The Voice of the Prophets: Wisdom of the Ages, ZOROASTRIANISM

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The first chapters of Genesis indeed the whole book might appear so far removed from modern scientific and historical understandings of the world as to be obviously mythical. Such was the approach to myth taken by Rudolf Bultmann — But God, too, can direct their thinking and willing, send them heavenly visions, allow them to hear his commanding or comforting word, give them the supernatural power of his Spirit.

Bultmann, , p.

The Light of the Sacred Fire

It was understood by Bultmann not only as unscientific but also as non-Christian, insofar as it simply reflected the beliefs of a pre-scientific age and was not an essential part of the Christian kerygma. This presupposes that myth indeed talks about a reality, but in an inadequate way. But, unlike science, myth also talks about an existential reality that seeks to understand the meaning of human experience. Insofar as I am interpreting Hebrew and Christian scriptures through the lens of a particular phenomenon voice hearing , and the scientific body of knowledge that has grown up in association with the study of this phenomenon, it might be thought by some that I am engaged in an exercise of demythologisation.

I find myself less reluctant to be associated with what Bultmann actually said than with what his critics seem to have understood him as saying. What I am explicitly not doing is reducing religious experience to, or explaining it away, in psychological terms. Nor am I suggesting that the designation of a story as mythical means that it is necessarily unhistorical.

To say that a story is mythical — at least in my usage of the term here — neither refutes nor confirms historicity. It is rather a statement about its value as containing a truth about authentic human reality. Regardless of the likelihood that what I write is open to such misinterpretations, I still believe that the exercise is worthwhile.

Religious building blocks: history, texts, and psychology

This is both because I do not believe that it is helpful to disconnect the discourse of faith from the discourse of science and because I think that both faith and science are enriched by a more critical and thoughtful engagement between different ways of looking at reality. To study scripture in relation to voice hearing thus does not deny its status as in some way inspired or revealed; rather, it enriches our understanding of the way in which the immanent and the transcendent are interrelated Cook, b.

It is also not the case that I am exploring hermeneutical territory where Jews and Christians have not previously trespassed. Such is the scope of debate within both of these traditions that there has actually already been much consideration of most possible interpretations well before now. For I do not imagine that the visible heaven was opened, or its physical form divided, for Ezekiel to record such an experience.

My point here is simply that the hermeneutical questions are not fundamentally new and that the critical exploration of them has a long history. Having thus acknowledged that our understanding of scripture and other ancient texts in relation to voice hearing will encounter a variety of hermeneutical challenges, and recognising the limitations that these will impose upon what we can historically prove, it is possible to identify four broad kinds of connection that might be made between scripture and voice hearing.

First, the writing of the text may have been connected in some way to an experience of hearing a voice. There would seem to be two principal ways in which this might happen. The writing of scripture may have been announced or affirmed by an experience of voice hearing, or else the sacred status of a text may have been revealed by a voice.

Thus, the authority and status of the text is conveyed by a voice. Alternatively, the authors of sacred texts may have written, or be thought to have written, what they heard that is, they may themselves have been hearers of a voice or voices ; or, the authors of sacred texts might have written down what other people voice hearers heard. In either of these cases, the text itself is conveyed by a voice. I will refer to both of these kinds of connection as one of a voice conveying scripture. Whether direct or indirect, reliable or unreliable, scripture might thus be a record of what a voice has initially conveyed.

Second, sacred texts might include accounts of voice hearing, as it were, within the text. Within such narratives there may be included a record of what certain voices said, but the supportive fabric of the narrative would be that of the author, and not of the voice.

The Voice of the Prophets: Wisdom of the Ages, Zoroastrianism (Unabridged)

The record of what the voice s said might claim or aspire to historical accuracy, or it might be mythical, or even fictional. Examples of a mythical kind might include God speaking to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden in the narrative of Genesis 3. Whether the narratives are actually historical, mythical, or fictional is not the point here. I am well aware that for many scholars Moses is understood to be a mythical figure and that for some readers, Adam and Eve are believed to be historical characters. Rather, the significance of all of these accounts is that the authors of scripture accord divine authority to the voices heard by those about whom they write.

In all instances of this kind, the voice has become a part of the text, and is conveyed within the text, rather than the text being conveyed by the voice. I will thus refer to examples of this kind as being voices conveyed by scripture. Third, sacred texts might include material which is an elaboration upon, or reflection on, experiences of voice hearing personal or otherwise. Depending upon the exact view of authorship adopted, most of the Hebrew prophetic writings may be understood in this way, and these will be considered further in Chapter 3.

Thus, for example, in Sirach —14, where all human beings are said to have heard the voice of God, this would be difficult to understand literally. It is really only amenable to a metaphorical interpretation. In any of these cases the voices heard in scripture may be understood as either the same as, or else different from, those heard by voice hearers today. If they are the same in form, then they might still be understood as different by virtue of the interpretation of the value and inspiration of the content. However, it will be difficult or impossible in any given case to evaluate these similarities and differences with complete confidence, since the original hearers of the voices can no longer be questioned about their experiences, and the purpose of the authors in writing was not to clarify such matters.

Even if it had been, their basis for clarification would not have reflected 21st-century historical or scientific premises of evidence and argument. However, an attempt has been made to select some examples which are significant as illustrations of different textual kinds. Similarly, some of the omissions are notable. Quite apart from the huge diversity of different traditions within Buddhism, and the different relationship of Buddhism to its sacred texts, we might not expect a tradition which is essentially atheistic, and which emphasises the emptiness of all things, to be one within which the hearing of voices would feature prominently.

On the other hand, the hearing of voices is very significant within spiritualism, and spiritism, but these traditions do not have a canon of sacred texts in the same way that most other religious traditions do.

Zarathushtrian Religion, Philosophy and History

However, the hearing of voices does seem to have been a significant theme in virtually all of the monotheistic traditions. This idea of meditation is plausible, because in the Pahlavi writings we are told that Zarathustra sought inspiration and divine knowledge by going to the river Dareji.

Anklesaria, , p. According to Islamic tradition, in the year ce , at the age of 40, Mohammed d. From this time on, he continued to hear a voice which conveyed to him words which he believed were revelations from God. It is thus usually understood that God was the speaker, and that the angel played only an intermediary role Gilliot, , p. For those who do not identify themselves with the tradition, this has included both the suggestion that unconscious psychological processes were at work Moberly, , pp. Needless to say, such explanations are not generally accepted by those who identify themselves as Muslims, although it is not immediately obvious at least to the present author, as a non-Muslim that either case would necessarily preclude divine inspiration.

The founder of Mormonism, Joseph Smith — , having had a vision of an encounter with God the Father and God the Son, and then three visionary encounters with an angel, according to tradition, was shown where a book written on golden plates would be found buried. He is understood to have eventually translated this book, and in the Book of Mormon was first published in English. Every limb of my body would, as a result, be set afire. At such moments My tongue recited what no man could bear to hear. However, in places, he writes as though he clearly has himself heard a voice which he is reporting.

Recite Thou unto the Shaykh the remaining passages of the Lawh.

Neuheiten, Bestseller, Bildung

There thus seems to be some kind of scriptural tradition of voice hearing within all of the Western monotheistic traditions. It seems to be a little more difficult to identify scriptural examples of voice hearing within the Eastern religious traditions, but this is not to say that clear examples may not be found.

In particular, it seems to be in evidence in Hinduism. Hinduism is an ancient tradition which has a great variety of expression and is difficult to define. Amongst other things, the authority of the Veda Hindu scriptures may be the closest to a universal criterion of Hindu identity. However, examples of interest may be found. Book 9 of the Rig Veda comprises a series of hymns in praise of soma, an hallucinogenic plant of uncertain identity. The properties of soma most in evidence here are entheogenic and mood-altering effects which generally do not seem to include auditory hallucinations, but there are occasional references to voices.

For example, in Hymns 12 and 95 there are references to the voice of Indu. In chapter XI of the Bhagavad Gita Arjuna is granted a theophanic vision, within which he is addressed by Krishna, an incarnation of the supreme deity. However, Hinduism does not seem to be a religion within which scriptural voices feature prominently and the practice of yoga according to the Yoga-sutras of Patanjali involves withdrawal of the senses and culminates in a state of trance, or ecstasy characterised by a unitive state of consciousness.

The picture that begins to emerge from this very preliminary and general exploration of the possible relationships between voice hearing and scripture is one of the inspired voice as conveying, and conveyed by, divine authority.


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