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By ROBERT MOSS—
I have known since I was a very small boy in Australia that there are worlds beyond physical reality, and that we can journey to those worlds and gain first-hand knowledge of the multidimensional universe and about what actually happens after death.
When I was nine years old, I was woken up to these possibilities during a crisis of illness. I was rushed to hospital in Melbourne after complaining of a pain in my lower right abdomen. The medical staff found that my appendix was about to burst and I was wheeled into an operating room in short order for an emergency appendectomy.
Under anesthesia on the operating table, I found myself hovering above my body, somewhere up near the ceiling. I decided I didn’t want to watch the bloody work with the scalpel and flowed through the door and along the corridor to where my mother sat hunched and weeping. I couldn’t stand her pain, so I drifted off to a window, to the brightness outside, to the colours of spring and the laughter of young lovers seated at a sidewalk table, drinking each other’s smiles. I felt the pull of the ocean. I could not see the beach from the hospital window, so I floated through the glass and out onto a ledge where a blackbird squalled at me and shot straight up into the air. I followed the bird and sailed over the rooftops.
I saw a huge moon-round face, its mouth opened wide to form the gateway to Luna Park. I swooped down through the moon-gate – and plunged into darkness. I tried to reverse direction, but something sucked me downwards. It was like tumbling down a mineshaft, mile after mile beneath the surface of the earth.
I fell into a different world. It was hard to make out anything clearly in the smoke of a huge fire pit. A giant with skin the colour of fine white ash lifted me high above the ground, singing. The people of this world welcomed me. They were tall and elongated and very pale, and did not look like anyone I had seen in my nine years in the surface world. They told me they had dreamed my coming, and raised me as their own. For the greater part of my schooling, I was required to dream – to dream alone, in an incubation cave, or to dream with others, lying in a cartwheel around the banked ashes of the fire in the council house.
Years passed. As I grew older, my recollection of my life in the surface world faded and flickered out. I became a father and grandfather, a teacher and elder. When my body was played out, the people placed it on a funeral pyre. As the smoke rose from the pyre, I travelled with it, looking for the path among the stars where the fires of the galaxies flow together like milk.
As I spiralled upward, I seemed to burst through the Earth’s crust into a world of hot asphalt and cars and trams – and found myself shooting back into the body of a nine-year-old boy in a Melbourne hospital bed.
It was a little hard to discuss these experiences with the adults around me at that time, and we did not yet have Raymond Moody’s useful phrase “near-death experience” to describe an episode of this kind. One of the doctors said simply, “Robert died and came back” – with memories that made me quite certain of the existence of worlds beyond the obvious one, and of the fact that consciousness survives physical death.
There is great contemporary interest in the NDE in Western society, and this is a very healthy thing, because to know about the afterlife, we require first-hand experience, and need to be ready to update our geographies and itineraries frequently in the light of the latest reliable travel reports. In ancient and traditional cultures where there is a real practice of dying, near-death experiencers – who may be called shamans or initiates – have always been heard with the deepest attention and respect.
There is a Tibetan name for such a person, delog, pronounced “day-loak”. It means someone who has gone beyond death and returned. The famous Tibetan Book of the Dead, with its detailed account of the possible transits of spirit after death, emerged from the experiences of such travellers.
But to have first-hand knowledge of what lies beyond death, we do not have to go through the physical extremity of an NDE. We can learn through our dreams, the dreams in which we receive visitations from departed loved ones and others who are at home on the Other Side, and the dreams in which we travel beyond the body and into their realms.
Our dreams open portals into the multidimensional universe, including the places we may travel after physical death. As we become active dreamers, we come to realise that dreaming is not so much about sleeping as about waking up – to a deeper reality and a deeper meaning in life, and death.
The Departed are Dreaming with Us
One of my driving purposes in writing The Dreamer’s Book of the Dead was to help some of the many people in our society who are hungry for confirmation that communication with the departed is not “weird” or “unnatural”, let alone impossible, and that it is possible to extend love and forgiveness and healing across the apparent barrier of death. We encounter our departed, especially in dreams, because they are still around (sometimes because they have unfinished business or are not actually aware they are dead); or because they come visiting; or because we travel, in dreams or visions, into astral realms where the departed are entirely at home.
It’s not just that we dream of the dead; our departed are dreaming of us, and trying to reach us through dreams. Sometimes our departed return as counsellors or “family angels”, as my father returned to me, many times, in the year after his death in Australia in 1987, with loving messages and practical guidance for the family. Sometimes our departed need us to play guides, because they are confused or stuck between the worlds, clinging to old appetites and attachments – which can be extremely unhealthy for the living, who may pick up the feelings and addictions and even the past physical symptoms of the dead.
One of the cruelest things that mainstream Western culture has done is to suggest that communication with the departed is either impossible or unnatural. There is nothing spooky or “supernatural” involved, though these experiences take us into realms beyond physical reality. It is especially easy to meet our departed in dreams (if we are willing to listen to our dreams) for three reasons:
Our Departed are Still With Us
Quite frequently dreams reveal that the departed are present because, quite simply, they never left. The departed may linger because they have unfinished business, or wish to act as guide and protector to the family, or are attached to people and places they loved in waking life, and this may be a perfectly happy situation for a year or two.
But there comes a time when our departed need to move on, for their own growth, and so they do not become a psychic burden to the living. Because our society does a poor job in preparing people for the afterlife, many people who have passed on do not know they are dead, and hover in a limbo close to familiar people and places on this Earth. After death, we continue to be driven by our ruling interests, appetites and addictions. Some of those who have died but not truly “passed on” continue to try to feed their cravings via the living. When the departed remain earthbound, the effects are unhealthy both for those who have died and those among the living to whom they are connected. When the dead are enmeshed with the living, the result is mutual confusion, loss of energy, and the transfer of addictions, obsessions and even physical ailments from the departed to the person whose energy field he or she is sharing.
Helping the departed may involve a loving dialogue, a simple ritual of honouring and farewell, and invoking spiritual helpers. As we become active dreamers, familiar with the geography of the afterlife, we may find we are called on to provide personal escort services and help to instruct some of our departed on their options on the other side. William Butler Yeats noted, with a poet’s insight, that “the living can assist the imaginations of the dead.”
Our Departed Come Calling
Most people who remember dreams can recall one in which someone on the other side made a phone call, sent a letter, or simply turned up at the door or the bedside. Our departed return to us in dreams for all the reasons they might have called on us in physical life – including the simple desire to tell us how they are doing and see how we are coping – and for larger reasons: to bring emotional healing, to bring us helpful information, to instruct us on life beyond death and the reality of worlds beyond the physical.
Our departed may come visiting to offer or receive forgiveness. They may come to show us how they are doing on the other side.
Our departed can be excellent psychic advisers when they achieve clarity on the other side and are aware that they are not confined to the rules of space and time.
Our departed may come as health advisors and family counsellors. My friend Wanda Burch had received many dreams containing possible health advisories, but was finally driven to seek medical attention when her deceased father turned up in her dreams in a doctor’s white coat and yelled at her, “You have breast cancer!” Her father’s dream intervention helped put her on the path of healing and recovery.
Our departed may visit us in dreams to help us prepare for our own deaths and reassure us that we have friends on the other side.
In Dreams, We Travel to Realms of the Departed
In our dreams, we are released from the laws of physical reality, and travel into other dimensions, including environments where the departed may be living. Through dreams of this kind, we can begin to develop a personal geography of the afterlife, which will be vastly enriched when we learn the art of conscious dream travel, which is at the heart of my own teaching and practice.
In my workshops, I often invite participants to focus on a dream or memory of a departed person and make it their intention to journey – with the help of shamanic drumming – to seek timely and helpful communication with that person and to learn about the environment where that person is now living. From these journeys, we have collected multifarious and fascinating details of reception centres, transition zones, places of recovery and further education and communications arrangements on the other side. We have learned that more than one vehicle of soul survives physical death, and each has a different destiny. We have explored many afterlife locales shaped by human imaginations and collective belief systems.
Dreaming is the Best Preparation for Dying
A second reason I wrote The Dreamer’s Book of the Dead is that I believe that dreaming is the best preparation for dying, and that through dreams we can gain first-hand knowledge of the transitions of spirit after death. Active dreamers have no doubt there is life after death. We become familiar with many alternative neighbourhoods and transition zones on the Other Side. We may develop the understanding – again through direct experience – that consciousness survives the body in more than one energy body, and that different vehicles of consciousness have different fates.
By helping someone who is approaching death to open to their dreams, we help them to find their way home, and approach the last stage of physical life with greater courage and clarity, as a time of growth and awakening.
All we need do, to begin with, is to suggest to the dying person that if he or she happens to remember a dream, we would love to hear it, and to cherish the moment of sharing.
Open a safe space for dreaming, and beautiful things can happen. Katy’s octogenarian father Ed moved into hospice care after a debilitating series of strokes. His doctors thought he would probably succumb to kidney failure within a month. In fact, he survived for another six months, a time of deepening pain and frustration over the failures of the flesh that was nonetheless a period of immense learning and high adventure thanks to his discovery of dreaming. In each of her frequent visits, Katy gently encouraged him to share any dreams he remembered.
As dream sharing became daily practice for Katy’s father, many varied gifts came through. Some of his dreams rehearsed him for physical adjustments he needed to make as his body declined, easing these passages for a proud and once strong man. Dreams of broken plumbing and laying pipes, for example, prepared Ed for the catheterization that was eventually required.
In an intriguing series of dreams, he was excited to find himself doing new work and feeling really good about it – an unlikely scenario, in ordinary reality, for a sick man in his 80s. In one of these dreams, he was working on an “angel machine.” When Katy asked him what that was, he explained, “I’m supposed to comb out the feathers on the angel wings” and giggled like a happy child, full of wonder.
Towards the end, Katy’s father often slipped into waking dreams, moving between the worlds with increasing fluency, learning the art of re-entering a sleep dream to gather more insight and energy effortlessly, without any formal instruction.
One of his big dreams seemed to promise a happy landing on the other side and opened a fascinating personal locale in the possible afterlife. He dreamed that on a day of heavy snow, he attended a magnificent banquet in a beautiful mansion. Everyone was dressed to the nines, and an elegant, distinguished man wearing an ambassador’s sash with his dinner jacket showed Ed around and poured him a delicious drink “like white champagne” but beyond anything available in ordinary reality. Delighted by his welcome, Katy’s father had the feeling he would be going back to the mansion of the dream ambassador. On the day he passed, it was snowing heavily for the first time in months, as in the dream.
Through their days and nights of dream sharing, father and daughter deepened their loving connection. Katy confirmed and validated her father’s experiences as he opened to realities beyond the physical, an inspiring example of how we can help each other on the roads of dying (and living). Katy believes that dreaming provided her father with a vehicle in which he could travel to the other side. “He was fearful of leaving this life that he loved so much, but with the dreaming he grasped that perhaps there really is a life ‘over there’ that is just as much fun.” His fear of death gave way to a willingness to let go.
The story of Ed’s dreaming does not end with his passing. Within days, he started turning up in the dreams of his loved ones. He appeared to the one family member who had not been able to visit him in the hospice, sat with her under a tree for what seemed like hours, and made her laugh. He returned Katy’s visits in the dreamtime. In Katy’s dreams, he often appeared doing things (like skiing) that he had failed to do, or to master, in the life he had left.
This moving episode confirms the wisdom of the Lakota Indian saying that “the path of the soul after death is the same as the path of the soul in dreams.” This is why dreaming is the best preparation for dying.
The Poet as Guide to the Other Side
I had another reason for undertaking The Dreamer’s Book of the Death. I have noticed that most of us tend to live with more courage and clarity – and cope with the challenges of everyday life with better grace – when we have looked Death in the face.
As we do this, we may enlist the support of personal guides who are quite familiar with conditions on the Other Side.
I was well advanced on my work, a little after Samhain/Halloween in 2004, when I learned that I had drawn a most interesting helper. On a raw day on the Connecticut coast, I was leading a visionary journey for a circle of my advanced students. We had made it our shared intention to travel to a location in nonordinary reality that I call the House of Time, a place from which onward journeys to other times and other life experiences are usually easy, and where encounters with master teachers sometimes take place. I was drumming for the group and watching over them while – at the same time – I let part of my consciousness travel into the Library of the House of Time.
I found Yeats waiting for me, on an upper level. He asked me, “What better guide to the Other Side than a poet?” The answer that came to me was: none. I remembered how Virgil appears as Dante’s guide through the Inferno, drawn by Dante’s “love and long study” of his poetry. Whether the Yeats who was appearing to me now was a projection of a part of myself, or some essence of his life and work, or the individual spirit of the dead poet, I could hardly refuse his offer to guide me.
So my work took on a further dimension. This, of course, was not my first encounter with Yeats. He had appeared in my dreams many times. In one series of dreams, he demonstrated experiments in “mutual visioning” that he had conducted with Florence Farr, and attempts to build his Celtic Castle of the Heroes on the astral plane with his great (but forever lost) love Maud Gonne.
But after that post-Halloween encounter in 2004, things picked up. While I immersed myself in fresh study of the books and papers in which Yeats had recorded his efforts to communication with the dead and to monitor the soul’s journey between death and rebirth, the play of dreams and visions and synchronicity in my own life became intense and wonderful. That benign entity that Koestler called “the Library Angel” worked overtime, arranging bookish discoveries at the most unlikely times and places. In a screened and protected psychic environment, I was introduced to many “dead” people who described their experiences of afterlife transitions in vivid and fascinating detail. Sometimes I felt that the dead were holding a séance for the living – specifically myself.
I gained a new depth of understanding of what Yeats had laboured to convey about death and dreaming in the two versions of his fascinating, difficult book A Vision. He concluded that the main difference between the dream state during physical life and the dream state after death is that prior to death the soul remains in “exclusive association with one body.”
In the 1925 edition of A Vision, Yeats made his simplest and most important observation about the connection between death and dreaming: “In sleep we enter upon the same life as that we enter between death and birth.” He explains that in dreaming, the spirit may travel through some of the levels of being that are accessible after death. In rare cases, moving beyond the astral plane, the spirit may discover “a new centre of coherence” in the celestial body. So dreaming may be an exact rehearsal for the progression of the spirit after death as it gradually disentangles itself from lower energy bodies to move to higher planes.
In the 1937 edition of A Vision, Yeats develops the provocative thesis that our dreams of the departed are frequently the result of the departed reaching for us. Yeats describes an early phase in the after-death transition that he calls “Dreaming Back,” through which the departed seek to review, understand and resolve the issues of the life experience that has ended. With the help of “teaching spirits” a soul in this phase “may not merely dream through the consequences of its acts but amend them, bringing this or that to the attention of the living.” During this phase the dead often appear to the living in dreams.
Yeats wrote that “the souls of enlightened men return to be schoolmasters of the living, who influence them unseen.” I believe this has been my experience, and that it is an experience open to all of us, which will unfold according to our interests and affections, and our willingness to do the work.
In The Dreamer’s Book of the Dead I have sought to honour Yeats’s grand design of producing a Western Book of the Dead that shows a little of what happens in the soul’s journey between death and rebirth. At its heart, the message of my Book of the Dead is as simple, and as urgent, as this: We don’t need to wait for death to remember what the soul knows: how and why we came into our present bodies, and where we will go when we leave them.
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ROBERT MOSS was born in Melbourne and is a world-renowned dream explorer, shamanic counselor, bestselling novelist and former magazine editor and lecturer of ancient history at the Australian National University. He now lives in the United States and teaches Active Dreaming – his pioneer synthesis of dreamwork and shamanism – all over the world and is the founder of a contemporary mystery school. His many books include Conscious Dreaming, Dreamgates, Dreaming True, Dreamways of the Iroquois and The Dreamer’s Book of the Dead. Please visit his website at www.mossdreams.com.
The above article appeared in New Dawn No. 96 (May-June 2006).
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flowhite.com the music video “Chemtrails” featuring: Florence Whitengale The CIApe Freeman Leighbro the 12 Volt Assassin White Mouse
Pfc. Eugene Dinkin, a cryptographic code operator for the US Army stationed in France saw planning for JFK assassination more than a month before it happened. The mass media stymied his attempts to sound an alarm and he was placed in a mental hospital.
“The journalists who heard Dinkin’s story in Switzerland may have had it within their power to prevent the assassination of President Kennedy. By writing nothing about his documented allegations, they failed to exercise that power. In addition, they knew that he had been detained after coming forward–but in the wake of the assassination with the investigation proceeding, they remained silent. How many other cases like Dinkins remain unreported?”
No pictures of Eugene Dinkin are extant online. This give credibility to his story.
JFK Assassination Enablers?
by Hugh Turley
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and stories about that fateful day in November 1963 have already started appearing in the American media. It is a popular belief that if there were a conspiracy, someone would come forward and the press would tell us.
Then why is there still no news about Pfc. Eugene Dinkin, a cryptographic code operator for the Army? Declassified CIA and FBI documents released in the 1990s reveal a strange tale that raises the question: Could Dinkin have learned the details of an assassination plot from the classified documents he handled, or was he a paranoiac who somehow made a number of amazingly accurate prophecies?
On October 16, 1963, when Dinkin was stationed in Metz, France, he wrote a letter to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy warning that the president would be assassinated on or about November 28 and requesting an interview by the Justice Department. Dinkin sent the letter registered mail, and to prevent it from being intercepted, used the return address of an Army friend, Pfc. Dennis De Witt. He did not receive an answer.
Dinkin later changed the predicted assassination date to November 22 and said it would happen in Texas. He believed the military was involved in the plot and that a Communist would be blamed. The day after the murder, the Washington Evening Star reported that the alleged assassin Lee Harvey Oswald was a “pro-Castro Marxist.”
On October 25, 1963, Dinkin traveled to the United States Embassy in Luxembourg to apprise a Mr. Cunningham, the Charge d’Affaires, of the plot to assassinate President Kennedy. He was turned away.
Dinkin was scheduled for a psychiatric examination on November 4, and fearing confinement as a psychotic, he went absent without leave from his unit. He traveled to Geneva, Switzerland, using a false Army identification and forged travel orders. There, he appeared in the press room of the United Nations office on November 6 and 7 and “told reporters he was being persecuted.” Among those who heard his story were the editor of the Geneva Diplomat and representatives of Newsweek and the Time-Life media group.
The AWOL Dinkin was the subject of CIA cables on November 18 and again on November 29, 1963. The latter cable advised the White House, State Department, FBI, and Secret Service of Dinkin’s assassination predictions and of his trip to Switzerland.
Upon returning to his unit in Metz, he was arrested by Army intelligence officers and soon transferred to Walter Reed Army hospital in Washington, D.C., where he was treated for “paranoia,” according to an FBI report. Afterwards, he was discharged from the Army.
The FBI interviewed him on April 1, 1964. By then, perhaps fearing prosecution for revealing classified material, Dinkin said his theory came from newspaper articles and acknowledged that it “was extremely ‘wild’ and could be construed [as] ‘crazy’.”
FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and CIA Deputy Director Richard Helms informed the Warren Commission about Dinkin’s predictions about the assassination, but his name was never mentioned in the encyclopedic official record.
The journalists who heard Dinkin’s story in Switzerland may have had it within their power to prevent the assassination of President Kennedy. By writing nothing about his documented allegations, they failed to exercise that power. In addition, they knew that he had been detained after coming forward–but in the wake of the assassination with the investigation proceeding, they remained silent. How many other cases like Dinkins remain unreported?
Pfc. Dinkin miscalculated when he went AWOL to contact journalists whom he mistakenly believed were liberty’s guardians. The Roman poet Juvenal asked, “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” (“Who will guard the guards themselves?”) It’s still a good question.
This article appeared originally in the May 2013 Hyattsville Life and Times with the more sweeping title of simply “Assassination Enablers?”
By MICHAEL HOWARD—
Today, especially in New Age circles, the term ‘shamanism’ is often used in a generalised way to describe all kinds of indigenous magical practices in a wide range of cultures worldwide. It has also been projected back into a past that it never had, so we can find modern books on so-called ‘Celtic shamanism’ and even ‘Ancient Egyptian shamanism’. Modern writers on the subject such as Dr. Michael Harner have also created what is called ‘core shamanism’ or ‘urban shamanism’.
This takes the essence of shamanic beliefs and practices and repackages them in a safe, sanitised and often diluted form that is acceptable for Western seekers of alternative spirituality. In this article, however, we examine and describe the real ‘core shamanism’ as it has been practised for hundreds of years in its homeland of Siberia and the Turkic-speaking areas of Mongolia, and where it is now being revived.
In the late 16th and early 17th centuries the area known as Siberia was colonised by the Russians. They were led there by its abundance of wild animals that created a flourishing trade in animal skins and furs. The Tsars used the income from this enterprise to boost their economy and access the foreign currency that helped create the Russian empire. The influx of Russian hunters, fur traders and merchants drastically affected the local population, which consisted of many different tribes. By the 1900s the native population had dwindled to about 10% of the total people living in Siberia. Along with the fur traders there also came missionaries and, in later times, anthropologists. The former were interested in converting the indigenous population to Orthodox Christianity, while the latter wanted to study their tribal culture, spiritual beliefs and ritual practices. Both these groups of outsiders contacted the tribal shamans of Siberia and, for totally different reasons, recorded and commented upon their religious observances.
The earliest references to magical practitioners that could be described as shamans in fact date back to the 13th century. It was then that the first Western travellers penetrated Central Asia and visited the court of the Mongol rulers. The explorer Marco Polo, for instance, met magicians who were healers and could diagnosis diseases by the use of divination. Polo says they became possessed by what he described as “a devil,” who then used their vocal chords to speak through them.
However, it was an English explorer called Richard Johnston in the 16th century who first described what sounds very like the activities of shamans proper. He reported witnessing a tribal priest wearing animal skins and playing a drum “shaped like a great sieve” in “devilish rites.” During the ritual the drummer fell into a trance and was possessed by “evil spirits.”
In 1692 another Western explorer, Nicholas Witsen, described seeing a “shaman” or “priest of the Devil.” He was clad in ritual regalia, consisting of an antlered head-dress and a richly decorated robe, and chanted and beat on a drum to attract the spirits. Generally, reflecting the Catholic culture they came from, these Westerners regarded the shamans as fanatical “devil worshippers” who forced their ignorant and uneducated followers to serve evil spirits and demons.
What is Siberian Shamanism?
The meaning of the word ‘shaman’ is shrouded in linguistic mystery and various explanations have been put forward for its origin. One theory is that it is possibly derived from an ancient Chinese term for a Buddhist priest or monk. The Oxford English Dictionary defines its meaning as “a priest or witch-doctor [sic] of (a) class claiming to have sole contact with gods etc.” It says the word comes from the Russian “shaman” and is a translation of the Tungusion word “saman.” In Siberia and Mongolia, shamanism was known as Tengerism, meaning a reverence for sky spirits. It reflected an animistic belief system where everything in the natural world was alive, permeated by spirit force or, in simple terms, inhabited by spirits.
These spirits had to be respected and appeased or else the land would become infertile and barren, the animals relied upon for food would disappear and eventually the world would come to an end. To achieve this essential and vital balance between humans, nature and the spirit world, a magical specialist was required and the shaman took that role. He or she acted as an intermediary or middle person between humanity and the Other, and a caretaker of cultural and magical tradition. Their job involved conducting blessings, especially on new-born babies, performing rituals of protection, divining the future, healing the sick, exorcising ghosts and demons, overseeing the burial of the dead, and generally communicating on behalf of the tribe with the spirit world and its denizens.
Initiation into the shamanic cult could be achieved in several different ways. The easiest was the hereditary route where magical knowledge, power and skill were passed down from grandfather or father to son or, more rarely, from grandmother or mother to daughter. Sometimes children were chosen at a very early age or even at birth by the spirits and instructed by them through the medium of visions and dreams. Young people who suffered a serious illness or disease or from epileptic fits, were introverted and dreamy, or had any form of mental condition or disability, were regarded as natural shamans who had been specially chosen by the spirits.
In later life those who felt a strong calling to become a magical practitioner would retreat from society, usually to a remote place in the wilderness, and undergo a vigil during which they invited the spirits to contact them and teach them the shamanic ways. When a person was actually taken on by another shaman as his assistant or sorcerer’s apprentice, a formal initiation rite was often carried out. The candidate offered an animal sacrifice, called on the spirits to aid them in their task, took an oath of loyalty to their shamanic master or spiritual clan, and accepted the special ritual regalia of a shaman’s office.
Often these initiations by either another shaman or the spirits involved a traumatic visionary death and rebirth experience. Sometimes this included a journey to the underworld, meetings with deities and the would-be shaman’s body being dismembered and then put together again.
The ritual regalia given to the new shaman reflected the fact that he or she was a special person who was separate and different from other members of the tribe. Siberian shamans wore robes made from animal hide and fur and decorated with embroidery, bird’s feathers, silk tassels, ribbons, bells, small mirrors, jewellery representing symbolic motifs such as the World Tree, and assorted metalwork such as copper discs. Headwear consisted of a conical or pointed cap made from felt or fur or the antlers of a reindeer. Some shamans wore iron-shod fur boots so when they stamped their feet they could drive away evil spirits.
The majority of shamans carried a ritual drum similar in shape to the traditional Irish bodhran. These were made from an animal skin stretched over a wooden frame and decorated with feathers and magical symbols representing spirit journeys to the Otherworld or the shamanic cosmology. The drum was very important and represented the symbolic and magical steed that enabled the practitioner to travel from Middle Earth to the realm of the spirits. It was also a magical object in its own right that contained and focused spirit force or energy. By playing it the shaman could both attract spirits and exorcise them. In addition to the drum a magical staff was often carried. This was made of either wood or metal and was decorated with feathers, bells, ribbons and the pelts of small woodland animals.
Different Types of Shaman
Although Westerners used the generic term ‘shaman’ to describe all the tribal magical practitioners of Siberia and Mongolia, in practice they were divided into several different types, categories or classes with specific magical duties and responsibilities. Using English terminology, these included ‘conjurors’ who summoned and controlled spirits, prophets or psychics who foresaw the future, sorcerers who practised ‘black magic’, trance-workers who travelled in spirit form to the Otherworld, healers who were experts in folk medicine and herbalism, and guides to the dead who laid out corpses and conducted funeral rites.
The shaman-healers were often female and they specialised in health matters connected with human and animal fertility, sexuality and children. They were recognisable by their distinctive skirts made from animal hide and brightly coloured woollen hats. Instead of the ritual drum used by the male shamans, they carried a silk fan and prayer beads. Unfortunately when Buddhism came to Siberia and Mongolia many of these female healers were ruthlessly persecuted and exterminated by the misogynist monks. As a result their extensive knowledge of herbs and plants used for natural healing was either lost completely or taken over by Buddhist healers and only practised in a debased or diluted form.
Another female practitioner was the shaman-midwife, who inherited her power from the maternal line of familial descent. As well as ensuring that babies entered this world safely in a physical sense, she was also responsible for their spiritual protection from evil influences during birth and their well-being as children. In this sense she took on the role of a human fairy godmother. Immediately after a birth the shaman-midwife cut the umbilical cord and then purified the new-born baby with salt water and fire. Any (female only) witnesses to the birth could only be present if they had first been ritually purified by the midwife with fire and water. During the first few weeks of a baby’s life it was very important that the proper rituals were performed to protect the child until its spirit was fully established in the material world. If they were not performed properly then the baby’s spirit might return from whence it had come. These essential rites were the responsibility of the shaman-midwife and her assistants.
Another type of shamanic healer was a bone-setter who called upon spirit guides to help them in their healing work. They mainly repaired broken and dislocated bones and torn ligaments, healed back pain caused by spinal injuries or disease and also skin infections such as boils, rashes, psoriasis and eczema. These gifts were inherited from the paternal side of the family and, because the bones of the human body were considered to be spiritually ‘masculine’ in nature, these shamanic bone-setters were always male.
Most of the shamans worked with what modern New Agers call animal allies or spirit-helpers in animal form. These entities assisted them with their magical work and also taught them. For instance, the shaman-midwives described above worked with an animal spirit in the form of a mountain fox. The first bone-setter is supposed to have been taught his skills by a snake so that creature was sacred to the clan. Other shamanic practitioners were assisted by reindeer or wolves for attacking and destroying evil spirits, and ravens for getting rid of diseases. Other important animal spirit helpers included owls, wild ducks, geese, squirrels, bears, frogs and toads, dogs, seagulls and eagles.
One of the most important and respected types of magical practitioners was the shaman-smith. In all cultures all over the world from Europe to Africa the smith took a central role in tribal society and was regarded as a powerful magician or sorcerer because of his mastery over fire and skill in working with metal. There are many legends about blacksmiths making pacts with demons, gods or the Devil or tricking and outwitting them to acquire their skills. There are also many smith gods in ancient mythology who were magicians, made weapons for the Gods or acted as cultural exemplars by inventing agricultural tools. In Siberia the shaman-smiths made and magically consecrated the ritual metal objects used by other shamans. They were only chosen by the spirits and instead of a drum they used their anvils to communicate with the spiritual realm.
‘Black’ & ‘White’ Shamans
As well as the different types of magical practitioner, the shamans were also divided into two separate, but sometimes overlapping, categories – ‘black’ or ‘white’ shamans. The former were regarded as the most powerful of the two and were sometimes known as ‘warrior-shamans’ because they battled evil forces and were consulted as military advisors. They obtained their power from the north (possibly the North Pole or the North Star) and could be easily identified as they always wore black robes with very little, if any, decoration. The primary function of the black shaman was to deal with demons and the dark gods on behalf of their clients. In this role they were hired to curse their enemies and blight their crops and livestock.
In wartime the black shamans attached themselves to the army rather like the modern padres and helped to win battles using their occult powers. In peacetime they took a more positive role as diplomats, political advisors and emissaries and they oversaw the preparation and signing of treaties with the appropriate magical rites. Black shamans were greatly feared, even after their deaths. In the 19th century when a famous one died she was placed in a coffin made from the ‘unclean’ wood of an aspen. Her corpse was then nailed down with aspen stakes so she could not become a ‘night walker’ and haunt the living.
In contrast, the so-called ‘white’ shamans obtained their magical power from a westerly direction, the home of the benevolent deities and spirits. They operated at a tribal level almost exclusively as healers and diviners and they only had dealings with beneficent entities. It was their role to pacify angry or evil spirits, exorcise them if they possessed human beings and help the tribe live in harmony with their natural environment and the spirit world. To this end on a physical level they were often employed in an administrative role to oversee tribal affairs.
The Yurt, the World Tree & Spirit Flight
In Siberian and especially Mongolian shamanism the yurt, a traditional dwelling constructed from a framework of wooden poles covered with animal skins and with a central smoke-hole in the roof, was a microcosmic symbol or representation of the universe. For this reason all movement inside the yurt was conducted, if at all possible, in a deosil or sunways direction. This also reflected the traditional direction of movement used in shamanic rituals and dances. The centre of the yurt, where a fire burnt in a hearth and was seldom extinguished, was symbolic of the actual centre of the world or universe. The column of smoke that drifted up from the fire and left the yurt through the central smoke-hole in the roof was symbolic of the axis mundi – the World Mountain, World Pillar or World Tree. This links the underworld below with the heavens above and ends at the North and Pole Star around which all the other stars revolve in the night sky.
The shamans believed in three worlds of existence connected together by the World Tree or Tree of Life. They were the lower world or underworld inhabited by the dead who are awaiting reincarnation, the middle world or Middle Earth, the material plane of existence in which human spirits are incarnated, and the upper world or Heaven, the dwelling place of the Gods. Numerous non-human spirits also inhabit each of these three worlds. The shaman can access these other worlds in trance by means of spirit travel. His soul body ascends the column of smoke from the fire and passes through the aperture in the roof of the yurt. It is interesting to note that in medieval times European witches were supposed to fly to their Sabbats by ascending the chimney on their broomsticks. It is obvious that this was not done physically so they also were practising a shamanic type of spirit flight.
Shamans can also fly through the air when they spirit travel, either by shapeshifting into the form of birds (such as geese) or by riding on the back of a flying deer, horse or some other large animal. Again, there are many woodcuts dating from the Middle Ages depicting witches riding through the night sky on the backs of goats and rams. Sometimes the shaman visited the spirit world by ascending the World Tree itself or by travelling along a rainbow. This is another symbol that is found in Northern European paganism where a rainbow bridge connects Midgard (Middle Earth) with Asgard, the realm of the Gods.
One of the methods used by the Siberian shamans to achieve trance and spirit travel was the hallucinogenic fungi amanita muscaria or fly agaric. This red capped white-spotted toadstool has a symbiotic relationship with both birch and fir trees, which grow profusely in northern and arctic climes. It is so closely associated with magical properties in myth and fairy tales that it is frequently depicted in illustrations to modern children’s stories about woodland elves, faeries and goblins. Fly agaric is reputed to be able to open up the ‘crack between the worlds’ and experiments in the 20th century by the two well-known ethonomycologists Gordon and Valentina Wasson revealed the ethenogenic qualities of this most famous of ‘sacred mushrooms’.
In Siberia fly agaric was sometimes fed to reindeer and then the animal’s toxic urine is drank. The shamans said that taking it put them in touch with the spirit of the plant, who appeared as small mushrooms with eyes and arms and legs attached. Needless to say that in large quantities fly agaric is highly poisonous and can be deadly. It must, as with all hallucinogenic plants used in magical practice, be used in small quantities, treated with respect and only taken after the proper spiritual preparation and then only under expert supervision. It should also be noted that in many countries fly agaric and other psychedelic fungi are classified as dangerous drugs and the possession or partaking of them is illegal.
In common with indigenous folk beliefs in the West, it was accepted in shamanism that the spirit world was not entirely separated from the material one. There are special places in the natural environment – sacra loci – where the two realms meet and touch and interconnect. These can be a sacred mountain or hill, a stone, a river, a lake, a forest or any natural landmark in the countryside. While the shaman may be able to access such ‘gateways’ or ‘portals’ between here and there easily, lesser mortals may be unaware of them or, if they are sensitive, they may feel they are ‘different’ or ‘other’. Spooky places, whether natural sites in the landscape or buildings, associated with folklore, paranormal phenomena and hauntings are usually spirit gateways.
In shamanistic belief all inanimate objects were inhabited or possessed by spirit energy or force who controlled their environs. Some shamans taught that living beings, especially human ones, could have more than one spirit inhabiting their physical body. Many accepted that humans had an etheric, astral or spirit double and this could be projected in trance or spirit travel to roam over the Earth and also enter the Otherworld. The shamans believed that the soul of a human being resided in a spherical or ovoid energy field that surrounds each of us. It is probably what Western occultists would refer to as the auric field or aura. It was this energy field that was attacked by demons or black shamans when they psychically attacked their victims and in that way they could cause illness or death. It was the task of the white shaman to redress the balance by healing the damaged aura and if possible bring the victim back to full health.
Earlier we saw how animals were important clan totems and spirit guides to the shaman. Before the 20th century and the rise of industrial scale food production, hunting was widespread on the Siberian steppes and in the forests. Unlike Christian belief, it was accepted without question that animals had souls and when hunting them down and killing them it was essential that their sprits were respected and appeased. If they were not, disaster and misfortune could befall the hunter, his family and tribe. When a hunter killed his prey it was always despatched quickly, cleanly and without cruelty. Before it was killed the hunter apologised for having to do so and after death its remains were treated with care and respect. The same rule applied to domestic animals. A master animal spirit ruled each species and prayers and sacrificial offerings of incense and fire were made to them before the hunt began. Hunting purely for pleasure, as practised in the West, was an unknown concept.
Buddhism & the Stamping Out of Shamanism
Despite the early arrival of the fur traders and merchants in Siberia and Mongolia, shamanism survived. In the 16th century, however, a Mongolian ruler called Altan Khan invited a Tibetan Buddhist mission to the country. His motives were political as he wanted to consolidate his own position as the supreme tribal leader by claiming to be the reincarnation of the great Kubla Khan. The Buddhists agreed to recognise his claim and in return the Khan gave the head of the Buddhist Order the spiritual title of Dalai Lama, which of course exists today even though the present holder is in exile in India. As a result of the Khan’s one conversion, he passed laws banning shamanic rituals and granted the Buddhist priesthood a special status in society and privileges that were not granted to the shamans.
In the 17th century attempts were made by the Mongolian rulers to eradicate shamanic survival entirely. The black shaman brotherhood refused to submit to the new religion and many were killed. Some of the white shamans came to an accommodation with it. This led to the creation of a third way called ‘yellow shamanism’ that submitted to the control of the lamas and combined shamanic beliefs and practices with Tibetan Buddhism.
During the 18th century in Siberia, Buddhist, Orthodox Christian and Muslim missionaries attempted to convert the native population and opposed the practice of all rival religions. Considering their modern peaceful and pacifist image, the Buddhist monks were the most severe in this respect and they hunted down shamans, beat them and destroyed their sacred sites, replacing them with their own image-filled shrines. The Russian Orthodox Church also forced the pagan tribes to accept baptism at the point of a sword and they flogged or imprisoned anyone who dared to practice shamanic rites such as divination and animal sacrifice.
Despite this religious persecution, shamanism survived the forced conversions and it continued underground in remote rural areas. Sometimes shamanic elements were incorporated into an unorthodox form of folk Christianity that flourished despite the censure of the priests. This movement produced hybrid sects who coincided their sacrifices with Church festivals and made offerings to saints. Some shamans accepted the patron saints of Russia, SS George and Michael, as their deities. St Michael was even given the honorary title of ‘Master of the Shamans’ and blood sacrifices were made to his icons.
After the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, shamanism had a brief revival as the power and influence of the Orthodox Russian Church and Buddhism in Siberia faded away. However, with the beginning of the bloody Stalinist regime in the 1920s, the new policy of agricultural collectivism caused drastic changes in Siberian society. The Soviet communists regarded the shamans as an example of primitive superstition and social inequality and they were condemned as enemies of the state. There are horrific stories of KGB agents throwing shamans out of helicopters to prove to their followers that they could not fly and also randomly executing them by firing squad. In 1980 the central government in Moscow claimed that shamanism was extinct in Siberia.
When Professor Ronald Hutton of Bristol University visited Siberia in the early 1980s he was told by experts in the field that there were no more shamans alive and shamanism had died out. At the time he accepted this, but later he came to believe that a number of former shamans had managed to survive the pograms. With the collapse of Soviet communism in the later 1980s and early 1990s there was a revival of traditional culture among the ethnic peoples of the former USSR. Professor Hutton has described an encounter by some British musicians visiting Siberia in 1997 with a person who claimed to be a hereditary shaman. He said he had inherited his powers and knowledge from his grandfather, who had been a blacksmith, and he used his skills for healing and exorcising evil spirits.
In the 1990s a neo-shamanic movement known as Tengrism arose in Central Asia and the new Russian Federation. It quickly organised itself and now claims a rather inflated membership of 500,000. One of its prominent leaders is a Kyrgyzstan Member of Parliament called Dastan Sarygulov, who also runs an international scientific centre for Tengrist studies. Its members have a political agenda and attempt to spread their beliefs and ideology in government circles. Apparently they have had some success as a former Kyrgyz president and the present President of Kazakhstan have both declared that Tengrism is the natural and national religion of the Turkic population.
Unlike the shamanism of former times, Tengrism is a monotheistic form of religion with a cosmology that is suitable for the modern world. It is firmly based on trendy ‘green’ or environmental concerns and believes that humanity should live in harmony with the natural world. Forgetting or ignoring the persecution of the past, it also preaches tolerance towards other religions and seeks to co-exist with them in the spirit of interfaith. Strangely it is also a religion without dogma, prayers or a priesthood. The American academic Marlene Larvelle, who has studied Tengrism, claims that it has been influenced by the atheism of the Soviet years and contemporary ideas about modernity. Its political agenda calls for a recognition of Turkic national ideals and the ultimate unification of all Turkic-speaking peoples.
The revival of shamanism in its modern Tengrist form would seem to hearken back to a romantic past that probably never existed in reality. Its increasing popularity among urban Russians is based on an idyllic image of yurts on the steppes, a nomadic lifestyle and living in harmony with nature. This is in direct contrast to the struggle of daily existence in a modern neo-capitalist and corrupt society governed by autocratic rulers.
An inner desire to reconnect with the natural world and follow spiritual values in a technocratic consumer society, a romantic view of the past and an urge to ‘save the planet’ is also the driving force behind so-called ‘urban shamanism’ in the West. However, the Siberian shaman and his Mongolian counterpart were not so much interested in preserving the environment than surviving day by day appeasing the spirits they believed inhabited it. In that sense the shamanism of the past was an essential part of daily life.
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Dr. Mircea Eliade, Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy (Princetown University Press, USA, 1972)
Professor Ronald Hutton, Siberian Shamanism and the Western Imagination (Hambledon and London, UK, 2001)
Terence McKenna, Food of the Gods: A Radical History of Plants, Drugs and Human Evolution (Bantam Press, USA 1992)
MICHAEL HOWARD has been studying occultism, magic, folklore and witchcraft for over forty years and lives in England. He is the editor and publisher of the witchcraft magazine The Cauldron and can be contacted by writing to BM Cauldron, London, WC1N 3XX, England or emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The above article appeared in New Dawn No. 110 (September-October 2008).
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By ROBERT BLACK—
The secret account of the revelation that Jesus spoke in conversation with Judas Iscariot during a week three days before he celebrated Passover. …Jesus said to him, “Step away from the others and I shall tell you the mysteries of the kingdom. It is possible for you to reach it, but you will grieve a great deal.”
– The Gospel of Judas1
From an historical point of view this find is as important as the Nag Hammadi writings discovered half a century ago. Everything tells us that we are dealing with the Gospel of Judas referred to by Irenaeus in the second century AD. It is fantastic that something like that re-appears after 1800 years.
– Dr. Stephen Emmel2
The story of how the Gospel of Judas arrived in the Western world is a fascinating tale. Like many of the so-called Gnostic Gospels, it somehow travelled out of Egypt and arrived in the US with a large price tag. Unlike many manuscripts which vanish sight unseen, luck or providence if you like brought this manuscript not only to light but finally to restoration and publication. In the words of Professor Elaine Pagels, “the discovery of the Gospel of Judas is astonishing.”
Originally unearthed by a farmer in 1978 near El Minya, Egypt, from where it had been hidden in a “tomb-like box” for some 1,600 years, the leather-bound papyrus codex was in superb condition. The farmer secretly sold the codex to an antiquities dealer in Cairo, without advising Egyptian Antiquities. In a clandestine meeting in 1983, the antiquities dealer offered the codex for sale to various scholars in Geneva, however with an asking price of over $3,000,000 and a dubious provenance, the price was considered extraordinary.
Ironically, while the Gospel survived well in Egypt, it seriously deteriorated when stored for some 16 years in a safety deposit box in Hicksville, New York. Finally purchased by antiquities dealer Frieda Nussberger-Tchacos in 2000, the following year the codex was acquired by the Maecenas Foundation for Ancient Art in Switzerland. With the help of National Geographic and an agreement reached with the Egyptian government, restoration work soon began.
Known as the Codex Tchacos (named after Dimaratos Tchacos, father of Frieda Nussberger-Tchacos), it is a 26-page document written on 13 sheets of papyrus leaf in ancient Egyptian, or Coptic. The codex contains not only the Gospel of Judas, but the First Apocalypse of James, the Letter of Peter to Philip, and a small fragment of text that scholars have called the Book of Allogene.
If we focus on the Gospel of Judas, the document is a 3rd century Coptic translation of a now lost Greek text, thought to have been written by a group of early Gnostic Christians before 180 CE. While its significance is much debated, there is no question about its authenticity. There is universal agreement it is the genuine article. “All you had to do was look at this thing once,” said Bart Ehrman, a scholar of early Christianity. “I’ve seen a lot of ancient manuscripts, and there was no question.”3 According to James M. Robinson, America’s leading expert on ancient religious texts from Egypt, “I don’t know of any scholar who thinks this is fake.”4
Back in the 2nd century of the Christian era, the Christian Bishop Irenaeus mentioned a Gospel of Judas was in use among the Kainites, an early Gnostic Christian sect. In part I of his Against Heresy, paragraph 31.1, he wrote:
(Some) stated that Cain owes his existence to the highest power, while Esau, Korak, the Sodomites and all other men are dependants of each other. (…) They believe that Judas the Betrayer was fully informed of these things and that only he understanding the truth like no one else fulfilled the secret of betrayal that confused all things, both in heaven and on earth. They invented their own history called the Gospel of Judas.
The Gospel had been known to exist for some time when discussed by Irenaeus around 180 CE, with his primary source being Justin Martyr. This moves the date back to around 140 CE, and most scholars therefore date the Gospel itself to around 120 CE or even earlier. This is significant because it places the Gospel of Judas within the same timeframe as the Biblical gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
The publication of the Gospel of Judas undertaken by National Geographic is unlikely to disturb the mainstream Christian church. In a recent interview, Monsignor Walter Brandmuller, president of the Vatican’s Committee for Historical Science, called it “a product of religious fantasy,” and went on to say, “There is no campaign, no movement for the rehabilitation of (Judas) the traitor of Jesus.”5
From past experience with the Dead Sea Scrolls discovered in 1947 and the Nag Hammadi Library unearthed two years earlier, whatever the merits of a document it does not bring about a religious revolution. There is an entrenched power structure within Christendom and regardless of the strength of evidence presented, the Church will use spin, distortion and, if necessary, violence (remember the first crusades were against the Cathars) to preserve its dominion.
The significance of the Gospel of Judas needs to be seen in the context of the larger picture provided by Gnosticism and current scholarship regarding Christian origins. Too often modern Christians live in a sort of self imposed ghetto. They read Christian books, subscribe to Christian magazines, and generally are not exposed to scholarship except through the lens of their chosen leaders or churches. In many cases even when a Christian leader tries to inject scholarship and critical thinking, it is still filtered through a very antiquated religious lens. There does seem to be a surprisingly large gap between modern research into Christian origins, even that generally available, and the information the average Christian receives within his or her community.
Over the last 100 years the academic model that has arisen in regards to Christian origins is radically different from the traditional Christian worldview. It would be fair to say Christianity is sometimes even seen as a Gnostic heresy and not vice versa. While this is an inflammatory way of describing Christian origins, it does seem quite clear that within the early Christian “spectrum” there was an exceptionally wide range of traditions and practices. This diversity was not only tolerated but encouraged and embraced. Christianity was not a single, monolithic tradition handed down from one leader to another in succession; it was diverse and multi-faceted with many dispersed centres of power.
Elaine Pagels, a professor of religion at Princeton who specialises in studies of the Gnostics, recently said in a statement, “These discoveries are exploding the myth of a monolithic religion, and demonstrating how diverse – and fascinating – the early Christian movement really was.”6
Although later denounced by certain leaders as ‘heretics’, many of these Christians saw themselves as not so much believers as seekers, people who ‘seek for God.’7
– Elaine Pagels
Early Christianity seems to have included many differing viewpoints from the rather staid Judaic Christian mix of James the Brother of Jesus to the esoteric Gnosticism of the followers of Mary Magdalene and Simon Magus. Variations in approach were such that within one movement there were libertine sects that used sex and mind altering substances, and others which were strictly ascetic and celibate. There were groups which were strictly Judaic in focus even to the point of keeping the old laws and festivals of Israel, while others were clearly influenced by the Greek Mysteries and even Buddhist traditions.
Each of these communities had their own sacred texts and interpretations of the teachings of Jesus; the majority would now be considered Gnostic, i.e. they emphasised personal and direct experience of the divine. Accordingly, each of these groups acted like a “Mystery Cult” and had their own specialised practices, mythologies and rites. Many had distinct Gospels which included unique revelations from Jesus to their founders. For example, in the Pistis Sophia, we read of the secret teachings of Jesus to Mary Magdalene and the Gospel of Thomas begins… “These are the secret words which the living Jesus spoke, and Didymus Judas Thomas wrote them down.”8
These secret writings and communities flourished for hundreds of years. It was only in the early 4th century that Bishop Athanasius of Alexandria wrote a letter to some Christians in Egypt ordering them to reject what he called “secret, illegitimate books.”9 In 363 CE the first synod (of Laodicea) was held to decide the official contents of the Bible.
Certainly by the middle of the 4th century, Christianity had become a political force and dissenting views were not tolerated. Under threat and violent persecution, Gnostic communities withdrew from public view, to survive as an ‘underground’ movement. This continued right through to such groups as the Templars and Rosicrucians, and even to the present day.
Clearly, early Christianity offered a wide spectrum of beliefs and practices catering to the unique needs of people with differing levels of spiritual development. This helps us understand the Gospel of Judas. While Christendom has attempted to downplay the significance of this Gospel, its message, like that of Gnosticism in general, is actually quite confronting and challenging.
The Gospel of Judas is a secret account of the revelation that Jesus spoke to Judas Iscariot. It portrays Judas as one of the initiates, a specially loved and favoured disciple who undertook one of the most painful missions asked by his teacher, to betray the saviour as part of a greater plan of spiritual import.
The Gospel outlines a specifically Gnostic worldview, offering a cosmology which is fairly consistent with the radical Gnostic sects of the period. Cosmology in Gnosticism is a complex idea with many Aeons, worlds, dimensions and forms. It is impossible to appreciate the cosmology of the Gospel of Judas without these, however, I cannot give them comprehensive coverage here, but I will try to give a general outline.
There is a world of light which is beyond all created forms. This spiritual realm contains various dynamic intelligences or energies, of which one, Barbelo, is discussed in the Gospel of Judas.
For there exists a great and boundless realm, whose extent no generation of angels has seen.
– Gospel of Judas
There are many dimensions or worlds which exist between this higher reality and the physical world, and all are populated with forms of varying potencies.
The physical world is depicted as flawed, even evil, and is beyond the boundary of these worlds. It is the product of a bloodthirsty and ignorant creator deity. His name is given as Nebro, which means ‘rebel’; while others Gnostics call him Yaldabaoth. There are many myths and stories about how he came to exist and create the physical world.
Judas said to Jesus, “[What] is the long duration of time that the human being will live?”
Jesus said, “Why are you wondering about this, that Adam, with his generation, has lived his span of life in the place where he has received his kingdom, with longevity with his ruler?”
Judas said to Jesus, “Does the human spirit die?”
Jesus said, “This is why God ordered Michael to give the spirits of people to them as a loan, so that they might offer service, but the Great One ordered Gabriel to grant spirits to the great generation with no ruler over it – that is, the spirit and the soul…
– Gospel of Judas
While the Gospel of Judas does not present a full account of the creation process, when interpreted in conjunction with other Gnostic texts it certainly presents a mythos which is very much at odds with the standard Judeo-Christian legend. Saklas, a demi-god under Yaldabaoth, creates the body of man while the angels Michael and Gabriel, emissaries of the world of light, allow spirits from the world of light to incarnate within these shells.
This is very similar to Mandaean myths of creation where the physical bodies created by lesser spirits cannot even move off the ground, writhing and screaming in the dirt. In sympathy, emissaries of the light world allow spirits to enter them. But becoming trapped, fascinated by the allure of the flesh, these spirits now believe they are physical rather than spiritual beings.
There is a suggestion, also found in other Gnostic literature, of various degrees of spiritual awakening. Some beings only have one soul, some have two, some have none. In the Gospel of Judas, those with one soul receive it from Michael, while those with both a soul and spirit have received them from Gabriel. Each of these classes are under varying degrees of control by the rulers (principalities and dominions) that manipulate our world.
This model is found within the Gnostic schools where there are three levels of initiation:
1. Hylic – most of sleeping humanity, under full control of rulers.
2. Psychic – partially awakened, under partial control of the rulers.
3. Pneumatics – awakened.
There is an essential dualism within the Gospel of Judas which helps explain the significance of Jesus’s death and the role of Judas. Since man’s origin is within the spiritual dimensions and the flesh is a cage, then death is not to be feared but a form of liberation. Accordingly, Judas helps Jesus escape his prison of flesh and liberate the essential true nature within him.
You will exceed all of them. For you will sacrifice the man that clothes me.
– Gospel of Judas
The Gnostics taught that in some way or another we must each overcome the body and its demands and liberate the true Christ nature within. While individual praxis may vary from asceticism to libertinism, the goal is the same. In addition, these Gnostics also identify the creator of the physical world as our enemy, and hence see Yaldabaoth as the primary force holding us back from achieving true liberation.
Indeed, in the Sethian tradition, Yaldabaoth is identified with Jehovah and the serpent of Genesis is actually seen as the liberator. This relates back to Irenaeus’ claim the followers of the Gospel of Judas were “Kainites” since in this interpretation, Cain is the saviour, not Abel, and the Sodomites are the people of God, not the slaughtering puritans and so on.
We also find within the Gospel of Judas reference to both Seth and Adamas which is significant as they tie elements of the Gospel to the Naassene or Serpent Gnostic traditions. This has strong resonance with the Greek Orphic Tradition which is superbly covered in The Gnostic Secrets of the Naassenes by Mark Gaffney.
There is a distinct absence of the saving power of the blood of Christ or the vicarious nature of the crucifixion in the Gnostic texts. Indeed the crucifixion and Resurrection are not even mentioned in the Gospel of Judas. The role of Judas shows the path to liberation is in awakening the Christ within and overcoming the restrictions created by both the physical body and the forces of the lower spiritual/physical worlds. These are sometimes represented as the planets, powers and dominions or rulers.
The multitude of those immortals is called the cosmos – that is, perdition – by the Father and the seventy-two luminaries who are with the Self-Generated and his seventy-two aeons. In him the first human appeared with his incorruptible powers. And the aeon that appeared with his generation, the aeon in whom are the cloud of knowledge and the angel, is called  El. […] aeon […] after that […] said, ‘Let twelve angels come into being [to] rule over chaos and the [underworld].’ And look, from the cloud there appeared an [angel] whose face flashed with fire and whose appearance was defiled with blood. His name was Nebro, which means ‘rebel’; others call him Yaldabaoth. Another angel, Saklas, also came from the cloud. So Nebro created six angels – as well as Saklas – to be assistants, and these produced twelve angels in the heavens, with each one receiving a portion in the heavens.
– Gospel of Judas
Judas works with Jesus to help liberate him from the power of the body; he plays an important role within the initiatory process of the crucifixion and Resurrection, which some suggest was actually an initiatory drama rather than a real historical event, but that is outside our discussion here.
This Gospel needs to be interpreted within the larger framework of the dualist Gnostic tradition. The motif of Judas as special disciple and the negative interpretation of both the body and the world resonate through the vast majority of the Gnostic sects. In addition, the emphasis on Jesus as a giver of light, a transmitter of the message from the higher dimensions rather than as a sacrifice, is central to a Gnostic view of salvation.
Jesus was seen as a way-shower, an emissary, a being whom we should emulate, not worship. This approach is central to the Gnostic vision; liberation comes through individual effort inspired perhaps by the life of Jesus, but ultimately through our own perseverance. In this way we move towards achieving our own state of divinity, our own theosis.
The Gospel of Judas is certainly a fascinating revelation, though it does not necessarily add greatly to what we already know about the Gnostic vision. What it does do, however, is bring home the significance of this message for today’s world. If the Gospel of Judas had been taken seriously by the early Church and the Gnostics not suppressed, anti-Semitism and all its related violence may not have had such a disastrous effect within Western history. If Judas was only doing his job as a “special” disciple of Jesus, then the whole myth of “Judas the Christ Killer” dissolves and is replaced by Judas, the holder of the Mysteries.
In 2006 with continued violence instigated by self-proclaimed religious fundamentalists, it is perhaps time we rehabilitate the Gnostic tradition. Gnosticism brings a spirit of openness, diversity, individual responsibility and freedom. With the publicity brought about by The Da Vinci Code and now the publication of the Gospel of Judas, it is time we let go of old prejudices, superstitions and narrowly held opinions and allow a different light to shine from beyond the confines of matter.
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Adam, Eve and the Serpent by Elaine Pagels
Gnosis: The Nature and History of Gnosticism by Kurt Rudolph
The Gnostic Bible: Gnostic Texts of Mystical Wisdom form the Ancient and Medieval Worlds by Willis Barnstone
The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels
Gnostic Philosophy: From Ancient Persia to Modern Times by Tobias Churton
The Gnostic Religion by Hans Jonas
The Gospel of Judas by Bart D. Ehrman, Rodolphe Kasser, Marvin Meyer, and Gregor Wurst
Jesus and the Lost Goddess: The Secret Teachings of the Original Christians by Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy
The Jesus Mysteries: Was the “Original Jesus” a Pagan God? by Timothy Freke & Peter Gandy
The Other God: Dualist Religions from Antiquity to the Cathar Heresy by Yuri Stoyanov
The Secrets of Judas: The Story of the Misunderstood Disciple and His Lost Gospel by James M. Robinson
1. The Gospel of Judas, as translated by a team led by Rodolphe Kasser and provided by the National Geographic Society.
3. “Scholars have ‘no question’ on authenticity”, by Tom Avril, The Philadelphia Inquirer, 7 April, www.philly.com
4. “Another Take on Gospel Truth About Judas, Manuscript Could Add to Understanding of Gnostic Sect”, by Stacy Meichtry, 25 February, Washington Post, www.washingtonpost.com
6. “In Ancient Document, Judas, Minus the Betrayal”, by John Noble Wilford & Laurie Goodstein, 7 April, New York Times, www.nytimes.com
7. “The ongoing evolution of Christianity”, by Jane Lampman, May 15, 2003, Christian Science Monitor, www.csmonitor.com
8. “The Gospel Truth”, by Elaine Pagels, April 8, New York Times, www.nytimes.com
ROBERT BLACK is a writer on Gnosticism, Vajrayana Buddhism, and Eastern and Western schools of theory and practise. He has been studying such subjects for some 25 years and is equally at home within an Eastern or Western esoteric setting. While he has a strong academic foundation for his work, he believes it is the practical use to which these traditions are put which counts.
The above article appeared in New Dawn No. 96 (May-June 2006).
© New Dawn Magazine and the respective author.
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By RICHARD SMOLEY
“The world,” wrote the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, “is the totality of facts, not of things.” So it is, but facts take many forms. The hard-edged events of ordinary reality are only one form, and not always the most important.
This insight can be hard to accept in the positivist world of mainstream Western thought. In these terms, either an event took place or it did not. Truth and falsehood are judged by this criterion alone. And yet such a stance has only a limited value. It is indispensable in history and journalism and perhaps in science (although the anomalous discoveries of twentieth-century physics have blurred the picture somewhat). But in the spiritual dimension, even though there are facts here as well, they are not of this kind. To overlook this truth is to mistake one reality for another.
Conventional Christianity has often made this mistake. Practically from the start, it has presented its case in literalistic terms: the Bible is true; moreover it is literally true. Its facts must be historical facts, and its record of the past must be a true one. At first these claims fostered Christianity’s rapid success in the ancient world. By the early centuries of the Common Era, Greco-Roman civilisation could no longer take its own myths seriously, so it was persuaded to adopt the Scriptures of the Jews and Christians on the grounds that these presented not only sacred truths but an accurate record of the past.
Since the Enlightenment, such claims have been more of an embarrassment than an advertisement for the faith. Over the last 250 years, scholars in many fields have taken Christianity at its word and investigated in great depth just how much the Bible jibes with science and history. The findings have not exactly vindicated the Good Book. Indeed the trend over time has been to call more and more of the Bible into question as a historical record.
From a scientific point of view, the tide began to turn in the early nineteenth century. In 1830–32, the British scientist Charles Lyell published his classic Principles of Geology, arguing that geological changes that are recorded in rocks could not possibly have taken place in the mere 6,000 years that Genesis assigned to the earth’s lifetime, but had occurred over a much longer period. A generation later, another, even more famous scientist, Charles Darwin, suggested that animal species had not been created by the Almighty on a single day of creation in 4004 BCE, but had evolved over much longer periods by what he called “natural selection.” (In fact, when Darwin had finished his magnum opus, The Origin of Species, he sent it to Lyell for comments.)
Historicity of the Bible Questioned
In recent decades, archaeology has cast doubt even on parts of the Bible that had seemed more or less factual, such as the history of Israel in the Old Testament. To take one example, a generation ago most scholars accepted the historicity of the Exodus from Egypt, believing at least that some migration of this kind happened, even if the narrative had to be stripped of its miraculous festoonings. Since then, the picture has changed considerably. Summarising recent findings in their 2001 book The Bible Unearthed, Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman contend that the Exodus did not happen in any form that is recognisable from the archaeological record. The first mention of Israel in any known inscription, they note, dates from the reign of the Egyptian Pharaoh Merneptah in 1207 BCE. While this is around the time traditionally assigned to the Exodus, the inscription speaks not of a flight of Israelites (or even an expulsion), but of Merneptah’s successful incursion into Canaan, where Israel is reckoned among the peoples subdued. In any case, the Israelites could not have escaped to Canaan out of the hands of the Egyptians, because Canaan was part of Egyptian territory at the time; Merneptah’s invasion would have been to quiet a troublesome province.
Instead, Finkelstein and Silberman suggest that the biblical account of the Exodus is a composite of folk memories of the Hyksos – a Semitic people who ruled Egypt from c.1670 to c.1570 BCE before being expelled by the Egyptians. The Exodus story as we know it was framed in the seventh century BCE, when the national ideology of Jerusalem and the nation of Judah was beginning to crystallise – and Egypt was a powerful and aggressive neighbour.
Other scholars have come up with equally revolutionary insights. In her work The Great Angel, the British biblical scholar Margaret Barker points out that originally the Israelites worshipped a female goddess, known as Asherah (or sometimes as Hokhmah or “Wisdom”), as the consort of Yahweh, alongside El, the Most High God, and Yahweh himself, who was essentially a national deity allocated to Israel alone. Barker suggests that the famous Deuteronomic reform under the Judahite King Josiah – in which Josiah purges the Temple of these other gods and restores the worship of Yahweh alone (2 Kings 22-23) – was not a reform but an innovation, a purge of time-honoured traditions in an attempt to create a “Yahweh-alone movement.” This movement eventually took over Judaism after the Babylonian Exile and imposed its own agenda on the past.
One could make similar points about much of the rest of the Bible. The “quest of the historical Jesus,” as Albert Schweitzer so famously dubbed it, has gone on for over two centuries now without any really conclusive results. Most scholars are convinced that there is some admixture of myth and legend in the life of Christ as portrayed in the New Testament, but they differ enormously about just what was legend and what was not. The panel of liberal New Testament scholars known as the Jesus Seminar has won some notoriety for contending that Jesus neither said nor did most of the things attributed to him in the Gospels. As shocking as some may find this claim, it is hardly new: an array of German New Testament scholars reached much the same conclusions in the nineteenth century. A still more radical view holds that Jesus never existed at all: his story was merely a Jewish equivalent of the numerous death-and-resurrection myths circulating in the ancient world. Since there is no archaeological evidence for Christ’s life, and the textual evidence is elusive (none of the Gospels, canonical or apocryphal, even claims to be an eyewitness account), this position, as extreme as it is, is hard to definitively refute.
Biblical Stories as Allegory, Not History
What, then, are we to do with the Bible as history? Some will no doubt cling to it. The literary critic Harold Bloom has noted that in evangelical Christianity, the “limp leather Bible,” waved at the audience by the preacher, has itself become a totem. But others are unlikely to find refuge in a simplistic bibliolatry. They may be drawn to another approach – one that is equally ancient, and possibly more profound. It is that the Bible is not, and never was, meant to be taken literally, but has deeper meanings that are to be unearthed by those are capable of doing so.
This idea goes back to the very beginnings of Christianity and has always existed side by side with narrow literalism. Ironically, it was a major impetus for the creation of Christianity as a separate religion from Judaism. The nascent Christian movement often had to allegorise the Hebrew Scriptures to make use of them for its own purposes. The Apostle Paul writes about one biblical passage:
It is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman.
But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise.
Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar.
For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children.
But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all (Gal. 4:22–26).
Paul is saying that the real meaning of the story of Abraham and his two sons lies in the relationship of the Jews and the Christians. Ishmael, the older son, born to Hagar (or Agar), “the bondwoman,” is the Jews, who are in “bondage” to the Law of Moses. Isaac, the younger, born to Sarah, the “freewoman,” represents the Christians, who are freed from having to follow the Law. The story is an “allegory.”
The first authority to use the word “allegory” in this sense (the Greek is allegoria) – and the first to expound the Hebrew Bible in this way – was a philosopher who lived at the same time as both Jesus and Paul: Philo of Alexandria (c.20 BCE–c.50 CE). Although there is no reference to Jesus or Paul in his works or to Philo in the New Testament, it would be hard to overstate Philo’s influence on Christianity. To take one example, it was he who first used the Greek word logos (often translated as “word”) to mean the creative, structuring element in consciousness and to contend that this principle had engendered the world. Philo’s view was prevalent in the Judaism of the first century CE, in which the logos was often seen as a kind of deuteros theos or “second god.” The Christians appropriated this theology, especially in the Gospel of John, whose prologue “In the beginning was the Word” etc. is almost a programmatic statement of Philo’s thought. Philo, of course, never equated this logos with Jesus, as the Christians did, and once the Christian view had spread throughout the ancient world, the Jews dropped the concept of the logos entirely.
In any event, Philo viewed the Hebrew Bible through the lens of allegory. Here is Philo on Genesis:
“And on the sixth day God finished his work which he made.” It would be a sign of great simplicity to think that the world was created in six days, or indeed all in time…. But… it would be correctly said that the world was not created in time, but that time had its existence as a consequence of the world….. When, therefore, Moses says, “God completed his works on the sixth day,” we must understand that he is speaking not of a number of days, but that he takes six as a perfect number.
Philo goes on to explain what he means by a perfect number. Obviously this is a far richer and more sophisticated understanding of a sacred text than the simplistic idea that the world was made in six literal days.
The Christian theologian who is most indebted to Philo was the third-century Church Father Origen. Origen went further than Philo, however, in being much more eager to discard the literal truth of passages that seemed contrary to reason. Here is Origen on Genesis:
Who is so silly as to believe that God, after the manner of a farmer, “planted a paradise eastward in Eden,” and set in it a visible and palpable “tree of life,” of such a sort that anyone who tasted its fruit with his bodily teeth would gain life: and again that one could partake of “good and evil” by masticating the fruit taken from the tree of that name? And when God is said to “walk in the paradise in the cool of the day” and Adam to hide himself behind a tree, I do not think anyone will doubt that these are figurative expressions which indicate certain mysteries through a semblance of history and not through actual events.
Origen does not spare the Gospels or the writings of the Apostles, “for,” he writes, “the history even of these is not everywhere pure, events being woven together in the bodily sense without having actually happened; nor do the law and the commandments contained therein entirely declare what is reasonable.”
Such an attitude seems strikingly modern – and yet these are the words of a third-century Church Father. Origen spoke of three levels of meaning to Scripture (body, soul, and spirit, in accordance with the tripartite division of human nature accepted by early Christianity). This view would be tremendously influential. The scholar Beryl Smalley has written that “to write a history of Origenist influence on the West would be tantamount to writing a history of Western [biblical] exegesis.”
By the Middle Ages, Origen’s three levels of meaning for Scripture would be expanded to four. They were called the literal, allegorical, moral, and “anagogical” or mystical senses. Dante, writing in the early fourteenth century, refers to them in his Letter to Can Grande, where he says of the Exodus:
If we look at it from the letter alone it means to us the exit of the Children of Israel from Egypt at the time of Moses; if from allegory, it means for us our redemption done by Christ; if from the moral sense, it means to us the conversion of the soul from the struggle and misery of sin to the status of grace; if from the anagogical, it means the leavetaking of the blessed soul from the slavery of this corruption to the freedom of eternal glory. And though these mystical senses are called by various names, in general all can be called allegorical, because they are different from the literal or the historical.
Origen, who is evasive about actually setting out the hidden meaning of Scripture (“it was the method of the Holy Spirit rather to conceal these truths and to hide them deeply,” he writes), makes reference to Egypt as well. He speaks of “the descent of the holy fathers into Egypt, that is, into this world.” For Origen as for Dante, then, the Exodus ultimately presents an allegory of spiritual liberation.
Origen died around 253 CE, crippled by torture during the persecution of the Christians by the Roman Emperor Decius. Since then, Origen has had an ambiguous destiny in the mainstream church. Revered in his own day, in later centuries he fell into disrepute among the orthodox. This happened for a number of reasons, but it was largely because his views on the relationship between the Father and the Son did not jibe with the doctrine of the Trinity as it would evolve in the fourth and fifth centuries. Furthermore, later theologians did not feel entirely comfortable with Origen’s assertion that much of Scripture was not meant to be taken as literally true. Although the churchmen were generally content to accept his idea that there were other meanings in addition to the literal one, they did not like to think the literal sense was wrong or even (as we’ve seen Origen say about the myth of Eden) ridiculous.
Protestantism and Literalism
If the Catholic and Orthodox churches were always comfortable with a symbolic meaning to the Bible, where did today’s excruciating biblical literalism come from? Partly from Protestantism. Catholicism and Orthodoxy always regarded the Bible as an authority, but never as the authority: the teachings and practices of the Church itself were held to be of at least equal weight. The Catholic Church always insisted that the Bible could be easily misunderstood by those who lacked the proper training; this was why the Church discouraged Bible reading by laypeople until comparatively recently.
By the early modern era, however, the Catholic Church had become so corrupt that some Christian leaders (and many of the ordinary faithful) realised that the church was keeping an exclusive monopoly on spiritual power largely to suit its own worldly ends. In breaking with the church, these leaders – the Protestant Reformers – decided to return to the Bible as the only proper authority: sola scriptura, “Scripture only,” as the formula had it.
This in itself might not have been so problematic, but the Protestantism that reached the American frontier in the nineteenth century was dominated by men who had little education and little idea of any other literature than the Bible. Such people have always existed: Thomas Aquinas, the medieval Catholic theologian, was alluding to them when he said, “Timeo hominem unius libri”: “I fear a man of one book.” In the United States, and, I suspect, in much of the rest of the English-speaking world, evangelical Christianity has become co-opted by these “men of one book.” Today in many parts of the US, it is possible to go into people’s houses and see no other book than the Bible. It is this element in Christianity that has made its presence felt in the rise of fundamentalism.
As a result, the Bible’s inner meaning has increasingly become the province of esotericism. Regarding the story of Christ, in her book Esoteric Christianity the Theosophist Annie Besant speaks of “the Christ of the human Spirit, the Christ who is in every one of us, is born and lives, is crucified, rises from the dead, and ascends into heaven, in every suffering and triumphant ‘Son of Man.’” The story of Christ is thus the story of each of us; the Incarnation symbolises our own descent into the world of materiality, where we pass across the stage for a short while before being crucified on the cross of time and space. But this suffering and death is only transitory or even illusory, since the Logos – the principle of consciousness – in ourselves cannot die. It will be resurrected again in other forms, recognisable or otherwise. (In the Gospels the risen Christ is sometimes recognised by his disciples, sometimes not.)
Some may find themselves impatient with these ideas, insisting that they are nothing more than a way of skirting the issue of historical factuality that must supposedly serve as the bedrock of faith. But what, might one ask, is being dismissed as mere allegory? Viewed in the way sketched out above, the stories of the Exodus and the passion of Christ are not mere edifying tales of the past. Nor are they creeds for blind belief or flags around which to rally the faithful. Rather they are deep expressions of what is going on inside us now. To know from inner experience what it is to be spiritually in “the land of Egypt, the house of bondage,” to see the Logos in ourselves crucified on the cross of time and space, is not evasion but among the most profound insights a human being can have.
I would even take the argument a step further. An allegorical reading of the Bible can actually be more demanding than merely dwelling on the meaning of the letter. Acknowledging “Pharaoh,” “Moses,” the “scribes and Pharisees,” even Christ as parts of ourselves can be unsettling. Few are eager to come to grips with their inner tyrants and hypocrites, and there are possibly even fewer who can bear to see their own higher natures. After all, to know that Moses the lawgiver exists in oneself is already a step out of the house of bondage. To see the Christ within is already to experience a resurrection. Such realisations confer a responsibility upon us that we are not always delighted to face.
As a result, it is often easier to keep these things at the safe remove of antiquity – to follow the disputes about who was the Pharaoh of Exodus; to pore over accounts of recent excavations in Biblical Archaeology Review; to thrill over the latest news feature that breathlessly proffers some allegedly new fact about the historical Jesus. In such a way we can keep these issues alive, but at a comfortable distance: they remain ineluctably “other,” about people who lived long ago. I suspect that this dynamic helps explain the unshakable thirst for biblical archaeology among the American public.
All this said, there is admittedly a problem with leaning too heavily on allegorical readings of Scripture. To be no longer able to take one’s own myths literally – even while accepting them in a figurative sense – does strip them of their power. This is due to the limits of our own understanding; we as a civilisation seem unable to hear the message “Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet believed” (John 20:29). This is not a call to blind, stupid faith; it is an appeal to recognise realities that do not present themselves to our physical eyes and hands – the “evidence of things unseen.” But, trusting as we do in the Gradgrindian world of cold, hard facts, we put more trust in texts than in our own inner experience. We discover that the texts are not telling the exact truth about history, and we lose our faith.
Despite the noise (much of it overstated) about rising fundamentalism in the Western world, this loss of faith is likely to accelerate. What will happen when the news sinks in and we collectively understand that much, perhaps most, of the Bible is not literally true? We may continue to see their beauty and power as myths, just as we do with the tales of the Olympian gods, but they will have lost their numinous force for us. We will see the old gods mocked and derided, as they were in antiquity in the satyr plays of the classical Athenian stage and the satires of Lucian, and as we see today in films like Dogma and Jesus Christ Superstar.
In such instances, new myths, new versions of eternal truths arise. What these will be in the future remains to be seen; it is hard to imagine that they will come from any religion now existing. Of the models of reality now available, it is above all the one provided by science that has most captured the imagination of the thinking public. Like Christianity in ancient times, it seems to offer truth in place of myth, actualities in place of legend. And then we are left with a question that, I suspect, will not be answered in the lifetime of anyone reading these pages now: what will happen when the facts of science, implacably hard and substantial as they now seem, are proved to be myths in turn?
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Dante Alighieri, Letter to Can Grande della Scala, Translated by James Marchand, http://medieval.ucdavis.edu/20B/Can.Grande.html
Margaret Barker, The Great Angel: A Study of Israel’s Second God, Louisville, Ky.: Westminster/John Knox, 1992.
Annie Besant, Esoteric Christianity, or the Lesser Mysteries, Reprint, Wheaton, Ill.: Quest, 2006.
Harold Bloom, The American Religion, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992.
Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman, The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology’s New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts, New York: Touchstone, 2001.
Susan A. Handelman, The Slayers of Moses: The Emergence of Rabbinic Interpretation in Modern Literary Theory, Albany: State University of New York Press, 1982.
Origen, On First Principles, Translated by G.W. Butterworth, Reprint, New York: Harper & Row, 1966.
Philo, The Works of Philo, Translated by C.D. Yonge, Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1993.
Albert Schweitzer, The Quest of the Historical Jesus: A Critical Study of Its Progress from Reimarus to Wrede, Translated by W. Montgomery, Reprint, New York: Macmillan, 1961.
Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, Translated by D.F. Pears and B.F. McGuinness, 2nd edition, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1971.
RICHARD SMOLEY is author of Inner Christianity: A Guide to the Esoteric Tradition; Hidden Wisdom: A Guide to the Western Inner Traditions (with Jay Kinney); and The Essential Nostradamus. His latest book is Conscious Love: Insights from Mystical Christianity. He is editor of Quest Books and is executive editor of Quest magazine. His web site is www.innerchristianity.com.
© New Dawn Magazine and the respective author.
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