[NB] The Concubine’s Story

I want to flag this for further consideration:

“Abraham was fully aware of the magical and idolatrous uses that could be developed from these mysteries. The Talmud thus says that Abraham had a tract dealing with idolatry that consisted of 400 chapters. There is also a Talmudic teaching that Abraham taught the mysteries involving ‘unclean names’ to the children of his concubines. This is based on the verse, ‘to the sons of the concubines that Abraham had, Abraham gave gifts, and he sent them away…to the lands of the east’ (Genesis 25:6). These gifts consisted of occult mysteries, which then spread in eastern Asia.”— Aryeh Kaplan, Sefer Yetzirah: The Book of Creation in Theory and Practice (xiii–xiv)

This, combined with Kaplan’s observation that the work of creation ought to be undertaken by a pair of men, places this tale of origins alongside the rich vein of Tamar stories that I spoke about previously.

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Digging Deep, Surfacing

One of the small formative moments in my philosophical life came in a undergraduate course on Islamic philosophy. It was a one-off course for the department, the fruits of having been lucky to land a temporary lecturer who had a side interest in the topic. We were reading (I think) Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi. In the text he was arguing that one of the proofs of the soul’s separation from the body was that while we could tire of physical action, we never tired of mental action.

To which youthful me immediately called bullshit. I assume, now, that al-Razi was making a subtler argument than I gave him credit for, attending to the fatigue of the body capable of shutting down our mental efforts, but even now I don’t really buy that mental actions don’t tire us. Mental action, even when the body is prime rested and wakeful shape, can wear you down.

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[NB] Absalom, Absalom

Like much of theoretical speculation here, there is a practical case that motivates my thinking about the mythical depths of the seemingly historical Bible. The Bible provides me with many of the tropes through which I have worked out some of the more intimate dimensions of my spiritual court. I am sure some of that is growing up Catholic, but several elements have little to do with the Biblical world of my Catholic childhood. Like Absalom, the rebellious son of David, like Tamar.

This one is longer than usual.

(Which isn’t to say that these stories are strictly Christian or Jewish. They fall into a globally-distributed pattern of myths.)

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