There are many powerful mechanisms that shift and distort the meaning of the message borne within an ancient text. Consequently, what the modern reader is given to understand will, almost certainly, be quite different from what the ancient writer intended to convey. [PDF]
I can be sure that events I experience directly are, within the limits of my human senses and perception, the truth. I may not be seeing the whole truth. An illusionist may deceive my reason by using slight of hand and hidden props. Nevertheless, the part I see is the tangible truth. So if I observe something directly through my physical senses, provided my senses are not impaired by injury or intoxication, what they are telling me is probably close to the truth.
At a more rigorous level, I can perform a scientific experiment to prove a law relating cause and effect within an observed physical event. Others can verify my observed truth by reproducing my experiment at another time in another place. Within the limits of experimental accuracy, we both then know the law to be true.
This is not necessarily so with words. Words are not physical realities. Neither are they the direct effects of physical realities. They are merely symbols or labels, invented and arranged by human beings, to represent realities.
Our understanding of language thus relies on our having common experience of the elemental realities that words represent.
The animal shown on the right is a tangible reality. In English, this tangible reality is represented by the word "dog". But the word bears no resemblance to the animal it represents. It is merely a convention of the English language. In Portuguese the same animal is represented by the word "cão" and in Japanese, by the symbol at the bottom left in the adjacent illustration. Furthermore, the sound of the word in each language is different, all of which are different from the sound the animal itself makes.
Centuries ago, before there was global trade, countries were more isolated from each other. England and Portugal are not very distant from each other. So what an Englishman understood by the word "dog" has probably always been quite close to what a Portuguese understood by the word "cão". However, Japan is much more distant. Consequently, the types of dog that were naturally indigenous to Japan were probably different from those that were naturally indigenous to Europe. So the animal that a Japanese understood by his written symbol was probably different from the animal the English or the Portuguese would have in mind by their words "dog" and "cão". Take into account that the Japanese probably selectively bred their animals differently from the way the Europeans selectively bred theirs, so the difference was probably even greater.
This means that, in ancient times at least, merely translating the Japanese symbol into "dog" or "cão" did not create in the mind of the English or Portuguese an image of a Japanese breed of dog, which in those days they would most likely never have seen in reality. The images they would have in their minds would be of English and Portuguese breeds of the animal. So translation does not transmit the whole truth or even accurate truth. Consequently, beyond direct observation, knowing the truth is not so well assured.
The Englishman, the Portuguese and the Japanese each had direct experience of what their respective words for "dog" represented. The difference in meaning between their different words was merely the difference between their local dominant breeds. But suppose, before the days of global travel, a visitor from Malaya tried to describe to each of them the animal he called a tapir.
I have never seen a tapir, an animal I believe lives in the Malaya and a few other places. I have never seen a tapir but, long before I found the photo on the left, I read a description of one. That description was a message in symbolic language passed to me from a writer who had obviously seen one. It was described as having a head like an elephant with a very short trunk and small ears, the teeth of a horse, 4 toes on its front feet and 3 on its hind feet like a bird, eats vegetation and looks a bit prehistoric.
From this description, I have a fairly reasonable picture of a tapir in my mind. I would probably recognise a tapir if I saw one. But supposing I had never seen a horse or an elephant. How would I understand the description of a tapir? I couldn't.
Take this a stage further. Suppose I am a visitor from another planet, and I have never seen a quadruped animal of any kind. Now try to explain what a tapir is! Suppose further that I have never been on a planet with gravity. Suppose I have never seen any biochemical life-form or even experienced the concepts of motion under gravity on the surface of a planet. Then in what terms could you possibly explain to me what a tapir is using symbolic language - words?
The fact is that we need an intimate experience of our ecological environment in order to be able to think, and to possess the powers of symbolic language through which to be able to communicate our thoughts to others.
I can commit the results of a scientific experiment to writing. I can thereby accurately communicate it to other people so that they can know the new law I have discovered through my experiment. My report could be translated into other languages with the inherent shifts in meaning due to translation.
However, if the reader of my experimental report has a laboratory with appropriate equipment, he can do my experiment for himself. He will then know for sure that what is written in my report is true. Even if he be in a different country using a different language, he will have understood the whole and accurate truth of my report, irrespective of possible inaccuracies introduced by translation.
But suppose he is merely an interested layman or a scientist who does not have the facilities to reproduce my experiment. He can never be sure that my report is completely true and accurate for reasons quite apart from and additional to shifts in meaning due to translation and context.
I may have been working on a theory for a decade and never quite managed to secure its elusive experimental proof. So, like the "discoverer" of Piltdown Man, I finally succumb to temptation and fabricate my experimental results to fit my darling theory. Consequently, a lot of people may, for a long time to come, erroneously believe my theory to have been proved true. This is the great vulnerability of the unverified written word. It is a danger that is fundamentally inherent to symbolic communication in all its forms.
Unfortunately, the only way you can know about something you cannot sense directly is for somebody who can sense it to tell you about it. For instance, you cannot see, hear, smell, feel or taste anything much beyond the vicinity of your body. But you can know what is happening in the world beyond from visitors and through radio, newspapers, telephone calls and letters. What you learn about through these means are things that other human beings like yourself have sensed directly. They are objects and events that you could have sensed yourself if you had been there.
If the objective exactitudes of science are thus vulnerable, imagine how much more so must be the subjective opinions of human affairs. The political bias of newspapers is well known. A newspaper's daily drip-feed of filtered facts shapes the political opinions of its readership. It thereby creates a population of captured voters who will, at each election, dutifully return the candidate of the political party that best serves the interests of the paper's owners or influencers. With radio and television, the sharp political bias is not so much present. Nevertheless, major broadcasters definately present their content within the constraints of an assumed cultural context.
Articles, books, broadcasts and films about current public events, permanent objects and large-scale phenomena can generally be verified. Significant events probably have many independent witnesses who can corroborate a media report. If I wish to verify the truth about the existence of an object, economics permitting, I can go to where it is and see it for myself. A phenomenon, such as strange lights in the sky, may or may not be directly verifiable because it may not occur again when I get to the relevant place. But, on the other hand, it may.
Suppose I see a report of an event or phenomenon in a newspaper and then I decide to go to the place where it supposedly occurred to verify it for myself. I then discover that what was reported in the newspaper was not true, or at least, far from accurate. When I return, I tell people that the newspaper report is untrue. When I relate my version of the event or phenomenon, the majority of people will continue to believe the media in preference to me, a mere layman. It is an illustration of the gullible trust that people in general place in authority or officialdom. This, in itself, is a major contributor to error in the popular view of history.
A police detective, in the course of his enquiries, may ask me where I was last Tuesday. I would have to say that I was in my study writing my book. If he asked if I could corroborate my statement I would have to say "no" because I was alone in my apartment all day and saw nobody. My statement appears not to be verifiable. However, this can in no way imply that it be untrue. My whereabouts last Tuesday is still a relatively "current" event. Therefore, the possibility of the detective being able to find some means of verifying it still exists.
A modern education system prepares the minds of the young so that they may grow up to become correctly shaped cogs for the national economic machine. They are taught the history, literature and culture of their nation. They are groomed with the necessary skills to equip them for a life of service to further the wealth and ambitions of their nation's elite.
To this end, the versions of history, literature, science and economics taught to the young and youth is selected and shaped to construct within their minds a belief-system that will protect and perpetuate a nation's established order. A national education system, no matter how independent it may be claimed to be, thus wears a political mask, behind which reality remains forever hidden.
Even the authors of fiction and documentaries apply political and cultural spin to the content of their books, films and theatre productions. This may, for the most part, be unwitting. Their formative years were spent ingesting the filtered truth from the same education system as everybody else. And they remain fully immersed within the same cultural context, which remains their only frame of reference.
Nevertheless, it is always possible for anybody, simply by taking thought, to break free of his national indoctrination. He can then question and investigate the validity of his formative belief-system against the frame of reference of direct observation and experience. He is able, thereby, to verify or discredit what was taught to him through the written and spoken words of his teachers and informers.
There is, however, a class of symbolic communication that is, for all practical purposes, unverifiable. That is communication from the distant past. The distant past can be defined as anything beyond living memory. This is because anything beyond living memory has no direct witnesses. I cannot go back and witness an event, object or phenomenon that occurred or ceased to exist before I was born. If I wish to know about any such thing, I am forced to rely completely on recorded communication.
Events, documentaries and fiction from the recent "distant" past can be viewed through film and sound recordings. These are analogue presentations. As such, they are not quite as susceptible to deliberate falsification as was the written account of Piltdown Man. It is much more difficult and expensive to convincingly fake a film or a sound recording than it is to write a lie. Consequently, in those days, only governments and corporations had the wherewithal to make films and recordings. Which events were filmed or recorded were therefore selected and restricted by those in political and economic power at the time. Of the films and recordings they made, we are only privy to the ones that those currently in power today deem to be suitable for public release.
Our view of history through such media is thereby doubly restrictive and selective. Furthermore, those who made the films and recordings most likely applied plenty of their own political spin to the original content. The events are therefore portrayed within a context moulded by the prevailing ideology of the time. To the double dose of selectiveness and restriction we can therefore add deliberate distortion.
Films and sound recordings from beyond living memory were and are difficult to fake. Nevertheless, being analogue recordings, they deteriorate with time. The fuzzy pallid black-and-white image and raspy distorted sound are not the way the film played when it was new. Eventually, they will become unplayable, unless their content is re-recorded for posterity in digital form.
Text, on the other hand, presents information in symbolic form. As such, books and scrolls may always be reproduced perfectly provided each word is still legible. Unfortunately symbolic representations are very easy to fake. You can write, print and bind whatever you like, be it truth or lie. And once beyond living memory, what you have written is impossible to prove or negate. There can be nothing within a piece of text from the past that can intrinsically prove whether what it says be true or false. You have to go outside the text in order to try to substantiate it.
One way is to try to prove whether or not what it says is credible. But proving that what it says is consistent with observed physical reality does not prove that what it says is true. You can test what it says against what is written in other documents from the same time and place. But this only proves that it is consistent with other literature of the time. There is no guarantee that all the documents were not coloured by the same cultural context or political spin.
Many authors of ancient texts lived in fear of reprisals from the regimes under which they lived. The timid conformed. The brave published and were damned. The wise hid their real messages between the lines and in subtle riddles that only the wise of generations yet unborn would be able to unravel. Not all such authors would be in fear for their lives. Most, I should think, would merely be in fear for their posts, jobs or positions. Others would simply fear social rejection, isolation or ridicule.
Archaeology is the process of excavating the sites of ancient settlements and cities to see what kinds of material objects were made and used by their ancient inhabitants. It can thereby provide evidence that a civilization mentioned in an ancient text really existed. It can also help to establish the social and cultural context within which the ancient text was written. Nevertheless, archaeology cannot prove, or even substantiate, whether or not events described in an ancient text really occurred. This is especially so for events involving paranormal phenomena never observed within living memory. A modern reader cannot know whether such an event were real or the product of a rich imagination, innocent hallucination or deliberate deception.
Notwithstanding, lack of provability does not mandate a lie. Just because there is no means of proving a statement to be true does not make it false. For the reader of an ancient text, its truth or falseness is a matter of perception. And human perception is intrinsically fallible. Consequently, it cannot be an absolute black and white matter. It can only ever attain a probability of truth. The reader's quest must therefore be to maximize this probability. The degree to which he can do this depends on the nature of what is being said in the ancient text he is reading.
An historical event, such as an ancient battle, is the most difficult to verify. Corroboration from multiple sources could be considered to lend weight to its validity. But this is not necessarily so because all contemporary sources could be affected by the same distortive influences omni-present at the time and place concerned. One effective way to improve the probability of its truthfulness is to examine evidence of its influence on the path of history that followed it.
Ancient texts about historical personalities are also difficult to verify. Did the person really exist or was he merely a super-hero created by the wishful thinking of an oppressed people? Perhaps he was an omnipotent imaginary friend of an exigent king, used to maintain a strangle-hold over hapless subjects. He could even have been the personification of an abstract concept, used by an ancient prophet to give substance to his message. Or could he possibly have been a real super-being from another dimension? An ancient text itself can contain no tangible means of confirming its own truth. Most ancient texts are inevitably a mixture of a little truth with a lot of error.
On the other hand, ancient texts about identities, ideas and ideals are different. Ancient thinkers and their scribes committed many things to writing that the modern reader can verify by observation, experiment and reason. The underlying identities in mathematics and logic are the same today as they always were and shall be. Thinkers of today may know more of them and more about them. Nevertheless, what the ancients discovered, proved and wrote about can be confidently used today as the foundation for further understanding. The same applies for philosophy, morality and ideology. The fundamentals of human relationship and the nature of being can be examined entirely within the confines of the mind.
The modern reader can't be quite so sure of what is said in an ancient text regarding the nature of the universe. This is because the real universe is something outside and beyond the confines of the mind. The universe that I know is not the real universe. It is my uniquely perceived version of the real universe. It is the real universe as I see it, through my fallible human senses, from the infinity of points that mark out the locus of my own unique journey through time and space from birth to death.
This is perhaps best illustrated by what the ancients wrote concerning their perception of how the planets moved across the sky. They saw a planet move forwards in its orbit, then slow down, stop, back-track for a while and then continue on its forward journey. The ancients' sense of natural law and order led them to believe that this motion was rather over-complicated. They therefore theorized as to what kind of underlying mechanism could result in such complicated motion.
The idea they came up with was that the planets must move in what are called epicycles. The planet, they thought, moved around in a small local circle of its own while the small local circle itself orbited the Earth. This meant that, when viewed from the Earth (presumed to be the centre of the universe), the planet moved like the red spot on one of the ball bearings shown in the animation on the left. The moon, of course, was seen to move in a circle like the red spot on the periphery of the inner shaft. They worked out the radius of the epicycle orbit relative to that of the major orbit in order to reproduce precisely the observed motion.
Later scientists thought out a simpler way to achieve the same motion. That was to consider the Sun as the centre of the universe. If all the planets are considered to orbit the Sun rather than the Earth, each moves in almost a simple circle. Nevertheless, creating the observed motion still involves two circles. It is just that they are different ones. Later still, observers discovered that the circular orbits were, in fact, elliptical. Eventually, with the advent of relativity theory, it was discovered that even this was not entirely correct. The orbits of planets are really elliptical rosettes in which the planet never traces that same path twice. Since relativity theory clashes with quantum mechanics, it cannot be explaining the universe perfectly. So perhaps the orbits of the planets are governed by an even simpler all-encompassing law that is as yet undiscovered.
In any case, the Sun is not the centre of the universe. The Sun orbits the central cluster of the Milky Way galaxy. And its orbit around the galaxy is far from circular, far from elliptical and far from rosette-shaped. It is a wildly meandering path with apparently no form. The orbit of any star within a galaxy is chaotic - a wandering child of Hénon's Strange Attractor.
The important point is that the observations that the ancients did were completely correct. The planets do move in epicycles from the point of view of any Earth-based observer. The only difference between then and now is an improvement in the theory as to why the planets appear to move in the way they do. It is merely that we now have a better understanding of nature's laws, though our understanding is still far from perfect.
But suppose we discover an ancient text that tells of phenomena that we cannot observe directly today. Suppose further that what it tells us is totally inconsistent with our understanding of reality that we have gained by careful observation of the physical world. How can we possibly verify or refute what it tells us?
One of the best known ancient texts that purports to tell us of such things is the Judeo-Christian Bible. There are many passages in the Bible that simply relate historical events. These can, to some extent, be substantiated by corroborative histories and archaeology. It also contains many sayings and adages about human relationships, which stand verified through personal experience. It also contains a description of a socio-economic system that contains some very good ideas.
It also contains descriptions of events and phenomena that stray way outside the limits of physical credibility. The most notable of these are the nature and actions of God. It is clear that this God is composed of indestructible material and inhabits hyper-dimensions that are beyond the scope of our physical senses and instruments. His actions appear to violate the fundamental laws by which we observe the physical universe to be governed. These descriptions of the nature and actions of God are therefore fundamentally beyond physical verification. This kind of information is what we call revelation.
Many religious people cite the fact that the Bible contains many obvious and provable truths as proof that it is all true. This is a false deduction. Because a text contains a true statement is no reason to suppose that all its statements be true. For instance, on a clear day I could say to you: "The sky is blue". Then I could say: "The Moon is made of green cheese". The first statement is an obvious truth. The second statement is unverifiable, unless you happen to be one of the handful of astronauts that have been there. However, you could deduce that it is unlikely to be true since it would require more milk to produce such a mass of cheese than there are cows on the Earth. And then there is the problem of getting all this cheese into orbit.
The presence of an obviously true statement does not even lend weight to the notion that adjacent unverifiable statements be true. A technique much used in political and commercial propaganda is to subtly mix obvious truths with unverifiable lies that serve the vested interest of the writer. Even if the writer were sincere, he may follow his obvious truths with statements that amount to nothing but speculative wishful thinking. Yet a sizeable proportion of the world population believes the unverifiable statements of this ancient text called the Bible. They blindly accept what they think it says. Why?
One reason is that they believe it to be the Word of God. It is a divine message to mankind from the eternal super-being that created all things and who resides in dimensions that are beyond our physical domain. But how do all these people "know" that this ancient text is the word of the supreme creator? The only original source that states that this ancient text is the word of the supreme creator is the text itself. It is just like a commercial advertisement. If you say you have the best product on the market long enough and loud enough, the vast majority will eventually believe you.
Another reason people believe this ancient text to be the Word of God is because it boldly addresses gnawing fundamental questions that arise from the very nature of human consciousness.
"I" am an inner "me" of which "I" myself have conscious awareness. However, the only way "I" can be aware of "me" is through communication with others. To do this, "I" need to be connected to a set of memories, emotions and instincts known as my mind. In order to function, my mind must be borne within my 200 billion neuron brain, nature's greatest known supercomputer. This is sustained and protected by my body, which provides senses and mechanisms through which I can become aware of the outside world and also influence it.
From input signals received via my 5 physical senses, my mind is able consciously to perceive, classify, model and respond meaningfully to its terrestrial and social environments. This enables me to survive and prosper as a physical being within a physical universe. From a purely biological point of view, I am thereby complete. But there seems to be a lot more to my human mind than merely what is required for me to survive within the physical universe. It has powers that enable me to conceive of cogent realities that are clearly beyond the physical. Yet it cannot know them because it does not have the necessary senses.
It is as if the whole of reality were an iceberg. While my physical senses allow me to sense only what is above the water, my mind is able to conceive that the reality I see above the water must continue below the water where I cannot see. Although I can speculate about this higher reality, I lack a frame of reference (in the form of tangible experiences) on which to base my notions of what this higher reality might be like. Analogies are imperfect and limited. Nevertheless, it does seem that the human mind is equipped with an awareness of a higher reality and the curiosity to investigate it. Unfortunately, the human mind does not have direct tangible access to this higher reality. I am thus burdened with a curiosity born out of my inherent power to conceive of it. Yet, at the same time, I am unequipped to be able to sense it. How, then, can I ever hope to discover anything about it?
There are things in the physical universe that no human can sense directly. For example, what would the world look like if your eyes could see infra-red and ultra-violet as well as visible light? What would it sound like if you could 'listen' to the signals emitted by an atom as it changes state? Now, in the late 20th century, you can know by using man-made instruments that can transduce many physical effects you cannot sense into ones you can sense. Even if you don't have such instruments, those who do have them can tell you about the phenomena they reveal.
The bounds of physical reality have no other definition but that they are the limits beyond which our human senses are unable to perceive what surrounds us. The reach of our senses is continually being extended through scientific instrumentation. Nevertheless, it is evident that a fundamental limit must exist beyond which no form of physical instrument can penetrate. The interface between physical reality, and any higher reality beyond, is therefore nothing to do with the nature of the universe itself. It is to do only with the physical limitations of the human senses and of the frame of reference against which we interpret the signals we receive through them.
This suggests that the postulated higher reality, which our minds seem to be equipped to perceive, is nothing other than a continuation of physical reality. In other words, physical reality is nothing other than that subset of the higher reality that our human senses can actually detect. It is the part of the ice berg we can see above the water, whose seeming discontinuity at the sea's surface convinces us that it continues beneath. We may therefore think of this higher reality simply as the part of all reality that is beyond our ability to sense. But how can we discover anything tangible about this higher reality, which no human can sense and which no instrument can transduce into a form that can be humanly sensed?
The only way is for somebody who is able to sense this higher reality to tell us about it. But, since it is beyond the reach of human senses, who could possibly do this?
Religious people believe that there is somebody who can and who has already done it. They call him God. The way they say he did this was to speak to chosen human beings who wrote down what he said in a book. He often enhanced his verbal message using a vision. In this case, the writer described what he saw and heard during his vision. The visions that these ancients describe do not make much sense in terms of modern everyday life. Artists have tried to depict these visions from the written records. However, the rendering, in each case, is necessarily a speculative interpretation. An artist has no frame of reference from which he can build an objective depiction of phenomena that are way outside the scope of his personal experience.
Were these visions real? Did they take place in the real world? If so, who created them? Was it the supreme creator of the universe? Or was it a genre of beings from another planet or dimension with the vastly superior technology needed to produce such laserific spectaculars? Or did these visions take place entirely within the minds of their beholders? Were they simply mental movies projected onto the backdrop of the surrounding countryside? If so, how were they created? Were they drug-induced by magic mushrooms? Were they the result of mirage montages augmented by dazzle from the desert sun? Were they hallucinations resulting from some kind of cerebral malfunction? Or were they the deliberate creations of their writers' imaginations?
One thing that sets human consciousness above that of an animal is its ability to converse with itself. The second party to such a conversation can also be a human consciousness that is not self. In this case, it is a simulation, within the mind, of a separate human consciousness. This can be a model of a real person whom self knows or an imaginary person whom self has created. The ability to model another human consciousness enables one to sit in another's place so that he can see and feel the world - at least in part - from the other's point of view. This, in turn enables humans to relate on a basis of shared values and interests rather than merely for mutual survival. With his real fellows, a human can hereby form a real society. However, he can also form a whole coterie of imaginary fellows with whom he can act out any imaginary scenario he desires, the latter being the engine of creativity and planning.
I think most people at times converse with themselves. For instance, every time you consciously reason out how to do something, you are conversing with yourself. Most people can also create and manipulate imaginary objects and people in their minds. This is how all fiction is created. Business and military strategists enact mental scenarios with imaginary participants when they attempt to answer their rhetorical what if questions. Theoretical scientists also have to create imaginary constructs in their quest to discover the mechanisms that underlie the universe. Most people, however, have a clear perception of the demarcation between imagination and reality.
When most people use imagination to simulate possible scenarios of the real world, the imaginary objects and people involved obey the laws of physics. They have forms and behaviours that are consistent with what their forms and behaviours would be in the real world. But imagination need not be bound by the constraints of reality. For instance, it is possible to imagine an egalitarian society where everybody loves his neighbour as himself. It is possible to imagine machines and vehicles that can do things that are way beyond the capabilities possible with current technology. It is possible to imagine objects and phenomena that defy the laws of physics. It is possible to imagine people or beings that possess powers way beyond what is human.
A small proportion of people have difficulty in perceiving the demarcation between imagination and reality. This could be because the person's perception of reality is warped or distorted due to their cerebral mechanisms not working properly. It could also be caused by cerebral intoxication resulting from the intentional ingestion of exotic drugs or potions. Under such conditions a person may see glowing translucent humanoid forms that can fly or hear enticing voices from within his mind. If this is how such a person perceives reality, think of what he could create in his imagination.
Whenever one's eyes present one's brain with a nebulous or indistinct field of vision, the first priority of its visual post-processing networks is to try to parse out a recognizable human face from the confusion. This is why we see faces in the clouds, twiggy witches among the branches of a dark forest and ghosts in the folds of bedroom curtains. The recognized face need not be of a known real person: it could be of a creature of one's imagination. The same is true where the field of vision is too bright. Consequently, it is not unreasonable to suppose that this could be how the ancient prophets, especially when in a weakened and delirious condition after sustained fasting, would "see" gods, angels and strange creatures in the dazzle of the desert sun.
The human brain does something similar with sounds. Whenever one's ears present one's brain with a cacophonic soundscape, its audio post-processing networks first try to parse out human sounds from the confusion. This is why the ambient sounds of nature like wind blowing through trees, birds and animals mixed with a babbling stream or the breaking of waves on the seashore can seem to contain human chatter, laughter or even speech. Wishful thinking with a little help from the delirium of sustained fasting or drugs could even cause this perceived speech to make sense.
But considering the purported superlative importance of these prophetic messages, I feel that if they were indeed from the creator of the universe who authored such precise laws as E=Mc², he would make sure they were delivered to their intended audience in a direct and definitive way that left no space for doubt or ambiguity.
However enigmatic these messages may appear, their direct recipients meticulously passed them on. Sooner or later they were committed to writing in ancient tongues on parchment scrolls. Much later in history, certain of these writings were selected by religious leaders for inclusion in a single grand volume known as the Tanakh. Later still, God is said to have come himself in the human form of Jesus Christ to clarify and extend the messages delivered to the ancients. What Jesus Christ said - both in the flesh and later through visions - to certain chosen individuals was also committed to writing, some of which was later selected together with the Tanakh, for inclusion in the single grand volume known as the Holy Bible.
There are, however, many versions of what is termed the Holy Bible. Some versions include certain extra apocryphal (hidden) books. Which books are included in any particular version of the Holy Bible depends on the particular belief-system of who is doing the selecting. Many religious people assert that the selection process was divinely inspired and therefore completely authentic and accurate. But which version was divinely inspired and which were not? It is clear from the content of the Holy Bible that a lot of essential context is missing. Without this extra context, it cannot be understood clearly and unambiguously. Perhaps, at the time the books were written, this context was common knowledge, which became lost along the path of history.
Unfortunately, during its long process of creation and selection, the Biblical text has undergone many stages of distortion and corruption.
It was first put into the words of what is to us an ancient alien language and expressed in terms of the cultures of the societies in which the original writers lived. These must certainly have been vastly different from the modern work-a-day world in which we live today.
And herein lies a problem. Because a word only represents a reality, both he who speaks it and he who hears it must have the same understanding or vision of what that reality is. Both must use the same Vital Key to interpret it. If they don't, the message received will not be the same as the message sent. It may not be totally garbled. In fact it may appear to make sense for the most part. But its meaning will have been twisted and corrupted during transmission through no fault of either the speaker or the hearer.
It was then translated at least once to get it from its original language, such as ancient Hebrew or Aramaic, into modern languages like English. However, translation is not just a matter of substituting words and changing their order to suit the different grammar.
Each language evolves and shifts in meaning and nuance over time. Consequently, re-scribed versions become newly interpreted in the light of evolving cultural views and values. The text could also have been subjected to deliberate creative editing. This could have been done by academics to improve expression but inadvertently changed the meaning in the process. It could also have been instigated by political influences to tune the text to serve a partisan ambition or by religious leaders to incorporate alien doctrines from pre-established religions and belief systems.
We have the whole text today in our own native languages. But the message it conveys is told in terms of an ancient and alien culture. Yet the only frame of reference we have against which to try and unravel it is the culture of our own very different world.
However tenuous its journey from the past may have been, there can be little doubt that The Holy Bible purports to be a message from beings who inhabit a higher reality that is beyond our ability to perceive. It purports to tell us about that higher reality and of a divine plan to make us part of it.
The messages conveyed by the Biblical text are of a mixed nature. The ten commandments and the rules that were given to regulate the society of ancient Israel are fairly cogent and systematic. Prophecy, on the other hand, is couched in indefinitive riddles and enigmas, which can be readily mapped onto various episodes of human history. The reason these revelations are taken so seriously is because they address the deepest concern of the conscious self. Human consciousness has at its core both the power and the propensity to embrace the concepts of infinity and eternity. It can ponder about space continuing forever beyond its horizon. It can imagine an infinity of time before its own beginning and after its own demise.
How can human consciousness have this capacity? It is apparently contained within the confines of a finite brain. Why does it have this capacity? Having it offers no survival advantage within the here and now. On the contrary, it jeopardizes survival by fuelling fear of death and despair of being. If the human consciousness could not embrace the concept of eternity, death would be the naturally accepted sequel to life. The living would not seek death. But they wouldn't live in fear of it either. But human beings do fear death. And this ancient text boldly addresses this most fundamental of human fears by offering the possibility of life after death.
The visions that convey cogent systematic content could be genuine messages from beyond our domain. Nevertheless, nothing they contain is beyond the wit of creative human thought. Their egalitarian ideals of reciprocal love and social justice are fundamental to human consciousness. The exotic means of idealized transportation they portray are certainly within the realms of human imagination. The wishful ambition to become immortal is a universal consequence of the ability of human consciousness to perceive self, infinity and eternity.
Any thinking person can see that a society based on exploitation through mass subjugation by an elite minority has to be inherently unstable. Advancing technology will make economies ever more connected and reactive until instability becomes dysfunctionality. Consequently, the world cannot other than end up destroying itself in a global conflagration of war, famine, pestilence and death. Perhaps the prophets were well-meaning thinkers who felt a burden of obligation to give mankind its due warning. However, they knew that a shallow-minded greed-driven majority would never accept, admit to or heed what they said. They needed some kind of all-powerful deistic authority to lend weight to their words. For this reason, they portrayed themselves as the mere messengers of these dramatic visions of doom and destruction.
The biblical text also contains warnings of a far worse consequence that potentially awaits each of us beyond the grave. And it is something from which we each need to be saved. Or, at least, this is what most people seem to think. Notwithstanding, the version of the message of salvation that seems to be entrenched within the popular mind is not the one I see portrayed in the biblical text. Furthermore, I see irreconcilable incompatibilities between the overview (the big picture) projected by the text as a whole and certain pockets of isolated detail. This is the clear hallmark of creative editing. The way in which these pockets of ill-fitting detail differ from the overview suggests to me that the text has been deliberately tampered with in order to mould it into a tool of mass repression and subjugation by unscrupulous domineering elites down through the ages.
The term salvation does not describe the theme that the biblical text as a whole conveys to me. What it portrays is a process that I would describe as social advancement through spiritual evolution. The ancient Israelites were freed from slavery under the elite-dominated hierarchy of ancient Egypt. They were then given the rules and the means to live freely as equals according to an egalitarian system. But they failed. To succeed, each participant would first need to undergo a quantum leap in spiritual evolution. The biblical text then goes on to describe a divine master plan by which all this will supposedly be brought about for the whole of humankind. The super-structure of this plan is pictured by the seven original holy days given to the ancient Israelites.
The finality of the master plan seems to be that all human beings hopefully will be transformed into immortal god-beings. That is, they will all become members of the god-species that inhabits dimensions of the universe that I have referred to as the higher reality.
Any message about a higher reality can only come from a form of life that exists within that higher reality. For convenience and clarity, I shall adopt religious terminology and refer to the species of life that inhabits this higher reality as god. [I have not used a capital letter for god here because I am referring to a species of life as opposed to a person who is a member of that species.] The only way we could know anything about the existence and nature of this higher reality is by god sending us a message telling us about it. But as our senses can't detect this higher reality we can have no experience of it. Consequently, we have no mental frame of reference against which to understand and interpret the words of any message we may receive that attempts to describe to us this higher reality.
If god lives in a higher reality, yet is able to communicate with man here in this physical reality, he must exist in - and be able to sense and influence - both. Yet if man is not equipped with the means to sense the higher reality, or the beings that inhabit it, how can those beings communicate with man? What possible common frame of reference could there be, in terms of which god could explain this higher - or spiritual - reality to man?
The only way I can see of constructing an effective frame of reference is for god to make physical reality an analogue of spiritual reality. The two realities would thereby be based upon the same principles of structure and behaviour. This would give man everyday experience of physical events, processes and mechanisms that are analogues of events, processes and mechanisms that exist, and take place, in the higher reality. This experience would then build within the mind of man a mental frame of reference against which he could interpret and understand any language-borne messages from god that describe and explain the nature of this higher reality. It would enable god to explain spiritual things in terms of physical things. This, as far as I can see, is the method used by the textual messages of the Bible to explain the higher reality that is beyond the reach of our human senses.
Consequently, the higher reality was explained in terms of analogies of the celestial, geophysical and agrarian objects and processes that were familiar to the ancient writer and his contemporaries. They were part of their everyday lives. Of these, it was assumed that, all human recipients of the message would have extensive personal experience. In the model society of ancient Israel - and for that matter, in most societies throughout most of history up until comparatively recent times - this was probably true. But alas, for the vast majorities in today's modern capitalist economies it is not.
The wage labourer of today is confined, by his industrial economy, to live in isolation from the agrarian processes upon which these analogies of the higher reality are built. He never has the opportunity to absorb the diverse detailed knowledge of nature that his agrarian predecessor had. And the glaring street lights of the modern city obliterate the cycles of the heavens from his observation. Thus deprived of direct daily participation in basic agricultural processes, the subject of the modern capitalist state is never able to acquire the mental frame of reference he needs to be able to interpret and understand the message of the Bible. Consequently, for him to be able to understand the ancient message expounding the nature of the higher reality, the analogies themselves must be changed. Spiritual things must be explained as analogies of physical things with which he is familiar.
Herein lies a problem. Geophysical and agrarian objects and processes, with which the ancients were familiar, are natural. They are governed by the natural laws of physics. The social and economic processes, on the other hand, with which today's wage labourers are familiar, are entirely artificial. They are governed by the artificial 'laws' of parliament and the protocols of commerce.
The message of the Bible implies that all natural objects and processes were created specifically to serve as physical analogies of the objects and processes that form the higher reality. Geophysical and agrarian objects and processes, familiar to the ancients, must therefore be perfect analogies of those of the higher reality. These physical things therefore facilitate a perfect understanding of the spiritual things they represent.
The artificial objects and processes of a capitalist economy were never designed by their makers to be perfect analogies of spiritual things. They were designed specifically to facilitate unlimited self-gain by a favoured few, through the free exploitation of the many. This principle of selfish gain is the very antithesis of the way nature's systems operate. The man-made objects and processes of capitalism can therefore never serve as analogies of the objects and processes of the higher reality.
The modern wage-labourer has day-to-day hands-on experience only of the objects and processes of a capitalist economy. Capitalist economics has severed the links with the economic objects and processes of nature that his ancestors had through their agrarian economy. Capitalism has thus deprived him of the analogical key needed to be able to understand and validate any received message claiming to unveil the higher reality.
The slaves of modern capitalism lack more than the vocabulary of physical analogies needed to unlock the Biblical message. They have inherited superstitions and belief-systems from their "pre-Christian" ancestors that are at odds with it. These twist the way in which different people interpret the analogies they see in the text. They act like a malformed lens, distorting the otherwise sound analogical frame of reference provided by their practical experiences of the natural physical world.
These beliefs and superstitions, implanted and perpetuated by their exploiting rulers, were the only context within which the ancestors of the modern wage-labourer could understand anything. Consequently, any message, forced upon them by zealous evangelists, that proved incompatible with their established beliefs and superstitions had to be bent and warped until it fitted. But it was then, necessarily, no longer the same message.
The great cacophony of inconsistent religious creeds, echoing around the world and down through history, suggests that different people see a very different message in exactly the same syntax. The text is rich in analogy. The differences must therefore stem, at least in part, from the different personal experiences against which these different people interpret the analogies used in the text. However, this is not the only cause of the great diversity in the systems of belief, or doctrines that conflictingly exist in the world.
Another cause of this great diversity is the blinkered approach many have towards reading the text. Many groups set themselves apart from all others by belief in a doctrine that hinges entirely on a single sentence. Such a small sample of syntax is very susceptible to multiple historic copying and translation errors, the misunderstanding of its scope or context and shifts in the meanings of words. These errors are compounded by global causes of misinterpretation such as the differences in culture and circumstances between ancient writer and modern reader.
The ancestors of the modern wage-labourer had the advantage over him of having agrarian experience. This provided them with a means of understanding any message about a higher reality. However, their established beliefs and superstitions twisted it in a myriad different ways as it entered their minds. Consequently, the single original message - assuming it ever existed - was regurgitated as a plethora of competing creeds that evolved concurrently in an uneasy co-existence.
These creeds were thus passed down to the wage-labourers of modern capitalism. The messages they promulgated did not make much sense. Being deprived of the experiences of nature needed to facilitate his understanding of spiritual things through physical analogy, the modern wage labourer is truthfully unable to make sense of any of them. As a result, most have rejected that original message. The rest pay it lip service for no other reason than to avoid offending those of their ageing relatives who still believe. Almost all see it as being irrelevant to themselves.
This isn't surprising. The modern wage-labourer doesn't see his needs of life coming from autonomous processes within the terrestrial biosphere at the command and by the power of a supernatural god. On the contrary, he sees his food coming from the shelves and freezer cabinets in his local supermarket at the command and by the power of a corporate image. His faith is not in a supernatural creator, but in the movers and shakers of the free market economy who long ago severed his access to, and hence his knowledge of, the natural processes of the biosphere.
Thus the modern wage-labourer not only lacks the analogical knowledge to understand a higher reality: he also lacks any awareness or conviction that its existence could even be relevant.
The fact that there is no reliable frame of reference, against which to discern what is already a heavily corrupted message, is bad enough. But that is not all. The content of the message has been intentionally arranged in a fragmented way to ensure that even the pure signal is inherently difficult to unravel. The message even describes itself as:
Precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little: For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people... that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken. Isaiah 28:10-12
This message is, by its own admission, a bitch of a jig-saw puzzle depicting something that is beyond human experience, with no established context to work from. Consequently, to have any chance of unravelling it at all, it is essential to approach it like a spy planning and expediting an act of espionage. Many decades ago, I became intrigued by this vast enigmatic work and decided to embark on this act of espionage to try to unravel what this ancient text was about.
Living under a régime that denied me access to the mechanisms of nature as a means of turning my labour into my needs of life, how could I gain the experience necessary to understand a message that used physical analogies to illustrate spiritual things? I needed an alternative yet equally valid frame of reference against which to interpret and validate the Biblical message.
I decided that the only tangible frame of reference I could apply was nature itself. The only test of validity available to me was that the message be consistent with direct observation and the established laws of nature.
Providentially I took science at school and college. Science is the study of nature and the laws through which it operates. I then decided to follow a career in engineering. This is simply the application of scientific knowledge to the design and production of artificial mechanisms to perform useful tasks and processes. The field I chose was that of writing computer software - at first for engineering applications and then for applications in general.
My knowledge and appreciation of science, applied to systems engineering, taught me a lot about how nature works. It gave me a glimpse of the very fabric of the universe, the mechanisms to which it gives body, and the processes they support. It gave me a microscopic view of our physical reality as opposed to the macroscopic view that the ancient agrarians saw. Nevertheless, these two views were of exactly the same thing. They were merely seen from two different viewpoints. The same underlying laws applied. Laws that were never violated. Laws that formed a systemic continuum. Laws that were of one cogent mind.
I had no knowledge or experience of agrarian systems. Nevertheless, my scientific and engineering background gave me a good feel for the nature and character of the laws that govern all things physical. I thereby felt reasonably equipped to build a sufficiently accurate model within my mind of the agrarian systems used by the ancient texts as analogies of mechanisms, systems and processes that supposedly existed in the higher reality.
Scientific knowledge and engineering experience can never provide as perfect an analogical vocabulary for understanding the higher reality as can experience of using nature to turn one's labour into one's needs of life. This is because the only messages available concerning the higher reality use agrarian analogies. Nevertheless, the scientific mind is much better equipped to understand analogies based on physical reality than is the business or political mind, whose only bases for analogy are unnatural rules and conventions invented by self-seeking humans beings.
Having a workable alternative frame of reference, I then needed to formulate some effective rules to unravel this convoluted text. The rules I devised are as follows:
Always employ knowledge and understanding of natural phenomena as the control reference or context against which to interpret the text. Never use man-devised laws, rules or conventions to do this.
Always compare new bits of the text with the whole of what is so far known. In other words, test each part to see that it is compatible with the whole. If it isn't, then it is the new part - not the established whole - that is most likely to be wrong. The incompatibility is probably due to a translation error or a misunderstanding of the ancient context within which it was written.
Never extrapolate a whole doctrine from a single statement. Instead, gradually build up an overall mental picture of growing clarity. An accurate fuzzy overview is always of far greater value, and is much more credible than a misunderstood and erroneous item of small detail.
Following these rules provides no guarantees. I could never be certain that what I understood the message to say was right. I could only take steps to maximise the probability of it being right. This is consistent with the principles by which all natural mechanisms acquire and exchange information. So, having tried to apply faithfully these rules of study, what did I find to be the message buried within the ancient text? I shall give it only in broad overview. To cover it in detail would need a whole book in itself. However before I begin, I first want to make clear the following.
This account of the message contained in the ancient text is the message as I see it. It is as viewed from where I stand within time and space. It is as viewed from my position within the socio-economic system of the U.K. during the second half of the 20th Century. It is the meaning I have abstracted from the syntax by interpreting it against the only reality-based frame of reference I have. And that is the knowledge I have absorbed on my journey so far through the natural, educational, social and economic environments that have filled the time and space between myself and my unique personal self-relative 'event-horizon'. Finally, my interpretation of the message is not without philosophical and doctrinal anomalies.
It is with all this clearly and firmly in mind that, should you wish to do so, you must read my understanding of the message itself.
The only cogent message I can see in the biblical text appears dimly against a barrage of strong interference. It is like viewing an old analogue television station beyond the range of its intended coverage. The picture, though precise, is dim as if being viewed through a raging snow storm on a dark winter's night. Its sound, though crisp, is almost buried below the overwhelming hiss. Its signal is sporadically obliterated by another much more powerful station breaking in from an adjacent channel.
This adjacent channel shouts a different message. It is a contrary message. It is a message about a God who seems to have been created in the image of man rather than the other way around. This God is a schizophrenic. He is on some occasions benign and loving. On other occasions he is a pure psychopath. He is always an exclusivist. You are either one of the family or you are an outsider. He seems to encompass the full spectrum of human psychology and psychoses. It seems to me that such a God can have only been created by men - bad men.
He seems to have been created as the archetypal bogeyman to put fear into the subjects and enemies of his human creators. His power comes from the minds of the masses who fear him - a power that is made possible by the ability of the human consciousness to perceive omnipotence, infinity and eternity and the fear of death and damnation that this engenders.
There is little doubt that the universe contains dimensions that are fundamentally beyond the reach of human sense and perception. Consequently, any individual is free to declare it to contain whatever he cares to imagine. And nobody can factually refute it. It is for each of us a virgin realm that we may populate with whatever kind of being, possessing whatever kind power, living under whatever kind of social order.
This means that, at the time of writing, there could be just over 7,000 million such imaginary versions of the part of the universe that is beyond human sense and perception. That is, one for each member of the human race. It is evident that exigent dominators have used this space to build fictitious hyper-realities with which they have managed to subjugate gullible believers through fear. Perhaps the divine sadistic psychopath whose exploits are woven into the pages of the biblical text is such a creation of such ancient human dominators.
On the other hand, there must exist the real version of whatever fills and inhabits the part of the universe that is fundamentally beyond human sense and perception. Whatever is there can never be either confirmed or denied by scientific investigation. But this does not in any way suggest that it does not exist. Perhaps hyper-physical beings did once upon a time cross into our dimensions to deliver a pure message to humankind. Perhaps the message of egalitarian love seen dimly throughout the ancient pages is that message. But if so, it is a little truth that has been inseparably mixed with a deluge of error. It seems that the exigent enslavers of mankind knew well that the best way to discredit truth is not to confront it but to pollute it.