also sprach Zarathustra

The following hypothetical conversation between Jesus, Moses, Mohamed, Arjuna, Buddha and Zarathustra is in three acts. Act 1 is about the Thing (‘the Signified’). Act 2 is about the Qualities (‘the Signifiers’) of the Thing. Act 3 is about the Name (‘the Sign’) of the Thing.

Act 1. The Thing.

Moses: Are your people deists or atheists, believers or unbelievers?

Zarathustra: Deists, of course. How about yours?

Moses: Deists, naturally.

Jesus and Mohamed: Our people are deists too.

Zarathustra:Tell someone who cares!

Arjuna and Buddha: Oh don’t be so mean!

Act 2. The Qualities of the Thing

Zarathustra: So tell me more about how your people identify deity.

Moses: OK. We worship deity. Deity sets rules for us to live by. Deity is the uncreated creator. Deity created the world and everything in it in seven days. Deity is one. I don't know the word for deity in your language but in English a word for deity is "God". Now it's your turn.

Zarathustra: We worship deity and try and live by the rules set by deity. We agree that deity is the uncreated creator, and that deity created the world, but not in seven days. Rather, by means of six divine sparks, or emanations, we call the amesha spenta: Manah, Asha, Kshathra, Armaiti, Haurvatat, and Ameretat. We believe deity is one, but I suspect that my good friend Arjuna would say that deity is many. A word for deity in the Avestan language is "Dadvāh".

Arjuna: There are several, related belief systems under the heading of Hinduism. Some Hindus believe that a word for deity is "Brahman". In general, Hindus believe that deity is neither one nor many, but rather many-in-one.

Mohamed: "Allah" is a word for deity in the Arabic language.

Jesus: Christians believe that deity is one, and at the same time, three in one.

Zarathustra: Are we all talking about the same thing, I wonder? Do we all have the same idea in mind in relation to the word in our respective languages that translates into English as "deity"?

Buddha: It would seem that not only does "deity" mean different things to different people expressed in different languages, but also that the concept of "deity" is different among people of different beliefs. Or, in other words, there is no such thing as the concept of "deity"; rather, there are many different concepts that have some elements in common and some elements that belong nowhere else.

Zarathustra: That’s true. And the implication is that if we all were to use different words for the various different concepts respectively, then we would not have any substantial disagreement.

Jesus: Don't we already?

Zarathustra: Don't we already what?

Jesus: Don't we already use different words (from our different languages) for the various different concepts respectively?

Arjuna: Oh do us all a favor and get a life!

Act 3. The Name of the Thing.

Moses: Deity has many names, and no names. Sometimes, we use the name "Jehovah"."

Jesus: Sometimes we use the name "Jehovah", and sometimes… ahem… This is a bit embarrassing for me... I hope you guys don’t think I’m being too arrogant, but one of the names that we do use is "Jesus". Yes it’s true, I am a god. Or part of one anyway, some people would say!

Zarathustra: The name of deity is "Ahura Mazda".

Buddha: Deity has no name, because there is no such thing as deity. Pantheists would say that deity has all names, and therefore none.

Arjuna: Deity has many names, including Vishnu, Shiva, Krishna, Brahma and many more. Not to mention Zeus, Baal, Thor and Quetzlcoatl, for that matter. But we should all bear in mind that a name is not the same as a classification, nor is a name or a classification the same as a quality or attribute.

Quetzlcoatl, from the Codex Borbonicus, written by Aztec priests around the time of the Spanish conquest of Mexico.

Buddha: Disagreement results when people use a different Sign or Name (such as "Jehovah", "Ahura Mazda", or "Vishnu") to point to the same Thing (such as "god", "deity", "supreme being"). But the disagreement is as absurd as that between a French-speaking person and an English-speaking person about whether it is correct to say "noir" or "black" in relation to the absence of light.

Mohamed: So there is no logical reason to go on a crusade because "A" is not "B". It's just plain dumb. It's misunderstanding, not disagreement. It's terminology, not ontology. It's language, not truth.


Lily Strange said...

Sounds like my thought processes on any given day. And when feeling dyslexic, I ponder whether there is a dog.

masterymistery said...

Si! Si! There si a dog!