The Jesus Mysteries

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charleslemartel
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The Jesus Mysteries

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By Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy

The Unthinkable Thought

"Jesus said, 'It is to those who are worthy of my Mysteries that I tell my Mysteries.'" ~ The Gospel of Thomas

On the site where the Vatican now stands there once stood a Pagan temple. Here Pagan priests observed sacred ceremonies which early Christians found so disturbing that they tried to erase all evidence of them ever having been practiced. What were these shocking Pagan rites? Gruesome sacrifices or obscene orgies perhaps. This is what we have been led to believe. But the truth is far stranger than this fiction.

Where today the gathered faithful revere their Lord Jesus Christ, the ancients worshipped another godman who, like Jesus, had been miraculously born on 25 December before three shepherds. In this ancient sanctuary Pagan congregations once glorified a Pagan redeemer who, like Jesus, was said to have ascended to heaven and to have promised to come again at the end of time to judge the quick and the dead. On the same spot where the Pope celebrates the Catholic mass, Pagan priests also celebrated a symbolic meal of bread and wine in memory of their savior who, just like Jesus, had declared:

"He who will not eat of my body and drink of my blood, so that he will be made one with me and I with him, the same shall not know salvation."

When we began to uncover such extraordinary similarities between the story of Jesus and Pagan myth we were stunned. We had been brought up in a culture which portrays Paganism and Christianity as entirely antagonistic religious perspectives. How could such astonishing resemblances be explained? We were intrigued and began to search further. The more we looked, the more resemblances we found. To account for the wealth of evidence we were unearthing we felt compelled to completely review our understanding of the relationship between Paganism and Christianity, to question beliefs that we previously regarded as unquestionable and to imagine possibilities which at first seemed impossible. Some readers will find our conclusions shocking and others heretical, but for us they are merely the simplest and most obvious way of accounting for the evidence we have amassed.

We have become convinced that the story of Jesus is not the biography of an historical Messiah, but a myth based on perennial Pagan stories. Christianity was not a new and unique revelation but actually a Jewish adaptation of the ancient Pagan Mystery religion. This is what we have called 'the Jesus Mysteries Thesis.' It may sound farfetched at first, just as it did initially to us. There is, after all, a great deal of unsubstantiated nonsense written about the 'real' Jesus, so any revolutionary theory should be approached with a healthy dose of skepticism. But although this book makes extraordinary claims, it is not just entertaining fantasy or sensational speculation. It is firmly based upon the available historical sources and the latest scholarly research. Whilst we hope to have made it accessible to the general reader, we have also included copious notes giving sources, references and greater detail for those who wish to analyze our arguments more thoroughly.

Although still radical and challenging today, many of the ideas we explore are actually far from new. As long ago as the Renaissance, mystics and scholars saw the origins of Christianity in the ancient Egyptian religion. Visionary scholars at the turn of the nineteenth century also made com-paxable conjectures to our own. In recent decades, modern academics have repeatedly pointed towards the possibilities we consider. Yet few have dared to boldly state the obvious conclusions which we have drawn. Why? Because to do so is taboo.

For 2,000 years the West has been dominated by the idea that Christianity is sacred and unique, whilst Paganism is primitive and the work of the Devil. To even consider that they could be parts of the same tradition has been simply unthinkable. Therefore, although the true origins of Christianity have been obvious all along, few have been able to see them, because to do so requires a radical break with the conditioning of our culture. Our contribution has been to dare to think the unthinkable and to present our conclusions in a popular book rather than some dry academic tome. This is certainly not the last word on this complex subject, but we hope it may be a significant call for a complete reappraisal of the origins of Christianity.

THE PAGAN MYSTERIES

In Greek tragedies the chorus reveals the fate of the protagonists before the play begins. Sometimes it is easier to understand the journey if one is already aware of the destination and the terrain to be covered. Before diving deeper into detail, therefore, we would like to retrace our process of discovery and so provide a brief overview of the book.

We had shared an obsession with world mysticism all our lives which recently had led us to explore spirituality in the ancient world. Popular understanding inevitably lags a long way behind the cutting edge of scholarly research and, like most people, we initially had an inaccurate and out-dated view of Paganism. We had been taught to imagine a primitive superstition which indulged in idol worship and bloody sacrifice, and dry philosophers wearing togas stumbling blindly towards what we today call 'science.' We were familiar with various Greek myths which showed the partisan and capricious nature of the Olympian gods and goddesses. All in all, Paganism seemed primitive and fundamentally alien. After many years of study, however, our understanding has been transformed.

Pagan spirituality was actually the sophisticated product of a highly developed culture. The state religions, such as the Greek worship of the Olympian gods, were little more than outer pomp and ceremony. The real spirituality of the people expressed itself through the vibrant and mystical 'Mystery religions.' At first underground and heretical movements, these Mysteries spread and flourished throughout the ancient Mediterranean, inspiring the greatest minds of the Pagan world, who regarded them as the very source of civilization.

Each Mystery tradition had exoteric Outer Mysteries, consisting of myths which were common knowledge and rituals which were open to anyone who wanted to participate. There were also esoteric Inner Mysteries, which were a sacred secret only known to those who had undergone a powerful process of initiation. Initiates of the Inner Mysteries had the mystical meaning of the rituals and myths of the Outer Mysteries revealed to them, a process which brought about personal transformation and spiritual enlightenment.

The philosophers of the ancient world were the spiritual masters of the Inner Mysteries. They were mystics and miracle-workers, more comparable to Hindu gurus than dusty academics. The great Greek philosopher Pythagoras, for example, is remembered today for his mathematical theorem, but few people picture him as he actually was a flamboyant sage who was believed to be able to miraculously still the winds and raise the dead.

At the heart of the Mysteries were myths concerning a dying and resurrecting godman, who was known by many different names. In Egypt he was Osiris, in Greece Dionysus, in Asia Minor Attis, in Syria Adonis, in Italy Bacchus, in Persia Mithras. Fundamentally all these godmen are the same mythical being. As was the practice from as early as the third century BCE, in this book we will use the combined name "Osiris-Dionysus" to denote his universal and composite nature, and his particular names when referring to a specific Mystery tradition.

From the fifth century BCE philosophers such as Xenophanes and Empedocles had ridiculed taking the stories of the gods and goddesses literally. They viewed them as allegories of human spiritual experience. The myths of Osiris-Dionysus should not be understood as just intriguing tales, therefore, but as a symbolic language which encodes the mystical teachings of the Inner Mysteries. Because of this, although the details were developed and adapted over time by different cultures, the myth of Osiris-Dionysus has remained essentially the same.

The various myths of the different godmen of the Mysteries share what the great mythologist Joseph Campbell called 'the same anatomy', just as every human is physically unique yet it is possible to talk of the general anatomy of the human body, so with these different myths it is possible to see both their uniqueness and fundamental sameness. A helpful comparison may be the relationship between Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet and Bernstein's West Side Story. One is a sixteenth-century English tragedy about wealthy Italian families, whilst the other is a twentieth-century American musical about street gangs. On the face of it they look very different, yet they are essentially the same story. Similarly, the tales told about the godmen of the Pagan Mysteries are essentially the same, although they take different forms.

The more we studied the various versions of the myth of Osiris-Dionysus, the more it became obvious that the story of Jesus had all the characteristics of this perennial tale. Event by event, we found we were able to construct Jesus' supposed biography from mythic motifs previousl3 relating to Osiris-Dionysus:


- Osiris-Dionysus is God made flesh, the savior and 'Son of God'.

- His father is God and his mother is a mortal virgin.

- He is born in a cave or humble cowshed on 25 December before three shepherds.

- He offers his followers the chance to be born again through the rites to baptism.

- He miraculously turns water into wine at a marriage ceremony.

- He rides triumphantly into town on a donkey while people wave palm leaves to honor him.

- He dies at Easter time as a sacrifice for the sins of the world.

- After his death he descends to hell, then on the third day he rises from the dead and ascends to heaven in glory.

- His followers await his return as the judge during the Last Days.

- His death and resurrection are celebrated by a ritual meal of bread and wine which symbolize his body and blood.

These are just some of the motifs shared between the tales of Osiris-Dionysus and the 'biography' of Jesus. Why are these remarkable similarities not common knowledge? Because, as we were to discover later, the early Roman Church did everything in its power to prevent us perceiving them. It systematically destroyed Pagan sacred literature in a brutal program of eradicating the Mysteries -- a task it performed so completely that today Paganism is regarded as a 'dead' religion.

Although surprising to us now, to writers of the first few centuries CE these similarities between the new Christian religion and the ancient Mysteries were extremely obvious. Pagan critics of Christianity, such as the satirist Celsus, complained that this recent religion was nothing more than a pale reflection of their own ancient teachings. Early 'Church fathers,' such as Justin Martyr, Tertullian, and Irenaeus, were understandably disturbed and resorted to the desperate claim that these similarities were the result of 'diabolical mimicry.' Using one of the most absurd arguments ever advanced, they accused the Devil of 'plagiarism by anticipation,' of deviously copying the true story of Jesus before it had actually happened in an attempt to mislead the gullible! These Church fathers struck us as no less devious than the Devil they hoped to incriminate.

Other Christian commentators have claimed that the myths of the Mysteries were like pre-echoes of the literal coming of Jesus, somewhat like premonitions or prophecies. This is a more generous version of the' diabolical mimicry' theory, but seemed no less ridiculous to us. There was nothing other than cultural prejudice to make us see the Jesus story as the literal culmination of its many mythical precursors. Viewed impartially, it appeared to be just another version of the same basic story.

The obvious explanation is that as early Christianity became the dominant power in the previously Pagan world, popular motifs from Pagan mythology became grafted onto the biography of Jesus. This is a possibility that is even put forward by many Christian theologians. The virgin birth, for example, is often regarded as an extraneous later addition that should not be understood literally. Such motifs were 'borrowed' from Paganism in the same way that Pagan festivals were adopted as Christian saints' days. This theory is common amongst those who go looking for the 'real' Jesus hidden under the weight of accumulated mythological debris.

Attractive as it appears at first, to us this explanation seemed inadequate. We had collated such a comprehensive body of similarities that there remained hardly any significant elements in the biography of Jesus that we did not find prefigured by the Mysteries. On top of this, we discovered that even Jesus' teachings were not original, but had been anticipated by the Pagan sages! If there was a 'real' Jesus somewhere underneath all this, we would have to acknowledge that we could know absolutely nothing about him, for all that remained for us was later Pagan accretions! Such a position seemed absurd. Surely there was a more elegant solution to this conundrum.

THE GNOSTICS

Whilst we were puzzling over these discoveries, we began to question the received picture of the early Church and have a look at the evidence for ourselves. We discovered that far from being the united congregation of saints and martyrs that traditional! history would have us believe, the early Christian community was actually made up of a whole spectrum of different groups. These can be broadly categorized into two different schools. On the one hand there were those we will call 'Literalists', because what defines them is that they take the Jesus story as a literal account of historical events. It was this school of Christianity that was adopted by the Roman Empire in the fourth century CE, becoming Roman Catholicism and all its subsequent offshoots. On the other hand, however, there were also radically different Christians known as 'Gnostics.'

These forgotten Christians were later persecuted out of existence by the Literalist Roman Church with such thoroughness that until recently we knew little about them except through the writings of their detractors. Only a handful of original Gnostic texts survived, none of which were published before the nineteenth century. This situation changed dramatically, however, with a remarkable discovery in 1945 when an Arab peasant stumbled upon a whole library of Gnostic gospels hidden in a cave near Nag Hammadi in Egypt. This gave scholars access to many texts which were in wide circulation amongst early Christians, but which were deliberately excluded from the canon of the New Testament -- gospels attributed to Thomas and Philip, texts recording the acts of Peter and the 12 disciples, apocalypses attributed to Paul and James, and so on.

It seemed to us extraordinary that a whole library of early Christian documents could be discovered, containing what purport to be the teachings of Christ and his disciples, and yet so few modem followers of Jesus should even know of their existence. Why hasn't every Christian rushed out to read these newly discovered words of the Master? What keeps them confined to the small number of gospels selected for inclusion in the New Testament? It seems that even though 2,000 years have passed since the Gnostics were purged, during which time the Roman Church has split into Protestantism and thousands of other alternative groups, the Gnostics are still not regarded as a legitimate voice of Christianity.

Those who do explore the Gnostic gospels discover a form of Christianity quite alien to the religion with which they are familiar. We found ourselves studying strange esoteric tracts with titles such as Hypostasis of the Archons and The Thought of Norea. It felt as if we were in an episode of Star Trek -- and in a way we were. The Gnostics truly were 'psychonauts' who boldly explored the final frontiers of inner space, searching for the origins and meaning of life. These people were mystics and creative free-thinkers. It was obvious to us why they were so hated by the bishops of the Literalist Church hierarchy.

To Literalists, the Gnostics were dangerous heretics. In volumes of anti-Gnostic works -- an unintentional testimony to the power and influence of Gnosticism within early Christianity -- they painted them as Christians who had 'gone native.' They claimed they had become contaminated by the Paganism that surrounded them and had abandoned the purity of the true faith. The Gnostics, on the other hand, saw themselves as the authentic Christian tradition and the orthodox bishops as an 'imitation church.' They claimed to know the secret Inner Mysteries of Christianity which the Literalists did not possess.

As we explored the beliefs and practices of the Gnostics we became convinced that the Literalists had at least been right about one thing: the Gnostics were little different from Pagans. Like the philosophers of the Pagan Mysteries, they believed in reincarnation, honored the goddess Sophia, and were immersed in the mystical Greek philosophy of Plato. 'Gnostics' means 'Knowers', a name they acquired because, like the initiates of the Pagan Mysteries, they believed that their secret teachings had the power to impart 'Gnosis' -- direct experiential 'Knowledge of God.' Just as the goal of a Pagan initiate was to become a god, so for the Gnostics the goal of the Christian initiate was to become a Christ.

What particularly struck us was that the Gnostics were not concerned with the historical Jesus. They viewed the Jesus story in the same way that the Pagan philosophers viewed the myths of Osiris-Dionysus -- as an allegory which encoded secret mystical teachings. This insight crystallized for us a remarkable possibility. Perhaps the explanation for the similarities between Pagan myths and the biography of Jesus had been staring us in the face the whole time, but we had been so caught up with traditional ways of thinking that we had been unable to see it.

THE JESUS MYSTERIES THESIS

The traditional version of history bequeathed to us by the authorities of the Roman Church is that Christianity developed from the teachings of a Jewish Messiah and that Gnosticism was a later deviation. What would happen, we wondered if the picture were reversed and Gnosticism viewed as the authentic Christianity, just as the Gnostics themselves claimed? Could it be that orthodox Christianity was a later deviation from Gnosticism and that Gnosticism was a synthesis of Judaism and the Pagan Mystery religion? This was the beginning of the Jesus Mysteries Thesis.

Boldly stated, the picture that emerged for us was as follows. We knew that most ancient Mediterranean cultures had adopted the ancient Mysteries, adapting them to their own national tastes and creating their own version of the myth of the dying and resurrecting godman. Perhaps some of the Jews had likewise adopted the Pagan Mysteries and created their own version of the Mysteries which we now know as Gnosticism. Perhaps initiates of the Jewish Mysteries had adapted the potent symbolism of the Osiris-Dionysus myths into a myth of their own, the hero of which was the Jewish dying and ~surreeting godman Jesus.

If this was so, then the Jesus story was not a biography at all but a consciously crafted vehicle for encoded spiritual teachings created by Jewish Gnostics. As in the Pagan Mysteries, initiation into the Inner Mysteries would reveal the myth's allegorical meaning. Perhaps those uninitiated into the Inner Mysteries had mistakenly come to regard the Jesus myth as historical fact and in this way Literalist Christianity had been created. Perhaps the Inner Mysteries of Christianity, which the Gnostics taught but which the Literalists denied existed, revealed that the Jesus story was not a factual account of God's one and only visit to planet Earth, but a mystical teaching story designed to help each one of us become a Christ.

The Jesus story does have all the hallmarks of a myth, so could it be that that is exactly what it is? After all, no one has read the newly discovered Gnostic gospels and taken their fantastic stories as literally true; they are readily seen as myths. It is only familiarity and cultural prejudice which prevent us from seeing the New Testament gospels in the same light. If those gospels had also been lost to us and only recently discovered, who would read these tales for the first time and believe they were historical accounts of a man born of a virgin, who had walked on water and returned from the dead? Why should we consider the stories of Osiris, Dionysus, Adonis, Attis, Mithras and the other Pagan Mystery saviors as fables, yet come across essentially the same story told in a Jewish context and believe it to be the biography of a carpenter from Bethlehem?

We had both been raised as Christians and were surprised to find that, despite years of open-minded spiritual exploration, it still felt somehow dangerous to even dare think such thoughts. Early indoctrination reaches very deep. We were in effect saying that Jesus was a Pagan god and that Christianity was a heretical product of Paganism! It seemed outrageous. Yet this theory explained the similarities between the stories of Osiris-Dionysus and Jesus Christ in a simple and elegant way. They are parts of one developing mythos.

The Jesus Mysteries Thesis answered many puzzling questions, yet it also opened up new dilemmas. Isn't there indisputable historical evidence for the existence of Jesus the man? And how could Gnosticism be the original Christianity when St Paul, the earliest Christian we know about, is so vociferously anti-Gnostic? And is it really credible that such an insular and anti-Pagan people as the Jews could have adopted the Pagan Mysteries? And how could it have happened that a consciously created myth came to be believed as history? And if Gnosticism represents genuine Christianity, why was it Literalist Christianity that came to dominate the world as the most influential religion of all time? All of these difficult questions would have to be satisfactorily answered before we could wholeheartedly accept such a radical theory as the Jesus Mysteries Thesis.

THE GREAT COVER UP

Our new account of the origins of Christianity only seemed improbable because it contradicted the received view. As we pushed further with our research, the traditional picture began to completely unravel all around us. We found ourselves embroiled in a world of schism and power straggles, of forged documents and false identities, of letters that had been edited and added to, and of the wholesale destruction of historical evidence. We focused forensically on the few facts we could be confident of, as if we were detectives on the verge of cracking a sensational 'whodunit', or perhaps more accurately as if we were uncovering an ancient and unacknowledged miscarriage of justice. For, time and again, when we critically examined what genuine evidence remained, we found that the history of Christianity bequeathed to us by the Roman Church was a gross distortion of the truth. Actually the evidence completely endorsed the Jesus Mysteries Thesis! It was becoming increasingly obvious that we had been deliberately deceived, that the Gnostics were indeed the original Christians, and that their anarchic mysticism had been hijacked by an authoritarian institution which had created from it a dogmatic religion - and then brutally enforced the greatest cover-up in history.

One of the major players in this cover-up operation was a character called Eusebius, who, at the beginning of the fourth century, compiled from legends, fabrications and his own imagination the only early history of Christianity that still exists today. All subsequent histories have been forced to base themselves on Eusebins' dubious claims, because there has been little other information to draw on. All those with a different perspective on Christianity were branded as heretics and eradicated. In this way falsehoods compiled in the fourth century have come down to us as established facts.

Eusebius was employed by the Roman Emperor Constantine, who made Christianity the state religion of the Empire and gave Literalist Christianity the power it needed to begin the final eradication of Paganism and Gnosticism. Constantine wanted 'one God, one religion' to consolidate his claim of 'one Empire, one Emperor.' He oversaw the creation of the Nicene creed -- the article of faith repeated in churches to this day -- and Christians who refused to assent to this creed were banished from the Empire or otherwise silenced.

This 'Christian' Emperor then returned home from Nicaea and had his wife suffocated and his son murdered. He deliberately remained unbaptized until his deathbed so that he could continue his atrocities and still receive forgiveness of sins and a guaranteed place in heaven by being baptized at the last moment. Although he had his 'spin doctor' Eusebius compose a suitably obsequious biography for him, he was actually a monster -- just like many Roman Emperors before him. Is it really at all surprising that a 'history' of the origins of Christianity created by an employee in the service of a Roman tyrant should turn out to be a pack of lies?

Elaine PageIs, one of the foremost academic authorities on early Christianity, writes:

"It is the winners who write history -- their way. No wonder, then, that the traditional accounts of the origins of Christianity first defined the terms (naming themselves "orthodox" and their opponents "heretics"); then they proceeded to demonstrate -- at least to their own satisfaction -- that their triumph was historically inevitable, or, in religious terms, "guided by the Holy Spirit." But the discoveries [of the Gnostic gospels] at Nag Hammadi reopen fundamental questions."

History is indeed written by the victors. The creation of an appropriate history has always been part of the arsenal of political manipulation. The Roman Church created a history of the triumph of Literalist Christianity in much the same partisan way that, two millennia later, Hollywood created tales of 'cowboys and Indians' to relate 'how the West was won' not 'how the West was lost.' History is not simply related, it is created. Ideally, the motivation is to explain historical evidence and come to an accurate understanding of how the present has been created by the past. All too often, however, it is simply to glorify and justify the status quo. Such histories conceal as much as they reveal.

To dare to question a received history is not easy. It is difficult to believe that something which you have been told is true from childhood could actually be a product of falsification and fantasy. It must have been hard for those Russians brought up on tales of kindly 'Uncle Joe' Stalin to accept that he was actually responsible for the deaths of millions. It must have strained credibility when those opposing his regime claimed that he had in fact murdered many of the heroes of the Russian revolution. It must have seemed ridiculous when they asserted that he had even had the images of his rivals removed from photographs and completely fabricated historical events. Yet all these things are true.

It is easy to believe that something must be true because everyone else believes it. But the truth often only comes to light by daring to question the unquestionable, by doubting notions which are so commonly believed that they are taken for granted. The Jesus Mysteries Thesis is the product of such an openness of mind. When it first occurred to us, it seemed absurd and impossible. Now it seems obvious and ordinary. The Vatican was constructed upon the site of an ancient Pagan sanctuary because the new is always built upon the old. In the same way Christianity itself has as its foundations the Pagan spirituality that preceded it. What is more plausible than to posit the gradual evolution of spiritual ideas, with Christianity emerging from the ancient Pagan Mysteries in a seamless historical continuum? It is only because the conventional history has been so widely believed for so long that this idea could be seen as heretical and shocking.

RECOVERING MYSTICAL CHRISTIANITY

As the final pieces of the puzzle were falling into place, we came across a small picture tucked away in the appendices of an old academic book. It was a drawing of a third-century CE amulet. We have used it as the cover of this book. It shows a crucified figure which most people would immediately recognize as Jesus. Yet the Greek words name the figure 'Orpheus Bacchus,' one of the pseudonyms of Osiris-Dionysus. To the author of the book in which we found the picture, this amulet was an anomaly. Who could it have possibly belonged to? Was it a crucified Pagan deity or some sort of Gnostic synthesis of Paganism and Christianity? Either way it was deeply puzzling. For us, however, this amulet was perfectly understandable. It was an unexpected confirmation of the Jesus Mysteries Thesis. The image could be that of either Jesus or Osiris-Dionysus. To the initiated, these were both names for essentially the same figure.

The 'chance' discovery of this amulet made us feel as though the universe itself was encouraging us to make our findings public. In different ways the Jesus Mysteries Thesis has been proposed by mystics and scholars for centuries, but has always ended up being ignored. It now felt like an idea whose moment had come. We did, however, have misgivings about writing this book. We knew that it would inevitably upset certain Christians, something which we had no desire to do. Certainly it has been hard to be constantly surrounded by lies and injustices without experiencing a certain amount of outrage at the negative misrepresentation of the Gnostics, and to have become aware of the great riches of Pagan culture without feeling grief that they were so wantonly destroyed. Yet we do not have some sort of anti-Christian agenda. Far from it.

Those who have read our other works will know that our interest is not in further division, but in acknowledging the unity that lies at the heart of all spiritual traditions -- and this present book is no exception. Early Literalist Christians mistakenly believed that the Jesus story was different from other stories of Osiris-Dionysus because Jesus alone had been an historical rather than a mythical figure. This has left Christians feeling that their faith is in opposition to all others -- which it is not. We hope that by understanding its true origins in the ongoing evolution of a universal human spirituality, Christianity may be able to free itself from this self-imposed isolation.

Whilst the Jesus Mysteries Thesis clearly rewrites history, we do not see it as undermining the Christian faith, but as suggesting that Christianity is in fact richer than we previously imagined. The Jesus story is a perennial myth with the power to impart the saving Gnosis which can transform each one of us into a Christ, not merely a history of events that happened to someone else 2,000 years ago. Belief in the Jesus story was originally the first step in Christian spirituality -- the Outer Mysteries. Its significance was to be explained by an enlightened teacher when the seeker was spiritually ripe. These Inner Mysteries imparted a mystical Knowledge of God beyond mere belief in dogmas. Although many inspired Christian mystics throughout history have intuitively seen through to this deeper symbolic level of understanding, as a culture we have inherited only the Outer Mysteries of Christianity. We have kept the form, but lost the inner meaning. Our hope is that this book can play some small part in reclaiming the true mystical Christian inheritance.


The Pagan Mysteries


"Blest is the happy man
Who knows the Mysteries the gods ordain,
And sanctifies his life,
Joins soul with soul in mystic unity,
And, by due ritual made pure
Enters the ecstasy of mountain solitudes;
Who observes the mystic rites
Made lawful by the Great Mother;
Who crowns his head with ivy,
And shakes his wand in worship of Dionysus." Euripides

Paganism is a 'dead' religion -- or more accurately an 'exterminated' religion• It did not simply fade away into oblivion. It was actively suppressed and annihilated, its temples and shrines desecrated and demolished, and its great sacred books thrown onto bonfires. No living lineage has been left to explain its ancient beliefs. So, the Pagan worldview has to be reconstructed from the archaeological evidence and texts that have survived, like some giant metaphysical jigsaw puzzle.

'Pagan' was originally a derogatory term meaning 'country-dweller,' used by Christians to infer that the spirituality of the ancients was some primitive rural superstition. But this is not true. Paganism was the spirituality which inspired the unequalled magnificence of the Giza pyramids, the exquisite architecture of the Parthenon, the legendary sculptures of Phideas, the powerful plays of Euripides and Sophocles, and the sublime philosophy of Socrates and Plato.

Pagan civilization built vast libraries to house hundreds of thousands of works of literary and scientific genius. Its natural philosophers speculated that human beings had evolved from animals. Its astronomers knew the Earth was a sphere which, along with the planets, revolves around the sun. They had even estimated its circumference to within one degree of accuracy? The ancient Pagan world sustained a population not matched again in Europe until the eighteenth century. In Greece, Pagan culture gave birth to the concepts of democracy, rational philosophy, public libraries, theatre and the Olympic Games, creating a blueprint for our modern world. What was the spirituality that inspired these momentous cultural achievements?

Most people associate Paganism with either rustic witchcraft or the myths of the gods of Olympus as recorded by Hesiod and Homer. Pagan spirituality did indeed embrace both. The country people practiced their traditional shamanic nature worship to maintain the fertility of the land and the city authorities propped up formal state religions, such as the worship of the Olympian gods, to maintain the power of the status quo.

It was, however, a third, more mystical, expression of the Pagan spirit which inspired the great minds of the ancient world. The thinkers, artists and innovators of antiquity were initiates of various religions known as 'Mysteries.' These remarkable men and women held the Mysteries to be the heart and soul of their culture. The Greek historian Zosimos writes that without the Mysteries "life for the Greeks would be unlivable" for "the sacred Mysteries hold the whole human race together." The eminent Roman statesman Cicero enthuses:

"These Mysteries have brought us from rustic savagery to a cultivated and refined civilization. The rites of the Mysteries are called "initiations" and in truth we have learned from them the first principles of life. We have gained the understanding not only to live happily but also to die with better hope."

Unlike the traditional rituals of the official state religions, which were designed to aid social cohesion, the mysteries were an individualistic form of. spirituality which offered mystical visions and personal enlightenment. Initiates underwent a secret process of initiation which profoundly trans-r formed their state of consciousness. The poet Pindar reveals that an initiate into the Mysteries "knows the end of life and its God-given beginning." Lucius Apuleius, a poet-philosopher, writes of his experience of initiation as a spiritual rebirth which he celebrated as his birthday, an experience for which he felt a "debt of gratitude" that he "could never hope to repay." Plato, the most influential philosopher of all time, relates:

"We beheld the beatific visions and were initiated into the Mystery which may be truly called blessed, celebrated by us in a state of innocence. We beheld calm, happy, simple, eternal visions, resplendent in pure light."

The great Pagan philosophers were the enlightened masters of the Mysteries. Although they are often portrayed today as dry 'academic' intellectuals, they were actually enigmatic 'gurus.' Empedocles, like his master Pythagoras, was a charismatic miracle-worker. Socrates was an eccentric mystic prone to being suddenly overcome by states of rapture during which his friends would discover him staring off into space for hours. Heraclitus was asked by the citizens of Ephesus to become a lawmaker, but turned the offer down so that he could continue playing with the children in the temple. Anaxagoras shocked ordinary citizens by completely abandoning his farm to fully devote his life to "the higher philosophy." Diogenes owned nothing and lived in a jar at the entrance of a temple. The inspired playwright Euripides wrote his greatest tragedies during solitary retreats in an isolated cave.

All of these idiosyncratic sages were steeped in the mysticism of the Mysteries, which they expressed in their philosophy. Olympiodorus, a follower of Plato, tells us that his master paraphrased the Mysteries everywhere. The works of Heraclites were renowned even in ancient times for being obscure and impenetrable, yet Diogenes explains that they are crystal clear to an initiate of the Mysteries. Of studying Heraclites he writes:

"It is a hard road to follow, filled with darkness and gloom; but if an initiate leads you on the way, it becomes brighter than the radiance of the sun."

At the heart of Pagan philosophy is an understanding that all things are One. The Mysteries aimed at awakening within the initiate a sublime experience of this Oneness. Sallustius declares: "Every initiation aims at uniting us with the World and with the Deity." Plotinus describes the initiate transcending his limited sense of himself as a separate ego and experiencing mystical union with God:

"As if borne away, or possessed by a god, he attains to solitude in untroubled stillness, nowhere deflected in his being and unbruised with self, utterly at rest and become very rest. He does not converse with a statue or image but with Godhead itself. And this is no object of vision, but another mode of seeing, a detachment from self, a simplification and surrender of self, a yearning for contact, and a stillness and meditation directed towards transformation. Whoever sees himself in this way has attained likeness to God; let him abandon himself and find the end of his journeying ."

No wonder the initiate Sopatros poetically mused, "I came out of the Mystery Hall feeling like a stranger to myself."


THE SACRED SPECTACLE AT ELEUSIS

What were these ancient Mysteries that could inspire such reverent awe and heartfelt appreciation? The Mystery religion was practiced for thousands of years, during which time it spread throughout the ancient world, taking on many different forms. Some were frenzied and others meditative. Some involved bloody animal sacrifice, while others were presided over by strict vegetarians, At certain moments in history the Mysteries were openly practiced by whole populations and were endorsed, or at least tolerated, by the state. At other times they were a small-scale and secretive affair, for fear of persecution by unsympathetic authorities. Central tail of these forms of the Mysteries, however, was the myth of a dying and resurrecting godman. The Greek Mysteries celebrated at Eleusis in honor of the Great Mother goddess and the godman Dionysus were the most famous of all the Mystery cults. The sanctuary of Eleusis was finally destroyed by bands of fanatical Christian monks in 396 CE, but up until this tragic act of vandalism the Mysteries had been celebrated there for over 11 centuries. At the height of their popularity people were coming from all over the then known world to be initiated: men and women, rich and poor, slaves and emperors -- even a Brahmin priest from India.

Each year some 30,000 Athenian citizens embarked on a 30-kilometre barefoot pilgrimage to the sacred site of Eleusis on the coast to celebrate the autumn Mysteries of Dionysus. For days they would have been preparing for this important religious event by fasting, offering sacrifices and undergoing ritual purification. As those about to be initiated danced along the 'Sacred Way' to Eleusis, accompanied by the frenzied beat of cymbals and tambourines, they were accosted by masked men who abused and insulted them, while others beat them with sticks. At the head of the procession was carried the statue of Dionysus himself, leading them ever onward. After ritual naked bathing in the sea and other purification ceremonies the crowd reached the great doors of the Telesterion, a huge purpose-built initiation hall. Only the chosen few who were already initiated or about to be initiated into the secret Mysteries could enter here.

What awesome ceremony was held behind these closed doors that touched the great philosophers, artists, statesmen and scientists of the ancient world so deeply? All initiates were sworn to secrecy and held the Mysteries so sacred that they kept this oath. From large numbers of hints and clues, however, we know that they witnessed a sublime theatrical spectacle. They were awed by sounds and dazzled by lights. They were bathed in the blaze of a huge fire and trembled to the nerve-shattering reverberations of a mighty gong. The Hierophant, the high priest of the Mysteries, was quite literally a 'showman' who orchestrated a terrifyingly transformative dramatic reenactment of sacred myth. He himself was dressed as the central character - the godman Dionysus.

A modern scholar writes:

"A Mystery Religion was thus a divine drama which portrayed before the wondering eyes of the privileged observers the story of the struggles, sufferings, and victory of a patron deity, the travail of nature in which life ultimately triumphs over death, and joy is born of pain. The whole ritual of the Mysteries aimed especially at quickening the emotional life. No means of exciting the emotions was neglected in the passion-play, either by way of inducing careful predispositions or of supplying external stimulus. Tense mental anticipations heightened by a period of abstinence, hushed silences, imposing processions and elaborate pageantry, music loud and violent or soft and enthralling, delirious dances, the drinking of spirituous liquors, physical macerations, alternations of dense darkness and dazzling light, the sight of gorgeous ceremonial vestments, the handling of holy emblems, auto-suggestion and the promptings of the Hierophant -- these and many secrets of emotional exaltation were in vogue."

This dramatization of the myth of Dionysus is the origin of tragedy and theatre. But the initiates were not a passive audience. They were participants who shared in the passion of the godman whose death and rebirth symbolically represented the death and spiritual rebirth of each one of them. As a modern authority explains:

"Dionysus was the god of the most blessed ecstasy and the most enraptured love. But he was also the persecuted god, the suffering and dying god, and all whom he loved, all who attended him, had to share his tragic fate."

By witnessing the awesome tragedy of Dionysus, the initiates at Eleusis shared in his suffering, death and resurrection, and so experienced a spiritual purification known as 'catharsis.'

The Mysteries did not offer religious dogmas to simply be believed, but a myth to be entered into. Initiation was not about learning something, but about experiencing an altered state of awareness. Plutarch, a Pagan high priest, confesses that those who had been initiated could produce no proof of the beliefs that they acquired. Aristotle maintains, "It is not necessary for the initiated to learn anything, but to receive impressions and to be put in a certain frame of mind." The philosopher Produs talks of the Mysteries as evoking a "sympathy of the soul with the ritual in a way that is unintelligible to us and divine, so that some of the initiates axe stricken with panic, being filled with divine awe; others assimilate themselves to the holy symbols, leave their own identity, become at home with the gods, afford experience divine possession."

Why did the myth enacted by the Mysteries have such a profound effect?

ENCODED SECRET TEACHINGS

In antiquity the word mythos did not mean something 'untrue as it does ( for us today. Superficially a myth was an entertaining story, but to the initiated it was a sacred code that contained profound spiritual teachings. Plato comments, "It looks as if those also who established rites of initiation for us were no fools, but that there is a hidden meaning in their teachings." He explains that it is "those who have given their lives to true philosophy" who will grasp the "hidden meaning" encoded in the Mystery myths, and so become completely identified with the godman in an experience of mystical enlightenment.

The ancient philosophers were not so foolish as to believe that the Mystery myths were literally true, but wise enough to recognize that they were an easy introduction to the profound mystical philosophy at the heart of the Mysteries. Sallustius writes:

"To wish to teach all men the truth of the gods causes the foolish to despise, because they cannot learn, and the good to be slothful, whereas to conceal the truth by myths prevents the former from despising philosophy and compels the latter to study it."

It was the role of the priests and philosophers of the Mysteries to decode the hidden depths of spiritual meaning contained within the Mystery myths. Heliodorus, a priest of the Mysteries, explains:

"Philosophers and theologians do not disclose the meanings embedded in these stories to laymen but simply give them preliminary instruction in the form of a myth. But those who have reached the higher grades of the Mysteries they initiate into clear knowledge in the privacy of the holy shrine, in the light cast by the blazing torch of truth."

The Mysteries were divided into various levels of initiation, which led an initiate step by step through ever deepening levels of understanding. The number of levels of initiation varied in different Mystery traditions, but essentially the initiate was led from the Outer Mysteries, in which the myths were understood superficially as religious stories, to the Inner Mysteries, in which the myths were revealed as spiritual allegories. First the initiate was ritually purified. Then they were taught the secret teachings on a one-to-one basis. The highest stage was when the initiate understood the true meaning of the teachings and finally experienced what Theon of Smyrna calls "friendship and interior communion with God."

Contd...
Last edited by charleslemartel on Tue Aug 03, 2010 4:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Contd... The Jesus Mysteries

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THE INTERNATIONAL MYSTERIES

The Mysteries dominated the Pagan world. No other deity is represented on the monuments of ancient Greece and Italy as much as Dionysus, godman of the Eleusinian Mysteries. He is a deity with many names: Iacchos, Bassareus, Bromios, Euios, Sabazius, Zagreus, Yhyoneus, Lenaios, Eleuthereus, and so the list goes on. But these are just some of his Greek names! The godman is an omnipresent mythic figure throughout the ancient Mediterranean, known in different ways by many cultures.

Five centuries before the birth of Christ, the Greek historian Herodotus, known as 'the father of history', discovered this when he traveled to Egypt. On the shores of a sacred lake in the Nile delta he witnessed an enormous festival, held every year, in which the Egyptians performed a dramatic spectacle before "tens of thousands of men and women," representing the death and resurrection of Osiris. Herodotus was an initiate into the Greek Mysteries and recognized that what he calls "the Passion of Osiris" was the very same drama that initiates saw enacted before them at Eleusis as the Passion of Dionysus. The Egyptian myth of Osiris is the primal myth of the Mystery godman and reaches back to prehistory. His story is so ancient that it can be found in pyramid texts written over 4,500 years ago!

In traveling to Egypt Herodotus was following in the footsteps of another great Greek. Before 670 BCE Egypt had been a closed country, in the manner of Tibet, or Japan more recently, but in this year she opened her borders and one of the first Greeks who traveled there in search of ancient wisdom was Pythagoras. History remembers Pythagoras as the first 'scientist' of the Western world, but although it is true that he brought back many mathematical theories to Greece from Egypt, to his contemporaries he would have seemed anything but 'scientific' in the modern sense.

A wandering charismatic sage dressed in white robes and crowned with a gold coronet, Pythagoras was part scientist, part priest and part magician. He spent 22 years in the temples of Egypt, becoming an initiate of the ancient Egyptian Mysteries. On returning to Greece he began to preach the wisdom he had learned, performing miracles, raising the dead and giving oracles.

Inspired by Pythagoras, his disciples created a Greek Mystery religion modeled on the Egyptian Mysteries. They took the indigenous wine god Dionysus, who was a minor deity all but ignored by Hesiod and Homer, and transformed him into a Greek version of the mighty Egyptian Osiris, godman of the Mysteries. This initiated a religious and cultural revolution that was to transform Athens into the centre of the civilized world.

The followers of Pythagoras were models of virtue and learning, regarded as puritans by their neighbors. Strict vegetarians, they preached non-violence towards all living things and shunned the temple cults that practiced the sacrifice of animals. This made it impossible for them to participate in the traditional Olympian religion of Athens. Forced to live on the fringes of acceptability, they often organized themselves into communities that shared all possessions in common, leaving them free to devote themselves to their mystical studies of mathematics, music, astronomy and philosophy. Nevertheless, the Mystery religion spread quickly amongst the ordinary people and within a few generations the Egyptian Mysteries of Osiris, now the Mysteries of Dionysus, inspired the glory of Classical Athens.

In the same way that Osiris was synthesized by the Greeks with their indigenous god Dionysus to create the Greek Mysteries, other Mediterranean cultures which adopted the Mystery religion also transformed one of their indigenous deities into the dying and resurrecting Mystery godman. So, the deity who was known as Osiris in Egypt and became Dionysus in Greece was called Attis in Asia Minor, Adonis in Syria, Bacchus in Italy, Mithras in Persia, and so on. His forms were many, but essentially he was the same perennial figure, whose collective identity was referred to as Osiris-Dionysus.

Because the ancients recognized that all the various Mystery godmen were essentially the same mythic being, elements from different myths and rites were continually combined and recombined to create new forms of the Mysteries. In Alexandria, for example, a charismatic sage called Timotheus consciously fused Osiris and Dionysus to produce a new deity for the city called Serapis. He also gave an elaborate account of the myth of the Mystery godman Attis. Lucius Apuleius received his initiation into the Mysteries from a high priest named after the Persian godman Mithras. Coins were minted with Dionysus represented on one side and Mithras on the other? One modern authority tells us that "possessed by the knowledge of his own secret rites," the initiate of the Mysteries "found no difficulty in conforming to any religion in vogue." Like the Christian religion which superseded it, the Mysteries reached across national boundaries, offering a spirituality which was relevant to all human beings, regardless of their racial origins or social status. Even as early as the fifth century CE philosophers such as Diogenes and Socrates called themselves "cosmopolitans' -- "citizens of the cosmos" -- rather than of any particular country or culture, which is testimony to the international nature of the Mysteries.

One modern scholar, commenting on the merging and combining of different mystery traditions, writes:

"This went a long way towards weaning the minds of men from the idea of separate gods from the different nations, and towards teaching them that all national and local deities were but different forms of one great Power. But for the rise of Christianity and other religions, there can be little doubt but that the whole of the Greco-Roman deities would continually have merged into Dionysus."

OSIRIS-DIONYSUS AND JESUS CHRIST

Osiris-Dionysus had such universal appeal because he was seen as an 'Everyman' figure who symbolically represented each initiate. Through understanding the allegorical myth of the Mystery godman, initiates could become aware that, like Osiris-Dionysus, they were also 'God made flesh.' They too were immortal Spirit trapped within a physical body. Through sharing in the death of Osiris-Dionysus initiates symbolically 'died' to their lower earthly nature. Through sharing in his resurrection they were spiritually reborn and experienced their eternal and divine essence. This was the profound mystical teaching that the myth of Osiris-Dionysus encoded for those initiated into the Inner Mysteries, the truth of which initiates directly experienced for themselves.

Writing of the Egyptian Mystery godman Osiris, Sir Wallis Budge, who was keeper of antiquities in the British Museum, explains:

"The Egyptians of every period in which they are known to us believed that Osiris was of divine origin, that he suffered death and mutilation at the hands of the power of evil, that after great struggle with these powers he rose again, that he became henceforth the king of the underworld and judge of the dead, and that because he had conquered death the righteous might also conquer death.

"He represented to men the idea of a man who was both God and man, and he typified to the Egyptians in all ages the being who by reason of his sufferings and death as a man could sympathies with them in their own sickness and death. The idea of his human personality also satisfied their cravings and yearnings for communion with a being who, though he was partly divine, yet had much in common with themselves. Originally they looked upon Osiris as a man who lived on the earth as they lived, who ate and drank, who suffered a cruel death, who by help of certain gods triumphed over death, and attained unto everlasting life. But what Osiris did they could also do."

These are the key motifs that characterize the myths of all the Mystery godmen. What Budge writes of Osiris could equally be said of Dionysus, Attis, Adonis, Mithras and the rest. It also describes the Jewish dying and resurrecting godman Jesus Christ. Like Osiris-Dionysus, he is also God Incarnate and God of the Resurrection. He also promises his followers spiritual rebirth through sharing in his divine Passion.

CONCLUSION

The Mysteries were clearly an extremely powerful force in the ancient world. Let's review what we've discovered about them:

- The Pagan Mysteries inspired the greatest minds of the ancient world.

- They were practiced in different forms by nearly every culture in the Mediterranean.

- They comprised Outer Mysteries which were open to all and secret Inner Mysteries known only to those who had undergone a powerful process of mystical initiation.

- At the heart of the Mysteries was the myth of a dying and resurrecting godman - Osiris-Dionysus.

- The Inner Mysteries revealed the myths of Osiris-Dionysus to be spiritual allegories encoding spiritual teachings.

The question which intrigued us was whether the Mysteries could have somehow influenced and shaped what we have inherited as the "biography" of Jesus? Unlike the various Pagan Mystery godmen, Jesus is traditionally viewed as an historical rather than a mythical figure, literally a man who was an incarnation of God, who suffered, died and resurrected to bring salvation to all humankind. But could these elements of the Jesus story actually be mythical stories inherited from the Pagan Mysteries?

We began investigating the myths of Osiris-Dionysus more closely, searching for resemblances with the Jesus story. We were not prepared for the overwhelming number of similarities that we uncovered.


Diabolical Mimicry

"Having heard it proclaimed through the prophets that the Christ was to come and that the ungodly among men were to be punished by fire, the wicked spirits put forward many to be called Sons of God, under the impression that they would be able to produce in men the idea that the things that were said with regard to Christ were merely marvelous tales, like the things that were said by the poets." Justin Martyr

Although the remarkable similarities between the myths of Osiris-Dionysus and the supposed "biography" of Jesus Christ are generally unknown today, in the first few centuries CE they were obvious to Pagans and Christians alike. The Pagan philosopher and satirist Celsus criticized Christians for trying to pass off the Jesus story as a new revelation when it was actually an inferior imitation of Pagan myths. He asks:

"Are these distinctive happenings unique to the Christians -- and if so, how are they unique? Or are ours to be accounted myths and theirs believed? What reasons do the Christians give for the distinctiveness of their beliefs? In truth there is nothing at all unusual about what the Christians believe, except that they believe it to the exclusion of more comprehensive truths about God."

The early Christians were painfully aware of such criticisms. How could Pagan myths which predated Christianity by hundreds of years have so much in common with the biography of the one and only savior Jesus? Desperate to come up with an explanation, the Church fathers resorted to one of the most absurd theories ever advanced. From the time of Justin Martyr in the second century onwards, they declared that the Devil had plagiarized Christianity by anticipation in order to lead people astray? Knowing that the true Son of God was to literally come and walk the Earth, the Devil had copied the story of his life in advance of it happening and created the myths of Osiris-Dionysus.

The Church father Tertullian writes of the Devil's "diabolical mimicry" in creating the Mysteries of Mithras:

"The devil, whose business is to pervert the truth, mimics the exact circumstances of the Divine Sacraments. He baptizes his believers and promises forgiveness of sins from the Sacred Fount, and thereby initiates them into the religion of Mithras. Thus he celebrates the oblation of bread, and brings in the symbol of the resurrection. Let us therefore acknowledge the craftiness of the devil, who copies certain things of those that be Divine."

Studying the myths of the Mysteries it becomes obvious why these early Christians resorted to such a desperate explanation. Although no single Pagan myth completely parallels the story of Jesus, the mythic motifs which make up the story of the Jewish godman had already existed for centuries in the various stories told of Osiris-Dionysus and his greatest prophets. Let's make a journey through the 'biography' of Jesus and explore some of these extraordinary similarities.


SON OF GOD

Despite Christianity's claim that Jesus is the "only begotten Son of God." Osiris-Dionysus, in all his many forms, is also hailed as the Son of God. Jesus is the Son of God, yet equal with the Father. Dionysus is the "Son of Zeus, in his full nature God, most terrible, although most gentle to mankind." Jesus is "Very God of Very God." Dionysus is "Lord God of God born." Jesus is God in human form. St John writes of Jesus as "the Word made flesh." St. Paul explains that "God sent his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh? Dionysus was also known as Bacchus, hence the title of Euripides' play The Bacchae, in which Dionysus is the central character. In this play, Dionysus explains that he has veiled his "Godhead in a mortal shape" in order to make it "manifest to mortal men.. He tells his disciples, "That is why I have changed my immortal form and taken the likeness of man."

Like Jesus, in many of his myths the Pagan godman is born of a mortal virgin mother. In Asia Minor, Attis' mother is the virgin Cybele. In Syria, Adonis' virgin mother is called Myrrh. In Alexandria, Aion is born of the virgin Kore. In Greece, Dionysus is born of a mortal virgin Semele who wishes to see Zeus in all his glory and is mysteriously impregnated by one of his bolts of lightning.

It was a popular tradition, recorded in the most quoted non-canonical text of early Christianity, that Jesus spent only seven months in Mary's womb. The Pagan historian Diodorus relates that Dionysus' mother Semele likewise was said to have also had only a seven-month pregnancy.

Justin Martyr acknowledges the similarities between Jesus' virgin birth and Pagan mythology, writing:

"In saying that the Word was born for us without sexual union as Jesus Christ our teacher, we introduce nothing beyond what is said of those called the Sons of Zeus."

Nowhere was the myth of the 'Son of God' more developed than in Egypt, the ancient home of the Mysteries. Even the Christian Lactantius acknowledged that the legendary Egyptian sage Hermes Trismegistus had "arrived in some way at the truth, for on God the Father he had said everything, and on the Son." In Egypt, the Pharaoh had for thousands of years been regarded as an embodiment of the godman Osiris and praised in hymns as the Son of God. As an eminent Egyptologist writes,

"Every Pharaoh had to be the Son of God and a human mother in order that he should be the Incarnate God, the Giver of Fertility to his country and people."

In many legends the great prophets of Osiris-Dionysus are also portrayed as saviors and sons of God. Pythagoras was said to be the son of Apollo and a mortal woman called Parthenis, whose name derives from the word parthenos, meaning "virgin." Plato was also posthumously believed to be the son of Apollo. Philostratus relates in his biography of Apollonius that the great Pagan sage was regarded as the "Son of Zeus." Empedocles was thought to be a godman and savior who had come down to this world to help confused souls, becoming "like a madman, calling out to people at the top of his voice and urging them to reject this realm and what is in it and go back to their own original, sublime, and noble word."

Mythic motifs from the Mysteries even became associated with Roman Emperors who, for political reasons, cultivated legends about their divine nature which would link them to Osiris-Dionysus. Julius Caesar, who did not himself even believe in personal immortality, was hailed as "God made manifest, the common savior of human life." His successor, Augustus, was likewise the "savior of the universal human race." and even the tyrannical Nero is addressed on an altar piece as "God the deliverer for ever."

In 40 BCE, drawing on Mystery myths, the Roman poet and initiate Virgil wrote a mystical 'prophesy' that a virgin would give birth to a divine child. In the fourth century CE Literalist Christians would claim that it foretold the coming of ]esus, but at the time this myth was interpreted as referring to Augustus, said to be the "Son of Apollo," preordained to rule the Earth and bring peace and prosperity. In his biography of Augustus, Suetonius offers a cluster of 'signs' that indicated the Emperor's divine nature. One modern authority writes:

"They include some striking points of similarity to the gospel narratives of the birth of Christ. The senate is supposed, with ludicrous implausibility, to have decreed a ban on rearing male Roman babies in the year of Augustus' birth because of a portent indicating that a king of Rome had been born. On top of this slaughter of the innocents, we are offered an Annunciation: his mother Aria dreamed during a visit to the temple of Apollo that the god had visited his favor on her in the form of snake; Augustus was born nine months later."

An inscription written around the time that Jesus is supposed to have lived reads:

"This day has given the earth an entirely new aspect. The world would have gone to destruction had there not streamed forth from him who is now born a common blessing. Rightly does he judge who recognizes in this birthday the beginning of life; now is that time ended when men pitied themselves for being born. From no other day does the individual or the community receive such benefit as from this natal day, full of blessing to all. The Providence which rules over all has filled this man with such gifts for the salvation of the world as designate him as savior for us and for the coming generations; of wars he will make an end, and establish all things worthily. By his appearing are the hopes of our forefathers fulfilled; not only has he surpassed the good deeds of earlier times, but it is impossible that one greater than he can ever appear. The birthday of God has brought to the world glad tidings that are bound up in him. From his birthday a new era begins."

But this is not a Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus. It is not even a eulogy to the Mystery godman. It is in honor of Augustus. These mythic motifs were clearly so common by the first century BCE that they were used to fabricate legends politically helpful to a living Emperor.

Celsus catalogues numbers of figures to whom legend similarly attributes divine parentage and a miraculous birth, and accuses Christianity of clearly using Pagan myths "in fabricating the story of Jesus' virgin birth." He is disparaging of Christians who interpret this myth as historical fact and regards the notion that God could literally father a child on a mortal woman as plainly absurd.

CONCLUSION

Either the Devil really has perfected the art of diabolical mimicry or there is a mystery to solve here. Let's review the evidence:

- Jesus is the savior of mankind, God made man, the Son of God equal with the Father; so is Osiris-Dionysus.

- Jesus is born of a mortal virgin who after her death ascends to heaven and is honored as a divine being; so is Osiris-Dionysus.

- Jesus is born in a cave on 25 December or 6 January, as is Osiris-Dionysus.

- The birth of Jesus is prophesied by a star; so is the birth of Osiris-Dionysus.

- Jesus is born in Bethlehem, which was shaded by a grove sacred to Osiris-Dionysus.

- Jesus is visited by the Magi, who are followers of Osiris-Dionysus.

- The Magi bring Jesus gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, which a sixth-century BCE Pagan tells us is the way to worship God.

- Jesus is baptized, a ritual practiced for centuries in the Mysteries.

- The holy man who baptizes Jesus with water has the same name as a Pagan god of water and is born on the summer solstice celebrated as a Pagan water festival.

- Jesus offers his followers elemental baptisms of water, air and fire, as did the Pagan Mysteries.

- Jesus is portrayed as a quiet man with long hair and a beard; so is Osiris-Bionysus.

- Jesus turns water into wine at a marriage on the same day that Osiris-Dionysus was previously believed to have turned water into wine at a marriage.

- Jesus heals the sick, exorcises demons, provides miraculous meals, helps fishermen make miraculous catches of fish and calms the water for his disciples; all of these marvels had previously been performed by Pagan sages.

- Like the sages of the Mysteries, Jesus is a wandering wonder-worker who is not honored in his home town.

- Jesus is accused of licentious behavior, as were the followers of Osiris-Dionysus.

- Jesus is not at first recognized as a divinity by his disciples, but then is transfigured before them in his glory; the same is true of Osiris-Dionysus.

- Jesus is surrounded by 12 disciples; so is Osiris-Dionysus.

- Jesus rides triumphantly into town on a donkey while crowds wave branches, as does Osiris-Dionysus.

- Jesus is a just man unjustly accused of heresy and bringing a new religion, as is Osiris-Dionysus.

- Jesus attacks hypocrites, stands up to tyranny and willingly goes to his death predicting he will rise again in three days, as do Pagan sages.

- Jesus is betrayed for 30 pieces of silver, a motif found in the story of Socrates.

- Jesus is equated with bread and wine, as is Osiris-Dionysus.

- Jesus' disciples symbolically eat bread and drink wine to commune with him, as do the followers of Osiris-Dionysus.

- Jesus is hung on a tree or crucified, as is Osiris-Dionysus.

- Jesus dies as a sacrifice to redeem the sins of the world; so does Osiris-Dionysus.

- Jesus' corpse is wrapped in linen and anointed with myrrh, as is the corpse of Osiris-Dionysus.

- After his death Jesus descends to hell, then on the third day resurrects before his disciples and ascends into heaven, where he is enthroned by God and waits to reappear at the end of time as a divine judge, as does Osiris-Dionysus.

- Jesus was said to have died and resurrected on exactly the same dates that the death and resurrection of Osiris-Dionysus were celebrated.

- Jesus' empty tomb is visited by three women followers; Osiris-Dionysus also has three women followers who visit an empty cave.

- Through sharing in his passion Jesus offers his disciples the chance to be born again, as does Osiris-Dionysus.

Discounting the 'diabolical mimicry' argument, as all sane people must, how are we to explain these extraordinary similarities between Pagan myth and the story of Jesus?

Darrell J. Doughty
Professor of New Testament
Drew University, Madison, NJ, 07940
ddoughty@drew.edu


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Re: The Jesus Mysteries

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Form whatever we know about Jesus, he had little to say about liturgy,the rites and rituals aspect of religion.

There are just a few specific symbolic acts he endorsed, most Christians say there are 7, the sacraments, some say there are fewer than 7.

There are a great number of parallels of rites adapted by the church and older,pagan rites, and there really is not mystery: The liturgical calendar was devised partly to help with conversion, to make the transition easier.

For example, nobody knows when Jesus was born, exactly. So, any day would do as a "memerial day",a day to study and reflect the Christian meaning of the incarnation. If it helps to persuade certain people to look at Christianity more seriously, why not pick a day they would like,the ancient argument goes... Many pagan festivals have been given a new meaning, a new purpose and a new way of celebration by early Christians. They may have retained some trappings, but not their purpose.

So the ancient saxons had a mid-winter festival. Can't Christians have one, but one that is very different in meaning? That was the approach.

How this practice is viewed today, varies: most Christians, while being aware of influences of older beliefs on the liturigal calendar, understand perfectly well that how the actual meanings have changed, so, even though there are a lot of old peripheral rites at Christmas,like the Christmas tree, for example, there is no doubt at all what the Christian message for Christmas is. There are some,though,who would disagree and say the whole calendar should be abolished or re-written.

Personally,I can live with Christmas trees, Easter eggs and the like, they don't bother me; I don't need them, but they do no harm.

By the way, there are a LOT of Christians who celebrate Christmas on the 6th January.
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Re: The Jesus Mysteries

Post by manfred »

As to the large number of cults around ancient Rome in the first century,many of them secretive and gnostic in nature, it it not very likely that early Christianity was enormeously influenced by them...

For one, the Church has from very early days always set itself apart from gnostic groups, and was extremely critical of gnostic teaching. That is why we have Christian gnostic SECTS.

Also, Christianity orignated in Judea, amongst Jews, not in Rome. Jews would never accepted a Roman "fashion" cult...

It is equally possible that some gnostic groups "borrowed" ideas from other religions or groups,including Christianity. The Dionysos cult is not as old as the name suggests,most gnostic groups were recent phenomena in Rome, given themselve old clothes to wear...and most cults borrowed ideas from other cults or religions to increase their following.

To an ancient Roman, Christianity was no more than yet another of the hundreds of cults around...well,the cult are mostly gone,Christianity is still around, some say it's an accident, personally I think an unlikely one...
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Re: The Jesus Mysteries

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Thank you for posting this, Charles. I'd not heard of these writers but I've done some research on them and watched a part of the in-depth video linked at the wikipedia article on Freke. I like him. I think he tries to straddle the divide between over-rigid and conservative academia and overly loose but more creative and progressive popular writing. I intend to get hold of some of his books and read them more fully.

I describe myself as neo-gnostic (following ideas put forward by Jung and Campbell, among others) so it's all right up my street.

Another author I value is John Shelby Spong who, in his own way, tries to bridge that same gap. He is also pleading for us to take the Jesus story as a teaching story. Spong, however, does see Jesus as having truly existed historically, as having been an especially gifted teacher. The myth was built up around him, using many elements internal to Jewish sacred stories and writings.

Writers like Jung and Campbell also emphasised the mythic elements but without dismissing a genuine historical reality.

So, that is the only main point where I'd differ from Freke. I think there really was a man called Jesus around whom the myth was built.

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Re: The Jesus Mysteries

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This is a VERY scholarly research on the beginning of Christianity, quite educating and unbiased look over the second century.

Antiqua Matter, by Edwin Johnson, published in 1887.

http://www.hermann-detering.de/antiqua_mater.htm" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
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Re: The Jesus Mysteries

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The Cat wrote:This is a VERY scholarly research [...]Antiqua Matter, by Edwin Johnson, published in 1887.
It's very much a book of its time, somewhat too detailed and verbose for my taste now. I managed to make out that the author saw the Gnostics as the original Christians but it's not clear how the orthodox view emerged from that.

As I understand it from my own reading, the Gnostic speculations proliferated to such an extent that there had to be some decision made. Some orthodox foot put down, so to speak. People crave some certainty and no institution, religious or otherwise, can survive without some kind of backbone to it, some kind of dogma or enforced certainty. Sad but true.

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Re: The Jesus Mysteries

Post by charleslemartel »

CuteCoot wrote:Spong, however, does see Jesus as having truly existed historically, as having been an especially gifted teacher. The myth was built up around him, using many elements internal to Jewish sacred stories and writings.

Writers like Jung and Campbell also emphasised the mythic elements but without dismissing a genuine historical reality.

So, that is the only main point where I'd differ from Freke. I think there really was a man called Jesus around whom the myth was built.
It doesn't really matter if a person named Jesus Christ actually existed. I once read somewhere someone arguing that the word "Jesus" was nothing but "Ishus" (God) in Sanskrit, and that "Christ" was nothing but "Krishna". Certain languages in India pronounce "Krishna" as "Krishta". So the author was arguing that Jesus Christ was Lord Krishna in reality.

Most of the teachings of Jesus are really profound if one tries to understand them from a mystic's point of view, and that is what really matters. Similarly, even if Muhammad was proven to have not existed, probably there are already studies which claim that he did not exist, his teachings would continue to influence Muslims.

These issues fascinate me because of the alternative views of history which may be the real history.
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Re: The Jesus Mysteries

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CuteCoot wrote:
The Cat wrote:This is a VERY scholarly research [...]Antiqua Matter, by Edwin Johnson, published in 1887.
It's very much a book of its time, somewhat too detailed and verbose for my taste now. I managed to make out that the author saw the Gnostics as the original Christians but it's not clear how the orthodox view emerged from that.

As I understand it from my own reading, the Gnostic speculations proliferated to such an extent that there had to be some decision made. Some orthodox foot put down, so to speak. People crave some certainty and no institution, religious or otherwise, can survive without some kind of backbone to it, some kind of dogma or enforced certainty. Sad but true.
Make a search over the word Chrestos (Greek) and Chrestus (Latin), it meant ''the good ones''. Johnson does talk about it in the book.

And it's crucial historically...
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Re: The Jesus Mysteries

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charleslemartel wrote:I once read somewhere someone arguing that the word "Jesus" was nothing but "Ishus" (God) in Sanskrit, and that "Christ" was nothing but "Krishna". Certain languages in India pronounce "Krishna" as "Krishta". So the author was arguing that Jesus Christ was Lord Krishna in reality.
Ye'Zeus Christos (sanctified by Zeus) was an epithet for the Pythagorean saints. I also think that in Sanskrit it could mean 'pure essence'.

"That which is called the Christian religion existed among the ancients, and never did not exist, from the beginnings of the human race until Christ came in the flesh, at which time the true religion, which already existed, began to be called Christianity." Augustine, Retractions 1.13.3
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Re: The Jesus Mysteries

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charleslemartel wrote:These issues fascinate me because of the alternative views of history which may be the real history.
This is what scholars of religion do. They've really only been doing it fairly professionally (to high academic and scientific standards) in the last two centuries or so. For understandable reasons - namely, most of the research is carried out in the modern West which arose from a Christian ethos - the religion most closely studied and analysed has been Christianity.

In particular, from the mid-19th to early 20th centuries, a lot of scholarly attention was focussed on the historical Jesus. The outcome of that concentrated (and ongoing) scholarship is that most scholars are agreed that there was indeed an historical Jesus (only a small minority exclude this completely). No modern scientific scholar would lend any credence to the literal historicity or factuality of the miraculous or mythical aspects such as the virgin birth and the resurrection, miraculously multiplying the loaves and fishes, turning water into wine, walking on water, etc. However, other more mundane aspects of the narrative are accepted.

Of course, the 20th century has been dominated by the findings and subsequent research on the great Nag Hammadi find of Gnostic texts. The Gnostic Gospel of Thomas has been especially influential.

I would agree with you that it's a fascinating journey of discovery.

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Re: The Jesus Mysteries

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The Cat wrote:Make a search over the word Chrestos (Greek) and Chrestus (Latin), it meant ''the good ones''. Johnson does talk about it in the book.

And it's crucial historically...
I did see the passage where he talked about that but I didn't really get why it's so crucial. How do you see it so?

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Re: The Jesus Mysteries

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manfred wrote:Christianity orignated in Judea, amongst Jews, not in Rome. Jews would never accepted a Roman "fashion" cult... It is equally possible that some gnostic groups "borrowed" ideas from other religions or groups,including Christianity. The Dionysos cult is not as old as the name suggests,most gnostic groups were recent phenomena in Rome, given themselves old clothes to wear...
Christianity originated in Galilee, a cosmopolitan land world apart from the nearby Judea. In fact, the regions were quite hostile to each other from the Hasmonean time, divided between the Roman (Ptolemaic Alexandria, Pharisaic) and the Greek Seleucids (Antiochus, Sadducees).

Then, the Dionysos cult in Rome was that of Bacchus, itself coming out from the Etruscan Liber Pater who was worshiped by the Essenes as well, in what we now call Easter or the Spring Equinoxe... The Christian IHS was originally belonging to Bacchus!
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberalia" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Historically the Christian faith was introduced in Rome by Marcion of Sinope, between 136 and 156. It's in reaction to the fact that Gnostics rejected the OT that the movement, later to become the official church, sprang. That he was 'excommunicated' belongs to backward history. The oldest Christian church fronton, found in Syria and dated Oct. 318, was Marcionite. Paul epistles, for example, were totally unknown to Rome before Marcion got in. The first to rise against him was Justin Martyr: "With the help of the devil Marcion has in every country contributed to blasphemy and the refusal to acknowledge the Creator of all the world as God". The good (chrestos) God is all love, the inferior god gives way to fierce anger. And Justin described Marcionism being spread 'everywhere'. It only became proscribed from Constantine, who established the 1st doctrinal orthodox faith.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marcionism" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
http://www.gnosis.org/library/marcion/antithes.htm" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

One must really know/dig what the Greek -Chrestos- meant in their mysteries religions, like the Pythagorean Orphic cults.
After all, it is Orpheus being depicted in the Christian catacombs of Rome, not a crucified savior but a shining redeemer...
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Re: The Jesus Mysteries

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Historically the Christian faith was introduced in Rome by Marcion of Sinope, between 136 and 156.
There is evidence of Christianity in Rome BEFORE Marcion. Tacitus mentions the Christians as having confessed to setting Rome alight, and Nero's reaction to this. Nero died in 64. Tacitus is not a Christian source.

Marcion's teachings had a lot in common with other Gnostic cults, particularly the dual deity of a good and an evil god. His teachings and treatment of biblical texts urged the existing church to produce a definitive list of books to be included in the bible, the canon.

Also, the Greek word "Christos" simply means "the anointed one"; it is the Greek rendering of a Jewish concept, "Messiah". The word was of course also used in other setting and with various meanings. It worked both ways round: Christians, in an attempt to explain themselves to Romans, would have used words Romans are familiar with, including those from other cults. That does not mean Christianity is a Roman invention.
the Dionysos cult in Rome was that of Bacchus, itself coming out from the Etruscan Liber Pater who was worshiped by the Essenes as well
Bacchus and Dionysos are the same deity, Bacchus being the Latin name, and Dionysos being the Greek one. He is the god of wine and “parties”. (The Romans "adopted" most of the Greek gods in their state religion, before Christianity became "established" by Constantine) There were a number of Dionysos cults in ancient Rome, all a a sort of "revival" of Greek rites, or imagined Greek rites. Later cults became distinctly Gnostic in character. Also, according to Josephus, is absolutely clear on the fact that the Essenes were in fact Jewish by birth and by religion. That makes them an extremely unlikely group of people to have had any interest in Dionysos. They were aesthetics, and worshiping a deity with intoxication and orgies would not have appealed a great deal.
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Re: The Jesus Mysteries

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CuteCoot wrote:
The Cat wrote:Make a search over the word Chrestos (Greek) and Chrestus (Latin), it meant ''the good ones''. Johnson does talk about it in the book.

And it's crucial historically...
I did see the passage where he talked about that but I didn't really get why it's so crucial. How do you see it so?
Without a self search over the Greek 'Chrestos' what Johnson depicted will not be enough to find out much, except that Chrestos (as in the French: 'Chrétiens') was in use way before Christos. The Gnostic opposition between Jesus' good (chrestos) father and the OT's demiurge had to rely on this dualism. As a matter of fact the Marcionite's fronton of 318 reads: Iesous Chrestos. Still in Johnson's addenda we can see:
The original names current with the Greek and Roman vulgar were Chrèstianoi, Chrèstus, connected with the use of the words to crhsto; and that the assumption of the form Christianoi, with the clumsy and self-betraying attempts to explain it as connected with the unction of Christians, or with the Jewish Messiah, were part of that great usurpation of Old Testament antiquity which began, on the part of the `great church,' in the latter half of the second century. [49]... It remains an enigma why Marcion and the Gnostics should have adopted the name Christus at all to designate the celestial emanation of the good God, who had little or nothing in common with the Messiah of the Jews. One is tempted to suppose a misunderstanding, and to conjecture that Chrestus, `the good one' (as in Suetonius), was the original name.

[49] The embarrassed attempts of the Fathers to explain the name Chrestiani, or Christiani, are remarkable. Cf. Jerome on crhsto,thj in Gal. v. 22. `Those who have believed on Christ are crhstoi,,' The question arises whether Chrestos, as name of the Auctor, the' Good' or `Blessed One' (like Maka,rioj), was not earlier than Christos,—an epithet of the `good God' believed by the Gnostics.—Chrestos : a Religious Epithet.

[581] Dr. J. B. Mitchell, Chrestos, 1880, p. 12, says ; `Careful search through the Christian inscriptions, numbering 1287, in the fourth vol. of Boeckh.'s C.1., 1877, fails to discover a single instance of earlier date than the third century wherein the word is not written Chrest or Chreist.' In this useful tract the author further points out that the monogram = xrhsto,j p. 34. Among the Egyptians, of oi` crhstoi, were 'the justified.' Sir G. Wilkinson, Manners and Customs of the Egyptians, 1878, 3. 69.
Jesus-Christ, which world didn't belong to this one (Jn.18.36) couldn't possibly be a Jewish Messiah, in its political dimension...
So we now begin to see how the NT and OT have been -artificially- connected to meet the needs and wants of a political faction.

According to Realencyclopaedie, the inscription Chrestos is to be seen on a Mithras relief in the Vatican. According to J.M. Robertson's Christianity and Mythology, Osiris, the sun-deity of Egypt, was reverenced as Chrestos. In the Synagogue of the Marcionites on Mount Hermon, built in the third century A.D., the Messiah's title is spelled Chrestos. According to Tertullian and Lactantius, the common people usually called Jesus Chrestos.

Thing is though that the Roman equivalent of 'Chrestus' took a very different meaning as it mainly designated the Greek slaves and freedmen who became more and more involved in the Roman administration, from the time of emperor Claudius, as they were able to read and write and as such were labeled the 'valuable ones' (Chrestos/Chrestus). I found out the missing link because I'm French and could so study the French origins for 'Chrétiens'. So, up to Lactantius, Chrestos was the common usage. Again, that has been reedited from the time of Constantine. Why? We need both much Antiquity knowledge and some fair deduction... the clue: they had the power of the pen and supervised the vital tax collections (i.e. Matthew)!

Those powerful Roman Chrestus couldn't accept a Gnostic Jesus rejecting the OT and they united to work in order to form what became the Christian bible. Why? Because they had felt in love with Moses, the slaves liberator, back when the Roman administration got to supervise Egypt in year 30, where they discovered the Septuagint. They wished to substituted themselves to the Jews as the 'chosen people' of God. Then came the emperor Diocletian who knew them well and fought against this seditious movement. He ordered all Christian books to be destroyed (303-313) and they... utterly were. So all Christian's manuscripts we have started in earnest from 325, not a year before. So...

Christians was written afterward in Acts 11.26; 26.28 and 1Pet.4.16. But it's written Chrestiani in both the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus Codex!

Closing with Edwin Johnston's Antiqua Matter (chapter 11, Origen vs Celsus):
We may suggest the possibility of an illusion still subsisting in reference to the names Christos and Christiani. These were once interchangeable among the Romans with Chréstus and Chréstiani; and the latter form survives in the French Chrétiens. If we are correct in our statement that Gnostics were the first propagators of the new religion, then the truth probably is that he whom they owned as the `Good God,' in opposition to the Old Testament God, was the Chréstos who descended on Jesus in the form of a dove at His baptism. Some confirmation of this view is afforded by the remarkable emphasis laid on the words chréstos, chrestotes, and the occurrence of a new and singular verb, chresteuomai, in our documents. Justin Martyr quotes from an unknown source : 'Be ye good (crhstoi.) and pitiful, even as your Father is good (crhsto)...

The Romans were familiar with names like Chréstos, Chrestilla ; and Suetonius' reference to Chrestos may be here recalled. If, then, the new people were called after one `Chrestos,' this name had no connection with the Jewish Messiah. If after ` Christos,' then the problem recurs, Whence this name, which those who adopted it do not appear to have particularly associated with the idea of Anointing (except by verbal suggestion) nor with the idea of the Jewish Messiah, except in polemics?

Tertullian is, so far as we know, the first to explain that the odious name is derived from 'unction' but he says that the Romans pronounce it Chrestianus. In that case it is `composed of sweetness or benignity!' So late as Lactantius the pronunciation was Chrestus, not Christus, and he says the change of the letter is an ignorant error. But why did not Roman ecclesiastics ever speak of Unctus or Delibutus? The statement of Tertullian is but evidence of how he desired that the name should be spelt; but the question is, Who gave this nickname to those who had before been called Nazoraei (according to Epiphanies) and how did they pronounce it?

In Christian inscriptions, the earlier appear always to have the form Chrest or Chreist, that is, the Gnostic form. The Gnostic belief in Chrestos, the `good God,' the connection of all Gnostics with Simon Magus in the reign of Claudius, the reference of Suetonius to ` Chrestus' in that reign, are coincidences not to be neglected. The conclusion seems probable that from that time the worshippers of Chrestos were themselves designated `the Chréstoi,' and that the Romans corrupted the name, from misunderstanding, into Chréstianoi. -[See addenda 581]

In my educated opinion, those Chrestus are the missing key to understand the beginning of the Imperial Christianity.
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Re: The Jesus Mysteries

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Hi, manfred... Whooops! I've just seen how our main forum page has been reformatted. Now, with your comment...
manfred wrote:
Historically the Christian faith was introduced in Rome by Marcion of Sinope, between 136 and 156.
There is evidence of Christianity in Rome BEFORE Marcion. Tacitus mentions the Christians as having confessed to setting Rome alight, and Nero's reaction to this. Nero died in 64. Tacitus is not a Christian source......

Also, the Greek word "Christos" simply means "the anointed one"; it is the Greek rendering of a Jewish concept, "Messiah".
To my knowledge the passage in Tacitus is an addition dated 1468 by an Italian editor: Johannes de Spire.

http://www.truthbeknown.com/pliny.htm" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Turning next to another stalwart in the anemic apologist arsenal, Tacitus, sufficient reason is uncovered to doubt this Roman author's value in proving an "historical" Jesus. In his Annals, supposedly written around 107 CE, Tacitus purportedly related that the Emperor Nero (37-68) blamed the burning of Rome during his reign on "those people who were abhorred for their crimes and commonly called Christians." Since the fire evidently broke out in the poor quarter where fanatic, agitating Messianic Jews allegedly jumped for joy, thinking the conflagration represented the eschatological development that would bring about the Messianic reign, it would not be unreasonable for authorities to blame the fire on them. However, it is clear that these Messianic Jews were not (yet) called "Christiani." In support of this contention, Nero's famed minister, Seneca (5?-65), whose writings evidently provided much fuel for the incipient Christian ideology, has not a word about these "most-hated" sectarians.

In any event, the Tacitean passage next states that these fire-setting agitators were followers of "Christus" (Christos), who, in the reign of Tiberius, "was put to death as a criminal by the procurator Pontius Pilate." The passage also recounts that the Christians, who constituted a "vast multitude at Rome," were then sought after and executed in ghastly manners, including by crucifixion. However, the date that a "vast multitude" of Christians was discovered and executed would be around 64 CE, and it is evident that there was no "vast multitude" of Christians at Rome by this time, as there were not even a multitude of them in Judea. Oddly, this brief mention of Christians is all there is in the voluminous works of Tacitus regarding this extraordinary movement, which allegedly possessed such power as to be able to burn Rome. Also, the Neronian persecution of Christians is unrecorded by any other historian of the day and supposedly took place at the very time when Paul was purportedly freely preaching at Rome (Acts 28:30-31).....

Even conservative writers such as James Still have problems with the authenticity of the Tacitus passage: For one, Tacitus was an imperial writer, and no imperial document would ever refer to Jesus as "Christ." Also, Pilate was not a "procurator" but a prefect, which Tacitus would have known. Nevertheless, not willing to throw out the entire passage, some researchers have concluded that Tacitus "was merely repeating a story told to him by contemporary Christians." Based on these and other facts, several scholars have argued that, even if the Annals themselves were genuine, the passage regarding Jesus was spurious. One of these authorities was Rev. Taylor, who suspected the passage to be a forgery because it too is not quoted by any of the Christian fathers, including Tertullian, who read and quoted Tacitus extensively. Nor did Clement of Alexandria....

It is a peculiar and disturbing fact that the entire Annals attributed to Tacitus never existed until their discovery by Johannes de Spire, at Venice in 1468, and that this sole copy, purportedly made in the 8th century, was in his possession alone. The history of the Annals begins with the Italian calligrapher, Latin scholar and Papal secretary Gian Francesco Poggio Bracciolini (1380-1459), who, writing in 1425, intimated the existence of unknown works by Tacitus supposedly at a Benedictine monastery in Hersfeld, Germany. "The Annals" was subsequently "discovered" in a copy of Tacitus's Histories at the monastery, in the sixteenth century. This text was not named "Annals," however, until 1544, by Beatus Rhenanus.
And Jesus couldn't possibly be a 'Messiah', not in the Jewish political meaning.
Just beware of the lying power of the pen, especially when of religious source...
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Re: The Jesus Mysteries

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Food for Thought or Grub for Groping? Here's something to chew on . . .

http://web.archive.org/web/200111201544 ... enist.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Hellenisys Analysis of Christianity
Sayyid Ayatushaytan Ruhiblis Dunyawi Godizdedi
If there is anything traditional religious Judaism can't stand, Hellenism is that thing. The Greeks, despite having such gaffes as condemning Socrates for impiety, usually failed to take religion seriously. They would think of Zeus as a friend, a heavenly pal who sometime went crazy and threw thunderbolts on humans. They had sacrifices and ceremonies to placate the gods, but most of them, particularly in the Athenian democracy, performed those by rote, "just in case", and went on living worldly lives. That was in stark contrast to the solemn spirit with which Jews looked upon the doing of Jehova's will. A Hellene might make a presentation called "Piss Zeus" and get away with it, whereas a Jew doing so much as taking a chair out of his house on Saturday would be stoned to death (moving an object from the private realm to the public realm is one way of desecrating the Sabbath).

Having introduced this Hellenism/Judaism dichotomy, I now endeavour to show how Christianity, which may be regarded as Hellenized Judaism, is characterized by an incessant conflict between the Hellenic and the Judaic spirit from its inception to this day - from Jesus and Paul to the Polish Pope.

I suspect that Judaism (and Islam, which shares its spirit) does not abhor so much the concept of the Trinity as the humanization of the deity. Although the TaNaKh (Old Testament) frankly views Jehova as having human form, worshipping images of God is absolutely forbidden. The Greek philosophers developed the idea of an abstract, infinite, formless deity, but even they thought of the conventional gods as having human form and carved statues of them (much as Hindus believe in an abstract self, but carve out images of the gods - facets of that self). The Greek deities are portrayed in rigorous exactitude, stressing the muscles of the male gods and the gentle features of the godesses. In Judaic eyes there is little difference between the muscular, bare chest of Jesus upon the cross and Hermes, or between the subtle outlines of the Virgin Mary and Aphrodite. Traditional Judaism sees Christianity as a opportunistic fusion of the blasphemous spirit of Greece with the Hebrew epic. This has, though not for the reasons Jews give, much historical justification.
Son of Man

According to John 12:23, Jesus proclaimed the glorification of the Son of Man by his coming:


Ho de Iesous apokrinetai autois legon, elelythen he hora hina doxasthe ho hyios tou anthropou.
And Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified.

Now, it is clear that "Son of Man" is an epithet for Jesus, the Creator God according to Christianity. However, religious interpretation often makes allegorical stretches on what the people of the time took literally. "Son of Man" meant what it said: a human being, a son of Adam. Jesus, if he existed at all, probably did not see himself as divine, and the verses which say "I am He" must be interpolations. This verse, speaking of the glorification of man, although he is believed to be the Son of God, has cultural signifance. In the Jewish and Islamic worlds there is strictly no place for humanism, the worldview which places mankind at the centre of all things. Humanism, which takes God away from His place at the centre, is outright blasphemy. In Christianity, however, it can be justified: Word becoming flesh can be made central without blasphemy. Fundamentalist Christians combat the movement of secular humanism, but the European humanism of the Renaissance was thoroughly religious, and patronized by the clergy so long as the practitioners did not get kuffurous (infidelic).

Later, when Pontius Pilate presents Jesus with a crown of thorns, he makes the following reference, in John 19:5:


kai legei autois idou ho anthropos
And [Pilate] saith unto them, Behold the man

All eyes were focused on the man. He may be thought of as God, the Son of God, but his suffering was a parable of the suffering of humanity. Through the Middle Ages the believers of Europe were seized by the idea of man as a miserable in comparison to God, and the high cathedrals testify to the idea, but the Greek spirit, that of humanism, of taking the divine world less seriously than it should be taken, lived on, and burst out in the 15th century, after Greek scholars fled the Turkish conquest of Constantinople.
Practical Sense

Rabbinical Judaism orders the desecration of the Sabbath if life is at stake. However, the reason which the Jewish Sages give for the exception is stated thus in the Talmud: Desecrate one Sabbath on him so that he may keep many Sabbaths. Man is just a servant of God, a slave ordered to keep His laws, including the Sabbath. Furthermore, the Sabbath must not be desecrated if the life of a Gentile is at stake, for Gentiles do not keep the Sabbath.

The second chapter of Mark tells of Jesus and his disciples picking grain on the Sabbath - one version among many in the New Testament. The Pharisees, like any modern Orthodox Jewish rabbi, expressed indignance about breaking the law of God. To which, in Mark 2:27, Jesus supposedly answered:


to sabbaton dia ton anthropon egeneto
kai oukh ho anthropos dia to sabbaton
The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath

That being a horrendous blasphemy in Judaism, it is no wonder that the rabbinical authorities had Jesus crucified. He was usurping their absolute control over people's lives by destroying the very principle of duty unto God. That man, if he existed, that infidel, further disrupted the trading industry which was flourishing near the Temple (a common feature of established religions) and, in Mark 12:17, advocated separation between secular and religious life:


Ho de Iesous eipen autois
ta Kaisaros apodote Kaisari kai ta tou theou to theo
And Jesus [answering] said unto them,
Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.

Truly a contrast to Judaism and Islam, where religion is life.

From the brief survey one might consider Christianity to be a pussy-cat religion, the mother of democracy and church-state separation. It is, of course, not so. As I said, for most of the Middle Ages the feeling of powerlessness before God dominated the minds of Christians. The story of the Sabbath being made for man was not interpreted as humanistic, but as an example of the authority of Jesus over the dead letter of the rabbinical scholars. Church-state separation did not, of course, exist until fairly recent times. As Christianity had thrown out much of the Jewish Law (the path of life, Halakha in Judaism, Sharii'a in Islam), there was not much to busy about the lives of people, but freedom of thought and speech was forbidden. While the Jews, deprived of national rule, merely excommunicated the apostates (such as Spinoza), Christians burned the kuffaar at the stake. The order to render unto Caesar was merely an exhortation to denounce worldy life, not an advocation of church-state separation, though Jesus, if he was a historical person, may have meant so.

Christianity, like Islam, took the spirit of Judaism with it: man has duties towards God, and not human rights. The duty was one of faith rather than works (in contrast to Judaism and Islam, which stress deeds over creeds), yet it was still a duty, and man had to humble himself before God. But when the Hellenic spirit of the Renaissance broke free, lifting humankind to a God-given centrality, some Christians, much like some Arab philosophers who had studied Greek sources, began to doubt the authority of the church. Then the West was steadily on its Westoxicated way onto modern scientific Ilhad.

Science, it should be said, dethroned not only God, but man also: no longer at the centre of the universe, but revolving round one star among many in one galaxy among many; and no longer a special isolated creation, but an integral part of the Animal Kingdom. The legacy of Greece is humility.
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Re: The Jesus Mysteries

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And now for a Second Helping instead of a Second Coming.

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Eesa al-Mushrik
What Did Jesus Really Say?
by Yahutha Bin Israil al-Hinjew
Muslims, when pushing their Dawaganda that is designed to convert Christians, often ask the question what did Jesus really say? This is nothing more than a crude attempt to reinterpret the Biblical Jesus as some sort of Muslim. The reality is that the Bible offers so many differing views, that any Jesus can be constructed. This has been shown in the past, as some see Jesus the pacifist, others see Jesus the Zealot, and still others see Jesus the communist.

In response to all the Christians who try and form Jesus the Christian, and all the Muslims who try to build Jesus the servant of Allah, the Freethought Mecca would like to introduce Jesus the Mushrik; Jesus the Buddhist; Jesus the Hindu (or Hinjew); Jesus the Pantheist, et cetera. To make things more controversial, we hired a heinous Yahood named Yahutha Bin Israil al-Hinjew to write the article. Brother Yahutha (shalom be upon him) shows how, with the right interpretation of the four canonical gospels and the gospel of Thomas, one can easily come up with a decidedly unIslamic picture of Jesus. Yahutha shows how easy it is to depict Jesus as being one with the "Divine Godhead" of Eastern Mysticism. Let the games begin.


"Father, I pray not only for these, but also for those who through their teaching will come to believe in me. May they all be one, just as, Father, you are in me and I am in you, so that they may also be in us, so that the world may believe it was you who sent me. I have given them the glory you gave me, that they may be one as we are one."(John 17:20-22) Contemporary Christianity, despite an enormous and growing polarity of denominations, remains unified by adherents to the faith who are infatuated and thankful for the manner and meaning of Jesus' death. As for the message Jesus taught when he was alive, the faithful seem less enthusiastic and knowledgeable.

The contemporary "Gospel" has dissolved into a fairly simple and direct concession, that being the famous proclamation that "Jesus died for our sins." Eternal life is to be realized after death and is inherited exclusively through faith in the value of this creed, turning Jesus into little more than a necessary sacrifice. Conventional Christian wisdom compartmentalizes Jesus as being nothing more than payment for the debts of mankind, when in fact, he was a deeply Jewish mystic who taught a doctrine of salvation identical to Vedantic mysticism. Eternal life, according to Jesus, could be inherited through the cultivation of wisdom, and not as Christians believe, through faith in the validity of his atonement death.

Christians justify their interpretation of Jesus by quoting selected verses (John 3:16) from what is known as The New Testament. Viewed by the faithful as objective history penned by a divine hand, the majority has a limited understanding of the documents that compose their sacred cannon. However, through scrutinizing textual analysis, form criticism, and the study of Judaic history and culture, scholars now describe The New Testament as being a collection of various theological writings, letters, and developing doctrines composed by several communities of early Christians. Although certainly containing elements of historical reporting, The New Testament is also largely a work of theology and poetry, containing creative imagery and symbolic metaphorical writing.

In contrast to the beliefs of the laity, scholars insist that the gospels were written 40-70 years after the death of Jesus. This comes in addition to the indeed subjective and political motives of the anonymous authors. "These words were recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ." (John 20:31) Rather than being objective journalists recording events as they witnessed them, the gospel authors could more aptly be characterized as creative editors working with various documents and traditions handed down to them. "Seeing that many others have undertaken to draw up accounts of the events that have reached their fulfillment among us, as these were handed down to us by those who were eyewitnesses and ministers of the world, I in turn, after carefully going over the whole story from the beginning, have decided to write an account for you, Theophilus, so that your excellency may learn how well founded the teaching is that you received." (Luke 1:1-4).

Anyone familiar with The New Testament knows that the wisdom sayings of Jesus compose a sizable bulk of the text. This has led Biblical scholars to place heavy emphasis on the comparative study of the words attributed to Jesus. When scholars began studying the synoptic gospels in parallel columns, they noticed something quite fascinating, namely that the three narratives shared a large number of "wisdom sayings" identical in content, but occurring in polar contexts in the different gospels. This led several New Testament scholars, beginning with Karl Lachmann in 1835, to postulate the existence of a different genre of gospel, a type that logically must have predated the narrative type found in the current cannon. Speculation began that the shared wisdom sayings of the synoptic gospels were once unified in an exclusive "sayings gospel" similar to the Buddhist Dhammapada. Scholars denoted this conceptual document the "Q" source, after the German word Quelle. "Once upon a time, before there were gospels of the kind familiar to readers of the New Testament, the first followers of Jesus wrote another sort of book. Instead of telling a dramatic story intended to glorify the life of Jesus, their books contained only his teachings. Eventually, when the synoptic New Testament gospels were compiled, the anonymous authors simply arranged short narrative stories around the various sayings, creating fictionalized locations and times for their utterances." [Mack, Lost Gospel "Q" (Vintage Books Press, NY, 1996), p.34]

For an illustration of this process, pay attention to the language used by the author of Luke’s Gospel. "Now it happened that he was once in a certain place praying, and when he was finished, one of his disciples said, ‘Lord, teach us to pray'" (Luke 11:1). Upon reading the first few words of the preceding verse carefully, it becomes apparent that the author’s words are interchangeable with the more recognizable expression, "once upon a time." It is certainly possible that despite having access to the legitimate words of Jesus, the author possessed no information concerning the historical context under which they were uttered.

The "Q" source hypothesis helps significantly to explain the specific style of the gospels, namely that they are all overtly obvious "travel narratives." The authors went out of their way to keep Jesus on the move, and they must have constructed such contrived documents for a specific purpose. "The travel narrative was the simplest way for ancient storytellers to turn a series of anecdotes into a compound tale: change in location was accompanied by encounters with different persons, and this elementary connection provided a minimal continuity." [Crosson, The Historical Jesus, (Harper Collins Press, San Francisco, 1994), p.45] In short, the wisdom saying and teachings of Jesus came first, only to be expounded upon several years later with dramatic accounts of his life and interpretations of his death.

"The sayings gospel genre," although at one time only a hypothesis, was confirmed as an unquestionable reality in 1945 through an astonishing archeological discovery by an Arab peasant. "While digging for soft soil fertilizer in Nag Hammadi, a small corner of Upper Egypt, Muhhamed Al-Samman discovered thirteen papyrus books that eventually came to be known as The Gnostic Gospels." [Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels, (Vintage Books Press, NY, 1998) p.4] Though the Gospels of Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John were eventually canonized, this doesn’t make them the most legitimate of a large body of literary documents circulating at the time. The Orthodox Church leaders simply felt the four documents best complimented their aspirations.

Of the thirteen non-canonical gospels discovered, scholars were most intrigued by The Gospel of Thomas, for not only was it a tangible example of the previously hypothesized "sayings gospel genre," but it shared material in common with the "Q" source. Growing contingencies of scholars argue that the material shared by the "Q" source and The Thomas Gospel are the oldest and most historically accurate sayings of Jesus. In addition, this early layer of material has the same mystical theme as the wisdom traditions stemming from The Gospel of John, namely that salvation lies in recognizing the divinity that dwells within.

It should be noted that the people who compiled the "Q" source and the Thomas Gospel could certainly not be called "Christians," at least in the contemporary sense of the word. For example, these sources include no references to Jesus as "Christ" never mention a single word pertaining to an atonement death, and are silent on the matter of the resurrection. [Price, Deconstructing Jesus, (Chicago University Press, Chicago, 1998), p.21] In these sources, salvation through faith seems to take a back seat to salvation through mystical insight. When extrapolating a sketch of Jesus based on this early material, we begin to see him as a deeply Jewish mystic. Specifically, he seems similar to a Vedantic sage teaching salvation through recognition that the individual Atman (the nature and essence of the Self) is one with Brahman (the nature and essence of The Godhead).

Jewish mysticism goes back to the years before the birth of Jesus, reaching its pinnacle in the corpus of literature that came to be known as the Kabbalah. Much like Jesus, the traditional Jewish mystics did not envision God as an isolated monarch who lived beyond the mortal reach of human beings. In fact, they believed that the "body of God" was composed of every element of existence, and salvation occurs by recognizing that "we are one" with God. For a specific example, let us look at the words found in The Book of Zohar, one of the more popular strands of the Kabbalah. "The essence of divinity is found in every single thing, for nothing but it exists. Nothing is devoid of divinity, for everything is within it, and it is within everything." [Kaballah, (Harper Collins, San Francisco, 1997), p.45]. Let us quickly compare this insight with the sentiments expressed in the Vedantic Chandogya Upanishad. "Brahman (the Godhead) and Atman (the Self) is both above and below. They are north and south, east and west. They are the all, the whole of the universe." [Upanishads, (Chicago University Press, Chicago, 1997), p.45].

Vedantic mysticism is widely known for its insistence on cultivating our relational knowledge, seeking to understand our intrinsic nature, and recognizing our interconnected roots with the "Godhead," the force behind and within all of existence. Vedantic traditions, which stem from the large umbrella known as Hinduism, are non-dual in theory, meaning that they view reality as one infinite and interconnected divine web. Salvation, according to Vedantic mysticism, is to realize that your true Self (Soul) is one with the whole of reality (ie- the whole of divinity or the "Godhead".

Alan Watts, an expert on eastern religion as well as an Episcopal priest, pleaded the case that "had Jesus grown up in India, he would have been congratulated rather than crucified upon realizing that he was one with God." [Watts, Behold the Spirit, (Oxford Press, London, 1959) p.45] In the Gospel according to John, we find a story in which a crowd of Jewish "fundamentalists" is getting prepared to stone Jesus in response to his heretical claim to be "of the same nature as God." In his defense, Jesus utilizes a mystical interpretation of a verse from the Hebrew Bible, specifically Psalm 82. "Is it not written in your own law, ‘I say you are all Gods?'" It seems as though Jesus is pleading the case to his peers that his mystical interpretation of Judaism is not in fact radically heretical. He proudly points to the mature conception of divinity found embedded in the Hebrew bible, much in the same fashion as the Kabbalists previously discussed.

Incidentally, Jesus' preference for the truth expressed in this particular saying can also be found in the previously mentioned Gospel of Thomas! "If those who lead you say to you, ‘see, the kingdom is in the sky,' then the birds will precede you. If they say to you, ‘see, it is in the sea' then the fish will precede you. Rather, I say you are all Gods, and the kingdom is found within you.?(Gospel of Thomas) When we turn to the Q source, specifically Luke’s Gospel, we find Jesus similarly pronouncing, ‘Look, the kingdom of God is within you.' ( Luke 17:21) Jesus knew that he was one with God, and early sources indicate that he did not claim to have exclusive ownership of this type of relational condition. "Jesus said, I am not your master. You have drunk from the same bubbling spring that I have drunk from." ( Gospel of Thomas)

Much like a reader of the Upanishads or Baghavad Gita will uncover, eternal life (salvation) can be inherited upon the realization that Atman (the essence and nature of the Soul) is one with Brahman (the very essence and nature of the Godhead). This type of mystical salvation is conveniently described with lucidity by Jesus while praying to his Father in the Gospel of John. "Eternal life is this: to know you, the only true God" (John 17:3). Anyone expecting Jesus to describe eternal life as being contingent on faith in his necessary atonement death is sure to be surprised. We must here note that in Biblical Hebrew and Aramaic, the language spoken by Jesus, the expression "to know" does not simply mean "to be aware of," but rather, "to know" in this instance refers to a relationship of complete intimacy, similar to two lovers whose flesh becomes one.

Compare this insight to the seemingly identical notion expressed eloquently in both the Maitri and Changogya Upanishads. "To know Brahman ( the Godhead) who dwells within Atman ( the Self) is to never perish? "There is a bridge between time and eternity, one that breeds eternal life; and the bridge is Atman who is one in Brahman." (Upanishads, Chicago University Press, Chicago, 1997, p.67) Indeed, not only is eternal life a present reality, but in fact, it has always been and will always be, for the true identity of the individual is bound up in the intrinsic nature of the whole of reality, the whole of God who is in all things. "The truly wise mourn not for the living nor the dead. There was never a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor any king of the world. Nor is there any future in which we will cease to be." [Baghavad Gita, (Vintage Books Press 1997), p.89] "In all truth I tell you, before Abraham ever was, I am." (John 9:58)

Turning to the pages of the Gospel of Thomas, we get a clear understanding of the claim put forth in the opening statement. "Jesus said, whoever understands the interpretation of these sayings will never experience death.?(Gospel of Thomas) As we have already established, The Gospel of Thomas is composed exclusively of wisdom sayings, with the vast majority being mystical in nature and identical to Vedantic insight. Jesus states that those who understand the meaning behind his mystical sayings will never experience death, or in other words, will inherit eternal life (salvation). In contemporary Christianity, salvation through faith is given the most emphasis when discussing the inheritance of eternal life (salvation). However, in sharp contrast, here in The Gospel of Thomas we find Jesus stating that eternal life (salvation) is based more on metaphysical understanding and the cultivation of mystical wisdom than sheer faith! This is a Jesus who could easily have stated, "he who possesses understanding possesses everlasting life." [Upanishad,(Vintage Books Press, NY, 1997), p.56]

Earlier in the Gospel of John, prior to the story previously discussed, Jesus announces that "eternal life," far from being the future expectation that contemporary Christians understand it to be, is rather a present reality to be experienced. This seems to indicate that eternal life is contingent on our present mindset, not faith in the future resurrection of the body to come. "In truth I tell you, everyone who believes has eternal life" (John 6:47). Notice, Jesus does not state that those who believe will one day have eternal life. Rather, with fervent reassurance, he announces that those who believe, those who know the living God, already have eternal life. Similarly, "when the mind and heart are united with Brahman, eternal life is present." (Baghavad Gita, Vinatge Books Press, NY, 1998, p.67)

This is fascinating to note, for the overwhelming majority of contemporary Christians envision eternal life (salvation) as an anticipatory rather than a present phenomenon. Jewish theologian Martin Buber believed that the notion of active and present salvation expressed by Jesus is identical to those of Vedantic ideas of identification and absorption. He wrote extensively on the need for the individual to cultivate an I-Thou relationship with the divine, for through that process, we could see what he deemed the "death of death" "John’s Gospel is one of pure relation. Here is a truer verse ( I and the father are one) than the familiar Indian mystical verse : ‘I am Thou and Thou art I' The Father and the Son, like in being ?may we even say God and man, like in being- are the indistinguishable real pair, the two bearers of the primal relation." [Buber, I and Thou,(Oxford Press, NY, 1970) pp.85] Once this relationship is established, your everyday self is displaced through the inheritance of your true divine Self . "I have been crucified with Christ and yet I am alive; yet it is no longer I, but Christ living in me." (Galations 2:20)

Perhaps the most commonly repeated advice of Jesus is “to love your neighbor as yourself. Similarly, within the Q source, Jesus states, "anyone who welcomes you welcomes me" (Matthew 11:40) "Jesus urges us to love our neighbors as ourselves for the same reason a Hindu mystic does so, namely that they both understand that at the core of reality, our neighbor is our own self" [Daily, Mysticism, (Chicago University Press, Chicago, 1987), p.67]. "When one sees all beings in his own Self, and his own Self in all beings, he understand the nature of reality, and loses all fear." [Upanishad, (Vintage Books Press, NY, 1997), p.145]. "The yogi sees me in all things, and all things within me. He never loses sight of me, nor I of him. For he is established in union with me, and worships me devoutly in all beings." (Baghavad Gita, Vintage Books Press, NY, 1997, p.78) Looking at the thoughts of Jesus next to those of the provocative Vedantic sages, we see the lucid connections between the two traditions, and in fact, they become nearly indistinguishable. An analysis of this type seems to confirm the hypothesis put forward by numerous scholars, that being the blunt notion that Christianity is not Jesus' religion, but rather a religion about him.
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Re: The Jesus Mysteries

Post by Ansar al-Zindiqi »

And now for a little bit more. . . . :ohmy:

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The Intolerant Messiah
The non-existence of the "Prince of Peace"
by Amar M'lumad B'libo "Eyn Mashiach"
The learned man says in his heart "there is no Messiah!"[1]
As was pointed out in the essay on the gospels, more than half the world's population accepts Jesus as the Messiah. This claim is found in the fact that both Christians and Muslims accept this claim, and those two groups combine to form roughly three billion people. Still, one might be bothered by the fact that the two religions that hold this alleged "Prince of Peace" in such high esteem also happen to be the most violent religions on earth. There is a certain savagery and arrogance that is deeply intertwined with the history of Christianity and Islam.

The very concept of a Messiah[2] is rather primitive. This is an idea created to calm people who are not satisfied with the current state of their society. With the belief that a savior will come, one can rest easy feeling that in the future all wrongs will be made right. The Jews originated the western idea of the final Mashiach, or anointed one, who will come and save the world. The Christians adopted this idea, and claimed that Jesus was that man. The Muslims went along with the Christians in claiming that Jesus was the Messiah, not knowing what the word meant.

Still, things have not gotten better. Jewish Messiahs such as Shabtai Zvi (or Sabitai Zevi) and Menachem Schneerson have come and gone, but the world is generally the same. Because of this, the Jews generally have agreed that all previous Jews claiming to be the Messiah (including Jesus) were actually frauds. As for the Christians, one coming of the Messiah was not enough; things are still generally the same, so now they await the second coming of their Messiah! As for the Muslims, their religion seemed to totally strip "Messiah" of its meaning, thus he is just another messenger of God. Still, they too need to believe in a future savior, so they await the Mahdi (which is equivalent to the Judaic concept of Mashiach).

The Muslims and the Christians, though they rarely agree on anything, are united in their disgust of Jewish opposition to the claim that Jesus is the Messiah. Still, one wonders what proof the Christo-Islamic world has to support this claim. If they have no evidence to support the Messiaship of Jesus, then they have no right to try and impose their foreign Messianic occult beliefs on the Jews, who are quite happy with their own superstitions.

For the Christians, they'd be better of doing as the Muslims do, and reject the TaNaKh[3] as holy scripture. Since the Christians hold the TaNaKh as the word of God, their claim that Jesus was the Messiah is totally ripped to shreds by the Bible itself. The gospel attributed to Matthew includes Jeconiah (also called Jehoiachin in some translations) in Jesus' genealogy. Jeremiah 22:30 says of Jeconiah "Record this man as if childless, a man who will not prosper in his lifetime, for none of his offspring will prosper, none will sit on the throne of David or rule anymore in Judah." If none of Jeconiah's offspring can sit on the throne of David, none of them can be the Messiah.

Furthermore, Jesus cannot be the mythical figure known as Mashiach to the Jews, because that being was supposed to free the Jewish homeland of oppression, and return the Hebrew exiles to Israel. The time that immediately followed the period in which Jesus allegedly lived was not the least bit similar to the Messianic kingdom of peace that was to be established. Rather than peace, Jesus' alleged life was followed by the Roman sacking of Jerusalem, the destruction of the Temple, and the exile of the Jews.

Of course, all these points will mean nothing to a Muslim. As was already said, Islam has totally stripped "Messiah" of its meaning. Jesus was the Messiah, but at the same time was just another prophet. Jesus was the Messiah, yet still another prophet, Muhammad, had to be sent. Jesus was the Messiah, yet still we have to wait for his second coming, as well as the coming of the Mahdi (though, not necessarily in that order). Still, there are problems with Islamic Messiah. Somehow, Jesus was given the name Issa in the Qur'an. Arabic translations of the Bible usually call Jesus "Yasuwa," which is very close to the Hebrew "Y'shua[4]." These Arabic Bibles also happen to call Esau "Issa." The following is from Ahmed Deedat's book "Christ in Islam":
The Holy Quran refers to Jesus as "Eesa", and this name is used more times than any other title, because this was his "Christian" name. Actually, his proper name was "Eesa" (Arabic), or "Esau". (Hebrew); classical "Yeheshua", which the Christian nations of the West Latinised as Jesus. Neither the "J" nor the second "s" in the name Jesus is to be found in the original tongue - they are not found in the Semitic language.

The word is very simply - "E S A U" - a very common Jewish name, used more than sixty times in the very first booklet alone of the Bible, in the part called "Genesis". There was at least one "Jesus" sitting on the "bench" at the trial of Jesus before the Sanhedrin. Josephus the Jewish historian mentions some twenty five Jesus' in his "Book of Antiquities". The New Testament speaks of "Bar-Jesus"- a magician and a sorcerer, a false prophet (Act 13:6); and also "Jesus-Justus" - a Christian missionary, a contemporary of Paul (Colossians 4:11). These are distinct from Jesus the son of Mary. Transforming "Esau" to (J)esu(s) - Jesus - makes it unique. This unique (?) name has gone out of currency among the Jews and the Christians from the 2nd century after Christ. Among the Jews, because it came to be the proper name of their God(?) - their God incarnate. The Muslim will not hesitate to name his son - "Eesa" - because it is an honoured name, the name of a righteous servant of the Lord.
This would indeed come off as quite laughable to any Jew, or anyone familiar with the Jewish folklore. What brother Deedat forgot to mention was that there is only one Esau in the Jewish folklore, and he comes off as being one of the most hated characters in the entire religion. Maybe brother Deedat never read the book of Obadiah. One might agree with Rabbi Abraham Geiger's theory that Jesus got the name Esau in the Qur'an as the result of a bad joke played by the Jews. The author(s) of the Qur'an may have asked the Jews about the Christian Messiah, to which the Jews replied "The Christian Messiah was Esau." Of course, the Muslim would ask "Esau son of Mary?" to which the chuckling Jews would reply "Yes, Esau son of Mary." [For more on the issue of Jesus' name in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Arabic, see Esau, Y'shua, Eesho, & Eesa]

Regardless, the Islamic Jesus is not the least bit historical. This is a man who was born of a virgin, and preached the coming of Muhammad. If we treat this claim as historians would treat it, we would go along the following lines: This "son of Mary" that is mentioned in the Qur'an is also found in other literature, which refers to him as "Jesus." The earliest of this literature goes all the way back to 60 CE, and none of the early manuscripts that allegedly record the life of this man make any mention of him using the word "Allah," or "Zakat," or predicting the coming of Muhammad. The Muslim claims regarding Jesus cannot be supported with the earliest available sources.

As a further blow to both the Christians and the Muslims, there is no proof that Jesus was a historical character at all. The Secular Web has a wonderful section of Jesus Historicitywhich is highly recommended by the Freethought Mecca. Scholars such as John Remsberg[5], Michael Martin[6], G.A. Wells[7], and others have put forth theories that bring Jesus' very existence into doubt. The canonical gospels are the earliest sources, but they badly contradict one another, and therefore cannot be considered reliable. There are mentionings of Jesus in the writings of Josephus, but these are generally regarded as being interpolations. In short, there is no evidence to support his existence.

The stories about Jesus are often taken from previous stories. Many of the alleged miracles Jesus is reported to have performed are modeled after the stories of Elisha and Elijah in the TaNaKh. The concept of Jesus being the "son of God," born of a virgin, et cetera, is one that is found in numerous Greek, Persian, and Vedic folklores. The following are excerpts from Timothy Freke's The Jesus Mysteries:

Jesus said, "It is to those who are worthy of my Mysteries that I tell my Mysteries."-- The Gospel of Thomas

On the site where the Vatican now stands there once stood a Pagan temple. Here Pagan priests observed sacred ceremonies, which early Christians found so disturbing that they tried to erase all evidence of them ever having been practiced. What were these shocking Pagan rites? Gruesome sacrifices or obscene orgies perhaps? This is what we have been led to believe. But the truth is far stranger than this fiction.

Where today the gathered faithful revere their Lord Jesus Christ, the ancients worshiped another godman who, like Jesus, had been miraculously born on December 25 before three shepherds. In this ancient sanctuary Pagan congregations once glorified a Pagan redeemer who, like Jesus, was said to have ascended to heaven and to have promised to come again at the end of time to judge the quick and the dead. On the same spot where the Pope celebrates the Catholic mass, Pagan priests also celebrated a symbolic meal of bread and wine in memory of their savior who, just like Jesus, had declared: He who will not eat of my body and drink of my blood, so that he will be made one with me and I with him, the same shall not know salvation.

When we began to uncover such extraordinary similarities between the story of Jesus and Pagan myth we were stunned. We had been brought up in a culture which portrays Paganism and Christianity as entirely antagonistic religious perspectives. How could such astonishing resemblances be explained? We were intrigued and began to search farther. The more we looked, the more resemblances we found. To account for the wealth of evidence we were unearthing we felt compelled to completely review our understanding of the relationship between Paganism and Christianity, to question beliefs that we previously regarded as unquestionable and to imagine possibilities that at first seemed impossible. Some readers will find our conclusions shocking and others heretical, but for us they are merely the simplest and most obvious way of accounting for the evidence we have amassed.

We have become convinced that the story of Jesus is not the biography of a historical Messiah, but a myth based on perennial Pagan stories. Christianity was not a new and unique revelation but actually a Jewish adaptation of the ancient Pagan Mystery religion. This is what we have called The Jesus Mysteries Thesis. It may sound far-fetched at first, just as it did initially to us. There is, after all, a great deal of unsubstantiated nonsense written about the "real" Jesus, so any revolutionary theory should be approached with a healthy dose of skepticism. But although this book makes extraordinary claims, it is not just entertaining fantasy or sensational speculation. It is firmly based upon the available historical sources and the latest scholarly research. While we hope to have made it accessible to the general reader, we have also included copious notes giving sources, references, and greater detail for those who wish to analyze our arguments more thoroughly.

Although still radical and challenging today, many of the ideas we explore are actually far from new. As long ago as the Renaissance, mystics and scholars saw the origins of Christianity in the ancient Egyptian religion. Visionary scholars at the turn of the nineteenth century also made comparable conjectures to our own. In recent decades, modern academics have repeatedly pointed toward the possibilities we consider. Yet few have dared to boldly state the obvious conclusions that we have drawn. Why? Because to do so is taboo.

For 2,000 years the West has been dominated by the idea that Christianity is sacred and unique while Paganism is primitive and the work of the Devil. To even consider that they could be parts of the same tradition has been simply unthinkable. Therefore, although the true origins of Christianity have been obvious all along, few have been able to see them, because to do so requires a radical break with the conditioning of our culture. Our contribution has been to dare to think the unthinkable and to present our conclusions in a popular book rather than some dry academic tome. This is certainly not the last word on this complex subject, but we hope it may be a significant call for a complete reappraisal of the origins of Christianity.
My favorite example of course is the comparison of Jesus to the son of Kunti as related to us in the Mahabharata. Now, in both the Bible and the Qur'an, Jesus' mother is visted by a celestial being, in this case the Angel Gabriel. The celestial being tells her that she is going to give birth to a son. She is shocked to hear this, and replies that it is impossible considering that no man has touched her. The celestial being replies that such things are easy for God. the same story appeared in the Mahabharata centuries before the Gospels of Qur'an were ever written. In that story, the virgin named Kunti is visited by a celestial being, in this case, the sun god Surya. The celestial being tells Kunti the same thing Gabriel told Mary, and Kunti's reply is exactly the same!

"Kunti had been amazed, then horrified when he [Surya] told her that he could not leave without giving her a child. 'I am yet a maiden,' she protested. 'What will everyone say?' Surya smiled. By his power she would conceive a son and still remain a maiden."
[Mahabharata, Abridged Translation by Krishna Dharma, p. 62]

And make mention of Mary in the Scripture, when she had withdrawn from her people to a chamber looking East, And had chosen seclusion from them. Then We sent unto her Our Spirit and it assumed for her the likeness of a perfect man. She said: Lo! I seek refuge in the Beneficent One from thee, if thou art God-fearing. He said: I am only a messenger of thy Lord, that I may bestow on thee a faultless son. She said: How can I have a son when no mortal hath touched me, neither have I been unchaste ? He said: So (it will be). Thy Lord saith: It is easy for Me. And (it will be) that We may make of him a revelation for mankind and a mercy from Us, and it is a thing ordained.
[Qur'an, Translation by M.M. Pickthall, Surah Maryam 19:16-21]

These stories are hilariously similar! The very idea of a virgin birth is absurd, and this is obviously a tale that is found throughout many cultures. The story of Jesus' miraculous' birth is touched on further in our satirical chapter of the PC Qur'an, The Non-Virgin. In fact, there's not much else that is worth saying. We here at the Freethought Mecca do not take these stories seriously. As has been said time, after time, after time, our attitude at this point is to simply point and laugh. We find religion to be ridiculous, therefore we ridicule it.

NOTES

(1) This is a play on Psalms 14:1, which says Amar Naval B'libo "Eyn Elohim," or "The fool says in his heart 'there is no God.'"

(2) In Hebrew, Mashiach, and in Arabic, Masih.

(3) That is, the Old Testament.

(4) Y'shua happens to be the name the "Jews for Jesus" group gives to Jesus.

(5) See Remsberg, The Christ.

(6) See Martin, The Case Against Christianity.

(7) See Wells, Did Jesus Exist?, The Jesus Myth, and The Historical Evidence for Jesus.
Don't be a believer but a heretic unto yourself.

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CuteCoot
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Re: The Jesus Mysteries

Post by CuteCoot »

The Cat wrote:In my educated opinion, those Chrestus are the missing key to understand the beginning of the Imperial Christianity.
Are you saying that the very early Christians identified as followers of Jesus' "good" (chrestos) father? And then later, this identification was gradually transformed into being followers of Jesus as "the anointed one" or Christos? If this were the case, wouldn't there be some kind of evident trail, some kind of discussion of this or writing about it? Are you suggesting that all of this was suppressed and destroyed by the later victorious church?

What I also find odd in this is that the idea of a messiah has roots in Judaism, so you'd expect that this seeing Jesus as Christos or Messiah would arise from the Jewish core of early Christians. You'd expect that core to have become quite diluted by the 3rd or 4th centuries when you suggest the transformation took place. I find it implausible that this assignment of a specifically culturally Jewish significance to Jesus would have happened later rather than early.

My own reading suggests that much of the New Testament, the gospels at least, are quite early. Not dating as early as Jesus' actual lifetime but within decades or at least within the first century. I don't see why a Jewish interpretation of Jesus as Christos/Messiah could not have developed alongside Gnostic speculations. All in the one melting pot, so to speak.

In the end, it was the Gnostic speculations that were thrown out. For good reason: it was all too speculative, overly imaginative, violently daring, etc. Too much of that spells chaos and ultimately lunacy. However, the total suppression of that side of religious expression is also sad and ultimately stifling. It's good that it has returned to us in recent times. Maybe we're now mature enough to handle it sanely.

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