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The most interesting..

Friday, October 18th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron –a quick round ’em up, rawhide of news and views — read the first one, even if you skip the rest — some of which are frankly hilarious, and darkly sad too — and towards the end, there’s one mind-blower with gospel reference! ]
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Millennial mils debate Syria:

This, from WaPo‘s summary of the Democratic debate of 15 October 2019:

There was a point in the middle of the debate when South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii) had an impassioned debate about whether the United States should be in Syria. Gabbard was the most noninterventionist candidate on the stage, while Buttigieg said Syria was perhaps the one place in the Middle East where we continue to need a presence. That disagreement aside, this was two millennial veterans of Middle East wars — the only two combat veterans among the leading candidates — having that debate on a presidential stage. That’s quite the moment.

That’s a debate within the debate, and the criterion for being on that stage is a lot stiffer than for the stage-of-twelve.

BTW, hey matryoshka! —

**

Serpents I:

And then this, for a serpent-bites-tail moment, with the middle slytherin’ of the snake passing through time:

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R) offers a lesser time-inflected serpent on Twitter:

Wow. We bombed our own base on purpose, because of the impulsive decision by @realDonaldTrump didn’t leave time to evacuate the right way. Is this the America you grew up believing in?

**

Word choices I:

Inside that Giuliani serpent piece, there’s this exquisite word choice by a company pertinent to the investigation:

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Word choices II:

But it gets better, once you look at the Giuliani associate twins, Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas:

Snap!!

**

Serpents II:

Here’s a serpent formerly biting its tail attempting to unbite it:

It’s a microcosm of the same Trumpworld shamelessness that has suddenly converted Donald Trump Jr. into an outspoken opponent of nepotism.

**

Here’s a report of Bolton‘s grenade attack on Giuliani:

Giuliani’s growing headaches are political as well as legal. Yesterday Trump’s former top adviser on Russia and Europe, Fiona Hill, reportedly told congressional investigators that her boss, former national security adviser John Bolton, labeled Giuliani “a hand grenade who’s going to blow everybody up” by meddling in Ukraine…

That’s six, just from my first scan — seven would be enough for me to close this and post!

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Seventh:

Oh well, as you may know, my degree is in Theology from Christ Church, Oxford, and I’ve continued my interest in New Testament scholarship while broadening it to include Gnostic, Buddhist, shamanic and other sources..

Today’s haul [well, a day or two ago, but today at the time of writing!] contains a second matryoshka instance, this one from a piece about “Secret Mark” — the gospel fragment preserved by Clement of Alexandria and disclosed to the world by Morton Smith in 1973:

Since the Swine do not actually appear to have any overlap with the adjacent story of the possessed man, the story of the Swine appears to be another intercalation or at least addition. It seems like “Mark” had a collection of unconnected stories that he pasted together to create a single narrative. His literary techniques with intercalations and framing stories (i.e. putting some of his stores inside other stories instead of pasting them one after another) give us an idea of how freely he worked with his material.

What’s really interesting about the fragment of a letter from Saint Clement containing a previously unknown section of Mark’s gospel is that it suggests that Jesus taught some form of initiation into :

And they came into Bethany, and a certain woman, whose brother had died, was there. And coming, she prostrated herself before Jesus and said to him, ?Son of David, have mercy on me.‘ But the disciples rebuked her. And Jesus, being angered, went off with her into the garden where the tomb was, and straightaway a great cry was heard from the tomb. And going near, Jesus rolled away the stone from the door of the tomb. And straightaway, going in where the youth was, he stretched forth his hand and raised him, seizing his hand. But the youth, looking upon him, loved him and began to beseech him that he might be with him. And going out of the tomb they came into the house of the youth, for he was rich. And after six days Jesus told him what to do and in the evening the youth came to him, wearing a linen cloth over [his] naked [body.] And he remained with him that night, for Jesus taught him the mystery of the kingdom of God. And thence, arising, he returned to the other side of the Jordan.

The mystery of the kingdom of God?

Some second form of baptism? In the spirit? With an entheogen, as (arguably) in other “mysteries” such as that of Eleusis? A sexual, tantric mystery (the young man is instructed to be naked)? Or an initiation into meditation techniques? Who knows. All we can say is that according to this fragment, Jesus seems to have had some deeper teaching that he revealed after seven days to the young man..

More:

  • Shawn Eyer, The Strange Case of the Secret Gospel According to Mark
  • Richard Hooper, The Naked Man in the Garden and The Secret Gospel of Mark
  • There, number seven, and it’s a humdinger! — and every one of them featuring some sort of formal interest!

    **

    Boom! Bonus:

    Hobby Lobby and a Bible fragment controversy

    I ran across this while searching for a link to Morton Smith‘s book — or was it the other way around? Anyway, this is about a different Mark gospel fragment, indeed possibly the earliest New Testament manuscript of all:

    From today’s Guardian:

    An Oxford University professor has been accused of selling ancient Bible fragments to a controversial US company that has been involved in several high-profile scandals related to its aggressive purchases of biblical artefacts.

    Dirk Obbink, one of the world’s most celebrated classics professors, has been named after an investigation by staff associated with Oxford’s Oxyrhynchus Papyri project.

    He is accused of selling without permission a number of ancient fragments to the US arts and crafts chain Hobby Lobby. Its owners, the Green family, are prominent Christian evangelicals and, under the guidance of the Hobby Lobby president, Steve Green, were behind the founding of Washington’s $400m Museum of the Bible in 2017. [ .. ]

    The lecturer in papyrology and Greek literature has previously denied some of the allegations, telling the Daily Beast in 2018 that the claim he sold a fragment of the first chapter of the gospel of Mark to Hobby Lobby was not true.

    Previous reports:

  • Gospel Coalition, 2015, How Should We Respond to Reports that a Fragment of Mark Dates to c1 ?

    It was reported yesterday that a three-dozen member team of scientists and scholars—apparently including the well-respected New Testament historian Craig Evans—is working on a papyrus fragment of the Gospel of Mark, discovered as part of an ancient Egyptian funeral mask.

    Due to the expense of securing clean papyri sheets in the ancient world, the papier-mâché of these masks was made from recycled papyri that already contained writing. Evans explains, “We’re recovering ancient documents from the first, second and third centuries. Not just Christian documents, not just biblical documents, but classical Greek texts, business papers, various mundane papers, personal letters.”

    Amazing, eh? Metacognitive reading: think about it, what’s hidden in our masks?

  • Christianity Today 2018, Despite Disappointing Some, New Mark Manuscript Is Earliest Yet

    The Egypt Exploration Society has recently published a Greek papyrus that is likely the earliest fragment of the Gospel of Mark, dating it from between A.D. 150–250. One might expect happiness at such a publication, but this important fragment actually disappointed many observers. The reason stems from the unusual way that this manuscript became famous before it became available.

    I’m afraid that’s the story of its questionable sale..

    Oh dammit, Professor Obbink is a tutor at Christ Church — my own college.

  • Sweden — maybe a little too transparent for comfort?

    Sunday, July 23rd, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — the wholesalest leak of secrets evvah ]
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    Whether you think with the poet Rabbie Burns, “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men, gang aft agley” or with the strategist Helmuth von Moltke the Elder, “No battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy”, you may not have been too surprised when the Jeff Goldblum character in Jurassic Park preaches Chaos theory and says, “One thing the history of evolutuon has taught us is that life will not be contained .. it crashes through barriers .. life finds a way.”

    Goldblum is right of course, which is why not so long after, there’s a velociraptor loose in the kitchen:

    **

    All of which is to say: there’s no planning for human hubris and idiocy.

    Case in mind-blowing point:

    Worst known governmental leak ever is slowly coming to light: Agency moved nation’s secret data to “The Cloud”

    This would be laughable, except..

    Sweden’s Transport Agency moved all of its data to “the cloud”, apparently unaware that there is no cloud, only somebody else’s computer. In doing so, it exposed and leaked every conceivable top secret database: fighter pilots, SEAL team operators, police suspects, people under witness relocation. Names, photos, and home addresses: the list is just getting started. The responsible director has been found guilty in criminal court of the whole affair, and sentenced to the harshest sentence ever seen in Swedish government: she was docked half a month’s paycheck.

    Just a sample:

    Last March, the entire register of vehicles was sent to marketers subscribing to it. This is normal in itself, as the vehicle register is public information, and therefore subject to Freedom-of-Information excerpts. What was not normal were two things: first, that people in the witness protection program and similar programs were included in the register distributed outside the Agency, and second, when this fatal mistake was discovered, a new version without the sensitive identities was not distributed with instructions to destroy the old copy. Instead, the sensitive identities were pointed out and named in a second distribution with a request for all subscribers to remove these records themselves. This took place in open cleartext e-mail.

    **

    Oh, and I think this qualifies as a Black Swan.

    Lao Tzu in the Comey hearing

    Thursday, June 8th, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — not the most politically relevant quote from Comey, but perhaps the most curious ]
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    It’s not every day you get to see Lao Tzu playing out in the natsc arena:

    Sources:

  • Stephen Mitchell, tr., Tao Te Ching, chapter 56
  • Politico, James Comey testimony transcript on Trump and Russia
  • Announcing ! BLOOD SACRIFICES

    Wednesday, May 25th, 2016

    [by Mark Safranski / “zen“]

    Blood Sacrifices: Violent Non-State Actors and Dark Magico-Religious Activities edited by Robert J. Bunker

    I’m very pleased to announce the publication of Blood Sacrifices, edited by Robert J. Bunker, to which Charles Cameron and I have both contributed chapters. Dr. Bunker has done a herculean job of shepherding this controversial book, where thirteen authors explore the dreadful and totemic cultural forces operating just beneath the surface of irregular warfare and religiously motivated extreme violence.

    We are proud to have been included in such a select group of authors and I’m confident that many readers of ZP will find the book to their liking . If you study criminal insurgency, terrorism, hybrid warfare, 4GW, apocalyptic sects, irregular conflict or religious extremism, then the 334 pages of Blood Sacrifices has much in store for you.

    Available for order at Amazon

    ISIS: Paganism with an Islamic Face?

    Wednesday, October 7th, 2015

    [by Mark Safranski, a.k.a “zen“]

    “And thou shalt not let any of thy seed pass through the fire to Moloch, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the LORD.”

    – Leviticus 18:21 

    “They rejected the commandments of the Lord … and served Baal. They consigned their sons and daughters to the fire”

    – 2 Kings 17:16–17

    “And do not kill your children for fear of poverty. We provide for them and for you. Indeed, their killing is ever a great sin”

      – Qur’an 17:31

    In a recent comment section conversation with Charles Cameron and RAND scholar David Ronfeldt on the character of Fascism and its resurgence, I remarked that ISIS adopting a Fascist style in its propaganda and governance may be drawing upon a ghastly and ancient lineage:

    ISIS is really embracing Fascism. It’s ceremonial public executions actually supercede what the Nazis and Fascists did only symbolically with blood flags and heroic cenotaphs and so on. It is reaching back to something very dark and protean, human sacrifice, as a political symbol. I think [ Moshe] Halbertal’s book On Sacrifice, is a useful reference here on how deep this goes culturally, to the bronze age or earlier.

    ISIS has for some time been making quite a perverse spectacle of its executions of prisoners, combatant and non-combatant alike, releasing videos to international fanfare and glorying in the resultant horror and global infamy. The precedent for this macabre “propaganda of the deed“was initially set by the forefather of ISIS, the Jordanian jailbird upjumped to “terrorist mastermind”, the late Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who originally led al Qaida in Iraq during the American occupation of Iraq. Prior to expiring after U.S. forces dropped a 500 lb bomb on his head, al-Zarqawi pioneered the use of  beheading videos, usually featuring himself being filmed incompetently and gruesomely sawing off an orange jumpsuit-clad captive’s head with a large knife, blood spraying everywhere.

    Zarqawi’s ghoulish innovation in terrorist messaging admittedly held a certain fascination for the psychopathic segment of Sunni Islamist extremists and it attracted foreign fighters of this nature to Iraq who in turn lionized Zarqawi as “the Sheikh of Slaughterers”; but the beheading videos also generally horrified public opinion in the Muslim world and repelled even hardened jihadis, earning Zarqawi a rebuke from al Qaida number two, Ayman al-Zawahiri:

    ….Among the things which the feelings of the Muslim populace who love and support you will never find palatable – also- are the scenes of slaughtering the hostages. You shouldn’t be deceived by the praise of some of the zealous young men and their description of you as the shaykh of the slaughterers, etc. They do not express the general view of the admirer and the supporter of the resistance in Iraq, and of you in particular by the favor and blessing of God.

    ….However, despite all of this, I say to you: that we are in a battle, and that more than half of this battle is taking place in the battlefield of the media. And that we are in a media battle in a race for the hearts and minds of our Umma. And that however far our capabilities reach, they will never be equal to one thousandth of the capabilities of the kingdom of Satan that is waging war on us. And we can kill the captives by bullet. That would achieve that which is sought after without exposing ourselves to the questions and answering to doubts. We don’t need this. 

    Zarqawi’s Iraqi bloodlust ended only because it was interrupted by the American military, but the leaders of ISIS have carried on. Far from accepting Zawahiri’s advice, they have doubled down, greatly upgrading the marketing of ritualistic murder from Zarqawi’s crude snuff films to slick videos with professional editing and high production values that have become central to the online “brand” of the ISIS “caliphate”. Like the hosts of a sinister game show, ISIS spokesmen have found the time to murder creatively in order to keep their audience of Islamist terrorist wannabes in the West tuned in and captivate the attention of the global media (though sometimes, things do not work  out as planned).

       

    However effective this circus of horrors has been at daunting their enemies and attracting the allegiance of “zealous young men” to ISIS, it reveals an atavistic impulse at play that no amount of Quranic hand-waving can paper over and conceal. Jurisprudence is absent here; not even the grim and rough Islamic “justice” of the Taliban is given to prisoners of ISIS, which violates the customary protections given under Islamic law or historical Muslim judicial practices. These choreographed and sensationalized executions by ISIS are really a cryptic revival of the ancient and terrible practice of human sacrifice, that in most cultures and religions had long been replaced by symbolic ritual, but once reigned supreme during the Bronze Age, not least in ancient Iraq, which if new findings are to be believed was like Aztec Mexico, a charnel-house of slaughter.

    Originating in the Stone Age, human sacrifice in the religious sense of an offering to the gods or God, lasted a surprisingly long time. Setting aside the preColumbian cultures of the New World, the ancient Romans, for example, did not formally outlaw human sacrifice until the first century BC, though the practice had become archaic and Rome vigorously sought to stamp it out among the Gauls and Britons, among whom human sacrifice was an accepted part of Druidic religion. Nor was human sacifice entirely unknown among the ancient Greeks of the classical period while child sacrifice was probably central to Carthaginian state rites to such a degree that other peoples of the time, including the Romans, found abhorrent.

    What occurred in many cases is that as civilizations evolved in social complexity, substitutionary practices for human sacrifice developed that served the same impulse, to propitiate and honor their God(s) and create powerful emotional bonds among the participants:  animal sacrifice, burial ceremoniesmysteries, religious ritual, necromancy, symbolism in theater and political matters of state religion. The Biblical tale of Abraham and Isaac is itself a scriptural admonition to the ancient Hebrews to adopt animal sacrifice as most pleasing to God, a practice the Israelites and Jews of the classical period continued until the destruction of the second temple by the Roman general Titus. From that point on, from the close of the first century AD, Jews and the early, still Judaic, Christians moved away from the practice of animal sacrifice and substituted prayer and theology of salvation, respectively. Sacrifice, especially human sacrifice, became a distinguishing mark of paganism and the subject of Christian crusades in the middle-ages, like the brutal war waged by the Teutonic Knights against the human sacrificing Old Prussians and Lithuanian barbarian tribes.

    The Binding of Isaac

    The end of late medieval European religious warfare and the rise of the Westphalian system after the Thirty Year’s War slowly shifted the symbolic moral center of sacrifice from God to the State, with divine right monarchy serving as a waystation for the incubation of modern nationalism. There was an epistemic shift, as Halbertal argues in On Sacrifice from a sacred and mystical “sacrificing to” the sovereign God borrowed from the examples of Jewish martyrdom by early Christians who shared in the Romans the same persecutors. This shift opened the gates of permissible sacrifices, legitimating a new secular and political “sacrificing for” the glory of the State.

    It is a profound difference but occurring within the same phenomena, as illustrated by two quotes:

    …And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am.

    And the Lord said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.

                                                                                  – Genesis 22:2

    And:

    ….But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate – we can not consecrate – we can not hallow, this ground – The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have hallowed it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here; while it can never forget what they did here.

    It is rather for us, the living, we here be dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that, from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here, gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve these dead shall not have died in vain; that the nation, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

         – Abraham Lincoln

    Gettysburg and Antietam were not Mount Moriah. Neither were the Somme or Stalingrad the same as the Tophet. From time of the Patriarch Abraham to the presidency of Abraham Lincoln, nations of men ceased to sacrifice usually helpless others but moved to sacrifice themselves in what they reckoned as the highest cause. Movement away from human sacrifice as practiced by ancient Carthaginian or animal sacrifice as practiced by most peoples of antiquity, including the Jews, to gentler substitutionary practices, Moshe Halbertal has called the “cataclysmic shift” in the history of civilization.

    If so, it is a shift that ISIS has begun to reverse.

    In their outstanding ISIS: The State of Terror, counterterrorism scholars Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger analyze the dark obsession ISIS has demonstrated in its propaganda messaging with exquisitely orchestrated executions:

    ….As we have noted, ISIS’s psychological warfare is directed at its potential victims. But it is also directed at those it aims to control. It is deliberately attempting to blunt its follower’s empathy by forcing them to participate in or observe acts of brutality. Over time, this can lead to secondary psychopathy, or a desire to harm others, and contagion of violence. Beheadings are one such tool for blunting empathy.

    Berger and Stern are likely correct that the methodical character of ISIS demonstrations of brutality are intended to desensitize the participants and (as they further explained) a tendency to cultivate secondary psychopathology in ISIS recruits, especially the young. A similar process occurred during the Holocaust with Nazi Einsatzgruppen and reserve unit police battalions detailed to assist the SS mobile killing squads on the Eastern front. Many serving in these units, already fanatical National Socialists, became inured to the suffering of women, children and the old who were shot and dumped still alive into mass graves, though some SS men showed signs of PTSD, depression and higher rates of severe alcoholism, desertion and suicide.

    The comparison between the genocidal cruelty of the SS and ISIS, while natural, is limited by a very important distinction. However zealous their ideological fanaticism and dedicated in their murderous mission to exterminate European Jewry, the SS lacked the context of moral certainty and the psychological reinforcement effects of religious exaltation enjoyed by ISIS killers. Even the malevolent Heinrich Himmler, in his secret speech to Nazi gauleiters and SS leaders, regarded the Final Solution as a terrible burden that the SS shouldered on behalf of the Fuhrer to assure Germany’s future; a “glorious” crime that Himmler believed must be kept forever hidden from history and the German people.

    Not so ISIS, which revels in its bloody terror. Worse, the repetition of garish executions as public celebrations by ISIS, with a vague but constant religious context, devoid of any shred of Islamic legality, inevitably acquire over time the theological characteristics of Halbertal’s “sacrificing to”  – what began as harsh jihadi jurisprudence and psychological warfare mutated under conditions of lazy, sociopathic brutality and totemic invocations of Islam into ritual “offering” by ISIS of its prisoners of war as human sacrifices in the manner of the ancient pagans. A perverse blasphemy, but one that draws on a powerful archetype deeply buried in the human psyche.

    ISIS leaders have not only looked into the Abyss, they have descended into and become one with it.


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