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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Playing with a story concept - worth trying? (Page 2)

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Author Topic: Playing with a story concept - worth trying?
rcmann
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I was just scanning the dead sea scrolls. There is one called, "The War of the Sons of Light Against the Sons of Darkness" which basically describes the humans in service to God fighting an ongoing war against the sorcerers in service to Belial.

Huh...

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Merlion-Emrys
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Well, Christianity was originally a Jewish cult. All that stuff, and the issues of all the various writings that were written at the same time and probably by many of the same people as the stuff that became the Christian Bible but didn't get included (such as the Gnostic Gospels) are a subject of frequent unpleasant arguments between my mother and me.

Even Christian views of "the Devil" vary. For instance, there is one passage somewhere about seeing Lucifer fall like a star from heaven or some such, that some Christian sects feel refers to one of the ancient kings of Babylon, not to a fallen angel.

Interestingly, as I understand it many within the modern Catholic Church no longer acknowledge the literal existence of the Devil, which is funny because most of our current notions about that figure, especially its supposed appearance, come from Medieval Catholicism. Usually as corruptions of various "pagan" gods.

The Gnostic Christians, as I mentioned, view the serpent in the garden as a "good guy" opposed to the evil and oppressive Demiurge (AKA God.)

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rcmann
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Generally I consider moral codes to be the result of trial and error hammered out over time. The ones that stand the test of time become customary and eventually regarded as divine law. That's just my opinion.

Christian morals, for instance. The overwhelming majority of the bible's instructions are common sense along the lines of, 'thou shalt not stick thy hand in the fire', 'thou shalt not hump thy neighbor's wife lest thy neighbor shoot thine arse', 'thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor for no one will trust thee, nor do business with thee, and thou shalt starve to death', 'thou shalt not hurl thyself from the cliff for the rocks are harder even than thy head,' 'thou shalt not leave feces scattered about with gay abandon, lest plague strike thee down,' 'thou shalt not murder, lest clan warfare erupt and destroy all that thou hast built', 'thou shalt not eat worm infested meat when thou lackest the means to cook it properly,' etc.

None of this contradicts the idea that God said to do it this way. If one postulates that He wants the best for us, then it makes perfect sense.

I frankly have issues with almost every form of organized religion. Being trained in the sciences and engineering, I am inclined toward a 'show me the numbers' school of thought. Based on what I have read and what I have observed in my lifetime, I hold the opinion that it is unlikely the universe created itself. I also acknowledge that *something* inclines people toward self-destructive behavior, and entropy is always increasing. If entropy is constantly increasing, logic informs me that the original state of the universe must have been a condition of far lower entropy. Perhaps even perfect order?

Other than that, I am will to discuss the matter.

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History
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LD wrote:
quote:
As (I)understand it at the time of Jesus there were at least two major sects of Jews, if you count the people who copied and wrote the Deadsea Scrolls that would be three. So there probably were different teachings about God, satan, angels etc..
At the time Jesus is alleged to have lived, there were per Josephus numerous different Jewish sects: Sadducees (Temple-based), Pharisees (forerunners of Rabbinic Judaism), the Essenes,the Samaritans, and the Zealots and Sicarii to name a few. Of these, the Pharisees (and as a distant minority the Samaritans) survived the Roman rape of Judea.

rcmann wrote:
quote:
If the apostles were real people, and they were actually Jews as they claimed, and the words we have today have not been changed, then the idea of a force, or an entity, in direct opposition to God goes back at least 2k years in Jewish thought.
That's a lot of "ifs." [Smile]
Regardless, the dualism doctrine of a Satan opposed to G-d, in addition to the doctrines of the Trinity, virgin birth, G-d made flesh etc, are do diametrically opposed to the prevalent Teachings and knowledge of Jews of the time, that in adopting these beliefs Christianity stepped itself beyond "the fence of Torah" and by necessity became its own religion.

The idea of supernal dualism (Good versus Evil) was a very late addition to stressed Jewish theological considerations. It was derived from Jewish exposure to Zoroastrianism after the destruction of G-d's Temple in Jerusalem and the trials of the subsequent Babylonian exile (5th c. BCE). Zoroastrianism envisioned two opposing deities, the Creator Ahuramazda Marduk (for Good) and Ahriman who opposes him (for Evil). These ideas were brought back to Israel when Cyrus conquered Babylon and the Jews were permitted to return. While sensible to popular uneducated conception (where fighting between tribes and nations of men is accepted as the norm), dualism is inherently antithetical to the millenia-old strict monotheism at the foundation of Jewish belief. While it became a source of conjecture and myth and folklore tales, theologically it was utterly rejected by the learned. There is One G-d, Creator of All, and (by definition) none who can oppose him. The concept of Good and Evil are two halves of the same coin that one has the free will to determine which side is seen. Human beings are the architects of their own destiny and responsible for their own behavior. Evil human actions are not G-d sanctioned and "the Devil" didn't make you "do it."

But the idea is simple and easy for the masses to understand; and, I need suggest, permitted a related but new minority faith to differentiate itself and characterize those who disagreed with its beliefs as "the synagogue of Satan" opposed to G-d, and therefore "evil." The unfortunate precedent of "us versus them", of Good Christians versus Evil Jews, resulted in oppression, persecution, and mass murder of non-Christians, of which Jews bore largely the brunt, even into the modern era. There has been no greater evil than the concept of the inhumane treatment of other human beings as being justified by G-d's war with Satan. Sadly, when the related and new faith of Islam arose in the Middle-East, the same dualism and Allah's war against the Unbelievers was adopted as well.

Though some consider it splitting hairs, the wars of Canaan in Scripture were not wars of Good versus Evil, but of the fulfillment of G-d's promise to Abraham and the establishment of a nation under G-d, living per His moral Teachings as "a light among the Nations" [Isaiah 42:6]

The fragments of the Dead Sea Scroll entitled "The War of the Sons of Light Against the Sons of Darkness" is essentially a war manual composed centuries after the closure of the Hebrew canon. It falls into the category of post-Exile writing known as "apocalyptic literature" that gained prominence from the period of the Greek conquest of Judea through the Roman conquest, oppression and destruction of Judea (2nd c BCE to 2nd C CE). It tells of the war waged by the Sons of Light (the Hebrew tribes of Levi, Judah, and Benjamin) against a lost of those who had historically warred against Israel (Amalekites, Edom, Moan, Ammon, Philistia, and Assyria). The latter are referred to as the "army of בְּלִיַּעַ (Belial)." The term is one used for idolators, but later became one personified as a demon prince in Jewish and Christian apocryphal writings. In "The War of the Sons of Light", the reference to Belial is as follows:

You yourself made Belial for the pit, an angel of malevolence, his [dominio]n is in darkne[ss] and his counsel is to condemn and convict.
--Col 13:10-11

Thus, again, G-d in Judaism is the sole Creator of all, unopposed. Belial is an angel of G-d created for His purpose and serving Him. Understanding this purpose, is often the challenge, particularly for those who like to clearly separate white hats from black, G-d from a Devil.

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob

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rcmann
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I doubt that any of us are equipped to understand His purpose, even if He tried to explain it to us.

So then, are you saying that in Jewish thought there is no source of evil except man?

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Merlion-Emrys
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Yes, the aspects of morality you mention are common sense and are also concepts that Christian morality shares in common with basically all "modern" religions and even many of the not so modern ones. Largely, in my view, because they are things that any sensible human being would be aware of and therefore get incorporated into almost every code of behavior that people create.


The main areas of Christian morality wherein many people take issue often have to do largely with people's private lives and with more subjective matters than the ones you mention. Also, on a spiritual level there is that little problem I mentioned earlier...the fact that the Abrahmic faiths declare themselves the one and only real truth. And some take that to extremes, wherein followers of other religions aren't just incorrect or misguided, they're bad.


For me, morality is a complex mixture of intent and effect, and one that has many shades. I feel that evil, true full blown evil comes from and essentially is the manifestation of extreme malicious intent. I am loathe to consider even an act with terrible consequences to be evil unless the intent was malicious. A perfect example is the bombing of Hiroshima. It was a terrible, awful thing that caused huge numbers of deaths and terrible suffering. I however do not consider it an evil act, because the intent was not evil and indeed as horrible as it was, it prevented a scenario that would have led to even greater levels of needless death and suffering.

Likewise, if something has no negative effect on anyone, then it is hard for me to see it as wrong, immoral or especially evil. The same is true if the negative effect stems from the effectee rather than the effector. Case in point, my being gay causing my mother emotional pain and distress...but not because I am inflicting it on her, rather because she chooses to believe that it places me in spiritual and other dangers...despite having no proof for such beyond her personal beliefs.
While one should always be mindful of others, you can't live your life entirely for the sake of others either.

Religions however also have the concept of "sin." to me, sin is unrelated to any sort of objective morality or right and wrong. A sin is a transgression against the tenets of a particular religion. Many of these involve sexual matters or spiritual matters, such as homosexuality or taking God's name "in vain." However, especially in the Abrahamic faiths, these things are seen as synonymous with morality and that creates issues for many people.

I think it is possible that the Universe "created itself" but not in the materialistic, random accident kind of way. Also, more and more, I think its entirely possible that the Universe neither had a beginning, nor will ever have an end. What is, simply is.

I am disinclined to believe that there is a single absolute conscious force which rules all of existence in the manner of the God of Abraham. If the Universe was created by a will of some kind, which is possible, I don't believe that that force or entity is a personal god, in the sense of a being that i basically like a person (one of us) just with infinite knowledge and power. It would be a consciousness of a different sort, quite possibly incomprehensible to human beings in our current state.

If I'm not mistaken, in the Kabbalah God is seen in a less "personal" way and as incomprehensible, or at least the idea is one must put considerable spiritual effort and time into even beginning to truly understand him/it. That's probably why I feel a closer connection to Jewish Kabbalistic thought than most other forms of Judeo-Christian theology.

I hear "entropy" defined in so many different ways I am loathe to give thoughts on it. I don't believe the Universe ever existed in a state of total "order" as in regimentation and rigidity. As time passes I believe more and more that the purpose of existence, as such, lies in beauty, in creativity and in understanding. I'm also a big fan of Mystery, in a cosmic sense and I often feel that no matter how many mysteries we come to understand, there will always be more.


I suppose this is in a way largely off topic, but it seems that this thread has become, in part, a classroom for you, rcmann, wherein we are all giving you an education in comparative religion and philosophy. Which I think is great and I also think its great that this discussion is running along so nicely, with everyone respecting everyone else's views.

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Merlion-Emrys
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quote:
Though some consider it splitting hairs, the wars of Canaan in Scripture were not wars of Good versus Evil, but of the fulfillment of G-d's promise to Abraham and the establishment of a nation under G-d, living per His moral Teachings as "a light among the Nations"
This is also the belief, more or less, of the Christian sect/church I was brought up in. Indeed in that sect, and among most Christians I've known, most or all of the things in the "Old Testament" that conflict with Christian theology or morality are explained as being part of the fullfilment of the God/Abraham covenant (which of course in the Christian view had its ultimate fullfilment in the birth of Christ and is seen also in part as necessary to "keep the line clean.")


quote:
There is One G-d, Creator of All, and (by definition) none who can oppose him. The concept of Good and Evil are two halves of the same coin that one has the free will to determine which side is seen. Human beings are the architects of their own destiny and responsible for their own behavior. Evil human actions are not G-d sanctioned and "the Devil" didn't make you "do it."
In my experience, this is also the belief of many Christian sects. Especially the bit about free will and humans being responsible for their own actions. And even as far as the Devil, in many Christian theological circles there is still the belief that God only allows him to "oppose" him as a vehicle for providing choice for mankind, and also to some extent because of the idea of Lucifer as an angel and a free-willed being in his own right. But it's pretty much universally believed among Christians that the Devil does not have the power to truly "oppose" God...that God could simply snuff Lucifer out if he so choose, but that his not doing so is part of "the plan" or whatever you want to call it.


quote:
The unfortunate precedent of "us versus them", of Good Christians versus Evil Jews, resulted in oppression, persecution, and mass murder of non-Christians, of which Jews bore largely the brunt, even into the modern era.
While I in no way refute the truth of this, I just feel the need to say that I have never known anti-Semitic Christians...indeed, in recent years especially there seems to be a trend in many Christian sects of focusing almost as much on the Hebrew Bible/"Old Testament" as on the "New Testament" (though sadly, this often seems to be in order to find additional ammunition for certain of their...prejudices about other things.) I've known several Christians recently who don't eat pork (and maybe other things, I don't know) as an attempt to adhere to some aspects of Mosaic law.

We also have to keep in mind the big division that exists in Christianity...between Catholicism and "Protestantism." The two are dissimilar enough to be considered nearly different religions. I tend to feel, from my experiences and what research I've done, that a lot of anti-Jewish sentiment in more modern times comes often from the Catholic side of the divide.

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History
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The progression of digression. [Wink]

One would think from all the passion and interest (even if only academic) in theology, religious history, and related philosophy as discussed in the many preceding posts, that these subjects would be a rich mine for speculative fiction.

..and that, well, I should have greater success in selling my work. [Wink]

As this is not the case, perhaps such tales fall under publishers' "ten foot pole" concerns.

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob

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Merlion-Emrys
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I really don't think so, Dr. Bob. I see and have read a lot of fiction with theological elements.

Although, probably the highest concentration is in stuff considered to be "horror."

And also, oftentimes such stories take an...unorthodox spin on the theological material. Angel-related stuff is always big.

But I don't think it's something publishers specifically keep a distance from. I mean really, when you think about it almost everything from most speculative fiction was somebody's religion at some point, or is based upon things that were.

I'd say, from what you've said about your writing that, between the two, your length is probably a much bigger issue than your subject matter. It is, also, probably easier to change.

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Robert Nowall
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I'm at something of a loss to understand how this morphed into a theological discussion.

Appropos of this...I read once that William F. Buckley wrote his first spy novel from the position that the CIA were, in fact, the good guys.

So, I suppose, the witch hunters can be the good guys and the witches the villains---or villainesses---or whatever---

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rcmann
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Educate me please. If there is no source of evil except man, from whence did the witch of Endor derive her power? Also, what is the nature and origin of the familiar spirits that the bible condemns, and why does the old testament condemn witchcraft? If there is nothing to power it?
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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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quote:
Originally posted by Robert Nowall:
I'm at something of a loss to understand how this morphed into a theological discussion.

So am I.
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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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However, it has been conducted so respectfully (as Merlion-Emrys pointed out) and so educationally, that I am reluctant to do more than remark on it, for now.
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History
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I must accept blame for the digression, in my penchant to reply as knowledgeably as I can to those who ask about Hebrew Scripture and beliefs.
There does seem to be a fair amount of respectful interest, particularly where the normative Jewish understanding of our Scripture is found, to some surprise, to conflict with the prevailing and more numerous Christian (and Muslim) ones. And thus there are more questions and sharing of differences--with delightful respect here, as Ms Woodbury has noted.
In part, it was this expressed interest from non-Jews and subsequent discussions that inspired me to write accurate "Jewish"-themed stories with, as yet, less-than-hoped success.

The original post of the thread does make the subject of religion and religious history apropos:
quote:
Modern witch hunters going after modern witches. Set in the here and now. Different than most of the PC-type stories you see lately because these are the same kind of witches that the Inquisition went after, i.e. minions of Satan. The hunters are religious based, but not strictly catholic. In fact, they accept members of all faiths. The hunters perform as a de facto modern equivalent to the Knights Templar, but on a clandestine basis because they are completely ruthless in their methods. Completely. Ruthless. Some of what they do might make Torquemada (sp?) wince. Their intentions are noble, just like the old Inquisition. But like the old ones, they gloss over any biblical injunctions about mercy. Although their oath forbids deliberately harming non-witches if it can be avoided.
The bold emphasis is mine. Their use, in my view, would require accuracy by the author. As has been mentioned, the Inquisition did not hunt witches. They suppressed heresy and their mission was to "preserve" Catholic orthodoxy for "true" Catholics. They originally targeted "conversos" (Jews who converted to Christianity in response to Isabella and Ferdinand's 1942 edict for Spanish Jews to convert or go into exile). To avoid digression, I will not detail why this was a landmark and fateful change in Church doctrine in practice other than to share it was the first time the Church suggested that Jews are not Jews by choice of faith but are Jews "by blood" and thus their conversion was essentially valueless.

Similarly, the mention of "Satan." With the hunters being "of all faiths", an understanding of the differences between faiths on the subject of Satan, etc. is appropriate.

Gaining such knowledge in comparative religion to accurately write the tale proposed will take time (if one cares to be accurate, which I personally believe is an author's responsibility). Therefore, it may be easier to merely mimic Earth history and religion but devise history and religions of your own creation to avoid misrepresentations.

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Thank you, Dr. Bob.

My take on the original question is that if both sides use the same methods to fight each other, then their goodness or badness can only be distinguished by which point of view you consult--because both are essentially saying "the end justifies the means." And if they're saying the same thing, who's to say one is better than the other?

For one side to be truly good and truly fighting those who are truly evil, I submit that the good guys need to have some other method that is clearly recognizable as good.

Maybe a discussion of what in the world that could be might be the next direction for this topic?

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Merlion-Emrys
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That's basically why I suggested God-granted spiritual powers to oppose the "black" magic of the witches. Probably actually has a lot to do with my Dungeons and Dragon's background wherein (in some incarnations of the game) the Cleric class, which has magic granted directly by divine beings, have spells that are inherently Good and Evil (and also Lawful and Chaotic but that's a whole other subject) and that often work in opposition to each other and/or only affect those of the opposite alignment (a Holy Smite spell, for example, is pretty devastating for evil beings but has no effect on good beings.)

Likewise, in horror fiction that draws off Judeo-Christian themes, the evil supernatural forces are usually opposed in some way by the power of God...an exorcism, warding off with crosses or communion wafers, damaged by holy water or as has already been discuses repelled, or even compelled, by the name of God or Christ or whatever.

But yeah I agree, if its going to be all about good versus evil we need the good as well as the evil to be distinctly shown.

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History
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rcmann wrote:
quote:
Educate me please. If there is no source of evil except man, from whence did the witch of Endor derive her power? Also, what is the nature and origin of the familiar spirits that the bible condemns, and why does the old testament condemn witchcraft? If there is nothing to power it?
My answers. Others may vary by the unescapable truism: "Two rabbis, three opinions" [Wink]

(1) "Evil" is self-concern, selfishness. Achieving something for oneself regardless if it harms another. Man possesses both the the tendency for selflessness ("good") and selfishness ("evil"), and both serve G-d's Purpose. We need think of others, "love your fellow as your self" [Vayikrah (Leviticus) 19:18], but we need also seek things we need for ourselves to fulfill our purpose under Him "be fruitful and multiply" [Beresheis (Genesis)1:28].

(2) Hebrew Scripture is old, very very old. It encompasses thousands of years of the history of Creation and Biblical Man. Unlike the New Testament and the Quran, where there is a fully conceptualized presumed Afterlife, in Hebrew Scripture concerns regarding the afterlife are of little import. The focus is on how to live righteously under G-d per His Teachings. Even so, there are suppositions, and the earliest is that the abode of the dead is Sheol, a place not dissimilar to the Greek Hades. Regardless, respect for the dead and their burial was important to the Biblical Hebrews (and anthropologists mark such beliefs as a determinant of civilized peoples and cultures). Thus, disturbing the dead, raising them for one's own selfish needs (as Saul required of the Witch of Endor in regard to the raising of the prophet Samuel) is a heinous ("evil") action and thus forbidden.

(3) Power over spirits, as with all powers within and over Creation (strength, skill with arms, wisdom, wit) come from G-d. Not that He particularly grants them to an individual to fulfil His Purpose (though He may) but they exist to be acquired and/or possessed by some inherently--just as learning a trade (e.g. being a physician, a teacher) or being gifted (e.g. intelligence, agility, stamina, fast, etc.). The issue is not that one acquires or has innate "power"--but what one does with it.

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob

[ February 20, 2012, 05:24 PM: Message edited by: History ]

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LDWriter2
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I was going to respond to Robert's question by saying I know how it did but Dr. Bob did a better and more complete job of explaining it then I would have done.

I too feel some surprise that it has been so respectful but than again thinking about the people that like to hang out in the treehouse, I don't think it is that much of a surprise.

And Kathleen, I think has a point about "The ends Justify The Means". I think that is why groups like that, at least in literature, tend to slip into decay after a while. I referenced that back at the beginning, it always happens in the books I read. That might be because they don't have a "method that is clearly recognizable as good" To quote you Kathleen, or if they did start out that way the good part fades away so they end up as bad asa the force they are fighting.

I was going to use the Knights Templar as real life example but there seems to be a debate raging right now on exactly how bad they were at the end. One side believes whatever "badness" they displayed was either training or false charges brought on by a King who wanted what the Templars had.

But in either case if I understand Kathleen correctly, I would think a continual, deep religious teaching could be used along with acts of charity could be used as the method that would show they are good.

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History
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Ms Woodbury wrote:
quote:
My take on the original question is that if both sides use the same methods to fight each other, then their goodness or badness can only be distinguished by which point of view you consult--because both are essentially saying "the end justifies the means." And if they're saying the same thing, who's to say one is better than the other?
That is an excellent summation and suggestion.
It would be far better to not to outfit the witches solely with black hats or the clergy with white mitres, but mix it up--as in real life. While some within each group may resort ot practices where "the end justifies the means", one would hope there would also be others among them who disagree and oppose the setting aside of one's humanity to achieve one's goals. For me, I perceive the key revelation as that purported by the eminent 'posum sage Pogo, "I have seen the enemy, and he is us."

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob

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Merlion-Emrys
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quote:
(3) Power over spirits, as with all powers within and over Creation (strength, skill with arms, wisdom, wit) come from G-d. Not that He particularly grants them to an individual to fulfil His Purpose (though He may) but they exist to be acquired and/or possessed by some inherently--just as learning a trade (e.g. being a physician, a teacher) or being gifted (e.g. intelligence, agility, stamina, fast, etc.). The issue is not that one acquires or has innate "power"--but what one does with it.
I think maybe what he wants to know about this is more along the line of what I was asking you about Golems...how does it work? What are the spirits and where did they come from? And why is the use of these abilities, even if they come from God, condemned? The impression I get from the "you shall not suffer a witch to live" line is that the practice of "witchcraft" is inherently wrong/bad/evil or at least taboo.
Now you said in the case of the witch of Endor she was asked to do a specific thing with her powers that was wrong (disturbing the dead) but there are those bits that seem to indicate the powers themselves are bad by their nature.

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rcmann
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Exactly M-E.

I have also been reading an English translation of the Dead Sea Scrolls lately. I certainly do not intend to be disputative, but my reading of the War scroll leads me to conclude that it is somewhat prophetic, rather than historical. Does it not specify that the battle being fought will culminate in the utter destruction of the armies of Belial (Gog)? Following which the Sons of Light will rule forever? Or am I misreading?

The translation I am reading is by Geza Vermes, 2004 by the way. I don't know anything about the good scholar's competence one way or the other. Pubished by Penguin Books.

I certainly intend to be respectful. While I am not strictly a member of any christian church, I was still raised in that faith. In which case I consider it self-evident that my religion is based upon Jewish belief. Jesus was a Jew, as were the apostles. In fact, the New Testament plainly specifies that Jesus was sent first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. Ergo, if I retain any of the beliefs that were ingrained in me at all, it behooves me to be respectful of Jesus' religion.

What Merlion-Emrys said above is exactly what I was wondering about. If the old testament says thou shalt not suffer a witch to live among ye, and necromancy is specifically shown to be an evil act, does your explanation then imply that every human has the inherent ability to perform magic? I am quite seriously interested in the answer to this one.

Christian indoctrination as I understand it either states or implies (depending on denomination) that all magic is of the devil. If this is not the case in terms of old testament law, I would like to know about it. And I am not going to be offended either.

The last few postings seem to have drifted away from the point of my idea. I never intended the theme to be about good vs. evil. It is about a young hunter who struggles to come to terms with the fact that his group is doing things he objects to in order to achieve a result he believes is God's will.

Basically, the theme can be stated as: All humans are flawed. None are truly good. Some are worse than others, and sometimes you must choose the lesser evil.

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History
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Justin wrote:
quote:
I think maybe what he wants to know about this is more along the line of what I was asking you about Golems...how does it work?
In the folklore, the method by which one may animate a golem varies (e.g. placing a scroll on which is written the Holy Name in the mouth of the golem, or inscribing the Hebrew word for Truth on the golem's forehead) but the ability to do so is associated with how close the person (typically a rabbi) has elevated himself spiritually in his study and practice of G-d's Teachings (Torah). As one lives one's life to come closer to G-d, G-d (and his creative essences) comes simultaneoulsy closer to you [a central Kabbalistic tenet]. Still, only the most holy of men may gain the ability to animate clay (yet in a poor semblance of how G-d animated Man).
quote:
What are the spirits and where did they come from?
In the case of the Witch of Endor, the "spirits" are the souls of the dead in Sheol. As for others...you need be frustrated by the numerous and sometimes contradictory conjectures of a few thousand years of Jewish folklore.
quote:
And why is the use of these abilities, even if they come from God, condemned?
It is not that the ability comes from G-d that is the issue. Philosophically, everything comes from G-d because He alone is the Creator. The ability to make selfish and evil choices you could say "comes from G-d", but the choice remains ours. In the case of necromancy, do you need ask if it is good to command a dead person's spirit against his/her will? There are three types of necromancers discussed in Hebrew literature, and I could confuse you even more; however, what is essential to understand is that the focus in Judaism is to respect life and live it well and fully under G-d and per His Teachings. The use of necromancy disrespects life and seeks to take advantage for personal gain. It is considered akin to idolatry and therefore abhorent and forbidden.
quote:
The impression I get from the "you shall not suffer a witch to live" line is that the practice of "witchcraft" is inherently wrong/bad/evil or at least taboo.
Inherently? No. I said like any power, any natural gift, it can be abused ("Power corrupts..."). In its abuse, it is called "witchcraft." In the folkore of King Solomon and the channeling of supernatural power to help build G-d's Holy Temple, Solomon is never considered a "witch," nor would the Christian church categorize their miracle-performing saints as "witches" nor Jesus.
quote:
Now you said in the case of the witch of Endor she was asked to do a specific thing with her powers that was wrong (disturbing the dead) but there are those bits that seem to indicate the powers themselves are bad by their nature.
Plase quote me what "bits" to which you are referring. But, in general, I agree with your impression. The Rabbis (and Church fathers, ftm), essentially banned witchcraft as the FDA has banned or outlawed certain drugs (e.g. Vioxx, marijuana). While good could result from its use, the potential for harm they felt overwhelmingly outweighed the good.

This does not mean, however, they were correct.

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob

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rcmann
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Maybe the simplest way out would be to make the witches necromancers who consorted with familiar spirits. Part European witch, part VooDoo Bocor, with a dash here and a smidgeon there from all over the world. Every culture has black magic that it condemns, I think. That way everyone could agree that they were doing bad stuff.
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Merlion-Emrys
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quote:
In the folklore, the method by which one may animate a golem varies (e.g. placing a scroll on which is written the Holy Name in the mouth of the golem, or inscribing the Hebrew word for Truth on the golem's forehead) but the ability to do so is associated with how close the person (typically a rabbi) has elevated himself spiritually in his study and practice of G-d's Teachings (Torah). As one lives one's life to come closer to G-d, G-d (and his creative essences) comes simultaneoulsy closer to you [a central Kabbalistic tenet]. Still, only the most holy of men may gain the ability to animate clay (yet in a poor semblance of how G-d animated Man).
I meant how does the witchcraft work, you already explained to me about the Golems. :-) I was just saying that rcmann's questions are somewhat more along the "mechanical" aspect...how does it work that sort of thing.


quote:
In the case of the Witch of Endor, the "spirits" are the souls of the dead in Sheol. As for others...you need be frustrated by the numerous and sometimes contradictory conjectures of a few thousand years of Jewish folklore.
That's what I thought you'd say. :-) It's also where my little bit of research has led me...Jewish theology doesn't really get that much into the demons and stuff, that's one of those areas, like you say about the afterlife, that's sort of there but not really scrutinized to the same level as the laws and such.


quote:
It is not that the ability comes from G-d that is the issue. Philosophically, everything comes from G-d because He alone is the Creator. The ability to make selfish and evil choices you could say "comes from G-d", but the choice remains ours. In the case of necromancy, do you need ask if it is good to command a dead person's spirit against his/her will? There are three types of necromancers discussed in Hebrew literature, and I could confuse you even more; however, what is essential to understand is that the focus in Judaism is to respect life and live it well and fully under G-d and per His Teachings. The use of necromancy disrespects life and seeks to take advantage for personal gain. It is considered akin to idolatry and therefore abhorent and forbidden.
From a Christian mindset though...and I'd say to some extent a sort of general one...supernatural powers are generally thought of as being "powered" by something and also of being learned or acquired through some particular means. And also, supernatural issues are often thought of as being...how shall I put it...more directly under God's purview than "earthly" physical matters. For example, many Christian sects believe the Earth to already be given over to "The evil one" as his kingdom and so when people choose to do bad/evil/wrong/stupid things through earthly, humans means (such as science and technology, or our own hands) God doesn't intervene. But "otherworldly" powers are...more closely monitored, I guess that's it really. Doing something supernatural is seen more as a direct...usurping, or at least direct using of God's own particular power...either that, or its supplied by the Devil, rather than by God.

So I think the reason rcmann was having trouble reconciling the Jewish lack of a concept of a separate "evil force" with the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible's condemnation is, if it's based on God's own power, but he doesn't approve of it, how does it happen? Like, at all, how does it even work? And then to the idea of, well maybe it "comes from", is provided by another source.

But, from what your saying, it seems...and I was totally unaware of this...that Jews at that time saw, if I understand you correctly, things like necromancy, or other supernatural feats as...what...skills that basically anyone could learn and do? And the good or bad of them based, as you say, by the nature and intent of their use (the only thing which causes anything to be bad/evil in the worldview of EVERYTHING truly coming from God, which is a thing Christianity sort of espouses but then doesn't really seem to actually follow, certainly not in the way you describe.)

Although I realize this wouldn't be the Jewish view of it, the way you speak of it makes it sound, from my spiritual and occultist point of view, like abilities that draw off of the person using them (in the same fashion as any act of skill or creation would.)


quote:
Inherently? No. I said like any power, any natural gift, it can be abused ("Power corrupts..."). In its abuse, it is called "witchcraft." In the folkore of King Solomon and the channeling of supernatural power to help build G-d's Holy Temple, Solomon is never considered a "witch," nor would the Christian church categorize their miracle-performing saints as "witches" nor Jesus.
I guess that's part of the disconnect is, Christianity doesn't usually view anything of this sort as a "natural gift." And while you're of course right that the Church wouldn't see saints as witches, they also view miracles as something coming directly from, provided by God through a person...the person basically has nothing to do with it and often doesn't even choose to do it...it's God acting through them. As has been said, Christianity doesn't really allow for the idea of humans having any sort of supernatural skills that aren't granted directly by either God (and I mean in a way much more specific and direct than the everything comes from God way you speak of) or the Devil.

And of course, for me personally, I see it all as aspects of the same thing, the force, sometimes personal, sometimes not, that underlies everything and which I simply call "magic."

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History
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rcmann wrote:
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Ergo, if I retain any of the beliefs that were ingrained in me at all, it behooves me to be respectful of Jesus' religion.
It is not a matter of respect (which is very good, btw), but of your accuracy as a writer regarding the "many faiths" of your hunters appropriate for their period of history.
quote:
... does your explanation then imply that every human has the inherent ability to perform magic? I am quite seriously interested in the answer to this one.
This again follows under the adage "Two Jews, three opinions" or "Two fanatsy authors, infinite opinions." [Smile] It is all conjecture. My opinion? I would answer "maybe"--at least to some degree (usually a dangerous degree, as in "a little knowledge is...").

A: Creation contains everything within it.
B: Therefore if "magic" exists, it is like a high Himalayan mountain that anyone may attempt to climb--but only a few may reach the summit.

I would think of it as a discipline like medicine and law, or a proclivity for science and mathmatics or even art or cooking. These may learned, to some degree, by anyone, but mastery come only with diligient study and practice, patience and aptitude.

But then there are those to whom it just comes easy (we hate them [Wink] ).
quote:
Christian indoctrination as I understand it either states or implies (depending on denomination) that all magic is of the devil. If this is not the case in terms of old testament law, I would like to know about it. And I am not going to be offended either.
No. This is not the case in Hebrew Scripture, and likely the most important point I can make about Judaism in comparison to Christianity: G-d alone is the Creator, of everything.

There is no "devil" in Judaism. Satan is merely one of G-d's angels and, by definition, can never act independently to or in opposition to G-d. His job (pun intended) is to act as G-d's prosecuting attorney and, at times, test Man's devotion to G-d and His Teachings.
quote:
The last few postings seem to have drifted away from the point of my idea. I never intended the theme to be about good vs. evil. It is about a young hunter who struggles to come to terms with the fact that his group is doing things he objects to in order to achieve a result he believes is G-d's will.

Basically, the theme can be stated as: All humans are flawed. None are truly good. Some are worse than others, and sometimes you must choose the lesser evil.

I apologize for my part in the digression, but it would have been poor behavior not to answer everyone's questions as best I can (despite my own limitions and the limitations by the often confusing and contradictory conjectures of a few thousand years of debate on the subject.)

However, what you share as the essence of your story makes for a great tale. I look forward to reading it one day.

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob

[ February 20, 2012, 07:01 PM: Message edited by: History ]

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rcmann
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"Feel the Force, Luke."

Sorry. Couldn't help it. It just burst out of me.

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Merlion-Emrys
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And just for the record, "the Force" is, in my opinion 200% magic and one of the reasons why Star Wars is as much fantasy as it is science fiction, in my opinion, despite the aliens and spaceships.
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babooher
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I have argued that Star Wars is not science fiction but fantasy for years.

But that brings us back to something I had been thinking about before the massive detour at the seminary. While knowing the mechanics behind the story is always good for the writer, it doesn't necessarily mean it has to creep into the work itself. The Force was a way for Lucas to have a morality system without playing favorites. If you write that this group of people is trying to subvert the basis of reality and it's up to another group to stop them, you'll leave the PC police without a clear piece of evidence for your trial.

Or think about what writer and fellow Hoosier Kurt Vonnegut said: “Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.”

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