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orion Orion 1. Cognitive dissonance, 2. "The Essene Shore"
According to Stephen Goranson:
> Dear orion list,
> The post quoted below makes some unfortunate assertions, in my opinion.
i.e., an earlier post by Fred Cryer, where the referents were unclear,
as Goranson also states.
> I skip the first sentence, as I don't know to whom Fred was
> responding, as he did not quote or identify to whom.
> The second sentence appears to suggest that some people in the
> discussion suffer from the psychological malady of cognitive dissonance. If
> so, that would, perhaps, be an ad hominem remark.
It is intellectually fascinating to me (in a neutral sense) that cognitive
dissonance is invoked to indicate malady or mistaken understanding or
perseveration (persistence) in an unfounded belief. I will not go into
what "cognitive dissonance" really is, except to note that the
perseveration of the belief that there is such a thing as "cognitive
dissonance" in some defined social psychological sense is itself as
outmoded as Fred Cryer perceives the "Essene hypothesis" to be.
> In any case, the early ASOR group and Sukenik and others introduced
> the possibility of the Essene identification for reasons which have not
> been shown "wrong" or "false," including the communal group described in
> 1QS, a group known as Essenes, and Pliny's text locating Essenes by the
> Dead Sea. Their introduction was not "gratuitous."
[. . . ]
> Stephen Goranson email@example.com Duke University
The following is quoted from a Fred Cryer post of 2/23/98.
> > It is a curious feature of human psychology, but one which has been
> >well studied recently, that people will continue to adhere to many of the
> >elements of a given hypothesis that has obtained currency for some time
> >even once it has been shown that the assumptions that originally gave rise
> >to the hypothesis were wrong, based on false data, or the like.
Note that Cryer did NOT use the phrase "cognitive dissonance;" that may
or may not have been his referent.
[. . .]
> >My point in connexion with the En Geddi find is simply that, if we had had
>>no previous knowledge of the DSS, we'd simply have assumed that Pliny was
> >talking about small sites such as the one Hirschfeld has discovered.
I'm making a leap in interpreting Cryer, here. Pliny's famous passage
begins "(73) Ab occidente litora Esseni fugiunt usque qua nocent" which I
have translated as "(73) Towards the West is the shore of the Essenes,
those who flee from (or abhor) everything that is polluted/noxious." If we
had no previous knowledge of the DSS, and read Pliny this way, we would (I
think) assume that on the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea, the
habitations (towns, villages, forts, cenacles, caves) were those of the
(modifier such as "ascetic") Essenes. In the Latin that immediately
follows, they are characterized as a <gens>, which may have been used as a
specific term meaning a related family group that has religious rituals in
common, especially since Pliny goes on to qualify the "family
relationship" aspect of what he is saying.
I started out the translation project as an Essene skeptic, based on the
Loeb translation by Rackham. I finished as an Essene believer, in a
qualified sense. "Essene" makes sense as a broad designation for
individualistic ascetic groups that clustered in the Dead Sea area. That
of course means that the term is very nearly unusable, because of the way
it has heretofore been used to designate THE Qumran settlement as
equivalent to THE Essenes (of Pliny, at least).
For reference, Rackham has translated very very loosely "(73)On the west
side of the Dead Sea, but out of range of the noxious exhalations of the
coast, is the solitary tribe of the Essenes. . ." My translation, above,
is closer to the Latin, with the DSS-informed interpretation of <nocent>,
"noxious", as "polluted/impure," which does not do violence to the Latin.
Pliny as I've translated him convinces me that there is some value to the
(devalued) term "Essene" when applied to the area in which Qumran is
located, and some further value to the term "Essene" when applied to the
general practices of those who seek greater purity in the desert.
With Al Baumgarten's telling article on the lack of identity of defecation
practices of Josephus's Essenes and defecation practices at Qumran in
mind, I want to say that I do not believe that there is an identity of
Qumran and "Essenes." That is, given the limits of knowledge, and the
styles of expression of Josephus and Pliny, and what we infer of their
tasks, audiences, and intentions, we will never have a very specific match
of one settlement and one label. Pliny, in my translation, give us room to
call both Qumran and Hirschfeld's site above En Gedi part of Pliny's
"Shore of the Essenes."
I do so hope that this gives aid and comfort to all. ;-)
> >I know
> >of very few scholars who place any great faith in Pliny's or Josephus's
> >figures, or in those of any ancient source. This does not mean that I think
> >Hirschfeld has got it right; only, that I think -as I have all along
> >insisted- that the site (Qumran) should be interpreted on its own merits.
> >best regards,
> >Fred Cryer
Sigrid Peterson University of Pennsylvania firstname.lastname@example.org