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Monday, May 25, 2015

Restoring Commonwealth requires Republican Corporations

As usual I find I get my examples for what to do from what the wealthy and connected are opposed to, and my examples for what not to do from their looting and depredations. I also get my models from history, from analyzing the ideas of the right. In an article called "The GOP and ALEC -- ALEC's war on the cities" The author notes:

"Few ideas are more powerful in U.S. politics than local control. The South rallied around states’ rights during the Civil War. Conservatives rage at the federal government for meddling in local matters." [http://inthesetimes.com/article/17928/the-gop-and-alecs-war-on-cities]

A writer named George Will has carried on about the Concept of "Subsidiarity" where specific power is delegated to the most local person for good reason.

"Subsidiarity is an organizing principle that matters ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest or least centralized competent authority. Political decisions should be taken at a local level if possible, rather than by a central authority." [See Post: Subsidiarity and Fascism]

The concept is well developed in Fascist literature, and also in more communitarian democratic literature. Elinor Ostrom also talked about the importance of keeping control over common properties local in her "8 principles of managing a commons." You would think, with all the talk from both left and right about concepts like Subsidiarity you'd think everyone would be on board.

Sadly, the Con Artist Grifters of the Right are after loot, respect and power; not the common good. And their model is still the "plantation" not democracy. In a plantation organization one person rules the plantation, and everyone works for or is directed by them. As I pointed out in my recent post "Constitutional Tyranny", the Southern States, organized as they were around plantations as extensions of the British Crown, and later as extensions of State Capitals, were organized around a hierarchical counterfeit of liberty that has come to be known as "libertarianism" in our time that reified the planters and amplified the power of hereditary wealth and connections. I quoted the historians David and Jeanne Heidler:

"Plantation agriculture kept the region rural; town meetings didn't occur because there were precious few towns. Instead, southerners relied on hierarchical relationships with planters at the top of a social structure too vertically linear to be described as even pyramidal. A mass of poor whites was at it's base, and slaves were completely under it."

For the right the State (starting with The County) is based on King-like Judges with lifetime tenure,

"County Courts with lifetime judges reflected the will of the upper class, and slavery made white unity and consensus imperative."

Counties that were like little kingdoms, and Sheriffs, and is a model that is excellent for ruling over a mass of poor and dispossessed. If Democracy is confined to easily rigged elections then Subsidiarity in a plantation mentality means that the power is with the local landlord -- the plantation owner and his supervisors. They are overseen by legislative and executive Councils who represent the plantation owners. Something similar has been the pattern for Banana Republics around the world. Change the term "Sheriff" or "County Executive" to "President", "El Caudillo" or "El Jefe" and you have the structure for any Oligarchic Republic from the USSR to Chile.

This plantation model was something the South loved. It was a strict hierarchy that was modeled on the Feudal model of old, which in turn was modeled on the Byzantine Military Model. Essentially a plantation is an army model planted on top of and controlling a base of slaves. Indeed when the Generals of the Union Army won the Civil War they found that model to be excellent and applied it to creating companies that made the plantation conceptual. A "President" who presides over a hierarchy of soldiers on top, yes, an army of slaves. This is a model that contrasts with that of Civility and Democratic Republicans. The Union may have won the war, but the Generals who fought it were converted to a plantation model of running their business. And this contrasts with the concept of Civility.

The US Right Wing Imposing this Atomized Liberty vision on the Country

Southern and Businessmen Caudillos are so comfortable with their model of a strictly authoritarian and oppressive public order that they call the alternative "collective" even when they are talking about the original model for Republics and Democracy -- the City, Town, Village Government. As the South Changes city people and townsmen aren't satisfied with hereditary judges and Governors. They want the real thing. And Democracy is "messy and has to be limited. Thus you get incongruities such as Abbot calling the exercise of Municipal Democracy "collectivism". Abbot claims:

“city-level bans on plastic bags, fracking and tree-cutting” ... “form a patchwork quilt of bans and rules and regulations,” Abbott said, “that are eroding the Texas model” and turning the state into California." [http://inthesetimes.com/article/17928/the-gop-and-alecs-war-on-cities]

Something he terms "collectivism" and thus he's pushing on the Texas legislature "pre-emptive" laws to prevent such a horrific possibility. Heaven help Texas if it should "turn into California."

"Texas legislators have responded with proposals to preempt local laws, including a bill that would prevent local governments from issuing any ordinance that “conflicts with or is more stringent than a state statute or rule.”" [http://inthesetimes.com/article/17928/the-gop-and-alecs-war-on-cities]

But it isn't just Texas doing this. The "Southernization" and "corporatism" of the North is proceeding apace. And pre-empting "subsidiarity" and local democracy has become their response to "wild" civility:

"Such bills blocking progressive laws are growing in popularity across the United States, especially in GOP-controlled legislatures. Last year, for example, when Oklahoma City debated raising its minimum wage to $10.10, the state legislature passed a law preventing cities from enacting wage increases." [http://inthesetimes.com/article/17928/the-gop-and-alecs-war-on-cities]

This is an assault on the concept of civility itself. And this battle. This battle for the soul of the United States is a battle between a future that resembles the past and one that builds on the past. It is a battle between the founding vision of "civility" and the counterfeit vision of authoritarian hierarchy. Between whether we embrace a founding vision of civility and common good or of libertarian "do what you will" individual freedom to be local tyrants over others. In one the people feel free because the only check on their own power to do as they please is the Sheriff and County Judge and of course, the local landlord or boss. In the other people participate in their own fate. And it only has to be nipped in the blood:

"Progressive muscle-flexing by urban America on the minimum wage, fracking and other key economic and environmental issues poses a serious challenge to the GOP’s program of obstruction in Congress. It also threatens the deep bias of our national politics toward red states and conservative ideology. That makes subverting the power of cities an urgent task for conservatives, even if it means becoming “meddling bureaucrats” themselves." [http://inthesetimes.com/article/17928/the-gop-and-alecs-war-on-cities]

A Corporate Model of Civility as "Collectivism" versus Caudillo-ism

I believe that what they really fear is not "collectivism" but that people will catch on to their "caudillo-ism" and resist. Plastic bag laws and other restrictions on public behavior can infringe on the "personal liberty" of people to do as they please no matter how crazy or short-sighted, but what they really represent is a growing sense of empowerment and a return of:

"Civic Virtue: corporate exercise involving church elders, town aldermen, even congressional delegations, all working in concert to advance the common interest." [http://inthesetimes.com/article/17928/the-gop-and-alecs-war-on-cities]

The fact is that we already have an alternative corporate model to the tyrannical, hierarchical caudillo model of corporate governance. And it is the Republican model. Why a party named "The Republican Party" would be obsessed with poisoning and reducing it's original version would escape me, except that that is the vision of the Party of Lincoln. The New England Town Hall, with it's direct Democratic forms, limited executive, enfranchised citizens and civic virtues was a model developed over time by people devoted to principles developed from classical times to the present in the face of tyranny. The Republicans, seduced by a different, militarized model fear it. They have to stop it.

Rather than conceding power to tyrannical corporations, gerrymandered districting and Senates and Houses that rabidly attack the very principles of Democracy. We need governments that replicate the principles of the constitution and not in cynical counterfeits of their forms. We should be pushing for a model of governance of our common systems that is networked, deconflicts powers for the common benefit and has bottom up representation. Yes, the executive should be "top down" but each level should have to stand election, and have citizen oversight. We shouldn't have standing armies standing on the necks of ordinary citizens, but local order. We shouldn't have giant companies that pay hundreds of millions to their CEOs while ignoring the pleas of householders for an extra day to pay. Instead our national companies should be run under Republican principles. At the same time we need giant organizations to govern and direct our national networks. These should be governed with a legislature from below and an executive that consults subdivisions. Privatizing public utilities grants their revenues to caudillos. Often for the foreseeable future.

These ought to be principles of good governance. It shouldn't be up to a cabal whether plastic bags are supplied free by companies or are taxed. The power of legislatures over purse, requirements and law is the power of good government and is a principle our ancestors fought for over a 500 year period. The antidote to excessive bureaucracy and top down dictatorship is neither in the Caudillo style government nor in Caudillo Corporations but in the vision of Democracy established, first in the North and later in the Constitution, there are three branches of government each independent and each limited with separation of powers. But it's not so easy.

"Power concedes nothing without a demand,” Frederick Douglass wrote. Injustice and wrongdoing will, as Douglass put it, “continue until they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both.” Cities are beginning to demand an end to our national political paralysis and to implement policies that most of us agree on. Conservatives are pushing back. The evidence suggests that the war between urban America and a political system radically rigged against it is just beginning." http://inthesetimes.com/article/17928/the-gop-and-alecs-war-on-cities
http://inthesetimes.com/article/17928/the-gop-and-alecs-war-on-cities

Their Families have a right to Mourn them

I mourn the death of my brother man,
Their families have the right to Mourn them.
...they didn't die in vain.
When I come to understand,
They shed the blood of sacrifice to erase a stain
and an evil spell, a dream,
we needed to wake up from.
That "all men are created equal"
means only some.
 
They arose to fight from beneath a stoney hierarchy
to emerge to run in wild abandon, shouting their rebel yell.
across green fields angry, spiteful and fell.
reaping death in waves across the open fields.
Against the stone of righteousness that awaited them.
Their blind bravery only proving,
that might doesn't make right,
and reality is not shaped by delusion.
They sought Glory,
But they found only pain
Poor and Rich, Masters and Slaves, died side by side.
But not for the same cause.
 
They proved that their vision of slavery as paradise
was an evil and a cruel illusion
for while they marched, the Union Army Camps,
were swelled by hordes of slaves who freed themselves,
as their chains lay neglected in the mud and blood,
of their masters lunatic war.
They rose, they fought, they died, they threw their weapons down.
And the conquering armies let them pick them up and go home.
 
Christopher H. Holte 5/25/2015

Further Reading

And the living honored the dead, by giving them a proper burial.

http://newsone.com/3117042/the-one-thing-african-americans-need-to-know-about-memorial-day/?omcamp=sf_N1TW

Constitutional Tyranny

I've been reading the book "Washington's Circle" by David S., and Jeanne, Heidler. The very first chapter had some gems of quotes about government that I need to analyze. Our founding fathers were divided mostly on sectional grounds, with the Northern delegates having a clear vision of the country as a developed place and the Southern delegates ironically pre-occupied with both slavery and "liberty." The result was a National Government that took 70 years, and a bitter civil war, to end slavery. That war, completed, we found ourselves ruled by oligarchy and a trust and corporate nightmare. Well the reason for that turns out to be hidden in our constitution. We setup a government that was based more on the Southern Plantation style government then on the Northern Town Charter government.

Our Founders setup a government premised on certain Northern Principles:

"Civic Virtue" [as a] "corporate exercise involving church elders, town aldermen, even congressional delegations, all working in concert to advance the common interest." [From "Washington's Circle" see below]

In that vision the Nation was to be an:

"organic creature, the body entire, and preserving its health was simply another obligation, the appropriate province of Government."

But he notes that Southerners didn't see government the same way.

"Plantation agriculture kept the region rural; town meetings didn't occur because there were precious few towns. Instead, southerners relied on hierarchical relationships with planters at the top of a social structure too vertically linear to be described as even pyramidal. A mass of poor whites was at it's base, and slaves were completely under it."

The genesis of this was in colonialism. The Early Crown colonies tried to replicate the tyrannical forms the Admiralty had found successful in Britain. They weren't able to export all of them to the United States because they needed a mass of free people and at least the illusion of opportunity to populate the country. In the North the Yeomen farmers replicated their own ideas about governance from a tradition of local rebellion against top down rule. But in the South the Brits were more successful in exporting tyranny through:

"County Courts with lifetime judges reflected the will of the upper class, and slavery made white unity and consensus imperative."

Sheriffs and the few elected officials represented this hierarchy, and fear of slaves, phantom outside enemies, or whatever the local leadership could drum up as the enemy of the week kept the south together despite the reality of oppression. Because the poor sometimes owned their own land and were told they were free, they supported the hierarchy. Because they were left alone in their misery as long as they didn't challenge this order the result was the illusion of personal liberty. Slave owners were free to oppress slaves, and the poor were free to do what they needed to do to get by. A sense of civic order, duty and common purpose was absent from this order. The attitude in the south was "leave me alone", and that is not conducive towards democracy because democracy depends on "stepping up" (Hoi Bollomenos) and involvement. That attitude has infected most of the country since then.

But the real coup is that the Founders grafted the Southern legal system into the National Government. We have a supreme court that "reflect[s] the will of the upper class" and increasingly our representatives reflect a southern Libertarian attitude ("leave me alone to practice pedaphilia and beat up my wife") versus a civil and liberal attitude ("I participate in my own government to secure my liberties and exercise my duty to my fellow man"). As a country we do Counties and Southern Style courts well, but civic virtue is under assault along with cities and towns. Ironically as the South has the population to support real civic structures, those are being trampled on from Boston to Detroit, to Washington D.C. We need to strengthen, restore and (in much of the country) recreate civic structures to restore and redirect our corporate structures to a more civic attitude.

And of course the point is, that in parts of the country, we never had those civic values in the first place. That is the real weakness of our Constitution.

Quotes from "Washington's Circle" by David S. and Jeanne T. Heidler:

http://www.amazon.com/Washingtons-Circle-The-Creation-President/dp/1400069270
My copy is from the Public library. I'm referring to some other books I'm reading too, but those aren't quoted.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

How the Defenders of the Trans Pacific Partnership have me supporting Warren

Authoritarianism and Democracy

I love President Obama. Not in the sense that one would love a lover, but because I like his personality, refreshing amount of honesty, and his decisions have been mostly ones I could support. If I can criticize him it's not for lack of trying. If he can't roll back the Security-Military-Police State single-handedly that is a three fingered thing. I've been frightened of where our country was going for a long time. I was afraid when he was elected in 2008 that his Presidency would be an interregnum between truly vile people. George Walker Bush and his administration were truly vile people and I'm afraid the Cons have transmogrified the GOP from a party that had reformers and progressives in it to a truly vile party.

Authoritarianism and the President

Obama still thinks these trade agreements are a good thing. He thought Afghanistan was our "Good War" and while he had criticisms of our Spy State, he seems to think we can keep the spy state and our civil liberties too. As long as there is a legal process then blowing people away without even a warrant for their arrest is okay with him. He wasn't "allowed" to close Guantanamo, so he didn't. All of the things he's wrong on I think he's sincerely, and consistently, wrong on. So I don't like making it personal about him. He's been wrong about what he's been wrong on from the beginning. And where he seems to have changed it was, maybe, because his original position came to seem to him to have been unreasonable. I sincerely believe that the "powers that be" took him aside on his inauguration night and read him a riots act on what he can and can't do. Since then I've watched people working for him defy him, such as the Drug Enforcement Agency. Others, like Eric Holder, were good choices on some issues, but not so good in other realms

Authoritarianism amplifies problems

Authoritarianism is the reification of authority. It is the support of people and policies, laws and violence, purely on the say-so of authorities. An authority originally was an author, but authorities are also the people who interpret what is written and rule in the name of their power to author decisions. When Bush said "I'm the decider" he was referring to his power to grant or deny life or death, torture or personal destruction; with the stroke of a pen. That is authority. Deifying authorities and persons gives us authorities. When people accept the word of someone over even the written word or their own reason -- that is authoritarianism. And sadly we Democrats suffer from authoritarianism too. We tacitly accept unacceptable things, use pretzel logic to ratify awful decisions and go along with what turn out to be the 'private, separate interest' of scoundrels, instead of holding soundly to our own principles and reason. Obama is great, but he has authoritarian followers and he too sometimes tells us "trust me I know, I'm the authority on this." And it's on us when we buy it. Nobody is perfect. Not even me. [that was an attempt at humor]

Support TPP or else!

Authoritarian people amplify the problems associated with hierarchy and the abuse of power. And they turn good ideas into bad ones. TPP is an example.

I've heard people lately tell me that if I question TPP I'm being played by the Right Wing. These are the same people who tell me that Snowden is evil because he's a libertarian and ignore the evidence we have of abuses of police and spy power. Anyway, I explained my reasons for questioning TPP in two past posts. My Previous blog on the Trans Pacific Partnership:

http://holtesthoughts.blogspot.com/2015/05/why-opposition-to-trans-pacific.html

Obama criticized Elizabeth Warren a few weeks ago. He and his administration have been focusing on the "straw argument" on Free Trade:

"The administration’s main analytical defense of the trade deal came earlier this month, in a report from the Council of Economic Advisers. Strangely, however, the report didn’t actually analyze the Pacific trade pact. Instead, it was a paean to the virtues of free trade, which was irrelevant to the question at hand." [Krugman Article]

And it is irrelevant to the questions we have! And we have more questions. Do we really need to turn 'intellectual property' into a lifetime sinecure? Krugman notes:

"On intellectual property: patents and copyrights are how we reward innovation. But do we need to increase those rewards at consumers’ expense? Big Pharma and Hollywood think so, but you can also see why, for example, Doctors Without Borders is worried that the deal would make medicines unaffordable in developing countries. That’s a serious concern, and it’s one that the pact’s supporters haven’t addressed in any satisfying way." [Krugman Article]

Krugman refers to the ISDS provisions. Krugman refers to the Investor State Dispute Settlement provisions:

"On dispute settlement: a leaked draft chapter shows that the deal would create a system under which multinational corporations could sue governments over alleged violations of the agreement, and have the cases judged by partially privatized tribunals. Critics like Senator Elizabeth Warren warn that this could compromise the independence of U.S. domestic policy — that these tribunals could, for example, be used to attack and undermine financial reform." [Krugman Article]

I already noted, that while we hear the earlier draft has been moderated, the articles at the ISDS website still advertise the ISDS as described in the leaks. Obama went so far as to criticize Warren telling us that the ISDS was now going to protect labor and that the TPP wouldn't have all those flaws we've been talking about. But as everyone has noted, he talks about Free Trade as if the alternative to this TPP would be high tariffs and trade wars. Which ignores the untrustworthy elements of the monopolistic attitude embodied in TPP for Investors. And worse, even more than what I described in my previous blog, as Alternet notes:

"The office puts out an annual report on “foreign trade barriers” around the world, going country by country to list complaints the U.S. government has about their laws with respect to commerce. If you read the 2015 report, you'll quickly see that many of the complaints are about laws designed to promote environment, labor, and anti-monopolistic practices – and relate only vaguely to the larger issue of trade and tariffs. The complaints seem more focused around opposing regulations that restrict the rights of multi-national corporations and their investors." [alternet:elizabeth-warren-right-about-tpp]

So essentially our suspicion that the TPP is mostly about putting a leash on US, is probably right!

If the "Pro-TPP" folks want my support they have to do better than play the authoritarian card

"Instead of addressing real concerns, however, the Obama administration has been dismissive, trying to portray skeptics as uninformed hacks who don’t understand the virtues of trade. But they’re not: the skeptics have on balance been more right than wrong about issues like dispute settlement, and the only really hackish economics I’ve seen in this debate is coming from supporters of the trade pact." [http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/22/opinion/paul-krugman-trade-and-trust.html?_r=0]

This is more a review than an effort to write a case for opposing TPP. I have grave doubts on these two subjects particularly and grave doubts that any of the promises made by the President and the Trade Authority are **in fact** true. And those doubts are amplified by the comments of Authoritarian supporters of the the TPP and the President's comments.

Post Script

I just found this article in Politico and it seems to cover the subject better than I can (not being able to read the draft):

http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/05/tpp-elizabeth-warren-labor-118068.html#.VWM4NE9Vikp

He writes:

"So-called “cleared advisors” like me are prohibited from sharing publicly the criticisms we’ve lodged about specific proposals and approaches. The government has created a perfect Catch 22: The law prohibits us from talking about the specifics of what we’ve seen, allowing the president to criticize us for not being specific. Instead of simply admitting that he disagrees with me—and with many other cleared advisors—about the merits of the TPP, the president instead pretends that our specific, pointed criticisms don’t exist." [Read more: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/05/tpp-elizabeth-warren-labor-118068.html#ixzz3bA91RVDS]

And he concludes:

"Congress should refuse to pass fast track trade negotiating authority until the partnership between the branches, and the trust of the American people is restored. That will require a lot of fence mending and disclosure of exactly what the TPP will do. That begins by sharing the final text of the TPP with those of us who won’t simply rubber-stamp it. [Read more: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/05/tpp-elizabeth-warren-labor-118068.html#ixzz3bAA6hNF0]
Great Position Paper to Read:
https://www.isglobal.org/documents/10179/25254/Transnational+Transparency/c419eb1e-731d-4bee-86ff-a783ef5eedcb
Alternet Article:
http://www.alternet.org/obscure-government-document-shows-elizabeth-warren-right-about-tpp
Paul Krugman/Washington Times:
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/22/opinion/paul-krugman-trade-and-trust.html?_r=0

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Reforms that the Banking System Needs

Reuters reports that "Global banks admit guilt in forex probe, fined nearly $6 billion". Loretta Lynch, the new Attorney General announced today that:

“Today’s historic resolutions are the latest in our ongoing efforts to investigate and prosecute financial crimes, and they serve as a stark reminder that this Department of Justice intends to vigorously prosecute all those who tilt the economic system in their favor; who subvert our marketplaces; and who enrich themselves at the expense of American consumers,” said Attorney General Lynch. “The penalty these banks will now pay is fitting considering the long-running and egregious nature of their anticompetitive conduct. It is commensurate with the pervasive harm done. And it should deter competitors in the future from chasing profits without regard to fairness, to the law, or to the public welfare.” [http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/five-major-banks-agree-parent-level-guilty-pleas]

Except it's not. If Loretta Lynch really wants to do something about Banker Fraud she has to start prosecuting individuals. And if we want some permanent changes we need to hold individuals and their management accountable for their actions. As someone said on the Ed Show today [paraphrasing] if we start frog marching management the rank and file will stop breaking the law. I believe that all bonuses, stock options, etc... should be put up against a Bond for Good Behavior for all officers of company doing business with the Government or having government powers over other people's money. Then when something like this happens the Taxpayer gets back his and her money from those bonuses instead of the thief conning the Government to give him/her more bonuses to fix the fraud he or she had committed. An article in US News notes:

“The sheer volume of contracts based on LIBOR defies the imagination. Estimates vary, but $500 trillion seems reasonable. Even if the banks lied by as little as one-tenth of 1 percent, that percentage applied to $500 trillion multiplied by the six years of the fraud comes to $3 trillion stolen from customers. Cutting that amount in half to allow for the fact that some customers benefited from the fraud while others lost still gives implied damages of $1.5 trillion, greater than the combined capital of all of the too-big-too-fail banks in the United States. Taken to the full extent of the law, these damages are enough to render a large segment of the global banking system insolvent. These damages will be pursued not by regulators, but in private lawsuits by class action lawyers.” [http://www.usnews.com/opinion/blogs/economic-intelligence/2012/07/23/libor-fraud-may-be-the-mother-of-all-bank-scandals]

5 Billion to settle 3 Trillion in damages is that "cost of doing business" that the Banksters talk about openly when they are telling their employees to commit fraud and break the law. They will continue breaking the law until they start being frog marched. And some of them will continue to do so until we stop rewarding them for their fraud and letting them pocket profits they never earned.

Real Reforms

Every person with a job that gives them control over Other People's Money, or supervisory power over such people, should be bonded for the amount of money they are handling. They should pay an insurance premium based on the risk of their portfolio. That bond should be owned by an organization (company or agency) with power to make good any losses from their behavior from that bond and to raise or lower the premium on the bond. Every one of those bonds should be secured by any promises of bonuses, stock options, etc.... and the bonding agency have the power to freeze, seize or put a lien on those securities. And when that person breaks the law unless the supervisor reports the infraction to the bonding agency and takes disciplinary action both the employee and the supervisory should be subject to action from the bonding agency. Want a safe secure system? That would do it as long as the bonding agency isn't "owned" by the executive wall street body handling people's money but is owned by the people of the country and/or the customers of the Financial Industry. A law can be crafted to that effect. It would be one that finally would have real teeth. Every employee or supervisor involved in the Financial Industry would sign an agreement binding him or her to the terms of this oversight and to pay premiums based on the risk of their portfolio. And the bonding agency would arbitrate disputes between investors and consumers, etc... If customers don't agree they can take them to court. Only the employees and supervisors would be bound by such arbitration agreements, not the customers. This is the reverse of how they operate now where they mostly stiff their less powerful customers -- such as pension plans.

Further Reading

I've been writing on this for several years now. So here are some related blog entries:
Corruption American Style
Hightower on our Corrupt system
Wall Street's Long Con Swindle of America
Freebooters Stealing Homes
Our Officers earned a Black Spot
Occupy Coordinated
Why Summers and Wall Street should not run the Federal Reserve
General Material (and fixes) on the subject:
Satans Usury
Depreciation Stock Sustainability
Postal Banking, Stamp Scripts and Fixing the Economy
Saving Europe
Hamilton's 1781 Bank Plan
Irving Fisher and Stamp Script
Organizing Communities Around the Post Office
Hamilton's Revenge II

Monday, May 18, 2015

Zuckerman Speaks or Why our privateers should stay out of politics

Mortimer Zuckerman wades into the policy debate, and in the process demonstrates why he and fellow executives need to stop interfering with US politics and trying to make themselves Oligarchs. All but one of his 5 suggestions either are the result of laws passed by Corporate Lobbyists in the past, out of touch with what mainstream America needs, or are downright opposite of what the country needs. Still some of his suggestions make sense and some make a great segue to real suggestions.

All References here come from:
US News Article: http://www.usnews.com/opinion/mzuckerman/slideshows/five-sure-fire-ways-to-create-more-jobs/1
  • Education
  • Education in the USA (and America in General) has problems for three reasons that have nothing to do with the line of bull we are getting from our oligarchs. He would say we need to:

    "Arrest and reverse the decline in American education that has left a workforce less able to compete in the new world. Skills, not muscle, are the only reliable path to high-wage jobs in an era when technology and globalization allow companies to make new investments in regions where labor is cheap and the newly emerging middle classes are eager for their products. We have let the education of our young people slide. America’s university graduation rates have slipped from near the top of the world to the middle."

    Demented HR

    But the trouble is that we still produce millions of graduates with thinking skills and education. If they lack specific skills that is as much due to our faulty policies towards training and hiring as their "lack of education." Zuckerman and company make a big deal of educating "new" programmers, while people with those educations can't get a job because they don't have the "latest and greatest" credentials demanded by poor quality Human Resources Departments who prefer to hire abroad anyway because the Government gives them benefits for doing so and they can send immigrants back home if they ask for too much money. I know a lot of older workers with the training to do those jobs if they won't hire younger people -- and HR Departments won't hire them! Zuckerman confuses getting an education with learning the skills for a particular job. A well educated person can work anywhere. Yet our companies prefer not to hire them, train them, or keep them. And that has nothing to do with their education, but with our demented HR departments.

    Corporations are unwilling to train employees

    In former times training new employees was a responsibility of employers. Folks would learn their jobs. In our country folks are sent to colleges where they pay thousands of jobs to learn skills that the HR departments then reject because they aren't a 100% match for the opening. The HR folks then hire foreign folks who sometimes are no better than their US counterparts but come highly recommended and with training tailored to the job. That is what we need here. Not deprecation of our people. Our people can learn if the resources are devoted to the schools so they can do so.

    Make Education Free to the Student

    For years now our privateering companies (including the one Zuckerman started) have been paying their pet politicians to defund public education and "privatize it", which means that education has gone from a public service model to a profit centered model. The result is schools that bilk parents, taxpayers, students and employers alike for the sake of salaries and profits. The growth in education costs has mainly occurred in "overhead" and that "overhead" has mostly been in the form of increased numbers of "managers" rather than teachers and private profits. Jefferson dreamed of education as a public right for all young students capable of passing entrance exams or passing the classes.

    His next one is the reason he deprecates US schools:

  • Visas
  • "Approve many more H-1B visas to permit highly educated graduate students in the hard sciences to work in engineering and technology. Contrary to popular perception of immigrants, these are people who would create more jobs rather than cost jobs. And make it easier, too, for tourists to get visas, as these are people who increase consumer spending here in the United States. In theory, skilled workers in America should benefit from globalization, given their skills and what they produce. But as countries like China rapidly upgrade their workforces through education, we find workers competing with those who get much lower pay."

    Foreign countries also limit US visas to their own countries. So there is no quid pro quo. And the H-1B programs are universally abused. I've been used for proposals from companies I later found out did all their hiring from abroad. It's a way of getting cheap labor. No more. If the program is restricted to actual scientists and very smart people maybe it would have some integrity. But this is just Mort's desire for cheap labor being expressed.

    His next recommendation is the product of laws written by corporations 20 years ago that now need to be reformed such as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) which made it easier for companies to sue people for even the most honest uses of content from others. He'd like to do create similar monopolies with patents so that it would be easier for companies to use frivolous lawsuits to enforce monopolies.

  • Patents
  • "Rationalize the stumbling process of certifying patents, which could and would unleash thousands of start-ups, the single greatest source of new employment."

    We grant too many patents as it is, and for too long. They are more a stumbling block than the innovation is, since too many products get sued for having someone elses old patent as part of the design.

  • Eliminate Uncertainty
  • Code for do away with the ACA and other social programs:

    "The elimination of a negative impact of policy uncertainty would also help the economy. A metric devised by economists at Stanford University and the University of Chicago shows that policy uncertainty accounts for about 2.5 million jobs lost. For example, they assert there is a widespread view in business that the healthcare bill makes it burdensome to hire and underscores how political uncertainty has made it much more difficult to plan ahead, a key need for every business. The National Federation of Independent Business asked small businesses their biggest problem. Sixteen percent of small businesses cited "government requirements and red tape."

    But it is an argument for single payer.

    His final proposal is the only one that makes sense:

  • Infrastructure
  • "Invest in a national infrastructure bank. Investing in overdue maintenance and repairs would create jobs in the short term and raise the efficiency of our private sector economy. Some infrastructure projects could be tolled so that the users would ultimately pay for them, and the projects should be chosen based on merit rather than on patronage. We ought to undertake new projects of the kind that built America. But we are not even keeping up with repairs, which means it will cost much more when our bridges, roads, dams, schools, and sewage and water systems collapse.

    The key here is that we need a revised Federal Reserve that includes an infrastructure bank. But this has to be owned by the people of the USA and the benefits of returns from such investments rebated to ordinary citizens. We could pay for all our infrastructure with fiat money backed by notes and retire the notes with paper money from the economic stimulus.

    The American Society of Civil Engineers has spelled out the need in convincing detail, but investment is now called that dirty word “spending.” So while millions sit idle and interest rates are historically low, the air is filled not with the sound of men at work but with fatuous slogans. We look askance at the Europeans fiddling while Rome burns, and maybe Madrid and Paris next, but Washington is the graveyard of American dreams."

    Such a bank should be a cooperative chartered bank, run under republican principles with 52+ member state Infrastructure Banks and branches in every county and municipality.

    Pardes/Paradise/The Treasure Tower

    Note:

    I first wrote this more than 10 years ago. It's part of a book called the PaRDeS I drafted back then. I'm working on republishing the book. But this contains much of the material that is in the book and I wanted to make sure I had it published somewhere to make it easier to find the material. Some of the links may not work because this is from an old webpage.

    The Garden of Mysticism

    Studying Kaballah in tandem with Buddhism is a real eye opener. Kaballah isn't just a 'received' esoteric teaching as an entry into a whole realm of fantastic literature. Even so I got into studying it as a skeptic, and that actually helped me. The ancient sages were cautious about Kaballah for a good reason. The Tractate Hagigah, opens up with the Mishna entry:
    MISHNA: One should not discuss illegal unions unless there were three besides him, nor the creation unless there were two besides him, nor the divine chariot with one individual, unless he was a wise man and had much knowledge of his own. Every one who tries to know the following four things, it were better for him if he had never come into the world, viz.: What is above and what is beneath, what was before creation, and what will be after all will be destroyed. And every one who does not revere the glory of his Creator, it were better for him he had not come into the world.[http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Talmud/hagiga2.html
    Enter the treasure tower yourself. Explore its precincts; the Treasure tower is the universalist teachings of the Buddhas and sages of old. It is the purpose of teaching the Nirvana Sutra, the Flower Garland Sutras, and Lotus Sutra itself, and also the target of Sufi and Safed mystics. But while it is told in entertaining and fantastic stories, the reality it is about is our own inward reality and the "meta" reality of this world. Thus the stories are not always literally true, their truth is bigger than that.

    One of the central stories of Kaballah and early Rabbinical teachings, is the story of the Four Mystics who entered Paradise, or the "Pardes". This story is told in terse and seemingly dense language. The story goes:

    "Four Entered the Pardes, these are they:
    Ben Azzai,
    Ben Zoma,
    Akher (Rabbi Ben Abuyya),
    and Rabbi Akiva.

    Rabbi Akiva Said to them:
    'When you reach the stones of Marble do not say 'Water Water' for it is said: 'He that speaketh falsehood shall not be established before mine eyes.'(Psalms 101:7)"
    Ben Azzai gazed and died, of him Scripture says:
    "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his righteous.(Psalms 116:1-5)."
    Ben Zoma gazed and was stricken. Of him scripture says:
    "Hast thou found Honey? Eat as much as is sufficient for thee, lest thou be filled therewith and vomit."
    Akher cut down the shoots.
    Rabbi Akiva descended in peace.1"


    Background

    In looking at the various religious traditions, I long ago asked the question. If religion is supposed to be a source of enlightenment, why is it so often a source of conflict? If it is supposed to be a source of wisdom, why is it so often a source of foolish or even self destructive behavior? After years of search, I found that the answers to that question were neither all that easy, nor all that complex. It turns out that the hardest part of seeking wisdom is in asking the right questions, and this question is one of the "right ones." The truth is, religion is meant to help us puzzle our way through life. The other stuff was just added to make the effort less difficult, more comprehensible and more entertaining. Unfortunately most people prefer fantasy and "flying" to sticking to the work involved. And their teachers sometimes don't mind letting them delude themselves as long as they keep getting paid. Thus religion, instead of doing what it was intended to do often leads to the opposite results from intended. I believe that this very brief story is an allegory about this very subject. Indeed there is a whole lot of wisdom packed into this story. Of which I'm just tapping the surface in this essay.
    Exploring the answer is part of the purpose of this webpage, indeed this website. Both Judaism and Buddhism have "layers" of teachings and the more I learn about both the more congruent I find them. And both have abundant experience with the consequences of "religious error." Judaism has suffered multiple holocausts, and Buddhism was nearly eclipsed from existence several times and has been totally eradicated in places like Afghanistan. As I continue to explore the meaning of this story I find myself gaining a whole new appreciation for both the perils and meaning of religion in its broader understanding. Indeed part of the answer is the following in this quotation from Jung's "Answer to Job:
    But] even the enlightened person remains what he is, and is never more than his own limited ego before the One who dwells within him, whose form has no knowable boundaries, who encompasses him on all sides, fathomless as the abysms of the earth and vast as the sky." (Par. 758)
    I came to study Jewish Esotericism as a follow up on my hypothesis that Nichiren Daishonin's critiques of Buddhist esotericism would also prove to be universal critiques that could apply to other religious traditions as well. This hypothesis turned out to be "true" but in a manner I never expected. Rather than finding "esotericism" simply an evil form of religion teaching magical thinking and messianism (or Guruism/Senseism/Maitreyism), I came to see the meaning and purpose of esotericism in a whole new fashion. And the key to this gate, the "key" to unlocking the treasure tower and entering it lies in understanding the message of this quite simple story.

    Background: Universals and Peculiarities

    As I followed various critiques of esotericism to their roots, I found there were certain themes that recur over and over again in all religion. The more I studied the more I saw these universalities applied not just to the truths, but also to the dangers and failings. In Buddhism the danger of Buddhism is expressed as the "Three Powerful Enemies." In Judaism this same warning is expressed with the story of the PARDES and the four rabbis who entered therein.
    Joseph Campbell points out some of the universal themes of religion in his seminal work "Hero of a Thousand Faces". One of those themes is the theme of the"magical place", variously described as a mystical palace, paradise, a Garden, the 'treasure Tower". He claimed to not be teaching a religion of his own, but it was clear that he too developed his own religious beliefs. Dr. Tom Snyder points this out in his essay Perceptions, Joseph Campbell's Power of Deceit, where he says that he bitterly attacked Christian and Jewish Theology. Joseph Campbell saw the universality of his myths, and saw them as being more original and more "in touch" with the interior spirituality of people than the present day Judeo-Christian traditions. But of course, if that were actually unqualifiably the case, then one must wonder, why were they abandoned in the first place? Perhaps we can answer that question and also shed light on the strengths and weaknesses of modern religion as well as ancient religion in the context of explaining this story. Because these universal themes also include universal dangers.

    The Perilous Journey

    The tales that we tell each other are often those of seemingly magical struggles or fantastic journeys. Such stories are termed "myths" if they are purely imaginary or envisioned, and "legends" if they have some basis in an original person or fact. This tale of the journey to the Paradise, is an exacmple of the "mythic." It is such a story. To interpret it as a literal journey would be to mistake both the purpose of teaching it and what it is talking about.
    Now I first saw this story was in the context of a book on Kaballah called "Kaballah and the Art of Being"2. I found that book while looking at some lovely and mystical paintings by Livne Smadar in my hometown of Savage. It was fascinating, and reading it led me to research this story independently. The author of that book offered complex expositions on the meaning of the story. But doing a little more research I've found a simpler and truer explaination for the story when I read that the PARDES is really an acronym! Applying a little bit of "Occams Razor" reasoning I've come to think that my hypothesis about this story is really a not so subtly coded message about the dangers of all forms of religious study and practice. They put it in terms of myth knowing that students would need to absorb it's message for themselves and might resist that message if they simply broadcast it in lectures like I'm trying to do. Those who studied the story, were expected to also be familiar with the biographies, works and words of the Rabbis mentioned in it. Thus the message was expected to be efficiently delivered.

    Acronym "PARDS"

    Pardes literally means a "Garden" or Arbor in Persian, but was borrowed into Hebrew to describe the paradise of the Garden of Eden. This story would seem to be about entering that garden, but in actuality the "Garden"/Pardes, was really a Hebrew Acronym! for the four kinds of religious interpretation. Here is the acronym:
    TermLetterTermMeaning
    1.PPeshat =Simple and often Literal meaning
    2.RRamez(Remez)=Metaphorical meaning, or "meaning hinted at in the text"(allegorical meaning)3
    3.DDrash(derush) =Allegorical meaning, also "midrashic or homiletic meaning"(moral meaning)
    4.SSod =Secret, "mystical," or Esoteric meaning (anagogical)(Kanjin)
    For my purposes I add in the vowels: A = Allegory, E= Esoteric

    Mythos and Logos

    The author, Karen Armstrong, writes in the book "The Battle For God":1
    "We tend to assume that the people of the past were (more or less) like us, but in fact their spiritual lives were rather different. In particular they evolved two ways of thinking, speaking and acquiring knowledge, which scholars have called "mythos" and "logos".
    Her footnote cites a source from a Book by Johannes Sloek, "Devotional Language" that was translated by Henrik Mossin. And she goes on to say:
    Both were essential, they were regarded as complementary ways of arriving at truth and each had it's special area of competance."
    Thus the visit to Paradise is the "Mythical" journey. And the story of the Pardes is a warning about the dangers of that journey. It is written in the preferred kind of language of it's time, which is the language of the "mythic."
    Most texts can be divided into portions that are mythic and portions that are expository. The dangers of the elements of the acronym are the dangers of confusing the mythic with the literal (logos; logic, words, thoughts, reason). Supplementing texts are our own mystical journeys. These journeys use the language of "dreams" and Karen writes about them this way:
    "Myth was regarded as primary; it was concerned with what was thought to be timeless and constant in our existence. Myth looked back at the origins of life, to the foundations of culture, and to the deepest level of the human mind. Myth was not concerned with practical matters but with meaning. Unless we find some significance in our lives, we mortal men and women fall very easily into despair.
    But this story warns us about the dangers of these mystical journeys and understandings. And these warnings are explained along with the stories of the four rabbis. The founder of the Nichiren School of Buddhism writes about this same subject this way(teaching affirmed by all the Buddhas)2:
    "As to the second category, the teachings of [the Buddha's] self-practice, this refers to the Lotus Sutra, preached over a period of eight years. This sutra expounds the original mind of waking reality. However, because the beings were habituated in thought to the mind-ground of dreaming, the Buddha borrowed the language used in dreams to teach the waking reality of the original mind. Thus the words of the sutra] are the language used in dreams, but its intent is to teach the original mind, which is waking reality. Such is the intent of the text of the Lotus Sutra and its commentaries. If one fails to understand this clearly, he will surely go astray concerning the text of both the sutra and and the commentarial text."
    The crux of the issue of "mythos and logos" is that mythos should inform logos. Myth or "dreams" should inform our waking lives. We should not be dreaming while we are awake, nor confuse what dreams are trying to tell us with reality. Likewise stories told in mythic terms, whether myths or legends, are meant to guide us and so we are never compelled to interpret them in literal terms.
    Corroboration:
    http://www.meru.org/literal.html

    The Meaning of the Story

    This story from the Talmud about the four Sages who went out to the Pardes (literally orchard); One of them gazed at the divine and went mad. Another one gazed and died. The third became an apostate, and only one -- Rabbi Akiva -- "departed in peace" and emerged wiser and more experienced. Is actually based on the hebrew acronym associated with the Persian word "Pardes". The meaning of the story, and it's use to us, hinges on this acronym:

    Insight into the meaning

    The meaning of the acronym is thus mapped to the story of the Pardes and the stories of the men/Rabbis (Teachers) who went inside of it. This subject is also congruent with some of the meanings, and warnings, of Buddhism. And expecially it is a clue to unlocking the warnings of the founder of the Nichiren School. This story is clearly a warning and a subject of meditation for people wishing to engage in religious study. It's message is meant to teach people on what to do, what not to do, and what the consequences of those choices are, in studying religion in general. Thus it is this story is a map for people setting off on religious paths. Someone compared it to Dante, and the comparison is Apt. Much of Kaballistic works read like the same mystical realm of Dante's Inferno.
    Now the interesting thing about these four forms of expositions, is that all the religions teach them, but most try to "confine" their use to narrowly prescribed zones. For instance "midrash" refers to the first 1000 years of this millenia. You can't write a "midrash" now? Hmmm. At any rate I'm rewriting this webpage at this moment so if you read this you'll see a very different webpage in a few days.
    In doing research into this story, the more research I probed, the curiouser and curiouser the issues became. I soon found links between Kaballah and heretical Jewish movements, then heretical Catholic movements and to magic, the occult, and to Buddhist Tantric teachings. Indeed the roots of Kaballah are found in ancient Jewish and Pagan mysticism, and it has antecedents and parallels both in Pagan mystery religion and in Gnosticism. And the causality of esotericism is clearly a one of grave peril.
    All the while I've been researching this background the warnings of the story of the sages visit to paradise became clearer and clearer. Religion is a powerful tool in the hands of the wise, but in the hands of the foolish, it is fatal. That danger of fatality is not just to the religious persons but to those associated with them, and to the whole world.
    To me the Acronym is actually a statement of a similar warning to one found in the Nirvana Sutra:
    "Rely on the Law and not upon persons. Rely on the meaning [of the teaching] and not upon the words. Rely on wisdom and not upon discriminative thinking. Rely on sutras that are complete and final and not on those that are not complete and final."(See literal.html for more on this).

    Entering the Garden of Eden, the Palace of the Divine, the Treasure Tower.

    On first glance, it seems strange that such a story would be told in such vague terms. Did these guys actually visit the Garden of Eden? Wouldn't that be a wonderful fate? It's a Dante-esk story. What is the meaning of this story? Why is this story being told in the first place?
    Well, as I found out during my little bit of research the meaning of all this hinges on this acronym, Pardes. The story is a layered warning and also a puzzle and a key to esotericism in general. The story is about the meaning, purpose and dangers of each of these forms of understandings of religious literature. All sorts of stories have been written and all sorts of sages have found meaning in these stories. People have treated Kaballah as a source of magic, as a source of practical wisdom, as something to get lost in, as an inspiration to believe in God and as an inspiration not to believe in a literal god. They have used it to justify everything from reversal of their Jewish Identity and "law" to fanatic devotion to religious laws and self-selected "Tsaddiks" (Righteous men). They have used it to deny notions like Reincarnation and to embrace them. Study of Esoteric notions derived from Judaism and it's gnostic Christian Child, has led to syncretic beliefs with other religions such as Buddhism, and it has also led to fundamentalism and religious chauvinism. Looking at this story with that understanding I suddenly realized that this story is at it's heart a warning about the dangers of all religious studies.
    For more on this subject, mostly from referring to Buddhism:
    literal.htmlesoteric.html,
    and I came to this subject after writing this essay here:
    Three Powerful Enemies: tpe.html

    Who are these Rabbis?

    I figured that maybe there was a one to one correspondence between the four rabbis and the four letters of PARDS. To unlock this story I would have to follow this story in relationship with the lives of these Four Rabbis and each of the terms involved. And indeed, the more I studied the more relevence the life histories of these four became. Instead of being a story I could understand with one simple reading I had to come back to it over and over again. To the point where the essay I was writing on which this webpage is based became larger and larger. To fully explain that story I'd have to study the Talmud. To master the Talmud I'd have to become a Rabbi. Oye Vey. A Buddhist Rabbi? And yet like any good story, the entire meaning is encapsulated in its title.

    Rabbi Akiva I: Entering Paradise

    Water Water

    When Rabbi Akiva warns the others to be wary when they enter the Garden, and to not say "Water Water" when they see the stones of marble. That is the first warning about religious experience. It is a warning about the "mirages" (illusions) and delusions involved in religious experience of all kinds. Anyone who has experienced a mirage on a hot day, knows that it takes the form of water that is not really there. Mystical experience may or may not be "there" in the sense of being in the "mystical" or "divine" realm. But in it's mapping with this reality, "heaven" and "hell" only have relevence in respect to their intersection with the world we can experience day to day. Thus whether or not a mystical experience takes place in a dream or in "The other Realm" (Sitra Achra - other side, heavenly realm) that reality is only connected to this one through the minds of the people who make the journey. Thus this is first warning of the story is a salient warning for all who engage in religious interpretation. This is true whether one is interpreting text or entering a trance. Incalculable harm is done because of people mistaking the mirages of their interpretations or insights for the reality that is day to day. Thus the punishment for saying "water water" is death.
    The other meaning of this expression is as a warning to not mistake either the abstract forms, nor the "vessels" (images) used to express those truths for the "water water." Water is a metaphor both within Jewish Literature and within Buddhism for "law" (Dharma in Buddhism, Torah in Judaism). When we presume that our understanding of "Torah" is complete, and we come back from our religious exploration firmly sure that we've had a vision of it and that our vision is the only "correct one" then our words may well be lies. Only "truth" is "established before my eyes." Anything asserted as "torah" must be actually true or it is not actually "torah". To often teachers assume that their own opinions are the Law, when in fact, they are merely their own opinions. In doing so they are telling lies.

    The wise learn

    And Rabbi, Akiva is the one who gives these warnings, because according to the story he had been there before. Who is Rabbi Akiva? According to the legend he started as an ignorant shepherd. He fell in love with his employers daughter, Rachel, and she agreed to marry him on condition that he studied "Torah" (Law/the Hebrew Dharma). According to the legend he was already forty years old and figured that knowledge would only penetrate his mind when he came upon a stone which had been worn away by water. According to legend he died at the age of 120 as a martyr reciding the Schema (praise to God).
    Also accoring to legend Rabbi Akiva, because of the age at which he had started, and his "earthy" roots, was resistant to this. Thus his story represents the importance of teachers being rooted in reality. He studied Torah, not because of intellectualism or lofty dreams, but because he loved a beautiful woman and wanted her to respect him. Thus he was not shaken by fantasies or illusions. He could wander in the realm of religious studies without mistaking the experience of a vision of water for actual water. Thus he could issue the warning about "water water" to the others and come back from the experience whole and intact.
    Teachers are often destroyed by religion. They come back from glorious experiences with Glorious fantasies and delusions. This is danger in all four means of textual understanding. Thus each of the Rabbi's stands for one of the methods of understanding. Thus the story is a reinforcement of the dangers and joys of the acronym formed by the letters of the Pardes. When you see a metaphoric "water" while embarked on a mystical experience it is like a mirage. It isn't the same as real water, even if the words are the same or it has similar properties. When you gaze at the wonders of mystical experience, you need to be prepared to return them to the real world. This story is meant to do so.
    And of course as you read more and more about Rabbi Akiva and the holocaust of the Bar Kokhba revolt against the Romans you find out that this story indeed is something that it is fruitful to "struggle with" (Reshit)

    Peshat -- Literal Meaning

    Rabbi Akiva also represents the joys and perils of studying religion, even if one only understands the literal meaning of what one is studying. And also the kind of "salt of the earth" wisdom that is needed to be able to engage in the other forms of knowledge without getting "lost" in them. Because he was grounded in reality, he could take joy in the literal meaning and his literal beliefs without fanaticism or being closed to other understandings. He could journey into Paradise without getting lost.
    The danger of literal understandings, is that while sometimes the literal meaning of a text is the superior meaning. Sometimes the text was never meant to be interpreted literally. Interpreted literally such a text is made into a lie when it is not one. Thus the warning about "Water Water" is a warning about differentiating between the literal and metaphorical meaning of religious texts and experiences. People who attach to the literal meanings of things often become utterly crazed. For instance, they think that the story of creation had to be literally true to be taken as truth. The Kaballist, or the person familiar with religious inquiry knows that that story is true to the degree that it is truly interpreted. The wise teacher knows that both Darwin and the story of Adam and Eve can be true, in different senses. If a religious text seems in discrepancy with reality, it's not reality that is fault, but the interpetation of the teacher or student that is at fault. When people attach to a teacher and believe everything a teacher says they are trusting the power of the teacher's interpretation. When those teachings are interpreted out of context, they are the literary creation of the new teacher, even if they are the words of an old teacher. (See literal.html for more on this). People who assume that a divine text is to be interpreted literally, or that a particular interpretation is to be taken as authority simply on the word of a school or a tradition, are making assumptions. ASS-U-ME is an acronym that traps literalists into untruths. Rabbi Akiva knew this danger and that is why he warned that anyone who would say "Water Water" when approaching a metaphor is committing the sin of lying. Thus the warning:
    'He that speaketh falsehood shall not be established before mine eyes.'
    Those who misinterpret teachings and the words of prophets may be establishing their own "prophesy" using their own interpretations of those words, or they may simply be putting the words to a lie. As stated before "water" is also a metaphor for law, and this is an admonition that only the "truth" should be accepted as "torah." That truth has to be grounded in reality and not the other way around.

    Stoning or reinterpreting?

    The Torah teaches that a false prophet should be "stoned." However, a "prophesy" is a "vision" of the future that draws on deep layers of the subconscious. A vision is like seeing something in a flashing thunderstorm. The image is brilliant but not detailed. (See Blind man and Elephant. Thus prophesy touches deep layers, not just in the prophet, but those who come accross that prophet. The kind of understanding that is "prophesy" is termed in Hebrew and arabic as Zot.
    Whether a prophet is false or true depends partly on whether his vision is true, and also on how those prophesies are interpreted. In a sense any vision can become a prophesy. It was pharoah who had the vision of the seven lean years and seven fat ones. It was Joseph who had the wisdom to correctly interpret that prophesy. Thus if a prophesy is made into a lie by a later teacher, that is not necessarilly the fault of the prophet. At the same time incorrect visions should not be "established" either.
    When religious interpretation is weak or biased, it may be time to reinterpret that vision. Indeed it is entirely appropriate to redefine religion in the face of changing facts. A story that is true in an allegorical or metaphoric sense doesn't depend on it's literal veracity for it's timeless truth.
    Any other course will debase those who follow them. We can't stone long dead prophets such as Nostradamus or Jesus, but we can reinterpret them differently as the ages pass and their teachings either apply or don't apply. Interpretors who refuse to acknowledge the reality of context and times in teachings are making the mistake of "saying water water" when what they are actually seeing is the mirage of their own subjectivity. It's not the bibles fault when people interpret genesis literally. It is the stupidity of teachers when they insist that the world has to be only a certain age, flat, or that "God" literally did any of the things told in Genesis. When one realizes that one can interpret things with real wisdom. Indeed it is said about one of the disciples of Ben Akher, that he would listen to Ben Akher's teachings, eat the "fruit" and spit out the stones. And in the celebration of Safed, that is the symbology of the prunes and other pitted fruits served.
    Thus when one realizes that the time has passed for a teaching, or that the teachers saw things in a limited manner, then one either has to reinterpret it or one will be judged by the truth or falsity of one's own interpretations. And "God" will not establish lies. When people come to believe that teachings are the literal word of God (or Buddha) -- a priori -- and thus are infallible, they are violating the spirit of this injunction and betraying the integrity of their own beliefs. Such folk by seeking their literal reality when an interpretation or allegorical meaning is intended, contradict reality and make fools of themselves and their followers. This is worse than a "sin" it is a heavy cause of human misery. Thus both Derush and "Sot" interpretations are not only filial to the original teachers, but a commandment if one is not to make the mistake of "mispeech."
    The danger of "Literal interpretations" lies in people turning the literary answers that are in texts, oral teachings, or myth, into literally true science. Not realizing (or accepting) that even a book written by God, is still being transmitted through very human sources, people thus debase their own religions. When they insist that they are the living words of God they thus miss what those words mean or point to. They confuse the metaphoric "water" of law with a literal water. As some would say,
    "God transcends all earthly similes, and therefore the spiritual path entails letting go of all attempts to tame or rationalize spiritual reality."
    Interpretation cannot be valid unless one approaches it in it's appropriate spiritual context; time, place, audience, and circumstance of authorship. Teachings are meant to help us understand reality not substitute for it. Every human being interprets what they read whether they realize it or not. Thus if there is a fault in what one sees when visiting the "world of spirit" the fault is not in the vision, but in the visionary. We should beware of saying "water water" when we are discussing our understandings of life.
    Literal understandings must be grounded in common sense and reality. Magical thinking and superstition result in "gazing and dying." At the very worst, people who are literalists are betrayed by evil teachers or evil assumptions into doing evil in the name of religion, such as flying airplanes into skyscrapers, blowing themselves up in the name of God, or shooting "evil persons" targetted by their teachers as evil. The paradox of evil is that it is based on the arrogant notion that humans can be accusers (That word is translated into Hebrew as Satan) of others.
    This danger of reifying "Peshat" is found in all religions based on ancient texts. It was a danger in ancient times as well as the present, but there is much less excuse for it in our present age.
    All preachings were preached for specific reasons. Failure to consider this results in people misinterpreting texts. Even the underlying meaning of a text can change with time. For instance, it is obvious that stories even in the Pentateuch were edited, because it turns out that the custom of "handmaids" did indeed characterize a certain ancient time. Some of the editing in the bible seems to imply discomfort with that notion due to later different standards. Thus we have to be aware that most texts have been edited over time, and it is rare to receive the pure inspirations of a teacher without such editing. nderlying situation changes, but the text often remains the same.
    Thus even the literal meaning of a text often hinges on the times to which that text has been transmitted and how people understand such teachings. Even texts transmitted directly from "God" or "Buddha" are transmitted through human beings. Understanding of those meanings changes over time. For instance in some languages a word that originally meant say "young girl" can diverge in it's "child" cultures to mean opposit things like "prostitute" in one language and "virgin" in another. Thus studying texts, one has to be somewhat fundamentalist in spirit and seek their original meanings and the context of those meanings or one can become lost. A certain amount of interpretation is part of even "literal" understanding. The Rabbis of early Judaism also believed that of all the understandings the "literal text" was usually the most important one. For that reason they tell this tale with him being the only one who gets away "free."

    Ben Azzai

    When you look up the story of Simeon Ben Azzai, you can see why the story says he "gazed and died". My "Dictionary of Jewish Legend and Lore" says about Ben Azzai that he devoted his life to the study of Torah, never married, and is quoted as saying; "My soul only desires the Torah" and "the punishment for sin is further sinning" and the reward for keeping the Torah is being able to keep further commandments.
    Thus Ben Azzai represents the joys and dangers of seeking understanding of religious texts. He was so enraptured with his study of Torah that he never married. According to the legend he "gazed and died".

    Ramez -- Metaphorical Hinted Meaning

    Ramez is the hinted meaning of text. It corresponds to what medieval Christians referred to as the allegorical meaning of texts. The purpose of allegory is to find meaning by drawing concordances between a teaching and reality. Most texts were written for a purpose, and the "literal meaning" is often secondary to the intended allegorical meaning of the referenced text. Allegories have a purpose. It is part of the method of "interpretation" that allows us to understand religion.

    Precious in the Sight of the Lord

    Thus the comment; "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his righteous.(Psalms 116:1-5)." is also a comment about those who enjoy interpreting religious texts and drawing out the metaphorical or hinted meaning of texts. Ben Azzai had a precious gift, which he shared with others. This is the great joy of interpreting religious text. The peril, is that those who do so often loose their grounding in reality. They seem to float above this world, but in the end they "die". According to the legend he was engaged to marry Ben Akiva's daughter, and never did. He grew spiritually, but without offspring, he left no legacy of his own. Thus those who enjoy metaphysical and mystical studies for themselves, often "gaze and die." That is one reason why study of Kaballah or Jewish mysticism was forbidden to young persons or unmarried persons.
    The joys of such understandings are only useful when they are shared with others and transmitted to future generations. The history of people who have reached spiritual heights is that they have often been unable to transmit those insights to others. They never left the Garden. Religion is only useful when people "come down from the mountain" and teach what they've learned from the "divine realm" to others.

    Ben Zoma

    Rabbi Simeon ben Zoma is said to have gone mad when he entered into the "Pardes". He is said to have "gazed and was stricken." This represents the dangers of esotericism to the practitioners sanity. It is the danger of getting so lost in the hidden or occult meaning of religious experience that one looses all grounding in the real world. This was the other reason that Jewish Rabbis wanted their students to be fully grounded before "entering the Paradise" of religious study and mysticism. It is possible to become "stricken". To actually become crazy. The powerful images, and experiences, can quite unhinge one if one comes to believe that their reality is more omnipresent and real than the real reality of one's grounded existence.
    To me the warnings given to Ben Zoma, are admonitions about the third of the four methods of interpretation:

    Drash, Derush -- Homiletic Meaning

    Derush, or homiletic meanings are the "moral" of the story being told. The Medieval Christians referred to this form of understanding as "moral" interpretation. They are the lesson a teaching is intended to teach. This is also the function of "Midrash" or oral torah. The purpose of teachers and teachings is to illuminate reality. Mythos is meant to inform our "logos" of day to day existence. We are meant to get sustenance from religion. It is meant to inform and save our ordinary lives. When Jesus tells us the story of the Prodigal Son or the Good Samaritan, he wasn't telling us about any literal personages. Much of what is in most religious texts is of this nature. The original text was often edited in such a way as to emphasize the spiritual and moral lessons sought within them.
    Thus the saying:
    "Hast thou found Honey? Eat as much as is sufficient for thee, lest thou be filled therewith and vomit."
    Is a warning of the joys and dangers of interpretation. The Rabbis who created Judaism used the "techniques" of interpretation, metaphor, simile and allegory. They claimed that the literal Torah was supplemented by a verbal or oral Torah. Thus that there was an oral heritage that was needed to interpret Torah for people's benefit. Thus they could take a prohibition of boiling a lamb in it's mother's milk and make an entire body of rules (Kasrut) about ritual purity of food and drink, so that Jews can't eat milk or cheese and non-fish animals at the same time. Or eat Pork. Light a light on Friday night, or any of a host of other activities prohibited by "God." And yet the Rabbis could interpret such rules so that there could be loopholes under certain conditions. Thus Jews will put a wall around their cities so they can walk further on Sabbath. Or prepare certain foods. In Spain they could even eat Pork if it was a prescribed medicine rather than "food." This "oral law" was denied by their rivals who preferred the written law and their own (originally priestly) authority. For the Rabbi's interpretation was a joy as well as a duty.
    Thus the story of Ben Zoma is a warning that just as we need to ensure that we can tell the difference between spiritual visions of things and those things themselves, so we need to be careful to keep our feet on the ground while we immerse ourselves in deriving wisdom from texts and interpretations. Many teachers interpret texts in such a way that is either dark and forbidding, or that is useful to everyone but themselves. They become so full of the "poetry" and imagery of religion, that they become "stricken" in the real world. We all know people who are like that. On the bright side they are the Don Quixote's and the St. Francis of Assisis of the world. The people who actually try to live the teachings they hear from others. Such people can either become "stricken" like Ben Zoma or just plain die like Rabbi Ben Azzai.
    The Sotah says of Rabbi Zoma "When Ben Zoma died there were no more expounders." And Ben Zoma is quoted with many wonderful metaphors such as:
    "Who is a mighty person?"
    The answer.
    "One who can control his emotions and make an enemy a friend."
    Or from another source:
    Who is wise?
    One who learns from all persons, as it is written, "From all my teachers have I gained understanding." (Psalm 119:99)
    Who is mighty?
    One who conquers one's evil impulse, as it is written, "He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules over his spirit than he who conquers a city." (Proverbs 16:32)
    Who is rich?
    One who is happy with his portion, as it is written, "When you eat the labor of your hands, happy will you be and all will be well with you." (Psalm 128:2). . .
    Who is honored?
    One who honors one's fellows, as it is written, "Those who honor Me, I will honor; but those who scorn Me will be despised." (I Samuel 2:30)
    See
    http://learn.jtsa.edu/topics/quote/archive/052900.shtml

    "Hast thou found Honey? ...lest thou be filled therewith and vomit."

    Rabbi Zoma was chosen as the one who became too full with "metaphor" in the Pardes to get this point accross to those already initiated to the Rabbinical teachings that this story refers to. The story is meant to point to both the joys and dangers of metaphorical understanding and expression, the basis of the "homiletic" interpretation known as "Derush" or Midrash.
    Another way of looking at this passage, is that a person can become so enamored of religious study and practice that he can "enter paradise" and never return. One can become so enamored of the material that one spends all one's time consumed with it. It is a genuine delight to learn from literature. But one can start to think that that reality is more real than the real reality.
    The best example of how religion and literature can make one mad is in the story of Don Quixote. He read the courtly literature of his time and lost the ability to distinguish between a Giant and a Windmill. When Ben Zoma went mad, this was a warning about keeping your feet on the ground when studying religion. The stories are stories. We don't always know how literally true they are. They are meant to be read for their content. One can get lost in them, and the result is that one can be a kind of crazy-fool wiseman, like Don Quixote. Like Ben Zoma. One can become so "full of honey" that one vomits it instead of sharing it in measured doses. People can only understand so much at one time.
    http://learn.jtsa.edu/topics/diduknow/sources/benzoma.shtml

    Akher (Rabbi Elisha Ben Abuyya)

    With the story of Rabbi Ben Abuyya, the story of the Pardes begins to get more interesting and also more relevent to our own times and to the issues that propel our times. Ben Abuyya "cut down the shoots" while Ben Akiva descended in peace. To me, this passage relates to the fourth method of interpretation:

    Sod -- Hidden Meaning -- The Occult

    Sod, Zot in Arabic, anagogic meaning in Christianity, is the hidden spiritual truth to be found within spiritual questing. Buddhists called this sort of understanding "Kanjin" or "mind discernment" and some Tendai Monks even claimed that that sort of understanding was superior to the literal understanding of texts.

    Peril

    Those who have made such mystical journeys often did so in the context of seeking "magic," "The Occult", or "power." It was for that reason that such teachings were usually forbidden to the uninitiated. The teachings of Jewish Mystics that are generally bundled as "Kaballah" were often associated with magic and secrecy. For Orthodox Jews one wasn't permitted to even study them until one was of a certain age and possessing a family. For many the "magic" and fantastic elements were the very thing that drew people to the "mythic" elements of religion in the first place. Seeking hidden meaning for themselves they also sought mastery over themselves and others, and found that mastery in magic formulas and incantations, totems and other things that they invested with power. Great Rabbis were said to have created "Gollems" or practiced other magic using the power of "Hashem" (His name-- the name of God). Ben Abuyya was not the only one to confuse the power of the "mythos" with magic.
    Similarly, for Buddhist monks, mysticism took the form of various teachings ranging from the relatively simple ones of Zen to the complex esotericism ofShingon(founded by Kobo DaishiTendai-Mikkyo taught by Kobo's virtual disciple Jikaku Daishi, and Tibetan Tantra. The teachings of Tantra, resemble those of Kaballah, which resemble those of Shaman and mystics everywhere. For even the initiated they are dangerous. But the question one asks is what are the dangers and the hidden pleasures that draw people to them?
    To me, the story of Ben Abuyya is a warning about what happens when we have religious insight and start to think we've "got it figured out." It is all too easy to take literally what one learns, or to "reify" the images and notions one finds in religion. It is also easy to become arrogant and to think that one has mastered all reality because one has mastered a few secrets about reality. The results can be as disasterous for everyone as excessive literalism or "never coming down." Worse, people who achieve such partial understandings can come back and find themselves revered as if they are real sages and gurus. One tends to mistake the allegory or simile for the real thing.
    The danger is found in the word "Occult." There is a tendancy in the human nature to "magical thinking" and that kind of thinking tends to undermine the very reasons for spiritual journeys or seeking religion. Where religion seeks to "bind together" (religiere) people into a community of brothers and sisters, the occult by it's nature is concerned with secrets and power.
    According to the legends. Elisha Ben Avuyah saw the "Metatron" in heaven. According to the legends, when he returned he "denied there was any reward for keeping the commandments, indulged in ...sexual acts, and publicly desecrated the shabbat." (Dictionary of Jewish Literature page 70).
    From these early Rabbis came what was eventually credited with the teachings that came to be known as Kaballah. Kaballah developed with a number of great books culminating in what came to be known as "Lurianic" Kaballah founded by Isaac Luria.
    Between 1626 and 1676 Shabbetai Zevi transmitted those teachings to Islam and founded the "Doenmeh" schools in Turkey. He is credited with being a "failed Messiah" and with some of the same behaviors attributed to Rabbi Akher. Between 1726 and 1791, a follower of Shabbetai Zevi, named Jacob Frank, transmitted virtually the same teachings to Christians and founded the "Frankist" who eventually were the spiritual fathers of the Rosicrucians. Shabettai Tzevi's group, the "Doenmeh" and the Frankists, were alleged to have engaged in prohibited sexual acts and to have been "heretics." Because of the example of people like Shabettai Tzevi or Elisha Ben Avuyah, Jewish Rabbis either outlawed the study of Kaballah or restricted it to older persons. They admit to this day that they broke "hallucha" or Jewish Commandments (600+) and to this day they eat a piece of prohibited meat as part of a ceremony to mark their independence from strict following of Hallucha.
    These teachers saw something so unique in the teachings of Kaballah and Judaic esotericism that they willingly gave up their membership in the Jewish Community to join the "Gentiles" who often were also oppressing them. When I first read of their behavior I saw traitors and the "Devadatta"/Judah paradigm. But as I research it I find there is more involved. These people actually represent special cases. They see themselves as "teachers" and syncretists, not simply as rebels.
    Indeed these teachers may have transmitted ideas of the Lurian Kaballah to the rest of the world, but they also created a class of "Marranos" who were neither fully Jewish nor fully Catholic or Moslem and who were distrusted and feared by people of both faiths. Sometimes with reason, for the stresses of a "dual" identity are also stresses on belief in anything. Strangely their successors have ranged from Ataturk to Aleister Crawley to Joseph Campbell and the Rosicrucians.
    For more on them there is a book:
    http://www.orot.com/crack.html
    These teachers transmitted both the bright and the dark side of Esotericism. On the bright side, the mythos of Kaballah informs much that is positive or redemptive about modern religion. The dark side is found in the black "magic," augury and dark theories and understandings of teachers such as Nostradamus. Nostradamus, Who was a teacher of Jewish origin whose grandparents had converted to Catholicism. He used his knowledge of the bible, of Kabbalah and the occult to write predictions, which some still see as salient to our own times. Ultimately Kaballist teachings influenced occultists such as Aleister Crawley. Through Aleister Crawley it influenced the ideas of L. Ron Hubbard and the rise of Scientology. The story of Rabbi Abuyyah contains warnings that relate to them all.
    If you watch religious teachers at work, past and present. They take their teachings and they interpret them using metaphor and simile. Sometimes they see hidden meanings that just aren't there. Thus the "end of times" is interpreted to mean now. The "signs" of those times are interpreted to mean this or that natural disaster, war, or other behavior of man. And often such teachers will point to this or that person as "Satan." This sort of madness is in the attack on Salmon Rushdie, and also in some of the characters of his stories. It is a danger of the religious teacher, and of anyone who gets lost in literature.
    The West has taken to Kaballah as a source of magic. It is only recently that they have seen it as a source of wisdom. The power of "Hashem" -- words of power -- True Words -- Shingon -- has been sought for power over the real world, and thus people have deceived themselves. By thinking that Buddhism was about Power, Devadatta deceived himself. By learning Kaballah or other teachings for their occult, secret meaning, teachers like Alleister Crawley and others have deceived themselves and others. People have used their Journey to the Pardes, to instead of teaching and instructing others, to rule and bind people to their will. Thus all over the world Gurus and Mystics build followings on teachings that come from the same well, while guarding and hiding their sources, or claiming that the source was their own mind. Thus we have a thousand people claiming to be Buddha, Maitreya, Tsaddik, Rebbe, Great Guru, Universal Mentor, Sensei, reincarnations of this or that Bodhisattva, etceteras. And all of them tend to deceive their followers into thinking that somehow they have a secret wisdom they can't have unless they follow them blindly and have faith in their teachings. Even if they don't start out this way, their protestations of humbleness are simply taken as proof of the divinity of their teacher by fawning and synchophantic followers. By engaging in magical thinking people give this "voodoo" a power it doesn't deserve. They give it life and death power, when the life and death power it holds is the life and death power that we all have within us. Ultimately the "Pardes" is a mystical journey we all make each night as our heads hit the pillow, and we can learn from that journey only when we wake up in the morning and are transformed inside by the experience.

    Water Water and Magical Thinking

    The Jews of Rabbi Akher's time fought the Romans bravely, but futilely. They fought gamely, but just when victory seemed possible were felled by great plagues and illness. For that reason one of the festivals in the middle of the "Counting of the Omer" remembers Rabbi Akiva's 20,000 disciples, who perished for their sins. The magical thinking of the Zealots led them to not only be crushed themselves, but to see millions of ordinary people murdered alongside of them. Rabbi Akher had had a role in this in that he had sincerely thought that the Leader of the Revolt "Bar Kokhba" fit the description of the Messiah to come and save the Jews from Roman oppression. The cruel disappointment at what actually happened led him to see that a literal kingdom was not what God had in mind at that time and also to redefine what it meant to be a Jew and what Judaism is. Jews were chastised and stripped of their Temple for the "sin" of saying "water water" when they had a vision of water. The rest of us could learn a lesson from this.
    The adherents of esotericism by teaching magical thinking and keeping their followers ignorant until "properly initiated" substitute ignorance, fear, and magical thinking for realism, wisdom, and common sense. Thus in places where esotericism has degenerated into occultism, the results are frequently disasterous. The Gnostic teachings of the Early Christians devolved into the magical admonitions of Catholicism and it's relations. The result was that people would sometimes try to substitute prayers for actions or rely on prayers to divinities when they needed to make changes in their organizations, attitudes or strategies. The consequences of this have been disasterous throughout history. Examples abound. Nichiren criticized the "Shingon" teachers for offering prayers for the defeat of enemies, because he saw that such prayers were based on claims of magical powers that had no basis in the teachings of the Buddha.
    The Calliph of Baghdad was so greedy that he relied on prayers and bribes to try to hold off the mighty Mongol Empire, with the result that Baghdad and the Calliphate of Mohammed was destroyed. Nichiren warned of the ineffectiveness of Tantric prayers, but despite that, the prayers of the Japanese seemed to have some effect. The Japanese held off the mongols with the help of seasonal typhoons, but the result was still a disaster for them. It probably helped the Japanese that the Mongols had also just converted to Tantrism. The last Emperor of Byzantium was forced to rely on unreliable allies while the majority of his populace prayed for a miracle in Sancta Sophia. That was the last time that building was used as a Church. The Pasha of the Turks bashed down the doors and converted the building to a mosque. It's architecture was the model for subsequent Mosques world wide. It's beauty was painted over until recent times when it was restored as a Museum. The "Tantra" of the Llamas of Tibet was no aid in holding off the Communist Chinese. "Magical thinking" betrays the wisdom that is supposed to be brought out of the "pardes" or mystical experience. It "cuts off the shoots."

    Cutting down the shoots

    One consequence of such "soiling" of religion, is that the "shoots are cut down." What does this mean? On one level it can refer to such radical notions that the disciple seeks to overturn or even betray his master. For instance the "Neo Sabattean" Rabbi Yakov Leib HaCohain writes:
    A comparison between them shows the former (those presumably written by Paul and of which Romans is an example) insisting upon the supercession of God's covenants with the Jewish people, while the latter (those thought to be by his Gentile disciples and of which Hebrews is an example) generally dismiss and replace them with "newer" and "better" Gentile covenants.[http://www.donmeh-west.com/melchi.shtml
    However, no matter how internally satisfying metaphorical and other figurative understandings are, those who adhere to them are in grave danger if they "cut the shoots." Cutting the shoots is like writing a modern book without quoting sources or making attributions to prior authors. It also results in religious misunderstanding. Which is often intentional. The results of misunderstanding religion are reliance on magic, authoritarianism, and substitution of superstition and fanaticism for common sense and wisdom. Those who "cut the shoots" are therefore those who benefit from fanatic and superstitious followers. And that is usually either orthodoxy or those in rebellion against it. The result of this tendancy of religious people to "cut the shoots" is that new religions are often like the point of the famous sixties song; "Meet the new boss, just like the old boss..."
    Well I get on my knees and pray, just like yesterday, that we won't get fooled again!
    Similar warnings about "cutting down the shoots" are contained in many of the stories of "heresy", journeys to paradise, and of persons such as Devadatta or Kobo Daishi who mistook the study of mystical and religious truth as a means of gaining occult power. These people were also jealous of their rivals. The danger of "entering the Garden" is that if one goes into it with impure motives one may come out with what appear to be treasures to others. One can fool the unwary. Unfortunately those who try for immortality will find that the "Garden" will defeat that effort. For instance, Gilgamesh took a plant that guaranteed eternal life, seeking to take it home to his city, and a snake took it. And Devadatta is said to have tried to steal something from "heaven." By doing so lost the occult powers he had already attained by trying to do so. Similarly mystical traditions everywhere warn of people who try to "take" from the "Garden" that which is not theirs (or simply to gaze at it).
    To genuinly religious people everywhere, (Buddhists all, though they may be nominally anything), possessing occult powers is inferior to mastering oneself.
    The problem with most esoteric learning is that those who "enter the Garden" often enter with impure motives or come out with impure thoughts. Rabbi Akher represents this danger. We can see many examples of it in our own day and age. Every religion with great insights has been taught by people at their personal peril. Teachers who mean to imitate "God" or imitate the Buddha, often instead, simply come out of the "Garden" with religious or secular power. The danger of "entering the garden" with the wrong motives go beyond the personal dangers of reifying the world or coming out with no faith. The peril is also that one will come out teaching incorrect things or using religion for personal gain.
    The great work of the Lotus Sutra (Kanji, 13th, chapter) tells us the following:
    In that evil age there will be monks
    with perverse wisdom and hearts that are fawning and crooked
    who will suppose they have attained what they have not attained,
    being proud and boastful in heart.
    Or there will be forest-dwelling monks
    wearing clothing of patched rags and living in retirement,
    who will claim they are practicing the true way,
    despising and looking down on all humankind.
    Greedy for profit and support,
    they will preach the Law to white-robed laymen
    and will be respected and revered by the world
    as though they were arhats who possess the six transcendental powers.
    These men with evil in their hearts,
    constantly thinking of worldly affairs,
    will borrow the name of forest-dwelling monks
    and take delight in proclaiming our faults
    This peril of "heresy" is symbolized by Rabbi Akher. But the peril of abuse of religion is universal. Some abuse religion because of their "greed", but others do so because their "journey to the Pardes" makes them think they have actually attained something that they really haven't. This is the universal function that the teacherNichiren called the Three Powerful Enemies. Ignorant laymen tend to believe their teachers have literal transcendal powers or that their teachings are literally so. Their greedy disciples take advantage of stupidity to make fortunes and drive nice cars. And the sages who start it all are worshiped as Buddhas and Sages, when they are but like us, common mortals.
    This mistake, like that of Rabbi Akher, usually starts with someone misinterpreting his experience of the Mystic. For example, the teacher Jikaku Daishi, misunderstood a vision of shooting the sun and seeing it fall out of the sky as an auspicious one. On the other hand, one teacher had a vision of the death of his followers at the hand of Saladin. He promptly took action. His followers survived. And we all know Pharoahs dream of the seven fat cows and seven sickly ones. That dream still has relevence to this day as that cycle is related to the sunspot cycle and "el Nino". There is peril and real magic in visiting the Pardes. The difficulty is differentiating them. The magic is within.

    The Pit in the Prune

    But of Rabbi Akher, it is said that he still had students. He had one student whom it is said, justified learning from him anyway because he would "remove the pulp and throw away the dry skin." We can learn even from incorrect or mistaken teachers. That is why, after all, they have followers.

    Rabbi Akiva II -- Leaving the Garden intact.


    "Rabbi Akiva departed in Peace."
    He "came down from the mountain." He went on to teach religion and to develop the teachings that were later recorded as the Talmud. According to the records of historians, he didn't transmit a flawless record. He is said to have annointed Bar Kochba as "Messiah" and to have thus made a grievious error that led to a final ruin of Israel. So he can't be said to have been a prophet. But perhaps he is the one who "came down from the paradise" in peace, because of his ability to not take himself too seriously. It is said of him:
    Roman battle cries heard miles away caused the sages to weep. Rabbi Akiva laughed.
    Frolicking foxes on the Temple Mount - where once only the high priest dare tread - brought tears to the eyes of the sages. Rabbi Akiva laughed.
    The death throes of their teacher, the saintly Rabbi Eliezer, wrenched sobs from the throats of the sages. Rabbi Akiva laughed.
    What differentiates Talmud from many other religious teachings, is that you don't have a single teacher teaching. None of the sages of the Talmud claimed the power of prophesy or of being infallible "vessels" for truth. Rather the wisdom of the Talmudic Rabbis is the wisdom of "dialogue" and because dialogue is a way to tap into universal wisdom, it is thus all the more complete because, paradoxically, it acknowledges the incompleteness of human wisdom. Judaism, as a system, doesn't command but instead indicates. It is "God", the ineffable, the divine, all that is and will be, that "commands" and we decide to embrace whether or not embrace those commandments as we understand them, for our own reasons. Religion should acknowledge the incompleteness of human transmissions and understanding. Although throughout history self appointed authorities have insisted that we take the literal meaning of texts as being divinely appointed. With the result being much misery and many times people simply saying that they are not qualified to judge some commandments. They will simply refer to them as "Chock." I personally think that is a dodge. For more on this you might want to read this website on Jewish Homosexuals and how they deal with the commandments of their faith: http://www.tremblingbeforeg-d.com/rabbis.html. What makes religion great is it's ability to grow and change, adapt and reinterpret itself as it does so. If it is "chock" it may not be well thought out.
    Both the Talmud and the developed Kaballah and other orally derived teachings acknowledge that each generation understands "Torah" or Law differently and that each individual also understands reality differently. For more on this you might want to read this essay:http://www.chiefrabbi.org/faith/identity.html
    The Mystic must come down from the mountain for his understandings to be any good. And the moment he does so, he is no longer dealing with absolute truth, but relative truth. The highly abstract things that his insight is conveying to him must be put into limited mortal language.
    Both Rabbis and Buddhists use the analogy of the "Elephant" to convey this metaphor. A journey to the mystic mountain, magical garden, treasure tower of human wisdom, 9th consciousness, is also a flash of something that is "too big" to be conveyed in ordinary terms. Our understanding is abstract. Thus our language is necessarilly limited. It is for that reason that all religions teach truth, but not all religious truths are equal. It is the wisdom of the human being who has stepped out of the "other side" and into this reality that decides whether what is learned is transmitted intact. The Buddhist Teacher Nichiren explained this when he wrote a letter to his disciple Akimoto, when he talked about the four kinds of vessels. Kaballah has taken this simile even further when it talks of the "Broken Vessels." Modern mathematics explains this as "symmetry breaking" in the genesis of chaotic/living systems.

    Transmissions and Receptions

    On the surface what Shabettai Zevi and Jacob Frank did resembles what Rabbi Akher did, but in actuality what they did was also very different and so also represents what Rabbi Akiva did. Even so they paid a price. They were tortured and misunderstood by both the communities they came from and those they went to visit. Both were seen as "failed Messiahs" who had failed to bring the coming "messianic age." Yet, they too had "come down from the mountain" or they would have betrayed both Jews and their gentile relations. Shabettai Zevi, was hailed as a Messiah, and people all over the world, in Europe and the Middle East, prepared to follow him to Jerusalem. The Pasha of the Turks, head of the Ottoman Empire, was alarmed. He brought him into an audience. Strangely rather than choosing the seemingly brave alternative of martyrdom. Shabettai Zevi did a wild thing. He converted. This act brought a strong sense of depression to his fellow Jews. The anti-Kaballists forbade the study of Kaballah. Some explained his behavior. Some excused it. Some became "Doenmeh" converts to Islam. They became "Crypto-Jews" or what had been called "Marranos" or "conversos" in Spain. His actions were like someone taking a knife and stabbing the community in the back. They couldn't understand it.
    Yet he had had to try to instruct and convert the people he lived among. Fellow Jews, and people who saw it through Kaballah said that they were trying to heal the world by entering it's darkness. But what they were actually trying to do was to heal the world by broadening the scope of their transmissions. His disciple Joseph Frank was doing the same thing with Christianity.
    They succeeded in transmitting the ideas of Kaballah, even though they themselves may have seen them in a superstitious or occult fashion, and others might have been attracted to them initially for the same reasons. We, like Rabbi Akher's disciple, Rabbi Meir, can eat the fruit while discarding the rind. We can be like him, "meir baal ha-nes', miracle workers.
    Buddhists, Hindus, Shamans, teachers and mystics of all kinds, have all been both attracted to and afraid to enter the "pardes" because of the dangers and power of that journey. And yet, the dangers can be met if people are willing to meet them. To "Gaze and be stricken", to "Gaze and die," or to "cut down the shoots" are all results of being deceived by the illusions and different reality that is part of mystical/dream experience. Monks and teachers have been drawn to the Pardes thinking that they could achieve superior insights there. And their teachers have always been afraid that they were right.
    We must understand this acronym of the PARDS, it's message, and it's warning, so that we can tell the difference between simile and metaphor, literal meanings and allegorical meanings, secret meanings and our own fantasies. Much of mystical knowledge is abstract, and so there is very real danger that people will "reify" or confuse the abstract and general with their own specific prescriptions. There are perils in entering the Pardes. There are also perils to the soul that are only met when one returns. Those perils are there because we bring them with us.
    "When R. Meir died there were no more makers of parables. When Ben Azzai died there were no more diligent students. When Ben Zomadied there were no more expounders. When R. Joshua died goodness departed from the world. When Rabban Simeon ben Gamaliel died the locust came and troubles grew many. When R. Eleazar ben Azariah died wealth departed from the Sages. When R. Akiba died the glory of the Law ceased. When R. Hanina hen Dosa died the men of good deeds ceased. When R. Jose Katnutha died there were no more saintly ones. When Rabban Johanan ben Zakkai died [who saw the Temple destroyed] the splendor of wisdom ceased. When Rabban Gamaliel the Elder died, the glory of the Law ceased and purity and abstinence died. When R. lshmael ben Piabi died the splendor of the priesthood ceased. When Rabbi [Rabbi .Judah. the compiler of the Mishnah] died, humility and shunning of sin ceased" (Sotah 9:15)
    This story doesn't support (or not support) Jesus's divinity.
    Today (December 13 2002) I found another source for concordance of my own thinking. It is a serious of lectures starting with this page:
    Further Readings:
    http://www.geocities.com/kabbalahonline/
    http://www.koshertorah.com/
    http://www.donmeh-west.com/
    http://www.kheper.net/topics/Kabbalah/Idel/
    Similarly "hebrew Jesus":
    http://www.hebrewyeshua.com/

    Footnotes

    1. Teaching affirmed by all the Buddhas: http://etherbods.com/gosho/ttabab.html
    2. Kaballah and the Art of Being page 84(by Shimon Shokek ISBN 0-415-24044-1)
    3. Ibid
    4. Dictionary of Jewish Lore and Legend page 152, also "Basic Kaballah".
    Other pages on Kaballah and similar subjects:
    Page belonging to Frankist and "Doenmeh" syncretists
    http://www.kabbalah.com"
    www.digital-brilliance.com/kab
    http://www.digital-brilliance.com/kab/faq.html
    www.crystalinks.com/kabala.html
    also:http://www.alexa.com/browse/categories?catid=29129
    It's not just Jews who distrusted the "Doenmeh". Some alledge that Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Modern Turkish state was a "Doenmeh." see:
    http://www.khilafah.org/phase1/history/kamal.html#sec
    http://www.geocities.com/kabbalahonline/ Kaballah Online
    http://learn.jtsa.edu/topics/diduknow/sources/benzoma.shtml
    (Note, the above source is part of a tractate that tries to establish Rabbinic culpability and knowledge of Jesus's death. But the author of the Sotah Tractate had completely different reasons for what he wrote from those intended by Christians. This is another example of the dangers of using religious writings to prove a point. You can interpret anything to mean anything. Interpretation can be illuminating, but it can also be a source of "groundless anger."
    The Rosicrucians are heavilly influenced by Kaballist teachings:
    You can learn about their order at http://www.crcsite.org/
    For Kaballah as magic:http://www.realmagic.org/writings/kabbalah/kabbalah.htm
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