Wednesday, January 01, 2003
What about Spinoza?
The Prophets: Who They Were, What They Are
by Norman Podheretz
I was just looking at N. Podheretz' The Prophets. An exceptionally trashy book, one can only wonder why he wrote it. Actually, not bad, as a fake scholarly book. If I hadn't known about the author, it might have fooled me. Now all the other books are suspect, because I don't know their authors.
Yes, we know the author, a first-class Nietzschean hoodlum trying to play the Op Ed version of prophetic justice. Wonder why? Surely the author knows that a generation of police torture on the West Bank doesn't merit the sanctification of this account of the Prophets genuine plea for justice.
Surely the author does know. And my own anger springs from the fact that the last ounce of reverence for the Old Testament got fried this time, for the last time. I won't be fooled again. Counterproductive, eh?
I am sorry to be so harsh, but these neocons have created something dangerous. At least leave the Old Testament out of it. This route will make Bible Studies skirt radical evil. Warning! At least most theological texts in this field are merely Sunday school wishfulfilment, half-conscious. But this book, which is designed to pass as a promo for dirty politics, is thereby so brazen it discredits the whole subject.
But why wax indignant? Nothing new there. The Old and New Testaments were seen to be fraudulent by a secular age, starting with Spinoza. So we need not apologize for our secular condition. There is no going back.
One might mention that Podheretz left out one of the most significant prophets for modern Jews and Christians. A prophet in the true sense, one who saw into the future, not with spiritual magic, but with clarity. Spinoza.
Spinoza patiently pointed out the problems in the seventeenth century, and, as one of the first Zionists, made clear from the beginning the basic elements for the Jewish (and Christian) predicament. He was quite prophetic in his own way, and saw, as a Marrano, what was coming, and tried to lay the foundations for something appropriate for the modern world. He is not the last word, but his debriefing of the issues of theism as materialism/immanence was a brilliant option that might have help, and he saw the need for an exit strategy for Jews and Christians both.
It is a point that the founders of Israel understood, at least I hope so. They took their narrow chances, and it would seem the gamble has been lost. Has the whole thing been frittered away in this current horror story of fruitcake Jewish Old Testament lunatics?
I mention Spinoza because Jews tend to misread their own history. The place of modern Jews in modern history is a big 'might have been', a point brought home by the recent book by Amos Elon. The distraction of the Old Testament is almost unbelievable here.
Podheretz cites Bright's History of Israel, and takes potshots at Wellhausen. That's about it. Amazing. But then this genre is one of the most mendacious in literature, from its commentators. Christians and Moslems are not better.
The question of the real history of Israel has become a runaway monster here. For what it is worth, research in this area has pretty well demolished this genre of religious Israel, in the typical versions with their arcane distortions of fact.
Time to start from scratch. Was there a Moses? Take it from there, and stop lying. To pretend any longer is sheer dishonesty. Check out something like The Bible Unearthed, by Finkelsten and Silberman. It's over when it's over.
It is not true, false, that Jehovah manifested in history, or that Jews have some special claim on modern Israel. Jews have not been appointed a special destiny to save the planet by taking over the West Bank. Come on.
Nonetheless secular accounts often fumble also, and that is also a part of the problem of this endlessly persisting confusions arising in the secular field. The correct way to take monotheistic history is hard to come by.
[ I recommend my 'eonic model' of the remarkable Judaic sequence in its context, http://eonix.8m.com. Correct perception of the phenomenon of Ancient Israel is extremely tricky, and after some 'eonic' perspective, really needs to be set aside as useless at this point. The Old Testament is a confusing record of this effect, more fascinating in its secular version, by the way, than in its archaic and obsolete Bible version which is simply useless as is.
It was part of the whole so-called 'Axial Age' enigma, which, however, was confused by Jaspers, and was both special and unspecially the same as the entire spectrum of that nexus. It has nothing whatsover to do with God or Jehovah.
This circumstance has no repetition or continuation in the original form. Herzl sensed the point. And I think the founders of secular Israel would be appalled to think that anyone would now think so, and have entire lobbies manipulating conservative Christians and corrupt politicians in Congress to repromote this.
Remember the shock of Germans waking up to see how they slide into the abyss. Remember.
The eonic model is a time and motion study, and relatively neutral and would make a good standard here for all parties (and you are free to critique that also, but it can help to see why the subject is so confused), because it is neither mythology nor secular trashing of the data. Jewish history does indeed have a special status, but that requires extreme care in its interpretation. Jews and Christians have no connection with those events now, which are so antiquated as to be a dangerous quagmire whose status is no better than Hollywood fiction.]
Time to face reality, the Judaic tradition based on the Old Testament is dying, along with the Christian and Islamic. I don't like that, but I can't change it. At the dawn of the Enlightenment Spinoza appeared to issue a warning. Bashing the Enlightement as antisemitic entirely misses the point.
We need to pull each other out of the wreckage and move on, and that requires Americans to wake up to the media control that has suppressed proper discussion and dissent of the nearly fascist concealed manipulation of the American government on these issues.
Actually, minus the neo-conservative boilerplate inserted in ludicrous fashion at strategic points in the book, it is no worse than most in this genre, but when someone like Podheretz dips into this field, it becomes tastelessly obvious, if not dangerous to critics, that the Old Testament is, was, and remains mostly propaganda. This time it is going to backfire sooner or later, and the later is getting to be soon.
So let me guess, this is a rightwing shot-in-the-arm for the Jewish Lobby and the Bible Belt, and much needed religious justification, mystique pandering, for the Israel's permanently ambiguous 'right to exist'. The latter is a lost cause, although I, for one, would not challenge a de facto existence on the spot, apocalyptic leftist answers are not my point.
But I would put the American right to exist a la the destruction of the American Indian, and the Islamic right to its Koranic imperialism over a multitude of subject peopls, etc... in the same category of strong man tactics dressed up in variants of mythology. Again, I acknowledge the de facto presence of Israel, lest I be misunderstood, but remain puzzled at the self-destructive nature of this immense effort to destroy the very idea.
So we have three sets of thugs here, and it might help to dispense with religious baloney.
Zionism has/had a very narrow launch window based on a secular vision of some homeland for the Jews. It was not a religious proposition based on the Old Testament Jehovah concoctions. The destruction of that vision of the Zionists, whatever we think of that and it could have been a viable project, has been almost systematic since 1968, and it is based on this regurgitation syndrome of Judae-Christian history.
As we watch the slow destruction of the Two State option in some horror, and this is my real concern since my sympathy and support is found to have been exploited by con men, it is essential to try and talk madmen out of this endless conspiracy to pretend they want justice.
Why take this route, the whole possibility is being frittered away, to the great historical dishonor of the Judaic tradition.
What the answer is I don't know. I have no options to even express dissent or indulge in political action. I have been cheated out of intelligent options, and have to face the dangers of dissent as against the corruption of being silent.
I can only state for the record my dissent at the point where trust and support was betrayed by Machiavellian evils dressed up in Old Testament sanctities in the think tanks of the likes of Podheretz.
I may be a powerless nobody, but don't push your luck.
And I watch in some frustration the muzzled dissent of those who dislike this gross novelty, the leveraging of antisemitism for a geopolitical swindle, while a Podheretz throws the Justice of the Prophets into the propaganda pot. Leveraging antisemitism! what a thought.
Wake up and face reality.
One is supposed to be silent, or else... Am I an antisemite? Skip it, I wouldn't be interested. I had three Jewish teachers, one in Kabbalah. That's all gone now. A lot of other things are passing away too.
In one generation we have seen the poisoning of the great Jewish tradition, the discredit of the American government, and the charge of antisemitism against anyone who tries to stand up to this and propose some rational exit strategy. Jews are supposed to be smart people, but this last generation has been a form of stupidity that is mind-numbing. Jews have better things to do than this. And this new regime is indeed producing a stupid new type. Ditto for Christians, if you like.
One lesson of the Holocaust was what happens when people remain silent. Here we go again.
Now everyone is silenced on this issue in the US, as frozen politicians cynically allow this curious coup d'etat to corrupt democratic government amidst gosh knows what other svengali types.
The left has also been cockeyed, and rendered itself useless.Has everyone lost their minds?
So one needs to restate the issues for the sake of those still caught up in the Madison Avenue tactics applied to gangster politics in a veneer of sanctity designed to manipulate a sunday school crowd.
We need the courage, Jewish lobby plust shadowy enforcers in the shadows, to stand up to this mess, in a context where charges of antisemitism are now part of the cynical game. And it is alarming to watch the rise of still another new form of antisemitism, sometimes so-called, sometimes not.
One will of course get put in a CIA/Mossad database for saying anything. Tough luck. Don't be a lickspittle.
And antisemitism is beside the point, keeping in mind the cynical leveraging of this by fanatics. If you really are an antisemite, I hope you will shut up.
Americans are going to wake up one day and see the results of their timidity in the wreckage of their political tradition.The world will not forgive it. This nuttiness has gone on a long time, its getting to demand a worldhistorical verdict, set against the name of Judaic tradition. What was that tradition?
Time for some no-nonsense courage to face the facts and move on bypassing the anti-semitic dragons, and the truly nefarious Machiavellianism of the Podheretz types who will stoop to anything, including the cynical abuse of the sacred.
Y. Yovel has two interesting books on Spinoza, and his Marrano background. Spinoza saw the dilemma of both the religious tradition, and the ambiguity of materialist successors. He has been buried by history as an active influence, yet he has influenced modern philosophy profoundly.
Future history will wonder at the irony of the term 'prophet', behind the distortions that have fallen into the hands of the manipulators.
The Prophets: Who They Were, What They Are
by Norman Podheretz
From Publishers Weekly
In what initially appears to be a radical departure from his previous eight books, some of which were autobiographical accounts of Podhoretz's move from left to right, this effort deals with the Hebrew prophets, a new subject for the former editor of Commentary magazine. To his credit, he does indeed present a scholarly analysis of the prophets, but it is interwoven with too many references to himself. Moreover, the lessons that Podhoretz derives from his study of the prophets, as detailed in the last chapter, "The Prophets and Us," are a rehash of the neo-conservative views expressed in his other books. He condemns relativism, the counterculture, political correctness, the women's movement, deconstructionism, multiculturalism and environmentalism. He likens his own views to those of the biblical prophets as they fought for monotheism and opposed paganism. Podhoretz gives consideration to all 21 prophetic books in the Bible, as well as to Abraham and Moses. However, he focuses mostly on Amos, Hosea, Micah, Isaiah ("First" and "Second"), Jeremiah and Ezekiel. He examines their writings, drawing extensively on the work of biblical scholars. Although he describes himself as an "amateur" and a "non-specialist," he doesn't hesitate to give his opinions on disputes among the various schools of biblical interpreters. Podhoretz deserves to be applauded for venturing beyond himself (at least in part) as the subject of his books, but readers interested in the prophets may wish to consult scholarly sources directly rather than rely on Podhoretz's rendering of their ideas.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
World History and the Eonic Effect