Saturday, October 31, 2009

Yax Mutal’s Start

Central Tikal

Certainly the most imposing of Mayan sites, if not the most beautiful is the great Mayan ruin of Yax Mutal, better known today as Tikal, for only recently have we found out that it’s name during the cities heyday was in fact Yax Mutal. In the Mayan language spoken in what we now call Tikal, Yax means first and Mutal seems to mean possibly bird, but more likely a handful or “topknot” of hair.1

The origins and early archaeology of the site are poorly known. But it appears that Tikal emerged in the late pre-classic period, (400 B.C.E. – 250 C.E.)2

The city became important during this time period with building in the North Acropolis area going back to 350 B.C.E.3 During this period Tikal although growing was very much in the shadow of the massive site of El Mirador, located near what is now the Mexican / Guatemalan border. This site one of the most massive ever erected in the Pre-Columbian Americas, completely dwarfed any other Mayan site and was apparently to remain the largest Mayan site ever.4 Although the Maya at El Mirador erected stela they appeared to have painted rather than sculpted inscriptions on them, the result being that nothing can read from them after the paint was washed off by rain. So the history of El Mirador remains unknown.5

Tikal emerged during this period of domination by El Mirador. So that by 1 C.E., it was a very important center with a significant ceremonial center and a large population. It appears from graves found during this time period that Tikal was ruled by Kings although the names of the rulers has not come down to us.6

c. 90 C.E., a man named Yax Ehb Xook (First Step Shark) became King of Tikal he was regarded by later rulers of Tikal as a founder of the ruling dynasty. We know virtually nothing about him except that later Kings considered him the founder. Although a tomb in the northern acropolis called Burial 85 is very likely his burial.7

Glyph of Yax Ehb Xook’s Name

Shortly after this some time between 250-400 C.E., El Mirador collapsed and was largely abandoned. Although there may have been competition between el Mirador and Tikal it appears that the real reason for the collapse was over exploitation of local resources, especially agricultural exhaustion.8 It appear that right to the end El Mirador’s sheer size was vastly greater than any contemporary Mayan city. This would appear to indicate that its large size without a significant hinterland of similar cities to support it may have made it uniquely vulnerable to collapse from any source of local stress. It appears that the smaller local communities around El Mirador also experience significant decline.9
Glyph of Foliated Jaguar’s Name

The period after the reign of Yax Ehb Xook in Tikal is very poorly known the next named King is called Foliated Jaguar or ? Bahlam; exactly how to read his name is not clear.10 Although the name as also been found on some jade plaques found in Costa Rica. The first dated monument at Tikal bears the date 292 C.E., the name of the ruler portrayed is lost. It could be that the ruler depicted is in fact Foliated Jaguar.11

Stela 29

The next ruler known is Animal Headdress or K’inch Ehb? Who is only known from a monument erected by his son Siyaj Chan K’awiil (Sky born Great Claw) I which was erected c. 300 C.E. An inscription describes Siyaj as the 11 in line from the founder Yax Ehb Xook. Which makes his father , Animal Headdress, number 10.12

Glyph of Animal Headdress’ Name

Very little is known about Siyaj Chan K’awiil, who seems to have reigned c. 307 C.E. It is possible that stela 29 is in fact one of his monuments.13

Glyph of Siyaj Chan K’awiil’s Name

The next ruler of Tikal mentioned in the inscriptions is Unen Bahlam, (Baby Jaguar) who seems to have ruled c. 317 C.E. It was originally thought that the ruler was female but more recent analysis and evidence has made that claim dubious, although the sex this ruler remains unclear. On September 1, 317 C.E., this ruler oversaw some ritual event that was commemorated in an inscription. It appears likely that if Unen Bahlam was a women this event was the result of a crisis in the kingdom, and perhaps created a continual crisis that would climax in the end of the reign of Chak Tok Ich’aaak I. This so given that Mayan women rarely acceded to thrones to reign in their own right.14

Glyph of Unen Bahlam’s Name

The next ruler K’inch Muwaan Jol (Radiant Hawk Skull) apparently became King c. 320 C.E., Little is known about him although he is mentioned in later inscriptions as a ruler of Tikal. An inscription found outside Tikal seems to record his death in 359 C.E He is styled the 13th successor of the founder Yax Ehb Xook.15

Glyph of K’inch Muwaan Jol’s Name

K’inch Muwaan Jol was succeeded by his son Chak Tok Ich’aaak I, (Jaguar paw / claw). His reign was the last of the early rulers of Tikal. Stela 39 shows him standing in triumph over a captive enemy. He seems to have expanded the extensive royal palace and used it as a political and residential headquarters. Various finds would seem to indicate that he was a successful monarch. It appears that Tikal was engaged in a serious conflict with the neighbouring city of Uaxactun.16

Stela 39

What happened next is a surprise, Chak Tok Ich’aaak I, apparently secure on his throne was seemingly overthrown and killed and a new ruler installed. But interestingly the new rulers still recorded the reign of Chak Tok Ich’aak I and still counted themselves from the founder Yax Ehb Xook. I will explore in a future post the mystery and puzzle of this event.17

Glyph of Chak Tok Ich’aak I’s Name

By this time Tikal was the greatest of Mayan cities and the predominant power in the lowland Petan region. The over throw of Chak Tok Ich’aak I was not to stop the rise of Tikal but to single the further rise of Tikal to greater glory and power.

This very incomplete list of rulers provides an glimpse into the rise of what was to become one of the superpowers of Pre-Columbian America.

1. Montgomery, John, Tikal, Hippocrene Books Ltd., New York, 2001, p. 36, Martin, Simon & Grube, Nikolai, Chronicle of the Maya Kings and Queens, Second Edition, Thames and Hudson, London, 3008, p. 30.

2. Drew, David, The Lost Chronicles of The Maya Kings, Phoenix, London, 1999, p.6., Martin, p. 8.

3. Drew, pp. 132-135, 183-186.

4.Sharer, Robert J., & Traxler, Loa P., The Ancient Maya, Sixth Edition, Stanford University Press, Stanford CA, 2006, pp. 352-364, Drew, pp. 131-136.

5. Traxler, p. 352-264, Schele, Linda, & Freidel, David, A Forest of Kings, William Morrow & Co. Ltd., New York, 1990, p. 128.

6. Traxler, pp. 305-306.

7. Traxler, p. 310-311, Martin, p. 26-27, Schele, p. 136, Coe, Michael et al, Royal Maya Dynasties of the Classic Period, 2005, FASMI, Here
p. 23.

9. Traxler, pp. 252-264, Demarest, Arthur, Ancient Maya, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2004, pp. 103, 310, Martin, p. 8, Drew, pp. 145-146.

10. Martin, p. 27, Traxler, p. 312, coe, p. 23.

11. Traxler, p. 311, Martin, p. 26-27. Montgomery, p. 43, Coe, p. 23.

12. Montgomery, p. 43, Traxler, p. 311-312, Martin , p. 27, Coe, p. 23.

13. IBID.

14. Martin, p. 27, Montgomery, pp. 43-44. Coe, p. 23, Traxler, p. 311-312, Schele, p. 221.

15. Coe. p. 23, Traxler, pp. 311-312, Montgomery, p. 44, Martin, p. 27.

16. Coe, p.23, Martin, p. 28, Montgomery, pp. 44-49, 52-53, Drew, pp. 188-189, Schele, pp. 130-164.

17, Martin, 29-30, Drew, pp. 197-202, Montgomery, pp. 68-74.

Pierre Cloutier

Sunday, October 25, 2009

St. Augustine

Part of a Painting of Hell by Hieronymus Bosch

One of most important, but also in my opinion dangerous and frankly stupid ideas, in the intellectual history of the west is the doctrine of Predestination. This essay will briefly explore both the intellectual origin of the doctrine and St. Augustine’s ideas concerning the doctrine, and why in my opinion the idea is both pernicious and yes intellectual idiocy of the highest order.

The idea of Predestination is the notion that events are predetermined and that choice or “free will” is illusionary. In the case of Christian doctrine this is the notion that right from the beginning of time God “determined” who would be “saved” and who was damned.

Further in Christian doctrine this came in two forms. In one version of the idea God by foreseeing future events predetermined them in the other God by predetermining events foresaw them.

Despite the ideas importance in Christian theology the idea is not derived from the Old Testament and is not in any sense a Judaic / Jewish idea. It arose from Greco-Roman concepts of the divine. Platonic Greco-Roman theology sought to define God, and did so in terms of absolutes that assimilated God to perfection and then sought to define that perfection. Thus God became omnipresent, omnipotent and all knowing. In such a conception of God any limitation on God’s power became a denial that God was in effect God. God in this conception had to be perfect and such perfection required that God be all powerful and any limitation on God simply inconceivable. This was combined with the notion that through “reasoned” analysis that one could talk about God and talk about in a concrete, intellectually rigorous manner using human reason.

Given the above Greco-Roman thinkers and the Christians influenced by them felt compelled to use their reason to the logical limits and thus find out the true nature of God. What they forgot was that the concept of God is not a “reasonable” or “rational” idea and that talking about God in a “rational” “reasonable” manner is basically a conceit that relies on unbridled faith in human “reason”.

To illustrate the idea that “reason” is a very poor tool to describe or even talk about God let us list some of God’s attributes as commonly believed.

1. God is all knowing.

2. God is all powerful.

3. God can be and do anything.

Given the above God can do anything. Let us assume the above are true. Then the following statements are absolutely true.

God can destroy him/herself utterly and then recreate him/herself.

God can choose not to be all powerful and all knowing.

God can choose not to be perfect.

God can be all powerful and powerless at the same time.

God can be perfect and completely imperfect at the same time.

Needless to say the Greco-Roman theologians and their Christian followers did not believe that God was all powerful because they explicitly and implicitly believed that God was bound by “reason” and thus denied the power of God.

What they missed was the idea that God, if he/she exists is an uncanny idea. An idea that is contradictory and basically inexplicable and inexpressible. In other words we can not talk about God in any real sense that is intelligible to us or in a way that is not a mass of contradictions, absurdities or koan like phrases. One might as well say God is the light given off by darkness.

In the Old Testament one of the most profound depictions of God is from the Book of Job. When Job’s friends spend practically all their time trying to justify God to Job and basically speaking over and over again those future feeble nostrums of “rational” theologians would utter in the ages to come. Job denies that God’s doings make any sense or that there is rationality in how the world operates. God when he finally speaks rebukes not Job but his friends for being idiots. God says to Job:
Can you fasten the harness of the Pleiades, or untie Orion’s bands? Can you guide the morning star season by season and show the Bear and its cubs which way to go?1
Thus rebukes him for whining about his plight when he can have utterly no conception of the nature of God. In that case whining serves no useful purpose at all. As for Job’s friends they are rebuked for trying to read God’s mind and declaring with incredible arrogance that they understand and know the purposes and mind of God.

All later Theologians are the friends of Job, full of conceit and arrogance. They know the purposes of God they know that God is bound by their conception of “reason”. God merely rebukes Job for whining about bad things happening to him when that is just the way of the world, it is like God weird and uncanny; don’t try to make it “reasonable” and “rational”. To the Theologian the world and God cannot be weird and uncanny both must be bound by rules. Their rules! That their conceit bounds God to their conception of “reason” and therefore denies God being all mighty seems to have escaped them.

By not accepting the Platonic notion that God is subordinated to “reason” Jewish thought largely escaped the conundrum of trying to make God and the world “reasonable”. Thus the paradoxes that bothered medieval and Greco-Roman philosophers and theologians did not particularly bother Jewish and later Muslim religious leaders, because they accepted the uncanny nature of God and the world.

Muslim theology for example accepted both the idea of predestination and the notion of full human responsibility. How did they reconcile these two ideas? Well in effect they did not. They accepted that both ideas were true and their contradictory nature due to the insufficiency of human reason to understand. Of course the result was that despite accepting predestination in theory in practice humans were responsible for their own salvation.

In Jewish theology the question never came up it was taken for granted that humans were responsible for their own salvation and that was that. Theological puzzles like how to reconcile God’s omnipotence with free will etc., never arose because it was simply assumed that human’s had free will because that is what everyday common sense tells us.

The result of this flirtation by Christian Theologians with trying to reason about God was a collection of absurdities and contradictions that simply in the end make no sense at all.

The origins of the doctrine of predestination are not in the Old Testament or in the development of Judaism but as I indicated above in Greco-Roman philosophical ideas. Certainly one would have a very hard time “proving” predestination from the Old Testament which is rather clear most of the time about how humans are responsible for themselves and if they act badly are responsible for the consequences. Jesus in the Gospels seems to be pretty clear about humans being responsible for their fate.

In fact the passages that are usually used to “prove” predestination are almost invariably passages about the power and glory of God. In fact the basic tenure of most of the Bible is that salvation is something humans can do something about.

The notion of predestination is of course allied to the idea that humankind is inherently sinful and wicked and damned by original sin. It is interesting that conventional Jewish Theology does not give much emphasis to original sin, and the idea of the essential depravity of the human race.

In the doctrine of original sin as elucidated by early Christian Theologians, man is inherently utterly depraved, that each child born is entirely and thoroughly deserving of eternal torture in hell, that no action by any human can remove the essential depravity of mankind or change what in all justice each and every human deserves eternal torture in the fires of hell. Actions speak only towards earning a mitigation of God’s justice so that despite what we deserve God out of mercy and grace forgives our innate sinful, and deserving of eternal torment, depravity and allows us to go to heaven.

Thus in the initial compromise concerning mans wickedness it was accepted that although man could not in justice earn salvation. Man’s efforts could in some sense “earn” God’s grace and mercy. To those immersed in Greco-Roman philosophy this was not logical, rational or reasonable enough. They decided to carry the logic to its conclusion.

Allied to this was the idea that no man could “earn” through works God’s approval. That the demands that God makes are incapable of being fulfilled in any realistic way.

This of course goes back to St. Paul in his various Letters where he sets up the dichotomy between the “Law” and “Grace”. Paul pictures the “Law” has a set of impossible demands that man could never satisfy, hence the need for “Grace” that God through Jesus Christ extends to man, because man out of weakness can never satisfy God.

This of course sets up the popular and largely false view of first century Judaism as a religion of stifling rules and one that damned everyone who could not fulfill everyone of the trivial, mind numbing Mosaic laws. To Paul those rules were a terrible burden that Jesus Christ freed mankind from having to fulfill. What Paul seems to have forgotten or simply suppressed was that it was not the opinion of first century Judaism or even of later Judaism that that exact, prefect observance of every one of the Mosaic laws was required for salvation. That was entirely Paul’s own idea.

Further while adhering to the notion that the “Law” was an impossible burden that weak, sinful man was incapable of fulfilling Paul remained largely oblivious to the fact that every single human being lives in a mesh of social rules and taboos that are in every respect at least as constraining as the Mosaic laws. So just why were those particular laws viewed as uniquely burdensome?

The answer is quite obvious Paul was engaged in a polemic against first century Judaism for the purpose of capturing souls for Christ so it suited his purpose to set up this caricature of the “Law” as unbearably burdensome and that in order to satisfy God all these trivial rules had to be performed exactly and perfectly and one slip up meant damnation. Paul found the burden of responsibility for salvation too much to bear.

Paul also developed in his letters certain notions about the power of God that seems to be if not predestination at least potentially so. What Paul seemed to want to escape from was the notion that humans have responsibility for their salvation. It seemed to him an intolerable burden that he wished to escape and so he brought in the notion of “grace”, the idea of man being damned by original sin, the “Law” being an impossible burden, and the notion of God in some sense predestining things. Paul also sometimes seems almost to wallow in his and other’s sinfulness.

Now Paul was not consistent in any of this and it is easy to find stuff in his letters which at least partially contradicts the above. But these ideas did exist at least in embryonic form in the writings of Paul. It is for example apparent that Paul despite what he often seemed to at least imply seemed to think that humans were still responsible for their salvation and his implicit notions of predestination are just that implicit.

The simple fact is that despite Paul’s massive influence on later Christianity his ideas, implicit and otherwise are not rooted in the sayings and doings of Jesus Christ but are in fact largely of Greco-Roman philosophical origin.

Of course later Christian Theologians, heavily immersed in Greco-Roman, especially Platonic philosophy would elaborate on Paul’s notions and create a vast intellectual apparatus to explain and “prove” these doctrines.

It is of interest that although the ideas of the essential depravity of man was largely accepted by the 4th century as a orthodox doctrine of Christianity, the idea of predestination implicit in some of Paul’s writings was not. It seemed to the great majority of the early Church Fathers that at a minimum man could “earn” God’s grace and mercy. But then as Christianity absorbed more and more Greco-Roman philosophy the notion of predestination slipped in full blown.

The doctrine probably owes a lot to St. Augustine a man whose unpleasant and repulsive theology has for reasons that will be explained below been popular.

Portrait of St. Augustine

St. Augustine positively relished wallowing in the depraved, sinful nature of mankind. It seems to have given him almost joy. His absurd writhing about his “sins” is positively creepy and in fact a form of arrogance and pride. Augustine liked to relive his “wickedness” over and over again, liked to conjure the image of his “sins” in his mind again and again.

From this doctrine about the inherent sinfulness of mankind Augustine had no problems with the idea that young children, babies being tortured in hell forever and ever. Since all humans were utterly depraved it was only what they deserved.

To quote a writer on Augustine; Augustine had:
…the unfortunate massa damnata theory, which said the whole human race by original sin became a massa damnata et damnabilis: God could throw the whole damned race into hell for original sin alone, without waiting for any personal sin.2
It is probably from Augustine that there first emerged clearly the doctrine of predestination. In order to deflect the obvious arguments concerning the problems with Predestination Augustine peremptorily accuses those of doubting Predestination as arrogant:
Man, therefore, unwilling to resist such clear testimonies as these, and yet desiring himself to have the merit of believing, compounds as it were with God to claim a portion of faith for himself, and to leave a portion for Him; and, what is still more arrogant, he takes the first portion for himself, and gives the subsequent to Him; and so in that which he says belongs to both, he makes himself the first, and God the second!3
This serves a useful purpose in hiding the utter arrogance of the doctrine and its unbridled presumption. Augustine “knows” that God must fit his philosophical “reason” about Gods nature. It never occurs to him that God might, just might make man capable of “Free Will”. No Augustine “knows” by implication that God can do no such thing because it violates his conception of God.
Therefore mercy and judgment were manifested in the very wills themselves. Certainly such an election is of grace, not at all of merits. For he had before said, "So, therefore, even at this present time, the remnant has been saved by the election of grace. And if by grace, now it is no more of works; otherwise grace is no more grace." [Rom. 11.5.] Therefore the election obtained what it obtained gratuitously; there preceded none of those things which they might first give, and it should be given to them again. He saved them for nothing. But to the rest who were blinded, as is there plainly declared, it was done in recompense. "All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth." [Psalm 25.10.] But His ways are unsearchable. Therefore the mercy by which He freely delivers, and the truth by which He righteously judges, are equally unsearchable.4
Thus God’s grace is capricious and satanic, but Augustine asserts that this is all a mystery but we must rest content that God is still just because he/she is just. God out of his/her own good reason decides who can be saved by grace from the beginning of time. Its of interest that Augustine who denies emphatically, by implication, that God could give man ‘Free Will” and that “Free Will” is a denial of the power of God and his philosophical certainty about the nature of God never the less takes refugee in the notion that although God may appear unjust he is just and that is just a mystery. Why the conflict between God’s power and Mans “Free Will” could not be a similar mystery is not explained or even noticed.
Faith, then, as well in its beginning as in its completion, is God’s gift; and let no one have any doubt whatever, unless he desires to resist the plainest sacred writings, that this gift is given to some, while to some it is not given. But why it is not given to all ought not to disturb the believer, who believes that from one all have gone into a condemnation, which undoubtedly is most righteous; so that even if none were delivered therefrom, there would be no just cause for finding fault with God. Whence it is plain that it is a great grace for many to be delivered, and to acknowledge in those that are not delivered what would be due to themselves; so that he that glorieth may glory not in his own merits, which he sees to be equalled in those that are condemned, but in the Lord.5
When someone asserts that a contentious doctrine is plainly etc., in the text we can rest assured it is not. Augustine can assert and puff himself up all he likes; the doctrine is not plainly in the Bible. In the Old Testament, the books of the Prophets seem to be pretty plain about man being responsible for himself and his salvation and certainly the doctrine of Predestination as virtually no basis in the sayings or conduct of Jesus. Certain of the parables, like the good Samaritan plainly indicate human responsibility and choice. Augustine must go to St. Paul for his Scriptural basis and thus with what can only be described as arrogance elevate Paul and Augustine’s own conception of the nature of God above that of Jesus of Nazareth that Augustine pays lip service too as the foundation of his faith when Jesus is not. It is also of interest that Jewish Rabbi’s and Theologians utterly rejected the doctrine of Predestination pronouncing it a heresy and unbiblical.

Augustine than makes in the above passage the argument that believers should not be disturbed by this doctrine because he asserts, with no argument, that it is righteous and in fact it does not matter if many are saved or none at all. But that the saved should not condemn God but rejoice that any are saved at all and that being saved is not in any sense the saved ones merits but Gods, and in fact the saved ones merits or lack of them are the same as the condemned.

So God in Augustine’s conception is a despotic, capricious tyrant who like Stalin is always right no matter who he tortures, and slays. Like a good toady Augustine licks the feet and other parts of his murderous Dictator and pronounces it very good indeed.
For these things are both commanded us, and are shown to be God's gifts, in order that we may understand both that we do them, and that God makes us to do them, as He most plainly says by the prophet Ezekiel. For what is plainer than when He says, "I will cause you to do"? [Ezek. 36.27.] Give heed to that passage of Scripture, and you will see that God promises that He will make them to do those things which He commands to be done. He truly is not silent as to the merits but as to the evil deeds, of those to whom He shows that He is returning good for evil, by the very fact that He causeth them thenceforth to have good works, in causing them to do the divine commands. 6
Aside from the distortion of Ezekiel, Augustine makes it plain that God is responsible for our good deeds that God out of capricious caprice decides to bestow on some people through grace for no discernable reason. He very carefully avoids stating that God is responsible for our evil acts. Why? If it’s a denial of God’s power to attribute our salvation in any sense to our own efforts then is it not a denial of God’s power to deny or evade the responsibility of God for evil? Ah but Augustine “knew” from his philosophical studies that God could not “really” be responsible for evil. Thus once again Augustine in his arrogance presumes to know God. Thus God is fully responsible for our salvation and our good deeds yet somehow God is not responsible in any sense for our wicked deeds. Now did it ever occur to Augustine that if men were responsible for our wicked deeds and acts a man must by necessity be, potentially at least, responsible for his good deeds?
Therefore God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world, predestinating us to the adoption of children, not because we were going to be of ourselves holy and immaculate, but He chose and predestinated us that we might be so. Moreover, He did this according to the good pleasure of His will, so that nobody might glory concerning his own will, but about God's will towards himself. He did this according to the riches of His grace, according to His good-will, which He purposed in His beloved Son, in whom we have obtained a share, being predestinated according to the purpose, not ours, but His, who worketh all things to such an extent as that He worketh in us to will also. Moreover, He worketh according to the counsel of His will, that we may be to the praise of His glory. [Phil. 2.13.] For this reason it is that we cry that no one should glory in man, and, thus, not in himself; but whoever glorieth let him glory in the Lord, that he may be for the praise of His glory.7
Augustine’s cosmic Dictator seems to be an egomaniacal sadist wanting desperately to glorify himself. Being such a dictator in Augustine’s eye Augustine than lays the flattery on with a trowel in the most disgusting sycophantic manner. One cannot see Augustine being like Abraham arguing with God or like Jacob wrestling with an angel.8 Instead one sees him grovelling before God in the most revolting manner. To quote Monty Python:

[God] Oh do stop grovelling!
I HATE grovelling!!9

As to why Augustine and so many other’s have found this intellectually repellent argument / doctrine so attractive. The answer is fairly clear. They found the burden of responsibility for their own salvation and in fact their own right conduct to be unbearable. They refused to take responsibility for it and did a few things. First they pronounced God’s demands as impossible and unbearable. They then pronounced all of mankind irredeemably wicked and deserving of eternal torment and damnation. They then took refugee in a doctrine that said it is all done for you; you don’t have to do a thing it was settled a long time ago. You are not RESPONSIBLE!! In this particular mindset the believers could not accept responsibility for themselves and their acts. They then cloaked this belief in the false cloak of humility before God, while subjecting God to the dictates of their “rational” “reasonable” philosophical analysis with astounding arrogance. They further subjected reality to their love of self of their speculations, by ignoring the easy to establish fact that at the very least human’s have the appearance of “Free Will”. Further in their arrogance they concluded that God was bound by their conception of God’s nature and it never occurred to them that God could have given man “Free Will”.

Augustine like so many grovelled and writhed in his sinfulness, visiting it again and again with a perverse narcissistic pride. Augustine especially recalled his sexual sins over and over again showing his inordinate self love and hubris. I have little doubt that his repeated revisiting of his wicked sexual sins enabled him to enjoy “carnality” over and over again under the cloak of an ostentatious show of loathing that ill concealed the intense pleasure it gave him to recall them.

Since he Augustine could not, in his opinion, escape his sins he in his arrogance decided that no man could and so constructed the edifice, based in part on Paul’s writings, which may indicate to some extent a similar dynamic, of Predestination. It fed Augustine’s sense of importance that no man could earn salvation when in his own mind he, himself could clearly not do so. This was combined with an abject, sycophantic attitude towards God that reeks of cringing mindless fear. Finally it fed his own sense of intellectual superiority to bind God in his philosophical chains and then when things got philosophically difficult take refugee in the doctrine of “mystery”, ignoring that perhaps “Free Will” and “Predestination” were similar “mysteries” and God is not bound to fit his conceptions.

1. Job, ch. 38 v. 31-32, The Jerusalem Bible, Doubleday & Co. Inc., Garden City NY, 1966.

2. Most, William, St. Augustine on Grace and Predestination, Here. Note Geocities where this webpage is located is closing at the end of the month, (October 2009).

3. Augustine, A Treatise On The Predestination of the Saints, Book 1, ch. 4., Here.

4. IBID, Book 1, ch. 11.

5. IBID, Book 1, ch. 16.

6. IBID, Book 1, ch. 22.

7. IBID, Book 1, ch. 37.

8. See Genesis, ch. 18, v.16-32, ch. 32, v. 22-30, The Jerusalem Bible.

9. From the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Other Books consulted.

MacCulloch, Diamaid, Reformation, Penguin Books, London, 2003.

Grant, The Fall of the Roman Empire, The Annenberg School Press, London, 1976. See The Other World Against This World, pp. 291-308.

Sanders, E. P., Jesus and Judaism, SCM Press Ltd., London, 1985.

IBID. Paul and Palestinian Judaism, Fortress Press, Minneapolis MINN, 1977.

Vermes, Geza, Jesus the Jew, Fontana / Collins, London, 1973.

Plato, Timaeus and Critias, Penguin Books, London, 1977.

St. Augustine, The Confessions, at Project Gutenberg, Here.

Pierre Cloutier

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Fomenko’s Fiction

Anatoly Fomenko

Anatoly Fomenko is a Russian Mathematician who over the last 20 years or so has been putting forward a rather far out theory regarding History it is his belief that ‘History” began c. 800 C.E., and that the Middle ages never happened.

Among many things Fomenko and his disciples believe that English history before the Normans is nothing more than a fiction and that some of Byzantine history is the same. That various dynasties and lists of rulers are nothing more than fictionalizations based on a few models.

That much history of the Ancient world is a creation of fabricators and falsifiers between 1400-1700 C.E. That various methods of dating like dendrochronology (tree rings) and radiocarbon dating are erroneous and useless.

It is of interest that in his new chronology Russia is the center of world history up too seventeen hundred; real Russian history having been falsified by Germans. The obvious hyper nationalism of Fomenko’s ideas is readily apparent.

This approach must of course toss out the astronomical data supplied from ancient Mesopotamian clay tablets and the record of eclipses by the Chinese.

Further all those Greek and Roman statutes are frauds created during the Renaissance.

Ivan the terrible was actually four rulers is another Fomenko “discovery” along with Jesus being a 60 year old Pope, (Gregory VII) and or a Byzantine Emperor (Andronikos I Komnenos).

The Peloponnesian War described by Thucydides occurred in 1384-1387, between the Kingdom of Navarre and the Catalans. And Columbus was a Cossack.1

History is divided into 4 periods. The pre-Christian period is 11th century and earlier; “bacchic” Christianity 11th-12th century, Christianity 12th-16th century and 16th century onwards the modern age.2

Fomenko’s English History, which is supposedly a duplication of Byzantine history, is described as follows:

His [Fomenko] other parallels, even after a double reordering of Byzantine monarchs (they were themselves duplicated twice, you see), are still not very accurate. Beorhtric (ruled 16 years) is equated to Justin I (ruled 9 years), an error of almost 78%. Fomenko links Aethelbert (6 years) to Justin II (13 years), an error of over 113%. He has to combine Zeno's two reigns (over a period of, but not totaling, 17 years) to match the English Cuthread (17 years).

Fomenko does manage, however, a couple of good "hits." He links Egbert, the uniter of England (ruled 38 years), to Justinian the Great, restorer of the Roman Empire (ruled 38 years). But then he combines King Edgar (16 years) with King Edward the Martyr (3 years) and claims they both represent Leo III the Isaurian (24 years). He concludes that the names Edgar and Edward are "similar and consequently their union is natural." (5) Of course, the eleven Emperors Constantine (and the additional Emperors named Constans and Constantius) were apparently readily distinguished by the barbarians.3
To quote another examination of Fomenko’s nonsense:

Fomenko assumes that the researcher can and should distinguish between history and fiction. On the other hand, his methods would not meet with approval from conservative theorists of history such as Keith Windschuttle who maintains that the professional training of historians and peer review of their work pushes history closer to the goal of establishing the truth of the past and of distinguishing what most probably happenned from what could not have happenned. Fomenko is not a historian in this sense. He provides no fair-minded view of the historical literature about a topic with which he deals, quotes only those sources that serve his purpose, uses evidence in ways that seem strange to professionally-trained historians and asserts the wildest speculation as if it has the same status as the information common to conventional historical literature.4
That is enough for now, since simply listing the conjectures of Fomenko is enough to refute him, there is much more than the above all of it fantastic and quite outrageous. Fomenko has earned some quite well deserved ridicule for his absurd ideas, but has managed to turn the issue into one of proving him wrong. Which is of course a typical pseudoscience method.

Even some people who should know better are publishing books taking this nonsense seriously.5

Sorry but when you are proposing an outlandish idea the onus is on you to prove your idea not on the doubters to prove their doubts and you wrong.

It is impossible to go into detail about what is wrong with Fomenko’s absurd ideas, however a few points are worth looking at.

1, Fomenko deliberately selects data in proving his “statistical” correlation that ‘proves” his theory and ignores data that does not.

2. Fomenko spectacularily massages his data to get his correlations, shifting dates and reign lengths and even the number of monarchs all to fit his theory. To quote Wikipedia:

Another point raised by critics is that Fomenko does not explain his altering the data (changing the order of rulers, dropping rulers, combining rulers, treating interregna as rulers, switching between theologians and emperors, etc.) preventing a duplication of the effort and therefore hinting that his results may have a pathological Science aspect to them akin to N-rays over a century ago and effectively making this whole theory an Ad hoc hypothesis.6
3. Fomenko’s rejection of radio-carbon dating, numsiatics, (coin study), dendrochronology, (tree rings), etc., is tenditious and frequently ignorant. For example with dendrochronology he argues from alleged gaps that it can’t be trusted. In fact secure dendrochronological dates go back more than 10,000 years. Fomenko must exercise a disciplined ignorance for his opinions.7

4. Further Fomenko’s dismissal of retrocalculation of astrnomical dating based on the Babylonioan tablets and Chinese recording of eclipses does not contrary to Fomenko’s assertions get dates all over the place in fact multiple analysis to these multiple recorded observations agrees with the conventional dates. For example the whole sequence of Babylonian observations, of which there are literally dozens, found on Babylonian cuniform tablets agrees with the “conventional” dating, to say nothing of other dating methods like denrochronology and radio-carbon etc.8

5. Further this is frankly an over the top conspiracy theory for which Fomenko just wildly speculates about why anyone would do it and assumes the fabrication of masses of documents, accounts etc., along with masses of inscriptions coins etc. It is frankly incredible. All those allegedly mythical Medieval kings with coins are treated with cries of forgery and fraud including the coins that are to this day being dug up.9 To quote:
For that matter, how can we expect to believe Fomenko's arguments since Imperial coinage that documents the succession of the emperors can be gathered from virtually every year from 27 BCE to 1453 CE? How do we discount written Roman history and the great reigns of the past? Further, if Fomenko is correct, we must ignore the Magna Carta of 1215, since England's King John would have been nothing more than a Byzantine fantasy.10
That Fomenko is motivated by a crude form of nationalism is obvious from his writings as one reviewer of his work has said:

The enemy for Fomenko is always the West and their corrupt Russian minions, most notably the Romanovs and the Yeltsin-era reformers. For Fomenko, World War two lives on in the war against the Germans. Not that other western Europeans are much better. Italians composed false chronicles from antiquity in order to make the Romans appear older and wiser than the rest of Europe, the French sent their mercenaries along with other European powers to protect the first Romanovs, the English and Americans always acted against Russia out odf envy that it was in reality Russia who once ruled the greatest empire the world has ever seen. For Fomenko, the Russians need Asia if they are to maintain their existence in the face of the challenge posed by the West.

Fomenkoism is an amalgam of disillusionment with and rediscovery of Soviet ideals, mixed with feelings of lost grandeur, hope, vengence and envy. For Fomenko, the story of Russian greatness has to be told a different way to the version favoured by Romanovs and Communists. The latter ignored the greatness of the Russian horde. All those who lived in the steppe and forests of Eurasia are automatically incorperated into Russia, according to Fomenko’s fantasy. The Russian Horde was, and remains, entitled to demand their loyalty.11
I will now briefly go into a examination of just one small part of Fomenko’s nonsense. Fomenko has the the eruption of Vesuvius occur 1631 C.E. Which faces the problem of having Pliny the Younger's account, which was printed before 1631 in Western Europe. Copies of said editions still exist with the dates. So this eruption was described before it happened!? No doubt this little problem is handeled by saying "forgery" and "fraud" over and over again.12

Vesuvius Erupting

Vesuvius has erupted on numerous occasions frequently with great destructiveness. Fromeko's idea is that the destructive eruption that destroyed Pompeii and Heracleum occurred 1631. Which of course means that Pliny's account must have been written after that eruption. Second if you read Pliny's account you would realize that the eruption described was extrodinarily destructive. It appears to have been a, (what is now called) a "Plinean" eruption. In which large sections of the mountain were destroyed and repeated "Nuee Ardente's" (burning clouds) devastated the surounding area and covered the area under many feet (more than 20 feet in places) of ash and volcanic rubble. There was of course the "Nuee Ardente" that swept across the bay of naples to Miseum and nearly killed Pliny the younger's entire family. This eruption has left massive and abundant traces including in places more than 20+ feet of ash etc. The 1631 eruption has also left traces and in comparison it was minor. One is easily distinguished from the other.13

Pompei was long buried by 1631. In fact it was so well buried that people had only a very poor idea of were it was.

In fact appears that although Vesuvius has in fact erupted on numerous occasions eruptions of the 79 C.E., variety seem to be mercifully rare occurring every few thousand years.

The other common sense problem with Fomenko is the huge difference in culture between the remains of those two cities and what we have from the 17th century. Oh and what about the virtually compete abscence of Christianity from both sites.

Oh and by the way the Laocoon after being lost for over a millenium created quite a stir when it was re-discoverd in 1506 and the result was a series of write ups by the media of the day. Now why is the Laocoon important in the context of Fomenko’s absurdities? It is because Pliny the Elder describes the statute in his massive Natural History. Now since Pliny the younger describes his uncle’s death in the eruption of Vesuvius this must mean that the Natural History was composed before the eruption.

The Laocoon

To quote Wikpedia:

Various dates have been suggested for the statue, ranging from about 160 to about 20 BC. Inscriptions found at Lindos in Rhodes date Agesander and Athenedoros to a period after 42 BC, making the years 42 to 20 the most likely date for the Laocoön statue's creation. The statue, which was probably originally commissioned for the home of a wealthy Roman, was unearthed in 1506 near the site of the Golden House of the Emperor Nero (who reigned from 54 to 68 AD), and it is possible that the statue belonged to Nero himself. It was acquired by Pope Julius II, an enthusiastic classicist, soon after its discovery and was placed in the Belvedere Garden at the Vatican, now part of the Vatican Museums.14
Now if Pompeii and Herculaneum had been destroyed in 1631 C.E. that definetly creates a problem. The other one is Pliny the Elder mentions the Laocoön in the palace of the Emperor Titus,Emperor 79 - 81 C.E.

To quote:

Beyond these, there are not many sculptors of high repute; for, in the case of several works of very great excellence, the number of artists that have been engaged upon them has proved a considerable obstacle to the fame of each, no individual being able to engross the whole of the credit, and it being impossible to award it in due proportion to the names of the several artists combined. Such is the case with the Laocoön, for example, in the palace of the Emperor Titus, a work that may be looked upon as preferable to any other production of the art of painting or of statuary. It is sculptured from a single block, both the main figure as well as the children, and the serpents with their marvellous folds. This group was made in concert by three most eminent artists, Agesander, Polydorus, and Athenodorus, natives of Rhodes. 15
So in other words someone before the alleged eruption (1631 C.E.) mentions the laocoon being lost, then Pliny mentions it being in the palace of the Emperor Titus at the time of the eruption, which creates a problem if the eruption was in 1631 C.E. And we have copies of Pliny's Natural History which contain the above passage. Oh and we have complete manuscripts of the Natural History, from the 11th century to say nothing of collections of excerpts that are earlier. Opps!16

As mentioned above Pliny the Younger letters which describe the eruption of Vesuvius and were published before 1631 C.E.

From Wikipedia:

In France Giovanni Giocondo discovered a manuscript of Pliny the Younger's letters containing his correspondence with Trajan. He published it in Paris dedicating the work to Louis XII. Two Italian editions of Pliny's Epistles were published by Giocondo, one printed in Bologna in 1498 and one from the press of Aldus Manutius in 1508.17
Isn't amazing that they were able to write a description of the eruption of 1631 C.E. before it happenned!! Yeah, right!

Fomenko is a total joke. His desperate efforts to escape the inescapable accuracy of the “conventional” history against the serpent of fact and truth are in the end as unavailing as Laocoon and his son’s unavailing struggle against their serpent.

1. New Chronology of the World History, Here. See also the multi volumed, History: Fiction or Science?, Delamere Resources LLC, 2007, Konstantin, Sheiko, Lomonosov's Bastards: Anatolii Fomenko, pseudo-history and Russia's search for a post-communist identity, Phd Dissertation, University of Wollongong, Australia, 2004, pp. 66, 208-226. Copy of Thesis at Here

2. See Wikepedia, New Chronology, Here, See also Fomenko, A. T., Nosovskij, G. V., New Chronology and new concept of the English History, Here.

3. Colavito, Jason, Who Lost the Middle Ages?, Here.

4. Konstantin, p. 21..

5. Diacu, Florin,The Lost Millennium, Knopf Canada, Toronto, 2005.

6. New Chronology.

7. Colavito, New Chronolgy, Dutch, Steven, Is a Chunk of History Missing?, Here.
8. New Chronology, Rawlins, Dennis, Recovering Hipparchos' Last Lost Lustrous Star, in Dio, V. 4. No. 3, December 1994, p. 119, Here. Espenak, Fred, Eclipse Predictions and the Earths Rotation, NASA, Here.

9. Colavito, New Chronolgy, Dutch.

10. Colavito.

11. Konstantin, p. 231 & 232.

12. Pliny, The Letters of the Younger Pliny, Penguin Books, London, 1963. The description can be found in Book Six, letters 16 and 20, pp. 166-168, 170-173.

13. IBID, and Winchester, Simon, Krakatoa, HarperCollins Pub., New York, 2003, p. 11-12, Wikipedia, Mount Vesuvius, Here.

14. Wikipedia, Laocoon and His Sons, Here.

15. Pliny the Elder, Natural History, at Perseus, Here. See Also Pliny the Elder, Natural History A Selection, Penguin Books, London, 1991, Book 36, Ch. 4, s. 37, at p. 347.

16. Wikipedia, Natural History, Here.

17. Wikipedia, Pliny the Younger, Here.

Pierre Cloutier

Monday, October 19, 2009

Olympic Lies

Charioteer most high
Of the weary-footed lightening
Zeus, thy circling Hours have sent me With the gamut of the harp’s song
To witness the loftiest of Games.
For Psaumis comes
On his chariot, crowned with the olive of Pisa.1

Greek vase painting of a Chariot race

Thus does the great Greek poet Pindar celebrate the victory of Psaumis of Kamarina in the Chariot races of Olympia c. 480 B.C.E.

No doubt many well be surprised to find out that the person who walked away with the much coveted wreath of olive leaves at Olympia was not the Chariot driver but the owner of the horses and team, who employed the driver!2 A surprise that is to those who think that there is a close resemblance between the ancient and modern games.

The modern Olympics are considered by many to be copied from the ancient Olympics of Greece. That may be the intention but in reality there is an enormous difference. Perhaps the most enormous difference is the modern cult of amateurism.

The modern Olympics had when they originated the idea that the only people who could compete were “amateurs”, i.e., those who did not earn a living / money from their athletic prowess. The idea was that some how earning a living sullied the “purity”, “idealism” of disinterested sports.3

The above lead to a truly absurd distortion of the ancient Olympics; for example:

The ancient Olympic Games … were strictly amateur... and for many centuries, as long as they continued amateur, they grew in importance and significance …Gradually, however, abuses and excesses developed… What was originally fun, recreation, a diversion, and a pastime became a business… The Games degenerated, lost their purity and high idealism, and were finally abolished … sport must be for sport’s sake.4

In 1913 the American athlete James Thorpe had his medals taken away and his Olympic record expunged because a few years earlier he had played Baseball for fifteen dollars a week for a few months. So that James Thrope was not a “pure” amateur and thus his medals would sully Olympic purity with the aura of filthy lucre.5

Pierre de Coubertin, founder and then President of the I.O.C., said with grave certainty:

It is enough to remember the careful way antiquity allowed participation in the Olympics only to those athletes who were irreproachable. Ought it not to be the same in the modern world? …If the Thorpe case convinces the whole world of the need for a change, it will undeniably have rendered sports a valuable service.6

Aside from being self serving and patronizing the above comments suffer from being flatly completely, spectacularly wrong!

To put it into a nut shell the ancient Greeks had absolutely no conception of the “amateur” athlete.7

‘Professional’ to him [Aristotle], as to every Greek, meant a man who received proper training and devoted himself more or less full-time to an activity an idiotes (we should say ‘an amateur’) did neither. The modern distinction –whether or not one was paid for the activity- did not enter into the picture for the simple reason that all athletes expected and accepted material rewards for victory, regardless of class or personal fortune.8

Greek vase painting of a Foot race

It is interesting that the modern word idiot is in fact derived from a Greek word that among other things meant ‘non-professional’ or amateur. In fact the general Greek attitude was one of derision for ‘amateurs’ who competed against professionals.9

Getting back to Chariot winners. The simple fact that the owners of the Chariot teams won the coveted olive wreath and employed, i.e., paid charioteers to drive their chariots and teams to victory should alert us to the clear difference between the ancient and modern games.10

Ancient athletes competed in a wide variety of games. Over a hundred games eventually developed all over the Greek world most with substantial cash or other prizes.11 Further even in games like the ancient Olympics in which aside from the olive wreath there was no prize there were considerable indirect awards. Like statutes being erected in honour of the athlete, the grateful city giving a large cash award to the victor, free sustenance for life, large rewards from wealthy men and so on and so forth.12

Greek Sculpture of a Discus thrower

In the games not only were there cash awards there could be valuable goods like jars of olive oil.13 The Athenian statesman Solon is sad to have introduced the following bonuses for winners in the games; 100 drachmas for the Isthmian games, 500 drachmas for the Olympics. Some cities introduced lifetime pensions for winners.14

The result was that athletes could become very wealthy and some did. It is reported that one athlete got 30,000 drachmas for a single appearance.15

The athletes who competed in the ancient Olympics did not compete out of disinterested interest in the sport but for fame and fortune and many managed to achieve just that. Further the idea that the ancient Olympics involved “aristocratic” “amateur” athletes is nonsense. The athletes came from all social strata.16

Bronze of seated Boxer

Given that story that the ancient Olympics were a disinterested competition among amateurs is complete nonsense; just how did this idea emerge?

This idea emerged in 19th century when aristocratic snobs in an effort to enforce class bias created the distinction between “amateur” and “professional” athlete in order to prevent “lower” class athletes from humiliating their “betters” by defeating them in athletics.17

To quote: bring together in sport the two divergent elements of society that can never by any chance meet elsewhere on even terms… The labouring class are all right in their way; let them go their way in peace, and have their athletics in whatsoever manner suits their inclinations…Let us have our own sport among more refined elements.18

In order to get moneyed support the early Olympics had to kowtow to this elitist nonsense and so was born the myth of the “pure”, “amateur”. And the actual history of the ancient Olympics was fraudulently, deliberately falsified to provide a bogus pedigree for what always was nothing more than egregious bigotry.

Even Pindar whose works would be misused19 to justify the myth of ancient amateurism said:

But if, my heart you would speak
Of prizes won in the Games,20

Plan of ancient Olympia

1. Pindar, Olympian 4, The Odes, Penguin Books, London, 1969, p. 227.

2. Finley, M. I., & Pleket, H. W., The Olympic Games: The First Thousand Years, Clarke, Irwin & Co. Ltd., Toronto, 1976, p. 30.

3. Young, David C., How the Amateurs, Won the Olympics, in The Archaeology of the Olympics, Ed. Raschke, Wendy J., University of Wisconsin Press, London, 1988, pp. 55-75, at pp. 55-56.

4. IBID, p. 72. Quoting Avery Brundage a member of the IOC, (International Olympic Committee).

5. IBID, pp. 55-56, 71. James Thorpe was undoubtedly one of the very greatest of American athletes.

6. IBID, p. 55.

7. Finley, pp. 71-73.

8. IBID, p. 71.

9. IBID, p. 71-73.

10. IBID, pp. 26-34.

11. IBID, pp. 74-78.

12. IBID, pp. 77-78, Durant, Will, The Life of Greece, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1939, pp. 216-217.

13. Note 12.

14. Finley, pp. 77-79.

15. IBID, p. 77.

16. IBID, pp. 73-74.

17. Young, pp. 62-65.

18. IBID, p. 64. Quoting Caspar Whitney.

19. See Young.

20. Pindar, Olympian 1, p. 64.

Pierre Cloutier

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Kennedy’s Head Case

John and Jacqueline Kennedy arrive in Dallas

The J.F.K., conspiracy psychosis is one of the most outstanding examples of sheer unadulterated wilful delusion alive today. In a past posting I examined the Kennedy mythos, which created the Kennedy “Holy Family” and turned John Kennedy into St. John of Kennedy; who also was turned into the incarnate son of God.1 Here I will examine just one element of the Kennedy assassination mythos, where conspiracy idiocy combines with scientific idiocy and mythology.

In this case it is what was revealed by the infamous Zapruder film, which seems to show that John Kennedy’s head as the bullet hits it, the head, moves back and to the left. This of course was used by Oliver Stone in the Film JFK to indicate that John Kennedy was killed by a bullet hitting him in the front. Jim Garrison as played in the movie and in real life played the tape over and over again to the jury in the Clay Shaw trial in New Orleans.2

It is a common belief that when a bullet hits some one it pushes or knocks the person back. This is the purest nonsense. As it is why do people believe it?

The answer is quite simple people have seen an endless array of Hollywood flicks in which people are knocked backwards by bullets hitting them, often a single one. Thus we see some one running towards someone and they are hit by a bullet that knocks them back. This is very dramatic and quite entertaining to see in a film, it is also total nonsense.3

Why is this total nonsense? It is quite simple, bullets weigh less than a 50 grams, (c. one ounce) the average human body weights well over 50 kilograms, (c. one hundred lbs). The energy of momentum of the bullet given its size will be tiny compared to either the inertia of the body it hits if it is not moving or any motion that the body is undergoing. Thus the momentum imparted by a bullet even if moving very fast will be minimal. To look at it from a different perspective remember according to Newton’s third law there must be an equal and opposite reaction. Thus any bullet that knocks some one off their feet will be enough to knock the shooter back also. Since that does not happen we can dismiss this as Hollywood fantasy.4

The TV show Mythbusters showed that this was nonsense when it fired bullets including by a machine gun into hanging pig carcases and got near zero movement. The firing of more than 50 rounds into a pig carcase with no visible movement resulting is especially effective as a debunking of this myth.5

To quote:
“So the killings that people see on television and in the movies, which is the only type of killings most people ever see, where the person being struck by the bullet very frequently is visibly and dramatically propelled backward by the force of the bullet [sometime to the point of toppling over] is not what happens in life when a bullet hits a human being?”

“No, of course not.”6
Regarding Kennedy’s head since the bullet that hit him weighed about 15 grams, (one third of a ounce), and the weight of a full grown adult human head would weight at least 4 kilograms, (c. 10 lbs), and in Kennedy’s case probably close to if not more than 7 kilograms, (c. 14 lbs).; one would expect that bullet would not move the head very much, if at all. Although interestingly a shot from the back could cause the head to move back due to the eruption of debris from the exit wound.7

Zapruder frame 313 showing moment bullet hits John Kennedy in the head

To quote again:
“So the head snap to the rear could not possibly have been caused by the force of a bullet from the front?” I asked.

He replied, “That’s correct. Kennedy’s head simply would not be pushed anywhere near that far back by one-third of an ounce, even traveling in excess of two thousand feet per second.”8
So the head movement in the Zapruder film proves absolutely nothing about where the bullet comes from and those who think it does have taken Hollywood fantasy as reality.

As for the source of the movement of Kennedy’s head to the back, it could be the debris exploding from the exit wound and / or an involuntary muscle movement it is most definitely not the result of a bullet hitting him in the front.9

Therefore it appears that if you are going to argue that John Kennedy was killed by a conspiracy; the head movements of John Kennedy after he was hit in the head are not evidence of it. They are quite consistent with a shot hitting him in the back of the head.

Diagram showing passage of bullet and damage to John Kennedy's skull

1. For some examinations of the Kennedy mythos and why it is a lie, see Vidal, Gore, The Holy Family, United States: Essays 1952-1992, Broadway Books, New York, 1993, pp. 809-826, (Originally Published in Esquire, 1967), and Hersh’s JFK, The Last Empire: Essays 1992-2000, Vintage Books, 2001, pp. 220-237, (Originally Published in The New Yorker, 1997), Hersh, Seymour M., The Dark Side of Camelot, Little Brown, New York, 1997, Wills, Gary, The Kennedy Imprisonment, Mariner Books, New York, 2002, (Originally published in 1982).

2. Rodgers, Tom, Insultingly Stupid Movie Physics, Source Books Inc, Naperville ILL., 2007, p. 195, Lambert, Patricia, False Witness, M. Evans and Co. Inc., New York, 1998, p. 129. For an analysis that reveals the worthlessness of JFK as a portrayal of the facts see, Lambert, pp. 209-242, and Bulgliosi, Vincent, Reclaiming History, W.W. Norton and Co., New York, 2007, 1347-1436. For how shoddy and abusive Garrison’s investigation and prosecution of Clay Shaw was see Bulgliosi above and, Posner, Gerald, Case Closed, Anchor Books, New York, 1993, pp. 421-450, Lambert, especially pp. 95-180, 199-208, 273-282.

3. Rogers, pp. 179-194, Bulgliosi, pp. 488-490.

4. Rogers, pp. 181-182, 202-203.

5. Mythbusters Results, Here.

6. Bulgliosi, p. 489. Bulgliosi is questioning a physics expert here.

7. Bulgliosi, p. 489. Rogers, pp. 196-200.

8. Bulgliosi, p. 488. Bulgliosi is questioning another physics expert.

9. Rogers, p. 202, Poser, pp. 314-315.

Pierre Cloutier

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Good and Bad

The following are two lists. The first is a list of, in my opinion, of the best novels I have ever read. The list after that is of the worst novels I have ever read.

My Choices for best novels are:

Cover of novel Anna Karenina

1, Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy. In my opinion the BEST novel ever! Certainly the best novel about adultery and its effects but it is more than that. Much more!

2, The Tale of Genji, by Murasaki Shikibu. 1000 years old but whoa!! The depth of psychological insight displayed by the author is amazing.

3, Gargantua and Pantagruel, by Francois Rabelais. Ribald fun. If you like your novels crude and also very erudite this is it. Read it to find out why a goose is good toilet paper.

4. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy. Nothing else to say. Part novel, part history and part psychology it pays huge dividends to read despite its length.

5. Gulliver's Travels, by Jonathan Swift. Viciously misanthropic. My favorite section the Land of the horses. Who knew someone who despised mankind so much could be so much fun.

6. Surfacing, by Margaret Atwood. Cruel fun. Yes Ms. Atwood has a sense of humour. It is impossible to describe just how cruel and funny this work is.

7. As for Me and My House, by Sinclair Ross. Despairing but yet hopeful. About how love both blinds and enables you to see.

8. Bleak House, By Charles Dickens. Mr. Dickens under some sort of control. A caustic attack on people playing false with each other.

9. The Breast, by Philip Roth. Unbelievably silly and funny. Well it is about a guy turning into a giant human breast.

10. The Story of the Stone, also called The Dream of the Red Chamber, by Cao Xueqin. and Gao E. Rise and fall of a Chinese family. Considered the pinnacle of Chinese novels.

11. Cousin Bette, by Honore de Balzac. Revenge gone to gangrene. About how revenge is soul destroying and ultimately fruitless.

Now, ugh!!, for the worst novels I’ve read:

Cover of novel Hannibal

1. Hannibal, by Thomas Harris. In all fairness NO ONE should ever read this novel. If giving plot details DON'T have a spoiler warning, because if knowing what happens in the novel prevents some people from reading it; then you have done a good deed.

2. The Carpetbaggers, by Harold Robbins. Mr. Robbins cements his reputation has the worst novelist of the Twentieth century with this bloated mess. Novel defines turgid. Has line "His whitehot shaft". Enough said.

3. Valley of the Dolls, by Jacqueline Suzanne. Ms. Suzanne makes popping pills into a coma preferable to reading this novel. The grade Z movie made of this novel lives down to its non-existent quality.

4. American Psycho, by Bret Easton Ellis. Grade Z slasher film as a novel. Contains much pointless description of atrocities. Author has major case of epater le bourgeoise. Novel is of the same level of child defecating in public for attention.

5. Silas Marner, by George Eliot. Ms. Elliot manages to pack many thousands of pages of boredom into less than 250 pages. Read any ten pages and you will find out how to make anything you write turgid and dull to the max.

6. The Portrait of the Artist has a Young Man, by James Joyce. Stunningly self indulgent. Mr. Joyce convinces reader that Stephen is better off dead.

7. Stranger in the Mirror, by Sidney Sheldon. This is a ur story about the "real" Hollywood. So over the top its unintentionally risible. The prose is beyond moronic; just read the descriptions of sex.

8. Birthright, by Nora Roberts. Ms. Roberts seems to write one Romance Novel a month and it shows. Every hideous romance novel cliché is in this book. Fortunately Ms. Roberts does not take herself too seriously as a writer.

9. Hotel, by Arthur Hailey. Anything by Mr. Hailey would do, but this one because it inspired a bad prime time soap will do as a example. Mr. Hailey is basically a Harold Robbins wannabe but whereas Mr. Robbins is turgid, very very heavy turgid; Mr. Hailey is turgid lite, but still unreadable.

10. Naked Came the Stranger, by Mike McGrady et al. A spoof trying to parody bad novels. Despite best efforts fails to be intentionally has bad as so many of these dreadful novels are unintentionally. Even as a parody it is still dreadful.

11. A Pilgrims Progress, by Paul Bunyan. One reading of this ponderous tome has great success in converting people to Atheism. It is also incredibly boring, heavy handed and morally repugnant. Yes abandoning your wife and kids is alright!?

Pierre Cloutier
Carlos Castaneda and
Anthropological Fraud

Carlos Castaneda Cover on Time Magazine

Carlos Castaneda (1925-1998) was the author of various books, of “Anthropology”, including Castaneda, Carlos. Journey to Ixtlan, The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge, A Separate Reality, The Art of Dreaming, and many other books.1

The other thing to remember about Carlos Castaneda is that he was a fraud and a liar. He said that he was doing research on Yaqui Shamanism who he called Don Juan. It is now very clear that Don Juan did not exist and that Carlos books are clear frauds in that they are not in any sense Ethnographic accounts of Yaqui Shamanism but fiction.2

Rather than go into a long dissertation about why Carlos Castaneda’s books are fraudulent, I will just mention a few facts.

Carlos Castaneda claimed that he was born in Sao Paulo Brazil in either 1931 or 1935. It appears that in fact he was born in 1925 in the city of Cajamarca Peru. He also claimed to have served in the Korean War, also a false claim.3

Further it appears that Carlos claim to describe Yaqui shamanism is completely bogus and his Don Juan nothing but an invention.4 Further Carlos accounts have such absurdities as Carlos wondering about with Don Juan in the desert for days in June with no mention of the heat. Those description of hiking about in the desert when the temperature soars to well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, are just stupid. We read descriptions of climbing up to the top of hills in August and resting in open spaces until noon. What!!5 We also learn that the Sonoran desert is crawling with Mountain lions (Pumas), despite that fact they have nearly been wiped out in the area and are solitary, among other absurdities.6

In 1973 When a lot of people were taking Carlos’ fantasies seriously even Time magazine in a generally positive cover story said:

However, with Castaneda's increasing fame have come increasing doubts. Don Juan has no other verifiable witness, and Juan Matus is nearly as common a name among the Yaqui Indians as John Smith farther north. Is Castaneda real? If so, did he invent Don Juan? Is Castaneda just putting on the straight world?

But such endorsements and parallels do not in any way validate the more worldly claim to importance of Castaneda's books: to wit, that they are anthropology, a specific and truthful account of an aspect of Mexican Indian culture as shown by the speech and actions of one person, a shaman named Juan Matus. That proof hinges on the credibility of Don Juan as a being and Carlos Castaneda as a witness. Yet there is no corroboration—beyond Castaneda's writings-that Don Juan did what he is said to have done, and very little that he exists at all.7
If the fraudulence of Carlos “research” and books is now well established how did he end up being so successful and getting a Phd from the University of California? I will explore that later.

Castaneda's books has been under sustained attack for many years, right from the beginning, the refusal of the University of California to openly acknowledge this is a reflection on them but I guess they want to preserve the rather profitable sales of Castaneda's books. Its always hard to acknowledge you've been had especially when it makes you money. I note that vast legion of "alternative" Anthropologists, etc., who have been boosting Castaneda's books have been if anything even more loath to admit they've been had.

If they had followed a few simple rules, that my Prof's in Anthropology were required, and required, to produce Castaneda would never have gotten a Phd.

1, Prove that you went to where you say you went. (tickets, photos, etc.)

2, Turn over your notes to the Phd. committee.

3, If you are working with people who speak a different language provide a vocabulary of some kind indicating a knowledge of said language.

4, Indicate in your bibliography a detailed knowledge of seminal and recent work on the "people" you are studying.

5, Have on your committee at least one person who has some detailed knowledge of the the area / people you are doing the Phd. on.

6, Have the manuscript properly vetted for errors, omissions etc.

It is my understanding that the Committee that awarded Castaneda the Phd., violated those norms.

The University of California is shamefully but not surprisingly refusing to publicly acknowledge this Phd board’s incompetence and negligence.

Carlos Castaneda was and remains a fraud because he invented Don Juan and his research on the Yaqui Indian Shamanism was bogus and false.

He claimed to the Phd., committee he was doing ethnographic research on a Yaqui Indian shaman. He was not. He told the Phd., committee he was doing research on Yaqui religious practice and he was not. He told vast number of people, (those who bought his books) that his books represented a picture of Yaqui shamanism and religious belief; it is not. The books were presented has non-fiction when they were fiction. Finally the books are peppered with absurdities, inaccuracies which indicate systematic falsehoods.It is shameful that Carlos got a Phd., and a further shame the University of California refuses to publicly acknowledge this shoddy episode for what it was.

Carlos was however very attuned to the wave of New Age idiocy that was coming and decided to cash in on that wave by producing works awash in New Age glop and it helped make him rich and famous. Meanwhile it produced works of virtually no Anthropological value whatsoever.8

Some try to excuse Carlos on the grounds that his writing impart a “higher” truth, however Time magazine got it right so long ago when it compared Carlos’ writings to fiction:

The difference is that Castaneda does not present his Don Juan cycle as fiction but as unembellished documentary fact.9

I might be able to discuss the merits of Castaneda's books, (in my opinion minimal) if they had been published as fiction, and not as fact.

1. Journey to Ixtlan, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1972, The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge, University of California Press, Berkeley CA., 1998, A Separate Reality, Pocket Books, New York, 1971, The Art of Dreaming, HarperCollins, New York, 1993.

2. See for example De Mille, Richard, Castaneda’s Journey, Capra Press, Santa Barbara CA., 1976, De Mille, Richard, Editor, The Don Juan Papers, Ross-Erikson Pub., Santa Barbara, Ca., 1980, Kikes, Jay Courtney, Carlos Castaneda, Academic Opportunism and the Psychedelic Sixties, Millenia Press, Victoria BC., 1993, Churchill, Ward, Carlos Castaneda: The Greatest Hoax since Piltdown Man, in Fantasies of the Master Race, Common Courage Press, Monroe MA., 1992 pp. 43-64, Harris, Marvin, Return of the Witch, in Cows, Pigs, Wars and Witches, Vintage Books, New York, 1974, pp. 208-222, and Cultural Materialism, Vintage Books, New York, 1979, pp. 319-324.

3. Churchill, p. 45, Wikipedia, Carlos Casteneda, Here.

4, De Mille, Richard, Sonoragate or Tales of Folly, in The Don Juan Papers, pp. 119-143, see also Harris, 1974.

5, Sebald, Hans, Roasting Rabbits in Tularemia or The Lion, the Witch, and the Horned Toad, in The Don Juan Papers, pp. 34-38, p. 35.

6. IBID, p. 36.

7, Time Magazine cover story, March 5, 1973, Don Juan and the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, at Time, Here.

8, Gardner, Martin, Carlos Castaneda and New Age Anthropology, in Did Adam and Eve Have Navels?, W.W. Norton, New York, 2001, pp. 162-171, Harris, 1974 & 1979. For what Carlos was up too later in his life and its ill effects see Marshall, Robert, The dark legacy of Carlos Castaneda, at Salon, Here.

9. Time.

Pierre Cloutier

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Bad Songs

Tiny Tim

In pursuit of one of my favorite hobby horses. The reign of the horrible here is my list of song atrocities, in no particular order.

1, Tip Toe through the Tulips, Tiny Tim version. Tiny Tim should have tip toed over a cliff rather than inflict this song on us,and his voice is falsetto annoying!

2, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. The William Shatner version. Possibly the WORST recording of a song ever. Has added atrocity factor from the fact the song is a CLASSIC and it takes major effort to render it bad to this truly unbelievable degree.

3, Muskrat Love. Sung by 70’s effluent The Captain and Tennile. About two muskrats making out. UGH!

4, Timothy. Bleated by The Buoys. All you need to know about the song are these lyrics:

Timothy, Timothy, Joe was looking at you
Timothy, Timothy, God what did we do?

I must have blacked out just around then
'Cause the very next thing that I could see
Was the light of the day again
My stomach was full as it could be
And nobody ever got around
To finding Timothy.1

5, You Light up my Life. Sung by Debbie Boone. I descend into the blackest pit of darkness upon hearing this treacly mess.

6, That's Amoure. "When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie. That's Amore". Dean Martin how could you sing something so DUMB!

7, I scream, You scream, We all Scream for Ice Cream. I scream when I hear this song. In pain and it doesn’t matter who sings it.

8, Seasons in the Sun. By Canada’s own Terry Jacks. A wonderfully uplifting song about suicide. cloying and whiny in mega doses.

9, Dancing Queen. Vomited by ABBA. This song is a perfect example of Euro-muzak; it is mindless, banal and utterly trite, along with being saccharine. When the horror, sorry musical, Momma Mia came out I considered standing in front of a theatre showing the flick with my old ABBA sucks t-shirt, because they did and still do.

10, Saturday Night. In any list of bad songs something by the abomination known has the Bay City Rollers should be mentioned.

11, MacArthur's Park. “Sung” by actor Richard Harris. Well I must confess I like the music, though it is rather over blown. The lyrics however put it into a whole new league of badness. "Someone left the cake out in the rain, I don't think that I can fake it and it took so long to bake it and I'll never have that recipe again! Oh No!". Why hasn't anyone rewritten the lyrics! Of course the Donna Summer version adds a whole new element of horror, (the Disco factor), which adds a thick patina of grotesqueness to the song.

What would other people like to put into a list of bad tunes?

Single Cover Showing Richard Harris and Jim Webb

1. Lyrics Download, Here

Pierre Cloutier