Three Old Books About Cambodia

PP 1929
Phnom Penh – 1929 – Photo by Georges Portal

I enjoy finding old books about Cambodia online, especially history books.

Here are three public domain books I recently found. The first is about the ruins of Angkor written by P. Jeannerat De Beerski. The second is about how India was the main influence on early Cambodian culture, by Bijan Raj Chatterji. And the third is a short history of Cambodia, by Martin F. Herz. Enjoy….

Angkor – Ruins in Cambodia ~ 1924

Indian Cultural Influence in Cambodia ~ 1928

A Short History of Cambodia ~ 1958


The Origin of Speech (Book Review)

Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy wrote some amazing books, and this might be my favourite so far. In The Origin of Speech, ERH illustrates that speech, and its creation, is the power which holds a civilization together.

For this book review, I’ll start by copying the Editor’s Postscript found on page 128…

Speech begins with vocatives and imperatives. It begins with formal speech which moves men to action and is embodied in ritual. Our grammar books on the other hand begin with the nominative and the pronoun I. The nominative is only usable when an experience is over. I can only respond as an I after I have been addressed as thou. I is the last pronoun a child learns to use.

We discovered that our systems of formal logic are skewed by accepting this distortion of our grammarians. The beginning vocative and lyric stages of all experience are thus called illogical even though they are essential before the narrative and nominative (abstract) modes can be applied. Common sense or daily talk is a derivative of formal speech.

Gender identifies the required participants in living interaction and is not synonymous with sex. Neuter is not a third sex but refers to all dead things. Thus grammar is a mirror of the stages of human experience. Inspiration through a vocative or imperative addresses us as thou, then forces us to respond as an I, makes us report as we, and at the end a story speaks of us as they. Thus we are conjugated through the stages of experience.

Instead of mental health, we propose grammatical health. Grammatical health requires the ability of command, the ability to listen, the ability to act, and finally the ability to free ourselves from the command by telling our story. Only then are we ready to respond again. We demonstrated that grammatical ill health can lead to war, dictatorship, revolution and crisis — and showed how formal speech can overcome these four.

We used the image of a time cup created to be fulfilled and to be discarded in time. All social order depends on the power of invoked names to create never-ending series of such time cups.

The grammatical method does not supply a rule book for our behaviour but a method to help us understand our history, to differentiate between valid and invalid names, and to determine the response appropriate to the stage of a particular experience or event. It should create a whole series of new social sciences unhampered by our skewed logic which has been dominated by nominatives and I’s.

Grammatical experience changes us. In the world of today, there are people at many different stages of grammatical development, and our method offers them the hope of more successful cooperation and understanding. It gives us all a common history, a history aware of timing, and a foundation for a possible peace among men.


Rosenstock-Huessy describes the difference between “pre-formal” speech, “formal” speech, and “informal” (or post-formal) speech. Pre-formal speech is akin to animal speech: grunting and growling, pointing and nodding. Formal speech is man’s high speech: the naming of things, ceremonies, political structures. Informal speech is somewhat of a combination of pre-formal and formal, in which we relax things a bit to make it more “low brow”. In formal speech I call my parents Mother and Father; in informal speech I can call them mama and papa. Pronouns are then considered informal speech as well. The informal is founded on the formal.

ERH lists four diseases of speech: war, revolution, decay, and crisis. These diseases arise when speech is no longer possible, or is being suppressed. War occurs when two sides are no longer willing to speak to each other and the tension between them grows to violence. Revolution occurs when a young generation, wanting change, is not yet able to articulate through speech the change it wishes, and so turns to shouting, protests, and violence. Where the young create revolutions, the old create counter-revolutions. The values of the past are held up against the revolution, but they have grown hollow and meaningless. Those praising the old values do not themselves live them out, and haven’t for some time. This leads to decadence and decay. A crisis in society occurs when those with knowledge do not speak to those who have no knowledge — they do not tell them what to do.

Of course all four of these diseases are interrelated. The unwillingness of the revolutionary to respect the “old ways” is countered by the old genaration’s unwillingness to embrace the new. The unwillingness of two parties to speak in war, but yet still willing to speak within their own communities, is met with the unwillingness of the “haves” (re: knowledge) to speak with the “have-nots” within their own communities.

ERH offers remedies to these diseases: to the deafness of war, a willingness to listen; to the incoherent shouting of revolution, the ability to articulate; to the crisis of muteness, a willingness to entrust; and to the decadence of hollow lip service, the rejuvenation of values through new representatives. “If this is true,” ERH writes, “the original character of all language should be connected with man’s victory over these evils.” (Page 17) New speech is generated when one or more of these diseases occurs. In fact, it must if a solution to the disease is to be found.

ERH covers many other topics related to speech in this book. All of it is quite illuminating, and I highly recommend giving it a read. I give the book 5/5 stars.

For a set of notes covering the whole book, click here: ERH Fund, Notes on The Origin of Speech

Related reading…

Past & Future ~ Connected by Speech

The Relevance of Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy

One Miracle of Speech

Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God (Book Review)

James Jordan, in his book Crisis, Opportunity, and the Christian Future, writes…

The gospel as presented in Acts and by the early Church took this form: “You are living in isolation, lowliness, despair, chaos, and bondage. But there is a New World! There is a New Creation! There is a New Kingdom! You can leave behind your old horrible life and come into the warmth of the Church. You can join us at the table and sing psalms with us. You can come under the oversight of our elders, and be part of a new family.” (Page 44)

The medieval Church taught our civilization what God’s law is. Faced with social anarchy on all sides, early European rulers heard the gospel this way: “You are living in hell. But God has given His law! God has shown the way to live! Christ is King! You can submit to His High-Kingship and lead your people into a new way of life!” (Page 45)

The medieval Church fell into sin when the law ceased to be a wonderful guide to life and became an oppressive threat demanding good works as a way of “meriting the merits of Christ.” … Thus, the Protestant Church taught our civilization what God’s freedom is. Faced with bondage to law, the Reformers preached the free conscience under Christ: justification by faith alone. We are familiar with this doctrine, but notice that it is only really “heard” by people who have some knowledge of God and of the law. Once that prior knowledge has drained out of society, the Protestant message no longer has the power it once had.” (Page 45-46)

The famous Protestant sermon Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God written by Jonathan Edwards was very effective in its day; a day when most of the American people were quite knowledgable of God, Christianity, and the bible; a day when the people should have known better than to turn away from God. But that day has obviously passed in the west, and a different presentation of the gospel is needed. James Jordan suggests looking back to the early Church and how they presented the gospel to people who were somewhat in the same situation as non-believers today: “You’re alone. You’re miserable. Come into the family of Jesus.” This message is what they’ll hear and understand.

zahndBrian Zahnd also understands this need for a fresh gospel presentation, and offers one with his book Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God. But, is he offering a truthful presentation? I would say no. Zahnd is, what I like to call, a “Postmodern Jesusist“. Another term I could use is “Neo-Marcionist”. According to his narrative in the video above, I think Zahnd has always been a Marcionist, although ignorantly so (listen from 1:00 – 1:25). And his solution now is not to dismiss Marcionism altogether, but to worsen it by creating a kind of “Postmodern Marcionism”. Zahnd writes on page 60, “I’m a million miles from the second-century heresy of Marcion … My approach to the Old Testament is nothing like Marcion’s. I call the Old testament sacred scripture.” That may be, but that’s why I will say Zahnd’s approach to the O.T. is a really just a new twist on the Marcion heresy.

In the first chapter, he mostly expands on what you see in the book trailer. But as he does so, he also builds up to the idea that the authors of the Old Testament simply did not have a full revelation of God. They had an inferior revelation and therefore not a true one. He quotes the apostle John: “No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.” So, since they didn’t have Jesus, they didn’t have a complete revelation. I can agree with Zahnd that their revelation of God was incomplete in the O.T., but I disagree with the idea that an incomplete revelation is necessarily false. There are some things that don’t change in their nature with an increase or decrease in size. Like truth. Truth is truth, whether known fully or not. When you take your kid to a restaurant, and order something for him from the kid’s menu, the food is the same food the adults eat, it just comes in a smaller portion. Truth’s nature is the same in large portions as it is in small portions. The revelation of God given to Israel was not in the fullness that would later be given in Christ, but it was still true.

In the second chapter, Zahnd constructs a couple of straw men for you to attack, or to identify with, depending on your agreement with him. For example, if you agree that God commanded the genocide of the Canaanites under Joshua, then you are open to Christians today committing genocide. In regards to the genocide, and other stories like it in the O.T., Zahnd gives three options on how to deal with the problem: 1) Question God’s morality; 2) Question God’s immutability; 3) Question how we read scripture. He rightly rejects options 1 & 2, but then goes on to give a method of reading scripture which is entirely based on postmodern philosophy: The O.T. authors wrote what they wrote not because they had a true revelation from God, but because of their biases and their warrior tribalistic worldview.

Zahnd seems to have little to no understanding of holiness, justice (apart from “social justice”), and covenant. He writes: If you’re going to imagine divinely endorsed genocide, you should not imagine yourself as Joshua but as the unfortunate Canaanite whose entire family and village have just been murdered. Instead of always seeing yourself as the cowboy, try being the Indian* sometime. (Page 44) First of all, was a holy God unjust in destroying the Canaanites?† Thankfully because of the person and work of Jesus, I don’t have to be destroyed like the Canaanite. I can be saved and created new. I can also enter into a covenant with God, just like Joshua was in covenant with God. Joshua wasn’t a blameless man, but he was in covenant, and that makes all the difference. I will imagine myself as Joshua.

(Note: If you read Jonathan Merritt’s article about this book, then you can skip the first two chapters. And before reading this book myself, I wrote a blog article about Merritt’s article, which I think is a good answer to the first two chapters as well.)

As I mention above, Zahnd is correct in writing that the O.T. Israelites did not have the fullness of revelation that would come with Jesus, but truth is truth, and we don’t read the bible like a Muslim reads the Quran; we don’t apply Naskh to the bible.‡ Before Jesus completed His work on the cross, God operated in the world a certain way, and after Jesus, God operated in a different way… and the O.T. is still a true account of who God is. Zahnd even applies Naskh to the sacrificial system — a system which is integral to Christianity. True, we don’t sacrifice animals anymore, but that’s because those sacrifices ended with Christ. But according to Zahnd, because of verses like Psalm 40:6 and Hosea 6:6, God never wanted the sacrificial system at all — so you can now ignore most of the Pentateuch.

As I read the third chapter, I found myself agreeing with most of what Zahnd says of Jesus being the greater revelation of the Word of God, but I kept asking, “But is the O.T. true? Does it truly portray God?” Zahnd says no, and for no good reason. He just doesn’t want it to be true — the O.T. doesn’t line up with his postmodern narrative. While he does believe that Jesus taught a new way to live, he doesn’t seem to believe that the world radically changed with the death and resurrection of Jesus — indeed, he doesn’t know the old world of the O.T. doesn’t exist anymore. Zahnd’s view of Jesus isn’t scandalous or radical; it isn’t radical enough!

In later chapters, Zahnd writes about hell and eschatology. I don’t have an issue with his take on hell, which is similar to C.S. Lewis and what you’d find in The Brothers Karamazov: Hell is an inability to love and be loved, and the gates are locked from within, not without. His view of eschatology and the book of Revelation is what you’d expect; something I think would be similar to what Rob Bell would teach — and I don’t have a huge issue with that either. But for the most part, these later chapters are more of the same of what I described above.

I find myself wondering: Why not just accept the O.T. at face value? What is the real reason Zahnd would reject so much of it? Is it because of years of theological study? No. Most people’s theology (if not all people’s theology) is not based on biblical study. It is based on personality and worldview. In order for Zahnd to believe what he wants to believe about Jesus, he has to reject the O.T. portrayal of God. He is offended at the O.T., and this is his way of dealing with it. Is he correct though? No, I don’t think so. He takes too much liberty in deciding which parts of the bible are true, and which are not, and he bases his exegesis on unreliable ground. For two thousand years Christians have understood that Jesus’ death on the cross was an atoning work satisfying God’s wrath towards sin and sinners. Why must we change that belief now? Because of postmodern philosophy?

I do agree that there is more to the cross than just Jesus dying for sin. N.T. Wright has written a lot of good stuff on the whole idea of the righteousness of God. I am happy that someone like Zahnd can write the book he’s written and this conversation can continue. I agree with Zahnd that the goal of Jesus is to restore the world (and not destroy it). And I do agree that the Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God approach to sharing the gospel doesn’t work these days, and something fresh is needed. But Zahnd compromises too much.

I’m going to give the book 3/5 stars.

A book I recommend people read instead of Zahnd’s is the above mentioned Crisis, Opportunity, and the Christian Future by James B. Jordan. James B. Jordan is an excellent Old Testament scholar and he explains much of the issues people might have about the difficult sections of the Old Testament. You can listen to his lectures by clicking here.

* I wonder if he’s referring to the Comanche Indians.
When you come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord. And because of these abominations the Lord your God is driving them out before you. (Deuteronomy 18:9-12 ESV)
‡ See the Quran 2:106

Related Reading…

In the Fullness of Time

Postmodern Jesusism

Jesus and Covenantal Righteousness

Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy Quotes #18

War and Murder

Some pacifists indulge in calling war murder. Ever since men could speak, murder and war stood approximately at opposite ends of the scale of social processes. The murderer was and is pre-tribal; he expresses his will against another will. War defends the order to which the warrior has surrendered part of his will because he believes in a higher, supernatural peace and order between men which depends for its existence on his acts. Not to go to war, means to desert the peace which my body politic has established. Not to murder means to respect the continuity which my body politic has built up.

~from The Origin of Speech, page 29

The Reformation ~ 500 Years

luther door

In honour of the Reformation’s 500th birthday, here is an excerpt from Clinton C. Gardner’s book Letters to the Third Millennium describing the Reformation’s influence on the western world….

Before the Reformation we had assumed that either the church or state was ultimately responsible, and therefore we need not be excessively concerned with creating the future. Now we sensed that “I am responsible, not only for myself but also for the outcome of history.” We could no longer “let George do it.” Ultimate authority, we perceived, was not in institutions but in individuals. Only we give validity to the organizations or nations which we create and uphold. The revolutionary implications of this perception are still being worked out in the 20th century. Many of us relapse into the pre-Reformation belief in the sanctity of such institutions as churches or nations. Examples are hardly needed.

As conscientious laymen living under the imperative of personal responsibility, we began to speak a language never heard before: the purely lay and secular. Until this moment, throughout history, all government and art — indeed, every human institution — had been inextricably connected with institutional religion. As followers of Luther we began to break the connection. Actually, the Papal Revolution had initiated this separation of religious and secular power but only by setting the religious on top. Now we heirs of the bold monk appropriated “religion” inside each lay person. Quite logically this led to the translation of everything “religious” into lay and secular terms, from government to science, education, and the arts.

Let us start with the last. Giotto had already painted us as real individuals, but he and even the artists of the Italian Renaissance — Leonardo, Raphael, and Michelangelo — still showed us acting out salvation history. Now, some fifty years after Luther’s death, the thoroughly “reformed” Dutch painters suddenly plunked us down in our kitchens and living rooms. From Franz Hals to Rembrandt to Vermeer, we became increasingly visible as just lay people going about our daily work.

About a century after Luther, One of the most marvellous “translations” occurred in the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. Why is it that we listen to German music with more “reverence” than to any other? Because it transforms the resounding Reformation church hymns — say Luther’s “A Mighty Fortress is our God” — into a universal language. In Bach the religious origins are clear, but even as German music became increasingly secular, with Mozart, Beethoven, and Brahms, it has always remained true to its origins. It strikes the deepest chords. It carries the breath of the spirit through us, quickening our sense of belonging to the human enterprise. An eloquent testimony to the staying power of this new Reformation “speech” comes from a later revolutionary. In a conversation with Gorky, after listening to Beethoven’s Appasionata, Lenin said, “I know nothing the is greater than the Appasionata; I’d like to listen to it everyday. It is marvellous superhuman music.” And it’s not only “Westerners” that are so moved One of the first things that happened in China after “the Gand of Four” had fallen was the playing of Beethoven again in Peking.

Of course there was no point in having “freedom of conscience” if we were illiterate, as over 95% of us were before the Reformation. Fortunately Gutenberg’s newly invented printing presses gave Luther a vital weapon: a Bible for each of us to read and interpret for ourselves. Along with the Bible thousands of books poured into our hands as we all began to read on any subject. Public school systems, education for everybody, and a global campaign for literacy, were born out of the Reformers imperative that each of us work out our own salvation.

With the new theological doors that Luther had opened, universities “became” the church, the secular institution to nourish both our science and our con-science. The first American college, Harvard, was started in 1636 for the education of Protestant ministers. Yale, Princeton, and Dartmouth followed in the next century, all founded by devout Protestants, as were most private U.S. colleges.

But we miss the full import of the Reformation’s new language if we concentrate only on Luther. The Czech Jan Has had been a martyr for the “Reformation” faith before it burst out in Germany. And the Reformation’s most creative “scientist” was probably the alchemist and doctor Paracelsus, who opposed the new “bookish” humanism of his century but also opposed Protestant and Papal parties. In many ways he was a loner, but in retrospect he seems to have been, as much as anyone, the founder of “contemporary” science. He was certainly the first biochemist. Rosenstock-Huessy hailed him as the man whose turbulent life and vision embodied the transition from medieval to “modern” times.

Until Paracelsus, not only medicine but all “science” was largely theoretical, based on the “logic” of abstract ideas derived from Greek and Latin sources. Now the eccentric Swiss doctor rejected this scholastic approach. He trusted his own personal observations and experiments, asking us to read the book of nature in much the same way Luther had asked us to read the Bible. Among those who shared Rosenstock-Huessy’s enthusiasm for him is J. Brinowski, who wrote that Paracelsus marked that “instant in the ascent of man when he steps out of the shadowland of secret and anonymous knowledge into a new system of open and personal discovery…..”

Finally, the Reformation created a vital new government institution: an incorruptible civil service. You may laugh but you are wrong. The exceptions prove the rule. Watergate and the Lockheed bribery are as good as examples as any. You can’t launder your money through Mexico and remain in government service. A Japanese premier, or any other, will fall if they betray the public trust. Teddy White called his book on Watergate Breach of Faith. It was a breach of our Reformation faith in the public servant. As Rosenstock-Huessy puts it:

Civil Service as a purely mechanical organization will never work efficiently. To understand the real inner justification for the strict discipline of a civil service, we must turn to the German revolution; for it alone gave the civil servant a religious position in his country. In the German revolution the drab, grey life of the average bureaucrat was suddenly transformed, as if by great volcanic eruption. Graft, bribery, the spoils-system, stain the character of the civil servant in every country which has not been touched by this great revolution. (ERH, Out of Revolution, page 362)

To sum up, the secular city created by the Reformation doesn’t mean a city where people have lost all interest in the purposes once expressed by religion. Just the opposite: it means the effective incorporation of those purposes into changed persons and new institutions capable of maintaining the standards once set by the church.

However, in replacing church by state, Luther went to unfortunate extremes. He positively exalted the power of the princes and the state as he depreciated the role of the visible church. He was anything but a populist. When his revolution’s left wing, the Anabaptists, inspired the Peasant’s Revolt of 1525, he urged the princes to crush it. In Ideology and Utopia Karl Mannheim calls that revolt “the decisive turning point in modern history.” He says it began contemporary “politics” because it was a “more or less conscious participation of all strata of society in the achievement of some mundane purpose, as contrasted with a fatalistic acceptance of events as they are, or of control from ‘above.'”

Reading his Bible, particularly St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, Luther didn’t mind control from above, but he saw it as exercised by many princes rather than a church hierarchy. Thus the Reformation set the mold of German national character, with both its virtues and its most outstanding defect, what Rosenstock-Huessy called its “lust for obedience.”

~taken from Letters to the Third Millennium, by Clinton C. Gardner, pages 35-38

Related reading: German Reforvolution by Peter Leithart