Cultural Sharing of
Cultural Sharing of Spiritual & Paranormal Beliefs
This is meant to be a critical thinking exercise... not so much as to give answers, but to ask questions, and to consider the aspect of cultural sharing and how it relates to spiritual and paranormal beliefs held by so many around the globe.
What is the nature of reality? How do we know what we think we know (epistemology)? How do we know if Bigfoot is real or a paranormal being, or if he/she even exists at all? How do we know what ET/aliens are, where they come from, or if they are a fabrication of peoples' collective psyches? How much of what we know is actual vs. learned through our culture? Anthropologists know that cultural sharing (rather than invention) is how most ideas move across cultures, space, and time in this world. This concept is also referred to as diffusion. It is how language is taught to children, and to their children, and on and on. It is how an idea on the internet is spread to other countries across the globe (although aided by technology, it is still a manmade creation and process for sharing within and between cultures). Cultural sharing is the method by which schoolrooms, universities, businesses, etc. teach others. Language is defined by its culture, and culture is learned behavior.
How much of our culture influences our views, our idea of what morals are, of spirituality, of the nature of the spiritual world? We take for granted that there IS a spiritual world, even though it is physically invisible to every single human on the planet. Why does it exist if no one has seen it? What is its energy made of? Does it have or use energy? Is it an actual "place" or is it a concept? Is it merely an abstract belief? Can it manifest into reality? What about people who experience the spiritual or the paranormal? Is it any less real to them than this 3-D reality we live in day to day? Most people take their culture for granted, because it is learned, and we take for granted what we have learned because we are taught it is true. Scientists take ideas (educated guesses - hypotheses) and ask the question first, and attempt to test and retest and try to falsify their hypotheses in order to find the truth about the world and universe. This works well for the hard sciences, but what is truth in cultural terms?
Truth is relative to every single subjective experience and belief and mental filter that people have within them. The "truth" to a cannibal who is part of a tribe in south America is that it is perfectly acceptible, and even promoted behavior. The "truth" to the U.S. government is that cannibalism is a deviant behavior that is considered (and treated as) murder. Is there an "ultimate truth?" What if one accepts the fact that truth is indeed relative, and cultural? With such a view is it possible that an ultimate truth cannot exist? A Christian might say that God is the ultimate truth, and that He sets the "ultimate truth" rules for what is "good" or "evil" (like in the garden of Eden), and that all the cultural stuff must follow that. Culture is learned behavior after all, and so in that view He taught Adam and Eve first, and they taught their children, etc. But what if this is a metaphorical story and not a literal one? What if the CONCEPT of an ultimate truth is also a cultural belief? Many people don't even think that far.
So what about things like Bigfoot, and aliens, ghosts, and/or things not spoken of directly in the Bible? What about those "truths" that people swear exist? What about the people who say that the Bible was really written by men who were "made in the image" of aliens, who are the real directing force on this planet? What of the folks that deny any existence of aliens HERE, but that they might exist OUT THERE somewhere? What about the possibility of prophecy and seeing future events before they happen? About psychic awareness, lucid dreaming, gifts of the spirit, remote viewing, or even wormholes or parallel worlds? What is the big picture regarding the universe(s) as it relates to quantum physics?
Cultural sharing is all around us. It is in the media, our television sets, the movies, theatres, schoolrooms, parenting classes, day care centers, public swimming pools, malls and stores, in the backyard where children are playing together, in the forest where hunters are looking for deer, and in the temples in Tibet. Evidence of cultural sharing is written on the bathroom stalls, in doodles on paper napkins, in books, in the Bible, in church hymnals. People take their culture for granted, and those things that we hold so dear to our hearts as being TRUE, because we were TAUGHT that they were true, is often challenged when other ideas come forth. One of the fundamentalist Christian's beliefs regarding the creation of the world is challenged by the late Zechariah Sitchin's work. Sitchin's books have brought old Biblical literalist ideas to the forefront by representing an alternative view in an otherwordly and more naturalistic way. But whose version of "the truth" is really TRUTH? What about other ideas? Michael S. Heiser refutes Sitchin's ideas on a scholarly level. Cultural sharing allows debating, and in order for it to stand on its own it MUST be supported by empirical evidence. Let's consider Sitchen's teachings for a moment...
Being a minister's daughter and one who has studied the original Hebrew (for the OT) meanings that the KJV (King James Version) was translated from I found Sitchin's work not only extremely interesting, but also somewhat embellished and ethnocentric, for sure. In my own opinion, if anyone is mistranslating (from a scholarly point of view) some of these concepts in the old texts and/or cunieform (which anthropologists and archaeologists typically agree is closer to myth than literal in meaning) it would be Sitchin in his interpretations. I had come to that conclusion long before I had heard of Mike Heiser. However, this does not mean I stand behind the fundamentalist Christian's view either. Because there is no definitive scientifically backed PROOF of what Sitchin claims (even though he says there is), we simply must realize that his views and teachings are still merely via personal interpretation of what is available. More importantly, he was not alive at the time these ancient artifacts were created, so cannot be 100% SURE of "the truth" in what he is promoting. Chances are, that if every single person studied the same information (separately, without sharing information) they would likely come up with their own interpretations as well, so that literally millions of variations and extremes would be identifiable if compared and contrasted. If Sitchen had lived 300 years ago then he would have interpreted things in an even more unique way, especially without advanced scientific knowledge of flying, space travel, computers, etc. existing back then. It is entirely subjective, and a typical cultural phenomenon. Sitchen brings to the table an interpretation that is based on his accumulated knowledge NOW, as we all do.
Anthropologists know that cultural beliefs, practices, values, and behavior change over time. For instance, if you whisper a few sentences into someone's ear, and they whisper it into the next person's ear, and they tell the next person, and on down the line, the chances are very slim that what was said originally will be the same once it reaches the last person. Our brains and experiences filter informational INPUT, and then reorganize it for informational OUTPUT. What we think we are saying as "the original truth" may not actually be that, because a word or two may be altered, or the next person in line may have a different concept about what a particular word means, so may inadvertently alter its meaning by using a different phrasing. Even with the original Hebrew of the Biblical text being preserved it becomes corrupted once it is translated into another language, or even worse, once it is made "politically correct" -- like the Living Bible removing king David's kissing of Jonathan by dishonestly, and unethically, making it say they "shook hands" because their ethnocentric beliefs kept them from allowing their Bible to say that two men kissed each other. Many Christians believe that this was a homosexual relationship between these two men, while others flatly deny it. It is not surprising that the INTERPRETATION each person chooses is aligned with his or her previously set bias, beliefs, prejudices, and ultimately culture!
Every single historical "human origins" version from 5000+ years ago is different in minor ways, even down to things such as the Biblical flood story -- how big the "ark" was, how many people were on it, how many days it rained, etc. The Babylonian version of the origins story (older than the Biblical version) differs from the Aramaic, and other versions worldwide differ even more, mostly due to losses of data in cultural sharing over time. The debate between scientists (primarily geologists, paleontologists, and anthropologists) and Biblical literalists is a continuing cultural clash, often spilling over into the issues of separation of church and state, and what should (or shouldn't) be taught in public schools as "truth." But what of Plato's mention of Atlantis, the city that sunk into the sea when it was flooded over? Was this related to Noah's flood? Was it a global event or a local event? Like the Glacial Lake Missoula flood, was an ice dam break involved (as the Biblical "fountains of the deep" breaking forth) with vast amounts of torrential spring/collected water sweeping through thousands of square miles of topography? Was it also during an unusual (perhaps cyclical) and locally catastrophic monsoon season? Was it all of the human settlements that were buried under 328 feet of rising sea levels due to the melting of the glaciers at the end of the last ice age (the only scientifically proven worldwide so-called "flood" on the planet, limited only to coastlines, which is, at least historically speaking, where human settlements are most commonly built)?
Perhaps the myth of Atlantis was a metaphor for all of the human settlements that perished during this several thousand year period? Perhaps the Noah's flood story was also a myth? Anyone with an ounce of common sense, and who has attempted to logically deduce whether or not every single species on earth (including the thousands that have since gone extinct) could have fit on an ark of Biblical measures, knows that it is a mathematically and spacially impossible task. Science typically takes over where cultural beliefs wane. And for me, personally, it is morally and spiritually unethical to try to "make" the facts of science bend to be something that is merely a product of cultures long since gone, and of whom we have no idea if even they believed it was literal or symbolic at the time they lived. Beliefs can change, however, because beliefs are culture, and culture is learned behavior. We can always learn a new way.
I think that there was probably a real man named Moses, but even the Rabbi and the congregation members of the local Temple where we lived in El Paso, TX agreed that there is no proof that he was a literal man, or that he existed at all, and yet he's seen as basically the greatest historical figure in Judaism (besides Avraham). This level of intellectual honesty is rarely seen within fundamentalist Christianity. One example of cultural sharing is between the Egyptians and Moses' tabernacle in the wilderness (after removing the children of Israel from slavery). This is regarding the three symbolic spaces within the tabernacle's boundaries. These are the OUTER COURT, the INNER COURT/Holy Place, and the HOLY OF HOLIES/Most Holy Place. The theme is that one must pass through the outer court to get into the inner court, and through the inner court to get to the holy of holies, although only the high priest could make it into the holy of holies where the ark of the covenant sat, and only once/yr. Certain things had to be done, also, in order to go from one place to the next, and all in sequential order and purpose. To behold the cloud and glory there in the Holy of Holies would kill you if you weren't prepared spiritually and had gone through certain rites of passage, or attained a certain level.
Tabernacle in the Wilderness with camps of Israel all around
Floorplan of the Tabernacle
Interestingly enough, Moses told the children of Israel how to build this tabernacle, made of tent materials, and he had grown up in Pharaoh's household (likely Ramses II if Moses was an actual historical figure) in Egypt and was trained in all things Egyptian (including their spiritual beliefs, which I'm sure he practiced). When my parents went to Egypt to visit and see the pyramids, etc. they went into some of the temples there. My dad told me that in one Temple, where the pathway went downward, the first room had a name given to it, The Outer Court, and then followed The Inner Court, and finally The Holy of Holies. This evidence, written in stone on temples much older than Moses would have been, is something that signifies cultural sharing... not necessarily divine inspiration on Moses' part! My dad's way of reconciling this, however, is that the Egyptians evidently tapped into that same common thread of "ultimate truth" that exists in all societies. Unfortunately, these exact terms and uses -- for the outer and inner courts and holy of holies -- definitely do NOT exist in all societies. But they did exist in Egypt, and they did exist in the descendants of Israel afterwards. Chances are that if one culture is in communication with another culture, the two will share pieces of each others cultural beliefs and practices, and so these things pass on from one generation to the next. The fact that this exact situation was in place in the Middle East and is corroborated by archaeological evidence that still exists today makes one hard pressed to choose the idealistic view over the rational.
I think Sitchin's work is not far off from this concept of cultural sharing and interpretations gone wild... where one can interpret something one way, when in fact it is likely a culmination of others' works that are merely reinterpreted to suit one's comfort zone or beliefs or personal bias. Certainly there is no proof that extraterrestrials did not help things along (since humans are the only sapient beings on the planet - as far as we know) by "tweaking" our DNA or progress throughout time. But TIME is the key word that puts a damper in that hypothesis as well, since millions of years of human beings' ancestry has been unequivocally and empirically preserved within the fossil record, in perfect sequential order, with regular mutation rates applicable in evolutionary, geological, and with supporting scientific dating results. The question is still, why is there presently not another species on this planet who is relatively close to us (like Neanderthal was to Cro-magnon, since they were different species who co-existed) in sentience, sapience, and with spiritual, ethical, and moral perceptions, etc? Of course that is an old cultural belief - paleoanthropologists know now that Neanderthals practiced spiritual beliefs and probably believed in an afterlife due to the red ochre and flowers thrown into the graves of their beloved ones who passed on. That is but one example of how cultural knowledge can change, despite how superior the human race thinks it is.
Some folks who do bigfoot research, or who have claimed to have seen these beings, are often at odds as to whether these "creatures" are F&B (flesh and blood) or whether they belong to a more paranormal source. Some people have even claimed to have seen them on board UFO's. Sometimes, though, there are physical evidences such as blood, hair, footprints, broken twisted limbs too thick and high for a person to reach, sleeping nests, rock stacking, films, pictures, etc., all of which are corroborated by sounds that penetrate people and fall into auditory as well as the ELF/VLF range, large hogs that are mysteriously picked up and taken over electric fences (with only huge and deep bipedal footprints seen as evidence of something large having walked away from the scene), strange feelings of being watched in the woods, disgusting smells that make people feel nauseous, gag, puke, or pass out, and sightings of creatures in areas by people who don't know each other but yet all give the same description, etc. But where do we put our beliefs when a creature leaves physical evidence, such as footprints, and then the prints disappear in the middle of a field with no way for a person trying to hoax bigfoot tracks to get out of the field, or backtrack through unusually deep prints tht have such a humongous stride, and no trees to jump onto, etc.? Are these F&B creatures since they leave tracks? Are they part of the alien agenda (assuming aliens are real and that they have an agenda... all cultural beliefs, remember!)? Are they a missing link between humans and our ancestors? Are they related to Neanderthals as some people think? Are they even real at all? Are these creatures, if real, real in the physical sense or are they only real in a spiritual sense? Are they manifestations of the human psyche? Are they from other dimensions? Are UFO's also from other dimensions? Do both Bigfoot beings and aliens utilize portals to come and go as they please, as well as to escape detection?
At this point we get into quantum physics and parallel worlds as the possible reason why other sentient and sapient beings are apparently visiting this world (in one way or another). Although there are other questions to be considered... why are these beings (aliens in particular) also upright, walking, talking, having a head on a body, binocular vision, hearing in our range and type, compatible linguistic abilities, are often telepathic (as many people are), and scientifically advanced, etc. humanoid beings as we are? Are they that way because uprightness (bipedalism) and the freeing of the hands is necessary for the brain to develop a certain way? What about Brocas area of the brain for speech -- did they develop that as we did, and because of the same selective pressures? Were those selective pressures natural or artificially induced (selected by other sapient beings so that we were literally "made in their image")? Who is God; what is God; does he/she exist? Are ET's so similar to us because humans personally will them to be that way in their/our holographic "reality"? What is going on here!?!
With that, I would like to end this article with the same questions we started with... What is the nature of reality?... How much of what we know is actual vs. learned through our culture?... How much of our culture influences our views, our idea of what morals are, of spirituality, of the nature of the spiritual world?... Remember, this is meant to be a critical thinking exercise... not so much as to give answers, but to ask questions, and to consider the aspect of cultural sharing and how it relates to spiritual and paranormal beliefs held by so many around the globe.
What do you believe? More importantly... why? Could it be that you were taught it via different forms of cultural sharing?
by Sharon Cornet 7/28/07
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(c) Sharon (Eby) Cornet 2011