Revelation [conclusion]: guaranteed last post for a week

Fri, 21 Jan 1994 05:19:07 EST

[* Many hours ago this writer, who is ravenously hungry, sat down and *]
[* tried to make sense of what the ANTHRO-L community is doing, found *]
[* evidence you don't know in the recrudescence of What-Is-Culture, then *]
[* due to two surprises (a) the brilliant John McCreery hadn't "got" the *]
[* point of a previous post; and (b) the honor of womanhood needed my *]
[* defense from Seeker1's foul slur, we take leave of our senses with *]
[* this note on the social-contextualization of historic Revealers. *]

2. "Revelation is something not yet explainable." Which will never stop
Explainers, driven as they are by the economic and prestige imperatives
of their industry, from Explaining it ad nauseam where scholarly or media
audiences are made available; but we do not need it. Yet. From someone
else came the usage, "altered states of consciousness," which raises the
disgusting prospect that, in the 30 years from the inception of the mass
character of the Drug culture to the current senescence of the New Age,
we have done no better than this pitifully vague, virtually undefined,
poor excuse for a purely descriptive catchall label. But suppose, now,
all historic Revealers were in the *identical* "state of consciousness,"
call it Delaware (= "something lower, even, than New Jersey"), the
variability of the achievements of each, assuming historicity in every
case, which is dangerous; the content Revealed; and the social and political
consequences stemming from their personal achievements beyond their
lifetimes or direct supervision is such that, if we knew what "Delaware"
was, we'd know all that much. (Even with neurochemical reductionism, why
should we expect Christians and Muslims, after half a lifetime of religious
practice, to be neurochemically the same?)

I have elsewhere stated that the religiously possessed, including the
pronouncers of Revelation, have on occasion "provided objectively rational"
solutions to problems which, posed as such, would be found insoluble
(by, say, crude Malinowskian criteria of instrumental rationality). In
so doing, the role of the Revealer is *scripted* or *unscripted*. The
scripted role is most common; and typifies the Jewish Messiahs of the
first century of the Common Era or AD (according to your religious
preference); also Christian saints after Pauline Christianity stabilized.

The programmatic content of the Messiah's leadership was explicitly
stated by Josephus in his History of the Great Roman-Jewish War. In about
the year 6, by the Christian calendar, one Rabbi Judah was addressing the
people in the hills of Galilee. One translation, by a man, had R. Judah
call the people "less than women" should they pay taxes to the Romans.
A second translation, by a woman, changed the charge to "cowards and
traitors." And indeed, in Jesus' most important public speech, addressing
a crowd aroused against Pilate's administration, the tax question was
raised by hecklers.
Political crisis over Pilate's seizure of the Temple treasure to build
an aqueduct and what we would today call a nonviolent civil disobedience
movement to compel removal of Roman eagles from Jerusalem, complicated by
Pilate's order to disguised troops mingling with a nonviolent crowd to
use lead clubs with lethal force (where one unarmed protester killed his
assailant with his own club, then was arrested himself for sedition, and
if he wasn't Barabbas [= "his father's son," Joe Blow], was someone like
him; cf. Mark on Barabbas arrested for sadition, not theft).
Jesus' response, with a highly politicized crowd before him and the
Roman garrison of Fort Antonia behind him, was highly political: "Render
unto Caesar what is Caesar's; render unto God what is God's." What was
made of this might be contingent on acceptance or rejection of legitimacy
of Roman rule; and on resentment, for once to the advantage of the usually
pliant and collaborationist priestly caste, of aliens' theft of taxes in
lieu of animal sacrifice. Whatever the traces of guerrilla inclinations
surviving in the Gospels, e.g., "not peace but a sword among you," we
have no certainty that he would or would not implement the designs for
which he was pre-emptively executed. What with rival claimants to
Messiahship, and certain defeat in event of insurrection (as did occur
in 66-73), he perhaps fortunately died prior to becoming a proven military
failure. Selections were certainly made from mutually contradictory public
statements in accordance with expediency by those who believed he was the
Messiah in life.
Further changes were made by Paul by direct Revelation given by the
dead Jesus. But thereafter occurred the closure of the book on direct
Revelation; and when, circa 140, Montanus sought to revive it, the Church
outside Montanus' strongholds in Asia Minor rejected him. Revelations to
Saints of the Church thenceforth came from the Holy Spirit. Visions of
Jesus and Mary without specific orders were acceptable to the Church; and
visions and voices of dead Saints could give direct orders or Reveal hidden
or buried objects. Revelations to Saints such as Francis, when conforming
to Church interests (early 13th century), were admissible with theological
contortions. Overstepping these bounds placed one in another scripted role,
the *heresiarch*.

The two most efficacious *unscripted* Revealers known in Europe and
reasonably close vicinity were St Joan, whose brief career covered two
years, 1429-31; and Muhammad (570-632). Each overcame problems which,
had they been contemplated by conventional methods would have been
insoluble or had so proved already. Joan is the simpler case. She
had visions of two heroic women saints of antiquity who guided her
to embark on her politico-military career. This was, in outcome, an
instance of the rationality of delusion:

Equipped with the Welsh longbow, small expeditionary forces English
monarchs could raise for wars with France, with its much greater population
and resources, would almost invariably win pitched battles. Longbow arrows
pierced plate armor, leaving fallen horses and men helpless, to get either
killed or captured, following traditional massed cavalry charges. The French
nobility could not alter their style of warfare without, seemingly,
abandoning their ideological claims to social dominance. They lost the
decisive battles of Crecy (1337), Poitiers (1357), and Agincourt (1415);
by the 1420s an English puppet government ruled in Paris under the Duke
of Bedford in the name of Henry VI of England (1423-1461, 1470-1) by
right of a treaty extorted by Henry V after Agincourt from the psychotic
Charles VI of France (1380-1426). To the English were allied the seceding
Dukes of Burgundy, French Princes of the Blood, whose territories were
integrated into English wool, then cloth export.
The only person in a position to convince the French nobility to change
their suicidal fighting was, not entirely accidentally, the *lowest form
of life in the existing social order*. Joan was, firstly, a peasant. She
was illiterate. She had no military experience, hence lacked the malign
socialization into habits of fighting proven catastrophic for a prolonged
period. She was a woman. The unthinkability of a woman fighting alongside
noble chevaliers and men-at-arms, and in full armor carring a war banner,
was the very factor that was efficacious. This, combined with her virginity.
The medieval cult of virginity protected, sanctified, and endowed with
supernaturally-seeming charisma *against the men she commanded*. They were
ineffective, as events proved, against the enemy. So as a holy, untouchable
virgin, a social nothing in ordinary village life (where a woman was
constituted as adult by marriage and pregnancy), she could attain the
strictly provisional leadership of the nobility and monarchy; and when
she had served their political purposes, could be discarded readily as
a social nothing all along. (See the summary by Andrea Dworkin, Intercourse,
Ch. 6, pp. 83-119. Joan apparently believed that her powers would disappear
with the loss of her virginity, as Samson's did with the loss of his hair.
See earlier post.)

Joan was in fact a brilliant general. What constituted the essence of
her generalship was the observation, rather easy to make, yet impossible
for those ideologically and behaviorally committed to the way of life of
cavalry warfare, with its ritual complement, chivalry. This was that, in
preparation for combat, each English longbow archer rested his left foot
against a stake driven into the ground. The inference was very simple: The
formation could not move, could be attacked by stealth on the flanks and
rear. Which is exactly what she ordered her troops to do, and as she was
under divine guidance, they did it, tradition or no tradition.

The inversion of role suitability criteria, for which by definition
there could be no script, did in fact "work." It was instrumentally
rational. But it worked under conditions where ideological conditioning
associated with lifelong training and practice of one and only one way
of fighting construed as honorable, which in turn legitimated
exploitation of the underlying population.

What I have tried to do here was, simply, *redefine your problem* into
one you can use to create other problems you can solve, cross-culturally,
or by sociocultural-developmental stages: When do Revelations by Prophets
or whoever "work," that is, under which circumstances; as opposed to the
usual hopeless case when they do not. There is sufficient of the
counterempirical posited as taken-for-granted Real in any culture
offer scope to the right blind seer at the right time at the right
place. Which were they? Most likely, I've reinvented the wheel yet
again, ah, well.

Daniel A. Foss