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Sophic is a term used by Mormon apologist, scholar, and author Hugh Nibley to explain the shift from the tradition of oral-formulaic composition to that of the written word—sophic corresponding to the written word, the word "mantic" corresponding to the oral formulaic tradition. According to his theory, the mantic was a tradition relying entirely on God and prophets for knowledge. A person in that time period could go directly to the wise man, who simply asked God, the great spirit, or the universe and shared his directive. The mantic experience was a communal one—information was oral in mantic societies because everybody needed to be able to repeat and remember knowledge together. Sacred memories and information were encoded in a way that the community could take part in them together. The shift to the sophic tradition meant a more individually centered society, gleaning knowledge from more of the scientific method-type mindset. This individual crusade for knowledge necessitated a way to transmit knowledge to others who may have the same question, leading to a written tradition. This also led to more standardized and replicable acquisition of knowledge. For example, an experiment in a laboratory ideally must be replicated several times in different laboratories to be considered valid.

Nibley explains:

The Sophic, on the other hand, is the tradition which boasted its cool, critical, objective, naturalistic, and scientific attitude; its Jewish equivalent is what Goodenough calls the "horizontal" Judaism - scholarly, bookish, halachic, intellectual, rabbinical. All religions, as Goodenough observes, seem to make some such distinction. It is when one seeks to combine or reconcile the Sophic and the Mantic that trouble begins.

. . . Whoever accepts the Sophic attitude must abandon the Mantic, and vice versa. It is the famous doctrine of Two Ways found among the Orientals, Greeks and early Christians . . . On the other hand, the Sophic society unitedly rejects the Mantic proposition, and it too forms a single community . . . here was "a man who prized brain and insight, who preferred the voice of reasoned conviction to the braying of Balaam's ass." Better false teaching from a true intellectual than the truth from a prophet. So fiercely loyal and uncompromising are the Sophic and Mantic to their own.


Sophic Wikipedia

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