“How the modern world makes us mentally ill”

Quite an interesting video. A question worthy of reflection would be how and to what degree polytheism can help in relation to this problem.

12 thoughts on ““How the modern world makes us mentally ill”

  1. jim-

    Excellent share Melas. The solutions aren’t that individually difficult. I got rid of TV and news 12 years ago. Life is much better. I only watch now what I choose for input.

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    1. Melas the Hellene Post author

      Thanks. It is always good to begin with the self, and getting rid of television can help greatly. If everyone took care of themselves, the problem will vanish. Yet it seems more pervasive: I think the difficulty lies is in the relation between individual and collective solutions as well as the consistency and consensus within each. The latter is particularly complex because of its many degrees (family, community, city, state and world) and the influences it always exerts over the individual. And don’t forget about the problem of individualism! Hopefully you have (unlike me, as yet) a like-minded community you closely engage with in person. It’s so unfortunate that modernity has generally weakened small communities of people sharing all manner of culture in favor of household units that merely participate in the economy and occasionally “go out for fun”.

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      1. jim-

        I am lacking any community. I lost all my relationships by not believing. Embraced by belief, abandoned by unbelief. But, for now I’m doing pretty good with the awakening. It was worth the trade I suppose.

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    1. Melas the Hellene Post author

      Indeed. That’s a symptom of the very complex system established by the state. It’s inevitable in a world that has high demands, ambitions and therefore risks. Freedom comes with smaller scales.

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  2. K

    Zoroaster’s Influence on Anaxagoras, the Greek Tragedians, and Socrates by Ruhi Muhsen Afnan

    I recently found out about that book. It seems to be obscure.

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    1. Melas the Hellene Post author

      Obscure indeed and on a topic of consequence. I don’t know about Socrates and Anaxagoras (or the Tragedians), but there are Persian influences in the thought of Pythagoras and Plato. Heraclitus too, I dare say.

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      1. K

        I have been going through a big pile of stuff on the ancient Near East. I encountered a reference to that book(written by an actual Zoroastrian too) while studying. At first it was for that cherem sacrifice thing I have worked on. I found another reference to cherem in Ugaritic, by the way. Well, more like it was noticed a long time ago, and I only just now found out about it. I even have a book translating the tablet it occurs on, I just never realized it was that hrm Semitic root until I looked at another very big volume with a transcription of tablet. I have also picked out exactly where the Mesha Stele has it occur, and confirmed it is the same in Phoenician letters.

        Then I somehow got onto a Persian track. I noticed that the context and usage of cherem seems to have radically changed in the period where the Persians ruled. Suddenly the idea of sacrificing captives or captured towns to the national god(the gods I have seen it applied to are Yahweh, Chemosh, and Anat) changes to cherem as a type of religious censure and banishment. The first usage of cherem in this new sense is in the Book of Ezra, which is all about how a Persian hireling goes to teach the Jews over in Judah all about their “own law”. I also found an interesting reference in another Persian case, some temple to an Apollo-like god in Anatolia where inscriptions were found dating from the period of Persian rule. The priests there under orders from the Persian governor were to teach the templegoers “the law”. Also, I noticed that the Book of Isaiah(part of which is blatant Persian propaganda, Cyrus is called the messiah) has a line where Yahweh takes Cyrus’ hand and appoints him king over his land Israel. The Cyrus cylinder from Babylon has the same thing, where Marduk picks Cyrus(a man after his own heart) as king of Babylon and takes Cyrus’ hand. I started to wonder if this idea of sacrifice and religious warfare ended because of Persian rule, and realized that the Persians were likely far more influential than I previously thought. Well, obviously Persian rule would have ended it, but it seems that the Persians wanted to modify religious ideas more than most historians seem to think.

        Also, the rhetoric that the non-believers “worship demons” comes directly from Persia. A Persian inscription about a war with northern Iranian tribes calls them “daeva worshippers”. Another about Xerxes’ destruction of Greek temples refers to the Persians destroying temples of daevas, or false gods.

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      2. Melas the Hellene Post author

        Your research is valuable, although the conclusion about the cherem does not surprise me too much. Remember that post I made about complex societies moralizing their Gods? It seems this happened with the Persians and later affected the Jews. The same must have occurred earlier through Egyptian influence (Mosaic law) but this was stopped after the Bronze Age collapse (which freed the Near East from Egyptian rule) and so the Jews relapsed into a state of tribalism, until the rise of the city of Jerusalem (during Assyrian imperialism) gradually established some sort of complexity of religion (koinotheism). There’s no evidence for a King David or Solomon nor for a Temple of Jerusalem; those figures must have existed but were likely tribal chieftains or petty kings who were guardians of a small though important sanctuary (compare to the Kaaba among the Arabians in the South).

        What does surprise me from your research is that Cyrus would be called a Messiah and that non-Zoroastrians were called “demon worshippers”. We often hear of the toleration of the Persian Empire towards other religions, but it seems this was not entirely the case. It must have struck the Persians as necessary to stabilize their Empire in the long run by not only spreading their own cultural ideas but also by establishing a strong contrast to the cruelty of their Assyrian predecessors. An essential part of this program was eradicating tribalism (politheism) and weakening nationalism (koinotheism) in favor of cosmotheism and universalism. Cyrus was no longer bound to a city-state like the Assyrian emperors, who boasted of their conquests, but was very interested in international accomplishments (certainly under the banner of Persia and Zoroastrianism) and a reputation that matched with it. For this reason, if Cyrus and his national/religious system (which included priests) were to be hailed as a high form of “Good”, all other forms that obstructed it were “Evil” including the fervent worship of tribal Gods who so threatened Persian hegemony and ambition. Strange but also not to be wondered that they did not even spare the Greek temples!

        Persian influence on changes in culture and religion reminds me of the Egyptian and Hellenistic/Eastern Roman influences. We can even think of Cyrus as a much more successful Akhenaten. And let’s not forget that Cyrus’ stable and highly interconnected empire gave rise to the first Greek thinkers in Ionia. Now that I think of it, this Cyrus had a far higher influence on monotheism and universalism than Akhenaten, all things considered. In fact, if Alexander had not defeated them so soon, it is possible that monotheism today would have a very Persian form today as opposed to a more Greco-Egyptian-Jewish one. But such was their influence, that the latter was already akin to the former by the 5th century BCE. I have lately had a theory about ancient Egyptian influence on Zoroastrianism but that is a subject for another conversation.

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  3. K

    Several other interesting things.

    Jews in the first century were trying to claim Zoroaster as their own. As in, they claimed he was a Jew named Baruch who happened to work for the priest Ezra. This is strange, and obviously not true. Ezra himself worked for the Persian empire. Why this is relevant is that Jews knew of a connection to Zoroastrianism and wanted to explain it while keeping Zoroaster “in-house”, so to speak. The dualistic thought is very apparent in the Dead Sea Scrolls, what with the Son of Light vs. the Sons of Darkness, the Truth vs the Lie, the Teacher of Righteousness vs. the Spouter of Lies, Yahweh vs Belial. There is also in the Jewish literature(including the Book of Daniel, written in the Hellenistic period) a notion that each nation has its angelic prince. This is basically how the Persians treated the national gods that they considered “good gods”, as governing divinities of nations while Ahura Mazda was the universal god.

    Jewish notions of the messiah in the Persian period and especially after also look very Zoroastrian. The Samaritans are often ignored now, but they were a large sect back then and had their own messianic notions. Theirs is a series of prophets sharing one “spirit” that would come to the world in successive ages. They considered Moses the greatest of these incarnations, and believed that he would return(somehow) at the end of the age and bring in a renewal of the world. This sounds too much like Zoroastrianism to be a coincidence. Zoroastrianism has successive ages, each with a prophet(all of which are related somehow), with Zoroaster as the greatest prophetic incarnation. In the future he will return(usually said to be in the form of his own descendant) and bring in the renewal of the world.

    If you look into mystical Islam, their doctrine of the “Nur Muhammad” or the original Imam is very similar to the Samaritan notion of the messiah(or taheb). The Samaritans even said that the world was made for the sake of this prophetic spirit(some Muslims say this of Muhammad), which was kind of like an emanation of Yahweh, like Vohu Manah is for Ahura Mazda. Even Philo of Alexandria attributed divinity to Moses. The Muslims also have an idea that prophets are a special creation, from before anything else, that they are “one family”, and some have the idea that Muhammad was a kind of final incarnation of this prophetic spirit.

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    1. Melas the Hellene Post author

      I wrote a longer comment but it disappeared and so I will convey my thoughts more briefly. 1) It appears Zoroaster was as indispensable to the Jews as Moses 2) Dualism is the basis of monotheism and my research shows a far earlier history of this idea in Egypt than in Persia, in the forms of Ma’at and Isfet, but in any case, Zoroastrianism revived this old Egyptian notion for the Jews and invigorated their belief accordingly. 3) It is interesting that the relation between Ahura Mazda/Yahweh and other “good/angelic” Gods parallels the relation between the Persian Emperor and Satrap/Allied petty king 4) The prophetic spirit is powerful, but not as much as blood kinship, as least for Mohammed, who claimed he was directly descended from Abraham.

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