When Christians accept gods:

“Platonists, who employed the notion of a hierarchy of gods to reconcile their conviction about the unity of god, the first principle of everything, with polytheism as it was practiced, were obviously referring to demons or angels when they spoke of gods. Augustine was even prepared to accept calling them gods, provided the term was correctly understood:  ‘When the Platonists prefer to call demons (or alternatively angels) gods rather than demons and are prepared to count as gods those who are created by the highest God, about which their originator and teacher Plato has written in the Timaeus, let them express themselves in this way, as they wish, since there is no reason to have a dispute with them about words. In fact, when they call them immortal, in the sense that they have all events been created by the highest God, and blessed, in the sense that they ware blessed not in virtue of their own internal qualities but for the reason that they depend on their creator, then they are saying the same thing as we are, whatever terminology they use to express themselves.’ In Augustine’s opinion, the terms used for describing the divine were irrelevant. What mattered was the underlying theological concept. The position of the one true God would be imperiled if immortality and blessedness were considered to be attribute of the so-called gods in the sense that could only be applied to the one true God. As long as this was not the case, it was immaterial what names were given to beings subordinate to the one true God.

On the pagan side, Augustine treated the Platonists as the only theological adversaries that needed to be taken seriously and as the most dangerous, because in his view they came very close to Christian concepts. However, this closeness, which Augustine developed in his idea of the concept of God in order to establish the genuine identity which lay beneath simple terminological differences, is not only factually observable, but also deliberately manufactured and—this is the decisive point—consciously exaggerated. Augustine portrayed the consensus at this point as so close, and at the same time raised the Platonists to such a high level, in order to be able to destroy them with all the more decisive and lasting effect. For, although they had achieved a true notion of God, of his Oneness and of his other qualities, they now committed the worst of errors that man could make in that they worshipped as God something that was unworthy of worship, because it was not the one God, but many gods.” -Alfonse Furst, “Monotheism between cult and politics” in One God. 

“But trying to arrange the Roman gods in any kind of authoritative overall sequence belongs to the efforts of modern scholarship, not to any ancient ritual order to which we can appeal.”

“Utopian religions on the other hand, and especially Christianity and Manichaeism, bring with them the new conception, of seeing the everyday world as fallen and distorted by evil forces, so that the role of religion begins to create the option of defying or rebelling against the established order. So the past becomes the place where the hope of salvation was revealed and the future as the location of a redeemed and ideal order, whether for the individual or for society as a whole. There cannot be much doubt that this is the message that was preached in at least some Christian texts from the beginning of the religion; how great its impact was in the early centuries is a matter of judgement.

We can make a distinction between, on the one hand, the major gods, such as Mars, Apollo, Diana, Ceres, Hercules, Mercury, and, on the other, many ‘lesser’ gods who appear only in one location, or have a shrine with altars, but no temple…But trying to arrange the Roman gods in any kind of authoritative overall sequence belongs to the efforts of modern scholarship, not to any ancient ritual order to which we can appeal.

At the same time, it is clear that the list of deities was never finally determined. They might be invoked in groups, or the members of a group might be distinguished or differentiated…In older work on Roman religion, they were fitted into a scheme of primitive or even of pre-deistic powers, which were conceived as developing out of an animistic phase preceding the development of true anthropomorphic deities of the Graeco-Roman type. More recent work has shown quite clearly that this was a mistake, which led to belief in a period when religion became fossilized and unchanging and to a failure to identify the creativity of later cultic activity, based on the great wealth of knowledge about the divine inhabitants of the city held by priests, their assistants and the records they kept.” – John North, “Pagan Ritual and Monotheism” from One God. 

GABBLER RECOMMENDS: Video of the late Ron Fuller

Read more about Ron on The Automata Blog.

GABBLER RECOMMENDS: Short film about Maria and Micheal Start of The House of Automata

Visit their site at The House of Automata.

Or here.

GABBLER RECOMMENDS: Nicocurio Instagram Account for Automata and Clockwork Curiosities

 

#BLAThoughtOfTheDay: Thor: Ragnarok is anything but Norse

While this is the first Thor movie I’ve actually felt compelled to see, I think my intrigue has more to do with the syncretic mix of non-Norse imagery in its advertisements:

The above poster looks a lot like iconography for the Hindu Pantheon, complete with lots of arms and the hyper use of color:

And then we see a Pegasi, from Greek myth, in the trailer:

Granted, Valkyries did fly through the air, arguably on horseback. It’s just not a decidedly Norse creature when given feathered wings…

And at one point Thor is forced to fight Hulk, Roman gladiator-style:

So, my last thought is:

Other than just the Norse gods themselves, where’s the Nordic flair? 

 

GABBLER RECOMMENDS: Mini doc over Brittany Nicole Cox, antiquarian horologist

GABBLER RECOMMENDS: My Favorite Thing is Monsters Vol. 1

My Favorite Thing Is MonstersMy Favorite Thing Is Monsters by Emil Ferris
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Love the incorporation of Mythology here. It feels like it’s acknowledging myth as the original source of horror.

A fascinating work — a GABBLER RECOMMENDS.

View all my reviews

BookTuber Tuesday – House of Leaves

 

 

 

Recommend a BookTuber video in the comments and it could make our Tuesday post!

 

[“BLA and GB Gabbler” (really just a pen name – singular) are the Editor and Narrator behind THE AUTOMATION, vol. 1 of the Circo del Herrero series. They are on facebook, twitter, tumblr, goodreads, and Vulcan’s shit list.]

all yellowB&N | Amazon | Etc.

Read THE AUTOMATION for free:

Download the PDF for THE AUTOMATION here.

 

GABBLER RECOMMENDS: A Wrinkle in Time teaser trailer

EPIC CATALOG: Stories that work best in book format

Continue this list–tell us what we’ve missed in the comments below.

GABBLER RECOMMENDS: ‘How Okja combines two Netflix trends to make the ultimate vegetarian film’ by Anna Leszkiewicz

‘Netflix is also home to a thriving subgenre of films aimed at adults that expose the dark side of meat-eating. Documentaries like Blackfish, The Cove, Cowspiracy, and Food Incare all available to stream on the service, and have developed a cult following as a result. All expose the systematic…

#TBT – Charlie bit me

That time we learned Charlie was a biter. 2007.

#TBT – iPod Nano Ad ft. Feist

That time we were taught how to count in a commercial. 2007.

What the gods specifically desire from mortals via sacrifice is “honor, prerogatives, and gratitude.”

‘What the gods specifically desire from mortals via sacrifice is “honor, prerogatives, and gratitude.” Thus those priests and seers who attempt to bind the gods practice a perversion of religion, and in his Laws Plato specifies the death penalty as the punishment for an mantis who attempts to harm someone through spells and incantations. Plato’s formulation is problematic, however, because his religious beliefs were not necessarily those of the average Greek, or even Athenian, and his distinction between religion and magic is surely far more narrow than the popular one, insofar as most Greeks even thought about the distinction at all.

In actual experience, the distinction between magic and religion is fluid, and both can coexist within the same body of ritual acts. Both religion and magic rely on prayer, sacrifice, and incantation to achieve their ends. But whereas religious practices tend to be under control of the polis, magical practices are beyond public control and therefore are perceived as being dangerous. Yet the difference between magic and religion is also one of context and social approval. Magic is activity meant to achieve the goals of prevailing religion in ways disapproved of by that religion. Thus both magic and religion are goal-oriented, but the relationship of each to the supernatural, at least in Greek eyes, was different.’

– Michael Attyah Flower, The Seer in Ancient Greece 

GABBLER RECOMMENDS: What happens when literary novelists experiment with science fiction by Laura Miller

“Dystopian fiction is animated by fear, but postapocalyptic stories almost always harbor a kernel of desire. Dystopia is a form of criticism: It sounds a klaxon, urging society to course-correct before it’s too late. But the postapocalyptic narrative is fatalistic and romantic. Civilization’s coup de grace might come, as 20th-century science-fiction novelists anticipated, in the form of nuclear war, or—today’s preference—as a pandemic or devastating climate change. The carnage will certainly be epic. But afterward comes the possibility of a return to what really matters and a clean slate on which to draw society anew. Even at their most seemingly nihilistic, postapocalyptic scenarios invoke the persistent, cherished American myth of the frontier, that place where a man can prove himself through hard work and violence, free from the rules, hassles, and compromises imposed by civilization.

Despite their varying ages, races, and genders, this is the basic temperament of all the characters in Station Eleven: a propensity toward melancholic, vaguely paralyzed reveries that invokes the type of personality you’d expect to find in someone who writes literary fiction. These people are, when you get right down to it, all pretty much the same person. So much for the promise that literary writers will bring something more than stock figures to their science-fiction scenarios; Mandel’s rueful musers are just a different kind of stock figure.

Science fiction writers and readers have long resented incursions like these into their territory, especially when they come, as such novels often do, with a disavowal of the genre itself. (Mandel insisted that she didn’t consider Station Eleven to be science fiction.) And besides, science fiction has its own bravura stylists, writers such as William Gibson, and psychologically acute humanists, such as Karen Joy Fowler. Gibson’s Neuromancer is the most evident influence on Void Star, the new novel by Zachary Mason, author of The Lost Books of the Odyssey, a well-received 2007 riff on Homer’s epic. Mason is a computer scientist (the novel’s title is a reference to the C++ programming language), and Void Star attempts the difficult feat of rendering the abstract ecstasies of mathematics in artfully oblique sentences: “The glyphs are intricate, radiant with significance that she can’t quite articulate. Like rain, she thinks, on a clear day, seen over miles of ocean. Like ideograms distended in a black hole’s gravity.”

Void Star comes the closest of all these recent examples to the classic definition of hard science fiction: idea- rather than character-driven and devoted to extrapolating from the technology we now employ to whatever tech will define our future. The novel has many small, astute predictions; Irina observes that with the advent of self-driving cars, people are even more inclined to treat their vehicles like bedrooms, places to get dressed and apply makeup, “anonymity substituting for privacy.” But Mason’s characters, too, are uncompelling compared to his plot, the waferlike concoctions of technothriller convenience, their superpowers perfunctorily deepened with a side serving of regret.

Science fiction has always promised its readers fictional wonders they can’t get in other genres, stories in which the stakes are high and the ideas are heady. What’s surprising is not that literary novelists are increasingly taking up science fiction’s tools, but that more of them didn’t try it sooner. Now, as the present crumbles away into a future that evolves more quickly than most of us can track, it seems impossible to write about contemporary life without writing science fiction. But the secret to doing it well doesn’t lie in suspenseful chase scenes, weighty messages or mind-blowing existential puzzles. That stuff can be fun, but it can also feel pretty thin without something that’s supposed to be a specialty of literary novelists: the fullest appreciation of humanity in its infinite variety and intricacy. Do justice to that, and the wonders will take care of themselves.”

 

[Via]

GABBLER RECOMMENDS: Literary “Community” by Daniel Green

‘These questions for me are prompted in part by a current literary culture that seems devoted to creating an impression of great collegiality among writers. The most immediate and influential form of literary criticism–book reviewing–is dominated by novelists and poets, some of whom are also perceptive critics but many of whom have been assigned to write reviews under the apparent assumption that fiction writers are best situated to judge other fiction, poets other poetry. This assumption is dubious at best, but the primary effect of this practice is that most reviews dispense abundant praise, often long on superlatives and short on real analysis.

In addition, almost all books now come heavily “blurbed” by other writers, who often seem determined to outdo each other in the rhetorical excess with which they praise their fellow authors. The literary corners of social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook liberally engage in various digital versions of handclapping for writers especially admired and frequently feature explicit appeals to “community” among writers, as if literature was a civic organization, or a team sport in which one pledges one’s mutual support for teammates. Perhaps it is in this context that we can understand the controversy over “negative reviews”: Some writers, and many critics, fail to fully join the team, venturing to question a team member’s accomplishment and disrupting group camaraderie.

In surveying literary history, it is hard to identify another period in which serious writers expected to be, or indicated any desire to be, part of a literary community. Paris after World War I is often discussed as the setting for a gathering of like-minded modernists, but Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast ought to be evidence enough that whatever friendships that might have formed at this time were laced with barely suppressed resentment and condescension, examples of writers suffering other writers. It seems to me that the push for “community” among writers is a direct function of the “program era” in American literature, the relocation of literary life to the academy, where it is administered in creative writing programs, where other writers are indeed colleagues, and where the wheels driving publication and recognition are greased by the spread of literary magazines sponsored by creative writing programs themselves and the substitution of tenure for commercial success. Under these circumstances, it becomes much easier to think of other writers as fellow members of a community (the community of creative writing teachers and students) rather than rivals, although also much easier as well to write safe but duly crafted, convention-approved fiction and poetry rather than challenge the hegemony of craft and convention by following inspiration where it leads.

“Literary citizenship” is a concept that many writers apparently take quite seriously, as it has evolved from a metaphorical notion that writers should advocate on behalf of literature generally to a quasi-literal requirement that they be good citizens in the “literary community” at large, whose well-being they are expected to consider.

What about the apostate, the writer who resists the call to literary citizenship, either through obstinacy or through a sincere belief that the writer’s job is to write, not to network? Although May frequently insists that the writer’s first responsibility is indeed to his/her own writing, those who might deny the value of literary citizenship when it is made into a de facto requirement of living a “writing life” would surely provoke resentment for not carrying his/her weight in propping up the remaining structures that make a literary life still marginally possible. More importantly, what about the true literary apostate, who violates community norms, who produces work even the best literary citizens might have trouble celebrating, or even understanding? What if the demand for literary citizenship had been made of Samuel Beckett or William S. Burroughs (or even a more conventional curmudgeonly type such as, say, Philip Larkin)?’

[Via]

GABBLER RECOMMENDS: Midnight Madness: Franz Kafka’s “Investigations of a Dog: And Other Creatures” By Nathan Scott McNamara

‘FRANZ KAFKA NEVER left home. Outside of a year in Berlin and a stay at a sanatorium near Vienna before his death, he lived in the same part of Prague — mostly at his parent’s house — for all 40 years of his life, worked as a clerk at the Workers’ Accident Insurance Institute, and never married.

Kafka’s inertia, a sort of isolation from the larger world, was central to his obsessive and anxiety-fueled stories. He defended his solitude and curated his deranged state. He even wrote in the middle of the night, while the rest of Prague slept. In 1912, in a letter to Felice Bauer, Kafka explained that each day he was at the office from 8:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., then ate lunch, then slept (“usually only attempts…”) until 7:30 p.m. Then after 10 minutes of naked exercise in front of the open window, he usually took an hour-long walk with his friend Max Brod, and finally had dinner with his family.

Wrapped up in Kafka’s genius is his mental and physical frailty, his provinciality, and his single-minded fixations. Rather than the sense of a Herculean writer, we’re drawn in by the sense of a man who’s being destroyed by the grueling realities of modern living. Kafka didn’t have the time to write, but he still did. A writer and full-fledged participant in industrialized society, Kafka wasn’t healthy, and he died of tuberculosis at 40.’

[Via]

#TBT – Daft Hands

That time the most interesting video was just a pair of hands. 2007.