Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Behold, the Lord esteemeth all flesh as one

I was listening to an audio recording of the Book of Mormon, and when it got to the part where Nephi says they "did live upon raw meat in the wilderness" (1 Ne. 17:2), I wondered how the word meat was to be understood. Certainly by Joseph's time it had already acquired its modern meaning of "animal flesh," but the language of the Book of Mormon is patterned after that of the King James Version of the Bible, which even in its time was very linguistically conservative. For example, even though the KJV was written in Shakespeare's day, and Shakespeare commonly uses singular ye/you after the French fashion, as a more formal or respectful alternative to thou/thee, the KJV follows the older Anglo-Saxon convention, in which ye/you is always plural and thou/thee is always used for the singular. (This is an extremely helpful feature of the KJV text, making it much less ambiguous than modern thou-phobic translations.) Joseph Smith mostly imitates the KJV, but imperfectly so, and there are many unambiguous instances of singular you in the Book of Mormon. Sometimes the two groups of second-person pronouns almost seem to be in free variation -- for example, "And now Zoram, I speak unto you: Behold, thou art the servant of Laban." (2 Ne. 1:30). Would even Shakespeare have countenanced singular you when addressing a servant?

In another case of its linguistic conservatism, the KJV always uses meat to mean "food" and never in the narrower sense of "animal flesh." How aware was Joseph Smith of that usage, and how closely did he follow it in the Book of Mormon? Need we imagine the Lehites chowing down on steak tartare, or did Nephi perhaps mean salad?

I'll post my conclusion on that question later, on my Book of Mormon blog. Here I just want to note a striking synchronicity occasioned by my preliminary research into it.

While the audio recording was still playing, I used my computer to search the Book of Mormon text for meat, then for food, and finally for flesh, trying to get a sense for how the text uses those words. Since the search function on the website formerly known as lds.org is unusably bad -- I believe "an abomination in the sight of the Lord" is the technical term -- I was doing Ctrl-F searches on a text file from Gutenberg. That means that rather than seeing a whole list of search results on the screen at once, I had to click through them one at a time.

When I clicked for the second search result for flesh, it was 1 Ne. 17:35:

Behold, the Lord esteemeth all flesh in one; he that is righteous is favored of God. But behold, this people had rejected every word of God, and they were ripe in iniquity; and the fulness of the wrath of God was upon them; and the Lord did curse the land against them, and bless it unto our fathers; yea, he did curse it against them unto their destruction, and he did bless it unto our fathers unto their obtaining power over it.

The exact instant I clicked, and the screen jumped to this verse with the word flesh highlighted in orange, the audio recording also said the word flesh -- and then I realized that it was reading this very verse! My curiosity had been piqued, you will recall, by 1 Ne. 17:2, and now the audio had gotten to verse 35. I had been listening with half my attention and skimming search results with the other, and now suddenly the two came together, and what I was reading on the screen was exactly the same as what the recording was saying.

This is similar in kind, though not in content, to the sync recently documented in "A loaf of bread is dear."

Monday, May 20, 2024

Griffins (Cherubim) and apples (forbidden fruit) come from the same place

In my May 1 post "Armored vultures and Cherubim," I note the etymological theory that the word griffin may be related to Cherubim. In Genesis, the Cherubim are stationed as guardians to keep the exiled Adam and Eve from returning to Eden. This was after they had eaten the forbidden fruit, which tradition overwhelmingly identifies as the apple.

Today I was reading the 2011 edition of Adreinne Mayor's seminal book The First Fossil Hunters: Dinosaurs, Mammoths, and Myth in Greek and Roman Times. In building her case that griffin legends originated with Protoceratops-type fossils (quadrupeds with eagle-like beaks), Mayor traces Greek griffin lore back to Scythia:

The territory of the Issedonian Scythians where Aristeas learned about the griffin in about 675 B.C. is a wedge bounded by the Tien Shan and Altai ranges, in an area that straddles present-day northwestern Mongolia, northwestern China, southern Siberia, and southeastern Kazakhstan.

Compare this to what Wikipedia says about the origin of the apple:

The original wild ancestor of Malus domestica was Malus sieversii, found growing wild in the mountains of Central Asia in southern Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and northwestern China. Cultivation of the species, most likely beginning on the forested flanks of the Tian Shan mountains . . . .

I thought it was an interesting coincidence. Tian Shan is Chinese and literally means "Mountain(s) of God," which fits with what Ezekiel wrote about Eden and the Cherub:

Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God . . . . Thou art the anointed cherub . . . thou wast upon the holy mountain of God (Ezek. 28:13-14).

I was going to say I don't think anyone has ever proposed that Eden was in Central Asia, but actually someone has: Apparently, the Chinese Australian Christian Tse Tsan-tai proposed that it was in Xinjiang -- i.e., northwestern China, griffin and apple territory.

"Look at that pumpkin!" the visitors say

In my May 16 post "'Come buy, come buy,' was still their cry," I mention an anecdote from Whitley Strieber about an alien going door-to-door selling squash. I also note that I had initially misremembered the story and thought that it was pumpkins the alien was selling, but that in any case the Chinese language does not distinguish between the two: 南瓜 can mean either "squash" or "pumpkin."

Although most people would say Strieber's books are about "aliens," he himself almost never calls them that. In an effort to be neutral and avoid jumping to the conclusion that they are of extraterrestrial origin, he prefers to refer to the Other People as visitors. In the anecdote in question, quoted in my 2021 post "Cucurbits from an alien land," Strieber describes his friend Michael Talbot talking to a stranger at the door at five in the morning:

The idea that this was a visitor certainly hadn't crossed Michael's mind. . . . Then I heard him say, "are you trying to sell those vegetables?"

It stunned me practically senseless. Then I saw that the visitor was holding a big paper shopping bag full of squash.

This quote highlight's Strieber's idiosyncratic use of the word visitor. Obviously Michael was well aware that the stranger standing at the door was a "visitor" in the ordinary sense of that word; what Strieber means is that Michael didn't suspect it was an alien.

Today I saw this in one of my students' textbooks:

The first sentence on the page is, "'Look at that pumpkin!' the visitors say." These are of course visitors in the ordinary sense -- Cheng is locally famous as an excellent gardener, and "people come from all over to see the beautiful plants" -- but the word still jumped out at me due to the synchronistic context. Note also that the story is set in China, and it is in Chinese that "squash" and "pumpkin" are interchangeable. I had mentioned Chinese only because I live in Taiwan and speak that language every day. This book, though, is published in America and distributed worldwide, so the fact that this story happens to be about Chinese people is a coincidence. (Visitors of the Strieberian type are often described as looking "Chinese.")

In the story, the Emperor of China holds a gardening context. Each gardener is given a seed to plant and told that the one who grows the most beautiful plant from it will be the next emperor. In the end, it is revealed that all the seeds were dead and that the contest was actually a test of honesty. Cheng, the only one honest enough to bring the emperor an empty flowerpot, wins and is chosen to be his successor.

In Alma 32 in the Book of Mormon, the "word" -- an idea or belief -- is compared to a seed  which is planted in the heart, and if the seed grows, that means "that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me" (Alma 32:28).

When one has invested a lot in a particular seed, there is a temptation to trick oneself into believing it has borne fruit even if it hasn't -- perhaps, like the dishonest gardeners in the story, by introducing other seeds into the pot and pretending that what grows from them has grown from the original seed. Resisting that temptation is a difficult but important form of honesty.

Sunday, May 19, 2024

Spaghettified monkey

I’ve just finished M. D. Thalmann’s novella Europa Affair, which is absolutely terrible. It ends on a synchronistically interesting note, though, as the character Peter, who is a genetically enhanced baboon, activates an app called Monkey-B-2, which results in his “spaghettification.” What exactly that means is not really clear, as the writing is so atrocious, but it obviously ties in with William Wright’s monkey named Spaghetti.

Peering deep into the hat

I watched a few minutes of a video YouTube recommended, “Showing the Mormon Church NO MERCY w/ John Dehlin & Carah Burrell,” but pretty quickly got bored with their midwit takes. The video begins with a clip of what they apparently thought was one of the highlights, Carah saying this:

Joseph Smith was a sincere believer in this, like Christian mysticism, this Christian occult practice or this treasure digging? The fact is that Mormons themselves, you guys don’t believe that that’s an actual believable practice of how to find things within the earth, to put rocks into hats and say, Yep, God’s making the words appear here on this rock. Write it down. This is the most holy scripture of all time. You know that that’s not how your God would actually bring you the most correct scripture on earth, through the same mechanism that Joseph Smith was doing these illegal treasure digs in.

To drive her point home, she took out an actual hat and demonstrated how silly people look when they’re staring into hats. I don’t think she actually had a rock in there, though. The hat was empty.

I then turned to the final chapter of John Keel’s book The Eighth Tower. He compares scientists to audience members trying to figure out how a conjurer pulled a rabbit out of his hat:

A rabbit cannot spring from a hat, they reasoned, if it is not first introduced into the hat somehow. They could not grasp the ancient truth that even though the hat always seems empty, it is always full. The rabbit does not come from the sorcerer’s sleeve but only crosses from one delusion to another.

Dr. [Maurice] Bucke peered deep into the empty hat and found only a rose-colored mist that had to be God.

Peering deep into a hat is a pretty unusual thing to do. Joseph Smith literally did so and saw the word of God. Immediately after hearing a reference to that, I read it, as a metaphor this time, but still with reference to divine revelation and the production of a spiritual book. (The “rose-colored mist” reference is to the mystical experience that led Bucke to write Cosmic Consciousness.)

Saturday, May 18, 2024

Muhammad sync

Today I finished the New Testament and started reading the Quran, which I've only read once, more than 15 years ago. Other than the Quran itself, I don't think I've ever read any books about Muhammad or Islam, unless you count The Satanic Verses. Islam-related stuff isn't exactly a staple of my literary diet.

Yesterday I'd nearly finished John Keel's The Eighth Tower, having read 23 of its 25 chapters. Today, just minutes after reading the first few suwar of the Quran, I started Chapter 24. It begins with a history of computers, but about halfway through it suddenly has a lot to say about Mecca and the Kaaba and Mohammed (it was still Mohammed back in 1975) and the rise of Islam. The last words of the chapter are "we will defend our Kaaba to the death."

There is not a single solitary reference to anything Islam-related in the first 23 chapters of The Eighth Tower. The day I pick up the Quran for the second time in my life also happens to be the day I read Chapter 24.

Friday, May 17, 2024

The 96, the 48, and the white bull

In his May 15 post "Alpha and Omega, and the 144 or gross," William Wright writes that in Tolkien's writings there were originally 144 elves who were invited to Aman. Two-thirds (called the Eldar) accepted the invitation, while one-third (called the Avari) declined. (As the Babylon Bee recently complained, "every time a group of elves does something they get a new name!") Two-thirds of 144 is 96, a number which William goes on to discuss extensively. He doesn't mention the number 48, but that's how many Avari there would have been.

The number 48 is potentially interesting because of the recent emphasis on the word buy. ("'Come buy, come buy,' was still their cry.") In Simple English Gematria (S:E:G:) -- where you add up the value of a word by counting A as 1, B as 2, and so on -- we get these interesting equations:
  • buy = 2 + 21 + 25 = 48
  • sell = 19 + 5 + 12 + 12 = 48
  • trade = 20 + 18 + 1 + 4 + 5 = 48
I was thinking about this as I ate my lunch today. After lunch, I went to the place where I had parked my motorcycle, only to find that a big white SUV had parked me in. Motorcycles are maneuverable, and I was able to wriggle my way out, but it took some time and was annoying.

The thought popped into my head, "Parking you in was a good way to make sure you notice this particular car." Then I realized that I hadn't really processed the car at all beyond "white SUV," so I turned and looked at it:

I noticed the number 96 first and then the word bull. (The numeral 1 looks like a lowercase l -- so if you wanted to write "BULL 96" in ABC-1234 format, this is how you'd do it.) The moon Europa has been in the sync-stream of late, and what is the Europa of mythology best known for? Being carried away by a big white bull:

This event is commonly known as the Rape of Europa. Speaking of rape, after discovering the novella Europa Affair (about the moon, not the mythical figure), I checked its Amazon page. The top review gave it one star, citing "violence against women":

For William Wright, Europa has to do with Númenor, while the number 96 has reference to elves, so I'm not sure what to make of seeing them together on that SUV, but I note it for future reference.

Note added (May 18):

The YouTube algorithm served up this video, a commentary on the symbolism of Under the Silver Lake, a 2018 movie I'd never heard of:

In Under the Silver Lake, there's a scene with a white Volkswagen Rabbit, and the video emphasizes that this is a white rabbit, as in Alice or The Matrix:

Sam's whole journey begins after Sarah disappears by trying to find her following three girls literally driving around in a white Rabbit -- you know, a redhead, a blonde, and a brunette that drive a white convertible Rabbit, so he's following three women in a white Rabbit. He's following a white Rabbit.

This is conceptually very similar to my post above, where a white SUV with bull on its license plate represents the white bull of Greek myth.

Behold, the Lord esteemeth all flesh as one

I was listening to an audio recording of the Book of Mormon, and when it got to the part where Nephi says they "did live upon raw meat ...