THE BIG LIE: Comments On Wednesday January 6th’s National Disaster

The 1923 Beer Hall Putsch in Munich Germany. A pitiful and doomed attempt by Hitler to take national power. It led to his conviction for treason and a prison sentence in which he wrote his notorious book.

In German, grosse Luge (roughly) can be traced back to Hitler’s Mein Kampf in 1925. He contended the Jewish people and Marxists told “The Big Lie” by blaming German General Ludendorff for their loss in WWI. Ludendorff was an anti-Semite and Nationalist, and thus respected by Hitler.

Hitler’s lieutenant Joseph Goebbels was probably the first to have said, “If you tell a big enough lie and tell it often enough, it will be believed.” But it was Hitler that gave the definitive analysis of its effectiveness in his book. “The broad masses of a nation” are “always more easily corrupted by” a big lie than a small one. The Big Lie effects “the deeper strata of their emotional nature.”

And so we saw what we saw on Wednesday, January 6th, 2021, a small-time insurrection against our Democratic Government, a regular Beer Hall Putsch in Washington D.C.

Photo of some of the Nazi Party’s 2,000 men that marched to capture Munich city’s government. After being confronted by a small army unit, shots were exchanged and 4 soldiers were killed and 16 Nazis. The coup collapsed but was already faltering from lack of support and an unclear direction. Hitler was injured running from the exchange and was arrested for treason several days later.
Photo of Ludendorff and Hitler in 1924 at their trial.

The Beer Hall Putsch was part of a very unstable time in Europe and the world: the post WWI period. It may seem only a cliché, but something is deeply true about it; in society, old orders were in decline, new and uncertain forces were pushing forth. People searched for answers and some found them in different kinds of extremisms. Many people became adamant Communists; others turned to racial and ethnic identifications and discriminations — extreme Nationalists; others hung desperately to the the old system of aristocracy. This was the faction and forces represented by Ludendorff, an aristocrat himself and still an advocate for the Kaiser and the nobility; they temporarily, at least, aligned with the rising charismatic leader, Hitler. (Similarly, American Fundamentalist Christians hitched their wagon to the rising but erratic star of that vulgar, irreligious man, Donald Trump.)

Hitler attempted to follow the course of Mouselini in Italy and seize power. At a mass meeting at the Burgerbraukellar (Citizen’s Beer Cellar) Hitler leaped upon a chair and fired a shot into the ceiling with a pistol to gain attention. He declared that his Nazi Party troopers had the building surrounded and were ready to march. He demanded the support of opposition factions and eventually Ludendorff led this temporary coalition through the streets to overtake German government offices.

Well, at least Hitler had the ‘courage’ to accompany his supporters on their march. Mr. Trump, in his 80 minute incitation to sedition, promised to march with his people but that did not happen.

President Trump, our new charismatic and extremist leader.
The rag-tag coalition that marched on our Capitol. Flag of Canada (apparently in reference to the Canadian origins of the “Proud Boys” group), Confederate battle flag, American Revolutionary War “Snake Flag”, even Jesus Fish Flags, and many others were all on display by the seditionists. What a rush of adrenaline that must have been for them; what a sense power and triumph. They had seized the moment and their dreams were now possible, it must have seemed to them.

The Big Lie in America

A shocking series of events these were, in the U.S. of A., over these past two weeks. Our current President, Donald J. Trump, now stands Impeached for the second time in his four year term. He incited the overthrow of our government. History was made as American politics took a deep dive into the dirt, as it occasionally has in our 200 year history.

Two of the most obvious examples of America Not At Its Greatest: The Genocide of our Native Americans and the Institution of Slavery.
Both clearly reprehensible behaviors, but especially in Hindsight! What among our current views and practices might be viewed similarly two hundred years from now? Our decimation of our Natural Environment and its non–human living species? Or in a different way, our belief in our own Free Will and Responsibility, is that simply foolish and superstition?

January 6th was unprecedented in American history. An out-going president urged a large group of his supporters to march on The Capitol building in protest of an election he claims he won “by landslide” but was being “stolen”. “Stop the steal”, they chanted. Trump vowed he would “never concede” and that they should “never stop fighting.” “Strength” is what is needed now, “not weakness”. he told them. One of his warm-up speakers, Rudy Giuliani, told the crowd, what was needed now was “a trial by combat” — a fight — to decide the issue. Trump had previously promised his people, that if they came to Washington, “it will be wild.”

And so it was “wild”, deeply disturbing, and very un-American! Five people died. One shot by Capitol Police as she attempted to forcibly enter the Chambers of the House of Representatives while its members were huddled inside. Another was a Capitol Policeman hit in the head with a fire extinguisher while resisting the seditionists. The remaining three were Trump supporters who died of medical emergencies, such as heart attack, in the uproar. One of these, her family reported, had gone to Washington in spite of their efforts to dissuade her, and that in recent months she had become deeply interested in online conspiracy theories. “It just started to spiral” said her sister.

Trump and Pence: Pence was one of the few in Washington who were able and willing to work with Trump for the entire 4-5 years of presidential politics.

One of the many incredible aspects of these events, was Trump’s eventual treatment of his longtime loyal Vice President, Mike Pence.

In the build-up to January 6 and the joint session of Congress to accept the Electoral College ballots to officially sanction the elections results, Trump put tremendous pressure on Pence, both privately and in public, to not accept the ballots, to rule them invalid in several key states. But, Pence did not have the power — by law — to do so, and this was overwhelmingly regarded to be the case and the historical tradition.

In the immediate hours before the joint session, the President’s supporters began to gather for their “Rally to Save America” and Trump made one last call to Pence. He cajoled him, pleaded with him and finally told him that this was his chance “to either go down in history as a patriot, or you can go down in history as a pussy. Some of our international readers may not be familiar with that slang term; it is an extremely derogatory term for a women that simply equates her to her genitalia. (As reported by the N.Y.Times, 1/12)

Our outgoing President has an Un-Enlightened approach to women. Early in his campaign a recording was released of him saying, ‘Oh ya, I hit on them’ , “I just grab them by the p….”

But, Pence refused to break the law and ended up huddled in the Capitol basement with various Congresspersons and under tight security as the seditionists had breached the building. Some of them were chanting, “Hang Pence, hang Pence.”

Such is the character of our outgoing president. He is a massively destructive influence to American political integrity. In other words, he is not honest; he is not concerned about right or wrong, and he has no principles outside his own ambitions.

How Did It Go This Far?

There are many questions about the events of January 6, but let me focus on just one, a big one. Why did Americans follow this man? How did it get this far? And this returns us to THE BIG LIE.

As far back as September, I wrote of my concern with Trump’s reckless rhetoric concerning the upcoming election. Mr. Trump had already supercharged the political atmosphere by vilifying those that disagree with him. They are “evil”, “criminal”, “crazy”, “stupid”, “communists”, “brain-washed” (by the mainstream media), and not “true Americans”. Immigrants from Mexico are “rapists”, “thieves”, “murderers” and infiltrated by “terrorist”. Democrats “want to destroy our country”, he contended, and media organizations that criticized him were “fake news”.

I commented that discussion with his supporters was already nearly impossible because of their bizarre views, their “alternative facts” and highly charged emotions. And so, Mr. Trump has Lied Big on many occasions and as Hitler had observed, appealed to his supporters at a “deep emotional level.”

In the September post, I wrote of my particular concern about one claim of his, and that I would politely contest it with any of his supporters in spite of this toxic atmosphere. I wrote,

I will propose that Mr. Trump is doing us all a disservice when he says, “If I lose, it is because the election is rigged.” After all, one of the spectacular realities about our country is that Our Democracy is Real.” (see The American Presidential Election…https://wordpress.com/post/naturereligionconnection.org/5926)

Mr. Trump has now played that card. The election was stolen and those that are Not True Americans will now hold power, he still believes I will not go into detail to refute this claim of the theft, sufficient to point out that 60 of his lawsuits have been dismissed, all 50 Secretary’s of our States have certified their election results as accurate, and that his own FBI chief and (former) Attorney General have declared no evidence of any significant irregularities.

But the card was played, and the January 6th attack on our Democracy was the result. The vehemence of his supporters and their delusional states were well on display. Trump has been Impeached by the House, and we will wait on the outcome in the Senate. How many Republican office holders will continue to stand by this farce and this denigration of our country? Many have abandoned it and him.

Today is Sunday, January 17th, the day further ‘rallies’ by his supporters are to take place in Washington and various state capitols. And to these, these ‘Americans’ have sworn to carry their weapons! I wait apprehensively, my only hope is that the rather thorough denunciation and negative outcry against the law-breaking and desecrations of January 6th will have dampened the mood and convictions of many of these potential and continuing insurrectionists. (But also, a huge police and National Guard presence!)

We could really use SOME GOOD FORTUNE, CALM MINDS AND PEACEFUL SPIRITS here in the United States TODAY! Logo by Marty

A Further Thought, on yesterday’s Holiday Edition concerning the Tradition of Eating a Pig’s Head at this time of the year!

The Traditional Boar’s Head Meal. See previous post of yesterday for recipe and historic background. Photo thanks to Hellbound Allee site.

Some of you undoubtedly find the idea of Eating a Boar’s Head quite boorish. Sorry to return to such a gruesome topic (see post below), but I woke this morning wondering why cut off the ears and boil them separately only to reattach them later? (Gee, does my Mind wander!)

Well, upon a few moments of Reflection (and this site is Big on The Ontological Significance of Self-Reflection) , I realized the obvious answer. If you stuff your pig’s head with sausage and such, and then sew it up in a bag and boil it for Nine Hours, those poor little ears are going to take a beating! Why, they would seriously diminish, even disintegrate, I would imagine. And then what would you have? A boring boar, one without its perky ears, more bovine than boar, a pig significantly lacking in swine-like character! That would not then be the kind of beast to march into your feast accompanied by a trumpet fanfare!

So, yes, detach the ears; boil them separately and gently, and lovingly reattach later with skewers. By all means!

On the Issue of Odin as Santa

On that issue, one further piece of information, also. During Jolnir’s Yuletide nightly rides, his “Wild Hunts”, he was said to have ridden an eight-legged horse, named Sleipnir, in Old Norse meaning “slippy” or “the slipper”. In several Sagas, dating back to the thirteenth century or before, Odin rides Slippy into and out of “Hel”. I guess we could say, he gave it the slip. Hel is the name of place, and the creature that resides over the place, where the dead reside. It is related to the Old and Modern English word “Hell”. It was written that three cocks would crow from Hel and this would initiate the events of Ragnarok, a great battle and end of the world in which Odin and other gods would die and the earth be submerged in water! Well, in Norse Mythology at least.

But I digress! The point about the eight-legged horse is that some contend it was Clement Moore, in his The Night Before Christmas, that replaced old many-legged Slippy with a team of reindeer.

Odin Rides To Hel, by W.G. Collingwood, 1908. Was Slippy replaced by Dasher and Dancer, Donner and Blitzen?

Looking for All the Connections, here at the naturereligionconnection.org.

MERRY XMAS and a HAPPY and Covid-Free NEW YEAR! No more Trump also!!!

It’s a Tree of Life and Ideas.

Happy Holiday Edition: Nature Religion Connection

Happy Holidays to all The Connection’s readers! Wishing you well and thanking you for all your support.

Here in Central Ohio we were blessed with snow for what the Christian’s call, Christmas Eve and Christmas day. It’s hard to not call it that myself, after all, as I sit here and write, “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” is playing in the background. Being more ecumenical and more secular about this winter holiday season would seem to be a tremendous culture shift, here in the U.S.A. But, we in the O-H-I-O are pretty parochial/provincial and things might look differently from the point of view of Long Island or L.A.

(The old suburban castle decked out in holiday lights.)

The word “Christmas” seems to mean something like The Christ Sending, or Messiah Sending; “mas” from the Latin verb “mittere”, to send. I have long intended to write a post on the various cultural traditions that have congealed into our winter holiday season. From the ancient rituals surrounding the Winter Solstice, the darkest day in the Northern Hemisphere on December 21st; to the New Year and the Roman Saturnalia; to the origins of the Christmas Tree, Santa Claus and seasonal lights; one of the most interesting cultural practices, to me, was the “Yule Time” and the “Yule Log” from Northern Europe and the Germanic peoples.

Illustration of Yuletide celebration from an 1880 German newspaper. (From mentalfloss.com and quotes below)

At this time of the year, late in the fall and early winter, the people of these northern regions had well learned that a significant portion of their live stock would not survive through the winter. So, instead of letting the older, less firm cows, sheep, and pigs waste away, dwindle slowly and consume the fading grasses and feeds, the Germans “culled” the herd. They killed the less firm, saving feed for the most likely survivors, and created an abundance of meat to be eaten. This was my longtime understanding of the Yule tradition, though I’m having some difficulty confirming it now; there seems to be a great many interpretations and no decisive evidence.

“Drinking and eating to excess –gluttony, even– were not only the centerpiece of this holiday, but a sacred duty.” 12 days of celebration were set aside, from the Solstice to New Years Day. The final shock of grain from the years harvest was fermented into beer, some 4 gallons of it, and at one point the celebration was not to stop until it had all been consumed. Yule is the source of the still occasionally seen “Boar’s Head” or Yule Boar.

If that was the economic basis of the Yule Time feasting, these activities became encrusted in the mythology of the Norse gods, especially Odin. Jolnir was one of the many names for Odin, and jol is associated with the origins of the term “yule”. Odin was the god of the dead, especially dead warriors and heroes. At this darkest time of the year the Norse and Germanic people reveled their departed ancestors. “The veil between the living and the dead was thin” at this point, they felt. A table of food was left out over night to satisfy any ancestral or other supernatural visitor.

(The Traditional Yule Log and the much more modern Yule Log Cake. The dessert was started in France in the 19th century in memory of their custom of burning a log each Christmas Eve. It is a chocolate cake rolled about a heavy cream filling. And who is that mysterious man carrying that other log?)

The pagan Yule Log tradition started among the Germans and consisted of family members venturing into the woods to select an Oak Tree for cutting and burning. Note the earlier post (Folk Religion, The Strange Idea Of…) where we learned the special connection of the Druidic “folk religion” to the oak tree and the mistletoe. The word “Druid” meant “oak-knower” or “oak-seer”. The log and the fire was to be kept burning throughout the midwinter festival and the successful ignition of it on the first attempt foretold prosperity for the family in the new year.

The Wild Hunt of Odin, 1872 by Peter N. Arbo. Odin was believed to have flown through the skies during the Yule season. Accompanied by other gods, elves, beasts and ancestral spirits, they sought out evil (The Ice Giants and other Dark Forces) to combat and good to reward. These flights and fights were associated with the stormy weather of that time of year. (Thanks to sonsofvikings.com for the above and below illustrations and information.)
An early depiction of Santa on the left, and a depiction of Odin, in disguise, on right (ink drawing by Georg Von Rosen)

Odin as a forerunner of Santa? In Norse mythology, Odin or Wotan or Jolnir used many names and took on different forms. In various Sagas, he travels the world to obtain knowledge in the disguise of an old, white-bearded man wearing a cloak with hood or hat. I guess we might conclude that “He sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake. He knows when you’ve been bad or good, so…”

But the times, they were a changing and by the 900s AD, Christianity was moving northward and these Yuletide festivities began merging with a growing Christian religion. Interestingly, the birth of Jesus –or Christmas– was not an important holiday or religious event in these early years of the religion. Its followers were still focused on Christ’s Return, the “Second Coming”, not his first, but with time, the immediacy of that expectation waned and focus began to shift.

And shift they did. Today we have all manner of celebrating this time of the year, and I hope you are enjoying yours, as limited and pandemically safe as they undoubtedly are.

Logo by Marty
Boar’s Head Meal (thanks to U. of Rochester for photo) Traditionally The Head On Its Platter was marched into the dining hall in a grand parade sometimes accompanied by a fanfare of horns.

THE RECIPE: Bone the head, leaving only the jawbones (for shape) and tusks. Make a small quantity of stuffing composed of minced pig’s liver, chopped apples, a little onion, sage and rosemary. Arrange this stuffing all around the inside of the head about half an inch in thickness.

Now stuff the rest of the inside of the head with a second stuffing made of sausage meat, squares of ox tongue, chopped truffles, chopped apples, chopped mushrooms, chopped pistachio nuts and minced rosemary. Add one wineglass of Calvados (or sherry) and an equal quantity of cream.

When the head is filled tight with this, stitch a very strong cloth over the stuffing, then bind the whole head in another strong cloth, and put it in a large pot of boiling water to boil slowly for about eight to nine hours, during which time you add more boiling water as evaporation requires. When the head is cooked and is still warm reshape in cloth, remove the wrapping and let it get cold.

The ears, which have been cut off and boiled separately, are then replaced on the head with a skewer.
Place the head on an oblong dish, surround it with slices of truffles, slices of apples, and strew with rosemary. ENJOY!!!

(recipe -verbatim- and additional information from castlearcana.com)

STAY SAFE and ENJOY YOUR HOLIDAYS, no matter their form!

“And a Wise Custom It Is”–More on Divination, and Rationality in general

The Naskapi people were hunters of Caribou.
Cassava or Manioc, a very reliable staple crop if properly prepared..

(Buckle up your wading pants, it gets a little deep at the end! A fun post, until I tried to write the end. I’m not too sure what it comes to, but I will leave that for you to help sort out! Thanks.)

In the previous post, How Weird is Divination?, we found that divinatioon is very weird but it actually may have done some good as a stage in our history of development as Decision-Makers.

Divination was at its peak in Western Culture at the onset of life in cities and in empires. This was enabled by the development of agriculture and metallurgy. No longer was the familiar support of intimate and local customs and kinship relations available to guide one’s behavior. Divination rose as a socially accepted method of making tough decisions. It involved a statement of the issue, and then a determined point of resolution. Its social acceptance functioned somewhat as a referee in a ball game by being given the authority “to make a call” that would be accepted by all sides, resolve an unclear situation and allow life to move on. That is an important social function!

The Referees signal the play is over, the runner is down and it is A Touchdown!

Divination May Work Even Better Than That

But how often was The Divined Answer a good one? Granted, it helped clarify and resolve a situation, but was it good advise? In that initial post, I simply declared that, often, the Divined Decision “was about as good as any that could be made”, considering that there was limited information available, and the decision may have been a “toss up” to begin with.

But I have now come across additional information, from a new book I’m reading by Harvard biologist Joseph Henrich, The Secret of Our Success (2016).

Consider the situation of the Naskapi foragers of Labrador, Canada. They hunt caribou, but caribou are evasive. Caribou do not frequent the same spots, there are many places to graze and these animals are, too often, unpredictable. They avoid spots where they have encountered hunters in the past. They do not congregate regularly at a specific watering site and such. So commonsense and “reasonable approaches“, like going to where success was had in the past, do not work.

(Traditional Naskapi territory is shown in yellow. They are closely related to the Cree people to their south and west. They largely escaped contact with Europeans until the early to mid 1800s.)

The Naskapi have devised a peculiar ‘solution’ to find them. They have a Divination Ritual that starts with an old shoulder blade of a caribou. It is heated on the coals of a fire until it develops cracks and scorched spots. It is “then read as a kind of map” by the hunters sending them in a specific direction and guiding them to hunting areas ‘designated’ by the bone, explains Henrich.

Surely this is foolishness, but Henrich hypothesizes that it is not. It is a custom with a long past, and if this ritual was not working why do these people keep doing it? And, if that foolish, how would the Naskapi continue to survive?

Henrich argues that A Randomizing Strategy for the Naskapi is the most reasonable approach to finding caribou. The cracks and scorched spots are randomly formed in the bone and certainly in relation to the location of caribou: There is no connection between the two events. But, the ritual is a Choice by Chance Method of Decision and thus reasonable and effective. More effective than many other more ‘obvious’ approaches, like having a favorite hunting spot, or going where another hunting party just saw caribou.

After all, Naskapi did not have helicopters to find caribou, or remote detection devices. Maintaining their overall life style, involves none of those modern technologies, but their culture has provided them with a decision technique in hunting that is compatible with who they are, and reasonably effective. Just as the caribou graze in random locations, so do the Naskapi hunters hunt in random locations!

(The value of Random Behavior is not unusual in nature. The Fruit Fly (left) uses this method to search for food. It flies in some direction, then randomly stops, turns sharply in different directions —trying to detect an enticing odor— with none detected, it then shoots off on a new (seemingly random) straight path only at some point to stop again, randomly, and sniff about that area. Also, Butterflies fly erratic (random) flight paths, that is their norm, not more efficient straight paths, apparently to make themselves a harder target while in flight for predators. Of course, neither of these creatures behave this way consciously; it is ‘just’ in their evolved good design!)

This is a cool suggestion, and it really goes further. It suggests that the millions of years of Natural Selection and then the thousands of years of Cultural Selection between caribou and various predators (including the Naskapi) has stumbled upon randomizing solutions that worked. The Naskapi do not understand why this Divination ‘works’, it was simply “custom” to them, but we now have an opportunity to do so. It involves the use of Game Theory in mathematics to understand the relationship. Mother Nature stumbled upon the solution, but in modern times the environment has dramatically changed for both Naskapi and Caribou, and each are in serious decline. It was “a wise Custom”, says Henrich. While it lasted.

The American Marten (cute!), related to weasels, mink, and wolverine. By the 1830s The Hudson Bay Company encouraged (or forced) the Naskapi to trap Marten for the fur. That proposition was not a success for either the company or the Naskapi. 2- 3 feet (1m) in length including tail, and 2-3 lbs. (1-1.5 kg) weight, their fur was used to make mittens!

Making Cassava (I love Tapioca!)

The Cassava tuber and plant. Painting by A. Eckhout, Dutch Brazil, 17th century.

A second example of the value of Custom involves cassava, more widely known as manioc (“man-ee-ok”). This is one of the most widely used staple crops in the world, behind corn and rice. It is especially dependable in drought prone areas but also areas suffering from poor top soil, as in rainforests. The tuber (similar to a potato) is made into flour, eaten boiled, made into noodles; its liquid is used as a starch and glue; it is even fermented into various alcoholic beverages. It comes in two forms, known as “bitter” and “sweet”, the ‘sweet’ is only less bitter, according to various sites. I am only familiar with it as tapioca (and I do like tapioca, but how often have I had it in recent decades?). The “bitter” manioc is especially hearty in the event of drought and poor soil, an important advantage to it and its growers and consumers.

Manioc was first domesticated and widely used in South America thousands of years ago, and especially in the Amazonian area. In these regions a Strict Social Custom arose concerning its use and preparation. It is a multistep, labor-intensive, multiday, procedure. Henrich is both a biologist and an ethnologist — who has done field work in the Amazon — he tells us that the tubers are pealed, soaked, often grated, and then washed again “in order to separate the fibers, starch, and liquid.” The fibers and starch are then let to sit for two additional days. At that point they can be baked, boiled or cooked into various dishes. Asked why such a prolonged and difficult method of preparation, these indigenous South Americans will only say, (like the Naskapi) “It is our custom.”

And the issue with manioc is that it is full of CYANIDE! Especially the “bitter” form, but the “sweet” has plenty too. The general result of eating inadequately processed manioc is a gradual increase of cyanide in your system. This food can taste fine, but will eventually lead to neurological problems, thyroid issues, birth defects and paralysis in the legs, but more immediately to an increase in stomach issues, diarrhea, and fatigue.

I do believe I will put on my mask and go out and get me some, Yum! Old School!

Henrich sites testing that has shown that the traditional processing and cooking methods reduce the cyanide content to safer levels, well below 10% in most food uses. The cyanide in the plant provides protection for it from various insects and plant diseases; it is part of what makes manioc a hearty species. (Maybe it can ward off the Corona virus too; I’ll let you know.)

History has provided a generally unfortunate test case for the value of this Cultural Tradition of preparation. In the 17th century the Portuguese began exporting manioc from Brazil to West Africa, but they did not bring along the customs of its preparation. The product did catch on (It was a meme. GWW) but hundreds of years later, chronic cyanide poisoning is still a problem in this area of the world. Some people developed preparation traditions of their own that are helpful; they reduce the bitterness and then, also, the cyanide, but educational programs are still necessary.

So, here is another “strange” custom, and one in no way fully understood by its practitioners; “and a wise custom it is” concludes Henrich.

Some Brief Thoughts on Rationality

Repeatedly throughout this section of the book —Chapter 7: “On The Origin Of Faith“– Henrich tries to make the point that a modern, Western person, would be trying to find a more “direct” route; looking for behaviors that do not involve ‘inefficient’, ‘extra’, and ‘unexplained’ steps, a more “reasonable” approach, we would say, to the goal. Why heat a bone and follow it? Why peal and soak, grate and let sit, and wash again, before cooking manioc? And the traditional practitioner could offer no explicit explanation for why they did what they did. It is just the way they were taught; the way it has always been done, and they have” faith” in their tradition.

Henrich contends that the relations between these customary rituals and their outcomes — caribou found and cyanide depleted — are “causally opaque” to us and even to their traditional practitioners. To more modern and western ways of thinking, these practices look downright Foolish, at least initially. So, it was the “wisdom” of Natural Selection that ultimately proved to be effective! Natural and Cultural Selection sorted through a massive number of attempts, over thousands of years, and came upon these most appropriate practices and coordinations. Mother Nature is smarter than you or I, we may reasonably conclude, as does Henrich! Our Rationality and Problem-Solving are more limited than hers.

“A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing” says the old aphorism, and Philosopher Dan Dennett also suggests in his book on religion, that it has often been “safer to substitute a potent myth for incomplete knowledge.” Some traditions are true for us by their capacity to promote our adaptation.

Mother Nature is Smarter than We Are

This truth is still effective today. Do we currently have Customs that are “causally opaque” to us? Do we have Customs that are effective, but that we do not fully understand? Yes.

We have been learning that Religion, at least in some of its forms, was vital in the origination of our Cultural way of living together (see post: “Folk Religion”, The Strange Idea of..). We have The Custom of Ethical Behavior. This includes Individual Responsibility, Moral and Legal Standards, Manners, Altruistic Behavior and even Decision-Making, itself; about all of these we have greatly varying ideas concerning their reality and composition (see post: PLAIN TALK: If Mind is not The Brain, then What the Heck is It?).

Why do we make Art? To some, art is just emotional; it cuts no deeper than that. Visual art, poetry, music, dance: These Customary Practices have been briefly explored —here at The Connection— for their role in the origin of Language and even Mate-Selection (see post: A Paleolithic Sex Symbol). It has been one of our oft-stated positions, that Art is a search for truth, not in same sense as science, but truth nonetheless.

But, we have had many customs that it is quiet wise to have gotten rid of, or at least tried: slavery, racial and ethnic discrimination, religious persecution, sexism. Tradition has been no guarantee for acceptability and probity.

And, why do we Reasonably Discourse? What kind of Custom is that? Is there a place for Rationality in a world primarily composed of subatomic particles, chemical reactions, and neural networks? Will scientists one day discover that their own rational search for Truth leads them to believe that the customary practice of “rationality” is itself just so much “reading of burnt and cracked bones”, a “smoke screen” that hid the real neurological mechanisms in the brain?

As we take apart and scrutinize our traditions, we need to recognize that Nature’s Selections have been at play in the institution and maintenance of these traditions. SO, with some traditions, we may say Our world may be put together Far Better than is often thought. OR, for some others, The Persons of the past —through their Traditions— have often acted without Complete Knowledge and Responsibility for all that they did or all that became of it.

In our troubled world, these thoughts may be of modest consolation: Our world is often surprisingly well put together, but also People act based from what they have been given —Traditions. Apparently, it is up to us to sift through it and move forward.

As the poet wrote:

Come gather 'round, people 
Wherever you roam.
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown 
...For the times they are a-changin'

Removing the statue of Christopher Columbus from in front of Columbus City Hall, late in June and in response to criticisms of it in the midst of the Black Lives Matters Protests. Chris had stood there for 65 years following his donation to us by our sister city, Genoa, Italy. “Bye, Bye, Old Friend! I thought of you as a particularly courageous and adventurous sailor, but The Times have tarnished your reputation!” (Photo and story thanks to The Columbus Dispatch)
Keeping it Real at The Connection: the naturereligionconnection.org Drawing by my Lovely Sister, Martha

In The Words of the Poet: Bob Dylan

Come gather 'round, people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth savin'
And you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won't come again
And don't speak too soon
For the wheel's still in spin
And there's no tellin' who
That it's namin'
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin'

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don't stand in the doorway
Don't block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
The battle outside ragin'
Will soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin'

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don't criticize
What you can't understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is rapidly agin'
Please get out of the new one
If you can't lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin'

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is rapidly fadin'
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin'

Thank You for your attention; I hope this was worthy of Your Precious Time.

GOT MY BOWL OF TAPIOKE! It was GOOD! Mine was not nearly as exotic as this Filipino dessert called Bilo-bilo, made with coconut milk and much larger tapioca pearls. The “pearls” are the manioc/cassava.
I came across this photo of Two Old Dogs: GregWW and Nika
Looking for Connection in Our Traditions of Nature and Religion.

How Weird is Divination?

(Let’s continue the trend, No More thinking about Viruses or Trump, for the moment! Let’s think about the “reading” of sheep intestine instead, and how weird is that? Well, maybe not quite as weird as you may think! More on “Folk Religion” and its role in the origins of Human Mind!)

Haruspicy: the examination of entrails to foresee events, Thanks to Jillian Chantal for the image.

To try to foretell the future through the examination of the entrails of a sacrificed animal — called “haruspicy”That is the Height of Foolishness! Or, how about “nephomancy”; the ‘reading’ of the shapes and colors of clouds in an effort to make an important decision? “Ceroscopy” is the reading of the meaning of wax dripped into water through the significance of the shapes it takes. Surely these are the epitome of Superstition and a royal waste of time and energy.

The Ouija board. A product of the Spiritualist movement, of the mid and late 1800s in America, involved the belief in the ability of the dead to communicate with the living. Sold then in stores as a link “between the known and unknown, the material and immaterial.” Price $1.50! Asked by its inventor what should it be called, it proceeded to spell out “O-U-I-J-A”! (see Smithsonian Magazine)

Divination is “the practice of determining the hidden significance or cause of events” or “the effort to gain information of a mundane sort by means conceived of as transcending the mundane”, says Britannica. It does not necessarily involve any reference to a god or gods, or even a ‘divine will’, as evident in the still somewhat common use of a Ouija board.

Yet, in the history of the human species all human groups have displayed evidence of The Practice of Divination in their religious and ritualistic behaviors. Astrology (the use of the stars and planets), tasseography (the reading of tea leaves), sortilege (the tossing of bones or the dealing of cards) are all used as means to decipher the meaning inherent in our world and lives, or at least so it is believed.

In Numerology, numbers are held to have significance beyond their immediate usefulness in counting or record keeping; they have what we, moderns, would call symbolic value pertinent to matters of cosmic meaning. A Mind as acute as Pythagoras’ set out a numerical system far flung but pertinent to human decision, he believed. Each letter (or group of letters) of the alphabet were assigned a numerical value that was then added up and “reduced” to “knowledge” of a person’s disposition and fortunes according to the spelling of their name and the date of their birth.

Numerical values assigned to letters in the Pythagorean system, still used by western numerologists today.

Let us use (roughly) this system to gain clues into the character of Pythagoras, himself.

P  Y  T  H A G O R  A  S  
7+7+2+8+1+7+6+9+1+1  = 49  "reduces to" 4+9= 13  "reduces to" 1+3 = 4 
This number, "4", is called the "life path number" or his "expression number"   
It indicates Positive Personality Traits: Constructive, Systematic, Industrious and 
Negative Personality Traits: Lacks Imagination, Argumentative, Extremely Serious

 
Pythagoras was also the first to recognize constant numerical relations between the musical notes that we prefer: the ratio of 3:2, or “the ‘pure’ fifths”, used into the 16th century as the standard tuning method.

So, this looks all well and good, and very silly. I did say this is only a rough application of what we are assured is a “complicated process” that should involve only “trained and experienced Numerologists”, we are told on several sites. But you gotta take issue with the idea that Pythagoras “lacked Imagination”, maybe that is my “lack of training”. After all, Pythagoras was no slouch with numbers, discovering his famous Geometric Theorem. If Pythagoras would have come out a “5″, he would have been Curious, Adaptable and Social, but then, negatively, Unreliable, Directionless and Unable to Commit.

But Mockery is Not Enough!

Was Divination just foolishness? A cultural practice –“a Meme” — with this kind of prevalence and expenditure of effort probably served some useful function to have evolved and lasted. We have been learning that “Folk Religion”, itself, had a positive role in the development of human culture in its early stages. What could the positive function be for Divination?

Examples of a Harmful Meme: tobacco use and its advertisement.
Sophisticated and Handsome movie stars and football players smoke. Why not you?

A positive function, surely this is a stretch! Maybe divination was a Harmfully Parasitic or Toxic Meme from the start. A “cultural recipe”, “an attractive notion”, “an infectious symbol” used by con men (“Shaman”) to gain power and profit by bamboozling the ignorant populace. In religion, itself, there is a strong strain of flimflam. From Jim and Tammy Bakker to the power grabbing and multiple Popes of the Catholic Church during the The Western Schism (1380 to 1420 CE), personal profit and power through religious affectation has occurred regularly.

Jim and Tammy Bakker hosted a hugely prosperous televangelist empire form 1975-1990. In 1989, he was accused of rape and the payment of almost $300,000 in hush money, and then convicted of multiple counts of felony accounting fraud and imprisoned. Today he is back on television, predicting the Second Coming, and promoting survivalist gear.

But, a Toxic Meme can also be a Cultural Formula that exploits some of “our least desirable tendencies and weaknesses” without consciously duplicitous perpetrators and exploiters. The diviner can be as taken in as his or her audience, contends Dan Dennett who has championed the idea — “meme” — after its introduction by biologist Richard Dawkins in 1976. Some good examples of toxic memes today, may be an unquestioned interpretation and affirmation of the infallibility of various texts and then the perpetration of acts that are widely considered antisocial such as blowing up abortion clinics, the use of suicide vests and beheadings.

The Pythia, or Oracle of Delphi. I doubt she thought of herself as a fraud, and others did not either. One of her most famous prophesies was to King Croesus, who asked if he should attack the Persian Empire. Her answer was that if he did, “a great empire would be destroyed.” Little did he know that it would be his own! Maybe there is a little skill and art in prophesying the future! Plutarch reported that the priestess was always over 50 years of age, and would receive her request and then retire to the inner chamber of the temple, sit on a tripod stool and inhale vapors (now known to be a hydrocarbon gas) emerging from a chasm in the floor. After sufficient inspiration (and expiration), she would return to the main temple and announce her answer. (See ancient-mysteries.net)

The Proposed Value of Divination

Divination, in its earlier uses, did have a positive social and individual value, argues Dennett and some other researchers. With the further development of language and agriculture, larger cities and empires began to develop. This was very different from life in a hunting and gathering group, or even a small agricultural settlement; Different in terms of Individual and Social Self-Control. How were Decisions and Judgements to be made in these larger contexts well beyond the intimate customs and associations of family and kin? Daily life among far flung strangers was new and greatly challenging. The old customs of behavior and decision-making of one’s clan and region were now challenged by competition and, possibly, confusion.

Divination stepped up to assume an even larger role in guiding and justifying behavior. Julian Jaynes is an early and influential contributor to these theories of human cultural development. He argues the following: there was “A Change of Mind in Mesopotamia”.

First, and very hard for us to imagine, Ancient Peoples Did Not Think of Anything as Accidental! The idea of random events and coincidences is a fairly modern idea. To the ancients, all occurrences were purposeful and the bearer of meaning to them or the world at large. There were no accidents or just simple “luck”. All “foretold” of deeper significances and wider ramifications, potentially. Divination is the direct outgrowth of this.

Second, Divination was (and still is) a decision-making devise, and in fact, a helpful one in some ways. In our lives even today, we recognize many instances where the information to decide a matter is insufficient to make a clear choice. We say, “It’s a toss-up” or even, “It’s beyond me what to do!” Help is needed in making many decisions.

In American Football, the decision of which team will get the ball first is Decided Quickly and in a Manner Acknowledged By All: The Opening Coin Toss.

Both of those phrases are often accurate. We still use a coin toss, literally, to decide some matters, and just figuratively, at other times, to provide perspective on decision-making. These decision devises — divination and coin-tossing — sharpen our thinking about a “strategic situation” and bring it to a climax, a decision-point. This is my situation, and now a decision will be made”, we seem to be saying. They further acknowledge that some outcomes are beyond our control and beyond our foresight. The decision must simply be made and in a manner that is accepted by all.

These last points are important developments in the history of human thinking about “decision”. “Good” decisions are often hard to make, and often “beyond us”, but still must be made. Our information is only partial, and the outcome of the event is not in our control. We do the best we can, and in ancient times Divination is what they stumbled upon. Surely, it ‘worked’ as often as it did not. Socially accepted decisions are important to us, for both the decision-maker and any of those who suffered its consequences. They could say, ‘Hey, The Oracle was consulted, what more could be done?That is a somewhat familiar phrase, wide ranging variations of it are often heard today in the aftermath of DECISION!

EVALUATING ANOTHER’S DECISION, and that is itself A DECISION: HUMAN MIND as THIS PRACTICE OF BEING TOGETHER with standards and methods for interpreting and regulating our behavior.

Today, we have shrunken the range of “meaning.” Meanings and Motives no longer have a place as a Cause for many kinds of events. “Accidents” and “Chance” are now recognized; some things occur With No Motivation behind them and No Significance further than The Obvious to those directly involved. The coloration and shape of a dead animal’s intestine are now no more significant than to determining what it ate the day before or the reason it died today.

Yet, Divination did have an historic benefit; it was an evolutionary stage in the practice of Human Decision-Making and an element in an early attempt at Understanding The Cosmos. That we now think of divination as hooey, does not mean that it always or simply was.

Copper engraving of the Lisbon Earthquake of 1755. Lisbon, Portugal, the 4th largest city in Europe at the time. Some prominent thinkers of the time argued for one of the first time against the idea that the destruction was motivated by God’s Disapproval. Voltaire and Rousseau contended there was No Hidden Meaning to be discovered. It was what we would call, “An Accident”!

Does Religion suffer the same fate as divination? Is it a practice that once made sense and functioned in some positive ways, but now is worthless and expendable? This theme will continue to be explored in the next post on The Very Human Habit of ‘Seeing’ Motives and Meanings as Supernatural Actors: How GODS GOT IN OUR WORLD!

Stay Tuned and BE SAFE (drawing by Marty) naturereligionconnection.org

Folk Religion: The Hindu Mantras and The Origins of Language

(This is a speculative post. NO MORE THINKING ABOUT VIRUSES AND TRUMP! This Post considers the potential connection between the Hindu Mantras and the formation of the basic sounds [the phonemes] of the Indo-European Languages. These are controversial topics and I am just discovering some of the issues involved. Language, and linguistically-based society, are at the core of theories of The Mind as something profoundly different than the scientific hardware of the Brain. A new level of complexity emerges here, and needs its own vocabulary for adequate description and explanation. Roughly, the brain is like the hardware of a computer; the Mind is the software downloaded to it. This post speculates on the transition to language-based, and culture- based, living. The Hindu mantras are a celebration of linguistic sounds, as much as any ideas of gods.)

(Figurines from the Ancient Indus Valley Civilization from about 2500 BCE, Bronze Age. Scholars of religion believe that it was in this valley and at about this time that the earliest Vedas of Hindu religion became evident, though there is no single composer of them or founder of Hinduism as have many other religions.

The Hindu Religion is generally considered to be the oldest of all religions. Islam is one of the youngest of the major religions, with its origin in the life of Mohammed. At about the age of 40 and in the year 610 CE, it is believed by Muslims that Mohammed was fasting and praying in a cave near Mecca, in today’s Saudi Arabia, when he was visited by the Angel Gabriel and came to have the first words of the Qur’an tumble from his mouth.

Yet, major religious change has occurred far more recently. In the early 1500s, various protests against orthodox Catholicism led to a new “wing” of Christianity called Protestantism. Martin Luther nailed his “95 Theses” on the church door in Wittenberg, Germany in 1517. Today, new forms of Protestantism emerge every day, and the number of its adherents may be as high as 1 billion.

Luther at Erfurt, painting by J.N.Paton 1861. Doing good deeds do not get you to heaven, contended Martin Luther, only Faith in Jesus and then his free gift of grace and salvation do that trick: the Doctrine of Justification by Faith Alone is an orthodoxy.

There are an estimated 1.25 billion Hindus, but elements of Hindu practice such as Yoga and Meditation are more widespread. In fact, Hindu is Not primarily a religious doctrine, not an “ortho-doxy” (right doctrine), but an “ortho-praxi” (right practice); it is in that sense that I have been inspired to discuss it now at The Nature Religion Connection. HINDUISM IS BASICALLY RITUALISTIC: Right sounds/words, right movements, designated ceremonies and celebrations, but a variety of loosely associated and variously emphasized “beliefs” and “interpretations”.

The Indus Valley is often seen as the ancient seat of Indian Culture. Ironically, it is now the center of present-day Pakistan, an “Islamic Republic”. In 1947, the British colony of India was partitioned into two separate and independent states along religious lines. This ‘solution’ was at a great cost in lives, disruption and displacement to these two religious populations.

In previous posts, Folk Religion, The Strange Idea of..., and Folk Religion: Ritual as Memory Device and as Communal R & D, the role of Ritual in religions was discussed especially in ancient religion. Contemporary scholars of religion emphasize the essential role of religious-like rituals in the origination of language, social structure, personal identity, art and human group cooperation in general. These early humans had ideas, but more so these ideas were very vague and incipient; it was the actions, chants, movements, symbolic objects and ceremonies that were concrete and specific to them. Out of this generalized stew, we have today sorted out its more specific departments, ideas and focuses: religion, science, art, morality, politics…

Symbolic Objects from various Ancient Civilizations:

Figurine of Priest King from Indus Valley, 3,000 BCE.
Druidic “Ogham Staves” used in divination in Northern Europe. A variety of woods used in each set.
“Venus” figurine created by Homo sapien Cro-Magnon in Neolithic Europe, 35,000 years ago.

The focus of this post will be on Language. Philosopher Dan Dennett has contended that the origins of language go as far back as the origin of early forms of Religion and Ritual (some 35 to 40 thousand years ago) that he, and other investigators, have called “Folk Religion.” Folk religion lacks official doctrines and priestly hierarchies, but is large on ritual. After all, language is still rudimentary and in development, so there are no “doctrines.” It has been suggested in the posts mentioned previously that what was “taken” by these early humans as “religion” was also language development and many other activities too: art, social role development, and the beginnings of abstract thought.

(Depictions of Civilization in the late Paleolithic Period with the dawn of Agriculture and then in the Neolithic period, with the discovery of metallurgy.)

Proto-Indo-European (PIE) Language

The ancient common ancestor of Greek, Sanskrit, Iranian (Persian), Germanic (includes English), Anatolian (Turkish and Mesopotamian) and Romance languages is the Proto-Indo-European language. Our understanding of PIE is a reconstruction derived from the common elements of the 140 languages (includes the above) that form the Indo-European Family of Languages. This reconstruction is also based on recognized shifts in pronunciation, as in the shift within the Germanic languages from the German “d” as in “ding” and “danke” to the English “th” as in “thing” and “thanks”.

PIE is believed to have been spoken as far back as 5,000 BCE (7,000 years ago) in the Late Neolithic Era and may have continued to about 2,500 BCE, the Early Bronze Age. Ancient Greek and Sanskrit are considered to be two of its most ancient daughter languages. Below are some of the tell-tale similarities in vocabulary.

AN AMAZING FAMILY OF RESEMBLANCES! For the use of this chart, and majority of information on PIE and its people, THANKS to Jared Diamond and his 1992 The Third Chimpanzee; see the excellent chapter entitled “Horses, Hittites, and History”.

PIE is hypothesized to have had a complex structure with “regular vowel variations” as in sing, sang, sung and their noun, song, and pronoun declensions such as “I”, “me”, “mine”. It did lack the definite and indefinite articles (“the” and “a”) and did place the verb at the end of the sentence or clause. It is hypothesized to have invented/discovered all the basic Phonemes of our language group. It seems that the Consonant sounds may have been the ‘easiest’ and earliest to have been agreed upon, with the Vowel sounds only developing — becoming more systematic — more slowly.

The Hindu Mantras as a Discovery and Appreciation of the Phonemes of this Human Language Cooperation

The basic Sounds of human-language cooperation in the Indo-European language tradition may not have originated in the Indus River Valley of Pakistan/India. Maybe the basic Mantras of Hinduism are an early appreciation and affirmation of the place these sounds play in our lives. Chanted sound vibrations, recognized as a huge progressive development, are at the core of Hinduism, the world’s oldest religion. Today, we might recognize this birth of language as the shift from simply biological life to cultural-biological life.

Dennett argues forcefully that Language-Based Communication is based in layers of Mutually Recognized and Agreed Upon Intentions. Like when telling a joke, the teller must be understood by the recipient as “joking”, the recipient must “get” the situation as a “joke” to “get” the joke. Often when a joke does not succeed, the recipient pauses and then realizes the intent of the joker, “Oh, you’re joking”, they realize and say, “now I get it!”

Theorists of communication often contend that “the order of intentionality” must go three and four layers deep: the speaker must understand and agree on the context for the speech act with the hearer: to greet, to inform, to request, to convince… Both must recognize that each is aware of the agreed upon expectations and that the speech act must comply with, and — then– be interpreted in that light. As a Teacher, one becomes keenly aware of the mutual expectations of the setting in terms of trust in the method and goal of the interaction shared by teacher and student. The relationship between Salesperson and Customer, also, has mutual expectations, but is far different than Teaching in terms of trust, goal, and appropriate methods of interaction.

Before more complex speech interactions can occur, the most basic one of working out the sounds to be used and the standards of acceptability for the range of vocalization that will “count”, must be established and agreed upon. This is Language as a Digital System, says Dennett, and this is a huge clue to the mechanism of its operation! Maybe the most basic chant of all, “Om”, is most illustrative of this point.

“Om”: The Primal Chant

It is like a phonics lesson. The first thing you read about the “Om”chant is that it is pronounced A-U-M; three separate but related sounds and mouth/throat/tongue placements. The “A” is “ahhh”, mouth round and open wider (please try it), as if ‘accepting the whole of reality,’ we are told. The “ahhh” rolls out from the back of your throat. The “U” is “oooh”, with your mouth closing more, lips pursing but still round. The sound still from the back of your throat, but now more focused and specifically directed. The “M” is the “mmm” sound, with the same “ahhh” and “oooh” sound coming from the back of your throat, but now with your mouth closing and your tongue moving to the top of your palate. With your tongue in this position the vibrations are now palpable and strong. Please try this.

Hindus believe the universe is basically vibration and the “Om” is its first sound. In the “Om”, we have three phonemes, basic Indo-European language sounds; but this is an over simplification because vowel sounds are much more complicated and controversial among linguists than consonant sounds. Some scholars speculate that the initial Proto-Indo-European language (PIE) operated with only two, or even one, of our vowel sounds! Actually, a fourth sound is insisted upon by the Hindu gurus, the modern embodiment of this Oral Tradition; they teach that the eventual Silence after the “mmm” is to be appreciated as important as any other element! Sound ends, and reality goes on beyond our perception of it.

“Om” is used as the introduction to many other Mantras and to the initiation and conclusion of many Yoga and meditational exercises.

Other Simple Mantra Chants

“Om Namo Narayanaya” is considered one of the most sacred of all Mantras; some consider it the most “powerful”. It is contended to penetrate to the basic unity of consciousness underlying all reality. Literally, it means “I bow to and honor Lord Narayana”. Lord Narayana is also known as Vishnu, the protection and preservation of all that exists. This chant is also specifically known for its sounds in the original Sanskrit and is, thus, in keeping with the theme of this post: The Basic Connection of Ritual/Religion to The Origins of Language. This mantra is called “the eight-lettered invocation”.

“Om Neti Neti”: A very short chant.

Also Translated as “Not this, not that”. Its explanation.
The Chant.

The Controversy of The Source of PIE

Hindu Doctrine regards their religion as having No Origin. To them it is eternal and the sounds of its mantras, that they so cherish, are The natural sounds of the universe, and in no way particular to them or their Language Family. But they are. Hindu Nationalists are today the only ‘scholars’ proposing that The Original Source of the Proto-Indo-European Language (PIE) arose in the Indus Valley and its early Aryan civilization. This position gains some credibility from the antiquity of Sanskrit; it is one of PIE’s earliest “daughters”.

The accepted theory of scholars around the world is The Out of The Russian Steppes Theory or The Kurgan hypothesis. The hugely influential geographer, Jared Diamond, explains that one of the leading clues to a language’s origins are words that it now contains that are obviously from a different source (see his The Third Chimpanzee, chapter 15). In American English, we now have words such as “Mississippi”, “Ohio” (which means “good river [or waters]” in the local indigenous language) and “Dakota”. These words indicate that English overtook a pre-established language.

How could a language originating from a culture north of the Black and Caspian Seas in the eastern and middle parts of Europe have such wide-ranging historical impact? We see no great pyramids there; we see no monumental aqueducts or coliseums in that region! We do find what we have called “Kurgans’, burial mounds traditional to this region stretching our in various directions.

The Kurgan Hypothesis argues that PIE originated in this purplish region and spread first eastward toward India and then westward into Europe.

The Horse and the Wheeled Cart

The language of these, the First Indo-Europeans, overran indigenous languages. How? The Horse and Wheeled Charts! These pastoral peoples were the first to domesticate the horse and use them for “Horse Power”! They prospered, and rolled out of Eastern Europe into the east toward India and then to the west. This advantage of the Domesticated Horse and the Wheeled Cart used in both battle and mundane transportation caused an expansion of these Mongolian peoples — Huns, Vandals, Visigoths — that lasted 5,000 years. They overran indigenous languages and replaced them to a telling degree.

(The Mongolian Horse Backed warrior and herder, top right. Burial “Kurgan Mounds“, left and left middle. The envisioned pastoral and herding camp of these Mongolian People, the first Indo-Europeans!)

So, what where these indigenous languages that were overrun? Diamond proposes that it was a situation analogous to recent New Guinea, that isolated Pacific island. This is one of Diamond’s original bases of study, and for which there have been recorded “nearly one thousand mutually unintelligible languages — including dozens with no known relation to each other or to any other language in the world”! It seems that people around the world evolved many different languages but few survived! In our case, a language group that consists of 140 languages, out out of the 5,000 languages that currently survive, is now spoken by half of the world’s population! This is a testament to Horse Power, at least initially.

One More Celebration of Sound and Dance

Krishna Das Music! You gotta give it 5 to 10 minutes; they really start to heat it up! A Celebration of Sound, Dance and Unity.

About two decades ago, when my eldest daughter was in High School, she wanted me to go with her to the local Krishna House, after her encounter with them at a festival in the campus area. I was eager to go; I had never been. We went some Saturday in the summer, late in the morning, as I recall. About 20 of us had gathered that day at the house, along with its eight or so residents. After some cordial greetings, the celebration slowly started in the living and dining rooms of the old brick house. We had been offered simple instruments; I chose a tambourine. Several of the residents were more elaborately equipped, one a hand-organ as shown in this video.

It started slowly and quietly, but soon picked up intensity. The temperature in the house was soon in the mid-eighties, no air con, and I started to pound the tambourine and sway to the chant as did my daughter. I do not remember the particulars of the chant that day but after about an hour, it slowed and then solemnly stopped. We were exhausted and I was wet with sweat. We clapped and smiled and all adjourned to the back patio where we were served a tasty and simple vegetarian meal. It was a lasting memory and a worthy experience, to which this post is testimony.

In Conclusion

Some philosophers and scientists are often mistaken. There are Truths available to us through our Social Interactions that are as Real as the universe presented to us by physics and chemistry. Human Cooperation through Sound and Language and Music and Dance is as real as anything, and in need of our explicit affirmation. That is our insistence on an Ethical Society. Persons work together. Positive human cooperation is the basis of all human interaction at its unique level. For example, Trump and his lies are harmfully parasitic upon our foundation of honest human interactions, which are the overwhelming majority. Science and philosophy—and ethics—are built upon honest linguistic interaction. Hey! Music and Art are the “egg” added to the batter that allowed Culture to Rise!

Rock On!

Focused on THE BIG CONNECTION, the naturereligionconnection.org !!!!

Mad House in The O-H-I-O !!!

O——-————H———————I———-————-O
Our Governor Mike DeWine

”Our state is on fire,” said the Governor on Wednesday (11/18). He is touring the state delivering this message. He has already initiated a state-wide Curfew from 10pm to 5am. He is seeking to be more surgical in his approach this time, instead of the massive and across-the-board Shut Downs he initiated in March. DeWine is a courageous and honest man! He is a Republican and is defying great push-back from his own party on both Virus Policy and Mr. Trump. DeWine is one of the few Republicans to nationally acknowledge Trump’s evident defeat and the need to start the transition to Biden! Not all politicians are dishonest and shameless opportunists!

Last Tuesday, The Ohio Hospital Assoc. reported some 3,600 Ohioans in the hospital with Covid. Of those 900 were in Intensive Care Units and 440 of these on Ventilators! We are now recording 8 to 9,000 new cases a day, and these are jumping dramatically by the day. My county, Franklin — the state capital, home of The Ohio State University (with its 50 thousand on-campus students, in normal times), and the world HQ of Nation Wide Insurance and Wendy’s — has now gone “Purple” in the state Covid warning system. This is the most severe category and we are the first Ohio county to attain it (“We’re No.1; We’re No.1!”) In response, some stores are closing early, some school systems are going online or staying there longer. Some schools are going online for Middle and High School but staying in a blended mode for elementary students, who do not learn well online and cannot be at home alone. We are recording about 50 to 60 deaths a day.

The madhouse character of the situation hit home this morning when my wife went grocery shopping. The store was packed! No carts were available. The store had people waiting at the door at the 6am opening she was told, and by the time my wife got there at 9:30, most paper products were gone and also boxed spaghetti, macaroni, a lot of bottled water and a few other items. When she left, an hour later, the store was more crowded than initially. This crowding situation at the store was probably exacerbated by a Noon Kick Off here in town for our OSU Buckeye football team. But no 100,000 fans at the stadium (by order of the Health Dept.) only lots trying to get errands done by noon to watch on TV.

No Cheerleaders, Not even Brutus Buckeye, allowed in the stadium. OSU WON 42 to 35 over 9th ranked Indiana, in an exciting game!

To put some perspective on the Ohio situation, we have 64 Covid cases per 100,000 people but North and South Dakota have 177 and 137 respectively. That is outrageous considering the open spaces and lack of urban crowding in those states. Their Republican Governors have been flamboyant in their denial of Covid’s Reality, and now they are the world’s Hottest Spot for spread and their hospitals are Full and staff’s Exhausted! Nationwide the average is about 40 per 100,000.

We need to get TRUMP OUT and Biden’s Team in as fast as possible to start leading this National Health Crisis!

HURRY, get your TP while it lasts!

Stay Safe and Beat The Bug!!!

The Connection, THANKS for READING!!!

“Folk Religion”: Ritual as Memory Device and Communal R & D

(Ritual has made an essential contribution to human solidarity. In Dan Dennett’s Breaking The Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomena, the early workings of Ritual are described as part of the origin of Culture, itself. There is a big difference between biological evolution and cultural change. These early rituals, were they “religious”? They were many things at once —language creation, creation of group identities, myth-making, creation and clarification of social roles, and the beginning of abstract thought — all included in what Dennett broadly calls, “folk” religion. But does religion still have a useful role to play?)

(This post is an improved version of its forbearer; it has evolved. There are now five posts on Religion based on Dennett’s book, the first is “Believing in Believing in God” —see “Religion” section in Menu. Page references in this post are occasionally add to enable further inquiry.)

Vervet monkeys are the most successfully studied primate in their natural habitat, according to Jarod Diamond in his The Third Chimpanzee. For example, they have a call for “eagle” and the troupe looks up; a different call for “cat” and the troupe runs up a tree. Nice; these “calls” are the origin of language, but ya gotta love those hairdos! They remind me of the Nuns that taught me at Assumption Grade School in the 1960s.

In the wilds of East Africa, Vervet monkeys have been observed to have as many as a dozen very specific calls, each with its referent, and each consistently responded to. But how did we get from a handful of conditioned communicative calls to the use of thousands of words built up into phrases, sentences, and scientific theories. It is like the old joke about “How to get to Symphony Hall?”, the answer, “Practice, son, practice!”

Ritual as Research and Development

Ritual was the bridge from biology to culture. That is a bold statement, but nothing living ever completely escapes biology, and why would we want it to? To seek nourishment, to avoid harm, to feel, to want, to enjoy, to nurture, surely is what life is about. But, a limitation is imposed upon us by “the biological point of view”; it is a limitation of goal and purpose. For biology, the goal is to successfully reproduce. Through the use of ritual, early humans — and maybe even proto-humans — began to imagine more possibilities for life!

The classic depiction of H. sapiens Cro-Magnon. Evidence clearly suggests these early humans were the first to have more complex language, a variety of tools and art, some 40,000 years ago. Painting from Lascaux Cave in France.

Early language-formation and ritual are probably closely tied. The basic phonemes of language were discovered in ritualistic events, I believe, but this a little beyond Dennett’s direct contention. And, with language in development, benefits started to accrue. “Language gave us the power to remind ourselves of things not currently present to our senses, to dwell on topics that would otherwise be elusive, and this brought into focus a virtual world of imagination”, writes Dennett. And, for our ancestors, Ritual was a “persistent —even obsessive— rehearsal and elaboration of some of their habits of thought.”(p.114). I contend that many of the basic skills of language where worked out in ritualistic events.

Celtic Druids “Gathering the Sacred Mistletoe”, hand colored engraving. A highly esteemed social class in ancient Ireland, England and France, the Druids were religious leaders, political advisors, healers, and keepers of the ancient lore. Their “oral literature” was forbidden to be recorded in writing, even though written language was eventually available to them. Julius Caesar was one of the first to record any information about the Druids in his Commentary on the Gaelic Wars written in 50 BCE.

Oral language must be relatively easy to remember. Some few ‘words’ may have started as separate ‘calls’ but in the end, words cannot be unrelated and totally dissimilar to each other. There must be a system to words, it seems, in which a small group of standardized sounds (phonemes) are used repeatedly and built into various combinations. Standardized parts, these sounds, eventually form root words and even suffixes and prefixes. It took much time and practice to pound out language as a Digital System, contends Dan Dennett (p.149), almost 40,000 years of practice. Much of that work took place in communal ritual.

Section from the 18th century engraving by S.F. Ravenet, Conversion of The Druids to Christianity. The term “Druid” comes from Indo-European roots meaning “Oak-seer” or “Oak-knower.” In the first century C.E., the Druids and Druidic rituals were actively and successfully suppressed by the Romans in their provinces. The Druids, they were ‘into’ their trees and plants.

These early efforts in the development of language continue today with its ongoing growth, decay, and even extinction. Some speculate that one day every person on our planet will speak the same language. Yet now, Ritual has expanded far beyond any tie to Religion. Ritual exists in music, politics, science, education and various social ceremonies from birth to death to baseball.

A comic look at the Tree of Language Development by Minna Sundberg from My Modern Met site.

What is one of the most shocking aspects of Digitization is its tolerance. For example, no one makes the “buh” sound of “B” exactly the same as other English speakers, nor even exactly the same from one time to the next, yet almost all attempts ‘count as’ and are heard as, “B”. Dennett points out that bows, genuflections, and kowtows are never exactly ‘the same’ either, yet there is a general and expected range ‘that counts’ and there are even flourishes or new modifications that catch on and become fads and sometimes the new model of acceptability.

Neutrinos discovered. In a universe of these kinds of subatomic particles, what could a Mind possibly be? A neutrino is so small and evasive that it could travel through a mass of the metal lead several miles thick without interference. A Mind is not in that kind of a physical world. That is a Separate Vocabulary from the way and the circumstances in which we speak of minds. As physicist Sean Carroll contends, our best way to characterize The Big Picture is to talk of the physical world of physics, and then the many ways We find it useful to describe that world as it is real and useful to us from our human perspective. “Mind” is those particular perspectives laying beyond the physics perspective, but necessary to understand our situation.

Words, genuflections, and various other forms of ritual are what Dennett calls “Memes.” Memes are the stuff Mind is made of: Shared Behavioral Habits — our words, our clothing styles, our music, our cuisine and our industry. Mind is, like digitization above, a tolerant range of acceptability, a way ‘to take’ the physical world, but also a setting of limits. And The Minds we know of, and participate in — even going back into their origin in animals and plants — are all limited to a Particular Point of View, we can say. That which is outside that point of view, that range of sensitivity and awareness, we can now call “noise” or vagueness or even “cognitive dissonance” when it is most severe.

Social Custom, as “language”, “religion”, “art” and “industry”, is all a limited perspective for “us”, our group, or some particular group. We are lucky to have them, but surely our Cro-Mag ancestors never made the specific distinctions we are used to. “Religion”, “language”, “art”, “mate selection”, “social order”, and “industry” were common to them, but each activity was involved with the other and all were probably one, to them. It is in that sense that “Folk Religion” was a single and vague activity, but one fraught with varied and highly emotive implications.

Homo sapiens neanderthal lived and interacted with our ancestors and still has lingering segments of DNA in our population. They became extinct at about the time of language origination, some 30 to 40,000 years ago. They are thought to have had only limited language, limited tool-making and no evidence of art. In a thousand years there are about 50 human generations. So, 40,000 times 50 equals 2,000,000 generations of humans since the passing of these, our cousins. That number of generations is a lot of “passing on” but also a lot of opportunity for shuffling, variation, loss, and refinement. Lack of language ability may have contributed to Neanderthal’s extinction.

Ritual as Memory Device

How did ‘we’ remember these new found social habits? After all, no one was taking notes! Communication, itself, was being discovered. Incredibly, Dennett explains the functioning of ritual as similar to the “copying fidelity” of computers (146). It is the “majority rules strategy” that mathematician John von Neumann applied to engineering, but which had long been known and utilized previously. It is called “multiplexing”, Dennett says. For example, before the days of radios, navigators at sea on long voyages would always use three chronometers (time pieces that are highly accurate in spite of motion, temperature and other variables). If only one was used, how would you know it was accurate? If two, how to know which was accurate if they started to diverge? Three allows the majority to rule if divergence occurs. It is highly unlikely that two devises would both go wrong and wrong in the same way at the same time.

In ritual, people acting in unison work in the same way. No one needs to know the entire chant or dance or prayer, but the majority of participants at any one point will know, and any minority divergence will quickly correct back to the majority. (This was the rule I always used in my church-going years! Is it time to stand now or kneel? Just follow the congregation.) “It is no accident that religions all have occasions on which adherents come together to act in public unison in rituals…Any religion without such occasions would already be extinct” (Dennett, 147).

Ritual in Africa. Even with the coming of Christianity and Islam to Africa, many converts have not totally given up on their traditional African religious beliefs and rituals. Many “still turn to their local gods for help with traditional problems and situations.” (Quote and photo from Geography web site.)

Language, itself, was probably discovered in rudimentary form and then expanded, refined, memorized and passed on in this manner. Customs and what we would call “practical activities” were also re-enacted and rehearsed in ritual. The hunt, mate-selection, social organization, healing, birth and burial were all taken up symbolically in ritual. Oral Traditions were developed and “tales” of origins and ancestors were established. Dennett quotes researcher Scott Atran, “Humans, it appears, are the only animals that spontaneously engage in creative, rhythmic bodily coordination to enhance possibilities for cooperation” (141).

“Come on baby, let’s do the Twist…ya do it like this…ya, do the Twist!” sang Chubby Checkers in 1960. The Twist is “creative, rhythmic bodily coordination” that has definitely “enhanced” my “possibilities for cooperation”. My wife loves to dance!

Today we know that songs, prayers, speeches and many kinds of writing utilize rhythm and often rhyme, and this, too, was a discovery or invention long in the making and likely originating in forms of Ritual Events. Rhythm and rhyme are also memory aides and attention devises and like language had no individual inventor.

Rhythm and rhyme are memory aides, for example: Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep. First printed In The New England Primer. This primer was first published in about 1690 and was designed for use in the colonies. It replaced The Bible as the foundation of American education before 1800. Who has not heard it; who has not remembered it? The ritual of prayer, combined with rhythm and rhyme.

Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep;
If I should die before I ‘wake’,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.

Ritual from around the world and through time. Ritual is the Communal search for, and establishment of, Shared Behavioral Habits. These Shared Habits of attention, concern and coordinated behavior, build upon our biological needs and abilities to establish what we commonly consider today as “Human Mind”.

Remember, Mind is distinct from Brain! No Brain which is free of Acculturation wants to play Baseball!

Playing Together: “Take me out to the ball game. Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack, I don’t care if I ever go back…Just take, take, me out to the ball game!” is sung by the fans during “The Seventh Inning Stretch”
THE NATURERELIGIONCONNECTION. .ORG———

Highlighting the Things We Do Together! Why? Because We are, at heart, Together!

Working Together: Diego Rivera’s famous Detroit Museum Mural (section of) created with his wife, Frida Kahlo.
Frida Kahlo, self-portrait.

The Connection: “Keep on Truck’n!”

Chatting It Up, In The O-H-I-O

This is Not my neighborhood, here in Ohio. Ohio ranks 6th in soy bean growth and 11th in production of corn among the states. This part of Ohio went heavily Trump!

WHAT A STRANGE LAST COUPLE OF DAYS! Late Thursday night/Friday morning, I reported that Friday at High School was going to be a busy day and then Saturday, turned out to be the same. I found myself chatting away, connecting with other people, even if in the most trivial way. I found it very satisfying. It seemed that many people just wanted to share their feels with an “other”. TIME TO RECONNECT!

Too much drama, too much uncertainty, was one of my standard “talking points”. All ya needed to say was “Wow, what strange times these are” and many people would start to open right up. Of course, I would Not then start to tell them what a jerk Trump is! Because, this was a time for sharing and reconciliation, I strongly felt; and, that seemed to work.

It was a wonderful coincidence that Saturday was Beautiful Weather in the entire state. People were out, walking, riding bikes, working outside their home. Sheri, my wife, ‘chose’ to clean and organize the garage (to get both cars in for the winter), and I ‘chose’ to patch and re-coat the asphalt driveway. Curious how we ‘choose’ to do such mundane and tedious work! You would think we would avoid such distasteful activity at all cost. I guess that shows how we can “Choose To Do What is Necessary”, a favorite theme here at The Connection: How well Adapted we are to be Free and Caused To Act at The Same Time! Choosing To Do what is Necessary To Do….. But I digress.

Chatting it up: My wife and I spoke to seven different neighbors! As we were outside for the entire mid-day, some of the conversations were rather prolonged, some fairly short. Add on to that, the one guy that drove by and slowed down to shout “F#<k you and F—- Biden Too!” and the lady that started to pump her fist, shout “hurray” and blow her horn as she came to our house and saw us. Our house has a bit of a reputation in the neighborhood as a hub of Democratic political activity. And it felt pretty good.

A young guy from four doors down came by with his three year old son riding a tricycle. I hardly know him, named Derrick, and he explained to me that he is a Republican, but that he wanted to congratulate us on the victory. Rather shyly and not all that articulately, he explained that Americans need to work together, especially in Congress. I agreed and most of the conversation was about his son.

Our neighbor across the street, Kason, has been flying the “Don’t Tread On Me” Tea Party ‘snake flag’ again, since the Governor shutdown much of the state due to The Virus. He really is a nice guy, a middle-aged family man, very personable and Fundamentalist Christian. He explained to me that he has a new pastor who has been big into the “give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to the Lord what is His” idea, and therefore Kason has backed off on some of his political activism and even concerns. When asked if he was buying into Trump’s stolen election contention, he said he was now trying to believe only what he had personal experience of or close and trusted testimony to. In this case, he had neither of those, so he couldn’t say for sure whether the election was stolen or not. Strange as that was, I pretty much left it there, but did comment that it as too bad America no longer had a trusted news source like we did in the old days, Mr. Walter Cronkite, CBS National News!

The most trusted man in America for several decades, the 1950s and 60s. As I recall, he was the man that took the nightly national television news from 15 minutes (!?!) to 30.

On our street I had provided Biden signs for five different houses including our own. And several got their own. It was nice to be so well represented. We had some great conversations with some of these people. People were relieved that Joe and Kamala finally did it! Now, I should point out that My Neighborhood is Not representative of all of Ohio, or Biden would have won the state. Here in Franklin county, home to Columbus, we went almost 70% Biden, but in 80 of Ohio’s 88 counties (all rural) they went Trump, some as high as almost 90%!

This is more like my neighborhood, here in Ohio.

But the chatting was initiated in School on Friday! As I wrote early Friday morning, I woke up upset and astonished by President Trump’s allegations at nightly news time Thursday evening. (See Discussing Politics in the Classroom, the following post.) He told the nation that the election was being stolen from him! What an outrageously untrue and destructive contention!

So on Friday, I did “checked in with” each and every class. How were they feeling, I asked. “We do not need any more drama or uncertainty this year,” I said, “but that is what our President has served up, a heaping, new portion.” I tried to carefully maintain a certain amount of neutrality, but I could not, in all good conscience, not question the basis of his contention. His contentions are in variance with the principles and realities of our country! It led to several good and civil discussions, and quite a few students voiced their distrust and dislike for Mr. Trump. “Why was it taking so long?” “What could Trump do?”, many student’s asked. At least, more of these young people were talking, instead of sitting in an unnatural silence in these often largely deserted and disrupted school days and in these uncertain times.

Not a great communicator himself, unless you happen to be into Bluster and Derision!

Time to move on, Pull together, and BEAT THAT VIRUS!!!

The NatureReligionConnection.org

Discussing Politics in The Classroom: It’s An Honor To Be A Teacher

Our soon-to-be-not President!

Thursday/Friday November 5-6:

I could not stay asleep. I woke at midnight thinking I needed to hear again what our President said tonight. It is now 2 am and I have listened to his statement again and again, and sampled the media reaction to it. In six hours I will be standing in front of a small group of high schoolers and I need to be able to help them through this mind-boggling moment! All day long, tomorrow, I think I will need to “sound out” and respond to, the needs of young people in this hour of need.

It reminds me of that day in September in 2001 when when I stood “there” and did the same: tried to explain the meaning and significance of it. Well, really, I was just trying to get us all through an unbelievable event in as sane a manner as possible. Here I am again, and I’m ready, more ready than before.

I am honored to be in this position, but scared by its gravity. Many high schoolers are fragile creatures, and all need to practice adulthood. High school is adult practice; how to be one, and “what will it hold for me?”, they are wondering. I want to be —tomorrow— the teacher that I would have wanted to have when I was in H.S. You don’t get teachers that rise to that occasion all the time.

What it comes to is, Our President Has Betrayed America. Not all students are going to believe that, or even care. Tomorrow I will “check in with” the feelings and thoughts of each class. 2020 has been a butt kicker. Students already don’t know what to think and don’t know what to say. They just sit quietly; they do not talk! Tomorrow is time to talk and share and pull together.

Wish me luck. It will go fine, I’m good at this. I have had a lot of practice. It is an honor to be a teacher. High schoolers are and can be remarkable creatures, especially when give some decent guidance.

Time to get some sleep. A big day ahead for all of us!