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Old 03-25-2001, 08:38 PM   #1
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Post A Response toTurton's "The Christ of Daoist Alchemy"

This post is a response to Turton's "The Christ of Daoist Alchemy":

http://www.secweb.org/asset.asp?AssetID=79.

Mike, thank you for putting forth such an extensive argument in defense of your position. Although I was not mentioned in the article, I suspect that I may be owed some credit for inspiring the piece because of my Jesus, the Miracle-Worker post:

http://www.infidels.org/electronic/f...ML/000238.html

As I understand your thesis: because the miracles of the Daoists (10? 100? 1000?) in general, and Weis in particular, are as well, or better attested than those of Jesus, there is no evidence that Jesus performed miracles.

To begin with, I think your argument is prima facia flawed. Even if the evidence was rougly similar, it would not necessarily follow that both systems were unsupported by evidence, or even that both systems were wrong. Moreover, even if one systems, Daoism, was false, it would not follow that the other system, Christianity, was also false. But, for now, I will focus on your comparison, because I agree with you that it is useful and probative.

I found serious problems in your argument and large gaps in the supporting evidence. You attempt to fix the argument from the start by using 1200 years of Daoist literature about hundreds of men to only one man and 70 years (out of 2000) for Christianity. Additionaly, you fail to offer precise discussions of the supposed tools of the apologists. You also fail to provide many key dates of writings, gloss over the textual evidence, and fail to discuss the independence or dissimilarity of your sources and information. I expound:

Daoist Literature v. Christian Literature

You begin by discussing 1200 years and 1500 texts of Daoist literature and sweepingly compare it to the allegedly pathetic works about Jesus from the First Century. This comparison, however, is fatally flawed and grossly misleading. It is intentionally overbroad as to the available Daoist literature (1200 years), while at the same time extremely limited in scope as to the available Christian literature (First Century works, perhaps 70 years). You compare the works about an entire philosophical movement over a period of 1200 years to the works about one man for a period of time less than one tenth. 1200 years v. 70 years. This is a classic strawman.

If we are to compare all of the works of the Daoist literature then we must compare it to all of the works Jewish/Christian literature. We would have to start with the Old Testament, move through the Old Testament apocrypha, perhaps throw in a variety of intertestamental period Jewish literature, through the New Testament, picking up with the early Church Fathers, to Augustine, through all the Roman Catholic records and theological positions and reports from council meetings, into the Reformation, including the works of Martin Luther and John Calvin, and, to be fair, continuing right up until the most recent Papal statements and writings of modern day Christian theologians. Given a balanced treatment of both movements, Christianity at the very least matches, and perhaps overwhelms the Daoist literature.

Your discussion of Wei specifically is better matched, but this comparison of ALL of Daoist literature to only 70 years of Christian literature serves no purpose but rhetoric.

You follow up with this comparison with some assorted comments under "Glimpses of Nirvana"

Here again I must point out that you describe what you style as "the enormous range of evidence" (time scope unknown!) about MANY alleged miracle workers and then proclaim it superior to accounts and evidence (time scope limited!) about ONE man, Jesus. Additionally, you fail to offer critical evidence. For example, you claim that the Hou Han Shu and Chang Yen claim that Gong ascended into heaven. I think you are trying to mimic my use of multiple attestations. If so, you failed to do something I took great pains to demonstrate in Jesus, the Miracle Worker: independence (M, L, Mark, Q, Paul, John, Josephus). Does the Chang Yen demonstrate any literary or source dependence on the Hou Han Shu? Other important questions: When where the Hou Han Shu and Chang Yen written? When did the events described in them allegedly occur? Who did the writing? Where they persecuted? I have the same questions about Tai Ping Qing, Wang Pao, the book about Prince of Huai Hun, and the stone inscription.

And perhaps, most fatally, what your own paragraph demonstrates beyond doubt is that these claims are typical of Daosim. If your attempt is to use the same criteria I used, or that other Christians use, you have completely ignored the criteria of dissimilarity. The amazing thing about Jesus' miracles, and especially his resurrection, is the uniqueness of them in First Century Judaism. Not only where there no comparable miracle workers in Judaism, the story of Jesus resurrection is completely unique in the literature and expectations of Jesus' religious and geographic environment.

Moreover, no Jew was expecting an executed messiah to resurrect before a general resurrection of all Jews. It seems that claims of ascendence into heaven are routine for respected Chinese Daoists. You completely fail to address this point.

You also make some erroneous claims about Jesus in this section. Most important, perhaps, is the claim that "there is no corresponding record from Jesus' enemies." Josephus, Celsus, and the Talmud all describe Jesus as a wonder-worker and/or sorcerer.

Wei v. Jesus

I begin by once again reiterating my point about your strawman. You use several centuries worth of writings about Wei, but restrict the evidence for Jesus to the Gospels (not even the New Testament!). You discuss a source of Wei's youth from the roughly 300 years after his life, a commentary written "barely eighty years alter," another "fourth century text" the Shen Xian Chuan, and commentaries written into 1820. Additionally, although you begin by focusing on Wei, you bob and weave in and out of alchemist miracles for many other figures attested to in many other works, such as the Shen Nong's Materia Medica, Tong Feng, and The Yellow Emperor's Canon of the Nine-Vessel Spiritual Elixir.

Another point that you gloss over is the manuscript evidence. Just what is the manuscript evidence for this mass of evidence regarding Wei? At one point you let it slip that earliest text of his own writing is from 1550 CE, more than 1400 years after Wei's life. This is comparable? You vaguely mention "numerous commentaries" but completely fail to give us their dates, authors, or any discussion about their independence or focus.

Additionally, although you go to great lengths to discuss the numerous elixirs and potions discussed in Weis' book. The purpose of his book is the "preparation of magical elixirs" and is "heavy with metaphors and light on direct details." What is missing from your discussion of Wei's book, is any mention of the miracles you claim are so well-attested. You state that it included the notion that a Daoist might become immortal by taking drugs, but what does this mean? Does he claim to have become immortal? Did he claim that he was then able to heal people? That he could walk on water? That he ascended into heaven? I don't know and you do not cite any passage where he claims these things. His work sounds like a bad alchemy textbook with notions of grandeur.

The first source you mention that actually claims that Wei was, in fact, immortal, was an encyclopedia published 1500 years after his life. This is supposed to compare to the early Christian writings beginning within 20 years of Jesus' life?

But to be fair you also mention a writing attributed to Ge Hong, which recounts a how Wei gave drugs to a dog and to himself and a disciple, and then "revive." You do not give the date for this work nor do you discuss it under the criteria I used: Is it multiply attested by independent accounts? Apparently not. Is it dissimilar from other miracle accounts? Apparently not. Such things were exactly what many other alchemist were thought to have done. Embarrassment? Apparently not. If your goal was to compare the evidence to Jesus, you have failed.

The Chart

I like the chart. Graphics are always cool. I'll address some of the comparisons and ask some questions:

"Is mentioned in sources within 75 years of putative life."

First, this is oversimplistic as to scope. Jesus' miracles and divinity were recorded within less than 20, not 75, years of his life. As for Wei, could you be more specific? All I could find in the text of your article was that a fourth century work referenced his immortality. Clarify?

"Claimed miraculous powers."

I disagree with this one. Jesus did claim to perform miracles. Wei claimed to perform science. Bad science as it turns out, but he is not claiming intercession by God. Moreover, you have been very vague as to your sources. Did Wei claim this in his book (whose earliest extant copy is 1500 years later)? Did someone claim this 100 years later? 200? Earliest I saw you actually specifiy was from 200-300 years later.

"Stories of Having Miraculous Powers."

Yes, but you have been rather vague as to when, who, why, and independence. The only direct story you gave us was that he gave himself and a dog a drug, and then later revived. You didn't give us when that story was written, discuss its independence, or dissimilarity. In fact, it sounds like they took some drugs, passed out, and recovered.

"Magical System Used In Later Years."

Objection. Assumes facts no in evidence. Jesus did not use a magical system. He performed miracles. Some of his disciples and followers performed miracles as well, although differently. What Jesus did not do was pass down a "secret" magical system which his followers then used to perform magic. There were no potions, no elixirs, no magical formulas for Jesus. In part, what you have helped to demonstrate is the difference between magic and miracles.

"Magical System Attested to by Contemporaneous Texts."

Not sure what you are getting at here. The only contemporaneous text about Wei was written by himself. Is that what you are referring to? The one whose earliest extant copy is 1500 years later? What other contemporaneous accounts are you talking about?

"Magical System Left for Others to Use."

See above.

"Claimed to be God."

I certainly believe Jesus did claim to be God, but I can grant you that the point is debated. However, I'm confused about Wei. Are you conceding that he never claimed to be immortal? Or just that he didn't claim to be God?

"Was Made Divine."

Are you talking about in the view of their followers? If so, then no. Jesus wasn't "made divine," he was preexistantly divine. He didn't have to follow magic potions, drink mercury, etc., to be "made" divine.

"Self died for belief."

Yes, Jesus died for his beliefs. This is a very well established historical fact. The only evidence you gave for Wei's dying for his belief was an account written 200-300 years later (as best I can determine). And it had him experimenting with drugs, not being killed for espousing a religious or political viewpoint. There is no comparison.

"Followers Died for Belief."

Same objection. There is strong historical evidence that early Christians died for their beliefs. From Christian, Pagan, and Jewish sources (Paul's own letters, Acts, 1 Clement, Josephus, Tacitus, and Pliny). They died for espousing belief in Jesus' miraculous resurrection, not by experimenting with drugs. Is the 200-300 year old tradition about Wei's followers experimenting with drugs the only source you have supporting your claim that his followers died for his belief? Any independent attestation?

"Rose from the dead."

Jesus' resurrection is, apparently, much better attested than Wei's. It is also extremely dissimilar from Jewish expecations. Judging from your writing, immortatlity was a common belief in alchemy. Indeed, the very purpose of the tests was to discovery it. Crucial differences that you fail to address.

"Raised Humans from the Dead."

Jesus did. Wei gave his disciple a drug that killed him, from which he purportedly revived. And you haven't given us a date on when that story was recorded. Or, that it was attested by multiple sources. Or, that it was dissimilar.

Again, Jesus' is much better attested.

"Told Cryptic Stories."

What does this have to do with miracles? Or anything for that matter?

"Stories Embarrassing to Belief System."

This is the only place you attempt to "discuss" this, although you really don't. I laid out reports of Jesus' miracles that were embarrassing, you refer to "numerous commentaries" without elaboration. You have provided no context whatsoever, which is crucial to a discussion using the criteria of embarrassment. And you also misunderstand the criteria, the presence of something embarrasing doesn't prove the belief system, the presence of reference to embarrasing historical facts that are counter to the purpose of the author are judged more likely to be true.

"Complete Failure of Belief System."

Conclusory. Christianity has been extremely successful. Within 300 years it had spread throughout the Roman Empire, became the predominant religion, and today is the single largest religion on the planet. Far from being a "complete failure," Christianity is arguably the most successful religion ever.

In Sum: Despite your intention to use our own tools to demonstrate the superiority of Daoist evidence in general, and Wei's in particular, you have failed to do so. You have tried to incoprate 1200 years of Daoist literature about hundreds, perhaps thousands of people, while limiting your comparison to Christianity to one man and 70 years of evidence, thereby ignoring Christianity's 3,000 year derivative history and 2,000 year independent history. You have completely failed to discuss multiple attestation in any specific or useful way. There is no reference to source, textual, or literary criticism. No discussion of the criteria of embarrassment. But, perhaps, most fatally of all, what you do is reinforce the importance of the criteria of dissimilarity and the social context of Jesus. It is very clear that Daoism spawned the kinds of tales told about Wei were very common for his time and for alchemy. Jesus, however, is unique to his context. There just weren't these Jewish miracle workers claiming to be messiahs. Moreover, the resurrection, his best known miracle, was completely atypical of Jewish expectations.

You have failed to even use our own tools against us, and failed to offer critical evidence. However, I appreciate the effort and realize you promised more volumes to come. I look forward to them.

[This message has been edited by Layman (edited March 25, 2001).]

[This message has been edited by Layman (edited March 25, 2001).]
 
Old 03-26-2001, 08:10 AM   #2
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Post

This post is a response to Turton's "The Christ of Daoist Alchemy":

http://www.secweb.org/asset.asp?AssetID=79.

Mike, thank you for putting forth such an extensive argument in defense of your position. Although I was not mentioned in the article, I suspect that I may be owed some credit for inspiring the piece because of my Jesus, the Miracle-Worker post:

http://www.infidels.org/electronic/f...ML/000238.html

As I understand your thesis: because the miracles of the Daoists (10? 100? 1000?) in general, and Weis in particular, are as well, or better attested than those of Jesus, there is no evidence that Jesus performed miracles.


Yes, you may certainly take the credit for inspiring the piece. The title was not mine, and had the inadvertent effect of making it sound more dramatic than it was intended to be. The original title was On the Usefulness of a Comparative Perspective: Daoist Alchemy and the Miracles of Jesus. It was actually only aimed at the four criteria you put up in that thread, and also, at the constant ethnocentric constructions of history one hears from Christian apologists.

To begin with, I think your argument is prima facia flawed. Even if the evidence was rougly similar, it would not necessarily follow that both systems were unsupported by evidence, or even that both systems were wrong. Moreover, even if one systems, Daoism, was false, it would not follow that the other system, Christianity, was also false. But, for now, I will focus on your comparison, because I agree with you that it is useful and probative.

Actually, if one system is true the other is ipso facto false. The Daoists were clear on this: simple healings and the like were carnival acts to impress peasants. The two systems had radically different views of the universe. Both cannot be true. What heaven were the Daoist adepts rising to? What demons bothered the later traditions who incorporated demons and gods in their writings?

I found serious problems in your argument and large gaps in the supporting evidence.
You attempt to fix the argument from the start by using 1200 years of Daoist literature about hundreds of men to only one man and 70 years (out of 2000) for Christianity. Additionaly, you fail to offer precise discussions of the supposed tools of the apologists. You also fail to provide many key dates of writings, gloss over the textual evidence, and fail to discuss the independence or dissimilarity of your sources and information.


See the discussion on textual transmission below and the article (link below). The text we have dates from the Tang, and was rewritten to incorporate new imagery and ideas, in the sixth century. In its earliest form it does date from the period indicated.

I expound: Daoist Literature v. Christian Literature

You begin by discussing 1200 years and 1500 texts of Daoist literature and sweepingly compare it to the allegedly pathetic works about Jesus from the First Century. This comparison, however, is fatally flawed and grossly misleading. It is intentionally overbroad as to the available Daoist
literature (1200 years), while at the same time extremely limited in scope as to the available Christian literature (First Century works, perhaps 70 years). You compare the works about an entire philosophical movement over a period of 1200 years to the works about one man for a period of time less than one tenth. 1200 years v. 70 years. This is a classic strawman. If we are to compare all of the works of the Daoist literature then we must compare it to all of the works Jewish/Christian literature. We would have to start with the Old Testament, move through
the Old Testament apocrypha, perhaps throw in a variety of intertestamental period Jewish
literature, through the New Testament, picking up with the early Church Fathers, to Augustine, through all the Roman Catholic records and theological positions and reports from council meetings, into the Reformation, including the works of Martin Luther and John Calvin, and, to be fair, continuing right up until the most recent Papal statements and writings of modern day Christian theologians. Given a balanced treatment of both movements, Christianity at the very least matches, and perhaps overwhelms the Daoist literature.


Well, yes and no. First, the oldest complete gospel dates from the fourth century, by which time the Daoists had already compiled scores of texts attesting to the efficacy of their miracle system. Not all the Christian literature you refer to, especially after late medieval times, refers to miracles and none contains direct evidence for the miracles of Jesus.

The difference lies in the fact that the early Daoists left a miracle system that anyone properly trained could use. This miracle system is attested in first-hand accounts by scores of adepts, who use first-person language: "I saw gold made." "I made so much gold we had to dump it in the sea because we had no way to store it." "I flew through the air." It is also attested to, as I said, in hundreds of other works. Wei is not even that important; it's the existance of a well-attested to system throughout an entire culture area, that in fact didn't work. That basically explodes the whole idea of multiplate attestation as a criterion for anything.

Your discussion of Wei specifically is better matched, but this comparison of ALL of Daoist literature to only 70 years of Christian literature serves no purpose but rhetoric.

I picked Wei because he was pretty comparable; he's early, seminal, there are no direct records of him, and so forth. He matches Jesus pretty well, except for the little fact of a text from his own hand. That pretty much crushes any of the third hand, heavily-redacted accounts you have for Jesus. I could have gone with Ge Hong, he's a much richer figure, especially in terms of attestation.

You follow up with this comparison with some assorted comments under "Glimpses of Nirvana" Here again I must point out that you describe what you style as "the enormous range of evidence" (time scope unknown!) about MANY alleged miracle workers and then proclaim it superior to accounts and evidence (time scope limited!) about ONE man, Jesus. Additionally, you fail to offer critical evidence. For example, you claim that the Hou Han Shu and Chang Yen claim that Gong ascended into heaven. I think you are trying to mimic my use of multiple attestations. If so, you failed to do something I took great pains to demonstrate in Jesus, the Miracle Worker: independence (M, L, Mark, Q, Paul, John, Josephus). Does the Chang Yen demonstrate any literary or source dependence on the Hou Han Shu? Other important questions: When where the Hou Han Shu and Chang Yen written? When did the events described in them allegedly occur? Who did the writing? Where they persecuted? I have the same questions about Tai Ping Qing, Wang Pao, the book about Prince of Huai Hun, and the stone inscription.

This is why your criteria are so absurd. What does it matter whether they were persecuted (as a matter of fact they were, but that is irrevelant)? The Hou Han Shu was compiled in the fifth century from earlier documents dating from 25-220. Commentaries by later scholars were incorporated in the sixth century. Chang Yen is an early work, but how early I do not know.

And perhaps, most fatally, what your own paragraph demonstrates beyond doubt is that these claims are typical of Daosim. If your attempt is to use the same criteria I used, or that other Christians use, you have completely ignored the criteria of dissimilarity. The amazing thing about Jesus' miracles, and especially his resurrection, is the uniqueness of them in First Century Judaism. Not only where there no comparable miracle workers in Judaism, the story of Jesus resurrection is completely unique in the literature and expectations of Jesus' religious and geographic environment.

Why yes, I supposed there were not many who had died and risen in Bethlehem. I already demonstrated that Judaism records healing by touch and at a distance, as did any number of pagan divines of the time. Josephus records exorcisms and other miracles. Do you think first century Palestine was an isolation chamber? Under what theory can you restrict your comparison to just Palestine? I forgot -- you don't have a theory and thus are not in a position to compel me to do anything.

In any case, the dissimilarity criterion is also absurd (not to mention totally subjective). What does it matter if Jesus (or Wei, or Aesclepius, or Appollonius) was creative or not? Finally, Wei's miracles are totally dissimilar from Buddhist miracles of his time, and the Confucian skeptics who fought Daoism throughout Chinese history largely rejected even the possibility of miracles. They are also dissimilar from other circles of Daoist practitioners. So yes, your dissimilarity criterion can be fulfilled in Wei as well.

Moreover, no Jew was expecting an executed messiah to resurrect before a general resurrection of all Jews. It seems that claims of ascendence into heaven are routine for respected Chinese Daoists. You completely fail to address this point.

You're right, in the short paper I didn't address this point. Partly for lack of space, partly because I wanted to focus on the problem of multiple attestation, and partly because it's absurd. It is completely irrelevant, what you claim no Jew expected. Nobody expected that we would ride to heaven in a UFO in back of a comet, until Heaven's Gate committed suicide to do it. Must be true, I guess. I do not understand why you consider "new" (which is what "dissimilar" means) to be a criterion of anything, except "newness." Nobody had every claimed to be taken up to heaven, given new bowels, fought and killed 18 demons, and to have been the younger brother of christ, until some crazy clerk in China did. In the true Christian spirit, he promptly went and started the second-bloodiest war in history, the Taiping Rebellion. It must be true -- it is multiply attested, is not similar to anything else a chinese ever did, it is coherent with his other claims, and it is damned embarrassing to have magical bowels (not to mention sex orgies and religious concubines in a movement that routinely executed adulterers). So all your criteria are fulfilled...again.

You also make some erroneous claims about Jesus in this section. Most important, perhaps, is the claim that "there is no corresponding record from Jesus' enemies." Josephus, Celsus, and the Talmud all describe Jesus as a wonder-worker and/or sorcerer.

Whoa! When I cited the exact miracles of Jesus as done by Rabbis in the Bab Talmud, you told me that I couldn't use sources from the Bab Talmud because it was too late. Now you are. Celsus dates from the second century and is not contemporary with Jesus. Josephus was not Jesus' enemy. And he records miracles....and there are, of course, the many miracles of the Bible. Perhaps they weren't aware of those in first century Palestine...


Wei v. Jesus

I begin by once again reiterating my point about your strawman. You use several centuries worth of writings about Wei, but restrict the evidence for Jesus to the Gospels (not even the New Testament!). You discuss a source of Wei's youth from the roughly 300 years after his life, a
commentary written "barely eighty years alter," another "fourth century text" the Shen Xian Chuan, and commentaries written into 1820. Additionally, although you begin by focusing on Wei, you bob and weave in and out of alchemist miracles for many other figures attested to in many other works, such as the Shen Nong's Materia Medica, Tong Feng, and The Yellow Emperor's Canon of the Nine-Vessel Spiritual Elixir.


As I said, the Daoists created a system that many used.

Another point that you gloss over is the manuscript evidence. Just what is the manuscript evidence for this mass of evidence regarding Wei? At one point you let it slip that earliest text of his own writing is from 1550 CE, more than 1400 years after Wei's life. This is comparable?

Why, yes! Textual transmission in ancient China was much better than in Europe. Which is not to say extensive editing wasn't going on in certain texts, including Wei's http://helios.unive.it/~dsao/pregadi.../jiangnan.html discusses transmission of Wei's text. It was edited and rewritten in the sixth century. Substantial changes were made! (Wish I'd found this site earlier). I fucked up -- my sources were wrong -- yes, you may crow. So the good text I thought dated from his time actually dates from a later period, about four hundred years later. However, the ideas in it date from an earlier period, and the earliest forms of the text date from the period it purports to be from. The existance of early commentaries and its presence in poems confirm its early existance as well as its alchemical claims.

However, it still changes nothing about any of the criteria. Sorry, but Daoist miracles remain multiply attested to. Which was the main point of the piece, in any case.

You vaguely mention "numerous commentaries" but completely fail to give us their dates, authors, or any discussion about their independence or focus.

Don't have the info, so couldn't give.

Additionally, although you go to great lengths to discuss the numerous elixirs and potions discussed in Wei's book. The purpose of his book is the "preparation of magical elixirs" and is "heavy with metaphors and light on direct details." What is missing from your discussion of Wei's book, is any mention of the miracles you claim are so well-attested. You state that it included the notion that a Daoist might become immortal by taking drugs, but what does this mean? Does he claim to have become immortal?

As far as I know, yes, but not in his book. That tradition emerged after his death. Nor is he the only one to make that claim.

Did he claim that he was then able to heal people? That he could walk on water? That he ascended into heaven? I don't know and you do not cite any passage where he claims these things. His work sounds like a bad alchemy textbook with notions of grandeur.

That's exactly what it is! Just as the gospels are bad hagiographies about a wandering teacher. As made clear, his system doesn't work. That didn't stop him and others from claiming that it did.

The first source you mention that actually claims that Wei was, in fact, immortal, was an encyclopedia published 1500 years after his life.

You just have misread. By Ge Hong's time, the tradition was already well-established, as I said. Review just when the story about the dog was collected.

But to be fair you also mention a writing attributed to Ge Hong, which recounts a how Wei gave drugs to a dog and to himself and a disciple, and then "revive." You do not give the date for this work nor do you discuss it under the criteria I used: Is it multiply attested by independent accounts? Apparently not. Is it dissimilar from other miracle accounts? Apparently not. Such things were exactly what many other alchemist were thought to have done. Embarrassment? Apparently not. If your goal was to compare the evidence to Jesus, you have failed.

See responses above. Stories about Wei are attested to from many sources and traditions.

The Chart

I like the chart. Graphics are always cool.


Thank you. I had a lot of fun making it. The legacy of being a writer on tech policy for a consulting firm: every time I look at info, I ask: can I make a chart out of this?

[b] I'll address some of the comparisons and ask some questions:

"Is mentioned in sources within 75 years of putative life."

First, this is oversimplistic as to scope. Jesus' miracles and divinity were recorded within less than 20, not 75, years of his life. As for Wei, could you be more specific? All I could find in the text of your article was that a fourth century work referenced his immortality. Clarify?

Commentary, eighty years after. In text of article.

"Claimed miraculous powers." I disagree with this one. Jesus did claim to perform miracles. Wei claimed to perform science.

Don't give me that ethnocentric crap. If you claim that you can hocus-pocus some gold and live forever, you're making a miracle claim.

Bad science as it turns out, but he is not claiming intercession by God.

Oh, I see. Miracles require intercession by god(s). Like I said, the Daoists have a completely different conception of miracles. BTW, there are many traditions within Daoism, and some are obsessed with miracles by gods and demons.

"Stories of Having Miraculous Powers." Yes, but you have been rather vague as to when, who, why, and independence. The only direct story you gave us was that he gave himself and a dog a drug, and then later revived. You didn't give us when that story was written, discuss its independence, or dissimilarity. In fact, it sounds like they took some drugs, passed out, and recovered.

Sure. And it looks like Jesus disciples saw an optical illusion, and the wine-water switch any competent magician can do, and…..we can both play this game, but you'll always lose. I don't believe Wei was performing miracles; you think Jesus was.

I have no idea when the story was written. It was already old when compiled in the 4th century (200 years of Wei's death). Moreover, it is not the only one. But I have no other stories at hand of Wei.

"Magical System Used In Later Years." Objection. Assumes facts no in evidence. Jesus did not use a magical system. He performed miracles. Some of his disciples and followers performed miracles as well, although differently. What Jesus did not do was pass down a "secret" magical system which his followers then used to perform magic. There were no potions, no elixirs, no magical formulas for Jesus. In part, what you have helped to demonstrate is the difference between magic and miracles.

Sure, if you choose to define one as miracles and the other as magic, by all means do so. Jesus did pass down a system for miracles, called "belief in god." If one has a certain relationship to god, one can do miracles. If one precisely mixes gold and mercury, under the control of the trigrams from the Yi Jing, one can live forever. You'll pardon me if I think the difference exists mostly in your own mind. Each is equally wrong and stupid.

As Paul said in Galatians: He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?

"Magical System Attested to by Contemporaneous Texts." Not sure what you are getting at here. The only contemporaneous text about Wei was written by himself. Is that what you are referring to? The one whose earliest extant copy is 1500 years later? What other contemporaneous accounts are you talking about?

Listed in the article -- government documents, novels, poetry, histories, natural histories, medical works, etc, etc, etc. The system is attested to all through the first millenium AD.

"Claimed to be God."

I certainly believe Jesus did claim to be God, but I can grant you that the point is debated. However, I'm confused about Wei. Are you conceding that he never claimed to be immortal? Or just that he didn't claim to be God?


AFAIK, he never claimed to be immortal in his own work, only that it could be done. I do not know how the tradition of his success got started, but it was already well in hand by the fourth century.

"Was Made Divine." Are you talking about in the view of their followers? If so, then no. Jesus wasn't "made divine," he was preexistantly divine. He didn't have to follow magic potions, drink mercury, etc., to be "made" divine.

Oh please. Wei was made into an immortal by his followers, and Jesus was made into a god by his. There is no evidence that jesus was pre-existantly divine, that is merely a claim made by his followers, exactly on par with claims about Wei.

"Self died for belief." Yes, Jesus died for his beliefs. This is a very well established historical fact. The only evidence you gave for Wei's dying for his belief was an account written 200-300 years later (as best I can determine). And it had him experimenting with drugs, not being killed for espousing a religious or political viewpoint. There is no comparison.

Oh, I didn't realize you had placed special restrictions on the English language. Unless someone else kills them, it doesn't count. So the Heaven's Gate people didn't die for their beliefs?

It's pretty damned clear that Wei died for his belief that his potions could work. That is in the story. End of discussion.

"Followers Died for Belief." Same objection. There is strong historical evidence that early Christians died for their beliefs. From Christian, Pagan, and Jewish sources (Paul's own letters, Acts, 1 Clement, Josephus, Tacitus, and Pliny). They died for espousing belief in Jesus' miraculous resurrection, not by experimenting with drugs. Is the 200-300 year old tradition about Wei's followers experimenting with drugs the only source you have supporting your claim that his followers died for his belief? Any independent attestation?

Hell, yes. The rest of Chinese history. All the Daoist alchemists followed Wei's lead. And many died, including several emperors. They died for their beliefs. Nobody killed them; they did the job themselves. Recognition of the possibility of death was recorded and evidenced by the fact that the program was abandoned because too many people died -- a remarkably enlightened point of view, considering that Xtianity has yet to abandon its killing ways.

"Rose from the dead." Jesus' resurrection is, apparently, much better attested than Wei's. It is also extremely dissimilar from Jewish expecations. Judging from your writing, immortatlity was a common belief in alchemy. Indeed, the very purpose of the tests was to discovery it. Crucial differences that you fail to address.

As I have said, the gospels, we know, are not independent of each other. Dissimilarity is a totally subjective criterion not supported by any theoretical arguments. Ditto for the others.

If Jesus death and resurrection had been predicted in the OT, why didn't the Jews expect it? Jesus clearly does, for he references the scriptures….I think I'm being bullshitted here.

"Raised Humans from the Dead." Jesus did. Wei gave his disciple a drug that killed him, from which he purportedly revived. And you haven't given us a date on when that story was recorded. Or, that it was attested by multiple sources. Or, that it was dissimilar.

And Jesus revived someone who was merely desperately sick. We can both play that game. Heck, we could also argue that Jesus wasn't dead when taken down from the cross. Like I said, it's a game two can play.

"Told Cryptic Stories." What does this have to do with miracles? Or anything for that matter?

It doesn't. 'jes funnin around. So were the virgin comments.

"Stories Embarrassing to Belief System." This is the only place you attempt to "discuss" this, although you really don't. I laid out reports of Jesus' miracles that were embarrassing, you refer to "numerous commentaries" without elaboration. You have provided no context whatsoever, which is crucial to a discussion using the criteria of embarrassment. And you also misunderstand the criteria, the presence of something embarrasing doesn't prove the belief system, the presence of reference to embarrasing historical facts that are counter to the purpose of the author are judged more likely to be true.

Yes, the commentaries showed that historically speaking, the system wasn't clear (how embarrassing) and didn't work (how completely embarrassing!). I'd say your criteria have been quite adequately filled.

"Complete Failure of Belief System." Conclusory. Christianity has been extremely successful. Within 300 years it had spread throughout the Roman Empire, became the predominant religion, and today is the single largest religion on the planet. Far from being a "complete failure," Christianity is arguably the most successful religion ever.

It depends. Judging by number of followers, lots of people do pay lip service to Christianity. However, judging by claims Jesus made, and of course, the vast evil Christianity has imposed on the planet, it has been a total, abject failure. Compared to Buddhism, a religion superior in the fruits of its actual behavior, and comparable in the number of followers, Christianity is a failure. Since "most successful" is a totally subjective thing, we can both have our way here.

In Sum: Despite your intention to use our own tools to demonstrate the superiority of Daoist evidence in general, and Wei's in particular, you have failed to do so.

Thank you for your substantive and well-thought out criticisms. I know you put a lot of effort into this. And you were quite right about a couple of things, as I saw. The text we have dates from the sixth, as I later found out, not the second, century.

As I said above, Wei is not even that important; it's the existance of a well-attested to miracle system throughout an entire culture area, that in fact didn't work. That basically explodes the whole idea of multiplate attestation as a criterion for anything.

Did I promise more volumes? Uh oh...

http://www.triax.com/bmnfa/science/O...cal/thelab.htm contains a short article on the first translation of Wei, which is also the first translation of a complete alchemical text into a European language. Nobody has read this stuff to any great degree. There are excerpts from the text in there, so you can get a feel for the language.

The other site referenced above is much better, though.


[This message has been edited by turtonm (edited March 26, 2001).]
 
Old 03-26-2001, 06:24 PM   #3
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">
The difference lies in the fact that the early Daoists left a miracle system that anyone properly trained could use. This miracle system is attested in first-hand accounts by scores of adepts, who use first-person language: "I saw gold made." "I made so much gold we had to dump it in the sea because we had no way to store it." "I flew through the air." It is also attested to, as I said, in hundreds of other works. Wei is not even that important; it's the existance of a well-attested to system throughout an entire culture area, that in fact didn't work. That basically explodes the whole idea of multiplate attestation as a criterion for anything.
</font>
Mmmm, let me see if I follow this. Centuries of people taking drugs made from heavy metals [specifically gold & mercury] which we know to poison mind & body [I'm not a doctor, but basic chemistry tells us that such things form toxins, esp. ones which degrade the nervous system :] write about their experiences after having poisoned themselves.

I have a positive reason to believe that they are mentally unstable, given their recorded ingestion of chemicals known to affect the nervous system in a bad way. How would I have that for Christianity? I want DSM-IV references or records in their own hand of taking poison like this, not speculation, mind you :] (Wine doens't count, unless you can show they were drunk when they wrote it--it's effects are not on par with compounds of heavy metals, though, anyhow

Our faith isn't founded on someone's 'acid trips' ... the comparison is, frankly, non-sequiter :]
 
Old 03-26-2001, 08:21 PM   #4
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Michael, Thank you for a fascinating, well-written and informative article.

Photocrat:

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Our faith isn't founded on someone's 'acid trips' ... the comparison is, frankly, non-sequiter :]</font>
Oh... self-flaggelation, starvation and thirst are totally different.
 
Old 03-26-2001, 08:24 PM   #5
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by SingleDad:
Michael, Thank you for a fascinating, well-written and informative article.

Photocrat:

Oh... self-flaggelation, starvation and thirst are totally different.
</font>
What evidence do you have that the disciples or New Testament authors engaged in self-flageelation and/or self starvation and thirst?

 
Old 03-26-2001, 11:06 PM   #6
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Layman:
What evidence do you have that the disciples or New Testament authors engaged in self-flageelation and/or self starvation and thirst?</font>
Well, I can't say about the former, but the latter is known as fasting, a common and encouraged practice among Christians, and known to create a variety of hallucinatory effects.
 
Old 03-26-2001, 11:22 PM   #7
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[quote]<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by daemon23:
[b]
Quote:
Well, I can't say about the former, but the latter is known as fasting, a common and encouraged practice among Christians, and known to create a variety of hallucinatory effects.</font>
The New Testament is pretty specific that Jesus' followers did not fast.

It was the alchemist job to drink gold, mercuery, etc., on a regular basis. The mortality rate was rather high. You have no evidence, on the other hand, that the early Christians were regularly fasting to such a severe extent that they were contiuously hallucinating.

You guys are really reaching, but I admire creative thinking.
 
Old 03-27-2001, 02:15 PM   #8
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by SingleDad:
Michael, Thank you for a fascinating, well-written and informative article.

Photocrat:

Oh... self-flaggelation, starvation and thirst are totally different.
</font>
Why then were Jesus' deciples rebuked for /not/ fasting in the NT? :] And I asked you to support any such assertions--I see no mention of the NT authors conducting self-flagulation... I believe that was most likely a later invention.

Besides, yes, they are different than ingesting the toxic substances refered to directly in the Sec Web's own article.

Here, why don't you read up on what Hg does to the body? I trust Cornell college to be sufficiently trustworthy to rely on as a source --

Excerpted from the page:

http://www.ansci.cornell.edu/courses...m/cadmium.html

+++++++++++++
Mercury is a great example of how different species of an element display
differential toxic effects. However, from a the viewpoint of a nutritional toxicologist, the most
relevant form of mercury is methyl mercury (MeHg), as it is this form that has been implicated
in epidemic poisonings throughout the world. While clinical symptoms of methlymercury
poisoning are mainly neurological impairments, it is likely that this toxicant acts at a number of
sites in the body, as it as been shown to inhibit a wide range of cellular processes. The
neurologic signs of MeHg poisoning, according to increasing exposure, are paresthesias
(numbness and tingling in the extremities), ataxia (stumbling, difficulty in articulation),
neurasthenia (fatigue, difficulty in concentrating), loss of vision/hearing, tremor, coma, then
death.

Inhalation of mercury vapor (Hg0), which is quite volatile enough for this to be major route
of exposure, results in a corrosive inflammation of the lung in the short term. Long-term effects
include increased excitability, tremors, with changes in memory, personality, and mood
developing in later stages. Gingivitis has also been associated with these symptoms of exposure
to mercury vapor, popularly referred to as Mad Hatter's Disease.

Ingestion of mercury salts result in direct effects on the GI tract (ulceration, bleeding, and
necrosis), followed by damage to cells of the renal tubules.
+++++++++++++

That's just a small sample from what I trust is a respectable source. Here's another that I presume fairly credible, even if it's not from an academic institution, which gives an even wider over-view of the effects of all sorts of mercuric substances :]

http://www.healthy.net/asp/templates...e&Id=1852#rice

This even ignores any other metals they were using... I'm sure there must be more, since the article asserts that, so I really do wonder what was in these concotions... :] That's just a sample of what merely working with mercury will do to you--even exposure via the vapours can do that, so God only knows what became of them when they ingested it. Also, if you recall the old expression "mad as a hatter" it might interest you to know that it came about because of their work with mercury; e.g. it shows that exposure is definately detrimental to one's mind :]

Those are direct references, your article asserts that these things were written by the people who ingested this. I'm sure that crazy people write a lot of things. We can show that these people are crazy as a direct result of this; we have no reason other than simple incredulity to suppose anything like this for the apostles--I don't recall Christianity involving massive drug use :] This would be ad hominum; but they attest to being under the influence of these things in their *own* writing, according to your own article... :] There's a large difference in the levels of trust we can assign them, so don't be silly. We're comparing apples & oranges here, anyhow...

Besides, where are the DSM-IV references I specifically requested? :] What is the saying? Unsupported assertions don't cut it? Though you're barely even making any assertions at all... heh :] Nothing much to assert, I guess? I don't blame you, the article destroys any credibility we could assign the Taoists [while, ironically, praising them for the experimental methodology used while poisoning themselves :] and doesn't touch that of the Biblical writers. It also claims half the time to use our historical standards [though it doesn't even understand them, as near as I can tell] misuses them badly & claims that it proves something because nonsense like this is supposedly just as good. The rest of the time, in misusing them, it supposes that they're wrong standards and doesn't use them.

In short, it's a chimera of a piece. The taoists would probably love the yin & yang of it if it didn't rip them to shreds... well, it would've ripped them better if it was done consistantly. The thing is, you can't have it both ways; you use both, confusingly & inconsistantly which gives me a good belly laugh but little else :] Perhaps if you concentrated on one goal at a time & supported the citations better [e.g. not leaping over vast sections of history in a single bound :] it could make a point. As it stands, you appear to be preaching to the choir :] Then again, maybe that's all you intended?
 
Old 03-27-2001, 03:37 PM   #9
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Turtonm, I enjoyed your feature essay too. You’re a good writer, and it takes a lot of guts to put a featured essay on the web, and also be around to have it critiqued.

John
 
Old 03-27-2001, 03:41 PM   #10
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Layman:
The New Testament is pretty specific that Jesus' followers did not fast.
</font>
What does this mean to you: Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face: That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto they Father which is in secret: and they Father which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly. Matt 6:16-18 Wasn’t he talking to his followers? Sounds like he was laying guidelines on how to fast here. Even though some fasted so much that they disfigured their faces, he said until them that they would have their reward, but he preferred for it to be in secret. There are quite a few scriptures that deal with fasting.

In Acts it says this:

While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hand on them and sent them off.” (Acts 13:2-3) NRV

So the Holy Spirit appeared while they were fasting. I’ve been there myself in my youth, and know it doesn’t take but about a week or two before one often does start hallucinating. I also know many of my Christian friends who practice fasting on a regular basis, and although they prefer to say it is a spirit, while I call it hallucinating, they see visions all of the time. In Matthew, Jesus tells his followers, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting. Matt 17:20-21 KJV Let me fast for a few weeks, and I’ll move that mountain too.


John

 
 

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