Mithraism and Christianity are two different mythic user-interface skins on the same core standard universal Hellenistic core initiation technology. But they are not just two random ones out of many. Christianity drew from all possible sources because this was a highly competitive nuclear weapons escalation.
The two equivalent versions of the initiation system most directly competing against each other were Mithraism and Christianity. That made Christianity strong, and made it popular, but once it became strong and popular, the power-mongers came up with a viable strategy and carried it out successfully, co-opting the co-opter and striving to twist the resistance movement and anti-Empire mythic system in a direction that profited them.
Both Christianity and Mithraism are patriarchal. Christianity was unique among the Hellenistic mystery religions in that it was exclusive. Christianity was selected by Constantine and Eusebius as the core mystery religion to develop because it had the desirable patriarchy, like the Mithraic initiation cult, combined with the exclusivity, like the Jewish initiation cult.
The patriarchal exclusivity was selected in order to set up the Roman rulers as a hierarchy of middlemen (bishops), turning religion into a force for their own profit and for uniformity. Just as government developed into a more or less uniform giant structured hierarchy, so was the chaos of open cultus changed into a more or less uniform giant structured hierarchy. Prior
to 313, Christianity may have been exclusivist in some versions, meaning that you were supposed to participate in the Christian entheogenic initiation meals but not in the other equivalent entheogenic initiation meals. The power-mongers saw this exclusivity or potential for exclusivity and ran with it, to force a male-controlled, hierarchically controlled single system of religion, including social programmes, onto everyone efficiently and controllably.
Jesus had already been largely reified into a historical man, and Eusebius saw the potential to fabricate a false monopoly on "authority": there was one and only one Jesus, on earth, and by our definition, authority consists of being the first to see him risen, and only one person at a time can have that authority and pass it on. Submit to your bishop -- in particular, submit to the bishop appointed to you officially by the head bishop in Rome.
Christians and bishops who are not in our authorized hierarchy are anathema. There was resistance on the part of those who were somewhat effectively corralled -- against the Peter figure, they made the Mary Magdalene figure the one true apostle to whom Jesus handed authority. Peter is the connection between the patriarchal Mithras initiation cult and the patriarchal Christian initiation cult.
Mithraism and Christianity were competing: one was the entheogenic initiation cult of the ruling armies, and the other was the counter entheogenic initiation cult of the resisters, who glorified the anti-Roman crucified Jewish rebel leader figure.
In the Beginning: The Story of the King James Bible and How It Changed a Nation, a Language, and a Culture
Alister E. McGrath
A reviewer wrote:
>The authorised English bible was directed at protecting the established authority from militant Catholic and Puritan opponents. It was an important initiative in a kingly war on terrorism.
>...Scripture was seen as "a whole armoury of weapons, both offensive and defensive", with rival interpretations exacerbating a murderous civil war.
>...Protestant hysteria was whipped up by well-born parliamentarians eager to extirpate the spell of Catholicism. The same hysteria ended up by republicanising England and purging Parliament.
>Retaining supreme power amid this instability depended on successfully hijacking the deadliest weapon of all - the Bible. Protestant missionaries spread Bibles across the land but the most popular version of all was frowned on by the ruling authority. Published in Geneva - the Kandahar of Calvinism - its text was disfigured with anti-monarchical marginalia.
>A non-incendiary English Bible had to be invented. James I, who came to the English throne in 1603 and had a firm belief in the divine right of kings, achieved this in a way that would do pride to the craftiest bureaucrat.
>The job of concocting a trustworthy translation was entrusted to committees of Oxbridge mullahs whose malleability was ensured by the lure of ecclesiastical promotion. Extensive cutting and pasting from the salvageable parts of previous translations was indulged in, with the final work vetted by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
The bible is largely about kingship and the relation between ruler and ruled. McGrath is a clear writer. I glanced at this book recently and it was more interesting than I expected. Now I can see how to fit it into a study of esoteric ideas about kingship, intertwined with political ideas about rulership and the political power of religion. The religion of Christ is a weapon that people fight over to gain control of, to gain power or become liberated from the power of others."
The relationship between the original Christian socio-political, supernaturalist, and esoteric dimensions
The overarching question of interpreting Christianity is, what is the relationship between these 3 strands?
o Christianity as socio-political resistance to "divine Caesar our savior" (domination systems)
o Christianity as supernaturalist beliefs, fears, and wishes
o Christianity as esoteric experiential allegory for ego death and metaphysical enlightenment
The mystic-initiation and political revolution layers were not perfectly and seamlessly integrated; they were cinched or bundled together. One person at one point in time might focus more on the mystic-initiation aspect complete unto itself, with Christ experience/vision but not political subtleties; another person at another point in time focus on political liberation aspect itself, as such.
As the Jesus figure is, as I say, "loosely based on types of actual individuals", so are the mystic-initiation and political domains of original-Christian concepts "loosely integrated", such that in some sense, the mystic Hellenistic/Essene mystery-religion aspect, fully nonpolitical, is complete in itself; and in some sense the political liberation from the domination-system of the worldly imperial powers is complete in itself (self-sufficient), yet also just as much, the two form a near-perfectly intermeshed system. The original Christian religion is fully mystic, fully allegorized, as fully socio-political.
There are two main, complete, perfectly self-sufficient and distinct realms, and a complete and perfect allegorical bridge between them: the mystic state allegorized, and political liberation allegorized; these were intermapped through metaphor and poetic allegory -- rich and complex metaphor, but all sensible and specifically meaningful. Subtle late-antiquity "poetic" symbolism/metaphor is only a partially slippery eel. Now blur that whole picture a bit, and that's original, earliest Christianity (70-313 CE). Now mix them together even more. Mix, separate; mix, separate...
Some overboard Gnostics went too far, turning their back on the socio- political revolution that was Christianity's most broadly relevant and appealing factor. Elaine Pagels' book The Gnostic Paul proposes that Valentinians Gnostics portrayed Paul as being firmly against that aloofness from the world. Even if your goal is only to initiate many people in a purely esoteric Christian mystery-religion, bringing in lots of people who are drawn by socio-political motives can increase the number of esoteric initiates.
The ideal initiated, perfected, mature Christian should not abandon or disparage "exoteric" religion in the sense of socio- political/economic resistance to the imperial so-called "divinely authorized" powers, but should participate in that resistance movement. We call this resistance movement the transcendent, though very much also worldly, "kingdom of God", in opposition to the mere kingdom of Caesar, which we insist is worldly only.
Let us assume the Valentinians as portrayed by Pagels were the definitive true original Christians, who had the proper balanced and integrated views. We Valentinian true Christians should remain in, redeem, and participate in the mundane socio-economic world, even if our main delight is esoteric enlightenment and reading Christianity as an experiential mystery-religion. (Compare the Boddhisatva vow to remain in the world to help all creatures attain Nirvana.)
It's true, the Valentinians say, that "the real meaning" of Christianity is using the Jesus storyline as experiential allegory to achieve the main, truly religious goal of conveying and experiencing ego death. But the 'esoteric' should not dismiss the exoteric, where exoteric here particularly means using Christianity as a socio- political weapon of resistance. 'Exoteric' here does not first of all mean popular superstition and supernaturalism as a respectable goal in itself, but rather, merely *using* playacting profession of supernatural belief (as a pseudo-religious cover) in order to achieve a truly respectable and serious goal of socio-political resistance.
Eusebius around 313 worked to co-opt and harness the power and popularity of Christianity and turn it back into a domination system. This required denying the esoteric dimension *and* the socio- political dimension, and reduce Christianity down to the least important of all 3 dimensions: the supernatural, turning that strategic smokescreen (the pretence and camouflage) of supernaturalist "belief", which was also the mythic storyline given to early-stage initiates, into the hyperliteralized entirety of the religion.
This resulted in suppression of religious experience and entheogens ("sorcery"; see Dan Russell's Shamanism and Drug Propaganda, and Jonathan Ott's The Age of Entheogens, The Pharmacratic Inquisition, and The Entheogenic Reformation), and also in the suppression and distortion of the socio-political resistance-movement -- the *true*, primary 'exoteric' layer of the Christian religion -- leading to the demonization of "the Jews".
In this informed age, it's hard to remember the absurd conflation of all Jews together. Obviously and clearly, to those who have any understanding of the priesthood as puppets -- collaborators is an understatement; they were products of the domination system handed down from above, like the Catholic church at its worst -- the bad guys in the Jesus story weren't "the Jews", but rather, more specifically, those Jews who were fully invested in the domination system: the priesthood that was put in place by the Roman Empire.
But the official story post-Eusebius involved gross distortion of all these crucial elements so that the political point was entirely lost and transformed from sensible socio-political resistance to supernaturalist demonization of "the Jews".
Turning Christianity into a tool for the domination system -- "the world" -- that it was designed to combat required suppressing and making illegal both the socio-political allegorical meaning of the Jesus storyline and the experiential esoteric allegorical meaning of the trial, crucifixion, and resurrection storyline, in conjunction with hyperdeveloping and hyperliteralizing the least important of the three threads: the supernaturalist, inflating the supernaturalist and superstitious and post-bodily-life mythic allegorizations, thus distracting and preventing people from understanding the actual, primary socio- political allegorical meaning and the actual, primary experiential esoteric allegorical meaning.
As a quick review, the esoteric layer involved entheogen-triggered discovery and apprehension of cosmic timeless determinism and a kind of "transcending" that determinism; we can "transcend" determinism in a certain limited sense, in that we recover the default state of consciousness. "Apprehending" and "realizing" determinism is experienced as crucifixion in spacetime, feeling as though affixed to a tree like an Amanita or embedded in a tree trunk like Attis or Odin, or chained to a rock like Prometheus. One's power as self- controlling sovereign is seen to be null in light of the illusory nature of time and the perceived fixity of future thoughts and actions, timelessly frozen into the block universe.
Now we can start to grasp and mentally circumscribe the metaphor- space that is produced by multiplying these three realms or domains of allegory:
o All the elements in the socio-political realm, including "divine Caesar our savior" and that whole power-establishment domination system
o All the elements in the supernatural realm, including sin, salvation, heaven, hell, last judgment, God, devil, demon, angels, atonement, ascension, miracles, bodily resurrection
o All the elements in the entheogenic experiential realm, including ego death, self-condemnation of one's lower freewillist way of thinking, recovery of the ordinary state of consciousness after the harrowing experience of ego death and the breakdown of cybernetic self-control, as well as the many other loose-cognition cognitive phenomena such as metaperception
*Only* when you are skilled at recognizing socio-political allegory elements, *and* supernatural allegory elements *and* esoteric- entheogenic/experiential allegory elements, and freely, playfully and humorously intermixing and inter-conflating them, can you understand original, early, pre-Constantine Christianity. N.T. Wright, Borg, Crossan, Doherty, Acharya S, Freke and Gandy, have not yet published this conclusion, successful solution, and hermeneutic methodology, neither with ink nor pixel, but it is now here.
The purely socio-political writers, such as Horsley, are ridiculous in that they almost entirely lack one of the two important of the three inter-allegorized domains: esoteric experiential entheogenic allegorical metaphor. I propose a theory of inter-allegorization of three domains: esoteric, socio-political, and (pseudo-, smoke-screen, or comical/playful/ironic) supernaturalist.
Being a Christian, for us earliest Christians, means a revolutionary rejection of the all-encompassing "divinely authorized" domination- system of Caesar "our savior, who brought everlasting peace", and creating instead a counter-system as a united body and family built around the figure of Jesus as counter-savior, true prince of peace, set against the false prince of peace, Caesar.
I'm literally experiencing a temporary blindness again now at my focal point of vision; too much stimulants and overbright computer screen. My visual focal point is a bright scrambled area.
Christianity is an integrated allegory of political liberation and mystic altered state "victorious" discovery of hidden fatedness/God's sovereignty. The present challenge is to resoundingly and cogently express the union of Judaism and Hellenism. Was early Christianity "Judaism with a faux Hellenistic mystery-religion veneer"? Some scholars now say that. Or was Christianity essentially "Hellenistic mystery-religion with a faux Jewish veneer"? The wise possibility to investigate is whether Christianity was a perfect union of these.
How could that be? First, imagine that it's a false dichotomy, between "ancient Jewish religion" and "Hellenistic pagan mystery- religions". One way to do this is to consider the Essenes as being functionally equivalent to the Hellenistic mystery-religions, perhaps drawing from the same roots. Also here consider that the Diaspora Jews may have been much more relevant to the formation of Christianity than the Palestine Jews.
No one in that Hellenistic milieu would have accepted a religion that didn't have mystery-initiation including a sacred psychoactive sacrament that reveals Fatedness. So for Christianity to be accepted at all as a religion in the Hellenistic world, that mystery-religion aspect was a mandatory part of the Christian religion. Now, what was so distinctive about the Christian religion considered as Yet Another Version of the core, standard Mystery Religion technology?
Really, we should speak of a mystery-religion engine, to characterize the theme of Luther Martin's book Hellenistic Religions. And using today's MP3 players and Nokia cell phones, we can talk of switchable decorative "skins", which provide the surface user-interface layer overlaid on the basic mystery-religion layer. So we have the Hellenistic mystery-religion core-engine, and the "skin" or mythic layer.
For Christianity to be a religion in the Hellenistic world, by definition it had to be a novel skin to overlay the standard mystery- religion core engine. What was distinctive about the Christian skin or mythic upper layer? It was a story of political liberation rather than, say, the story of Prometheus or Dionysus or Attis or any of the other "mythic Christs" investigated in the early 20th century.
The Christian mystery-religion *combined* for the first time, not an actual human being, but more importantly, an actual political movement or the seriously held story of an actual political movement, a movement for political liberation. So the Christian version of the same old underlying mystery religion was, for the first time, expressed as a political allegory rather than a clearly mythic allegory.
For the first time, actual history -- not meaning an actual single Jesus, but rather, many Jewish rebels -- were used to express mystery- religion initiation experiences. Everyone cared dearly about mystery- religion experience and insight, but they saw its insight of Fatedness abused by the "divine" emperors, kings, Caesars, and their establishment collaborators such as the Rome-installed temple priests who preached a financially expensive system of purity laws that served to oppress the poor.
This oppression was by no means unique to the Palestinian Jews; rather, the Palestinian Jews, who insisted that God is radically transcendent of the world, were used by the overall culture as a brilliant allegorical expression of the lot of the oppressed all throughout the Greco-Roman empire. Did the Jews or the Gentiles invent Christianity? The Hellenistic culture more or less included the Jewish rebel holdout religion of a purely transcendent God, and which included a completely Hellenistic-equivalent, deterministic mystery religion such as the Essenes.
The whole culture was aware of the Jewish innovation of separating earthly victory from God's sovereignty. Whereas the emperors claimed identity with the Controller Of Destiny, the Jews' God had lost the battle against Caesar and yet the Jews didn't accept Caesar and clung to their God for political reasons, even if his promise of providing a military victorious messiah effectively failed.
Instead of saying "oh, we allied ourselves with the wrong, loser God; you are proven victorious therefore you are God" the Jews or the new Jewish-influenced thinking said "We'd rather separate God from the world than accept the worldly ruler as being divinely accepted." Just as people don't convert to a religion in postmodernity, but instead patch together components of multiple religions, so could we say there were no "Jews" and "Gentiles", but rather, "Jewish religious components available" (including mystery-initiation cults) and "Hellenistic religions components available".
From these components, the Jewish Hellenes and the Hellenistic Jews and the Hellenes and the Jews all freely drew. They liked inventing new mythic allegories as skins/interfaces for the mystery-religion engine. What kind of allegory would be most satisfying to these blended hybrid postmodern Jews-Greeks-both-neither? Certainly, the most brilliant and natural move is to take what everyone cared about the most, the Jewish political rebellion against Caesar that was in put forth in the form of religion, and use that political rebellion as the main framework for a new skin, a new mythic story, conveying the same classic mystery-religion engine.
Freke and Gandy focus on the Gnostic story of Sophia as a skin for the mystery-engine. Acharya S focuses on astrotheology as, effectively, a skin for the mystery-engine (though I don't think she treats the mystery-religion experiences in-depth). But let us look at something so close to home we can't see it: the Christian story of the humiliated/victorious rebel leader Jesus the Christ, the crucified rebel Jew, is a *political* style skin that achieves therefore something no previous mystery-religion could: instead of presenting a politically harmless and irrelevant obviously mythic story as a skin for the mystery-engine, it provides a politically potent and meaningful skin.
This is by far the "true, original" Christianity: fully a mystery religion, and fully a political allegory drawing on actual history, not of a Historical Jesus, but of the Jewish rebellion (which included thousands of crucified actual Jewish rebels). So Christianity is certainly *not* just another version of the same old mystery-religion. It is that, but so much more!
It is *also*, for the first time, a politically meaningful story united with the highest religion, which was mystery-religion, which was familiar to the whole Hellenistic world -- both the mystery- religion core engine *and* the story of Jewish religio-political rebellion were understood to both Jews and Greeks, including non- Essene Palestinian Jews, Palestinian Greeks, Essene Jews, Diaspora Jews, and the Greeks throughout the Roman Empire. Everything that happens in mystery-religion happens also in Christianity, and the overall story of the Jewish rebellion against "divinely fated" Caesar is the reality-based *and* mythic allegory-based vehicle or skin, where there is usually only mythic allegory, to wrap and convey the classic mystery-religion experiences.
Keywords: allegory, political rebellion, thousands of crucified Jewish rebels, mystery religion, experiential allegory, mystic altered state, real history, allegorized history, virtually real figure, hyperliteralized.
For the first time, instead of using myth alone to allegorically convey the classic mystery-religion core, myth was combined *with actual history* to allegorically convey the mystery religion in terms of political rebellion against pseudo-divinized earthly rulers. Mystical revelation of fatedness and its transcendence was then back- read or interpreted in the mode of double-entendre wishful prophecy, as political liberation. "I have seen and joined the Kingdom of God mystically to become co-ruler with God; I know that the Kingdom of God rather than "divine" Caesar is really in control of everything."
I may grant, maybe, that Caesar is fated to rule for a time, but have experienced, in the highest religion of our culture -- the mystery- religion -- that God is in control, not man: so I refuse to attribute divine kingship to Caesar. Only the mystery savior, Christ, the allegorical defeated and humiliated political rebel, is a God- approved king and controller of the world. You may be ruler, but I maintain that Christ or a separate, higher God is ruler over you *and he does not approve of your reign*.
Of course such wishful thinking and allegorization and conflation of mystery-religion "coming of the Kingdom of God" could not fully satisfy people's wish for a real movement away from the kingdom of Caesar. But at least this version of the common mystery-religion was politically uplifting, relevant, and meaningful, unlike the relatively escapist, mythic-only versions of the mystery religion.
Christianity provides a version that included political ethics and political philosophy that emphatically rejected the official political philosophy of "might proves divinely approved". The Jewish tradition held that might *doesn't* prove right; kings could fall away from God even while remaining in power. This "Jewish" idea was widely popular, against the Ruler Cult. Is the Ruler Cult or Christianity or Judaism "really politics disguised as religion"? No, it's genuine religion, abused politically and reclaimed politically.
Real religion is abused by those in power, and the oppressed who also may have real religion use religious ideas and metaphors, and a mix of political and religious allegories, to battle against the in-power abusers of religion. The rulers and the people both generally had real religion. The figure of Abraham, in the mystic state of consciousness, discovered Fatedness and the illusory nature of egoic sovereignty, and wanted to prove his understanding by sacrificing his son, which is giving up his childish way of thinking about self- command in order to bring to completion mature knowledge of egoic non- sovereignty.
The Hellenized Jews (Philo) and Jewish-studying Greeks read Abraham this way, the same way as the story of Demeter and her daughter. What is at issue is not esoteric truth -- we all know that Destiny, Necessity, Fate, Predestination, Heimarmene, Moira, Time/Kronos overrule our claims to personal self-rulership. What is at issue here is justifying political abuse by making certain claims about the relation between Destiny, ethics, and rulership.
Christianity certainly began as genuine esoteric full-blown mystic altered state mystery religion, either a Hellenistic mystery religion or a Hellenistic type of Jewish esoteric religion that amounted to the exact same thing where the difference becomes meaningless and purely academic. And the latest political and social-science investigators are certainly right, too, though wrong about overlooking and failing to comprehend the primary mystery religion aspect.
They need to think *allegorically* about Jesus, to the full extent of considering him as a political-style Dionysus figure. They are so right that Christianity was reality-based unlike the mystery religions, and so wrong when they equate a single Historical Jesus figure with that "reality". The *reality* is that many rebel Jesus figures were crucified; the Jesus figure is a paradigm for *many* rebels, as well as for other kinds of religious figures of the day.
When you introduce a real single Jesus and attribute this entire movement to him, and say he founded a new kind of mystery religion and a new political rebellion, that's a tough road to fill in the details -- it introduces many difficulties and implausibilities. That direction lies such implausibilities and miss-the-point thinking as pure supernaturalist literalism. It's hypothetically *possible* there was a single towering Jesus figure towering over the thousands of actual crucified Jews and the healers and wise teachers, but that is much less likely, and inherently more complicated, than the simple mythic-only, allegorical-only Christ hypothesis.
The only way to proceed, to discover the allegorical insight, is to dismiss at least temporarily the single-HJ hypothesis and brainstorm to see if there are any more plausible and elegant solutions to the origins of Christianity. There are, in the well-established tradition of mystery-religion allegorization of mystic-altered-state experiences, including the encounter with, and in some sense "transcendence", of Fatedness.
What is the relation of mystery-religions and politics (political power) in late antiquity?
Pagels' Gnostic Gospels has some coverage. Prolegomena to Greek Religion by Harris has some about Dionysus as "the people's godman". Michael Conley wrote:
St. Ignatius, the Insidious Pragmatism of the Episkopoi of Rome and the Rise of Christianity
Ignatius, John and Paul: A Trio of Second Century, Hellenistic, Church Fathers
We need a general theory of the relation of mystery-religions and political power in late antiquity.
A major meaning-domain or allegory-domain encoded in the Jesus story (which was entirely fabricated after the Paulines) is the topic of slave rebellions. The masses liked the Jesus lifestory because it was a clever transformation of Caesar Ruler Cult, with a rebel slave as the divinized hero. A mystery-religion based around the theme of "rebel slave as divinized hero" resonated with the masses of those not in power, because of its sociopolitical relevance.
The Paulines, in the redactions we have, are taken to be pro-slavery, and are positioned after the gospels in the canon, giving the illusion that the gospels are pro-slavery. The gospels may be against violent slave rebellions, but they approve of the slaves' cause and rightness, in spirit, by divinizing the figure of the rebel slave.
Roman aristocrats persecuted Christians because to be a Christian was to be a sympathizer with the rebel slaves, even though the Jesus figure was against violent resistance. Being a Christian was a way of coping with the unavoidable reality of the slave-based domination system. One such way of coping was by glorifying the figure of the rebel slave and refusing to glorify the figure of Caesar.
Jesus cult = disapproval of the domination system; Caesar cult = support for the domination system. No wonder Caesar cult was a reject, and the transformed rebuttal version, Jesus cult, was a success. When the rebellion-in-spirit Jesus cult became so popular that it started forming social support networks, the next move was for the power-mongers running the domination system to take over, co-opt, and commandeer the popular rebellion-in-spirit Jesus cult.
The Piso family theory could be partly correct. Most likely, literate sympathizers of the rebel slaves constructed the Jesus lifestory by combining elements from many domains, for various reasons.
>Harvard's First Century History
>COPYRIGHT 1987, 1992
>"'HARVARD'S 1ST CENTURY HISTORY' is the most complete (overall), yet concise, reconstruction of the events that occurred in the 1st & 2nd century that is currently available to the public.
Since reading Barbara Theiring's books, I distrust highly complex monolithic theories involving extremely systematic encoding. However, every theory has some truth -- Theiring adheres to the "resuscitation and narrow escape from death" theory, which does have merit of a sort (it was a popular literary theme).
The Romans had their own visions of the apocalyptic destruction of Rome due to political chaos.
Around 150, there was extreme conspiracy and instability in the Roman Empire; Christianity was born from a matrix of extreme conspiracy, mixed with the Jewish-Roman wars. A main interesting idea in Duran's theory is to look at the anti-slavery ("humanistic") vs. pro-slavery ("aristocratic") divide. Remember the huge slave revolts of B.C. Consider 4 groups:
These can be also labelled:
Then consider a war of the humanistic pagans-and-Jews against the aristocratic pagans-and-Jews. What motives would the aristocrats, or perhaps the humanists, have had for creating a nominally Jewish-styled pagan mystery religion drawing from Julius' Ruler Cult and from the Hellenistic mystery-religions? I wish Duran's article focused more on motives.
Duran is poor at highlighting what his main thesis is as far as motives; he frames his theory as being about "who wrote the NT", with less emphasis on *why* and the basic logic behind the strategy. Supposedly the creation of Christianity (the nominally Jewish-styled pagan mystery religion drawing from Julius' Ruler Cult and from the Hellenistic mystery-religions) was an effort on the part of the pagan and Jewish aristocrats to commandeer, control, and defuse the anti-slavery Jewish religion.
We really need to treat the "authentic" Pauline epistles, the gospels, Acts, and Revelation separately. There is good reason to believe that Revelation was written first, then the Paulines, then Acts (I don't recall where Acts goes in the sequence), then the gospels: Revelation is aloof and independent of the Paulines and the gospels, showing no consciousness of them; and the Paulines reflect apocalypticism, but show definite unawareness of the gospels. How is this sequence accounted for by Duran's theories, or other revisionist theories?
Duran's theory is incorrect where he assumes the Gospel of Mark is earlier than the Epistles of Paul (he ignores the "silence of Paul" which shows that the gospel story hadn't been thought of yet when the epistles were written); Duran writes "Seneca did not live long enough to see any other 'Christian' books or paraphernalia except 'Ur Marcus' - the proto-type for the book 'Mark'. The Epistles of Paul the Apostle were written by Justus Calpernius Piso, and realizing this, it would also be realized that Seneca had long been departed."
The Piso theory has been "refuted" and I haven't read these "refutations" but if they were written by those who accept the official history per gospels/Acts/Eusebius, such "refutations" are insufficient to dismiss or adjust the Piso theory.
Duran's backbone theory suggests or implies the following more general theory: Romans vs. Jews is entirely a code for aristocrats vs. slaves. The Roman Jewish pro-slavery aristocrats wrote the New Testament. The humanist anti-slavery Jews and their sympathizers were at war against the ruling Roman pro-slavery aristocracy and their Jewish aristocratic pro-slavery collaborators.
There were ongoing revolts of the anti-slavery humanist Jews and sympathizers against the Roman pro-slavery aristocracy. The Roman pro-slavery aristocrats won, but knew that something had to be done against these sort of slave-rebellion wars. Certain Roman/Jewish aristocrats, to regain control of the rebel slaves and their sympathizers, decided to co-opt the Jewish religion, which had come to represent, for many, resistance to the Roman slave-based system.
The Jewish/Roman aristocracy wanted to regain control of the rebel slaves/sympathizers through this new custom-designed religion.
Given that the Paulines had already been written, and that some early proto-Christian Gnostic materials were already written, but no gospel lifestory of Jesus yet. Slaves wanted to use the Jewish rebellions to represent slave rebellions. Naturally, different groups of slaves had different views on the best way to go about this. Several approaches were tried.
The slave-rebellion wars and the Jewish wars are the same thing. The real war was not between "pagans" and "Jews", but between "pro-slavery aristocrats" and "anti-slavery humanists". The main political meaning of a crucified man then, after the crucifixions in the huge B.C. slave rebellion, was a rebel slave. There was a struggle to control the meaning and the symbol of a crucified slave.
We might be very close to comprehending some originally attractive political meaning of the Cross by considering Jesus as a crucified rebel slave leader. One theory, against Duran, is that the good guys -- perhaps all slaves, pagan and Jewish -- created the Jesus life story as a rebuttal transformation of the aristocratic Julius Caesar Ruler Cult. Then the real war between pagans and Jews was actually entirely a matter of the war of the aristocrats against the slaves.
The Cross as we know it wasn't used for several centuries -- this is a deeply suspicious fact. If we can understand this, it is likely a key insight about what Christianity was really all about politically.
Given that Christianity was a product of Rome and Alexandria, not Israel, we should ask what use the allegory domain called "the Jews" would be for the general population of the major urban cities? To the ordinary population in the cities, what does "the Jews" mean *allegorically*? It means "resistance to the system of Rome".
Given that there were huge slave rebellions, "the Jews" might mainly mean "slave rebellion against Rome". (Instead of just literal slaves; think "those downtrodden who are not in power".) In rebuttal of Caesar cult, which is one combination of politics and religion, what allegory system can we fabricate, covering a counter-politics and a counter-religion?
We would want to create a lifestory that follows but transforms and counters that of Ruler Cult, making the rebel slaves (allegorically represented by "the Jews") the divinized hero.
Given that the Jesus lifestory provides calming satisfaction to those who disapprove of the domination system, it's conceivable that the aristocrats, the oppressed, or any reflective person could have assembled the Jesus figure.
Explanation of the wide appeal of the early, anti-Jewish Jesus -- essentially a moral-resistance version of the idea of a hero/godman
Why was there such a widespread appeal of the "Jewish" version of the godman savior hero figure Jesus? The following portrayal is incorrect in various points -- but is a fitting solution to the problem. The basic strategy is two-phase:
Phase 1, diverse schools and very diverse versions of Jesus -- most with a Cross, some without -- varying degrees of Jewishness. That becomes popular, and shouldn't be thought of as an emphatically *Jewish* crucified figure yet. When figuring out the main mystical functioning of "the" Jesus figure and "the" Cross, *this* is the Jesus -- or set of Jesuses to abstract from -- to figure out and decode mystically. In this phase, people liked this flexible Jesus figure as an effective moral resistance figurehead, and there was no oppressively Jewish element yet, and no Old Testament welded in that one had to read and consider.
Phase 2, forced joining of these Jesuses and these groups into the appearance of a single religion, with Old Testament stolen away from the Jews, to use as a ready-made source of ancient authorization for the new religion. Inject OT elements and more Jewish elements into the earlier Jesus lifestory, eventually add Acts, Revelation, and pastoral epistles.
Reading Acharya S' book Christ Conspiracy,
together with other research, the Jesus figure seems to have been constructed in phases such as the following. Marcion's gnostic-Pauline Jesus figure wasn't originally oppressively Jewish to an alienating extent; he was made into an emphatically Jewish figure, with lots of desperately "discovered" Old Testament connections, around 170 CE.
http://www.webcom.com/~gnosis/library/marcion.htm - The Gospel of the Lord
1. The diversity-of-prototypes phase. Marcion (Asia Minor & Alexandria) writes prototypes of the Pauline epistles ~140 - these epistles have little Jewish content, no Jesus lifestory, abstract Cross per canonical "genuine" Paulines. Then Marcion writes "Gospel of the Lord" - a Jesus lifestory without an oppressive amount of alienating Jewish elements (this Jesus lifestory doesn't assume that it is packaged together with the Jewish, "Old Testament" scriptures -- it's more standalone).
The Marcion bible is the first version of New Testament -- and Marcion rejects the Old Testament; wants an NT that stands on its own, packaged without the OT, and making little reference to the OT. Imagine today's Bible minus the OT and minus the Jewish features, Acts, and Revelation. Just one proto-gospel with a merely mildly Jewish Jesus, and some ten proto-Pauline epistles with little Jewish content -- that's it, that's the first version of a Bible and presents the first version of the Jesus lifestory.
Marcion's reconstructed proto-epistles and proto-gospel may be online. At this point, there is a gnostic, merely mildly Jewish lifestory of Jesus, the crucified godman -- set in Israel, perhaps based partly on the Julius Caesar story, but drawing from many other sources as well. This figure, a divinized hero figure alluding to slave resistance to the overall domination system, becomes popular as a gnostic mystery-religion and social support network.
The motive of the Marcionites is to have a religion (including mystery-religion initiation) that is also an effective and relevant resistance movement and social support network. At this point, popularity of joining synagogues may be a separate equivalent movement. In addition to Marcionite groups, many other equivalent groups form, holding in common some sort of not particularly Jewish Jesus figure. This is the era of many diverse prototypes of Jesus-based schools, with many very different Jesuses and quasi-Jesus figures.
2. The "make-uniform, forcibly gather together" phase.
~170, power-mongering bishops co-opt Marcion's non-Jewish minimalist NT-only Bible from Marcion, co-opt the Jewish scriptures as the Old Testament to give a highly valuable "ancient lineage" (required, to appear authoritative), and insert Jewish elements in the Jesus lifestory and various references to the OT. At this point, there is now a specifically Jewish lifestory of Jesus, the crucified godman.
The motive of these text manipulating mythmakers is to sweep together the synagogue social support networks, convert them to functionally equivalent Christian social support networks, increase their own control as bishops of these developing organizations. Sweep together the various gnostic schools.
Gain full benefit of ancient Jewish heritage, but completely neuter the Jewishness of it, do away with all the following of the law -- though if some schools exist that want to follow law, try to sweep them in, too -- don't be too rigid; be vague and lenient and universal. Sweep together as many schools, sects, groups as possible -- use the appeal of the popular resistance-shaped mystery-religion and social support networks, to rope and coerce in as many of the diverse, various groups possible.
So this two-phase analysis would largely explain the puzzling widespread appeal of a *Jewish* crucified figure as the basis for a mystery-religion and support network -- the trick is, he *wasn't* a very oppressively *Jewish* crucified godman figure, but just a more general crucified godman figure, who happened to be loosely a Jew, but more strongly set against Judaism -- an anti-Jewish Jew.
Therefore, I don't think it makes much sense to ask what the earliest Christians saw of value in a *Jewish* crucified godman figure. The real situation to analyze is what the earliest Christians saw of value in a general crucified godman figure, or an anti-Jewish Jewish crucified godman figure.
Forgetting about the Jewish aspect, except to note that Jews resisted Rome and were crucified, the question is, what did the earliest Christians see of value in a crucified godman figure, who had a lifestory like in Marcion's Gospel of the Lord?
This also might help solve the problem of how the earliest Christians could be associated with synagogues and claim the Jewish exemptions. Their Jesus figure was the least-Jewish possible -- as anti-Jewish as possible while still remaining within the general Jewish religion.
Later, when ripping the OT away from the Jews, to utilize it for authority and for the semblance of antiquity, at that time the Christians would have to make a firm break with the synagogues, forming their own equivalent support networks, the burgeoning state within a state. Strangely, as the official Jewishness of Jesus and presence of the OT in Christianity was artificially, strategically, officially increased (around 170), the actual Jews were booted out and defamed.
The power-mongering hierarchy-building bishops had to wrest the pseudo-ancient "Old Testament" and the authoritative *claim* of Jewishness away from the actual Jews, both at the same time. The power-driven bishops took the attitude of "We Christians are the real, true, blessed Jews, the real inheritors of the value in Judaism. You guys are the false, bad, cursed type of Jews."
What did the earliest Christians see of value in an anti-Jewish Jewish crucified godman figure that originally made this figure so popular to so many diverse groups? Such a figure resisted his own society's domination system, representing by parallel Romans' desire to resist their own society's domination system. The key appealing point wasn't Jewishness, but rather, moral resistance. Jesus was the *moral resistance* version of the generalized idea of the mystery-religion godman -- understandably appealing to many within that era of the Roman Empire.
*Because* the Jesus figure started out in such extreme diversity, drawing from and drawing together many diverse groups, the Jesus figure was well-suited to take on attributes of an amazingly broad array of figures, so that the power-mongering hierarchy-building bishops were, in phase 2, able to coercively sweep together an enormous, broad assortment of groups.
Why was the Jewish Jesus crucified godman figure (like in the canonical Bible) so popular in earliest Christianity, as soon as his lifestory was constructed? Because the Jesus figure's original lifestyle and packaging *didn't* forcefully include the OT. With the original early versions of the Jesus lifestory and Jesus religion, the least appealing, most-Jewish aspects were not included.
According to the first Jesus lifestories, before the hierarchy-builders co-opted it all, Jesus was portrayed and packaged almost as an anti-Jewish Jewish figure, chastising the Jewish domination system in a way that suggested to the early Christians a parallel moral resistance movement against the Roman domination system.
From: Gavin Riggott
Sent: Friday, December 05, 2003 4:02 PM
Subject: Re: [Gnosticism2] Re: Evryone loves conspirecy
>>I feel that conspiracy theorists often miss the point of Gnosticism (or at least my understanding of what Gnosticism is). If the world is flawed, then it is understandable that there will be governments or other agencies who occasionally lie to us. In fact, given the size of the Earth's population, it would be surprising if this were not the case. But conspiracies are just one end of the scale of deception that is unfortunately common place -- consumerism constantly attempts to manipulate people for profit, for instance.
>>And deception is, in turn, just one of the many evils in this world. The ultimate solution to these problems is to transcend the world, not to uncover the political causes of specific conspiracies. I'm sure that this is hardly a revelation to people on this list, but my point is that conspiracy-theory-style approaches to Gnosticism that I've seen rarely go beyond mundane politics and deception.
>>I was recently amazed to see six David Icke titles in the spirituality section of a local book shop. Icke wrote a book called "Children and the Matrix", where he likened humanity to the people of The Matrix. Only instead of recognizing the Gnostic character of The Matrix (or in spite of it, which is probably more likely given that the symbolism in that movie is far from subtle and difficult to spot), he insisted that our prison is a mental/political one -- we are all preyed upon by vampiric serpents who keep society in ignorance... or some such nonsense.
>>For Icke, all the various religious and spiritual ideas he uses are just bastardized into "proof" for his strange worldview. I find it hard to imagine someone reading his book, or something else like it, and becoming Gnostic. Maybe I'm being too cynical. I hope I am. But it seems to me that the similarities between Gnosticism and conspiracy theories are just superficial.
>>There is that website that mixes both though... Jesus Loves Your Enemies or something like that. It seems to be quite popular, so maybe a lot of people do find they go together well.
Political emancipation "versus" mystic enlightenment? We don't understand the religious writings unless and until we see both that these are distinct *and* that these are similar. Political emancipation has often been used as allegory for mystic enlightenment, as in Roman and Jewish and Persian apocalypticism. Religion often uses overlapping thematic domains of political emancipation and mystic enlightenment.
I found a great new book on the book of Revelation that makes great sense of it in its socio-political context and completely dismisses the Fundamentalist Prophecy premise that Revelation refers to political events today. With that book providing a sound perspective, I was able to recognize many allegorical allusions to the ego-death phenomena of the mystic altered state. The city of Heaven is imaged as a cube, as is block-universe determinism.
I will try to find the title -- the book had a really right-on vibe, a pragmatic and effective approach to allegorical reading. It probably makes the common error of recognizing only the dimension of socio-political allegory without also recognizing the dimension of ego death and mystic-state experiential allegory. I expect some New Age and Jungian analyses to make the opposite mistake of recognizing mystic-state experiential allegory but not the social-political allegory.
The Jungian approach has many insights but it only takes a glance at such books to be certain that something is greatly amiss. I have not identified what is amiss yet in the Jungian allegorical approach to Christianity, but it's immediately clear to me that it is no more than some first halting steps in the right direction.
The main question I ask of books about Christianity and enlightenment is: Does it emphasize determinism? Does it emphasize entheogens? Does it emphasize mythic Christ? Socio-political allegory is essential for understanding the meaning of the Cross, but I haven't decided how to fit it into this set of primary issues in a universally relevant way that would apply, for example, to the mystery-religion of Dionysus.
Socio-political allegory is distinctive and fundamental to the original meaning of the Christian religion, but not to other religions. Socio-political allegory is essential for understanding specifically Christian religion, but not required for constructing a universally valid or "alien-relevant" theory of religious experiencing in terms of self-control cybernetics, time, and cognitive model transformation.
The idea of experiential allegory implies the entheogen theory of the origin of religions. Entheogens reliable cause a finite episode of mystic-state perception and experiencing. This stands in stark contrast with the Jungian or Wilberian emphasis on "development of consciousness". More to the point is a sudden apocalyptic wholesale transformation in the mind's cognitive mental model or worldmodel, pivoting on the issues of free will and self-control.
A study which does not put a central emphasis on sudden and radical mental-model transformation based on group-shifting our understanding of free will and self-control, must be off-target. "Consciousness development" approaches may include some correct elements, such as awareness of entheogens and a recognition that there is a lower ego and higher Self, but they still lack a cogent, tightly-compressed systematic understanding.
Such approaches only include a lot of key insights because they cast such a wide net, but the insights don't work until they are tightly packed and pieced together. Enlightenment is a 3-dimensional puzzle and the Jungian approach has assembled some groups of pieces but the overall puzzle is still far from completion, even as far as the basic aspects and organization."
> I found a great new book on the book of Revelation that makes great sense of it in its socio-political context and completely dismisses the Fundamentalist Prophecy premise that Revelation refers to political events today.
The book is:
Revelation and the End of All Things
Craig R. Koester
After this book, LaHaye's commercially successful prophetic fundmentalist series of books (movies, poseable action figures?) has been forever Left Behind.
That book seems to be a good summary of recent good scholarship such as this longer, more detailed book, which is also excellent:
Unveiling Empire: Reading Revelation Then and Now
Wes Howard-Brook, Anthony Gwyther, Elizabeth A. McAlister
It includes at the beginning reflections on Revelation interpretation in popular culture, and ends with relevant reflections on resisting Empire in today's world. If you think a global corporate-fascism state would be a good thing (a government by, of, and for the multinational corporations), you might not particularly like the latter part of the book. The main part of the book explains Revelation as allegorized counter-claims to the propagandistic claims of the Roman Empire, which claimed it was wonderful and divinely sent, even as it seemed to be an unstoppable devouring machine taking over all aspects of life.
As is standard for this new crop of socio-political explanations of the creation of Christianty, this book probably has no insight about the esoteric experiential dimension of the allegories and metaphors in scripture. There seems to be almost a debate shaping up: given that Christianity was not supernatural, was it socio-political, or spiritual/experiential? My solution today is that it is a free mixture; it is rich inter-allegory among the 3 domains of supernaturalist, socio-political, and esoteric/experiential domains.
A slightly difficult or subtle area I need to cover is the clever shift of mapping across domains -- I'm thinking of starting from esoteric/experiential concepts and using them to describe political concepts. For example, starting in the experiential mystic domain: during intense entheogenic enlightenment, the lower, illusory, naive freewillist ego is cast out or pushed down; we can cleverly transpose this into the supernaturalist domain of metaphor to say that "a demon was cast out from him", and then from there, cleverly transpose to the political domain, saying that "the world ruler, the king of darkness, was cast out".
Is the latter an assertion that Caesar lacks enlightenment and believes in the ego, and his problem is that he needs to become metaphysically enlightened? No; a full round trip of allegory-domain translation does not work. Caesar was enlightened in the entheogenic experiential mystery religions of the time just like everyone else, and encountered and somehow transcended determinism just like all the divine kings.
Even if he went through the Christian version of the Hellenistic/Essene mystery-religion initiation, his problem is not that he lacks initiation, but that he is involved in the domination system of empire. His ego was cast out during initiation, so that he "willingly sacrificed his child", but still he as literal ruler of empire must be cast out and politically overthrown. Metaphysical genuine enlightenment doesn't make a person good. Christianity rejected the other mystery religions not because they failed to provide genuine metaphysical revelation about ego, control, and time, but because they were used to support the political system of all-devouring worldly empire."
Can we credit Christianity, whether the low supernaturalist Literalist type or the high, Gnostic, enlightened type, with sustaining and making possible a republic, which is essentially a legal agreement to pretend to be false egoic agents? The Greeks knew what a challenge a republic is, because legally you need to believe in a lie, believe in affirm the demonic lie of personal sovereign responsibility, and affirm free will even though such a thoughtless and uninformed notion is only fit for children, uneducated barbarians, and animals.
Determinism was often used to prop up an oppressive and heartless political hierarchy -- but then, the history of the Catholic Church seems to demonstrate that the delusion of free will can also be used to prop up an oppressive and heartless political hierarchy. If it's political hierarchy that you hate, then it's political hierarchy as such that you should fight against.
Don't marry politics to metaphysics or religion. Whether our religion is Christianity or Buddhism, the power establishment should be condemned. Whether free will or causal-chain determinism or timeless block-universe determinism is true, the power establishment that claims to be sanctified should be condemned. Religious or metaphysical truth cannot be honestly used to justify any political system.
In this sense, the U.S. is indeed a Christian nation: the political system of Caesar was divinized, but Christianity was created in response to take back at least the religious realm from the hands of earthly power. Caesar's power is manifest and undeniable -- but Caesar's claim to divinity, to approval by Fate's decree, is a bogus abuse and distortion of metaphysics. No political system can actually be religiously or metaphysically legitimated.
The power establishment may or may not take over the world, but in any case, there's no way religion or metaphysics (such as determinism) can be said to confirm and justify any world regime. The metaphysical realm on which determinism may be true is radically distinct from the realm of politics and practical human action.
The Gnostics went too far -- they so rejected Caesar's realm of worldly power, the sought to live on the metaphysical plane alone and escape from the physical world altogether, and withdraw from the world, condemning the very creator of the physical world as being the pathetic and despised lower creator-god. The mainstream church wanted to gain power and wanted to be relevant to people living in the mundane world. The mainstream Christian was thus asked to keep one foot in Caesar's fallen realm though putting one foot in the transcendent or metaphysical kingdom of God."
Will asked "So what, what is the use today of your revelations about what Christianity was really originally about?"
1. To liberate the drug-war prisoners.
2. To resist domination hierarchies, particularly the corporate-owned media and the global multinational corporatocracy.
Christians ought to quit waiting for supernatural Jesus to return on a cloud and instead recognize John's Revelation as a possible tool, using the religion of King Jesus ("no man may be called good") to reject oppressive global multinational corporatocracy.
Book list: Christianity as political rebellion against "divine" Caesar
Unveiling Empire: Reading Revelation Then and Now (Bible & Liberation Series)
by Wes Howard-Brook
The last part of the book covers today's problem of corporatocracy as the Beast of worldly power against which Jesus and Michael timelessly battle.
The Greeks forbade publishing the adult, no-free-will system of philosophy, and claimed that doing so would warrant the death penalty, probably in the form of banishment -- witness the playwright who was accused of publically revealing the mysteries in the plays such as of Dionysus but was proven not to have undergone initiation in a mystery cult. This system of philosophy was understood by the general adult public.
Psychoactive wine mixtures were the universal standard just as our alcohol-only wine and beer are standard today. You don't need a formal systematization such as I'm working on when you have a logical culture that commonly uses psychoactive wines. The wines are the teacher; Dionysus teaches directly and experientially. You don't need a systematic model of ego death and block-universe determinism when every house has wines that directly teach as much through direct experience -- see Ken Wilber's book Eye to Eye on mystic-state perception as direct scientific perception of primary data. http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/157062741X
Similarly, Christ come in the flesh, our drug of immortality, the vine of truth reveals secret teachings to his disciples who, prior to ingesting the Last Supper, don't understand his parables about sacrificial dying in order to be raised from the dead into the kingdom of God or kingdom of Heaven.
Those who live in the false freewill child mind are mortals who are doomed to be judged guilty of falsely claiming sovereign power. They set up their own power, as rulers of the world, against that of the true secret ruler of the cosmos. The secret ruler of the cosmos reveals his secret rulership during the mind's crucifixion of its worldly power.
Words are able to reveal this hidden knowledge to the child mind, when skill with language is mature and transcendently perfected. Revealing block-universe determinism to all the world publically and openly, and explaining the sense in which we are radically free and the sense in which we are radically unfree, is like killing the child mind in general for all the world. Doing so globally amounts to the binding of Satan at the end of time.
Why didn't this happen in the hellenistic era to which the Jesus figure is back-projected? For political reasons as well as for reasons of pschological practicality. Alcibiades was charged with revealing the mysteries publically -- the accusation was pressed more firmly because he was against a democratic republic and promoted the old dreaded aristocratic domination hierarchy.
Socrates was charged with corrupting the youth. The Apostle Paul was accused, so the story goes, of openly revealing the Mysteries. Euripides was accused of revealing the mysteries in the Bacchae plays (I propose for portraying psychoactives as revealing no-free-will), but was aquitted after proving he was not an initiate and therefore was not under oath of secrecy.
All of these people or figures were brought to trial before the democratic council of Areopagus. So we know that they all were considered as a threat to the Athenian democracy. How can teaching and revealing threaten democracy and risk returning to an aristocratic domination hierarchy? Teaching and revealing leads to no-free-will, a doctrine which had been abused to justify the power-establishment as divinely ordained and approved by Fate and Zeus and divine Necessity.
http://www.tektonics.org/tekton_04_02_04_DDD.html -- Excerpts about the Bacchae, a play for which the playwright was accused of revealing the mysteries that were evidently considered a serious threat to the Athenian democracy:
For convenience, we must begin by laying groundwork, by summarizing the story told by the Greek playwright Euripides, entitled The Bacchae. This play serves as a source of information on Dionysus/Bacchus for scholar and Christ-myther alike, and we will be referring to it often.
The play opens with a speech by Dionysus, who, disguised as a mortal priest of his own religion, complains about the fact that the city of Thebes, and its king, Pentheus, has refused to honor him. Therefore, he has caused the women of Thebes to go mad and run off like crazed Girl Scouts into the wilderness as a demonstration of his power -- and plans to do a few more demonstrations, should Pentheus come running after the women.
Well, as it happens, Pentheus does get fairly peeved, and sends out to have D arrested. After a brief exchange in which D teases the hot-headed king, Pentheus has D thrown in jail and starts planning to get the women back. D, however, draws a Get Out of Jail Free card that says "Earthquake"; but before Pentheus can deal with this problem, a herdsman arrives with stories of how dangerous the women are getting. D coyly takes control of Pentheus and convinces him to dress as a woman so he can sneak out and do some spying on the women in the wilderness -- this is all part of D's plan to humiliate and destroy Pentheus.
And destroy him he does -- Pentheus ends up dead, torn to bits by the women, with particular honors for the grisly deed going to his own mother, who carries his head in thinking it is the head of an animal; D closes out by pronouncing judgments on everyone. Needless to say, this is one story you don't read for light entertainment!
Mystery-religions reveal determinism, and determinism has been abused to prop up a domination hierarchy. The Athenians faced a problem: how to change the mystery-religions so that what they reveal, determinism (no-free-will) would support a democratic republic instead of supporting an aristocratic domination hierarchy? To protect their democratic republic, the Athenians ostracized, socially killed, and banished any man who rose too high like a god -- that is, too high like an oppressive king.
What do the Jews have to say critically against having a king rather than a democratic republic? The problem is the same: how can we get entheogenic deterministic experiential mystery-religion to *help* rather than *work against* a democratic republic? Create the hypercarnalized substitute king and be his direct subjects. I am a *direct* subject of king Jesus, only, so that me and my religio-political brothers are all equal in power.
My direct relationship with Jesus, my only king, my direct divine king, with no intermediaries, means that I reject all political hierarchies that would seek to oppress me in the name of divine authorization. I will permit only one divine leader over me, the carnalized mythic figure of Jesus. I have no king other than Jesus; what's more, I have no divinely authorized person wielding religious authority over me, except Jesus -- all divine authority belongs to him *alone*.
No man has any religious authority over me at all -- other than Jesus, who keeps 100% religious authority in his hands, only. In 1660 Spinoza, like the Radical Reformers, rejected the whole system of "religious authorities" -- unlike the Magisterial Reformation of Luther and Calvin. (See Israel's new book Radical Enlightenment. http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0198206089 ) So did the Gnostics utterly condemn and despise worldly "powers and authorities" -- those who claimed a "special authorization by the Divine" to rule over and oppress people.
The pattern is the same: democratic council of Areopagus, Gnostic dualists, Radical Reformers, Radical Enlightenment all believed the same thing: no-free-will, and believed that this is knowledge so politically dangerous, it should be kept veiled and hidden, lest the dreaded hierarchical power establishment once again use the doctrine of Divine Necessity to oppress people politically.
Doctrines of free will and determinism both were hotly contested by the establishment authorites and the common people throughout history. For example, the wild unauthorized itinerant preachers after the U.S. war of independence, after the legal disestablishment of religion, associated the doctrine of determinism (think of the most oppressive and distorted, terror-maximizing Calvinist form) with the ecclesiastical power establishment and so taught naive free will as part of a strategy of politically liberating the common people. See Hatch: The Democratization of American Christianity (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0300050607).
The general danger and the Beast that is universally feared is the Beast of domination hierarchy that uses religion to justify its oppressive regime. The problem was not just to divorce religion from political power, but how to make religion help the common people instead of helping the power establishment."
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/HorsleySeminar -- "The Corpus Paulinum _Paul and Empire_ Seminar with Professor Richard A. Horsley is a moderated, online, two week long forum whose aim is to provide a platform for exchanges between approved Seminar members and Professor Horsley, editor of _Paul and Politics_ and _Paul and Empire_ and author the Abingdon Commentary on _First Corinthians_, _Jesus and the Spiral of Violence_, and many other works, on the issues and arguments contained in chapters 5-9 of Silberman and Horsley, the _Message and the Kingdom_ and the Introduction and Introductory essays to each of the chapters in _Paul and Empire_
The Seminar, to be carried out under the auspices of the Corpus Paulinum Discussion List, will begin on Monday, April 22nd 2002, and will run until Friday, May 3th, 2002. So as to be managed effectively, the Seminar will be conducted on a subscription only basis and messages will be subject to selection by the seminar's moderators. Posts submitted to Professor Horsley by approved participants will be answered by him on a daily basis.
The focus of the Seminar is the thesis set out by Professor Horsley in The Message of the Kingdom and Paul and Empire that Paul's message of the cross and his missionary activity stands counter to, and as a polemic against, Roman imperial power and its gospel of the Pax Romana.
Accordingly, a major prerequisite for anyone wishing to participate in the Seminar is one's familiarity with these works."
>From: HorsleySeminar Moderator
>Thank you for your application to join The Horsley _Paul and Empire_ Seminar.
>List policy specifies that before we approve your application for membership to the Seminar, we ask for some information from you. We would like to know your full name, >what your interest is in Paul and Pauline Studies (and particularly the issues surrounding the thesis of Paul's message as a counter to the Roman Imperial order),
I am separately analyzing the truly religious-experiencing dimension of the NT, the truly social or sociological dimension of early Christianity, and the truly political dimension of the NT, of the Bible, and of early Christianity.
I am deeply concerned about the political study of Christianity leading to the deeply mistaken notion that Christianity was *only* political. When reading sociological studies of the rise of Christianity, I am deeply concerned that the sociological thinkers are inclined to dismiss the hardcore political aspects of the rise of Christianity (and of the scriptures themselves, and their redaction).
By the same token, I am concerned that the political-oriented researchers of the origins of Christianity assume they can subsume the sociological aspects and the genuinely religious (primary religious experiencing) aspects into their purely political analysis.
The canonical scriptures do essentially contain a complete and consistent, systematic, esoteric allegory that describes primary religious experience; you can find religious enlightenment and transcendent knowledge in the scriptures -- but the scriptures also contain later distortions and false statements added for purely political-power reasons.
The teachings attributed to the Paul figure were matter of great contention, leading to a great tug-of-war between the Gnostics and the authoritarian power-mongers, centered around the figure of Paul and his relation to the other Apostles that the Church had taken over.
The new Catholic bosses -- same as the old bosses -- were intent on turning Christianity into a monolithic, hierarchical counter-empire that was ultimately equivalent to the system of the Roman Empire, with false claims to divinity, that Christianity was originally a critical response to.
A developmental view is needed, such as tracing the increasing emphasis on political power and the decreasing emphasis on primary religious experiencing, between earliest Christianity and 313.
The figure of Paul the Apostle was originally created by the Gnostic Marcion to represent the views of the Marcionites, including some political views about countering the Roman Empire. But at the beginning, this political aspect was more a matter of styling the new mystery-religion with political allegory, rather than a serious conspiracy to erect a literal parallel hierarchical empire to subvert and take over the Roman empire.
The NT as a whole is certainly very political, including both religious experiencing allegorized in political form, and political resistance (or perhaps sociological resistance) put forth in the form of religion.
Jesus, Paul, the Apostles, Moses, and Abraham are all fictional. The Catholic power-mongers wanted to gather up all the Marcionites to increase the Catholic conspiratorial parallel hierarchy parallel to the Roman Empire. To do this, the Catholics rewrote Marcion's Paul to reduce the authority of the Paul figure.
Christianity began as a genuine experiential mystery-religion, completely equivalent to all the other standard mystery religions, but its storyline was -- like the fictional, allegorical Old Testament -- placed in a political setting. Jesus was, from the start, a *political*-style mythic godman. Christianity began as a political-style mystery-religion, with the emphasis on primary religious experiencing and with only a minor political theme.
By 313, the Catholic power-mongers took it over for purely political-strategy reasons, suppressed the genuine religious experience, and supernaturalized it. The Catholic strategists were successful at covertly installing a subversive parallel empire. Power moved from the old Roman Empire power establishment to the new Catholic power establishment.
Christianity may have started to provide a political godman as an anti-Caesar figure, as part of a socio-religious (but not truly political) resistance movement among the oppressed. The Christian movement began as mostly religious, largely social, and partly political.
By 313, the Christian movement was mostly political, still largely social, and hardly truly religious at all. Mystery-religion and religious experiencing were degraded from genuine religious experiencing down to mere emotionalism and supernaturalist magical thinking.
The increasingly empowered Christian elite leadership was probably responsible for this imbalance, in which the anti-hierarchical religion of the oppressed was co-opted by the same old hierarchical power establishment, who eventually, just like the peak of Caesar's hyperinflated honor, claimed divine approval of its hierarchical reign.
>and how familiar you are with current and classic Pauline studies.
I've read several books about Christianity as a resistance movement, emphasizing a social movement or emphasizing a political movement, against the hierarchical honor/shame-based system that ended up with divine Caesar at the top. I've read a couple theologies of the Paul figure. Online, I've read various radical theories of the Paul figure and Christianity as an anti-empire or counter-empire movement.
>We would also be grateful to hear how you came to know about the Horsley Seminar.
The Jesus Mysteries discussion group.
>We ask this simply to gain some sense of who our subscribers are.
Related: 25-book list at
Christianity as political rebellion against "divine" Caesar
I'm going to have to boot one or two books off that list to fit this fine book which I just received:
Matthew and Empire: Initial Explorations
Publisher's description: "Although New Testament scholars have examined Paul's writings and their relationship to the Roman empire and its imperial policies and writings, they have focused little attention on ways in which the Gospels were influenced by that imperialism. In Matthew and Empire, Warren Carter argues that Matthew's Gospel protests Roman imperialism by asserting that God's purposes and will are performed not by the empire and emperor but by Jesus and his community of disciples.
Matthew and Empire makes the claim for reading Matthew in this way against the almost exclusive emphasis on the relationship with the synagogue that has long been a staple of Matthean criticism. Carter establishes Matthew's imperial context by examining Roman imperial ideology and material presence in Antioch, the traditional provenance for Matthew. He argues that Matthean Christology, which presents Jesus as God's agent, is shaped by claims-and protests against those claims-that the emperor and empire are agents of God.
In successive chapters Carter pays particular attention to the Gospel's central irony, namely that in depicting God's ways and purposes, the Gospel employs the very imperial framework that it resists. Matthew and Empire challenges traditional readings of Matthew and encourages fresh perspectives in Matthean scholarship."
The big question about Christianity as a literal political empire put forth as a religion becomes: when did Christianity first intend to become a literal empire that would take over the Roman Empire? Was it that way from the beginning among all the widespread groups that invented pieces and versions of Christianity, or (at the other extreme) did the serious design to create a literal empire only exist among a select circle of Catholic elite power-strategists, around 313?
And what is the relation between the synoptic Gospels, the Gospel of John, and the Pauline writings -- are the synoptics explicitly political-styled, while the Pauline writings are only covertly political? The figure of Paul was hotly contested, with the Marcionites wanting to keep Paul an independent authority, but the Catholic elite strategists attempting to reduce Paul to subservient "religious" (political) status.
What exactly were the political ramifications of the Paul figure being an independent religious authority versus being subservient to "the Jerusalem Apostles" (that is, the elite Catholic strategists in Rome)? And were there equivalent power-politics contentions between Christian factions, or between Christians and Roman Empire, in the Gospels as well?
In the midst of these power-politics strategy investigations, which stand far apart from Rodney Stark's type of purely sociological analysis, it is crucial that we remember that early Christianity and the scriptures even as we have them today, do contain a complete, working, genuinely religious system of allegorically expressing primary religious experiencing.
Christianity certainly started as a Hellenistic mystery-religion with Jewish esoteric elements as well, a mystery-religion that uses a uniquely political-style storyline. Just because this mystery-religion's storyline is political doesn't mean that this stops being a genuine mystery-religion and becomes only politics, or as Stark and Mack would have it, only sociology put forth in the form of religion.
Christianity, from the start, was far more about politics than the theologians and laymen have expected, and I emphasize to the maximum degree these political motivations -- but this is not a zero-sum game; there is no need to deny the genuine religious aspect; Christianity is much more about experiential mystery-religion and esoteric Jewish traditions of allegorized mystic-state experiencing than supernaturalist religionists, modern liberal Christians, or socio-political scholars have realized.
There was never an issue of whether Christianity did or didn't include primary religious experiencing; early Christianity had a strong core of mythically allegorized primary religious experiencing. The issue, instead, was the political power of owning this appealing genuine religious experiencing.
Christianity is a genuine religion that suffered a great hyper-politicization; there was a great struggle over who gets to control this appealing genuine mystery-religion with purportedly ancient Jewish roots, ancient enough to contest the authority and Ruler Cult of the Roman Empire.
What questions for Richard Horsley come out of this analysis?
When did Christianity first intend to become a literal empire that would take over the Roman Empire? Was it that way from the beginning among all the widespread groups that invented pieces and versions of Christianity, or (at the other extreme) did the serious design to create a literal empire only exist among a select circle of Catholic elite power-strategists, around 313?
What is the relation between the synoptic Gospels, the Gospel of John, and the Pauline writings -- are the synoptics explicitly political-styled, while the Pauline writings are only covertly political?
What were the political ramifications of the Paul figure being an independent religious authority versus being subservient to "the Jerusalem Apostles" (that is, the elite Catholic strategists in Rome)?
In the Gospels, as opposed to the Pauline writings, what power-politics contentions are reflected, among the various parties: the democratic independent anti-hierarchical Gnostics such as Marcion or Valentinus, the elite Catholic power-mongers in Rome, and the authorities of the Roman Empire?
What is the relationship between a power-politics analysis of the NT (with emphasis on Paul) and a sociological analysis?
What is the relationship between a power-politics analysis of the NT (with emphasis on Paul) and an analysis of the genuinely religious dimension of Christianity?
If Christianity is true in the sense of supernaturalist Christianity, or modern liberal Christianity, or esoteric, Gnostic, experiential mystery-myth Christianity, how would that affect the political-focused analysis?
>I have recently read Dan Russell's book Shamanism and the Drug Propaganda. ithought it a very good book, but in his argument that the Orphics, Gnostics, Essenes, and Plato took sacramental inspiration, Russell neglects the vitally important exploration of why they should have degenerated into the world-denying philosophies they embraced -- unlike the world-affirming earlier Goddess cults, including Dionysian ecstatic orgiastic ritual.
>I want to seriously study this strange 'fall', but am having no luck in finding any research sources. Ralph Metzner has not yet replied to my inquiry.
>It is such a vital question. considering that many of us are encouraging the end to the Inquisitional prohibition of sacraments.
The explanation is probably socio-political. In one of Elaine Pagels' books, she explains that becoming a nun in early proto-Christianity was emancipating, a way to avoid the obligatory totally structured life that was put upon each person in society. If "the world" is considered to be an extremely rigid, oppressive system where your every thought and action is controlled by the social system, it would be progressive to deny that "world" -- that messed-up oppressive socio-political world.
The same would be true of rejecting "the world" where "the world" is the totalizing System of Caesar. A way is needed to evade and rise out from that particular kind of socio-political world-system.
Ruck's book on Greek mythology and entheogens might have some insight on this, if he covers the politics of mystery-myth.
Book list: Mystery Religion, Myth, and the Mystical State
Might explain the politics of experiential mystery-myth.
What do the ascetics really have in mind when they say "the world"? Any political aspect of their "rejection of the world" may have been suppressed; read between the lines. Rejecting "money", "property", and "society" may amount to something like a taxpayers' rebellion. You are obliged to do the work your father did, to keep society running: a natural response is "Well, fuck society!"
This was not a *voluntary* "world" or socio-political system as one might assume, but a fully defined and completely constrained obligatory prison of social "obligations". I know something of how this feels, when holidays roll around and I am busy doing important scholarly work. People get mad at me for not going to all the social gatherings; around the winter holidays I have to actively reject the world, that world of social obligation.
The politics of mystic insight, altered-state experiencing, and mental together with socio-political emancipation has been swept under the carpet, and we must bring it back out into the open. Books about "the politics of consciousness" cover this. Turn on, tune in, drop out. What do the best ascetics really mean when they talk of "rejecting the world"?
The Politics of Consciousness : A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom
by Steve Kubby, Terence McKenna (Introduction)
This is a good, sound book covering the politics of cannabis, hemp, mushrooms, and other entheogens.
The Politics of Ecstasy
by Timothy LearyFrancis, R. U. Sirius (Introduction), Tom Robbins (Introduction)
Hierarchy and Its Discontents: Culture and the Politics of Consciousness in Caste Society
by Steven M. Parish
The Gnostic Gospels
by Elaine Pagels
Everyone should read this book.
Earliest Christianity (70-313 CE) fully included core religious experience and knowledge, but was more centrally or primarily concerned with providing an alternative socio-political/religious *system* for Empire-resistance. The central concern or center of gravity of earliest Christianity was not *attaining* religious experiencing and revelation, but rather, *applying* that religious core to the driving goal of providing an anti-religion against the imperial Ruler Cult and the whole system of socio-political domination that it was involved with.
The genuine mystery-religion aspect of earliest Christianity was a given and totally routine. What was highly distinctive and the whole reason Christianity was distinctly valued was political - in initiation we become worldly-powerless but transcendently powerful; so is Caesar worldly powerful but transcendently powerless or no more powerful than any other initiate.
If a single toweringly influential man Jesus did not exist, it was socio-politically necessary to invent him, to take mystery-religion initiation ("religion") away from the Empire. Christianity was a Hellenistic/Essene mystery-religion initiation whose storyline was set in the socio-historic realm of resistance to emperor cult and its society of domination.
The Jewish populace (not the high priestly empire-collaborators) resisted Empire-cult, which was a religion propping up economic domination; so too were non-Jews looking for a way to resist Empire -- allegiance to and worship of this Jewish messiah figure was it.
Christianity *used* entheogenic mystery-religion initiation, doing so in such a way as to help them in opposition to the way empire used mystery-religion initiation. Given that the Empire used entheogenic mystery-religion initiation to dominate socially and oppressively, Christianity used mystery-religion initiation to emancipate/liberate.
The religions of Jesus and Caesar were in a battle over the meaning and application of mystery-religion initiation. It's a battle about what to do with the fact of mystery-religion initiation. Christianity fully included mystery-religion initiation, but cannot be limited to that core religious enlightenment. That specifically religious enlightenment was not the main, pressing point of Christianity that made it spread so quickly.
Christianity included full religious-experiencing profundity, revelation, insight, transformation, and enlightenment -- but then, these were all merely standard benefits of the standard Hellenistic mystery-religion core engine. Delivering these wasn't at all the issue; the issue was about interpreting and applying this religious or metaphysical enlightenment against the interpretation the Empire gave to it. A book could be written on the politics of determinism or even on the politics of the mystery-religion experience of realizing-and-transcending determinism.
It is not clear to me, as a theorist of self-control cybernetics and entheogenic deterministic ego death, how much further I should investigate this driving socio-political dimension of Christianity, beyond answering "How is the ego death experience like crucifixion and the Cross?" Before further connecting my core theory of ego death to Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism, I will focus on the meaning of the Crucifixion, which means focusing on Christianity as a socio- political-religious anti-religion and resistance movement against the imperial domination-system.
The Crucifixion as mystic-state symbol represents the experiences of mystery-religion initiation expressed in terms of a resistance movement against the imperial domination. Such domination was all- encompassing, including collusion with religion and social structures. The mystery-religion genuine primary religious experience is important for the earliest Christianity, but that's just a given, like saying real social structures are important or real politics is important. Caesar provided one combination of real religion, real social structures, and real politics; the Jesus figure, in response, was the focus of a contrary combination of real religion, social structures, and politics.
Without understanding that the Jesus storyline allegorizes entheogenic mystery-religion initiation, no political explanation of the origins of Christianity is anywhere near complete. Conversely, without understanding the Cross as a resistance movement to the domination-system of divinized Caesar, you have merely another version of the standard Hellenistic entheogenic mystery-religion core engine -- of little interest or relevance to the oppressed throughout the Empire.