Sunday, November 11, 2007

Dave Sim's blogandmail #426 (November 11th, 2007)


Greg S. writes from all the way over in Kitchener's twin city, Waterloo:

"Hi Dave - I'm not sure if you're familiar with the writings of the 19th Century Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, but I thought I would run this passage from his Journal by you to see what you make of it:"

2734 No prophet, no historian could find a more descriptive expression of Mohammedanism than the one Mohammed himself has given in the suspension of his sacred tomb between two magnets, [*] that is, between the divine which did not become human (incarnation) and the human which did not become divine (brothers and co-heirs in Christ"). Here there is neither individualized polytheism nor concretized monotheism (Jehovah), but abstract monotheism – "God is one" – in which it is specifically the number which must be affirmed, not unlike the Jewish God who, to a certain degree, was unpredicated, yet still more concretized: "I am who I am." [+]. It is not incarnation (the Messiah), not merely prophet (Moses), for there were many prophets among the Jews without difference in power even though with a difference in degree; but Mohammed demanded a specific superiority (approximating an incarnation but, of course, like everything else in Mohammedanism, stopping at the halfway point.).

II A 86 June 3, 1837

Well, first of all, the term Mohammedanism betrays a fundamental ignorance of Islam because it presupposes Islam to be analogous to Christianity. Christianity is based on Christ and Mohammedanism is based on Mohammed. It's purely a Christian coinage. In fact Islam intentionally avoids the deification of Mohammed that is the core of Christianity: Christ is God. In Islam raising a man to the level of God is joining gods with God and that's strictly forbidden (haram).

The suggestion that Mohammed would even refer to himself as having a "sacred tomb" would have been abhorrent to him. That's idolatry, the worship of inanimate objects. One of the reasons that Muslims bow in the direction of Mecca is to avoid exactly those sorts of misapprehensions. They bow to the center of their religion, the Ka'aba, which was built by Adam on God's instruction and rebuilt by Abraham and Ishmael and then rebuilt in Muhammad's time with his assistance and that's all that they bow to, the Sacred House, not to substitute altars and images and icons as Christians do. If Muhammad did refer to his tomb, he didn't do so in the Koran, so the only possible place for the reference would be in the Hadith, which are non-scriptural and should therefore, in my view, be ignored.

Since you only have one set of quotation marks here, I don't know where the quote theoretically begins but it certainly has a Christian flair to it. The equivalent of the sentiment in Islam is that the Jews fell short of what they should have accomplished and the Christians overreached themselves, blaspheming against God in claiming that He had a son and that Jesus was that son and that Jesus was the equivalent of God. Islam adopted the mean, neither falling short nor over-reaching.

Muhammad could arguably have been said to have demanded a certain superiority, but only in the sense outlined above: don't fall short and don't overreach. Submit yourself to the will of God. Muhammad is only a plain-spoken warner, he doesn't claim to know the things unseen, he doesn't know when the Day of Judgement will be. He walks the streets and eats plain food just as all God's prophets and messengers did. That's who Muhammad is in the Koran. Having never read the Hadith I don't know if Kierkegaard is just making this part up or if he's extrapolating from the Hadith, but it sure isn't the Muhammad who is in the Koran.

My own reading of the Gospels would tend to confirm what Muhammad is told to say in the Koran. I've just finished chapter 14 of Luke and the Synoptic Jesus says a lot of things that would compel the inference that he was the Son of God, or Second Only to God or God's spokesman (hey, any port in a storm) – particularly when they're mistranslated so that they say directly what the actual Greek terms manage-to-not-quite- say-while-seeming-to-say. Unless there's anything dramatically different in chapters 15 through 24 that I didn't see in Matthew or Mark or the first fourteen chapters of Luke, then I think I'm pretty safe in saying that that was very much the point (or Point or "point") of the Synoptic Jesus.

I'd also argue against the "stopping at the halfway point". He was told to say that he was "God's last messenger and the seal of the prophets." That doesn't sound "halfway" to me, that sounds like The End, Full Stop. And I think the evidence post-632 would tend to support that.

2735 [*] In margin of 2734 (II A 86): An attempted ascension, but no one ascends to heaven except him who descended from heaven.

Okay, "but no one ascends to heaven except him who descended from heaven" that's a paraphrase of the Johannine Jesus.

There is a certain amount of playing around with the term heaven that got out of hand, as far as I'm concerned, and all three religions indulge in it. Heaven is earth's atmosphere, the insulating layer between outer space "the waters above the expansion" and the seas "the waters below the expansion". It's a holding pen, from what I can see that some souls inhabit until Judgement Day while other souls inhabit the inner confines of the earth or the earth's surface and some just stick to their own graves. It became a convenient shorthand for paradise, as an antithesis of Hades, the fiery inferno at the earth's core, but I think the scientific evidence tends to support the view that it's earth's atmosphere. I mean, we know that now. There's this layer between the earth and outer space that keeps us alive. Being able to breathe instead of exploding in a vacuum, yes you could certainly argue that that constitutes paradise but the extrapolations have gotten way out of hand. It's a good example of not re-reading Genesis in light of new information. Okay, we know the earth is round now, we know it's covered by insulating layer. I think, if we let ourselves, we have figured out what the Heaven – as opposed to the Earth – is, if we just look at our new information with an open mind.

Muslims would maintain, based on legends of the Prophet that he did ascend into the seven heavens. Not when he died, but when he was still alive. That's what The Night Journey (Sura 17) is theoretically about. I say theoretically because the only actual reference in the Koran to Muhammad's miraculous journey on a magical horse from Mecca to Jerusalem, ascending into heaven where the Al-Aqsa mosque, the Dome of the Rock is now, where he met and prayed with a number of the prophets and got the word that Muslims were supposed to pray five times a day directly from God is:

Glory be to Him who carried His servant by night from the Sacred Temple of ___ to the Temple that is more remote, whose precinct We have blessed, that We might shew him of Our signs! For He is the Hearer, the Seer.

And that's it. Well, to me this is the Synoptic Jesus gig all over again. The verse certainly compels the inference that what is being discussed in the first instance is the Sacred Temple of Mecca and in the second instance, the remains of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, but it doesn't say that. So, if you insist on believing that the blank is supposed to say Mecca and you won't accept that it says anything else (which Christians and Muslims seem to be absolutely pathological in doing, never once stopping to say, "Hey, wait a minute, maybe there's a blank there for a, you know, Good Reason." Well, DUH! Sorry, Christians, sorry, Muslims but…WELL, DUH!!) you could very easily be committing yourself to a blasphemous way of thinking. My own assumption is that this is a YHWH verse and the first blank is the Sacred Temple of Jerusalem and the Temple "that is more remote" is the theoretical Seven Heavens which were actually just YHWH constructs. So by getting Muslims to accept the sacredness of something that isn't even named, well, YHWH just loves that sort of crap from what I can see. And if you look at all the grief it has caused right up to the present day with the contention between Muslims and Jews at the Temple Mount, well, hey, with good reason YHWH loves that sort of crap. YHWH didn't lie to you, he/she/it left the blank there and let you blasphemously fill it up with whatever you wanted and now, as John Lennon put it, "we have all this."

I discuss the seven heavens more in my dialogue "Getting Riel" with Chester that was in the last few issues of CEREBUS that nobody read. Drawing the inference that Muhammad ascended into the seven heavens and actually met God and got the word that Muslims were supposed to pray five times a day – Moshe theoretically keeps telling him to go back and negotiate downwards. At first it's fifty prayers a day, and then 30 prayers a day and then twenty-five prayers a day. Well, to me that's the major clue right there. It mirrors Abraham's negotiation with the YHWH in Genesis over the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah. Muhammad didn't meet God, he met YHWH and then proclaimed that he had met God. That's blasphemy. If there's a blank, leave it blank. Don't automatically worship it if you don't know what belongs in there. Like I say: DUH!

2736 [+] In margin of 2734 (II A 86) It is therefore very interesting to see the Mohammedans in a curiously ironical manner bearing the coat of arms which so appropriately characterizes their relationship to Christianity – the moon, which borrows its light from the sun (From a scrap of paper dated Jan. 5, 1837, which I found in my desk drawer)

Just as in a curiously ironical manner, it also features a star which is what the sun is and which appropriately characterizes Christianity's relationship to them: Islam contains the sun and the moon, but you have to have a certain level of sophistication to "get" that and you also need to be patient and submit to God's will for a number of centuries until science develops to the point where it understands that that's the hidden meaning of the star and crescent and that gets revealed to you. God is the Wise, the Knowing.

2737 [+] in the margin of 2734 (II A 86): In the words, "I am who I am", the personal eternal consciousness has already taken precedence and therefore does not develop a fatalism as does the cold "unity". Furthermore, these words, "I am who I am," are an excellent answer to out-of-place questions.

That's a very Christian way of putting it. Note that Kierkegaard doesn't cite any of the "out-of-place questions" to which "I am who I am" (I think the original Hebrew translates more directly as "I am THAT I am") is deemed to be an excellent answer. This would be familiar to all of my readers who were driven from the Catholic Church by its strict adherence to the idea that any question posed in opposition to accepted dogma is, by nature, impertinent. I think it's always been more accurate to say that it is a vice of Judaism and Christianity to always deem questions to which one doesn't know the answer to be "out-of-place". You can pretend that "I am who I am" answers them all, but you're just playing a variation on the Emperor's New Clothes in doing so.

My own interpretation of "I am that I am" is that in chapter 3 of Exodus, Moshe starts out talking to YHWH. In verse 4, YHWH sees Moshe turn aside to see the burning bush. God calls to him from out of the burning bush and says, "Moshe Moshe." Moshe says "Here am I". God says, "Draw not nigh hither." What God is saying is "This is bad news, don't come any closer." Then YHWH interrupts and says, "Put off thy shoes from off thy feete, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground." Well, no it isn't. It's a burning bush. Treating the ground in front of it as holy is idolatry. That's what God knows is up and that's what God's warning against. Oh, well. Too late now. So then YHWH rabbits on for a while, verses 5 through 10. It's all YHWH. Moshe thinks it's God, so in verse 11, Moshe addresses God: "who am I that I should goe vnto Pharoah, and that I should bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt?" So God answers, "Certainly I will be with thee, and this shall be a token vnto thee, that I haue sent thee: When thou has brought foorth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God vpon this mountain." Do you catch the intonation? "Certainly I will be with thee." Like, Oh, are you talking to Me? "Certainly I will be with thee." Excuse us, YHWH, it seems Moshe wants to talk to Me. And Moshe keeps talking to God. "And Moshe saide vnto God, Behold, I come vnto the children of Israel, and shall say vnto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me vnto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? What shall I say unto them?" See, I think what Moshe was alluding to is the God vs. YHWH discrepancy. This has come up before many times among the Hebrew people, I think. Not in the last two thousand years, but prior to Moshe I think it was a hot topic. Why does He call Himself God sometimes and YHWH other times? Moshe is looking to get the answer from the proverbial horse's mouth.

And what does God do? God's a perfect gentleman about it. No need to deal YHWH out of the game with a definitive "my Name is God, Now and Forever". No, YHWH has to come to that realization his/her/itself in his/her/its own time.

"And God saide vnto Moshe, I AM THAT I AM: And he said, Thus shalt thou say vnto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me vnto you." It's very diplomatic. It's saying that there are two of us here, both of us considering ourselves to be I AM. So one of the I Am's is sending you.

And then YHWH jumps right in pretending to be God and saying "The YHWH God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob hath sent me vnto you: this is my name for euer, and this is my memorial vnto all generations." He/ she/it always does that. God makes allowances and concessions to YHWH and is the very soul of diplomacy and YHWH immediately tries to deal God out of the game. As far as I can see that starts happening at the beginning of Genesis and it proceeds all the way through to the end of the 114th Sura in the Koran, called MEN (oddly enough):

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

Say: I betake me for refuge to the Lord of men,

The King of men,

The God of men,

Against the mischief of the stealthily withdrawing whisperer,

Who whispereth in man's breast –

Against djinn and men

The Lord of men, the King of men and the God of men, is God. "The stealthily withdrawing whisperer" is YHWH.

See God is your Lord, but the Lord (that is YHWH) is not your God.

Okay, Greg, I've been at this since 3:30 this morning and it's now 10:40 pm. I'm an old man. I'm going to bed. Hope this was what you were looking for. The quotes according to Greg are from Soren Kierkegaard's Journals and Papers Vol.3 pages 205-206, published by Indiana University Press.


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If you wish to contact Dave Sim, you can mail a letter (he does NOT receive emails) to:

Aardvark Vanaheim, Inc
P.O. Box 1674
Station C
Kitchener, Ontario, Canada N2G 4R2


If you wish to contact Dave Sim, you can mail a letter (he does NOT receive emails) to:

Aardvark Vanaheim, Inc
P.O. Box 1674
Station C
Kitchener, Ontario, Canada N2G 4R2