Hi everyone. This week it’s the turn of Tom Nehrer, author of ‘The Illusion of Truth: The Real Jesus Behind the Grand Myth‘ to step up to the front and share his thoughts about life, the universe and everything in the Thursday Throng author interview.
Was Jesus a real person or is he just a figment of the collective imagination that has spawned a multitude of deities and religions over the millennia? It’s a question that is regularly asked by biblical scholars and the public alike. What do we actually know about the man who is the focus of one of one of the greatest books ever produced. Is it just a series of stories or is it a real account of the life of someone who made a difference to the world as we know it? Unfortunately we don’t have YouTube footage of his sermons, we don’t have a Twitter feed of his messages and we don’t have a Facebook Page we can follow and keep up to date with. The only thing we have is the Bible and it was written by the hand of man, with all his flaws, prejudices and knowledge of the time.
Thomas Daniel Nehrer promises that you’ll come to understand the real Jesus better as a result of his re-interpretation of the New Testament. He wasn’t wrong. He uses our knowledge of the past and our understanding of politics to piece together a very credible account of someone who wanted to right the wrongs – a freedom fighter if you will – who went on to become the figurehead of a global movement. Whether you are a committed Christian, an atheist or of some other persuasion, this book will change the way you think about how our lives are shaped by those around us who dare to challenge the status quo.
The Tom Nehrer Interview
What is one thing that no-one would usually know about you?
People don’t usually see that I’m deeply sensitive about all things meaningful.
I may slough off occasional (and mostly unfounded) criticism and do certainly recognize that many people, locked into their beliefs, simply won’t grasp my point of view. So those things really don’t bother me.
But, while I never seek praise or look for acceptance, I do like to know that perspectives I offer are of benefit to people. So I do enjoy hearing from readers or those who attended my talks that they gained insight and benefit from my gesture. But I won’t ask for it, so they won’t know that – unless someone tells them! So, shhhh…
What did the best review you ever had say about you and your work?
Here’s a quote from a girl who did a Goodreads review on my first book, The Essence of Reality:
“I have read many New Age, Self Help, Philosophy, Psychology…-ish books and none have resonated as entirely true to me until this one. That said, I’m pretty sure that this book will offend, shock, insult and simultaneously blow-the-mind of anyone with the openness to read it all the way through. I experienced all four of those while reading through it and I’m glad I did.”
I didn’t make much effort to get my first two books reviewed. They are deeply introspective, although cleanly written and quite understandable. But they require a reader who is sincerely looking to understand him-/herself. My concern was that most, who are only looking to have their current beliefs (most of which are demonstrably fallacious) reinforced, wouldn’t get my points. So I didn’t make any effort to elicit reviews.
But through Goodreads, only those who are really interested in advanced perspectives – based on the blurb – will sign up for a free copy. They are basically pre-selected to “get” it. Thus, comments like that quote were expressed by people who had gotten my first book.
Are the names of your characters important to you?
Yes. In The Illusion of “Truth”, I reconstruct Jesus’ life in first century Judea. With considerable research, I learned that the environment was somewhat different than the gushy pastoral generality typically considered. There was a major Greek influence in the region – even in Galilee – and widespread poverty and sheer, illiterate ignorance. Jesus would have had to travel – first, to encounter ideas necessary to outgrow his standard Jewish mindset, second, because an intelligent, curious character couldn’t stand to stick around a small town listening to stupid gossip and standard scriptural arguments.
So I recreate Jesus’ world and his trek through it. I assume he did construction as his step-father, Joseph, did (“tekton”, the Greek term used in the gospels, means builder or hand worker, not carpenter) – all people back then did what their fathers did. So I delved into the situation then and reasoned where he would have gone, jobs he could have gotten, etc.
In reconstructing the Eastern Mediterranean region, I referenced extensive archaeological and historical information and built a very plausible life trek. To do that, I needed names for the various ethnic characters I have him encounter. So I selected from lists of ancient names pertinent Egyptian, Jewish, Roman, Mesopotamian, Greek, etc., names that bring the characters to life.
Also, when referencing people and their actions, particularly known characters like Jesus’ family, I use the common name in English. But in speech, when they are talking about each other, I use the original, real name: Yeshua (Jesus’ real name), Miriam (Mary), Yochanan (John), Yaakov (James), Yehudah (Jude), etc. This casts an air of cultural authenticity to the story.
I’m not a novelist – nor do I aspire to be – but I can weave a good yarn. And a good story requires some personality in its characters’ names. All the names in that story are valid to the time and original culture.
How did you choose a title for your book?
It was glowingly obvious. Whatever a person believes in seems to be true. Beliefs, particularly those core cultural notions absorbed during childhood and many subtle assumptions that underlie them, form a world view within the subconscious. Real experience is interpreted by the mind through this filter of beliefs and definitions.
“Truth”, then, is not an absolute, but a functional variable. Accepted truth depends on the believer’s held tenets and philosophy. And it creates an illusion of validity to the mind warped towards its direction: if you believe in a god who embodies certain characteristics, he/she will seem to exist. Stop believing and, POOF, that deity disappears. As does the illusion of his/her presence.
Like my other two books, the title, The Illusion of “Truth”, is a descriptor of the content, not just a catchy phrase.
Have you ever wished that you could be or do anything else instead of writing, and if so what?
Writing, for me, is not an occupation so much as a means to communicate. I’ve done many things in my life while travelling and accumulating experience, delving inward and exploring life.
I’ve been a chemical engineer and software developer, later managed a complex project. I’ve tuned pianos (handy while traveling) and done maintenance repairs.
Now, I travel extensively to give talks, again to communicate a beneficial point of view…
Generally, especially now, if I really want to do something, I go do it. I don’t need to write. I don’t need to live off it – which provides a great deal of freedom: I never, not ever a single time, pander to popular ideas or common cultural “truths” in order to please people and sell books.
So, in addition to writing, I speak to open-minded groups – and have done so 150 times to date. But I don’t write for the purpose of just writing, but to illustrate valuable insights into life.
Who would you like to play you in a film of your life?
I surely hope that, however fascinating my life gets – and it’s already been an amazing adventure – it never gets bastardized by some Hollywood film-maker into a script-writer’s version of what I’ve done and said.
So, no thanks. Please don’t! Hand’s off!!
What is the single biggest challenge you faced when writing your book?
When writing about Jesus, you open yourself to criticism by people based on their impressions, not on facts (of which, concerning the real Yeshua, there really aren’t any). So their comments, based on myth and unfounded belief, may well criticize points they know nothing about – while thinking they know a lot. My challenge was to thoroughly research the timeframe, cultural points, geography and history – plus philosophical subject matter peripheral to the theological conjecture that constitutes Christianity.
I had to get to the place where I know more – and generally much more – about the Bible, the New Testament, how it was written, by whom and how than anybody knows who might challenge me on some aspect of the topic. I couldn’t allow any error in my text pertaining to Jewish cultural practices or historical events, geographical relationships – anything. I didn’t want any individual to criticize some minor, insignificant point and thus imply that the major points were also questionable. So I did a lot of homework – reading extensively from scholarly studies on the ancient Greek manuscripts, getting to know all aspects of the ancient world, roots of religions, etc.
From my own journey, my personal awareness of life’s inner-outer connection and extensive writing about life’s integrated nature, I understood what Jesus was referencing in his “Kingdom of God within” parable illustrations; part of Illusion clarifies that. But to provide a rich context and get the entire message across as to what he meant, I had to vividly illustrate not only the context within which he emerged, but the path he took to come to his realizations.
For all of that, I needed to know a lot of historical, traditional and cultural elements that are well founded in scholarly literature, but not commonly presented. My challenge was to build up a full working knowledge of the ancient world, its cultures, its religions, etc.
Do you have any hints or tips for aspiring writers?
Absolutely: don’t ever write just to create verbiage. Have something meaningful and significant to say. That might require a great deal of research, personal maturation, elimination of self-doubt and lots of other adjustments.
But if people who really don’t have anything to add to man’s repertory of useful understanding would just be quiet, it would much easier for those with something of value to utter to get their message across.
Oh, and how wonderfully quiet and sedate the world would be! No religion, no political obfuscation, no propaganda, no commercial advertisements, no bloated claims and distorted descriptions…
Where do you find your inspiration?
When you come to see with clarity just how life works – that each of us engenders his/her own life events and relationships – you would really like to share that awareness with others. The world’s ills are purely self-inflicted – brought on principally by people misunderstanding their own creative power and capability. Physical and drug abuse, environmental degradation, war, disproportionate wealth, smoking, obesity, etc. – all are rooted within the mindset of humans who create and encounter those ills.
In my books, over my website and in many talks across the English-speaking realm, I illustrate precisely how each individual manifests his/her own life – and how to delve within to change. Seeing clearly per se – and living a fulfilling, healthy, successful life – motivates one to share beneficial insights so that others can improve their own lives from the inside out.
You can’t have a healthy forest full of sick trees: change can come only as each individual outgrows old attribution of causality to external forces and sources, to gods and other illusions. But, only a small portion of mankind ever really looks beyond old cultural notions – popularly accepted “Truths” which aren’t – for understanding.
Still open-minded people exist everywhere. One is inspired to go and reach them – sharing useful, self-improving perspectives can only lead to a better life for others and for mankind in general. There is the inspiration, right there!
What was the most important thing you learned at school?
I went to Grove City College, a bastion of conservative, Christian automatons. I had already dumped religion by age 10, but the school, reputedly a good one, was much less expensive than my other option, Carnegie Mellon U. (Carnegie Tech at the time). And it looked to be easier (OK, I can be lazy when it comes to studying things I don’t really care about) and more social.
Little did I know! Religion gushed out of administrative clones, affecting attitudes and overall tone. I did survive the experience, but learned once and for all, 45 years ago, that religion was one of mankind’s great – if not greatest – inhibitors to progress and peace.
I did pick up a thing or two about sex, sports and beer-drinking that helped along the way. But all of those required later enhancement. The lesson about closed-minded adherence to archaic ideas was well established by exposure to clunk-headed religionists while in college.
What is your favourite TV moment of all time?
The last time I turned it off.
TV is mostly a wasteland of intellectual drivel and media superficiality. In the US, even PBS is exclusively driven by self-perpetuation. Maybe it’s better in the UK (I doubt it), but no US network ever promotes content quality and sophisticated, deep subject matter – only schlock that will sell advertisements or bring in donations. In fact, media types aren’t capable of recognizing sophisticated subject matter, so superficial and devoid of imagination that they have to be to propagate the modern media machine.
Watching TV equates to doing nothing, staring at a flat screen with a bunch of colors flashing across its display. You accomplish nothing and learn precious little while dulling your own capacity to think and achieve something of substance. You would be better off to turn off the TV and meditate: stare at a blank screen and possibly come to the simple, enlightened realization that your life is a wonderful experience – a priceless, multi-dimensional encounter of meaning and value.
At least it could be – if you experience it for real instead of watching rubbish that was put there by entertainment moguls for the purpose of sucking you into buying some worthless product. While the TV is on, you are reduced to staring dumbfounded at information someone else wants you to absorb.
Where can you find out more about Tom and his book
You can find Tom’s book in Kindle format on:
You can find out more on his website: http://www.nehrer.net
Why ‘The Thursday Throng’?
These posts are called The Thursday Throng in honour of the throng that waits eagerly outside the book store when a new author is doing a book signing event or appearance. On this website it takes the form of a ‘Meet the Author‘ online event with some information about our author’s latest book and an interview. If you would like to take part in the Thursday Throng then why not visit Thursday Throng Author Interview Guidelines to find out more.
If you would like to see all the Authors who have been featured on The Thursday Throng you can click here: womanontheedgeofreality.com/2012/06/17/the-thursday-throng/