects are not limited to individuals, but might affect larger groups or the entirety of a society.
... in other words, there are events affecting entire societies or social groups that provide massive threats to the reality previously taken for granted. Such situations may occur as the result of natural catastrophe, war, or social upheaval. (p.44)
Berger also reminds us that the need for religious legitimation is especially high when a marginal situation is induced, e.g. through killing in war or through execution in the case of capital punishment (p.44).

The ongoing maintenance of the socially constructed world generates a plausibility structure that can be subverted---Berger gives the example of Pizarro killing the Inca Atahualpa (p.45)---which effectively destroys the world of those participating in that society (p.46). The plausibility structure is therefore related to the specific community for which this structure is meaningful (p.46).
The reality of the Christian world depends upon the presence of social structures within which this reality is taken for granted and within which successive generations of individuals are socialized in such a way that this world will be real to them. (p.46)
This means that a world under threat will ratchet up its legitimization effort.
The less firm the plausibility structure becomes, the more acute will be the need for world-maintaining legitimations. (p.47)
Berger points to the mutual pressure generated by Christendom and Islam to legitimate and vindicate one's own stance with respect to the other (p.47).
This example is particularly instructive because the antagonistic theoreticians employed an essentially similar intellectual apparatus for their contradictory purposes. (p.47)
Berger however wants to guard against being misunderstood in one crucial way.
The implication of the rootage of religion in human activity is not that religion is always a dependent variable in the history of a society, but rather that it derives its objective and subjective reality from human beings, who produce and reproduce it in their ongoing lives. (p.48)
Religious ideation can cause social processes and social processes can cause religious ideation (p.48); that is their dialectic, as Berger insists repeatedly.

The opportunity for such "social engineering" to maintain the plausibility structure of a particular religion, however, is tied to the reach of the group. In a situation of little competition, such as the Christian Middle Ages, other moves are possible (p.48) than in the situation of religious plurality (p.49), where competing interpretations exist. Extermination and segregation are less successful in this case (p.49).
The problem of "social engineering" is then transformed into one of constructing and maintaining subsocieties that may serve as plausibility structures for the demonopolized religious systems. (p.49)
The plurality of solutions reveals the precarious nature of the individual solution and undercuts the inevitability effect.
Since every religious world is "based" on a plausibility structure that is itself the product of human activity, every religious world is inherently precarious in its reality. (p.50)
This means that conversions remains a possibility, and the de-ghettoized Jews of the Modern era are more prone to it than their Medieval ancestors, as Berger illustrates (p.50). There are modes of conversion control---apologetics (p.50) on the one hand, and other forms of defense
education, and sociability, voluntary restrictions of social contacts that are dangerous to reality-maintenance, voluntary group endogamy (p.50)
to name but a few,  yet the co-existence makes these more difficult to implement.

At the same time, once the migration from one plausibility structure to another has taken place, the individual has to work hard to maintain his new attachment (p.51). "Evangelism" and "care of souls" are two sides of the same coin (p.51).
Every human society is, in the last resort, men banded together in the face of death. The power of religion depends, in the last resort, upon the credibility of the banners it puts in the hands of men ... as they walk, inevitably, toward it [i.e. death, RCK]. (p.51)

Bibliographic Record

Peter L. Berger, The Sacred Canopy: Elements of a Sociological Theory of Religion, Garden City, NY (Double Day) 1967.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Berger on the Sacred Canopy -- Part I Chapter 1 -- World Construction

Religion and World-Construction

Berger locates the role of religion in the fundamental dialectical process of world creation, where man creates the world and the world creates man.
The fundamental dialectic process of society consists of three moments, or steps. These are externalization, objectivation and internalization. (p.4)
Externalization is the ongoing outpouring of human being into the world, both in the physical and mental activity of men. (p.4)
Objectivation is the attainment by the products of this activity [i.e. objectivation, RCK] (again both physical and mental) of a reality that confronts its original producers as a facticity external to and other than themselves. (p.4)
Internalization is the reappropriation by men of the same reality, transforming it once again from structures of the objective world into structures of the subjective consciousness. (p.4)
In short:
It is through externalization that society is a human product. It is through objectivation that society becomes a reality sui generis. It is through internalization that man is a product of society. (p.4)
The need for externalization is coupled to the "unfinished" (p.4f) character of man.
... man's instinctual structure at birth is both underspecialized and undirected toward a species-specific environment. (p.5)
The world-building activity of man, therefore, is not a biologically extraneous phenomenon, but the direct consequence of man's biological constitution. (p.5)
[Man, RCK] ... produces himself in a world. (p.6)
World here designates "culture" (p.6).
[Culture's, RCK] ... fundamental purpose is to provide the firm structures for human life that are lacking biologically. (p.6)
However, because they are man-constructed and not backed by natural laws like the physical world, culture is more fragile.
Culture must be continuously produced and reproduced by man. Its structures are, therefore, inherently precarious and predestined to change. (p.6)
Worlds must be built, yet it remains difficult to keep them going. This ongoing activity produces what we often call society.
Society is constituted and maintained by acting human beings. It has no being, no reality, apart from this activity. (p.7)
Berger rejects any more natural foundation than that man is a world builder; all the other specifics of culture are not founded in the natural world. The reason society is privileged has to do with the fact of man as a social animal.
Homo sapiens is the social animal. This means very much more than the surface fact that man always lives in collectivities and, indeed, loses his humanity when he is thrust into isolation from other man. (p.7)
... the world-building activity of man is always and inevitably a collective enterprise. (p.7)
Men together shape tools, invent languages, adhere to values, devise institutions, and so on. (p.7)
Society structures, distributes, and co-ordinates the world-building activities of men. And only in society can the products of those activities persist over time. (p.7) 
Berger sees in the identification of these external entities, such as the family or society or the economy, one of the key contributions of the sociological point of view: it strips them of their hypostasized status (p.8).

Berger now turns to the problem of internalization, the fact that the collective products of men acquire a reality of their own.
Once produced, this world cannot simply be wished away. (p.9)
The material case is easy to illustrate: once plows have been constructed, they are physical objects that are in the way, can hurt people falling over them, and begin to impact the agricultural logic [[RCK: e.g. through activities such as a proper time for plowing]]. The argument is then extended to the non-material objects.
Man invents a language and then finds that both his thinking and his speaking are dominated by its grammar. (p.9)
Man produces values and discovers that he feels guilty when he contravenes them. (p.9)
At the same time, the objectivity also has the connotation of being shared.
Culture is there for everybody. (p.10) 
... the cultural world is not only collectively produced, but it remains real by virtue of collective recognition. (p.10)
... society is a product of human activity that has attained the status of objective reality. (p.11)
Society confronts man as external, subjectively opaque and coercive facticity. (p.11)
Thus the appropriate moniker of culture as our "second nature" (p.11).
... society manifests itself by its coercive power. The final test of its objective reality is its capacity to impose itself upon the reluctance of individuals. (p.11)
Society directs, sanctions, controls and punishes individual conduct. In its most powerful apotheoses (not a loosely chosen term, as we shall see later), society may even destroy the individual. (p.11)
This compelling force is a key constituent for something being a social reality.
... no human construction can be accurately called a social phenomenon unless it has achieved the measure of objectivity that compels the individual to recognize it as real. (p.12)
Berger illustrates this with reference to the English language.

The objective reality of culture thus makes for a box in which an individual's biography can take place.
... the individual's own biography is objectively real only insofar as it may be comprehended within the significant structure of the social world. (p.13)
... the individual's own life appears as objectively real, to himself as well as to others, only as it is located within a social world that itself has the character of objective reality. (p.13) 
... the objectivation of human activity means that man becomes capable of objectivating a part of himself within his own consciousness, confronting himself within himself in figures that are generally available as objective elements of the social world. (p.14)
It is only when these objectivated structures begin to influence man's own consciousness (p.15) that internalization has taken place. This comes to the fore especially in socialization,
... the processes by which a new generation is taught to live in accordance with the institutional programs of the society (p.15).
This is not just learning, but shaping, acceptance of the precepts as one's own. The measurement of success of this undertaking is the degree of symmetry between objective reality and subjective internalization (p.15). This is the origin of meaning for the individual (p.16) [[RCK: see also (p.21)]].
The processes that internalize the socially objectivated world are the same processes that internalize the socially assigned identities. (p.16)
... the individual appropriates the world in conversation with others, and, furthermore, that both identity and world remain real to himself only as long as he can continue the conversation. (p.16)
That need to continue the conversation expresses the precarious nature of the construction.
The difficulty of keeping a world going expresses itself psychologically in the difficulty of keeping this world subjectively plausible. (p.16)
The vital role of the conversation follows from the fact what happens when the conversation ceases.
If such conversation is disrupted (the spouse dies, the friends disappear, or one comes to leave one's original social milieu), the world begins to totter, to lose its subjective plausibility. (p.17)
Berger illustrates this with the role of the uncle in matrilineal society, and how the internalized man will act avuncular and be an uncle (p.17).

Berger disavows a deterministic or mechanistic interpretation of that dialectic; the fact that the individual is a participant in the conversations that shape his stance indicates this and speaks of active appropriation rather than passive absorption (p.18).
... the individual continues to be a co-producer of the social world, and thus of himself. (p.18)
Berger illustrates this in the language (p.18) and its change over time through use (p.19).

... the socially constructed world is, above all, an ordering of experience. A meaningful order, or nomos, is imposed upon the discrete experiences and meanings of individuals.  (p.19)
Though that ordering capability never terminates and becomes total, it tends toward that and is thus better described as totalizing (p.20). The parts that are difficult to relate to, the marginal experiences, have their own logic in the setup (p.20).
In what it `knows`, every society imposes a common order of interpretation upon experience that becomes `objective knowledge` by means of the process of objectivation discussed before. (p.20)
Though some of that knowledge is theoretical and rule-like (often the socially most important parts) (p.20), the majority is pretheoretical [[RCK: heuristic]] (p.21).
 Most socially objectivated `knowledge` ... consists of interpretative schemas, moral maxims and collections of traditional wisdom that the man in the street frequently shares with the theoreticians. (p.21)
It is by virtue of this appropriation [of the nomos of the social ordering of experience, RCK] that the individual can come to "make sense" of his own biography. (P.21) 
The future attains a meaningful shape by virtue of the same order being projected onto it. ... to live in the social world is to live an ordered and meaningful life. (p.21)
Society is the guardian of order and meaning not only objectively, in its institutional structures, but subjectively as well, in its structuring of individual consciousness. (p.21)
Thus the anomic disruptions are immensely powerful, as they can bring about a loss of any "sense reality and identity" (p.21) for the individuals, Such disruptions can occur at the social or the individual level.
They might involve large collective forces, such as the loss of status of the entire social group to which the individual belongs. They might be more narrowly biographical, such as the loss of significant others by death, .... (p.21) 
This psychological and moral threat justifies considering the socially established nomos "a shield against terror" (p.22).
... the most important function of society is nomization. The anthropological presupposition for this is a human craving for meaning that appears to have the force of instinct. (p.22)
Men are congenitally compelled to impose a meaningful order upon reality. This order, however, presupposes the social enterprise of ordering world-construction. (p.22)
... the danger of meaninglessness ... is the nightmare par excellence, i which the individual is submerged in a world of disorder, senselessness and madness.  (p.22)
Thus the despair of suicide, as well as the amounts of sacrifice people are willing to undertake to return to a nomically satisfying state.
... existence within a nomic world may be sought at the cost of all sorts of sacrifices and suffering---and even at the cost of life itself, if the individual believes that this ultimate sacrifice has nomic significance (p.22).
The most acute marginal threat is death (p.23).
Death presents society with a formidable problem not only because of its obvious threat to the continuity of human relationships, but because it threatens the basic assumptions of order on which society rests. (p.23)
... the marginal situations of human existence reveal the innate precariousness of all social worlds. (p.23)
See in the perspective of society, every nomos is an area of meaning carved out of a vast mass of meaninglessness, a small clearing of lucidity in a formless, dark, always ominous jungle. (p.23)
[The "alien forces of chaos", RCK] ... must be kept at bay at all cost. (p.24)
If socialization was successful, then the social world can be taken for granted. The more inevitable the social construction appears, the better for society at large.
... institutional programs are endowed with an ontological status to the point where to deny them is to deny being itself---the being of the universal order of things and, consequently, one's own being in this order. (p.24)
The result of this is that the social construction merges with the natural universe.
Nomos and cosmos appear to be co-extensive. (p.25) 
 This is the point where religion enters into the argument.
Religion is the human enterprise by which a sacred cosmos is established. Put differently, religion is cosmization in a sacred mode. (p.25)
By sacred is meant here a quality of mysterious and awesome power, other than man and yet related to him, which is believed to reside in certain objects of experience. (p.25)
Berger admits that the forms of the religious have a bewildering variety, but posits some underlying uniformity, which he refuses to attribute to either diffusion or an internal logic of man.
Although the sacred is apprehended as other than man, yet it refers to man, relating to him in a away in which other non-human phenomena (specifically, the phenomena of non-sacred nature) do not. The cosmos posited by religion thus both transcends and includes man. (p.26)
Because the sacred cosmos is fundamentally antagonistic to chaos, it is also a fundamental shield.
The sacred cosmos emerges out of chaos and continues to confront the latter as its terrible contrary. ... The sacred cosmos, which transcends and includes man it its ordering of reality, thus provides man's ultimate shield against the terror of anomy.  (p.26)
Berger then draws a differentiation between how cosmization can play out; specifically, they need not all be religious (though historically they have been for the majority of man's existence).
Cosmization implies the identification of this humanly meaningful world with the world as such, the former now being grounded in the latter, reflecting it or being derived from it in its fundamental structures. (p.27)
Particularly in modern times there have been thoroughly secular attempts at cosmization, among which modern science is by far the most important. (p.27)
But religion has been the standard mode of maximizing man's externalization.
... religion is the audacious attempt to conceive of the entire universe as being humanly significant. (p.28)

Bibliographic Record

Peter L. Berger, The Sacred Canopy: Elements of a Sociological Theory of Religion, Garden City, NY (Double Day) 1967.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Notes on Reading the Acts of Peter

Chapter XII

  • The dog came to Peter, seated with the crowd, so that they could see his face.
  • And the dog reported what he had discussed with Simon.
  • And this the dog said to the messenger and apostle of the true [read: veri] God. 
  • Petrus, a big battle you will have against Simon, and with those that serve him.
  • For many will you bring to faith that have been misled by him.
  • That's why you will receive the reward from God for your doing.
  • After saying this, the dog fell down before the feet of Petrus and gave up his ghost.
The talking dog is a fairy tale element, but in Antiquity the horse and the donkey are more likely to talk (The Golden Ass, Balaam). Kynokephales (dog heads) and Akephales (headless) can talk (since 500 bc about in the geography), to which St Christopherus comes, as does Barnabas in his Acts. Ps 150:6 expect all that spirare to praise the Lord. At the brim of the oikomene, is the wall to keep out the monstra that Alexander built in the Alexander novels. Though there were walls in the Caucasus, early Byzantium pays the Persians to keep up the wall (probably a pass they protected). Eventually the Mongols (the Tartars from the Tartarus) came. Sins brought on the loss in the Second Crusades as well (front part of the Carmina Burana).

Theologically, this means that even the animals do not believe Simon.
  • As the crowd saw how the dog talked, some sat down at Peter's feet, and others called, "Give us another sign, so that we can believe that you are the servant of the Living God."
  • "For Simon showed many signs in our presence [praesentia nostra], that's why we followed him."

Chapter XIII

  • Peter however turned around, saw a sarda [mackerel? tunny?] hung up for drying on the window, took it and said to the crowd:
  • If you see this one swimming in water like a living fish, would you then believe in the one that I proclaim?
  • They said with one voice, We will truly believe you.
  • Then he said to the fish [pisci piscina, haplographic elimination] next to a swimming pool:
  • In the name of Jesus Christ [eliminate tuo,  read Christi], in whom they cannot believe, live and swim (literally: as a fish)!
The resurrection miracle does something new, that's why the dog is done about. The phrase "nata tamquam" with its a-sounds is akin to a magic spell.
  • And he placed the sarda into the pool, and the fish [subject change] lived and swam about.
  • The crowd saw how the fish swam and the fish [subject change] did not do this just in this moment, and did it for a while,  so that the crowd could see, how a [dried] fish was swimming around, until someone threw bread to the fish; and he ate [edebat] all of it.
Of course, an ocean fish could not survive in sweetwater.
  • But many followed who saw this and began to believe, and they came together day and night in the house of the presbyter Narcissus [name known from Romans, and from the martyrium of Clemens at the Black Sea; see laos Mara Sordi, Those Encounters in the Senator's House]
In the Middle Ages, Ovid was thought to have been converted, probably during the exile in Tomi, was recycled for prayers. 
  • Peter however taught them about the writings of the prophets [eliminate de], and what our Lord Jesus Christ did, in words and in deeds. 

Chapter XIV

  • Marcellus became day by day stronger founded in his belief [fundabatur not fundebatur] through the miracles which happened through the grace of Jesus Christ.
  • Marcellus jumped in his house over Simon who sat in his triclinium (eating hall that houses three rows of three people, or nine).
See also the banquet hall in Hadrian's villa, with the swimming food.
  • He cussed and said to him, "You biggest enemy and most perverted of all humans, corruptor of my soul and my house, who wanted to chase me away from Christ, my Lord and Savior."
  • And he became physical and ordered him out of the house.
  • The slaves however received power over him [i.e. Simon, RCK] and dissed him, slapped him into the face, others took sticks and stones, others poured buckets of filth over his head. [The slaves always sided with their lord; thus interrogation under torture, because the slaves would be pro-master.]
  • For they had, because of him [i.e. Simon], fled their master [read effugerant] and had been tied for a long time (when they were brought back). 
This is classical caricature of the slaves, both the fleeing from and the insulting of the master. 
  • And the other slaves, about whom he talked badly to their master, tongue-lashed and said to him, "And now we will give you the deserved reward, through God, who took pity on us and our master."
  • Simon, who had been badly treated and thrown out of the house, ran to the house to which Peter had returned [revertebatur] (i.e. the House of Narcissus, cf. VI).
  • Outside the house of the Presbyter Narcissus, Simon stood and shouted,
  • "Here I am, Peter, come out, and I will prove that you believed [only] in a Jewish human and the son of a carpenter (a manual laborer)."

Guido M. Berndt (Editor), Roland Steinacher (Editor), Arianism: Roman Heresy and Barbarian Creed, September 28, 2014. (Google Preview) [Amazon]

Chapter XV

  • Peter was told that Simon had yelled this.
  • Peter sent a woman with an infant to him, and said to her, "Quickly go outside and you will see someone who is looking for me."
to be continued

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A New York geography for the BoM

An old friend of mine, specialist in Indian languages, pointed me to this map comparison from a book by Verne Holley,  unfortunately out of print, which suggests that Joseph Smith Jr tried to write the local history during the American Antiquities of the area he grew up in.

The alignment of the names is quite fascinating; I suspect that Joseph Smith Jr must have felt like a linguistics scholar when decoding how the names had changed over time.

"Uncle" Dean Broadhurst now hosts the third edition of Holley's work from 1998, where the Spalding manuscript theory is used as the basis of the discussion that Holley pursues.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Augmented Salvation History Feedback

In my discussion with my PhD advisor WW regarding the proposed theological chapter, WW pointed out that salvation history needs to be conceptualized as an eschatological event that has a telos, but no architecture that can be described. The realization of that eschatological event is within the world and is also within the believer, and takes place in the hic et nunc. This context of edification (oikodome) however cannot be integrated into World History, though the experience of the individual is capable of criticising World History and vice versa.

I have been able to reproduce almost the entirety of that argument from the discussion of Rudolf Bultmann with his colleagues in the after-math of his Entmythologisierungsaufsatz; cf. my recent series on demythologizing (Part 1,  Reply section in Part 2Part 6).

Bultmann famously combines crucifixion and resurrection into a single eschatological event, which is the only proper element of a salvation history. A salvation history of one event is however such a degenerate case that any potential architecture of salvation history is lost, but the telos of salvation in history remains. Because the individual encounters the risen Christ in the kerygma of the congregation, this is both in the world and private to the believer. Especially in his reply to Schumann (p.200) Bultmann emphasizes both this hic et nunc, as well as reminds the reader that the individual events do not permit objective historical verification (p.205). This in consequence means that the integration into World History will not succeed, which requires such objective historical verification.

Demythologizing Debate---Part 6: Bultmann's Reactions

This post continues our series on demythologizing by giving Bultmann, whose essay was the first part, a chance to respond to his German critics: Lohmeyer, SchniewindThielicke, Schumann.

Bultmann's Reaction

... it is important to remember that every interpretation is actuated by the framing of specific questions, and without this there could be no interpretation at all. Of course, these questions need not be frame explicitly or consciously, but unless they are framed the texts have nothing to say to us. (p.191).
Bultmann believes that "the question of human existence" is the right way  to frame Biblical inquiry "at any rate within the Church" (p.192). This contribution to the question is also what drives history, in Bultmann's mind.
For the ultimate purpose in the study of history is to realize consciously the possibilities it affords for the understanding of human existence. (p.192)
Though the existential setup is such that man is oriented toward God, as Bultmann reminds us with St Augustine (p.192), the tools of the exegetical [and hermeneutical, RCK] trade are profane.
Every exeget is dependent upon a terminology which has come down to him by tradition, though it is accepted uncritically and without reflection, and every traditional terminology is in one way or another dependent upon a particular philosophy. (p.193)
Bultmann is looking for an appropriate terminology, without agreeing to the philosophical answers or to the specific solutions of a philosophical system. Bultmann believes that this terminology is abstract from the contents [just as Schumann argues that the myths are capable of expressing Christian truths, RCK].
... apart from the resolve to be a human being, [that is, RCK] a person who accepts responsibility for his own Being, not a single word of Scripture is intelligible as a word with an existential relevance. (p.194)
This is an acceptable approach, because there is an anthropological constant to this process.
Discussion on this subject is possible because every existential self-understanding lies within the possibilities of human existence, and therefore every existentialist analysis based upon an existential self-understanding is generally intelligible. (p.195)
And if the acting of God is in a category different from other worldly action, how can anyone speak about it except if they are affected by it?
... if the action of God is not to be conceived as a worldly phenomenon capable of being apprehended apart from its existential reference, it can only be spoken of by speaking simultaneously of myself as the person who is existentially concerned. (p.196)
This is the reason that natural actions are dependent on the observer in their interpretation.
To every other eye than the eye of faith the action of God is hidden. Only the "natural" happening is generally visible and ascertainable. In it is accomplished the hidden act of God. (p.197)
This is not pantheism, because the identity asserted is "paradoxical", not "direct" (p.197).
In faith I can understand a thought or resolve as something which is the work of God without necessarily removing it from its place in the chain of cause and effect. (p.197)
Bultmann believes Christianity not to be a Weltanschauung, because it requires the constant receptiveness of the believer to hear what God has to say (p.198). Unlike Pantheism, God does not lose the hidden quality.
But from time to time the believer sees concrete happenings in the light of the word of grace which is addressed to him, and then faith can and ought to apprehend it as the act of God, even if its meaning is still enigmatic. (p.198)
The conception of miracles as ascertainable processes is incompatible with the hidden character of God's activity. It surrenders the acts of God to objective observation, and thus makes belief in miracles (or rather superstition) susceptible to the justifiable criticisms of science. (p.199)
To the proclamation of the word of God's grace, as found in the New Testament, man responds by faith (p.200). But that word has to have a specific structure:
It is so only when Scripture is heard as a word addressed personally to ourselves, as kerygma---i.e. when the experience consists in encounter and response to the address. That Scripture is the Word of God is something which happens only in the here and now of encounter; it is not a fact susceptible to objective proof. The Word of God is hidden in Scripture, just like any other act of his. (p.200)
Bultmann also objects to being accused of destroying eschatology (p.205). Bultmann clarifies the relationship between historical event and historical investigation as follows:
That God has acted in Jesus Christ is, however, not a fact of past history open to historical verification. That Jesus Christ is the Logos of God can never be proved by the objective investigation of the historian. (p.207)
The eschatological interpretation of Jesus Christ is not the problem; the cosmic eschatology in which the NT places it (p.208).
The eschato- || logical event, which Christ is, is consequently realized invariably and solely in concreto here and now, where the Word is proclaimed (2 Cor 6:2; Joh 5:24) and meets with faith or unbelief (2 Cor 2:15f; Joh 3:18; Joh 9:39). (pp.208f)
 Though the context of discovery for demythologizing was the scientific world view, Bultmann now sees this need as coming from faith itself.
... the restatement of mythology is a requirement of faith itself. For faith needs to be emancipated from its association with every world view expressed in objective terms, whether it be a mythical or a scientific one. (p.210) 
This is a variant of "justification by faith alone apart from the works of the Law" in the Paulo-Lutheran tradition (p.211).

Bibliographic Record

Rudolf BULTMANN, Ernst LOHMEYER, Julius SCHNIEWIND, Helmuth THIELICKE, Austin FARRER, Kerygma and Myth: A Theological Debate, edited by Hans Werner BARTSCH, translated by Reginald HORACE, New York -- Evanston (Harper and Row), 1961.

Demythologizing Debate---Part 5: Schumann

This post continues our series on demythologizing by looking to parts of Friedrich K. Schumann's rejoinder to Bultmann, whose essay was the first part, for deeper insights.


Schumann sets out with summarizing Bultmann's argument (p.175). Schumann sees Bultmann as arguing that an interpretation of the mythical framework must come from principles inside the New Testament that avoid abandonment or subtraction of the mythology.
... the interpretation [of the mythical parts, RCK] must be derived from the New Testament itself, from the aim which led it to select just these mythological elements. Now, the aim of the New Testament is to offer an existential understanding of the message of Christ. (p.176)
In short, it [i.e. the true and authentic life, RCK] means "eschatological existence".  Such an interpretation appears to have two advantages: first, it secures the essential truth of the New Testament message, and secondly it emancipates it from myth, and particularly from the eschatology of Jewish apocalyptic and Gnosticism. [sic!] (p.177)
Schumann reminds us of Bultmann's attempt to preserve the mythical figure of the Christ as a historical figure through Jesus of Nazareth.
Thus the peculiarity of the New Testament is that it speaks in mythological language of an historical figure and of the history of || that figure. (pp.178f)
Schumann then rightfully asks,
Why is it necessary to transcend the language of history in this peculiar way ["in this particular instance", RCK]? (p.179)
The question is therefore whether the mythological language is the only possible vehicle for conveying the meaning of Jesus for salvation history, .... (p.179)
The "acutest form" of this question poses itself with respect to "the proper language for the cross and resurrection of Jesus" (p.179), as the crucifixion designates a historical event, but its significance is mythical. Bultmann's solution is to regard the crucifixion as "the eschatological event" (p.180). The problem then, according to Schumann, becomes how we know that this particular historical event is supposed to be treated in this fashion.
So in attempting to emancipate the cross from mythology we are thrown back to a similar question with regard to the resurrection. (p.180)
Bultmann then points to the "inseparable unity of the cross and resurrection" (p.180), which Schumann agrees with, but finds as merely adding "to our difficulties" (p.180), because the redemptive quality of the cross is not established through the resurrection, but is termed to be equivalent to it, and this is indicated through the way it is preached, that is "proclaimed" in Bultmann's word (p.181).

This brings Schumann directly to the problem of whether the modern system of science permits such a notion as an eschatological event (p.182), even if it is, with Bultmann, "an historical event wrought out in time and space" (quoted (p.182)). Schumann believes that Bultmann understands that this is the residual paradox of the New Testament.
... the idea of a single historical event in time and space as the judgement pronounced by God over the historical process in time and space and the radical transformation of its whole constitution is inconceivable for those who accept the modern world view, and it would be impossible to make such a notion intelligible in terms of such a view. (p.182)
Bultmann in Schumann's reconstruction accuses mythology from attempting to supply "secular proof" for something that is eschatological, i.e. immune to such proof (p.182).

Schumann then turns to key points of methodology (p.184).

Schumann is unconvinced that the fit between philosophical theories of existence and fallenness on the one side and the Christian view of this situations, which is only mediated in Christ, have enough overlap (pp.184f).
To be fallen to "nothingness" is quite different from being fallen to sin and guilt and being fallen under the wrath of God. (p.185)
Schumann is skeptical of Bultmann's optimism that a formal description of the human condition can be had independent of personal existential attitudes thereof (p.185), and is convinced at least that Heidegger did not succeed in providing such a formal description (p.185). The Bible at least, in the phrase "created in the image of God", denies that man's Being can be described independent of his relationship to God (p.186).

Schumann prefers to interpret the mythological speech, such as Jesus calling God his father, by treating it as metaphorical speech, analyzing the relation between the literal meaning and the relevant features of the relationship between Jesus and God. (p.190) [[RCK: This is very akin to Barth's God as the original father argument.]]

Bibliographic Record

Rudolf BULTMANN, Ernst LOHMEYER, Julius SCHNIEWIND, Helmuth THIELICKE, Austin FARRER, Kerygma and Myth: A Theological Debate, edited by Hans Werner BARTSCH, translated by Reginald HORACE, New York -- Evanston (Harper and Row), 1961.