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The “Jesus of Faith” Vs the “Jesus of History” – part 5:2 The Crucifixion Plot

I remember when I was fourteen and studying for the Catholic priesthood kneeling in front of a large carved image of Jesus hanging on a cross above the altar in the chapel and struggling to get in touch with feelings of guilt and sorrow for my sins, sins for which this man is said to have died an ignominious death. I was actually able to bring myself to sorrowful tears of repentance. Such memories serve me today as motivation to write about the deception that has been created and maintained for two-thousand years by the Catholic Church and by Christianity in general.  I truly believe that, if Jesus were to come back today, he would have all the crucifixes taken down and destroyed. It is his life of love and compassion, his “good news” about the Kingdom of Heaven being right at hand, that I believe he wished to be remembered by and not his crucifixion.

That said, I would like to share religious historian Michael Baigent’s perspectives on the crucifixion of Jesus from his controversial book The Jesus Papers – Exposing the Greatest Cover-Up in History. The chapter heading from which the excerpts are taken, “SURVIVING THE CRUCIFIXION,” speaks for itself.

Jesus’ crucifixion was politically motivated, and Jesus was well aware of the political reality of the time. The main contention between the Jews and the Romans was their refusal to pay taxes. This played a pivotal role in both Jesus’ betrayal by the Zealots, as well as in a survival plot orchestrated by Pontius Pilate himself. I’ll let Michael Baigent detail his scenario.

If the Sadducee priesthood wanted to be rid of Jesus because they saw him as a messiah and a threat to their power, and if the Zealots too, for different reasons, wanted to be rid of Jesus, then word of this would have reached Pilate. And this intelligence would have put him in a very difficult position. Pilate was Rome’s official representative in Judaea, and Rome’s main argument with the Jews was that they declined to pay their tax to Caesar. Yet here was a leading Jew — the legitimate king no less — telling his people to pay the tax. How could Pilate try, let alone condemn, such a man who, on the face of it, was supporting Roman policy? Pilate would himself be charged with dereliction of duty should he proceed with the condemnation of such a supporter.

The New Testament represents “the Jews” as baying for Jesus’s blood. And this apparent guilt of the Jews stuck for millennia — it was only acknowledged as fraudulent by the Vatican and excised from the teachings as late as 1960. But as should now be clear, it was not “the Jews” in general who were calling for Jesus’s arrest and execution, but the militant Zealots, those who hated the Romans and would sacri­fice even one of their own for their political aims. In the scenario presented here, Pilate would have found himself in a serious dilemma: to keep the peace he had to try, condemn, and execute a Jew who was supporting Rome but whose existence was causing public disorder, the flames of which were being fanned by the disgruntled Zealots. Pilate needed to try to square the circle on this; he desperately needed a deal.

And the deal, I suggest, was this: that he try Jesus and condemn him as a political agitator, thus appeasing the Zealots, who threatened widespread disorder. This was the last thing Pilate needed on his watch, especially since he was aware that he was falling out of favor with the Roman authorities. But while he condemned Jesus and had to go through with the required sentence of crucifixion, he could not dare have it reported to Rome that Jesus had actually died. So Pilate took steps to ensure that Jesus would survive. He spoke with a member of the Sanhedrin and friend of Jesus, the wealthy Joseph of Arimathea.

Technically, how could a crucifixion have been faked? Just how could Jesus have survived? Was it possible at all to survive a crucifix­ion of any length of time?

Crucifixion was not so much an execution as a torturing to death. The procedure was very simple: the victim was tied, hanging to the crossbar, while his feet were supported on a block at the base of the cross. His feet were also usually tied at the block, although at least one example recovered by archaeologists reveals that a nail might be driven through each ankle. The weight of the hanging body made breathing very difficult and could be managed only by constantly pushing upwards with the legs and feet to relieve the tension in the chest. Eventually, of course, weariness and weakness overcame the ability to keep pushing. When this happened, the body slumped, breathing became impossible, and the crucified person died — by as­phyxiation. This was reckoned to take about three days.

As an act of mercy — only the brutal Romans could come up with such a definition — the legs of the victim were often broken and so deprived of any strength whatsoever to maintain the weight of the body.  The body would drop, and death by asphyxiation rapidly followed. We can see this in the New Testament. John reports that the legs of the two Zealots crucified beside Jesus were broken, but when they came to break Jesus’s legs, “he was dead already” (John 19:31-33).

On a side note, a statement in the Koran, “They did not crucify him,” could be translated as “They did not cause his death on the cross.” More relevant is the teachings of a heretical Egyptian Gnostic that Jesus had been substituted by Simon of Cyrene on his way to Golgatha and died in Jesus’ stead.

But if Jesus survived without being substituted, how could it have happened? Hugh Schonfield, in his The Passover Plot, suggests that Jesus was drugged — sedated on the cross such that he appeared dead but could be revived later, after he had been taken down. This is by no means such a wild idea, and it has received a sympathetic hearing. For example, in a television program on the crucifixion broadcast by the BBC in 2004 called Did Jesus Die? Elaine Pagels referred to Schonfield’s book, which, she noted, suggested that Jesus “had been sedated on the cross; that he was removed quite early and therefore could well have survived.” And, she concluded, “that’s certainly a possibility?”

The hypothesis forwarded was that Jesus was drugged with a sponge soaked in a sedative mixture of opium and other compounds such as belladonna and hashish when he cried out “I thirst.” Vinegar would have revived him whereas the drink from the sponge apparently caused him to die. Such a drug concoction, which was available and used in the Middle East for medical procedures, would have rendered Jesus unconscious and therefore spared much of the trauma and mental anguish crucifixion surely inflicted upon him. Then there was the incident of the spear thrust into Jesus’ side, not his heart or vital organ, where it is reported that blood and water poured out, indicating that Jesus was still alive.

All that remained then was for Jesus to be taken down from the cross, apparently lifeless but in reality unconscious, and taken to a private tomb where medicines could be used to revive him. He would then be whisked away from the scene. And this is precisely what is described in the Gospels: Luke (23:53) and Mark (15:46) report that Jesus was placed in a new tomb nearby. Matthew (27:6) adds that the tomb was owned by the wealthy and influential Joseph of Arimathea. John (19:41-42), who generally gives us so many extra details, adds that there was a garden around this tomb, implying that the grounds were privately owned, perhaps also by Joseph of Arimathea.

John also stresses that Jesus was taken down quickly and put into this new tomb. Then, in a very curious addition, he reports that Joseph of Arimathea and a colleague, Nicodemus, visited the tomb during the night and brought with them a very large amount of spices: myrrh and aloes (John 19:39). These, it is true, could be used simply as a perfume, but there could be another equally plausible explana­tion. Both substances have a medicinal use – most notably, myrrh has been used as an aid to stop bleeding. Neither drug is known to have a role in embalming dead bodies. Mark (16:1) and Luke (23:56) touch obliquely on this theme as well, adding to their story of the tomb that the women — Mary Magdalene and Mary, the “mother of James,”­ brought spices and ointments with them when they came to the tomb after the Sabbath had ended.

. . . . But there is yet another oddity that we need to note: in the Gospel of Mark, Joseph of Arimathea is described as visiting Pilate and requesting the body of Jesus. Pilate asks if Jesus is dead and is surprised when told that he is indeed, for his demise seems very rapid to Pilate. But since Jesus is dead, Pilate allows Joseph to take the body down. If we look at the original Greek text, we see an im­portant point being made: when Joseph asks Pilate for Jesus’s body, the word used for “body” is soma. In Greek this denotes a living body.  When Pilate agrees that Joseph can take the body down from the cross, the word he uses for “body” is ptoma (Mark 15:43-45). This means a fallen body, a corpse or carcass. In other words, the Greek text of Mark’s Gospel is making it clear that while Joseph is asking for the living body of Jesus, Pilate grants him what he believes to be the corpse. Jesus’s survival is revealed right there in the actual Gospel account.

If the writer of this Gospel had wished to hide that fact, it would have been very easy for him simply to use one word for both state­ments — to have both Joseph and Pilate speaking of the ptoma, the corpse. But the writer chose not to be consistent. Could this be be­cause it was too well known a fact for him to get away with any manipulation of it? This had to wait for the translation of the New Testament from Greek into Latin: in the Latin Bible – the Vulgate – the word corpus is used by both Pilate and Joseph of Arimathea, and this simply means “body” as well as “corpse.” The hiding of the secret of the crucifixion was completed.

Again, it takes only a slight shift of perspective, a standing aside from the theological dogma, to see the crucifixion in a new way. That is, to see how Jesus could very well have survived.

Jesus alive in A.D. 45?

Then there’s this: Jesus is reported to have been alive in A.D. 45, twelve years after his crucifixion. When this tidbit of historical information came into Michael Baigent’s hands in the form of a letter from an undivulged source, he immediately set out to find “incontrovertible evidence that Jesus survived and was living long afterwards.” But his efforts were to no avail.

Then there’s the Stations of the Cross plaque still on the wall of the church at Rennes le Chateau.

“. . . an image that reveals something very heretical indeed. . . .  One image, for example, shows a woman with a child standing beside Jesus; the child is wearing a Scottish tartan robe. . . . But the most curious of all is Station 14. This is traditionally the last of the series illustrating Jesus being placed in the tomb prior to the resurrection. At Rennes le Chateau the image shows the tomb and, immediately in front of it, three figures carrying the body of Christ. But the painted background reveals the time as night. In the sky beyond the figures, the full moon has risen.”

This indicates that the Passover had begun — and no Jew would have handled a dead body after the Passover had begun as it would make him ritually unclean. The scene also suggests that the body of Jesus was not being placed in a tomb but was being carried out secretly under the cover of night.

The significance of this story lies in the fact that the priest of Rennes le Chateau, Abbe Sauniere, discovered the story of Jesus’ survival in documents he found while renovating the church in the early 1890’s. His bishop, upon seeing the documents, sent him to Paris to meet with experts at the Seminary of Saint Sulpice, where he spent three weeks. He returned with access to considerable wealth, sufficient to completely renovate the church and build a road to the village up the hill. The implication is that his silence was bought.

It is important to note that the Stations of The Cross at Rennes le Chateau were painted under the direct supervision of Abbe Sauniere. He appears to be telling us that he knows — or a least believes — that Jesus survived the crucifixion.

As a final note to close this post, I will tell you about a most interesting event Michael Baigent discloses in this chapter. In researching the origin of the letter he had received mentioned above, he came upon Canon Alfred Leslie (1860–1948) who was Chancellor of Hereford Cathedral in Oxford, England. He was an expert in medieval French and was often consulted on difficult translation work.  He was invited to Paris to the Seminary of Saint Sulpice to assist in the translation of a “strange document (or documents).” The scholars working on the translation asked for help because of the outrageous nature of the text which they thought that perhaps they were misunderstanding. His friend, a Rev. Bartlett, who had invited him to go to Paris, reports on the outcome:

“They didn’t know that it was close to the bone . . . . Lilley said that they wouldn’t have a long and happy life if certain people knew about it. It was a very delicate matter. Lilley laughed over what was going to happen when the French priest told anyone about it. He didn’t know what happened to them [the documents], but he thought that they had changed hands for a large sum of money and had ended up in Rome.” In fact, Lilley thought that the Church would ultimately destroy these documents.

Lilley was quite certain that these documents were authentic. They were extraordinary and upset many of our ideas about the Church. Contact with the material, he said, led to an unorthodoxy. . . .  “By the end of his life,” Bartlett explained, ” Lilley had come to the conclusion that there was nothing in the Gospels that one could be certain about. He had lost all conviction of truth.”

A group of “Modernists” that included Lilley wanted to “revise the dogmatic assertions of the church teachings in the light of the discoveries made by science, archaeology, and critical scholarship.” Baigent concludes with this observation.

Many theologians were realizing that their confidence in the historical validity of New Testament stories was misplaced. For example, William Inge, Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral, was once asked to write on the life of Jesus. He declined, saying that there was not nearly enough solid evidence to write anything at all about him.”

I will leave it there for now. Until my next post Easter Sunday morning, then,

Be love. Be loved.

Anthony

 

 

 

 

 

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The “Jesus of Faith’ vs the “Jesus of History” part 5:1 The Passion of Jesus

“Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son may also glorify thee:  ….I have glorified thee on earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do….”

These words are recorded by John (17:2-4) in the New Testament as being Jesus’ final words with his disciples before entering the Garden of Gethsemane. The last eleven words are the most significant: “I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.” These words were uttered by Jesus before he was crucified, which tells us that crucifixion was not necessary to his mission on earth, nor was it part of a divine “plan of salvation,” as Christian dogma teaches. That’s all spin on the part of Catholic theologians and Christianity in general–that Jesus died on the cross to redeem us from the clutches of Satan and to atone for our sins. All spin to create religious power and control over people based on guilt, shame and fear. Jesus’ message was one of forgiveness, compassion and love.

The following excerpt is from Claire Heartsong’s 2002 book, Anna, Grandmother of Jesus–A Message of Wisdom and Love.”  For me these words, though replete with modern spiritualistic concepts and thought, convey the true passion of Jesus as he may have expressed in words of assurance and comfort to his family and disciples. His passion was to reveal the glory of the Father’s love for humanity and for this world, which he accomplished with his life. They also convey the cosmic event of ascension for Mother Earth to a new level of vibration that was underway at the time. The book itself is a remarkable work which I highly recommend to my readers. Jesus’ name is “Yeshua” in the story, as told by Anna herself.

After John ben Zebedee’s group arrived at our designated rendezvous point, we ascended the well-worn path that crossed the Kidron Valley and took us up the Mount of Olives’ southern slopes. We found cloistered shelter within the Garden of Gethsemane’s oldest grove of gnarled olive trees. A cold, desert-borne breeze gently stirred the pungent odor of crushed, dry leaves underfoot. We silently took our places surrounding Yeshua and Mary Magdalene. Mary Anna and Ahmed sat beside me. We softly sang a litany of psalms, intoned Sanskrit mantras and the seventy-two Hebrew names of Father-Mother God, until we rested in a deep abiding calm.

Then Yeshua spoke. “The hour comes for which we have long prepared. You are the chosen ones that my Father-Mother God has given me to hold the Way of the Teacher of Righteousness secure. While the world sleeps you have chosen to be awake, and so it is that we have come together to prepare all things.

“Even with all your knowing and wisdom, more shall be accomplished these next fifty days than you can presently understand. For, I say to you, my Heavenly Father-Mother has established a New Covenant in me and my beloved Mary, that you now know not of, but soon you shall be our witnesses. I testify that what we do shall be imprinted in you, even as the signs of crucifixion imprint my hands, wrists and feet as a testimonial that the old patterns of atoning for guilt through blood sacrifice are to be done away. So shall it be that every cell of your physical body will likewise be imprinted with the universal codes of light and truth that shall surely set you free.”

In the midst of serenading cricket song, Yeshua paused. Our attention turned to embrace the nocturnal sounds of nature around us. Then he crushed an olive leaf between his fingers, and allowed the gentle breeze to send the fragments aloft. Next, my grandson picked up a nearby clod of earth, which crumbled in his hands and slowly sifted through his fingers. Smiling and acknowledging each disciple, he softly whispered, causing us to draw close to him, “Yea, even the least of these, which are of the Mother’s earthly body, will be likewise imprinted with ascending light. No creature hidden in the deepest place will escape the irresistible pull of our cosmic Mother’s love, when She brings all opposites together as divinely harmonious complements in Union. She shall surely bring down the Heavenly Father’s cosmic light in order to give this earthly body a new form. We have come together at this time to assist our cosmic Mother and Father to prepare humanity and Earth for ascension’s bright day, in a season yet to come.

”All of you, whether physically or in your light body, were with me as I lay in the sepulchre of the Great Pyramid of Egypt. I have taken you aside and have given you additional instruction these past six years. Therefore, know that what was placed into your conscious and subconscious knowing is now being opened to you. Now you may release the Old Covenant of our matriarchal and patriarchal ancestors who believed that original sin required blood sacrifice to appease an angry, jealous god and to keep the Earth Mother fertile.

“Likewise, it is you who will usher in the New Testament or New Covenant of the ascending and eternally living Christ who proclaims all life as innocent and in eternal union with its Creator. It is that same Christ living within you, who whispers this irrevocable truth to you day by day. Seek and you shall find. Knock and it shall be opened to you. It is you, my beloved companions, as you are and shall be, in a day that you now know not, who shall join with humanity to unite the highest heavenly realms of our Father with this, our beloved Earth Mother, to birth the Universal Christ into your consciousness.

“If you would enter the kingdom of Heaven on Earth, allow the differences that provide contrast to inspire you. Make the two, one, by joining the inner with the outer and the outer with the inner. Allow your feelings of love to flow, giving and receiving as one. So likewise, make the upper like the lower and the lower like the upper, merging the Heavenly Father and Earthly Mother, male and female, light and darkness into a single One. In this way you shall enter the bridal chamber where the Bridegroom claims you as himself. Then you shall surely enter the kingdom.”

Now Yeshua stood in the center of our intimate circle, lifting Mary Magdalene to stand beside him. With his arm securely around her, he said, “Mary and I shall now go off a short distance to pray and prepare all things. Remain here, watch, and pray also with all your might, mind, and soul. The time is short that we have together. Soon I shall be taken from you. Let not fear overcome you, but do the part that you have long prepared to do. Though what we shall now pass through is indeed the partaking of the bitter appearance of death, humbly replace that illusion with the true sweetness of your Father-Mother’s Will, which is eternal life.

“Remember this.” said Yeshua, his lips trembling. “As the sun is darkened and the Earth Mother quakes, keep your eye single and look into the heaven worlds. There you shall find me and know I have not left you. On the third day, this body shall rise, and you shall see me as I AM. So be it. Amen and Amen.” With these last words of comforting counsel, Yeshua stooped low and tenderly pulled his mother to him, kissing her forehead. Yeshua motioned to Peter, John and James ben Zebedee and his brother, James, and a small number of other close disciples, both male and female, to follow him. They could be seen about fifteen feet away sitting huddled in the shadows of ancient olive trees. Yeshua and Mary Magdalene went off a short distance further, sitting face to face, their cloaked forms barely discernable. We followed the example of the others and knelt on the ground, our bodies quaking with an ever-increasing intensity of energy. For some, the energy became so great that we fell prone upon the ground.

Below our bodies we could feel a low, humming vibration within the Earth that seemed to be rising to the surface from her core. As our consciousness expanded into a greater sense of oneness with the more subtle realms of intelligence that are often unacknowledged but nevertheless are always co-creating with humanity, we became aware of web-like patterns of light enveloping us, uniting with our hearts in profound unity and love. I witnessed legions of angels and ascended beings of this and other worlds providing us with their loving support should we choose to receive it. I was also aware of the ethereal city of light that we called the “New Jerusalem.”

That city of light is none other than the state of “Kingdom-consciousness” I wrote about in my last post. “It is my Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom” were words Jesus is recorded to have spoken to his disciples. That was his passion and purpose for incarnating. It had nothing to do with crucifixion and death. Even so, he took that on, faced it and overcame it by not dying . . . and that will be the subject of my Good Friday post. Until then,

Be love. Be loved.

Anthony

 

The “Jesus of Faith’ vs the “Jesus of History” part 4:2 “Kingdom-Consciousness”

“When you understand yourselves you will be understood …. If you do not know yourselves, then you exist in poverty and you are that poverty.”

This blog series is dedicated to all my Christian brothers and sisters.

Continuing from where we left off in the previous post, I will share further excerpts from Andrew Harvey’s Foreword in The Gospel Of Thomas — Annotated & Explained by Stevan Davies. The author is commenting on this saying by Jesus in the Gospel of Thomas:

“Jesus said: ‘The seeker should not stop until he finds. When he does find, he will be disturbed. After having been disturbed, he will be astonished. Then he will reign over everything.’ “

From his own harrowing experience, Jesus knows that finding cannot be without suffering; to find out the truth and power of your inner divinity is to be “disturbed”: disturbed by the gap between your human shadow and its dark games, the abyss of light within; disturbed by the price that any authentic transformation cannot help but demand; disturbed by the grandeur you are beginning to glimpse of your real royal nature with all its burden of responsibility and solitude.

Jesus knows too, how­ever, that if you risk this disturbance and surrender to the unfolding of your divine nature, extraordinary visions will be awoken in you–visions that will astound you and drag you into what the Sufi mystics call the “kingdom of bewilderment” that “placeless place” where everything you have imagined to be true about yourself or about humanity is rubbed by the splendor of what you discover. And from this increasingly astonishing self-discovery, tremendous powers to influence and transform reality will be born in you. Just as unprecedented energy is unleashed by the splitting of an atom, so through the “splitting” of human identity to reveal the divine identity within it, a huge new transforming power is born, a ruling power, the power that great saints and sages have displayed through gifts of healing, miracles, and undaunted stamina of sacred passion and sacrifice.

The seeker that becomes a finder and ruler makes a leap in evolutionary development from human being, unconscious of the Divine hidden within him or her, to an empowered divine human being, capable in and under the Divine of flooding reality with the glory of the Kingdom. To reveal this secret, live it out, and release it in all its radical power, to make “finders” and rulers of us all, is why the Jesus of the Gospel of Thomas lived and preached and died.

It’s a giant leap from the saying “I’m only human” to “I am divine.” One is left with no excuse for one’s goof-ups and shortcomings. Assuming one’s divine identity does not mean that one will no longer make “mistakes” or experience shortcomings. These are seen as lessons in the school of Life rather than mistakes. One learns and grows from them.

This empowering vision of saying 2 leads naturally, as in the text itself, to the challenge of saying 3:

“Jesus said: If your leaders say to you” Look! The Kingdom is in the sky!” Then the birds will be there before you are. If they say that the Kingdom is in the sea, then the fish will be there before you are. Rather the Kingdom is within you and it is outside of you. When you understand yourselves you will be understood …. If you do not know yourselves, then you exist in poverty and you are that poverty.”

The savage, gorgeous radicalism of this saying should not be under­estimated; Jesus is, consciously and with the most subversive imaginable scorn, mocking all versions of the spiritual journey that place the ultimate experience beyond this world, in some transcendent “otherwhere.” All the patriarchal religions and mystical transmission systems–including those conceived in Jesus’ honor–subtly devalue the immanent in favor of the transcendent. . . .

The Jesus of Thomas is a “mystical revolutionary” who goes against all convention, religious dogmas decreed in his name, and the sociopolitical structures that maintain the status quo.

From what I have said, it should now be clear why in saying 10 Jesus announces, “I have thrown fire on the world. Look! I watch it until it blazes.” The “fire” that Jesus has thrown–and is constantly throwing on the world–is the fire of a revolutionary transcendent and immanent knowledge and love that menaces all the world’s political, social, economic, and religious hierarchies and elite, and all their self-serving justifications for keeping a vicious and unjust set of structures in place. The Jesus of Thomas is not the tender, often ethereal victim, or the suffering servant; he is the most fiery-eyed of revolutionaries, a being who knows he has discovered the nuclear secret of a new, potentially all-transforming power of love-in-action, and he is committed to seeing that its unleashing upon the world and transfiguration of the fire of its truth and laws take place.

In saying 71, he announces cryptically, “I will destroy this house”; scholars have taken him to mean that either he will bring down the Tem­ple with all its elite and hierarchy and business policies throughout a revelation of a direct egalitarian vision of human divinity, or that he is pledged to destroying the House of Herod that is currently “defiling” the house of David. These are entirely too limiting and local interpretations of the enterprise of Jesus. The Jesus of Thomas is not a peacemaker; he is an incendiary of love, a pyromaniac of divine passion, announcing the laws of a transformed world and of the enormous struggles, sacrifices, and sufferings, both internal and external, necessary to engender it.

As he pro­claims in saying 16, “People think, perhaps, that I have come to throw peace upon the world. They don’t know that I have come to throw disagreement upon the world, and fire, and sword, and struggle.”

Jesus has far too mordant an understanding of ruthlessness and cor­ruption not to realize that only divine violence can end human violence­– only a sacred violence of utter abandon to God and utter commitment to transformation can dissolve the human violence that keeps the world sunk in degradation. Not only does Jesus know this, but he faces its necessity and lives it out in the extremity of his own life; he is fully aware that his knowledge of the laws of the birth of the Kingdom threatened all previous human accommodations to the way of the world; after his very first public sermon, the Gospel of Matthew tells us, occasional attempts on his life were made.

Unlike many of the gurus and so-called teachers of our time, whose vague transcendental waffling further drugs an already comatose culture and leaves every aspect of the status quo intact, Jesus’ vision of the new way was rooted not only in visionary ecstasy but in an utterly illusionless and ruthless analysis of power in all of its aspects. This is what made him–and makes him–dangerous, perpetually scandalous, and what makes the Gospel of Thomas a fiery challenge, not only to less incendiary versions of his own message, but to all philosophers who do not propose a complex mystical revolution on every level.

Jesus risked such an almost alienating fervor and uncompromising urgency of address not merely because he understood that the Kingdom could not be birthed by any less absolute passion, but because he knew too, from the majesty and astonishment of his own experience, that empowerment on a scale as yet undreamed of awaited any being radical enough to accept and risk the terms of transformation he was proposing. Anyone who reads the Gospel of Thomas with an open mind and awakened heart will realize that what Jesus was trying to create was not an eth­ical or sociopolitical revolution alone; he was attempting to birth a fully divine human race, a race of beings as radically alive and aware as he was himself.

In saying 108, he makes this clear: “Jesus said: He who drinks from my mouth will become like I am, and I will become he. And the hid­den things will be revealed to him.”

Divinized  Human Beings

It is in saying 13, however, that the fullest vision of how Jesus wished to empower others is given:

“Jesus asked his disciples: Make a comparison; what am I like? Simon Peter replied: You are like a righteous messenger. Matthew replied: You are like an intelligent lover of wisdom. Thomas replied: Teacher, I cannot possibly say what you are like. Jesus said to Thomas: I am not your teacher; you have drunk from and become intoxicated from the bubbling water that I poured out. Jesus took Thomas and they with­drew. Jesus said three things to him. When Thomas returned to the other disciples, they asked him: What did Jesus tell you? Thomas replied: If I tell you even one of the sayings that he told me, you would pick up stones and throw them at me, and fire would come out of those stones and burn you up.”

This is one of the most permanently astonishing of all of the sayings of Thomas, and nothing like it is found in any of the synoptic gospels. What makes saying 13 so clear is that what Jesus most wanted was to set others on fire with the same fire that he himself had ignited with Thomas, so that they, like him, could be divinized. Thomas is the one disciple in the saying who does not have a tidy and dead category through which to express his understanding of Jesus. Thomas has become a “finder” and so is bewildered and astonished: “Teacher, I cannot possi­bly say what you are like.” One last block remains to Thomas’s true understanding of Jesus and who and what he is. Thomas’s own reverence of Jesus as “teacher,” a reverence, however beautiful and justified, that acts as a subtle distancing force from the full outrageousness of the truth. That full outrageousness Jesus proceeds with his usual nakedness to uncover: “I am not your teacher, you have drunk from and become intox­icated from the bubbling water that I have poured out.” Jesus recognizes that Thomas has allowed himself not merely to try to follow him, but has risked everything by getting drunk from the “bubbling water” of divine knowledge and divine passion that Jesus has poured out for him, and in so doing, he has become like Jesus himself, one with him and one with his fiery source.

The next saying is my favorite as it speaks to the state of transmutation of consciousness to the state of Oneness. It also speaks of the Healing Field which holds the patterns of perfect design for the body temple.

“Jesus saw infants being suckled. He said to his disciples: These infants taking milk are like those who enter the Kingdom. His disciples asked him: If we are infants will we enter the Kingdom? Jesus responded: When you make the two into one, and when you make the inside like the outside and the outside like the inside, and the upper like the lower and the lower like the upper, and thus make the male and the female the same, so that the male isn’t male and the female isn’t female. When you make an eye to replace an eye, and a hand to replace a hand, and a foot to replace a foot, and an image to replace an image, then you will enter the Kingdom.”

Imaging is an essential aspect of creativity, as well as healing. One is functioning in the kingdom of heaven when working with one’s consciousness in holding an image of perfection of form. “As above, so below. As below, so above.” The alchemy of holistic healing is what Jesus worked with in his “miracles.”

There are four interlinked truths about saying 22 that I would like to unravel here, for they each illustrate another aspect of Jesus’ vision of “Kingdom-consciousness” and, taken together, provide the fullest guide­line we have to its implementation and power.

First, we see” Kingdom-consciousness” in the child, born from a mar­riage of opposites–of transcendence and immanence, heart and mind, soul and body, masculine and feminine. The freedom and mastery of this Divine Child consciousness transcends all known categories, prepares a wholly new birth in every dimension, and brings the seeker into unity with the One in all its aspects and potential.

Second, we see the agency of this transformation in the motherhood of God, the Divine Feminine. This is quite clear from the image of infants sucking at the breast, through which Jesus is trying to make us aware of how important is the embodied Godhead, the Mother aspect of God, and how important it is to the kind of transformation he wants. Only those who have awoken to the kingdom within and without as the embodied God­head will be able to view life and Creation and all the workings of the uni­verse with the kind of abandon and trust that will allow them to be fed directly by God, with all the powers of vision and action they need. Without a restoration to the Christian mysticism of Jesus’ own full celebration of the Divine Feminine, the “Kingdom-consciousness” cannot and will not be born.

The third truth that saying 22 reveals is the order of the transfor­mations that have to be undergone by every seeker if the” Kingdom­-consciousness” is to be realized. The first recognition–when you make the two into one–describes the first major inner revelation of the divine consciousness, that of the impotence of all dualistic concepts to begin to describe Reality. This is followed by the opening of the heart center
(known as the heart-chakra in Hinduism, Sufism, and Buddhism), which dissolves all distinction of inner and outer in a living vision of all things burning in divine light. This in turn leads to the collapse of all previously useful categories of high and low, sacred and profane, through the reve­llation of presence in all things, events, actions, and possibilities–what in Hinduism and Buddhism is known as the Tantric revelation of Nirvana as Samaras, of the world of appearance as being essentially one with Absolute Reality and saturated at all moments with divinity.

The combination of an experience of all three linked revelations leads to the alchemical fusion within the seeker of masculine and feminine, and so to the mutual trans­formation of the” masculine” powers of will, order, logic, and strength, by the “feminine” powers of compassion, sensitivity, and reverence for all life. That engenders a new kind of being, the Divine Child or Sacred Androgyne who, like the Divine itself, is beyond category and able to use transformed feminine and masculine powers in whatever combination is called for in the actual situation. Such a being” reigns” over reality in the name of and with some of the actual miraculous powers of the Divine itself.

Such passionate words resonate at deep levels in the heart, where spiritual things are spiritually discerned and understood. I will share the fourth interlinked truth in my Easter Sunday post. As we move into the Easter Season, my focus will be on the passion, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus as Michael Baigent presents these events in his book. Until my next post, then,

Be love. Be loved.

Anthony

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The “Jesus of Faith” Vs the “Jesus of History” part 3:1– Initiation and Incubation

“Say, ‘I am a child of Earth and starry Heaven; but my race is of Heaven [alone]’”

I have been sharing a perspective of the eighteen missing years of Jesus’ young adulthood from religious historian Michael Baigent’s book The Jesus Papers – Exposing the Greatest Cover-Up in History. In my last post, we explored a possible scenario that Jesus spent those years in Egypt—possibly living in a community of healers called the Therapeutae. I will continue to share Baigent’s perspective of events in Egypt that Jesus might have know about and even explored experientially.

Pyramids for Soul Travel

The Egyptians saw themselves as keepers of the balance and harmony of our universe. The Pharaoh bore the primary responsibility in this keep and the pyramids were his means of traveling to the Far-World for wisdom from the gods. Michael Baigent gives details of this travel from information gained during several pilgrimages he made to the pyramids in Egypt and other sites of historical interest.

To ALL OF US “PILGRIMS,” it is evident that the Pyramids are more than just the extravagant tombs we have been led to believe they are. Stephen Quirke states bluntly that the Pyramids, along with many other buildings that disintegrated over time, formed part of an ornate complex dedicated to the cult of the pharaoh as a divinity, adding that “they are only secondarily tombs.” The Pyramid of Djoser and other buildings in the complex at Saqqara, he explains, provide “unambiguous evidence” for their ritual use—in this case, for the Sed festival, a great festival held every thirty years or so that aimed to renew the power of the pharaoh.”

The most significant study of the cult of the pharaoh has recently been completed by Dr. Jeremy Naydler and presented in his book Shamanic Wisdom in the Pyramid Texts. He explains that the Sed festival was conducted to allow the pharaoh to bring the physical world and the Far-World into harmony, a balancing that would benefit all of Egypt. The “central rite” of the Sed festival “involved the king crossing the threshold between worlds,” with the aim of bringing himself into a “direct relationship to the normally hidden spiritual powers.” To allow this to happen, during the most secret parts of the ritual ceremony it appears that the king had “an ecstatic visionary experience.” This experience was deliberately induced by those conducting the rites, who well understood the linkage between the two worlds and the importance of the pharaoh as a point of contact between the two.

Naydler is blunt: his conclusion from his study of the Pyramid Texts is that “far from being funerary texts, [these texts] were primarily concerned with mystical experiences of a type similar to those that the living king had during the ‘secret rites’ of the Sed festival, for they can clearly be seen to belong to a genre of archetypal human experiences at the crossing point between this world and the spirit world.”

One of these texts reads: “O king, you have not departed dead, you have departed alive.” Another reads: “I have gone and returned. . . .  I go forth today in the real form of a living spirit.” Yet another text is entitled “Ascending to the sky . . . . and becoming an Akh.”

The Akh is “the shining one,” a “being of light,” and is the root of the word akhet, or “horizon.” It describes the end sought by the Ba: to convert into pure spiritual radiance. In terms of the dead, it reveals that the person after death, following a period when he is free of his body in his Ba [soul] form, eventually ascends to enter a state of transcendence and merges with the radiant Source of all. Stephen Quirke explains that “the akh is the transfigured spirit that has become one with the light.” The word used in the texts for this process is sakhu—meaning “to make [the deceased] an Akh … a being of light.”

As Baigent points out, scholars would dispute this experiential approach to texts and rites and relegate it all to “millennia of imaginative speculation” by priests who may have believed what they were writing but didn’t ascribe to the actual possibility of such occurrences  Naydler nevertheless suggests that the experiences of crossing the threshold of death while yet alive were indeed possible and real. Baigent writes:

IT IS HERE THAT I am reminded again of the unique term “ahket of Khufu” applied to the Great Pyramid of the pharaoh Khufu at Giza, which I referred to at the beginning of the chapter. Could this name, meaning “to blaze, to be radiant,” and indicating the point of entry into the Far-World on the horizon, possibly suggest that the pyramid was the place from which Khufu passed into the Far-World? And the place from which he returned?

With the responsibility of maintaining Ma’at upon him, could it be that Khufu sought answers from the spiritual beings in the realm beyond on how to ensure harmony in this world? And if he did indeed cross the threshold into the kingdom of gods, how did he do it? What specific techniques were known to the Egyptian priests who assisted Khufu and other Egyptians before and after him?

It is quite possible that Jesus himself visited the Great Pyramid of Giza (pronounced jeeza) and went through the ritual by which he initiated the process of revelation of his radiant divinity, which he revealed later on with three of his closest disciples, as the Gospels of Matthew and Mark both record. Jesus apparently crossed over the threshold between heaven and earth and visited with two great beings, Moses and Elias, with whom he had a conversation. He was “transfigured before them: and his face did shine like the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.” (Matt 17:2) How did he do this? And when and where did he initiate this process of transfiguration and revelation of his radiant divinity? Could it have been inside the Great Pyramid of Giza? Was not his mission, like the pharaohs such as Khufu, to bring balance and harmony back to the relationship between heaven and earth? Perhaps to restore harmony and balance between the planet itself and the solar system – or Solar Entity, as I prefer to call it?

Rites of Initiation

Golden plates were found in graves in Thessaly, Greece, that speak of a celebration or ritual “performance by the ‘blessed ones” that took place underground. The “blessed ones” are written about as being  “’The Holy Ones, who understand the mysteries.’ Meaning, it is evident, those who had been initiated.” One plate reads: “O fortunate and blessed one, you are a god, no longer mortal.” Another plate reads: “Say, I am a child of Earth and starry Heaven; But my race is of Heaven [alone]”–advice given to a Far-World traveler to prepare him for any query about who he was.

We cannot avoid it: we are forced to take seriously the idea of initiation in underground chambers, and of initiates sharing with the dead secret rites and knowledge. This is a strange claim for a modern person to take seriously, but we must view the ancients in their own terms: this is how they explained what happens, and there seems to have been little ambiguity or doubt involved. Simply because we find it hard to believe is no reason to think that they misunderstood what was occurring, or worse, that they made it up as part of a “pious fraud.” All the evidence at our disposal leads to the conclusion that those who passed through the initiation ceremonies felt that they had been well served. There are no reports of disgruntled initiates demanding their money back.

Perhaps it is time now to look at how the priests did it—that is, how they helped initiates actually leave their bodies and travel to the Far-World.

Incubation

There was a ritual performed in underground chambers, facilitated by Egyptian priests, called the “initiation,” which included a process of “incubation,” whereby those who wished to cross over to the Far-World and “be introduced to the divine secrets” could do so and return safely. This was performed in underground sanctuaries accessible by way of tunnels. Baigent relates it to an interesting classic story:

These initiates, as they were called, would enter, take the right-hand path—which was always recommended in the ancient texts—and be rowed along an artificial river to reach the inner sanctuary, which served as the doorway or portal into the netherworld they sought and the kingdom of the gods. To return, the initiates could pass back across the river. In the meantime, the alternative tunnel provided the priests of the site direct access to the sanctuary, where they would wait for the initiates to arrive.

It was all rather reminiscent of the visits to the underworld that classical writers had described. They began with accounts of visitors to the infernal regions being rowed across the River Styx by the silent boatman Charon. Then, after entry into the sacred kingdom, the traveler experienced, as Vergil describes it, “places of delight, to green park land, Where souls take ease amid the Blessed Groves.”!

The author actually visited this site and describes in intriguing detail features he personally saw that are found in Vergil’s Aeneid, a scene where Aeneas visits the Sibyl of Cuma and asks for directions to the underworld. Vergil’s story turns out to be more fact than fiction. Homer also wrote stories about crossing over to the underworld:

THE VERY NOTION of crossing to the realm of the dead has had a long tradition in the Greek world. The earliest report of such a journey appears in the famous book XI of Homer’s great epic The Odyssey. Odysseus, on his complicated journey back to his home after the battles of Troy, is required by a witch, Circe, to descend into Hades, where Persephone is queen, in order to seek advice from the soul of a famous but dead Theban.

As I read Baigent’s description of what was called “incubation,” it sounded very much like what we know and practice today as meditation or contemplation — or even what today is known as a “sweat lodge.”  Only this ritual was performed by priests who knew the techniques and how to administer them. The question I am interested in having answered is whether or not Jesus had a personal experience of incubation during his sojourn in Egypt—perhaps as a preparation for his three-days in the sepulcher between his alleged crucifixion and his celebrated resurrection. Baigent alludes to this possibility but leaves us to our own conclusions and speculations.

THESE MATTERS MAY seem far too arcane to have any relevance whatsoever to our story, which, after all, concerns Jesus and the source of his teachings. Yet Jesus, as we shall soon see, also took an experiential approach to his mysticism. Could men like Parmenides have transmitted ideas to the classical world of the time of Jesus? Could they have added to the fertile mix of techniques that found a center in the great city of Alexandria and a Jewish expression in the Pythagorean-influenced group of Therapeutae whom Philo described living in a community outside the city?

Practice of Dying – Near Death Experiences?

Out of body experience

Plato explains through the words of Socrates that those who are involved in following philosophy correctly “‘are practicing nothing other than dying and being dead…truly, then, those who practice philosophy aright are cultivating dying.’” The only difference is that one returns to this world. It sounds very similar to a Near Death Experience.

At the point of death, Themistius informs us, “[the soul] has the same experience as those who are being initiated into great mysteries.”

This definitive assertion can be taken as a true expression of one who had himself been through the great mysteries. This is not just an intellectual belief but something learned from participating in such a journey to the Far-World.

Themistius continues:

At first one wanders and wearily hurries to and fro, and journeys with suspicion through the dark as one uninitiated: then come all the terrors before the final initiation, shuddering, trembling, sweating, amazement: then one is struck with a marvelous light, one is received into pure regions and meadows, with voices and dances and the majesty of holy sounds and shapes: among these he who has fulfilled initiation wanders free, and released and bearing his crown joins in the divine communion, and consorts with pure and holy men.

The Healer-Priests

In 1958 evidence was uncovered among the ruins of the ancient city of Velia in Italy of healer-priests of Apollo who survived the fall of that city. One of these was the Presocratic philosopher Parmenides. The date 446 A.D. was the latest date inscribed on the stone base of a destroyed statue, indicating a time somewhere around the beginning of the Christian period. Baigent describes their ritual practice:

These healer-priests were important: one of their titles was Pholarchos—“Lord of the Lair.” This is revealing, as these priests were specialists in an initiatory technique once well known in the ancient world as the technique of incubation.

In antiquity the best way of actually making contact with divinities of the underworld was through the practice of “incubation”—of awaiting a dream or vision while sleeping, as a rule, either on or even inside the earth.”

The ritual practice of incubation involves lying down in complete stillness and silence in an underground room, or perhaps a cave, in order to have a prophetic dream or to fall into a state of consciousness that is neither waking nor sleeping. It was here in the enclosed dark spaces that the seekers might have experienced passing across to the Far-world, where they could receive a vision from the Divine, the Source of all. The god of incubation was Apollo.”

. . . . The sacred journey was undertaken for healing or for a revelatory experience. These healer-priests of Apollo were experts in incubation and, as Kingsley explains, “used incantations to enter other states of consciousness.”

We can see here that the practices of ancient Greece, using such sites as found at Baia or the deep caves or underground sites that must have existed in Velia, were not so different from the uses made of the crypts beneath the temples in ancient Egypt. Such dark secluded places were chosen by seekers who, after dutiful preparation and appropriate ritual and incantation, lay in the stillness and entered another state of consciousness. We are left with little alternative but to seriously consider that they did indeed leave their bodies in their Ba form (according to the Egyptians) or in their psyche, or soul (according to the Greeks), and travel to the Far-World.

We can also see that by the time of Jesus the two traditions were drawing ever closer together. In fact, during the Greek and Roman domination of their country, the Egyptians despaired of their secrets surviving; the first-or second-century A.D. Hermetic text the Asclepius laments:

“A time will come when it will appear that the Egyptians paid respect to divinity with faithful mind and painstaking reverence to no purpose. All their holy worship will be disappointed and perish without effect, for divinity will return from earth to heaven, and Egypt will be abandoned…. When foreigners occupy the land … a prohibition under penalty prescribed by law (so-called) will be enacted against reverence, fidelity and divine worship. Then this most holy land, seat of shrines and temples, will be filled completely with tombs and corpses…. Only words cut in stone will survive to tell your faithful works.”

And so did it come to pass: Egypt became a land of darkness and stone-engraved mystery simultaneously with the rise of Christianity.  This ended the “First Sacred School” initiated by Abraham and cleared the way for the “Second Sacred School” initiated by Jesus.  I will leave it there for now. Until my next posts then,

Be love. Be loved

Anthony

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The “Jesus of History” . . . . Vs The “Jesus of Faith” . . . . Part 2: The “Missing years”

My Chorale Pic

Eighteen years of Jesus’ life are not accounted for in the four Canonical Gospels. The last we hear of his early childhood is the alleged story about him debating with the chief priests and elders in the Temple of Jerusalem at the age of twelve. Where he went after that is a question that has given rise to much scholarly speculation.

Religious historian Michael Baigent has a very intriguing chapter on the missing years of Jesus’ life in his book The Jesus Papers – Exposing the Greatest Cover-Up in History. Digging deeply and tenaciously into whatever ancient texts and oral traditions he could find—the most resourceful being those of the Dead Sea Scrolls, written by the Jewish Zadokites and Zealots in Egypt, where they were found around 1947-56, and the Nag Hammadi texts discovered south of Cairo in Egypt in 1945—Baigent places Jesus in Egypt where he receives his messianic training in the Egyptian Mystery Schools.

It is in Egypt, Baigent suggests, where Jesus received training in the ancient rituals of Egyptian mysticism that opened heaven’s gate for passage into the Underworld—the “land of the dead,” which was thought more to be the “land of the living”—and re-entry into the physical plane.  Bagent suggests that Jesus was initiated into these mysteries whereby, with the assistance of fellow initiates who attended to the physical body during the soul’s out-of-body journey, one could die to this world, visit the realm of the gods and obtain wisdom, then be resurrected from the “dead.” Not entirely without historical support for his scenario, Baigent’s speculation is quite conceivable and compelling, especially knowing what we know today about “near death experiences” (NDE’s). Was Jesus’ crucifixion, death and resurrection akin somehow to an NDE? Let’s have a look and decide for ourselves whether or not Baigent’s scenario is in the least bit credible, perhaps even likely.

(This is a dense and complex consideration with many political and religious threads weaving through the fabric of the story. I will attempt to condense it into two or three installments. Encompassing the larger part of Jesus’ thirty-three years of life as recorded by the four Gospel writers, it is perhaps the most crucial and important period, as it was his formative years of preparation for the three-and-a-half years of his public ministry, which ended in his personal victory over death—which was the sole interest of the Gospel writers, though not the sole reason and purpose for Jesus’ life and mission, as we will see.)

Where did Jesus live as a young man?

According to three of the four Canonical Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke), Jesus was living in the town of Nazareth in Galilee in his youth. Luke says that Jesus grew up there and that he went with his family every year to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. It was on one of those occasions that he was found debating with the learned scholars in the Temple. “Unfortunately,” Baigent writes, “there is no evidence whatsoever that Nazareth even existed in Jesus’ day.” Then, as is his style when he comes upon an inconsistency such as this, Baigent’s critical thinking and suspicions kick in. I love the manner in which he goes about questioning everything handed down as history. Here’s a taste of his reasoning and compelling writing:

The first mention of it appears no earlier than the third century A.D. Could this mention of an exchange at the Temple have been placed here as some kind of cover story for a period in Jesus’ life that was otherwise unaccounted for?

As far as the Gospels were concerned, Jesus appears to have vanished during his youth and early adulthood. But it was during those years that he learned the ideas, the beliefs, and the knowledge that he later taught. So where exactly was he? And why have his whereabouts been kept hidden? Had he been “talent-scouted” by priests or rabbis and whisked away for almost two decades of secret training? Surely the disciples must have known where Jesus had been. But what could have possibly been at stake, what problem could have arisen, through sharing this information? In fact, we cannot avoid asking, what were the writers of the Gospels intent on concealing?

Scholars over the years have speculated about this gap in the account of Jesus’ life. Some believe that Jesus traveled with his family to the East,

“far beyond the jurisdiction of the Romans, to Parthia, Persia, or beyond, to Afghanistan, or India. Even today there are many who believe that the shrine of Yus Asaph in Kashmir is that of Jesus himself who, after surviving the crucifixion, returned home to the East to live and ultimately die. There are also suggestions that he studied as a child under Buddhists—this would explain, it is said, the parallels that can be found between the teachings of Jesus and those of the Buddha. And we have the very early Christian community, centered in Malabar on the west coast of India, which claims to have been founded by the apostle Thomas. Surely where Thomas went then so too could Jesus have gone?

Is it possible that the Great Spirit who incarnated in Jesus is the same Divine Being who was also incarnate in the Buddha some six-hundred years earlier in Nepal, India?  Well, that’s getting a little ahead of the current story. There was no reason for Jesus to have fled Roman jurisdiction as he was not involved in the Zealot’s revolutionary activities against the Romans. Baigent reasons:

Any move he made out of Judea or Galilee must have been by choice rather than by coercion. But where could he have ventured, and why?

There is a single clue in the Bible, one in the Old Testament that is echoed in the New. As we have seen, it was important for Jesus to follow, to act out quite specifically, the predictions made by the Old Testament prophets in describing the coming of the messiah. We have already seen the very literal expression of these predictions during Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem when he finally went public with his messianic claims. We can therefore be confident in expecting that every messianic prediction in the Old Testament would be pressed into use in this manner.

In a real sense these predictions by the Prophets limited Jesus. They provided a set of boundaries within which his messianic mission needed to express itself. A particularly interesting prediction was given by the prophet Hosea (II:I): “When Israel was a child I loved him, and I called my son out of Egypt” (emphasis mine). Matthew (2:I5) picks up on this in one of the earliest prophetic predictions he mentions: in a garbled historical account, he records that the Holy Family fled into Egypt when Jesus was still a baby, explaining, “This was to fulfill what the Lord has spoken through the prophet: ‘I called my son out of Egypt.'”

I’ve learned that anywhere in the New Testament when these words “This was to fulfill . . .” are used to preface a Biblical event, one can be sure that what follows is a rationalization by the author(s)inserted into the text in order to connect the event with words of prophecy from the Old Testament. It’s like doing research in order to find something that backs up or proves one’s preconceived conclusion or beliefs.

Why Egypt?

AT THIS POINT, we cannot help but ask, why Egypt? This is a minor detail in Matthew’s Gospel and is treated as such in the Roman Church. But for the Egyptian Coptic Church, which separated from Rome in 451 following the Council of Chalcedon, it is a matter of considerable importance indeed. For almost a thousand years it has maintained a legend about the journey the Holy Family made into Egypt, all the sites they visited or resided at, and all the miracles that accompanied the presence of Jesus. This legend is called “The Vision of Theophilus.” Theophilus was patriarch of Alexandria and leader of the Egyptian church from A.D. 385 to 4I2, but the Vision seems not to have been written down until the eleventh or twelfth century

Given the highly devotional nature of the story and the very obvious use made of it to justify Jesus’ uniqueness and divinity, we can locate its theology far beyond the beliefs of the Jewish community in Egypt—the community that would have been giving refuge to Jesus’ family. What’s more, these same factors place the origins of the theology in an era following the dogmatic decisions of the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325. It seems fairly evident that the Vision—at the very least—is a product of Christian thought in the fourth century A.D. or later, and certainly not of Judaism or Judeo-Christianity. It therefore cannot be an accurate account of any such journey, although it may very well contain some elements of a real journey. Thus, we need to ask, whom does the story serve? Who would have benefited from its telling?

No one would have benefited more than the author of the Gospel of Matthew himself, as it added credibility to his Gospel. For less obvious reasons, the Coptic Church in Egypt would have benefited by the story of the Holy Family’s travels to the East. “The Coptic Church has been at odds with Rome for over six-hundred years, and its faith was at least tolerated by the Muslim rulers.” There appear to be political and economic factors influencing Mathew’s scenario.

If the Gospel of Matthew is given greater credence, then it stands to reason that various Egyptian holy places within the story would also be validated, thereby opening up a whole new pilgrim route that would include Egypt. With pilgrims, of course, came trade and gold.

Despite its deficiencies, the tale gives every appearance of picking up on local oral tradition or legend. And local legend is dismissed at one’s own peril, for local memories are long. There has certainly been a very ancient and widespread Jewish presence in Egypt—extensive enough to justify the story’s telling well into Islamic times.

There was a legitimate and functioning—although controversial—Jewish Temple in Egypt during the lifetime of Jesus. It was founded by the Zadokite high priest, Onias III, who built it upon the ruins of an old Bubastis temple in the Egyptian delta on the same design as the Temple of Jerusalem.

Onias III, a Zadokite priest, was forced to flee Israel to Egypt when Jerusalem was attacked by the Syrian ruler, Antiochus Epiphane in 170 B.C., and the Temple in Jerusalem was taken over by non-Zadokite priests allied with Epiphane. The Onias Temple with its Zadokite priest became the only legitimate Jewish Temple in the region. That is until his son, Onias IV, a military commander in the Egyptian army and a non-Zadokite priest, succeeded his father as high priest. This made the Onias Temple in Egypt illegitimate, a diminishing of status by Josephus that was used as his rationale for excluding it from serious academic consideration, by Josephus himself as well as by Philo of Alexandria—both of whom had friends in high places in Israel to placate; friends in the upper class wealthy Jewish sector as well as in the ruling class. Both groups wanted to put distance between them and the Zadokites and the Zealots associated with the Onias Temple in Egypt as well as the Temple in Jerusalem.

The Onias Temple was on the road that Jesus and his parents would have traveled from Judea to the city of Heliopolis in Egypt in order to avoid the strongly-influenced Jewish communities in Alexandria and Naucratis to the west. They would then have traveled south along this road that passed by Onias’ temple, where they would most likely have stopped and settled. Baigent reasons:

And it is highly unlikely that Jesus and his family, raised in a Zealot environment, one that hoped and prayed for a reinstatement of a Zadokite priesthood in the Temple of Jerusalem, would have just passed by this Egyptian Jewish temple. All of these observations lead naturally to the thought that the Temple of Onias served as the initial training site of Jesus. It was here perhaps that he received his introduction into the politically active world of the Zealots.

In a sense, we can see the temple as an overseas branch of Galilee where Greek-speaking Zealots could learn their trade. It would have also been a good place for Jesus’ family to bring him so that he could learn what it would mean to be the Messiah of Israel, for all the texts and commentaries on the role of the messiah would have been available there. So we do now have a good reason for the Holy Family to have traveled to Egypt, and a reason for Matthew’s brief comment, disguised as a flight from the dangers posed by Herodian infanticide. In fact, it would seem not to have been a flight at all but rather a positive action undertaken in order to allow Jesus to grow, to study, and to teach away from the troubles in Judaea and Galilee.

Despite his training in the Zealot cause, Jesus, as we have seen, at some point secretly took another path – one revealed only after he had been anointed as messiah [by Mary of Bethany, who was also Mary Magdalene, Jesus’ wife and companion], when it was far too late for anybody to challenge him. That path was a more mystical path. Yet where in the Jewish world of Egypt could he have learned such a path? For the answer to this question, we need to look at one of the mystical groups of the time, one described by Philo of Alexandria.

In my next post I will consider the Therapeutae healers in Egypt with whom Jesus may have studied and developed his own gift of healing. I will also consider a most enlightening chapter of Baigent’s book that tells about the mysticism of Egypt and the rituals of initiation into the Mystery School and what was called “incubation,” a most interesting and exciting consideration that may shed light on what really happened on Good Friday and Easter Sunday. So, stay tuned.

Anthony Palombo

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“The Jesus Papers”

My Chorale Pic

“Jars of spring water are not enough anymore. Take us down to the river.”             — Persian Sufi Jelaluddin Rumi

I spent seven years as a young aspirant to the Roman Catholic priesthood and not one class in all those years of seminary training was dedicated to the study of the corrupt political history of the Roman Catholic Church. We were never told the whole truth about the bloody history of Christianity either. Alleged heretics and witches, we were taught, were evil and had to be burned at the stake. Funny how that bit of history didn’t engender fear in us of the Catholic Church and the Pope. But, that was then and things are different today. Or are they? If you don’t get burned at the stake here you spend eternity burning in hell if you dare apostatize yourself and sin against the Church. But first you are excommunicated and barred from receiving the sacraments. It’s still governance by fear, isn’t it?

Now, do not pity me . . . nor judge me too harshly as I pursue this line of inquiry into the mythical story of Christmas and of the life, death and resurrection of the man Jesus, which form the corner stone dogmas of Christianity. I do so out of a deep and abiding love for truth and a compassionate love for my fellowman. I do not like being lied to. I don’t think anybody does. Please forgive me if I step on your beliefs. I don’t mean to cause anyone insult or injury. I do believe, however, that if we do not remember our past, we are likely to repeat it. Perhaps we are repeating it in the Middle East.

A reader made this comment on my last post entitled “Transcending the Christmas Myth”:

“I think it all might help if it leads towards knowing the truth; otherwise it’s just history of the gods and goddesses made in the image and likeness of mankind. These fear-generations would be well left behind with last year’s resolutions.”

To which I replied:

As you continue reading this series of posts, I think you will see that the truth is exactly what I am leading toward. When we know the truth we are freed up from our illusions created by myths. Knowing the truth about Jesus’s life would disturb a lot of people. In the Gospel of Thomas, one of the findings of the Nag Hammadi discoveries, Jesus is recorded as having said “The seeker should not stop until he finds. When he does find, he will be disturbed. After having been disturbed, he will be astonished. Then he will reign over everything.” It is not fear that is generated by knowing the truth about how our beliefs came to be formed by pagan myths of gods made in the images of man. The God of today is still being made in the image of man. Nothing has changed. We need to be “disturbed” out of our illusions. Then we will reign over everything as promised.

Since this interchange, I’ve given some critical thought to what we both acknowledged: that both ancient and contemporary gods are made – fashioned in human consciousness and beliefs – in the image and after the likeness of humans. We project our human attitudes and characteristics on our God: He is jealous, He is vengeful, He is angry, He is loving, He is forgiving, He is a man, as opposed to being a woman, He punishes us when we’re bad and rewards us when we’re good. All human attributes and characteristics.

Now, the suggestion that my post generates fear aroused in me a curiosity about how many of my readers felt fearful reading my post. Even more curious am I about how many Christians really care about the history of Christianity – or of Christmas, for that matter. Probably not very many. Most are content with their beliefs, especially their religious ones. Alas, does it really matter what happened in the far distant past? What really matters is what we are doing now to created a more authentic and kind world, a world founded on truth rather than beliefs.

Over the years I’ve come to understand that it is easier to take candy away from a child than it is to take away a person’s beliefs. I was glad to let go of mine when a friend came along and provided me a worthy and believable alternative: the truth: that God is to be known and experienced and not just believed in. We human beings seem to love our beliefs more than we love the truth.

I wonder, dear reader, if you will allow me space here, without judgment, to explore some information that has come into my hands pertaining to the apparent fabricated “Jesus of Faith” and the factual “Jesus of history” – to the extent that authentic facts are available for exploration . . and fortunately they seem to be. Several books have recently been written by authors who have done the research and explored the historical evidence that what has been handed down to us by our ancestral religious “authorities” has been less than accurate and truthful. In fact, according to one author, it has largely been a pack of fabricated lies designed to manipulate and literally frighten the “faithful” into obedient subjection. And that’s putting it mildly – not intending to offend anyone. (I do intend to provide a worthy and believable alternative as I complete this series of posts. So, bear with me as we move forward.)

The Jesus Papers – Exposing the Greatest Cover-Up in History by Michael Baigent is one such book – whose subtitle speaks for the theme of the book and the intent of its author. I’m reading it for the second time with highlighter in hand, simply because there are just so many provocative findings in his exhaustive research into historical records – pivotal of which are what he calls “the Jesus papers” that contain letters written to the Sanhedrin by Jesus himself in defense of accusations leveled against him regarding his alleged claim to being divine. Jesus’s answer in strikingly clarifying as to who he was. Here’s the excerpt from Baigent’s book that tells the story of this dogma-shattering historical find:

This figure, the Messiah of the Children of Israel, was defending himself against charges made by the Sanhedrin – he had obviously been accused of calling himself “son of God” and had been challenged to defend himself against this charge. In the first letter, the messiah explained that what he meant was not that he was “God” but that the “Spirit of God” was in him – not that he was physically the son of God, but rather that he was spiritually an adopted son of God. And he added that everyone who felt similarly filled with the “spirit” was also a “son of God.”

The letters referred to here are two papyrus documents found in 1961 that also contained an Aramaic text, along with other objects, that dated the finds at about A.D. 34, which was just after the alleged crucifixion of Jesus. (I will address his “alleged” crucifixion in another post.) The papyrus texts were two letters, written in the Aramaic language that Jesus spoke, addressed to the Jewish court, the Sanhedrin. The writer of the letters called himself “‘bani meshiha’ – the Messiah of the Children of Israel.” The author continues:

In other words, the messiah – who must be the teacher we know as Jesus – explicitly states in these letters that he is not divine – or at any rate, no more than anyone else. This, we can be sure, is some­thing the Vatican would not like to be made public.

While listening to this story, I was struck by the similarity with a very curious incident described in the Gospel of John (10:33-35): in a short passage, it describes the “Jews” as being intent upon stoning Jesus for blasphemy. They hurl an accusation at him, saying, “You are only a man and you claim to be God.” Jesus calmly answers their chall­enge, quoting from Psalm 82: “Is it not written in your Law: ‘I said, you are gods?’ So the Law uses the word gods of those to whom the word of God was addressed.” Is this Gospel reporting some garbled residue of this investigation of the meshiha by the Sanhedrin?

Having discovered these two papyrus letters, my friend showed them to the archaeologists Yigael Yadin and Nahman Avigad and asked their opinion of them. They both confirmed that these letters were genuine and important.

Unfortunately, they also told some Catholic scholars – very likely one or another of the members of the Ecole Biblique, consultants to the Pontifical Biblical Commission – for word reached Pope John XXIII. The pope sent word back to the Israeli experts asking for these docu­ments to be destroyed.

My friend refused to do this, but he was prepared to make a promise that they would not be published for twenty-five years. This was done.

At the time I met him the twenty-five years were long expired, but my friend still refused to release the texts because he felt that releasing them would just cause problems between the Vatican and Israel and inflame anti-Semitism.

In this age of spiritual awakening, these findings should not – and probably do not – shock anyone. I rather suspect that most Christians, and certainly most Catholics, entertain secret doubts about the veracity of church dogmas and their blind faith in them. I do not deny the divinity of Jesus, nor our own divinity as sons and daughters of God – made in the image and likeness of our Divine Creator. I believe that Jesus was a very authentic human being who knew who he was and why he came. He came to bring love back into the hearts of human beings and to restore the connection between Man and our Creator, the Father within. He came to turn people around – the literal meaning of the word “repent” – so that they would see that the Kingdom of Heaven is truly at hand, within us and all around us.

But who factually was Jesus according to historical records? This I will explore in my next post. So, stay tuned. I wish you each one a happy, healthy and prosperous 2017.

Anthony Palombo

Read my HealthLight Newsletter online at LiftingTones.com.

 

 

 

 

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