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Old 05-27-2013, 07:06 AM   #1
Robert Tulip
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Default Miracles as Parables

The reasons to read the loaves and fishes miracle stories as allegorical parables rather than as “something that really happened” are deeper than either their enigmatic wording or their Old Testament Midrash, important as both these are. For a start, miracles are scientifically impossible. Claims that Jesus broke the laws of physics are implausible, to put it politely. But further, this story fits within a concealed Gospel picture of Jesus as purely heavenly, a picture in which the miracles are parables with a hidden meaning. By this reading, the earthly descriptions are imaginative fiction designed to illustrate the symbolic nature of the heavenly Christ through myth.

The purely heavenly Christ provides an imagined framework of connection between humanity and eternity. This framework is too abstract while Christ is understood as purely in heaven, and so was bolstered by the fictional historical stories of Jesus in the Gospels, stories which proved to have immense emotional resonance for believers. With the loaves and fishes story, the heavenly tradition of the eternal Christ entwines with the more popularly accessible claim that Mark is relating a simple belief in a supernatural miracle performed by an actual historical man Jesus. The loaves and fishes miracle, when analysed carefully, more plausibly describes a heavenly Christ than historic events.

Mark was a brilliant genius, perhaps the greatest novelist in all history, since so many have believed his fiction is fact. Mark was actually a naturalist, presenting symbolic images to illustrate a real natural vision. The real meaning of his loaves and fishes story is hidden by the power of the allegorical image, and was largely lost in the political sands of orthodoxy as his fable of Jesus Christ became the central story of Western Civilization.

The symbolic content of the loaves and fishes story can be explored against a decisive text for this natural theology in Mark’s Gospel, where Christ explains his secret method. Mark 4:34 says “Jesus did not say anything to the public without using a parable. But when he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything.” It appears Mark is implying that everything attributed to Jesus in public is symbolic. Against this general statement of method about everything Jesus said, the miracle stories would appear to have a primarily symbolic rather than literal intent.

This allegorical key to the Gospels is expanded at Matthew 13:10-15, in text partly repeated at Luke 8:10. Matthew tells us “the disciples asked Him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” Jesus answered, “To you it has been granted to know (γνῶναι) the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted. For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him. Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.”

Matthew has Jesus invoke the mysterious concept of “the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven” as the object of secret knowledge and source of abundance. This text links to the loaves and fishes at several levels, especially its allusion to the multiplication of entities and its condemnation of failure to understand. This invocation of a secret community who know the mysteries can be interpreted as describing the clash between Gnostic wisdom and orthodox failure to understand, given by Jesus as the primary explanation for why he always speaks to the public in symbolic language. The Gnostic description of the disciples is rather like Paul’s discussion of initiates as pneumatic or spiritual. The public, by contrast, Christ describes as stupid, blind and deaf (like the Gnostic critique of the materialist or hylic) while he calls the initiated disciples the knowers. With Jesus making such an arrogant dismissal of the intelligence and capacity of ordinary people, it is hardly surprising the Gospels tell us Jesus was crucified for claiming to bear witness to the truth.

This heavenly picture of Jesus is complex, elitist and disturbing. The synoptic claim that everything Jesus said in public is a parable is complex - asserting a sharp divide between appearance and reality, elitist - setting this complex claim within an assertion that his secret society alone understands the truth, and disturbing – presenting a claim repeated in all the synoptics that literally suggests that none of Jesus’ public utterances can be taken literally.

Jesus expands his arrogant elitist derision towards ordinary people by claiming that his central teaching is that those who have a lot will get even more. This summarises the highly controversial Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25), which these days tends to be rejected by many Christians in its literal form as promoting a capitalist vision of inequality that sits uneasily with Christian love. Matthew 13:11 uses this ‘Matthew Principle’ of abundance from talent to explain why Jesus Christ speaks in a secret mystery code to the general public.

The biggest open claim described during the ministry of Christ is the miracle of the loaves and fishes. This story, repeated six times across the four gospels, fits well in this symbolic heuristic of secrecy and allegory. The same secret mystery code can help explain other Gospel claims of the source of abundance, such as faith moving mountains and growing to big trees. The two loaves and five fish miraculously feed 4000 and 5000 men (plus women and children), a feat explained at Mark 6:41 as a result of Jesus looking up to heaven. Some might even ask what the two plus five in the visible heavens might be.

The direct explanation given by the Bible of why Jesus speaks in symbolic language is that most people are too stupid to understand reality except through symbolic stories. The most plausible explanation is that the whole story of Jesus, pre-existence, birth, life, miracles, parables, family, passion, resurrection, ascension and second coming, is intended as allegory for a secret wisdom which was understood by Gnostic initiates but not by the hylic ignorant. Against this reading, early church interpretation of the Gospels gradually shifted from an enlightened understanding that the miracles were parables to a degraded assumption that the miracles were literal history.

This shift from an original gnostic reading to a derivative orthodox reading has a simple explanation. The literal reading was more accessible and attractive to the ignorant masses, so the successful group within the church was the faction who allied with the powerful external social forces who took no interest in theological niceties but wanted a simple common faith. This cultural war between Gnostic initiates and hylic ignorami stands at the origin of the Gospel story of Jesus, and is reflected in the frequent cryptic messages which indicate the frustration of the Gnostic authors at the general failure of comprehension, as in the explanation of the loaves and fishes at Mark 8 where Jesus castigates even the disciples for their thickness.

Another such explanation is at John 16:25 "Though I have been speaking in parables, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father.” This statement by Jesus can be read as a condemnation of the entirety of orthodox theology: the prevalent supernatural interpretation is false, and the Gospels will only make sense when we learn to read them according to purely natural scientific and historical methods, understanding that all the miracle stories such as the feeding of the multitude are actually parables.
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Old 05-27-2013, 07:26 AM   #2
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Raising Lazarus from the dead and the resurrection itself could be taken as spiritual metaphor.
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Old 05-27-2013, 08:00 AM   #3
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The reasons to read the loaves and fishes miracle stories as allegorical parables rather than as “something that really happened” are deeper than either their enigmatic wording or their Old Testament Midrash, important as both these are. For a start, miracles are scientifically impossible. Claims that Jesus broke the laws of physics are implausible, to put it politely....
Do you not understand that in antiquity and even today people BELIEVE the story of the miracles of Jesus were not only plausible but actually did happen.

The Emperors of Rome did ACCEPT the miracles of Jesus as actual events or wanted people to accept the story as history.

If there were no miracles by Jesus, son of God, then the story most probably would not be accepted.

It was possible for Jesus to be God the Creator.

Matthew 19:26 KJV---But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.

Mark 10:27 KJV---And Jesus looking upon them saith , With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.

Luke 18:27 KJV----And he said , The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.
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Old 05-27-2013, 11:37 AM   #4
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Believers take the miracles to be proof of god working in the world of men and women.

This is what a Jewish Sage said

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The Ramban lists a number of theological mistakes common in the world: those who do not believe in the existence of God, those who do not believe in His omniscience, and those who do not accept His omnipotence or His providence. The answer to these heresies, claims the Ramban, is the occurrence of miracles.

The miracle, an exception to the "way of the world and its nature," disproves publicly those false beliefs, for it proves that the world has a "creator-God, knowing, supervising, and capable."

The Ramban makes the sweeping statement that the occurrence of a miracle, together with its being predicted in advance by a prophet (demonstrating the truth of prophecy), serves to "establish the entirety of the Torah."
http://www.vbm-torah.org/pesach/pes67eb.htm


Miracles exist for the believer and they have a purpose.

Parables containing miracles in the text should be treated as a parable in which a miracle is said to have occurred.

A miracle taking place in the narrative is meant to be taken as a fact, but the interpretations of its purpose beyond the immediate consequence and the importance of this miacle in the scheme of things require deep thinking.

For example:
A woman with a long standing haemorrhage touches the tunic of Jesus and she is cured.

The immediate consequence of this event is the very real cure of the woman, but the miracle was the justification for the belief in the miraculous powers of relics and the trade in relics before the Reformation.
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Old 05-27-2013, 03:11 PM   #5
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people BELIEVE the story of the miracles of Jesus
You ask if I understand this. Yes I do. But these people are wrong.

Miracles are not possible. The stories did not actually originate in history from real observation of a person breaking the law of physics. Anyone who says miracles are possible is a kook.

But we should not just assume that the Gospel authors were stupid liars out to deceive their readers or gullible rehashers of hearsay. It is more likely that they wanted to use these imaginative miracle stories to illustrate a deeper truth understood by Gnostic initiates. Therefore the actual meaning of the miracle stories is different from the conventional kooky religious belief that God intervenes in nature.

Reality is well described by science. The idea that miracles can occur is a degraded form of consciousness. The religious pretense that the world is not as understood by science is a retarding force for human progress towards reason and enlightenment.

And yet, the convention of scientific enlightenment typified by President Jefferson's scissors (used to cut all the miracles out of his Bible) also reflects an inadequate understanding. Rather than ignore the miracle stories we should read them as concealing a hidden secret mysterious Gnostic meaning.

We should therefore read miracle stories as seeking to convey lessons as concealed allegory. The loaves and fishes is an excellent example. Steve_bnk has also usefully raised the examples of the resurrection stories of Lazarus and Christ. These are not conjuring stunts or demonstrations of an actual magical power of God, they are metaphors.
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Old 05-27-2013, 05:56 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by aa5874 View Post
people BELIEVE the story of the miracles of Jesus
You ask if I understand this. Yes I do. But these people are wrong.

Miracles are not possible. The stories did not actually originate in history from real observation of a person breaking the law of physics. Anyone who says miracles are possible is a kook.

But we should not just assume that the Gospel authors were stupid liars out to deceive their readers or gullible rehashers of hearsay.

Why not? What reason do you have to reject those two different possibilities?


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Originally Posted by Robert Tulip View Post
It is more likely that they wanted to use these imaginative miracle stories to illustrate a deeper truth understood by Gnostic initiates.

Upon what basis do you make that judgement? How did you determine what the likelihood of each was so that you could compare and determine which is more likely?


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Therefore the actual meaning of the miracle stories is different from the conventional kooky religious belief that God intervenes in nature.

Reality is well described by science. The idea that miracles can occur is a degraded form of consciousness. The religious pretense that the world is not as understood by science is a retarding force for human progress towards reason and enlightenment.

And yet, the convention of scientific enlightenment typified by President Jefferson's scissors (used to cut all the miracles out of his Bible) also reflects an inadequate understanding. Rather than ignore the miracle stories we should read them as concealing a hidden secret mysterious Gnostic meaning.

We should therefore read miracle stories as seeking to convey lessons as concealed allegory. The loaves and fishes is an excellent example. Steve_bnk has also usefully raised the examples of the resurrection stories of Lazarus and Christ. These are not conjuring stunts or demonstrations of an actual magical power of God, they are metaphors.

How do you know they were not conjuring stunts? I have seen a magician do the water into wine "miracle," done exactly as described in the Bible (except that he used glass and stainless steel containers, though nothing depended on them being made of glass and stainless steel). He poured water from one vessel into another (from glass [so everyone could see it was water] into stainless steel), and produced wine from the stainless steel vessel.

Now, what is the basis for your claim that someone did not do a trick just like what I witnessed?

As I was privy to how he did it, I can tell you that it does not require any technology that has not been available for thousands of years. (And in case anyone asks, I have no intention of saying how it was done.)


Also, some guy just telling parables would not be a proof of divinity, would it? It is by doing real miracles (or seeming to) that one can distinguish oneself from ordinary people. Telling stories is something that ordinary people can do, and consequently, may easily be ignored as just somebody's opinion about things rather than anything important.
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Old 05-27-2013, 06:39 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Robert Tulip View Post
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Originally Posted by aa5874 View Post
people BELIEVE the story of the miracles of Jesus
You ask if I understand this. Yes I do. But these people are wrong.

Miracles are not possible. The stories did not actually originate in history from real observation of a person breaking the law of physics. Anyone who says miracles are possible is a kook.

But we should not just assume that the Gospel authors were stupid liars out to deceive their readers or gullible rehashers of hearsay. It is more likely that they wanted to use these imaginative miracle stories to illustrate a deeper truth understood by Gnostic initiates. Therefore the actual meaning of the miracle stories is different from the conventional kooky religious belief that God intervenes in nature.

Reality is well described by science. The idea that miracles can occur is a degraded form of consciousness. The religious pretense that the world is not as understood by science is a retarding force for human progress towards reason and enlightenment.

And yet, the convention of scientific enlightenment typified by President Jefferson's scissors (used to cut all the miracles out of his Bible) also reflects an inadequate understanding. Rather than ignore the miracle stories we should read them as concealing a hidden secret mysterious Gnostic meaning.

We should therefore read miracle stories as seeking to convey lessons as concealed allegory. The loaves and fishes is an excellent example. Steve_bnk has also usefully raised the examples of the resurrection stories of Lazarus and Christ. These are not conjuring stunts or demonstrations of an actual magical power of God, they are metaphors.
The Gospels are the stories that people believe. They did not believe the miracles were parables.

We have Apologetic writers and they believed the miracles of Jesus did actually happen.

Justin's Dialogue withTrypho
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The spring of living water which gushed forth from God in the land destitute of the knowledge of God, namely the land of the Gentiles, was this Christ, who also appeared in your nation, and healed those who were maimed, and deaf, and lame in body from their birth, causing them to leap, to hear, and to see, by His word. And having raised the dead, and causing them to live, by His deeds He compelled the men who lived at that time to recognise Him.
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Old 05-28-2013, 06:25 AM   #8
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we should not just assume that the Gospel authors were stupid liars out to deceive their readers or gullible rehashers of hearsay.
Why not? What reason do you have to reject those two different possibilities?
Thank you Pyrrho for raising such good and constructive questions.

The key term in my statement is the word “assume.” The Gospels may contain lies and hearsay. I am not simply rejecting those possibilities. My point is that to assume these explanations is prejudicial against a more poetic reading. If we assume that in fact the false literal stories in the Gospels must be lies or hearsay, we rule out the possibility that the miracles are primarily a form of poetic allegory concealing meaningful observations and understanding.

What is not possible from a modern scientific viewpoint is that the Gospel miracles provide an accurate description of real historical events. Descriptions of events that conflict with our modern scientific knowledge can be ruled out as not being literal truth. We should assume that miracles are impossible, as a matter of sound rational method and a practical heuristic. But it is too hasty to jump from this scientific observation to the assumption that the Gospel authors were just hucksters or fools. Deconstructing the tradition may yet provide space to reconstruct a meaningful subtext. I explain some of what this subtext might be in the opening post of this thread.
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It is more likely that they wanted to use these imaginative miracle stories to illustrate a deeper truth understood by Gnostic initiates.
Upon what basis do you make that judgement? How did you determine what the likelihood of each was so that you could compare and determine which is more likely?
To answer your good questions I have to explain part of my own hypothesis of how the Bible was written. My view is that the role of ancient secret mystery cults in producing the Bible has been severely underestimated and dismissed in conventional debate, due to the aggressive suppression of these groups by orthodox Christianity, the ongoing intimidation of scholars by Christianity, and the failure of historians to take a serious scientific and philosophical interest in such topics.

For example, Pythagoreans and Mithraists placed strong emphasis on secrecy and oral transmission of cultic belief. If these groups, and others such as the mysteries of Eleusis, the Therapeuts of Alexandria, the Nazarenes, the Chaldeans, etc, were part of a secret Gnostic milieu, they must have had ways of understanding spiritual teachings, including those contained in the Bible, that were lost by the suppression of their oral traditions. This is a line of enquiry that is fruitfully explored in books such as The Gnostic Paul by Elaine Pagels and The Jesus Mysteries by Freke and Gandy.

These ancient groups maintained a distinction between public and secret teachings. This distinction is explained in the Gospel injunctions attributed to Jesus in the opening post here about his public teachings all being parables. The idea of secret teachings, known from Aristotle's school as esoteric or within the school, is often dismissed by both science and religion today as tarred with the brush of magic. However, the term esoteric has changed in meaning, just as occult has morphed in meaning from hidden to magical.

Previously just meaning private, ‘esoteric’ has now become a term of derision, associated with magical mysteries and groundless speculation. And Aristotle’s distinction between esoteric and exoteric or public teaching has lost its force, since science no longer has the ancient need to conceal its work.

What could the hidden teaching concealed in miracles contain? I suggest a central part of the ancient esoteric teaching related to cosmology. Ancient wisdom traditions were intimately involved with astronomy, as seen for example in Babylonian star records. Such routine measurement of the sky produced an enlightened understanding that the real heaven is observed by the senses.

In a context of general illiteracy, the general public was incapable of understanding such natural observation of reality, but was obsessed with traditional myths and magic. In this context, in order to convey mystery teachings to a broader audience, the esoteric natural teachings had to be concealed within fabulous supernatural exoteric stories – such as the miracles of Jesus.

There is reason to support this contention that the magical content of miracles is more exoteric than esoteric. For example, the breast plate of the high priest in the temple at Jerusalem had twelve precious stones which symbolised the twelve signs of the zodiac, according to Josephus and Philo. There is nothing necessarily magical about the zodiac, which simply indicates the twelve months of the year. But this zodiac imagery conflicted with the public teaching from Deuteronomy not to worship the sun and moon and stars, and so there may well have been reason to keep this symbolism a secret within Judaism.

As the monotheist Christian iconoclasts grew in power, it proved a fairly easy matter for them to suppress esoteric natural knowledge within the church and obliterate most of its traces. But to reiterate, this does not mean the esoteric was magical. In fact, the reverse is more plausible, that the esoteric view contained an enlightened rational natural understanding of phenomena such as in astronomy, while the exoteric teachings of the church had to dumb down this secret wisdom into magical signs and wonders in order to cultivate their supernatural public dogma. This reading helps to explain why Jesus decries discussion of signs from heaven just after he has supposedly miraculously fed the four thousand in Mark 8.
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How do you know they were not conjuring stunts? I have seen a magician do the water into wine "miracle," done exactly as described in the Bible (except that he used glass and stainless steel containers, though nothing depended on them being made of glass and stainless steel). He poured water from one vessel into another (from glass [so everyone could see it was water] into stainless steel), and produced wine from the stainless steel vessel.
Such conjuring tricks were performed in the ancient world. There is a water into wine hey presto magic amphora invented by Heron of ancient Alexandria described at http://www.maicar.com/GML/Wine.html. Priests have long found that impressing the gullible is a path to popularity.

But the question now is whether stage magic provided the deepest level of meaning for the story. In this case, turning water into wine, another explanation might be that the authors of the Cana Wedding story wanted to tell a parable about the sanctity of ordinary life, that everyday commodities such as water actually have a divine symbolic value. The point is that the meaning of the miracle is as parable, rather than as some sort of Bullwinkle rabbit and hat trick.
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Now, what is the basis for your claim that someone did not do a trick just like what I witnessed? As I was privy to how he did it, I can tell you that it does not require any technology that has not been available for thousands of years. (And in case anyone asks, I have no intention of saying how it was done.)
People did do such tricks. But the gospel story starts from big mysterious ideas, such as the eternal Christ as word made flesh. The real content and intention of the miracle stories is as illustrations of the theology. So the water seems to be water but in the presence of Christ is actually wine, just as flesh seems to only be flesh but is actually the bearer of spirit, as a parable for the soul as the image of God.

Conjuring is just a way to make the illustration sink in for ignorant listeners. What happened was that as Christianity became a degraded mass movement its allegorical content was lost.
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Also, some guy just telling parables would not be a proof of divinity, would it? It is by doing real miracles (or seeming to) that one can distinguish oneself from ordinary people. Telling stories is something that ordinary people can do, and consequently, may easily be ignored as just somebody's opinion about things rather than anything important.
This illustrates how Christianity was deformed by base politics. Enlightened wisdom cries in the marketplace and is ignored, while a fantastic showman gets attention despite being a whited sepulchre. So Jesus despairs of human stupidity in explaining that the loaves and fishes are not signs from heaven. The author wants readers to look through the superficial account of signs and wonders to see the transformative reality.
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Old 05-29-2013, 05:56 AM   #9
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The direct explanation given by the Bible of why Jesus speaks in symbolic language is that most people are too stupid to understand reality except through symbolic stories. The most plausible explanation is that the whole story of Jesus, pre-existence, birth, life, miracles, parables, family, passion, resurrection, ascension and second coming, is intended as allegory for a secret wisdom which was understood by Gnostic initiates but not by the hylic ignorant. Against this reading, early church interpretation of the Gospels gradually shifted from an enlightened understanding that the miracles were parables to a degraded assumption that the miracles were literal history.
I think you abuse the word hylic here that Proust translated to hyletic as noun instead of hylic as verb, and to call them ignorant is to call a PhD equal to a certificate of mastery in ignorance that includes surgeons, engineers, artists and artisans alike, who least of all are stupid as proffessionals in their own field.

Hyletic vision is opposite to Noetic vision, with the difference being that hyletic is inside Plato's Cave and Noetic is outside the Cave. In Judaism it is called the difference between Earth and Heaven also as opposites to say the same thing.

For knowledge to be, 'being' is required with essense about to make known what we see as prior to us, and that that obviously is not in configuration between beings where einai is not for which there is no plural in Greek as God in its own right, and hence 'all was very good.'

Hyletic vision is known as the Material Cause that is based on postulates inside the TOK and is reinforced by the scientific method.

Kinetic Vision is known as the Efficient Cause as the primary origin of change after which things are made and so come to be.

Lyric Vision is much the same as kinetic Vision but is based more on our previous involvements instead of material things that we can demonstrate in the physical wold. Accordingly Lyric vision comes more with age that in the end returns to our Kinetic Vision to rejoyce once again in our pleasures of old.

Telic Vision is the Final Cause wherein we see the sake of which something is. It so is in seeing the thinginess of the thing that is Kinetic vision based but not Lyric, and is for example where a surgeon is much like a [poor] taylor with the insight to do many of most things in his own specific field wherein he has the insight to do what he does best.

Eidetic vision is Formal Cause wherein the being is seen as meant to be. It is seeing the account, form, soul, and purpose in function to understand.

And finally I see no cause for star-gazing, do you? as Lyric maybe where fantasy borrows from reality to entertain.
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Old 05-29-2013, 06:02 AM   #10
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To answer your good questions I have to explain part of my own hypothesis of how the Bible was written. My view is that the role of ancient secret mystery cults in producing the Bible has been severely underestimated and dismissed in conventional debate, due to the aggressive suppression of these groups by orthodox Christianity, the ongoing intimidation of scholars by Christianity, and the failure of historians to take a serious scientific and philosophical interest in such topics.
Mystery religion is occult wherein the secret mystery is contained that obviously you do not see to call it a cult, and at best are confused in witchraft maybe.
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