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Previous William Thomas Sherman Info Page postings, quotes, observations, etc.


Last week I made reference to the satirist Lucian (of Samosata, an Assyrian who wrote in Greek); so that it seems only appropriate to present here an extract of one of his dialogues, "Icaromenippus." The story centers around one of Lucian usual characters, Menippus; who is or represents an actual Cynic philosopher of that name; sort of like how in, say, a "Saturday Night Live" comedy sketch they will use an actual well known personality as a character in a skit. In this dialogue, Menippus, using an eagle's and a vulture's wing, Icarus-like soars to the empyreal dwelling of Zeus where he seeks an audience with the king of the gods.
Worth noting, it is interesting and curious in both Lucian and some of the Church Fathers, like Justin, Tatian, and Theophilus of Antioch, Greek philosophy and culture is derided or declaimed. Presumably, Greek philosophy, as practiced by some, was not without its hypocrites and charlatans; as to discredit it in many people's eyes (moreover, we can safely assume that it was not unknown for some of the better philosophers and thinkers of integrity to be persecuted and crucified as to result in the very pronounced lessening of intellectual quality and moral caliber.) Even so, the faults as enunciatd and ascribed to it by Lucian and certain Christian apologists are often specious and sophomoric; such as, for example, the charge that the philosophers did not all agree with each other, and that therefore none of them were or could be right or correct. In short, I think what was going on was that philosophy was under attack by "others" influencing these writers and who knew better than them how very powerful and significant philosophy, and getting people to think rationally, was and is. In other words and again to be very brief, they protested "too much" against it; so that we should think that their doing so and so frequently bespoke, and for all their genuinely good skeptical intention, reason, philosophy, and science's inestimable value and worth to us as human beings; which is to help free us from dogma and the influence and arbitrary authority of spirit people. As well, there were evidently other factors at work as well; such as a Near Eastern subservience and rejection of the dominance of Greek culture in their own societies.

"Who art thou? Where thy city? Who thy kin?

"At the sound, I nearly died of fear, but remained upright, though mute and paralysed by that thunderous voice. I gradually recovered, began at the beginning, and gave a clear account of myself--how I had been possessed with curiosity about the heavens, had gone to the philosophers, found their accounts conflicting, and grown tired of being logically rent in twain; so I came to my great idea, my wings, and ultimately to Heaven; I added Selene's [i.e. the Moon's] message. Zeus smiled and slightly unbent his brow. 'What of Otus and Ephialtes now?' he said; 'here is Menippus scaling Heaven! Well, well, for to-day consider yourself our guest. To-morrow we will treat with you of your business, and send you on your way.' And therewith he rose and walked to the acoustic centre of Heaven, it being prayer time.
"As he went, he put questions to me about earthly affairs, beginning with, What was wheat a quarter in Greece? had we suffered much from cold last winter? and did the vegetables want more rain? Then he wished to know whether any of Phidias's kin were alive, why there had been no Diasia at Athens all these years, whether his Olympieum was ever going to be completed, and had the robbers of his temple at Dodona been caught? I answered all these questions, and he proceeded:--'Tell me, Menippus, what are men's feelings towards me?' 'What should they be, Lord, but those of absolute reverence, as to the King of all Gods?' 'Now, now, chaffing as usual,' he said; 'I know their fickleness very well, for all your dissimulation.
"There was a time when I was their prophet, their healer, and their all, And Zeus filled every street and gathering-place.
"In those days Dodona and Pisa were glorious and far-famed, and I could not get a view for the clouds of sacrificial steam. But now Apollo has set up his oracle at Delphi, Asclepius his temple of health at Pergamum, Bendis and Anubis and Artemis their shrines in Thrace, Egypt, Ephesus; and to these all run; theirs the festal gatherings and the hecatombs. As for me, I am superannuated; they think themselves very generous if they offer me a victim at Olympia at four-year intervals. My altars are cold as Plato's Laws or Chrysippus's Syllogisms.'
"So talking, we reached the spot where he was to sit and listen to the prayers. There was a row of openings with lids like well-covers, and a chair of gold by each. Zeus took his seat at the first, lifted off the lid and inclined his ear. From every quarter of Earth were coming the most various and contradictory petitions; for I too bent down my head and listened. Here are specimens.
"'O Zeus, that I might be king!'
"'O Zeus, that my onions and garlic might thrive!'
"'Ye Gods, a speedy death for my father!'
"Or again, 'Would that I might succeed to my wife's property!'
"'Grant that my plot against my brother be not detected.'
"'Let me win my suit.'
"'Give me an Olympic garland.'
"Of those at sea, one prayed for a north, another for a south wind; the farmer asked for rain, the fuller for sun. Zeus listened, and gave each prayer careful consideration, but without promising to grant them all;
"Our Father this bestowed, and that withheld.
"Righteous prayers he allowed to come up through the hole, received and laid them down at his right, while he sent the unholy ones packing with a downward puff of breath, that Heaven might not be defiled by their entrance. In one case I saw him puzzled; two men praying for opposite things and promising the same sacrifices, he could not tell which of them to favour, and experienced a truly Academic suspense of judgement, showing a reserve and equilibrium worthy of Pyrrho [the skeptic] himself.
"The prayers disposed of, he went on to the next chair and opening, and attended to oaths and their takers. These done with, and Hermodorus the Epicurean annihilated, he proceeded to the next chair to deal with omens, prophetic voices, and auguries. Then came the turn of the sacrifice aperture, through which the smoke came up and communicated to Zeus the name of the devotee it represented. After that, he was free to give his wind and weather orders:--Rain for Scythia to-day, a thunderstorm for Libya, snow for Greece. The north wind he instructed to blow in Lydia, the west to raise a storm in the Adriatic, the south to take a rest; a thousand bushels of hail to be distributed over Cappadocia.
"His work was now pretty well completed, and as it was just dinner time, we went to the banquet hall. Hermes received me, and gave me my place next to a group of Gods whose alien origin left them in a rather doubtful position--Pan, the Corybants, Attis, and Sabazius. I was supplied with bread by Demeter, wine by Dionysus, meat by Heracles, myrtle-blossoms by Aphrodite, and sprats by Posidon. But I also got a sly taste of ambrosia and nectar; good- natured Ganymede, as often as he saw that Zeus's attention was engaged elsewhere, brought round the nectar and indulged me with a half-pint or so. The Gods, as Homer (who I think must have had the same opportunities of observation as myself) somewhere says, neither eat bread nor drink the ruddy wine; they heap their plates with ambrosia, and are nectar-bibbers; but their choicest dainties are the smoke of sacrifice ascending with rich fumes, and the blood of victims poured by their worshippers round the altars.
"During dinner, Apollo harped, Silenus danced his wild measures, the Muses uprose and sang to us from Hesiod's Birth of Gods, and the first of Pindar's odes. When we had our fill and had well drunken, we slumbered, each where he was.
"Slept all the Gods, and men with plumed helms, That livelong night; but me kind sleep forsook; for I had much upon my mind; most of all, how came it that Apollo, in all that time, had never grown a beard? and how was night possible in Heaven, with the sun always there taking his share of the good cheer? So I had but a short nap of it. And in the morning Zeus arose, and bade summon an assembly.
"When all were gathered, he thus commenced:--'The immediate occasion of my summoning you is the arrival of this stranger yesterday. But I have long intended to take counsel with you regarding the philosophers, and now, urged by Selene and her complaints, I have determined to defer the consideration of the question no longer. There is a class which has recently become conspicuous among men; they are idle, quarrelsome, vain, irritable, lickerish, silly, puffed up, arrogant, and, in Homeric phrase, vain cumberers of the earth. These men have divided themselves into bands, each dwelling in a separate word-maze of its own construction, and call themselves Stoics, Epicureans, Peripatetics, and more farcical names yet. Then they take to themselves the holy name of Virtue, and with uplifted brows and flowing beards exhibit the deceitful semblance that hides immoral lives; their model is the tragic actor, from whom if you strip off the mask and the gold-spangled robe, there is nothing left but a paltry fellow hired for a few shillings to play a part.
"'Nevertheless, quite undeterred by their own characters, they scorn the human and travesty the divine; they gather a company of guileless youths, and feed them with solemn chatter upon Virtue and quibbling verbal puzzles; in their pupils' presence they are all for fortitude and temperance, and have no words bad enough for wealth and pleasure: when they are by themselves, there is no limit to their gluttony, their lechery, their licking of dirty pence. But the head and front of their offending is this: they neither work themselves nor help others' work; they are useless drones, of no avail in council nor in war; which notwithstanding, they censure others; they store up poisoned words, they con invectives, they heap their neighbours with reproaches; their highest honours are for him who shall be loudest and most overbearing and boldest in abuse. 'Ask one of these brawling bawling censors, And what do you do? in God's name, what shall we call your contribution to progress? and he would reply, if conscience and truth were anything to him: I consider it superfluous to sail the sea or till the earth or fight for my country or follow a trade; but I have a loud voice and a dirty body; I eschew warm water and go barefoot through the winter; I am a Momus who can always pick holes in other people's coats; if a rich man keeps a costly table or a mistress, I make it my business to be properly horrified; but if my familiar friend is lying sick, in need of help and care, I am not aware of it. Such, your Godheads, is the nature of this vermin.
"'There is a special insolence in those who call themselves Epicureans; these go so far as to lay their hands on our character; we take no interest in human affairs, they say, and in fact have nothing to do with the course of events. And this is a serious question for you; if once they infect their generation with this view, you will learn what hunger means. Who will sacrifice to you, if he does not expect to profit by it? As to Selene's complaints, you all heard them yesterday from this stranger's lips. And now decide upon such measures as shall advantage mankind and secure your own safety.'
"Zeus had no sooner closed his speech than clamour prevailed, all crying at once: Blast! burn! annihilate! to the pit with them! to Tartarus! to the Giants! Zeus ordered silence again, and then, 'Your wishes,' he said, 'shall be executed; they shall all be annihilated, and their logic with them. But just at present chastisement is not lawful; you are aware that we are now in the four months of the long vacation; the formal notice has lately been issued. In the spring of next year, the baleful thunderbolt shall give them the fate they deserve.'
"He spake, and sealed his word with lowering brows. 'As to Menippus,' he added, 'my pleasure is this. He shall be deprived of his wings, and so incapacitated for repeating his visit, but shall to-day be conveyed back to Earth by Hermes.' So saying, he dismissed the assembly. The Cyllenian accordingly lifted me up by the right ear, and yesterday evening deposited me in the Ceramicus. And now, friend, you have all the latest from Heaven. I must be off to the Stoa, to let the philosophers loitering there know the luck they are in."

For the full text from (most of) which the above is taken, see:


["john lee hooker & carlos santana - chill out"]


Don't ask me what year because I don't know -- but some time early 70's.

["Mi destino es como el viento - Moby Dick" -- "My Destiny is Like the Wind" by Moby Dick]


["1920's Silent Hollywood 'Harry Carey' The Western"] and ["D.W. GRIFFITH presents THE WANDERER starring HARRY CAREY SR." -- 1913]


The primary and most profuse source of worst evil (that we can know) is spirit people, and the most effective way to defeat such spirit people is to, John Paul Jones like, take the fight to and attack their Heaven. Now among the obvious difficulties opposed to accomplishing this is that it is usual for many, indeed probably most and including religious minded persons, to see spirit people Heaven as actual heaven -- not unlike how some would have you believe that vast material wealth and empire necessarily constitutes or connotes real happiness in this life -- which very clearly it does not. At the same time, such Heaven is the vital foundation and bulwark of their self-confidence and arrogance. And how do we know their Heaven is false? Because (among other reasons) it is not of honest and rational truth. So that once this illusion is overcome, then true offense on our part begins becoming possible.