This section on interpretation continues my display of the virtue of study, but again it is merely the barest instruction. “Interpretation” is studied specifically as a religious phenomena, though all phenomena are interpretable. The religions, which take truths as revealed and nonnegotiable through mystical experiences must be interpreted to fit daily life, and interpretation is the basic wisdom of the Jew, Christian, Muslim, and Mormon. Later, in other essays, I will explore the nature of interpretation at length.
Take care, caretakers!
Daniel Christopher June
The religions are basically lifestyles that justify themselves through myths. This is technically true: the original myths of the Rig Veda and the myths of the Greeks were invented after the rituals corresponding to them, to explain the rituals and justify their persistence – and this is stark and clear when reading the Vedas, though less so with certain Greek myths. The rituals, in turn, were a symbol for group solidarity. In this sense, all groups have a “religious” element. All groups have certain rituals and rites, either enacted through traditions, or laws, or economic exchanges – and this as true of marriages and funerals as it is with the merging of businesses or the purchasing of a car. The rituals may seem so economical and pragmatic that we lose touch that every practice is basically a ritual, and all the rituals, and the best, are empty rituals, which don’t need to refer to any spiritual reality other than their own persistence.
Once you have arrived at your truth, the rest is gravy. Once you have settled on what is important to you, you can justify it in any manner you wish. The hard part’s over. Rationalize if you wish, or call it 'religious,' or be humble and say you don’t know why you believe it. People are so superstitious they will even respect things they regard as absurd, and pray to god before death, knowing full well that such prayers are likely to reduce the chances of getting what you want, if not being instead completely irrelevant.
Having a conclusion, one gets wise by rationalizing it at all costs. The real cross-country long-run will power comes from the power of persistence – no small feat – and this requires a keen ability to rationalize. Socrates claimed he was charged as "the wisest of men" by God. Just like the myths invented to justify the ritual, this charming anecdote is pure rhetoric. The fact is, Socrates had long been troubled by the idea that he knew nothing. To feel equal, or even better than others, he needed a method for proving that they both knew nothing, yet wrongly felt that they nevertheless did. The prejudice that Socrates was the wisest of men is sophistry. What this meant was, he was the best at confusing others. For if his opinions were more modern and democrative, that every man has the truth, he could just as easily have justified that prejudice using his same sophistical dialectics. The process is rhetorical from head to foot, it could prove anything, it comes to nothing – and yet this dialectic method, which is a version of the divine logos, or Conversation, is the central idea of all the West. And so Socrates become a type of the Greeks in general, who invented philosophy (and not the Chinese or Indians, who misuse the word “philosophy” when referring to their theologies).
Once having a conclusion, a deeply felt conclusion, an intuitive song, once can and should justify it by any means he can. For that at last is sacred to him. Not that others should accept any method of proof, but regard these proofs in the same spirit as Christian “apologetics” which dares refer to Plato’s Apology for the chicanery they play in the name of God. It isn’t truth, it isn’t reason, but it is an image of them, an illusion of them.
Note, therefore, that since religion takes certain mystical experiences as absolute and unquestionable, and that in the revealed religions that means those mystic experiences were revealed to somebody else—any voice of god that now contradicted the Bible must be the very devil himself—then it follows and indeed is the living fact that for us nowadays, the essential religious practice is in interpretation, interpretation of scriptures and the world in relation to them. That this interpretation is all too often a shallow rationalization is merely one cost for the all important cognitive tool that the religious stand for, must stand for, and must yet be balanced against by the intellectual integrity of the scientifically minded.