Monday, October 13, 2008

Imagining Rel: from Babylon to Jonestown by J. z. smith 82

Imagining Rel: from Babylon to Jonestown by J. z. smith 82

xi-“Rel is solely the creation of the scholar’s study. It is created for the scholar’s analytic purposes by his imaginative acts of comparison and generalization. Rel has no indp existence apart from the academy. For this reason, the student of rel, and most particularly the historian of rel, must b relentlessly self-conscious. Indeed, this self-consciousness constitutes his primary expertise, his foremost object of study”
“4 the self-xonscious student of rel, no datum possesses intrinsic interest. It is of value only insofar as it can serve as exempli gratia of some fundamental issue in the imagination of rel. The student of rel must b able to articulate clearly why “this” rather than “that” was chosen as an exemplum. His primary skill is concentrated in this choice. This effort at articulate choice is all the more difficult, and hence all the more necessary, for the historian of rel who accepts neither the boundaries of canon nor of community in constituting his intellectual domain, in providing his range of exempla”
“Implicit in this effort at articulate choice r 3 conditions. First, that the exemplum has been well and fully understood. This reqs a mastery of both the relevant and primary material and the history and trad of its interp. Second, that the exemplum b displayed in the service of some important theory, some paradigm, some fundamental ?, some central element in the academic imagination of rel. Third, that there b some method for explicitly relating the exemplum to the theory, paradigm or ? and some method for evaluating ea in terms of the other”
xiii-“…that characteristic history of rels mats such as myths r best approached as “common stories,” as pieces of prosaic discourse rather than as multivalent, condensed, highly symbolic speech. In short, I hold that there is no privilege to myth or other relus mats. They must b understood primarily as texts in context, specific acts of communication btwn specified indvs, at specific pts in time and space, about specifiable subjects…For the historian of rel, the task then becomes one of imagining the “situ,” of constructing the contxt, insofar as it is relevant to his interpretative goals. This implies, as well, that there is no privilege to the so-called exotic. For there is no primordium—it is all history. There is no “other,”—it is all “what we c in eurp every day”
-but u still look at new groups for “making the familiar seem strange in order to enhance our perception of the familiar. The success of any historian of rel’s work depends upon a judgement as to whether this enhancement has taken place”
-dean of u of chi
1-“…the central probs for the student of rel r those of theory and method”
-“There r several types of ordering systems which seek to define cats in order to yield entitites which may b compared. The most requent, and least useful, is some artificial and unscientific system of classification which makes no pretence of revealing anything about its subject matter, whose major justification is the relative ease w/ which info may b located or recalled” (eg the dewey decimal system, “alphabetical arrangement of directories”)
-“…the most widely used scientific system of ordering [is] the taxonomy. When properly constructed, its central feature is hierarchy. Taxa at the same level differ from and exclude one another. Taxa at a higher level include the lower taxa as being similar. The lowest division, the infima species, is, thus, the most diff. The hisgherst, the summon genus, is the most inclusive.” (eg biological, genus) “In both theory and practice, taxonomies r determined by monothetic procedure and presuppositions, the quest for a single item of discrimination, the sine qua non—the that w/out which a taxon whould not b itself but some other.”, which leads to “focuses on features and attributes and askes a set of binary ?s w/ respect to a graded series of singular features” (eg does it have chlorophyll or not?)
3-and after so much of this, u reduce the “characteristics to a single and decisive trait”
-this all, def of class has its roots in grks and 18th ce wrk of Linnaeus—tho was replaced by evory theory w/ “an historical def of class as (4) descended from a common ancestor. The logical prior gave way to the historical primordium. While the notion of common was maintained, it became something of a mrage, for there was neither a theoretical basis not an empirical warrant for the assumption that any given anscetstral trait would persist in any given descendent” plus variability complicates it more
*-and some think same members of same phenom don’t need to share exact characteristics, just imilar—polythetic from 18th ce andanson then revived in 59 by beckner then sokol and sneath
-and there will always b borderline cases, and they r “welfcomed as a stimulus to further research”

5-“All of the issues raised w/ respect to biological classification recur in the study of rel and its taxonomic agenda: the attempt to distinguish rel from other taxa of human exprc and expression,” etx. “Ea of these issues must b faced b4 beginning to address the task of ‘naming the differential quality’ of early Judaism”
-“The first level of inquiry, that of the distinction of rel, has usully been attempted in a monotheistic fashion. Scholars have engaged in the quest for the unique and definite sine qua non, the “that w/outh which” rel would not b rel but rather an instance of smthing else. In the main, the results of this enterprise have not been convincing; they have failed to achieve consensus. They have been poorlty formulated and violate the ordinary canons of def” [cf penner and yonan “Is a science of rel possible?”] “But this is less disturbing than the fact that the presuppositions of the monothetic enterprise have been deliberately tampered w/ for apologetic reasons”
6-in biology when characteristics of diff species r similar, they acknowledge it—“None of this is admitted by students of rel. Some special uniqueness is claimed for rel as well as for particular relus trads, and this uniqueness is conceived to b unilateral and nonreciprocal. If rel is unique w/ respect to other cultural activities, it is rarely conceded that, therefore, these activities r unique w/ respect ot rel”

-relus studies has systems, but “unlike the biological system, there r usu normative implications or the assignment of positive or negative valences which render the classification useless” (e gnat/revealed, affirming/denying) “…w/ the perceived positive pole id’d w/ ‘us’ and the negative w/ ‘them’”
7-“an alleged alternative, rep’d by long lists in ‘phenomenologcl’ wrks, gives a taxonomy for particular relus trads by idfying a single trait which is held to reveal the ‘essence’ of that trad. But the results r arbitrary and poorly defined, being determined by extrinsic apologetics” (eg van der leeuw and mensching say Judaism is basically about “law” while xnty is about “love”)
-says taxonomie r alright, but u cant use the “inappropriate notion of ‘essence’”; (8) and u could have an evory classification of rel but should b “multilinear evo”

8-its premature to produce “a proper polythetic classification…but it is possible to b clear about what it would entail. We would idfy a set of characteristics to begin to trace their configurations” 50-100 characteristics—“the possession of any one of which is sufficient for admission to the taxon”

-quotes f. max muller for saying (1873) “all real science rests on classification” and if this is not possible then there isn’t a “science of rel”

-he proposes “2 operations which might serve to free students of rel from the usu preoccupations w/ poll and literary history and the termptation to reduce phena to ‘essences’”
9-first: “select a single taxic indicator that appears to funct w/in the trad as an internal agent of discrimination and map it thru a variety of the mats of early Judaism in order to gain some appreciateion of the range of its application” (eg circumcision)
-2nd: “take a limited body of mat from early Judaism and map out all of its taxonomic indicators. These would later b compared w/ other, diff sets of early Jewish data” (eg funerary inscriptions)
-neither 1 is monothetic: “We r not seeking integration and definition, rather we r attempting to take an initial step toward the listing of all characteristics of early Judaism. The final results would b in the form of a ranked but diverse and motley catalog of traits. At some later date, and wh/ comparative mats, they would have to b grouped according to some quantitative technique of multidimensional scaling in the service of some theory”

10-so in his use of circumcision, it gives a “dichotomous, defninitive division w/in the horizon of this trad” (eg “is he male?”, “is he circumcised?”)
14-but “the ide range of uses and interps of circumcision as a taxonomic indicator in early Judaism suggests that, even w/ respect to this most fundamntl division, we cannot sustain the impossible construct of a normative Judaism. We must conceive of a variety of early judaisms, clustered in varying configurations”
18-same for funerary inscriptions

-anthros have been abandoning struct functlsm and began accepting image of culture (by f. e. Williams) as a ““heap of rubbish,” a “tangle,” a “hotch-potch,” only partially orgzd”—and relus studies should too
20-scholars of rel r concerned w/ history—“events and expressions from the past, reconceived vividly,” therefore “dimensions of memory and rememberance—whether they b collective labor of society or the work of the indv historian’s craft”
-earliest full theory of memory (besides plato’s idea of anamnesis) is arist’s de memoria et reminiscentia—memory is exprc of “smthing either similar or contrary to what we seek or else from thot which is contiguous to it”; used by aug and sam taylor Coleridge
21-dvlpd into “Laws of Assoc” by enlightnmnt then this “played a seminal role in the dvlpmnt of theory in the study of rel”
-eg e b tylor 1865 thot that Law of Assoc “supplied the underlying logic for magical praxis”, then frazer used this to dvlp typology of magic: “Homoepathic magic is founded on the assoc of ideas by similarity; contagious magic is founded on the assoc of ideas by contiguity”, he also “repeats Tyl;or’s charge that magic is a confusion of a subjective relationship w/ an objective one”, if no confusion, u got real science

-and laws of assoc were also used in “the enterprise of comparison in the human sciences. For, as practiced by scholarship, comparison has been chiefly an affair of the recollection of similarity. The chief explanation for the significance of comparison has been contiguity. The procedure is homeopathic.” The theory is built on contagion. The issue of diffc has been all but forgotten
-“In no lit on comparison that I am familiar w/ has there been any presentation of rules for the production of comparisons”
22-perhaps this is b/c the scholar didn’t set out to make comparisons, but was attracted to something’s uniqueness, but along the way noticed something similar to smthng he’s seen before—and “In the vast majority of instances in the history of comparison, this subjective exprc is projected as an objective connection thru some theory of influence, diffusion, borrowing, or the like. It is a process of working from a psychological assoc and an historical one; it is to assert that similarity and contiguity have a causal effect. But this…is not science but magic.”
*-quotes I. H. Hassan 55: “When we say that A has influenced B, we mean that a fter…analysis we can discern a number of significant similarities btwn the works of A and B…So far we have estd no influence; we have only documented what I call affinity. For influence presupposes some manner of causality.”
-“comparison appears…more impressionistic than methodical”

-in a previous study looking at 2500 years of lit of anthropological comparison, he found “For basic modes or styles of comparison”:
-1) ethnographic: “based essentially on travellers’ impressions. Smthng ‘other’ has been encountered and perceived as surprising either in its similarity or dissimilarity to what is familiar ‘back home.’ Features r compared…comparison fucts (23) primarily as a means for overcoming strangeness.”, r often “depending on intuition, a chance assoc, or the knowledge one happens to have. There is nothing systematic in such comparisons,” they r “petty, and unrevealing”
23-2) encyclopedic: “not limited by the external circumstances of travel or contact. Rather than presenting items from a single culture that had been encountered by the author, as the ethnogrphc mode characteristically did, [it] offered a topical arrangement of cross-cultural material culled, most usually, from reading. The data r seldom either explicity compared or explained. They simply cohabit w/in some cat, inviting comparison by their coexistence, but providing no clues as how this comparison might b undertaken.”, “contextless lists held together by mere surface assoc”, usually of the exotic
-3)morphological: it “allows the arrangement of indv items in a hierarchical series of increased org and complexity. It is a logical, formal progression which ignores cats of space (habitat) and time”, uses idea of a “few ‘original elements’ from which complex systems f generated”
24-4) evory: “factors in the dynamics of change and persistence over time in response to adaptation to a given environment”, useful for biologicl sciences, but “I know of nothing in principle that would prevent fruitful application to the human sciences as well.”, 19th ce evory theory (as used by anthros and compara relsts) “was an illegitimate combo of the morphological, ahistorical approach to comparison and the new temporal framework of the evolutionists…[which] allowed the comparativist to draw his data w/out regard to time or place and, the, locate them in a series from the simplest to the more complex, adding the assumption that the former was chronologically as well as logically prior.”

-of these 4, ethnographc and encyclopedic, “r in principle inadequate as comparative activities, although both have other important and legit functs. The evory (25) would b capable in principle of being formulated in a satisfactory manner, but I know of no instances of its thoro application to cultural phena…This leaves only the morphological, carried over w/ marked success from tehbiological to the cultural by o. Spengler, and which has a massive exemplar in relus studies in the work of m. eliade, whose endeavor is thoroly morphological in both presuppositions and technical vocabulary, of its philosophical presuppositions, b/c for methodologically rigorous and internally defensible reasons, it is designed to exclude the historical, the only option appreas to b no option at all”

-Since the 60s, 3 others have been thot of: statistical, structural, and “systemic description and comparison”
-statistical has probs coming up w/ a “unit of comparison” and so it just looks like ethnographic and encyclopaedic systems
-structuralism is “a subset of morphology, although w/ Marxist rather than Idealist presuppositions”
26-the systemic description and comparison “may b an elegant form of the ethnographic to the degree that the descriptive is emphasized, and the comparisons thus far proposed remain contiguous”
-none of the new modes r really new, just variants on old 4

-some difficult lit is on “diffusion vs. parallel o indp invention” (prob since Herodotus)—he is interested in the “Pan-Babylonian School”
-they introduced “the notion of a total system”—“weltan schauung”, culture is not biolgcl but a human artificat, critiqued evory school, and said the object of rel is “man’s cultural and intellectual world, not the world of nature”—(opposed naturists), and saw ppls’ world views as internally coherent and logical and could therefore “be articulated in a rigorously systematic manner”
27-f. by hugo winckler (1900); another person is Alfred jeremias; they say the lit of the ancient near e. civilizations was very cultured, spiritual, uniform
-no nature worship, “no sign of slow dvlpmnt”, criticized evory approach for not seeing unity of rel and rejects parallel dvlpmnt b/c it cannot account for systemic similarity” (it only pts to general ??? motifs
-they r diffusionists—all came from Babylon
28-jeremias left old bad comparison criteria and looked at 3: 1) “world view”, “the unconscious syntactic of intellectual thot when applied to first principles” must have “imposing uniformity”, 2)”culture complex”—the semantics, “lexicon self-consciously transmitted by elites”, lang, 3) the text, “pragmatics”, speech
29-tho the school was wrong at the factual level, they were rt 2 “ground comparison and pattersn in a historical process” and dvlpd a model to do it, balancing generalities and particularities—2 strains followed it, diffusionist (myth-ritual school) and cutting pattersn from history (eliade); no alternative yet
-they made the very pop but “groundless distinction…btwn cyclical and linear time, the former associated by them w/ the Near E. and myth, the latter, w/ Israel and history.”

“3 of the most distinguished, creative, native-born Amer historians of rel” (G. moore, E. goodenough, and j. neusner) spent a lot of their careers using systemic descriptions and comparisons, (prolly an accident)
34-criticizes Neusner’s method for relying on idea of a “whole” and “parts” of rel—“I find no methodological hints on how such rentities r to b discovered, let alone compared”

35-wittgnestein ptd out the prob of comparison too
36-black 62 and hesse 66 said “models bear close structural similarities to metaphors, that both invite us to construe one thing in terms of another…so that we may c things in a new, and freqly unexpected light. A model, in short, is a ‘rediscription.’”
37-this essay looks to give a dedescription of the subject of relus canon and its authority btwn rels

-the “history of rels testifies to a belief that the sacred stubbornly persists” eternally, timeless and for anthros is “one of the enduring, species-specific defs of man, man is…Homo Religiosus” eg firth said rel is universal
-but “Any enumeration of the persistent features of man (from opposed thumbs to erect posture), or even of the persistent and allegedly unique features of man (eg., use of symbols, speech, laughter, rel) must record a set of traits so sumerous and diverse as to result in a motley list rather than a peruasive demonstration of ‘truth’ or of an ‘essence.’ Such an approach has proven incapable of supplying a satisfactory def of either man or rel. Nor have there been any satisfying criteria estd to enable us to isolate any one of these “persistences” as being more revealing of human nature than another.”
-cites Karl Popper saying even we have many examples of characteristic of something, it doesn’t mean all that things has that charactersistic
38-and, citing spiro, says it doesn’t matter if some cultures don’t have rel

-cicero in 45bc (de natura deorum( said etymology of “relus” is from “relegere meaning to gather together, to collect, to go over again, to review mentally, to repeat”
-Cicero said this was said by stoic balbo—said all”who carefully reviewed and went over again all the pertained to the rituals of the gods were rels”

39-says that he thinks freud’s idea that rel is basically obsessiveness over trivial matters “remains, for me, the most telling description of a significant (perhaps , even distinctive) characteristic of relus activity that I know”

-globally, there appears to b no limits on what ppl eat, tho w/in ea culture there r restrictuions, and “New foods have been the hallmark of the countercultural indv or group…”
40-and lay ppl and experts can group them—and the same process goes on w/ every human phenn, esp lang, law and taxonomy, limitless possibilities, reduced “to a set of explainable elements”
41-tho there is a debate as to whether there r fundamntl elements to things

*42-most historians of rel dismiss the historical dimension of rel “s mere routinization or swallowed up by postulating some ontic primordium which manifests itslf in a variety of forms, apparently independent of human agency…I find [this] inexcusable…”
43-says Adolf Jensen does this and so has “attempted a theological apologetic w/out a theology—if by the latter term one understands, at the very least, a community’s self-reflection. Shorn of this necessary communal, thence, trad dimension, one is left w/ the impossible generic abstraction of Homo Religiosus responding to rel in general…”
-“I have come to believe that a prime object of study for the historian of rel ought to b theological trad, taking the term in its widest sense, in particular, those elements of the theological endeavor that r concerned w/ canon and its exegesis. That is to say, bracketing any presuppositions as to its character as revelation (and from this ?, the historian of rel must abstain), the radical and arbitrary reduction, repd by the notion of canon and the ingenuity repd by the rule-governed exegetical enterprise of applying the canon to every dimension of human life is that most characteristic, persistent, and obsessive relus activity. It is, at the same time, the most profoundly cultural, and hence, the most illuminating most characteristic, persistent, and obsessive relus activity. It is, at the same time, the most profoundly cultural, and hence, the most illuminating for what ought to b the essentially anthpolgcl view pt of the historian of rel and a conception of rel as human labor…the study of the process [of applying relus theories to a community’s life], particularly the study of comparative systematic and exegesis, ought to become a majore preoccupation of the historian of rel.”
-“This…would mean that students of rel might find as their most congenial colleagues those concerned w/ biblical and legal studies rather than their present romantic preoccupation w/ the ‘primitive’ or the ‘archaic’—terms which have largely meant simple or primordial in the sense fo uninterpretaed and which have given historians of rel liscense for ultimate acts of imperialism, the removal of all rts to interp from the native, and the arrogation of all such rts to themselves…[and] redirect their attention from their present equally romantic fixation on multivalent and condensed phena, such as symbols, which have more often served as eloquent testimony to the exegetical ingenuity of the researcher than of the community that has bound itself to them, and should (44) rather become concerened w/ prosaic, expository discourse…they will take as a prime interpretative and comparative task the understanding of the surrender of that freedom [to study rel] by the communities they study and the rediscovery of that freedom thru the community’s exercise of ingenuity w/in their self-imposed limits”

44-thesis for this essay: “sacrality persists insofar as there r communities which r persistent in applying their limited body of trad; that sacred persistence, in terms that r congruent w/ both Cicero and Freud, is primarily exegesis”, and so he must look at canon

-all societies (even nonliterate ones) possess a canon—“ the arbitrary fixing of a limited number of ‘txts’ as immutable and authoritative”
48-a canon is a closed list—and this req “generates a corollary. Where there is a canon, it is possible to predict then necessary occurance of a hermeneute, or an interpreter whose task it is continually to extend the domain of the closed canon over everything that is known or everything that exists w/outh altering the canon in the process. It is w/ the canon and its hermeneute that we encounter the necessary obsession w/ exegetical totalization”
49-to c a canon in a nonliterate society look at “a totalistic and complete system of signs or icons which seve as functional equivalents to a written canon”
-eg using a set of drawings/designs

50-the job of interpreting canon is most common in 5 situs: divination, law, legitimation, classification, and speculation, tho usually in divination for nonliterate ppl—and here we can view the relationship btwn canon and hermeneute

*52-and looking at how ppl interpret canon in diff cultures, and “It is only by such mutual modulation [4 history of rels]…that progress in the study of rel will b possible”
53-“…the possibility of a secrte interconnection of things…is the scholar’s [throughout history] most cherished article of faith.”—that things r connected in the claim he makes after all his work—tha’s “why coincidence is…so exhilarating and so stunning”

55-A. van gennep in les rites de passage 29 ?—says nothing is inherently sacred or profane—« These r not substantive cats, but rather situational or relational cats, mobile boundaries which shift according to the map being employed”

61-sometimes reports (eg native txts) may b unbelievable and after checking sources maybe we shouldn’t believe them, maybe natives don’t either

63-“ritual reps the creation of a controlled environment where the variables (i.e., the accidents) of ordinary life may b displaced precisely b/c they r feslt to b so overwhelmingly present and powerful. Ritual is a means of performing the way things ought to b in conscious tension to the way things r in such a way that this ritualized perfection is recollected in the ordinary, uncontrolled, course of things. “ and gets its power from the possibility of this happening, and it “provides an occasion for reflection and rationalization on the fact that what ought to have been done was not done, what ought to have taken place did not occur”
66-Acts 17: 23-24 observes that grks “r relus” b/c they observed a grk alter w/ an inscription “to an unknown god”

-looks at “the historical context of myth and the ? of the utility of concern for such context in the interp of txts by historians of rel”—this part of the “increasing preoccupation w/ making clear and explicit the preinterpretative decisions and operations undertaken prior to exegesis by the historian of rel. Such public clarity is a necessary step in the formation of a discipline, and too often refused by historians of rel”

67-eliade said this was simply proof of a universal creation myth, but jz says it was “a deliberate attmpt to parallel genesis”
-chose this myth b/c so many ppl have used it; agrees w/ tylor’s theory that Australians got supreme bings from missionaries

68-to study a myth, first need to “est. contxt, both native and our academic context”—eg how a txt was acquired and how reliable is it; the Maori txt on Io is ?able
69-then focusing on the txt as published, “need to attempt to describe it, fix its boundaries and form and determine its setting.”—and ask ?s about it
72-need to evaluate informants

82-the brit takeover of new Zealand “provided a well-known scenario for the rise of nativistic resistance mvmnts” (cf burridge new heaven 69, esp 9. 37-39, 115, 15-22), at least 2 mvmnts dvlpd and “provide a possible context for the dvlpmnt of the Io trads”
85-an influential Maori—xn trained guy went w/ the grp and integrated xnty w/ it –(his name was Te Ua)

87-after giving a “plausible account” of a text’s context, the final step is a “speculative reconstruction” of the txt”
99-the white entrance into no w. countries (eg oceania) and forcing them to buy eurpn good sompletely subjected them to white ecoy—“cargo situation”
-and cult dealing w/ these relations (white man is seen to b anscestor in oceania)
102-term “humanities” (or human sciences) is used in the sense of cicero and grks as studying classical culture and contemp wrks dpndnt on it
-when the term was revived in Italy in the 15th ce it meant theology—scence and theology were “perecieved to b mutually exclusive”
-but it changed in 1877 when dutch universities act separated thological faculties from the dutch reformed church, that started secular academy study of rel; (103) then fr 1884; engl 1904 (note #1 says info based off sharpe); 1963 us supreme crt decision on school district of abington v. schempp recognized distinction btwn “teaching about rel” from “teaching of rel”
104-“the academic study of rel is a child of the Enlightnement”
-“one might claim that jonestown was the most important single event in the history of rels, for if we continue, as a profession, to leave it [rel] ununderstandable, then we have surrendered our rts [to b a dpt] to the academy”

-tolerance means we should judge ppl by “universal rules of reason”, and tho anthrogy has shown how difficult that is, we can’t stop trying—but we cant fall for relativism cuz that’s just saying we can’t understand anyone else

108-914 died; (109) aar and most rel scholars ignored it (originally published in 80)
110”cult” was a new term created “to segregate these uncivil phena from rel”; but (111) they should move past it and c that ordinary ppl did it, it wasn’t unique or exotic; (112) put it in contxt of other relus martyrs

113-“the prime purpose of academic inquiry, most esp in the humanities, is to provide exempli gratia, and arsenal of classic instances which r held to be exemplary, to provide paradigmatic events and expressions as resources from which to…extend the possibility of intelligibility to that which first appears novel”
-uses bacchae by Euripides 407 bc about cult of Dionysus, women, utopia turned violent; (114) anc bacchic cults in 2nc ce bc rome—lived in city tho; (118) and violent cargo cults (119) done to shame whites; like huey p’s “revory suicide”—jim jones said it too

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