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New Age "Asiatic" thought ... is establishing itself as the
hegemonic ideology of global capitalism. (Zizek)

Wednesday, June 28

yogis, shapersons and goddesses

“Symbols are a language that can help us understand our past.”

“Witness the biggest coverup in human history.”

~ The Da Vinci Code (irony not included)

I just discovered a deliciously scathing review of Mircea Eliade's work in a 1966 issue of The New York Review of Books (subscription required, and highly recommended). Such cogent criticism from as far back as 40 years ago appears to have have had little impact on Eliade's sales to a readership increasingly constituted of Fox Mulders, all desperately wanting to believe. Yeah, the truth is out there, baby. Only it's so far out, you don't have the foggiest clue where to look for it. Try starting here. Following are some clips from the article, Sermons By a Man on a Ladder by Edmund R. Leach.
If Eliade writes:
Recent researches have clearly brought out the "shamanic" elements in the religion of the paleolithic hunters. Horst Kirchner has interpreted the celebrated relief at Lascaux as a representation of a shamanic trance. [Shamanism, p. 503]
most readers will believe him simply because it fits the argument. They will be quite unimpressed by the pedant's comment that there are in fact no "reliefs" at Lascaux and that no one has the slightest idea why the paintings were made. Again, when Eliade tells us that:
Heine Geldern has established a connection between the human sacrifices and skull hunts that are abundantly attested in Assam and Burma and a matriarchal ideology. [Yoga, p. 300]
it suffices that he can cite a reference dated 1917. It is futile to point out that Heine Geldern himself had no evidence at all.
Four decades later we naturally have much more "evidence" -- if still of the latter type. For instance, from Marija "Language of the Goddess" Gimbutas, who never encountered even the most vaguely triangular pot shard that didn't conjure up conceptual hallucinations of vulvas and vaginas. And we are unsurprised to find the resulting delusional system of archaic matriarchy endorsed by no less a leading light than Joseph "PBS Pledge Week" Campbell. But Joe, for all the media cred Bill Moyers pumped him up with, was after all a man, and his word alone would never have carried the day on this score. For that we needed Riane Eisler and her "creative mythology" (another Campbell trope) in bestselling feminist fugues such as The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future, and Sacred Pleasure: Sex, Myth, and the Politics of the Body - New Paths to Power and Love.

What is the driving principle behind this sort of wanting-to-believe "history"? What methodology could possibly justify such leaps of "faith" disguised as scholarly social science? To such questions, The New York Review of Books reviewer offers a salient insight.

Eliade's personal mysticism seems to give him a confidence hardly justified by his evidence. He proclaims the truth as an enlightened prophet speaking from a great height. Shamans do not need to be consistent.

And of course the latest and most powerful mass-media-potentiated salvo in this blitzkrieg of wish-fulfillment irrationalism comes from the pen of noted seer, savant, and world-class "symbologist" Dan Brown. The best review of The Da Vinci Code movie I've found to date is this one. (btw, I found this via this google search. It won't work if you've got SafeSearch™ turned on. With SS turned off, it comes up as the first hit.)

... Franke was distracted by me nudging him in the ribs every time Audrey Tautou was alluded to (whether by gross reverential euphemism or triangular hand gesture) as The Living Embodiment of Pussy, and I was distracted by Franke shushing me every time I whispered some variant of "So when is Hanks going to kneel and sip from her divine chalice" ...
You may write that off as too frivolous, too vulgar, but to me it perfectly encapsulates The Big Message of Gimbutas, Eisler, Brown and a whole new generation of indiscriminately credulous Foxy Mulders. Goddess help us.



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