Tom's Philosophy Page

First of all, I'll make this disclaimer...
I don't necessarily believe this. No one I know necessarily believes this. It does not reflect the views of La Sierra University, the Physics Department, the Seventh-day Adventist church, Argonne National Lab, or Bill the Cat. These are purely philosophical ramblings. (Although, if you polished your screen real nice I'm sure it could reflect something.)

1999 Dec 06 First, a quote from Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day. -- `Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.' -- Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.

The voyage of the best ship is a zigzag line of a hundred tacks. See the line from a sufficient distance, and it straightens itself to the average tendency. Your genuine action will explain itself, and will explain your other genuine actions. Your conformity explains nothing.

That said, most of the following is obsolete. I keep it around primarily for historical reasons. Soon, I hope to put up a new essay on what makes my world go 'round. However, if you're interested enough in me to get here, you may be interested in some of what makes up my past, so have fun.


Thought you could pin me down on that one didn't you? :P

If you want to find out about my religious philosophies, you probably don't know me well enough yet. If you feel you deserve to be informed, send me some e-mail (there is an opportunity below) and request said information. Honestly, I don't think anyone besides my friends will ever take the trouble to read this anyways. If you're not, you may want to read my Sources and Background first.

With that out of the way, we can get on to the 'good' stuff.

First: A few words from our sponsors.
The Turtle Movement
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See also my Religion and Ancient Civilizations sections of my links page.

Now, for my papers:
World-view Paper for PHYS489: Spirituality and the Rational Person
As it says above, I don't necessarily believe this... it was an assignment
Thoughts on Mithraism From a letter to my friends 1996 Dec 03.


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Sources and Background

Written: 1996 September 14

For those of you who have read my discursive ramblings but don't know much about my background, here is some help understanding some of the influences behind my ideas. (And for those of you full of prejudices, here's your perfect opportunity to reject everything I say right off just because you don't like my reading preferences or the color of hair of my grandmother's best friend.)

The first thing the reader may notice is constant references to Christianity. This is due largely to the fact that I grew up in a conservative Seventh-day Adventist family. (My family has belonged to this denomination for five generations.) Therefore, it is the reference frame I have the most experience with in discussion. Unfortunately, certain aspects of my childhood make certain favorite Christian symbols meaningless for me, such as the 'Heavenly Father'. With that in mind, please try not to rely on old clichés when talking to me.

Another thing an observant reader might notice is references to science-fiction. Yes, I will admit that I enjoy reading sci-fi. Before someone condemns me for reading such "filth", let me go on to state that a majority of my "heresies" come from reading the works of the very people trying to support their religion. C.S. Lewis is one of my favorite authors because he was one of the few that could argue his faith logically. Some of the logic might be flawed, but I cannot hold open discourse with him, so I will give him the benefit of the doubt. He did, however, give me a lot to think about and, in turn, has been the background behind a lot of my arguments.

The final thing I think might be important to note when reading some of my ideas is that I have always liked to study ancient civilizations. No study of a civilization can be complete without looking at its religion(s). This is the third major influence on my cosmology. Unfortunately, I am not as expert as I would like to be on these cultures. (I find myself terribly lacking in knowledge on Asian civilizations.)

For now, I think those are the most important aspects to keep in mind when reading what I write. If you've gotten this far, I'm truly amazed and would like to get to know you better. :) Happy reading.

Back to the Beginning


A Personal Evaluation of My Cosmology
By Tom Elmer II

Written for PHYS489: Spirituality and the Rational Person, a class taught by Dr. Ed Karlow
(With modifications for release to the general web audience.)
Created: 1996 February
Revised (for clarity): 1996 September 14

Through the past couple of years I have had to seriously revise my world-view as a result of the deaths of family and friends. I would say my view hinges on a desire to have a rational outlook on the world and religions.

First I must give a background of where I came from. I grew up in the midwest in the Bible Belt of America. Our church was a very conservative Seventh-day Adventist church which condemned all scientists for being spawn of the devil. That is, all scientists who were not in the medical profession. My teacher I had for a quarter of first grade, and for second and third grades (in a one room school) had specialized in math in college and he fostered in me a love of math and science. I was allowed to accelerate at my own pace in all areas of schoolwork. At that time, I was a very religious child, being the one who was able to memorize all the memory verses for the quarter to repeat in front of the whole church. I attended Revelation Seminars twice a year and had all the proof texts memorized, blindly accepting the Adventist world-view as it was taught to me. (Revelation Seminars are those meetings of ... um ... mental cleansing in which Adventists like to study the book of Revelation in the Bible to find out about the second Advent/Coming of Christ.) This continued throughout school until I reached college. I made my statement that I wanted to be a physicist and I began studying other beliefs. I started seeing my "beloved" proof texts being refuted by other proof texts as I studied other denominations of Christianity.

The tension between science and church finally came to a head my Sophomore year. I was either deified or satanized by other church members for going into physics. I do not have the ego to make claims to godhood. Neither am I evil in intent. When my grandfather died during my sophomore year, I was forced to confront this tension in a very real way when it was inferred that my soul might be lost and I'd never see him again, just because I was one of those dreaded "scientists".

Through the past few years I have struggled with these issues and haven't quite come to a resolution on anything. The only thing I do believe in is free will. To believe in anything else is actually pointless and self-defeating. I am not a nihilist. I can not really argue anything without admitting free will.

From this point, the path I take in my world-view depends which world system I choose to believe in the first place. I know this may sound redundant, but really the proof of any world-system is based solely on what your initial assumptions are. Naturalism tends to lead to nihilism, but it can be said that theism leads to idolatry. I believe the scientific evidence supports a world that is older than the Bible states and at the same time, I believe the problem of pain is something theism does not cover very well. If an omniscient God created everything, why did It create the devil and sin unless It likes to see creatures suffer on their way to see It. Therefore, I am not a Christian theist.

On the other side, I believe that the spark of life and essence (free will) a human has indicates that a creator/designer stepped in somewhere along the way and gave evolution a boost that natural processes alone could not provide. A Therefore, I am not a strict deist or a naturalist. My beliefs lie somewhere between deist and theist, simply because of my belief in free will. This is the first major point in my set of beliefs. (Although I have discovered naturalist explanations of free will, I still believe that humanity necessitates a step above natural processes alone. I will, however, admit that the other argument is there.) (Here is where some initial assumptions play also, for if I step out of this realm of thought, I could believe, as in Hinduism, that the universe is what made humanity, for the universe is sentient in the form of Brahma.) All of this is tempered with a Taoist belief in balance and equilibrium.

This brings me to my second major point in my world-view. As a person of free-will, I want other people to be able to converse with, for to be alone is to be in constant pain. Therefore I foster a sense of compassion for my fellow humans in my world-view. I believe that this is also what was in mind when human minds were created. The source wanted others to be able to join It, to be intellectual companions in the universe (It?).

These beliefs in the free will and compassion for fellow man spawns another belief of mine. A world-view must be thought through and sufficiently studied in one's mind in order for it to be strong when others' world-views come to test it. It is this reason that I often take the role of "devil's advocate" in discussions about world-views and theology, because my version of the great commission is to "Go out and make thinkers of all nations, teaching them to be rational and strong about their world-view in the name of logic, compassion and free will."

Am I saying that men can become gods? I'm not sure. If the Bible is believed, I'll let it answer on that one for a Christian. Psalms 8:5 states that man was made a little lower than the angels. In this verse, the word translated angels is 'eloheem, which literally means 'gods'. (I don't want good Christians telling me that the 'son of man' referred to here is Jesus, because that would ruin the Christian Trinity if Christ was made lower than the angels, or gods, and was therefore not The God.) The serpent's temptation in the Garden of Eden was that they would become like gods. A temptation would have no validity if there was no ring of truth to it. I believe this means we can be gods. (Some versions say God. This is because the Hebrew word for God is masculine and plural. It is the same word as angels above... Now, why did the Biblical translators decide one time it was The God and another time it was gods and yet another time it was angels... hmmmmm?? Most modern translations have given up and translated all occurrences of this word as 'God', but that still ignores the fact that it is a plural noun.) The next point from the Bible about if we can be gods is that we will be given the ability to judge the angels, 1 Corinthians 6:3, God's own messengers, and depending on your definition of minor deities, this would qualify as a god. B

If I believe the Bible as a literal source of religious knowledge or not, I am not sure. C

A word-by-word study reveals some interesting things. One point is the gods/angels/God argument above. Another is in the creation story where Genesis 1 translates adam, the Hebrew word for mankind, as 'mankind', Genesis 2 translates it as 'the man', and Genesis 3 uses it for the proper name Adam. (The ancient Hebrew Bible had no capitalization or punctuation, so you cannot tell me one was capitalized in the original...) One can even go as far as prove that Satan and God are the same being using the Bible. ( 2 Samuel 24, 1 Chronicles 21 tell the same story, but in the first sentence of each chapter is different, one uses Satan and one uses God. There is also a discrepancy in the actual numbers, but that can be accounted for by knowing the source of each document. Samuel was written by the religious people - in Judah, and Chronicles by political people - in Israel.) Can the Bible be trusted? I have found that many things should be simply left for further revision as time progresses. Some things may be simply unanswerable.

In summary, I believe that my world-view has three key elements: free will, compassion, and examination. Where those take you really depends on the assumptions you have coming into the evaluation, which means that sometimes my view itself changes drastically, but these things remain constant.

Notes Added Since HTML Version

A 1996 Sep 14: My ideas have started leaning towards Deism in this aspect, for this "spark" may have built in to the universe from the beginning. (Sort of like the anthropic principle.)
1997 Aug 13: The current 'toy' I'm playing with is the sentient universe version. (Not pantheism, I don't believe it's 'divine' in the traditional sense.)

B 1997 Feb 02: Just another interesting text to note about angels is Genesis 6:1-4, in which the 'Sons of God' (the same term used in Job for angels, in which Satan is included) come to earth and have sexual relations with the 'daughters of men'. Also see here at And Adam Knew Eve.

C 1997 Aug 31: An interesting page 'supporting' the divine authorship of the Bible can be found here. The basic idea is that Genesis has words the Hebrews wouldn't have known encoded in it in equidistant letter spacings.

Back to the Beginning


Thoughts on Mithraism

From a letter to my friends 1996 Dec 03.

While researching my final lecture for Astronomy, I found that David Ulansey has a homepage. It even has a web adaptation of the article on Mithraism about the zodiac interpretation. The essay was adapted from his article "Solving the Mithraic Mysteries," Biblical Archaeology Review, vol. 20, #5 (1994 Sept/Oct) pp. 40-53 (published after his Scientific American article.) These articles were summaries of his book The Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries: Cosmology and Salvation in the Ancient World (Oxford University Press) I also found another interesting Mithraism site here

(for those that don't know/remember, James and I used the Scientific American article in our report for World Religions at Mesa Grande Academy)

BTW: James... A VERY interesting note with respect to the book Snow Crash... Historically, Mithras was taken by the Babylonians and converted to their god Shamash... This is the one depicted as giving the code of laws to Hammurabi... (and interpreted in the book as the son of Enki, Marduk.) Also, see the quote about Mithraism at the end of this letter :)

Some of my own notes on Mithraism for those of you who haven't talked with me about it... :) (OK, the ones who have can read it too... it has some new notes.)

Some interesting similarities to Christianity (remember, Mithraism began 4000 years ago in the Persian culture...)

  1. Celebrated his birth on Dec 25
  2. Belief in final day of resurrection... Remember also that the Jews of the Old Testament didn't believe in a resurrection, except special cases, e.g. the incident with Elisha's bones, but even those rare cases were not immortal resurrections.
  3. Ritualistic Baptism for purification. (The idea that blood was used could be early Christian propaganda.)
  4. A Last Supper (before Mithras went back to heaven)
  5. They partook of wine and bread as 'blood and body' representing his sacrifice. (not the same as the Last Supper though, more like today's Catholic Mass / Communion.)
  6. The faithful referred to Mithras as "the Light of the World"
  7. Mithras was incarnated as a man to save his followers / the world
  8. Mithras was born of Anahita, an immaculate virgin mother once worshipped as a fertility goddess
  9. In Armenian tradition, Mithras was believed to shut himself up in a cave from which he emerged once a year, born anew. (Heard of someone doing that before? :) (The date of celebrating this annual renewal was that of the modern Easter... go figure.)
  10. Mithraist initiates were branded with a cross to show ownership by the deity. (Then they used whips and chains... oh wait... wrong religion. :)
  11. The infant Mithras created the world (by slaying the bull, protofauna.)
  12. On the very spot on which the last Taurobolium (bull sacrifice / baptism) took place at the end of the fourth century, in the Phrygianum, today stands the Vatican's St. Peter's Basilica.
Mithraism was the main competitor against Christianity for the first few centuries. It was the common religion of most of the Roman military from before the time of Christ.

David Ulansey claims that the Roman civilization took the Mithraic myth as a cover for a secret society of intellectualism based on astronomy. The Mithraic mythos contained the right elements to cover it. The elements involved in the Tauroctony (bull slaying) are also represented in the heavens in the zodiac and actually chart the course of the Spring Equinox through the Zodiac constellations, a fact that was discovered in 128BC. His interpretation of the religion has enough in it to make it sound plausible... (Although, Ulansey claims that the Tauroctony has no equivalent in the old Iranian myth. There are supposedly 1st century Platonist texts that claim it indeed has Persian origin. Since I don't read Greek, I say supposedly *grin*.) This is the part that's in my Astronomy lecture... don't think they'd like the comparisons to the 'true' religion :)

Unfortunately, we don't have many records left of this religion because Christianity came to power in the 4th century and the iconoclasts and priests destroyed almost everything referring to it. (As well as the sparsity of information due to it being shrouded in secrecy.) The documents that are left are mainly Christian attacks against it. Tertullian wrote that Mithraism was inspired by the devil, who wished to mock the Christian sacraments in order to lead faithful Christians to hell. (OK, pop quiz... WHICH religion came first and which seems like the counterfeit??) Even when it had been dethroned by Christianity, the Mithraic faith lived on as a Christian heresy known as Manichaeism.

(Just an aside... Saul/Paul the Apostle was born a Roman citizen... It's interesting that the exact same rituals start to appear in Christianity and the stories of Christ's life which were written later... Perhaps my theory of Paul was tilted to the wrong side... Instead of being sent by the Pharisees to infiltrate The Way, it might have been even further back than that... Perhaps he was a Roman infiltrator into the Pharisee sect and then when Christianity started gaining followers, he was reassigned... Uh oh... there I go being a heretic again.) (See Acts 22.)

Another note... according to the second web page, Mithraists developed the modern handshake to show that they were unarmed... (Their 'secret' handshake is today's standard greeting.) Also, the predecessor of today's royal crowns was a symbol of Mithras as sun-god in Persian royalty.

Through the expansion of the Persian and later Roman empires, the Mithras mythology (and worship) was spread from England to China by the second century AD. It is one of the great of ironies of history that Romans ended up worshipping the god of their chief political enemy, the Persians. (But this adaptability was one of the chief reasons the Roman empire became as strong as it did, right Magnus?)

A couple of quotes:

"As a result of the Babylonian captivity of the Jews (597 B.C.) and their later emancipation by King Cyrus the Great of Persia (538 B.C.), Zoroastrian dualism was to influence the Jewish belief in the existence of HaShatan, the malicious Adversary of the god Yahweh, and later permit the evolution of the Christian Satan-Jehovah dichotomy. Persian religious dualism became the foundation of an ethical system that has lasted until this day." (Mithras was one of the Zoroastrian godhead of the Persian empire.) (From the second Mithraism page.)

"This ingenious fable [of the bull slaying] carries us back to the very beginnings of civilization. It could never have risen save among a people of shepherds and hunters with whom cattle, the source of all wealth, had become an object of religious veneration" Franz Cumont Les Mysteres de Mithra

If you were to wander around ancient Rome on December 24, a few years before the reported birth of Christ, you would find much merriment and celebrating. In an underground temple outside the city, you would find the birth of the sun-god Mithra being celebrated. At midnight, the first minute of December 25, the temple of Mithra would be lit up with candles, incense would be burning, and priests in white garments would be reciting the history of Mithra. They would tell the faithful of how Mithra killed a cosmic white bull. When he did so, the bull became the moon, Mithra's cloak became the night sky and stars, and the blood of the bull gave birth to all life on earth.
After the creation, Mithra retired to heaven, until he returned to act as savior to all mankind. You would hear the story of how a star fell from the sky when Mithra was born, how shepherds witnessed the birth, and how Zoroastrian priests called Magi followed the fallen star to worship him, and how they brought crowns of gold to the newborn "King of Kings."
(From the OBJ-REL listserv.)

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