UFO Conjectures

Friday, August 28, 2015

Ekphrasis (or, better, Ecphrasis): okay for UFO study?

An academic friend of mine has Facebook colleagues who like to evoke the mishmash of scholarship.

Rececntly, I had a back-and-forth with one of his Facebook “friends” about a passage in Ovid’s Metamorphoses.

It was the passage(s) about Arachne’s and Athena’s woven “carpet” contest.

The “friend” wrote this in reply to my plaint about his interpretation:

RC Kudos, as my English is probably not good enough to convey this: First of all, you seem to underestimate the level of sophistication of ancient literature, or ancient culture in general, (that's why it's called "classic", by the way). You are simply proven wrong by the volumes of critical material accumulated over the ages of interpretation, beginning with the respective scholia already in Antiquity itself. Secondly, hermeneutics of the four-fold meaning (literal, historical, tropological & anagogical) are to be found both in the Christian and Jewish tradition, for example with Origenes, Augustinus etc, (the Jewish equivalent is called PaRDes and refers to the ancient interpretation of the Tora). And more specifically: Arakhne's carpet and the "Metamorphoses" as a whole are tied together by a compositional analogy in that they both use a compiliatory strategy that involves known and hitherto unknown/invented mythologems to an extent where both "texts" take on the air of a Proteic Metamorphosis. That fluency, if you like, & transformativeness distinguishes both from the "statuary" nature of Classical Augustean literature.Just like in paintings, for instance, where you can sometimes find miniatures of the entire picture hidden on the canvas somewhere - And from Pindar and Homer on it is possible to show that expressions around weaving/carpets etc. have been used for metapoetic discourse …

Okay, you get it; a lot of academic gobbledygook.

The academes also like to use the word ekphrasis or, more correctly, ecphrasis, for interpreting works of art (poetry, in particular) which means:

Ekphrasis or ecphrasis, from the Greek description of a work of art, possibly imaginary, produced as a rhetorical exercise; often used in adjectival form, ekphrastic. A graphic, often dramatic, description of a visual work of art. In ancient times, it referred to a description of any thing, person, or experience.” [Wikipedia]

I prefer (for interpretations outside the world of academe and art), from the Oxford Dictionary: A lucid, self-contained explanation or description.

And here’s how all this applies to UFOs (or ufology):

While I keep harping on drilling down to determine all relevant facets of a UFO event or encounter (a significant “sighting”), I don’t mean to conjecture or add speculative accoutrements to the sighting.

That is, the sighting should be looked at in its overall, “superficial” aspect.

What is witnessed or attested to should be acknowledged on the face of it.

For example, in the Biblical Ezekiel sighting [Ezekiel 10], various hermeneutical interpretations have been applied, ascribing Ezekiel’s vision or experience to a symbolic array meant to provide a message to Hebrews and their enemies.

The “vision” – all by itself, unadorned and pristine as recounted by Ezekiel – has been muddied by askew interpretations.

What Ezekiel reported should be viewed just as it is. One can look for clues – drilling down into the report – as to what Ezekiel saw (just as one might do with the Zamora Socorro account, one of the best witness accounts of a UFO sighting).

Looking for esoteric hidden messages by Ezekiel is irrelevant.

Did he see what he saw? Or did Ezekiel create a wildly exotic “vision” to manipulate his people or their enemies?

I prefer to think Ezekiel reported what he actually saw, just as Eliseus did when he reported his father, Elias, “went up by a whirlwind into heaven” via “a fiery chariot and fiery horses” (and he saw him no more). [4 Kings 2:11]

While I’d like a scholarly, scientific look at UFO cases, especially some of the classic cases, I’d opt out of having anyone from academe getting involved.

They have a tendency to pontificate with abstruse nonsense that has nothing to do with actual content, preferring to incorporate their own misbegotten musings for what is, for all intents and purposes, a simple tale, told in poetic verse (sometimes) to make the story interesting to readers, not to imply subliminal messaging that their audience could not grasp even if they had the intellectual wherewithal to do so (as indicated by the RC answer to me at Facebook, seen above.

“Keep it simple” goes the current mantra, and that’s what we who are looking for an explanation of UFOs should do.



  • Rich, Buddy;

    Ezekiel was describing his vision of the heavens, not a physically present object in Earth's atmosphere. His knowledge of bronze-age cosmology was most probably acquired by his nomadic Hebrew culture during the Babylonian captivity or it was added to Ezekiel by a later writer with knowledge of Greek astronomy. One of his two visions of the Universe ("one turning") composed of moving crystalline spheres within spheres occurred indoors!

    "Wheels within wheels" are the concentric circles described by the motions of the Sun, Moon and planets riding on the crystalline spheres in what we would ultimately become known as the Earth-centered Ptolemaic system that held for two-thousand years. Repeated references to the number four are the Cardinal directions of a celestial coordinate system. And colorfully described lamassu, beneficent celestial mythological beings, populate his Zodiac instead of real astronomical knowledge.

    You want simple? It's as simple as ancient astronomy. It doesn't require drilling down; and it doesn't require the convoluted literal-minded fallacious presentist flying-saucer fantasy reinterpretation of modern pseudoscientific "ancient alien" myth-makers and mystery-mongers. Give ancient cultures the credit they deserve.

    Dismiss Ezekiel, mythological metaphors, ancient and relatively modern but misunderstood sightings of comets, conjunctions, earth-grazing asteroids, and sundogs as anything to do with hypothetical REAL "UFOs." The very idea of historical "UFOs" is not just fundamentally flawed, it's so full of ambiguity at every level it's worthless to anyone seriously studying the larger subject. This misanthropic pseudoscientific subcategory of ufoolery was created by the most crackpot fringe of flying-saucer authors in the 1950s simply to sell books and has no legitimacy whatsoever.

    There are many more recent flying-saucer fairy tales and hard "UFO" reports that are much more amenable to scientific investigations and so are the most likely subjects to reveal any truly unknown signal, a REAL "UFO," in the din of noise. However miniscule the probability of that happening is, I very seriously think.

    Best, ZO

    By Blogger zoamchomsky, at Friday, August 28, 2015  

  • Zoam....you kill me! No wonder I luv ya so much.

    You did exactly what I was bitchin' about -- taking Ezekiel's "report" and interpreting it as a cosmological vision and account by the prophet.

    I take the "sighting or vision at face value: He saw something odd, and tried his best to describe it.

    You see the Biblical tale much as the academic fellow at Facebook would see it: a poetical rendition to make a point of some kind for Ezekiel's "audience."

    Ezekiel and his ilk (Ovid and Homer for example) were primitives, brilliant in a way but still limited, intellectually; their audiences much more so.

    What would be the point of being poetically abstruse for people who could barely keep their sandals on?

    That's surely casting pearls before swine, as you and I often do for the UFO enthusiasts who haunt this blog (and others).

    I see the "thing" that Ezekiel encountered as either an intrusion by the crazy Hebrew god, Yahweh, or an hallucination of a pre-psychotic Ezekiel.

    It could also be a UFO or alien astronaut craft, but I find that highly unlikely, not impossible but improbable.

    Luv ya, buddy, either way.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Friday, August 28, 2015  

  • It seems rather pointless to only explore the exoteric while completely ignoring the esoteric. Especially when dealing with topics that are clearly myth-like.

    By Blogger Parakletos, at Saturday, August 29, 2015  

  • Hello,

    Zoam is right saying Ezekiel was describing his vision of the heavens, not a physically present object in Earth's atmosphere ! It is only or at least a "mystical VISION".
    Only Ufology cant understand it^^

    Here is the erudit work of Dominique Caudron: http://oncle-dom.fr/paranormal/ovni/catalogue/prod-593.htm



    By Blogger Gilles Fernandez, at Monday, August 31, 2015  

  • But some of us, Gilles, think "mystical experiences" are either grand hallucinations or an intrusion from an ethereal reign, euphemised as "heaven" by theologians et al.

    Ezekiel saw something or had a vision, an hallucination or momentary glimpse of the other side, as outlined by Richard Bucke in Cosmic Consciousness.

    Whatever he "saw," his account intrigues.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Monday, August 31, 2015  

  • > What Ezekiel reported should be viewed just as it is.

    Taking biblical narratives as literal records is not wise. To discuss only the textual issues -- setting aside matters of allegory, mythologising, miracles, and lack of archeological corroboration:

    1) most biblical texts depicting events were not written by participants or witnesses; usually, they were written decades, even centuries, later
    2) most biblical texts underwent substantial change in the early days, or had rival textual versions, as demonstrated by comparison with the Septuagint, Dead Sea Scrolls, and other ancient editions
    3) some biblical texts show signs of being "patched up"; that is, holes in the narrative were filled with text from rival versions (this is true of Kings and Chronicles, and notably the synoptic gospels)
    4) some biblical texts have rival versions within the canonical books that don't always agree (see especially the 10 commandments and the gospels)
    5) some biblical texts were created by conflating different versions of a story into one incoherent mess (most famously the opening chapters of Genesis and the flood story)
    6) some biblical texts contain additions that lingusitic analysis and ancient manuscript evidence show were not in the earliest versions (see Ezekial and Mark)

    (For examples, see Ralph W. Klein: Textual Criticism of the Old Testament: From the Septuagint to Qumran, Hershel Shanks (ed.): Understanding the Dead Sea Scrolls, Richard Elliot Friedman: Who Wrote the Bible? and Burton H. Throckmorton Jr., Gospel Parallels.)

    By Blogger Terry the Censor, at Wednesday, September 02, 2015  

  • Yes, we know Terry....

    I have a blog on hermeneutics.

    But in this instance, the book of Ezekiel was written by the prophet Ezekiel, or so the theological consensus has it.

    You've taken opinion about The New Testament (mostly) and applied it to one example where it doesn't apply.

    We all know that much of The Hebrew Bible was contrived by persons using the name of noted Hebrews, just as those who used Matthew, Mark, Luke and John to create the Gospels but, again, the opinion of Biblical scholars is that Ezekiel was Ezekiel.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Wednesday, September 02, 2015  

  • > the book of Ezekiel was written by the prophet Ezekiel, or so the theological consensus has it.

    Not so.

    "The Book of Ezekiel describes itself as the words of the Ezekiel ben-Buzi, a priest living in exile in the city of Babylon between 593 and 571 BCE. Most scholars today accept the basic authenticity of the book, but see in it significant additions by a 'school' of later followers of the original prophet. While the book exhibits considerable unity and probably reflects much of the historic Ezekiel, it is the product of a long and complex history and does not necessarily preserve the very words of the prophet."

    The Wikipedia summary is a fair representation of the cited books by Joyce (page 16) and Blenkinsopp (page 7), which can be viewed in Google Books. Looking to my own bookshelf, Hebrew scholar James Kugel agrees with Wikipedia (How to Read the Bible, page 614).


    And one of my other books suggests Ezekiel is not a reliable author:

    "Ezekiel in chapter 26 prophesies that Nebuchadnezzar will capture Tyre, and gives a vivid impression of the catastrophe that this will represent; and in chapter 29 he coolly tells his listeners that, since Nebuchadnezzar was unsuccessful in his siege of Tyre, God will give him the conquest of Egypt instead." (James Barr, Holy Scripture: Canon, Authority, Criticism, page 6, note 3.)

    He's just as accurate a prophet as a UFO disclosure proponent! And just as likely to admit error.

    By Blogger Terry the Censor, at Wednesday, September 02, 2015  

  • Terry, you write:

    "Most scholars today accept the basic authenticity of the book" and that is the case.

    The additions you note do not include the "vision."

    He very well may not be a reliable or accurate prophet and Biblical writer. That's why one might attribute his "vision" or experience to an hallucination or mental quirk or it was a real, observed event.

    You are offsetting a view that I'm not proposing.

    My view is that one might sensibly accept the vision as Ezekiel recorded it, that's all.

    What he experienced is open to question, as I see it and the gist of my posting.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Wednesday, September 02, 2015  

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