Biblical truth? Literalism? –Robert M. Shelby, 8-19-11. [1236 txt wds]

Putting it most generally, biblical truth is aspirational rather than literal. Nor is the Bible even factual to any large degree, though it affords glimmers of history shining through generations of creative story-telling and anciently reported hearsays with all their distortions of personal or group interest and cultural limitation. However much expert religiosi claim divine inspiration for the book and all those who wrote and revised its parts at diffenent times, they all reflect a defect of mental culture that originated in prehistory. I have previously written about SMD, a condition called “Standard Metaphysical Disconnect” in a piece entitled “Mad Hatter’s Tea Party.”

People the world over have for millennia felt humanity’s need for an outlook based on something better than the visible scenes around them; something that transcends life in a world they usually experience. They want values informing their lives better than those of market place, work place and gossip in clubs and public squares. People have perhaps always been dimly aware of disconnection between awareness and reality, as if something about their minds was not well equipped to integrate all their experiences and intuitions, their perceptions and apprehensions.

As for the Bible, for any part of either testament to be true, we have to conceive of truth as separate from fact. Bifurcating or splitting the unity of truth and fact reflects the elemental flaw (SMD) of one’s cultural mentality, that root blow against integrity which parts intelligence from feeling and wisdom from emotion. Most have been willing to sacrifice intellect for warmth. Some refuse to accept feeling comfortable in honest recognition of cognitive dissonance. We all know folks who “give themselves up to Jesus” and accept credulously all that metaphysical paraphernalia “on faith,” a creed which I, for one, found incredible by early adulthood. I came to find no difference between spirit and matter outside of the dictionaries; no greater difference between body and mind than between the two (or more) sides of a coin, both distinctions confined to appearance in which perception is shaped by preconceptions or ideas.

Is there a “wisdom of the heart” distinct from a “wisdom of the brain?” If a brain is home to a mind absorbed in abstractions, the answer is yes, because brain can isolate its attention from the larger nervous system with its whole body which also knows things that the mind’s awareness can shrink from, ignore or forget. The person divided, so to speak, between heart and brain, must somehow be reminded by one part or the other, or from external source, of what each part lacks in failing to provide completeness.

Anthropologically speaking, culture can be seen as the sum total of abstractions that determine individual perception, group behavior and the patterns into which produced objects and voluntary actions fall. Distinct cultures arise in relatively self-contained or closed societies based on speech-usages, manners and workways, though aspects of culture pass between different language communities. Problems can arise from the fact that within individual persons, different “languages” or modes of expression can exist for heart and brain which polarize the two and impair smooth interaction of parts within the whole. This gets expressed recurrently in national politics. Our country seems very near mental breakdown. Extremes at both ends of the spectrum project themselves on each other and widen the gap between them toward national schizophrenia. This behavior reflects back into the observable behavior and speech of many prominent people.

The result is socio-economic chaos from which some with large means profit at the expense both of national unity and everyone else. These “profiteers” display the illness in its worst form and spread the infection to poorly integrated folks of lesser means and poorly  informed awareness who identify with prominent figures of similarly defective spirit and lack of understanding. Chaos is seldom inevitable, certainly not necessary. Chaos is cultivated by those who gain from it. Need I mention the Koch brothers, Karl Rove or the Murdoch family with their hirelings and hangers-on? The Kochs spread some money around for good causes, but it is protective coloration or window dressing for self-regard. These people are all predators on community. They pretend to be great builders and benefactors to the nation, but they are engineers of chaos which were it to dominate and rule our polity and economy would further enrich themselves but make very few others happier or better off. The vast majority would face increased misery and poverty, relieved only by voluntary enslavement for earnings dependent on precariously held favor obtained by careful sucking up to employers and supervisors.

When chaos affects the economy, markets fluctuate rapidly. Never imagine big capital wants stability. The big money people are not uniformly and consistently sensible enough to care for the interests or well being of the small investor. Today’s markets are fleecing machines. Big investors can jump in and out of stocks almost instantly. Computer programs watch the markets and make micro-second decisions for them.  They never really lose, even in a general decline because what counts is not dollar value of holdings but ratio of one’s holdings to the whole field of ownership. Big money has staying power. It can last until the market recovers and be stronger than ever, while the small player gets wiped out.

Belief without knowledge is dangerous. If not immediately risky to the believer it can still endanger the believer’s world and harm others. Directly or indirectly, a false assumption leads to erroneous policy and action. Fundamentalist Christians promote several false beliefs and support them with fallacious arguments. Controversy around these notions wastes much time and energy among our people. Congressional houses have trouble enough reaching consensus on anything without issues smoking up from hot points of friction over misconceived ideas paraded as fact. The far right has several fundamentalist errors it shares with evangelical Christians.

Just as destructive of good understanding and reasoning is the condition we can call SPD, “Standard Political Disconnect.” People who studied American Social Psychology started with works by the University of Chicago’s George Herbert Mead, namely, The Philosophy Of The Present, 1932, and Mind, Self And Society, 1934. Mead’s views became foundational to the field. While strongly influenced by Alfred North Whitehead and French philosophers including Henri Bergson, it must be understood, Mead was not the be-all and capstone of Social Psychology any more than Darwin epitomized all that would follow in the field of evolutionary biology. The foudation of a skyscraper should not be confused with the view from its topmost windows. Many are those of knee-high stature who are ready to reduce complex matters to the nonsense of sound-bites. SPD is shown in the failure of many people today to grasp the inseparable connection between individuals and society, the fact that personality and culture are distinct only in the words we have for them. They are indissoluably linked. Each member of the pair arises as a reflex of the other, two faces of one coin. Failure to understand their developmental unity results in a kind of un-sanity. Insanity is clinically defined but un-sanity is manifested at best as sub-optimal behavior and imperfect judgment.

Un-sanity characterizes both religious and political fundamentalism. Most people need but little observation of recent Wisconsin politics and Tea Party activity to sense that many have gone over the edge of sanity into outright, wild-eyed madness, the tell-tale mark of fanaticism. We have it here, among us.

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