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Yahvo/Yahweh Some doubts

#1 User is offline   x42x 

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Posted 13 August 2010 - 10:31 PM

I know it's a sort of traditional interpretation that Yahvo = Yahweh, and while I'm sure from a Doylist perspective this is probably what Cyan intended, I'm not sure how this works with the Uru canon. (I recently reinstalled Uru and have been reading through all the king journals in the room you can link to from the Eder Gira/Eder Kemo fireflies/cave/waterfall/baskets-puzzle-from-hell area. I haven't played EoA, and I haven't read any of the books except BoT, so there is probably info I don't have that might be more canon than Uru.)

According to the Ri'neref journal, Yahvo was worshipped on Garternay, and belief in Yahvo was the original reason for Ri'neref and a bunch of proto-D'ni breaking off from the Ronay and going to Earth. So, depending on your philosophy about linking books, Yahvo either pre-dates Earth entirely or at least pre-dates D'ni on Earth. Therefore, it seems pretty clear that at least Yahvo can't be a D'ni variation/adaptation of Earth's Western monotheism. In fact, "outsiders" aren't mentioned at all until later, in the journals from around 4000-someodd DE. No mention is made of religions practiced by outsiders, and if belief in Yahvo changed at all during the 6000-year span of these journals, it's not mentioned at all. OTOH, the Ri'neref journal does mention that there were apparently some D'ni who opted to live on the surface after the fans were put in, and were apparently never heard from again.

As an aside here, for a minute, "Yahweh" itself is (AFAIK) not actually the original name of God in Western religions anyway, as it was basically a mispronunciation by relatively recent Christians of YHVH (the tetragrammaton, but life is too short for words like that so I'll just say YHVH). Basically, early Jews had decided that God Was Ineffable and therefore Unpronounceable and in order to prevent anyone from saying God's secret secret name, they put the vowels from words like Adonai and Elohim (which just literally mean "lord" and "god(s)") onto YHVH, with the idea that it should be pronounced as "Adonai" or "Elohim" based on the vowels and not on the YHVH. Later people took the YHVH as pronunciation with the vowels, or decided to reverse the vowels, or apply some kind of other alchemical nonsense and arrived at Jehova and Yahweh as "pronunciations" for YHVH. Wikipedia has more tl;dr on this, but the bottom line is that "Yahweh" and "Jehova" did not actually exist until relatively recently, unless the secret original name of God that no one knows happened to be similar to one of those (but ultimately that doesn't matter, since it was so utterly secret that no one except priests were allowed to know it, much less random xenophobic D'ni).

So, if you want to say that Yahvo and Yahweh are somehow related, these are the interpretations I see:
1. The D'ni who chose to live on the surface either intermarried with humans or possibly evolved into humans, and Yahvo was actually the origin of Western monotheism. In this case, "Yahvo" or something very similar was probably the original secret name of God, which explains why they would pick YHVH to attach the vowels to, at any rate.
2. Outsiders learned about Yahvo when the D'ni began interacting with them, and developed some new form of Yahvo-based religion on the surface, using YHVH for the vowel base since the consonants were similar to the D'ni name.
3. Ri'neref, with his great faith in Yahvo, actually wrote existing Yahvo-based belief systems into the native population of Earth when he was writing the linking book.
4. There really is a God (or at any rate some kind of trans-dimensional being) named Yahvo/Yahweh or similar, who influences people everywhere to name the objects of their beliefs after him.

1 seems most likely to me, and maybe it's actually what Cyan intended. 2 seems kind of unlikely, given the D'ni's reaction to outsiders. 3 probably depends on exactly how linking books work, and whether they can actually influence the inhabitants of an age rather than the physical properties of the age itself, but I think it would be awesome. 4 seems extremely silly in a Myst-context.

Alternatively, we can assume that there is no connection, and that the similarity in names and beliefs and customs is entirely due to:
1. DRC/translator bias
2. Gradual assimilation of earth religions into D'ni religion via outsiders
3. Combination of 1 and 2
4. Coincidence

What do you guys think?
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#2 User is offline   Kaelri 

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Posted 14 August 2010 - 09:19 AM

As a matter of fact, I think your #4 is the likely answer. All of Cyan's Myst productions, both games and novels, have been completely straight-faced about the existence and nature of "the Maker," and we know that the Miller brothers themselves are quite religious. While one of the themes of the franchise has been the intersection of reason and faith - Atrus, for example, puts little stock in the Great King's prophecies - I don't recall any of their characters really questioning those fundamental tenets. It is, in other words, internally consistent, and to me strongly suggests a traditional God-of-many-faces paradigm: God revealed himself to the children of Earth as he did to the children of Garternay, and as such, common influences are to be expected.

And, frankly, I can't think of another way to explain it, other than coincidence. First, D'ni is located in New Mexico, which means that the only human population they could have interacted with were the local native American societies. D'ni is only 10,000 years old, which means that any contact must have taken place well after the Bering land bridge migration (12,000 years BP). This means that the chance of D'ni influence reaching the founders of early Semitic religion is exceedingly low.

As for Ri'neref, it is impossible (according to well-established Art canon, which Ri'neref would have followed, and indeed influenced) to Write sophisticated life forms into an Age, much less define their thoughts and beliefs. Translator bias... can't rule it out completely, but the D'ni alphabet is well known to DRC explorers and pretty easy to learn. If there had been a mistake, someone would have caught it by now.

It could also be the case that Cyan left it deliberately ambiguous in order to provoke this exact kind of debate. But assuming that there is indeed a right answer, I'm going with bona fide monotheism.
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#3 User is offline   x42x 

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Posted 14 August 2010 - 11:04 AM

View PostKaelri, on Aug 14 2010, 10:19 AM, said:

As a matter of fact, I think your #4 is the likely answer. All of Cyan's Myst productions, both games and novels, have been completely straight-faced about the existence and nature of "the Maker," and we know that the Miller brothers themselves are quite religious. While one of the themes of the franchise has been the intersection of reason and faith - Atrus, for example, puts little stock in the Great King's prophecies - I don't recall any of their characters really questioning those fundamental tenets. It is, in other words, internally consistent, and to me strongly suggests a traditional God-of-many-faces paradigm: God revealed himself to the children of Earth as he did to the children of Garternay, and as such, common influences are to be expected.


Well, my intuition is that just because all the characters have particular religious beliefs and talk about them in ways that intersect with reality (i.e. prophesies that come true, Yahvo being responsible for the ability of the Ronay/D'ni to make links in the first place, religious explanations of the Fall or whatever else Yeesha talked about that I've forgotten since I last played Uru) doesn't necessarily mean that those beliefs have to be literally real - I'd imagine that (the emic interpretation of) the religious beliefs of any people would at least be sort of relevant and useful to understanding their society and history regardless.

What makes the God-is-really-real argument not work for me in genres that are at least partially non-fantasy is that there's now this question of why God didn't reveal himself to other cultures, or why he apparently got lost in translation and now we have Allah and any number of polytheistic and deistic religions worldwide on Earth (with the additional idea that Some Religions Are Wrong or at least More Wrong Than Others). But I suppose once you start questioning God's motives it's time to go with the MST3K mantra after all (though the fact that this is Myst generally drives me to try and find definite discrete answers and explanations for everything in the journals, even the soft science stuff. I'm not the only one, am I?).

(Also I think the explanations involving really-real Gods are less interesting, but maybe that's just me.)

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And, frankly, I can't think of another way to explain it, other than coincidence. First, D'ni is located in New Mexico, which means that the only human population they could have interacted with were the local native American societies. D'ni is only 10,000 years old, which means that any contact must have taken place well after the Bering land bridge migration (12,000 years BP). This means that the chance of D'ni influence reaching the founders of early Semitic religion is exceedingly low.


Ah, yeah. For some reason I keep forgetting that they retconned the cleft into New Mexico. I do kind of wonder if they originally had it in the Middle East in BoT for in order to set up the Yahvo -> YHVH connection, though, and then probably moved it in the interest of not having to explain why all the Uru journals weren't in Arabic.

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As for Ri'neref, it is impossible (according to well-established Art canon, which Ri'neref would have followed, and indeed influenced) to Write sophisticated life forms into an Age, much less define their thoughts and beliefs.


Yeah - I figure that if this is what happened, it would have been unintentional. After all, it seems that age-Writing is not really an exact science (or at least not reliably so), and there have been ages with completely unintentional existing civilizations on them (like Shomat's garden age). I'd imagine that if the existence and nature of such civilizations is not completely random/predictably based on habitability factors it might be unconsciously influenced by the beliefs and personality of the Writer. <Insert theories about Gehn and the Rivenese here.>

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Translator bias... can't rule it out completely, but the D'ni alphabet is well known to DRC explorers and pretty easy to learn. If there had been a mistake, someone would have caught it by now.


What made me think of it was actually some of the culture-related journals on marriage and maturity and so forth (as well as some of the descriptions of the kings, especially the early and unusually ascetic ones). There's a lot of symbolism and phrasing that reminds me very strongly of Western religion in general and Christianity in particular, and it would be easy to map foreign religious practices onto similar ones in your own culture without realizing, particularly from a religion that you know only from written works in a foreign language. Like, I'm sure all the descriptions of what actually takes place are probably accurate, but the symbolism would be more difficult to work out from accounts of actual weddings and such, and I wouldn't expect that there would be a lot of D'ni writers doing in-depth analyses of D'ni culture for the benefit of native D'ni unless there was also a significant sector devoted to social sciences, which it doesn't sound like there was, other than the Guild of Linguists.

If you just meant the name, though, yeah. Coincidences with individual names like that are probably not that uncommon, though.

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It could also be the case that Cyan left it deliberately ambiguous in order to provoke this exact kind of debate.


Well, good on them in that case, because I think it's an interesting discussion. :P
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#4 User is offline   Capella 

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Posted 14 August 2010 - 12:28 PM

I wouldn't be so quick to rule out translator bias, either, especially when taken with confirmation bias. Those are one of the major problems affecting the social sciences in general, and sociology and anthropology in this kind of case. At the time of initial translation, especially when it comes to archaeological records where we lack native speakers to help guide us, the translator is working off a piecemeal version of the language and often has to grasp the meaning of unfamiliar words through context. This can lead to small errors or mis-assumptions propagating and becoming more entrenched, and then it's really hard without conclusive, overwhelming evidence, to overturn them, because everything you keep seeing keeps re-confirming your initial assumption. It's a pretty nasty trap that bites social sciences in the tail every now and then.

Example: if we assume that translater is likely to hold an Abrahamic monotheism sort of view, they may take an unfamiliar word or concept, and interpret it in the context that makes the most sense to them (which would be a masculine monotheist point of view), and they may form an initial picture of "hey, these guys believe like me". Now that they've got this assumption that there's a similar belief, so they are more inclined to look for things that confirm that belief, rather than things that challenge their belief. Anything that fits proves their point further, and anything that's ambiguous can often be rationalized into that context (or, alternately, dismissed as a "minor variation"). So from an initial misassumption that comes from your own cultural context, even something so simple as, say, "Maker" implies "male" (before you find supporting evidence, of course), you can pretty quickly get an edifice built around it that seems to you to make perfect sense and you can find plenty of evidence that seems to support it, because everything you find, you interpret in ways that seem to confirm it... so the translator bias becomes backed up by a confirmation bias.

I'm not saying that that's for sure what happened and that all of the similarities don't actually exist and are just biases, but the truth is, the early D'ni explorers probably were products of Western monotheism, or at the very least had strong enculturated exposure to it, and as far as I know, anyway, were mostly amateurs and not trained in the social sciences. I'm not saying that makes them bad archaeologists, or that they mishandled the discovery or anything- it's just that I would not be surprised if there weren't incidences where they fell into this kind of trap, because they may never have stopped to consider it.

To complicate this even further and possibly make you hate me, we have to remember that the DRC isn't the first group doing English translations, either, so the very evidence the DRC is working off of has its own biases that need to be accounted for. Because it's easy to say "Well, yes, Watson and the rest of the DRC might have biases when reading the original D'ni text, since they're not native D'ni speakers and are working on incomplete information, but what about Atrus/Anna/etc? They spoke D'ni and English both fluently and with other native speakers, surely they must know the truth!"

To which I say: you can't trust them either.

(Well, you can, to a certain point, because they're too honest people to be actively misrepresenting their beliefs, but that doesn't mean that they themselves didn't fall prey to their own biases and thus start this cycle...)

Think about it. Anna is, most likely, a product of Western Abrahamic monotheism herself, if not a devout believer in her own right, then certainly raised in a time and in a culture greatly steeped in the influences of a single male God. If she had belief of her own, it would almost certainly be in this God. Therefore, when being exposed to the D'ni religion, she may have associated the D'ni Maker/Yahvo with her own God and perceived them as the same god with a different name (whether or not this is actually theologically true). This belief would then have shaped her own belief, and how she passed on that belief to her kin such as Atrus. This would then affect the writings we get from anyone that Anna had any kind of influence over.

To tie this back into the DRC, we know that a major component of what we know are based on Catherine's journals, right? Catherine knew Anna and Atrus, and her journals are going to be influenced by that. If the initial impression that Yahvo=Yahweh was sourced from the journals, then we have two potential sources of translator bias: the DRC translator(s) own bias, and the original bias from Anna. If that impression is already in place, any further D'ni documents that are completely unrelated to any of the Atrus kin are going to be viewed in the light of that impression, and are thus likely to serve as sources of confirmation biases that continue to reinforce this idea.

In short, it could be argued that we can't trust any of our (current) sources about D'ni religion.
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#5 User is offline   AaronAKAAtrus 

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Posted 14 August 2010 - 01:17 PM

dOES IT REALLY MATTER AS LONG AS d'NI DOES NOT EXIST? THEY JUST THOUGHT "OH, NAME HIM AFTER THE BIBLE."
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#6 User is offline   AaronAKAAtrus 

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Posted 14 August 2010 - 03:13 PM

sorry bout that.
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#7 User is offline   Gehn, lord of ages 

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Posted 14 August 2010 - 03:33 PM

(for the name alone) I think both fours, with perhaps the added inclusion of 1. until canon got fully codified, would probably the intended interpretations. Although the D'ni who moved to the surface were there for quite awhile, from New Mexican Cleft canon onwards (and the timeline, if previous loose timelines would have given them more room to enter the surface even earlier, and in larger groups), it's a bit of a stretch for them to disappear and then reappear as the nation of Israel (and not have spread to so many other places that more such names should be popping up).

Coincidences with the name - especially since it is not exactly the same, or treated the same way - are more common. For the name the D'ni used - in a totally different language and culture - to match with one of the hundreds of religions on the surface (even for monotheistic ones, or ones within a certain deviation point from what we know of the D'ni's) is not any more remarkable than them having an alphabet, grammar not too different from English, and other pieces of art and architecture that are similar to various forms we've seen in various areas at the surface for some time.

Now OOC, part of all these coincidences is because the creators of the games and such need styles and stuff to draw from (at least more than an entirely foreign culture would need), and like to make some associations (so that the art, for example, is palatable and we recognize it as art, rather than being so alien it's just totally different). Maybe a small part of the coincidences are also OOC coincidences too, but we're assuming that this one isn't.

Now, IC, some of this is basically ignored (because we don't want to have to explain every detail OOC as a specifically highly organized IC something) and we see it as a plot convenient coincidence. It's always possible that the civilization tends towards some similar things just on accident, and since they are mixed together with different juxtapositions and new elements, it isn't ridiculous. Now, 1 and 2 are ways with which many of these things could be explained - it's a nice tactic for allowing the possibility of such explanations, but for the name in particular it would have to move a large amount for no known reason. 3... I doubt Ri'neref would specifically do that (because it seems complicated, ethically complicated in many belief styles that he might have had, likely to not work, and hardly of an effect). The control of a higher power (I wouldn't say just doing such things willy-nilly for some kind of compulsion, but more likely a little neat bit of coincidence for more of a joke or a bit of fun order in things) would be a more likely suggestion - with the coincidence being coincidence enough that it could be interpreted either way.

For the various belief system and religious system, I'd say some of it is a coincidence - not that unlikely of one, though (for the most broad elements). A lot of it is also translation and other research bias. We know very little of the beliefs and religion in general, a lot of what we do know is perhaps not very precisely translated (a totally new language and only a couple dozen years of studying it in incomplete pieces and such - some of the bases for translation might be from things like Ti'ana's notebooks, which could be heavily focused on the cultural parts as they would seem familiar to her), the most famously known parts are the kind we recognize and are familiar with the most. Not really any actively distorting biases or bad work, but what the various groups (Ti'ana, the DRC, etc.) perceived the most familiarly would probably be more recognized, and all parts would have a slight bias to assume the more familiar form when it was a doubt between two similarly possible options [for interpreting an action, a poem, a translated word, etc.].
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#8 User is offline   x42x 

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Posted 14 August 2010 - 06:31 PM

Capella - thanks for that long post. That stuff is all sort of generally in the background of my thinking when I speculate and write posts like this, but it's been a while since I was actually an anthro major, and I've lost some of the vocabulary and eloquence (and confidence) for going into more details with it.

I've thought it would be pretty interesting to see more "primary" source stuff in Uru - i.e. direct translations and the like rather than the short general summaries that we get in that room, kind of like the Shomat story in the notebook in Eder Kemo. Then you'd see more things like, hey, I'm not sure about this word/this doesn't quite make sense/this doesn't quite fit with our previous expectations/etc., and maybe be able to get more details on the kinds of things that might be affected by biases, at least. Or, OTOH, see the sources listed for some of the cultural journals the way they are for the kings - the actual history would be much more likely to come from more "native" sources, whereas I'd guess that Anna and her descendants would be more likely to write about or act as informants about the cultural information (at least what they've heard/remember), as it's less familiar to them, and would seem to warrant more records and preservation after the Fall. Then again, if we had tons of primary documents and references, we would probably wind up spending more time reading DRC journals in the city than actually playing the game and solving the puzzles. :P

(And huh, does D'ni have any kind of grammatical gender? I did start learning it from fansites once, but that was long ago...)

I wonder if we can trust what Yeesha says, though - she would have been influenced by Anna by proxy, but at least from an OOC standpoint at least she definitely gets portrayed as being more trustworthy and/or having access to knowledge or understanding/intuitions that the DRC/etc. don't have. The main problem here is that Yeesha never really seems to say anything that's very concrete. The DRC accounts we get might actually be a lot more useful as a means of understanding the DRC than of understanding the D'ni, too - I've attempted to write in-universe descriptions of one fictional culture of another before, and this is generally the effect I seem to wind up with, though that might just be me.

Gehn - if it were just the name, I would be more likely to write it off as (IC) coincidence as well (obviously intentional coincidence OOC, but still), especially due to the actual history of YHVH. It's the other sorts of religious similarities that more make me wonder if we should be treating it as an actual relationship between D'ni and Earth religions, or DRC translation/research biases, or if it only makes sense to look at it from the point of view of the authors' real-life religious beliefs given our (lack of) IC information, or some combination thereof. Maybe we should just be thankful it isn't as bad as House of Leaves.
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#9 User is offline   Talashar 

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Posted 24 August 2010 - 12:03 PM

View Postx42x, on Aug 14 2010, 05:31 PM, said:

(And huh, does D'ni have any kind of grammatical gender? I did start learning it from fansites once, but that was long ago...)


Not as far as we know, no. So he or his when referring to Yahvo are interpolations (maybe from translators' assumptions, maybe from knowledge of how the D'ni regarded Yahvo). Though we can't say the same for him, since (frustratingly) we don't know yet how to express third person singular pronominal objects in D'ni!
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#10 User is offline   AaronAKAAtrus 

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Posted 19 September 2010 - 07:50 PM

i just heard something today.
is it possible atrus is Eli?
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#11 User is offline   AaronAKAAtrus 

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Posted 25 September 2010 - 04:55 PM

jesus could be great king or messiah
also maybe the fact that some believe memoris are written like god possibly made a world with evidence already in it....maybe??
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