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Robert_Tulip

Christianity Without Jesus

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Christianity Without Jesus

As a regular churchgoer, I face a difficulty.  My problem is that I see the Gospel message “the truth shall set you free” (John 8:32) as a crucial idea uniting ethics and epistemology, but my scholarly study has convinced me that the character of Jesus of Nazareth is entirely fictional, a Platonic Gnostic invention.  So I am interested in the problem of how Christianity can engage in a conversation about this problem, whether faith can reform so that Christianity can survive and prosper without Jesus.

The way I reconcile the conflict between the Gospel focus on truth and the apparent lack of truth in the Gospels includes the following observations, on which I would welcome discussion.

Gospels as Noble Lie:  Plato in The Republic said that philosopher kings could rule the world by presenting the masses with fictional stories dressed up as fact, specifically drawing from the old myth of the descent from a Golden Age into an Iron Age.  My hypothesis is that Platonic philosophers after Alexander's conquests first constructed the myth of Serapis, the Greco-Egyptian synthesis of Zeus and Osiris, and then added Jewish prophecy and Babylonian cosmology into the Serapis myth to invent Jesus of Nazareth in the Gospel of Mark, with midrash from Homer’s epics.  This process occurred in secret, within Gnostic Mystery Societies, in keeping with Plato’s Noble Lie agenda, and was then completely suppressed as heresy by literalist orthodoxy.  So we have an origin of Christianity in high philosophy, as a new theory of history completely at odds with general opinion.

The Gospels and Homer: Imitations of Greek Epic in Mark and Luke-Acts (The New Testament and Greek Literature) by Dennis R. MacDonald, a scholarly book published in 2014, explains extensive similarities which cohere with my Platonic Gnostic hypothesis.

The Platonic Logos theory coheres with the Christian idea of the pre-existent Christ, of Jesus as cosmic reason incarnating in the world.  The Gospels then present what is called an Adoptionist Christology in Saint Mark, with the idea that Jesus was adopted by God at his baptism by John, as a popular simplification of this Logos theory.  The logos comes back into the picture in John’s Prologue and Colossians to provide the basis for trinitarian theology.  

I see the Christology of Christ as Cosmic Reason as compelling, simple and elegant, and as sufficient basis for a scientific approach to faith, with the entire Nazareth story falling under what Jesus explains at Mark 4:34 as popular parable.

It is well worth analysing this ‘cosmic reason’ against Plato’s ideas, for example his analogy of the sun.  Socrates says the "child of goodness" is the sun, proposing that just as the sun illuminates, bestowing the ability to see and be seen, so the idea of goodness illumines the intelligible with truth. There are many points at which Jesus Christ serves as an analogy for the sun, for example in John’s idea that Jesus is the source of light and life, and in the whole passion story of dying and rising as metaphor for the solar cycles of the day and the year.

If Christianity originated in Platonism in this way, then the entire traditional framework of the growth of the early church from Jesus of Nazareth is revealed as fiction.  It means the actual relationship between Gnostic and Orthodox thought was the reverse of the popular belief, because the original ideas were Gnostic, grounded in Greek philosophy, and orthodoxy only emerged as a corrupted political literal degeneration of a forgotten high Gnostic philosophy. 

“Nazareth” did not exist until well after the time of Pilate, as far as reliable archaeology can show (See the work of Rene Salm on this).  Drawing from the observation that Jesus was invented, my view is the most plausible basis of Nazareth is as political cover for the Nazarene and Nazirite sects in Israel who were under pressure from Rome for sedition.  Saying Nazarene meant “from Nazareth” provided an effective deflection.

Analysing the pervasive belief in Jesus of Nazareth can usefully use Calvin’s concept of Total Depravity.  If Jesus was in fact a fictional invention, then the general belief that he was a real person is a primary example of the total depravity of human psychology, the susceptibility of popular thought to comforting delusional memes, the willingness to believe myths, and the Boxer Syndrome from Paul Simon’s great song, that ‘a man sees what he wants to see and disregards the rest.’

Evolution often proceeds when something has provided a framework for growth and is then discarded.  It seems that orthodox Christianity used Gnostic Platonic ideas about Jesus in this way.  My view is that the evolution of Christianity to meet contemporary needs requires open discussion about the possibility that the Gospels are entirely fictional, as a basis for the new reformation of Christian faith to cohere with reason.  This hypothesis that Jesus was invented labours under heavy social taboos and is never openly discussed in mainstream media, and yet it provides the most compelling and elegant scientific hypothesis of the truth of Christian origins.

Robert Tulip

9 October 2017

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Hard core Christians reject both religious historical scholars & their finding. They believe religious scholars are possessed by the Devil, the father of lies. They also believe the Devil manipulated history & planted false evidence to deceive people. As I recall early Christians believed similar things when their beliefs were challenged.

 

A closed & fully indoctrinated mind is virtually impossible to reason with. Modern day liberal Christians interpret the Bible symbolically anyway so they don't need a real Jesus. Liberal Christianity is as much about the social aspect as it is about religion.

 

It seems truth only matters to a logical & rational mind. Fortunately it appears truth, logic, & reason does seem to be meaningful to the younger generation because church membership is falling, so there may be hope.

 

Oh yeah, I agree with the thoughts you presented in your post.

 

 

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My study & research has convinced me that Jesus was more than likely a literary figure in a fictional story, but mainstream scholarship doesn't agree. Scholars that hold this view of Jesus being a mythical character are labeled as extremist & are therefore unemployable in the academic community.

 

That is evidence that it isn't just Christian fundamentalists that are close minded. Dr. Bart Ehrman, unfortunately, is one of the leading proponents of this close minded nonsense. 

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2 hours ago, Geezer said:

Hard core Christians reject both religious historical scholars & their finding.

 

 

Somehow that reminds me of saying that because the Pope in Galileo's day believed the sun orbited the earth we should reject astronomy.

 

So-called 'Hard core Christians' who reject reason are reprobate morons.  It is a fallacy to reject Christianity just because of stupid versions of it.

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2 hours ago, Geezer said:

My study & research has convinced me that Jesus was more than likely a literary figure in a fictional story, but mainstream scholarship doesn't agree. Scholars that hold this view of Jesus being a mythical character are labeled as extremist & are therefore unemployable in the academic community.

 

That is evidence that it isn't just Christian fundamentalists that are close minded. Dr. Bart Ehrman, unfortunately, is one of the leading proponents of this close minded nonsense. 

It is not only employment, it extends to giving people the time of day.  Mythicists are seen as subhuman and beyond the pale, snubbed to the outer darkness to wail and gnash their teeth.  Academic rejection of dialogue with intelligent rational mythicist scholars like Brodie and Carrier is an extreme social pathology.  It is astounding that universities have not even noticed it.  What are they afraid of? 

Ehrman is a Jesus Fundamentalist and heresiologist.  His pop trash book Did Jesus Exist? betrayed all his scholarly standards in a craven search for atavistic comfort. 

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Setting a Gnostic Platonic Christianity in a scientific perspective.  (Comment just sent to Tim Freke)

 

I would like to comment on the demiurge, duality and Gnostic thought against a scientific evolutionary framework. 
I have never accepted that ancient Gnostics held that matter is evil, but rather interpret their ideas as saying the constructed world of human culture is evil, fallen from grace into corruption. Always the underlying nature is fundamentally good, just as the universe enables the astounding complexity of the evolution of life on earth. So when Saint Paul says to follow the way of spirit rather than flesh, by flesh he does not mean the physical material body, which is neutral as far as moral intentions are concerned, but the materialist ego of greed, corruption, violence and related selfish evils. 
I endorse your idea of an emergent evolutionary morality, but suggest this needs to be placed in a scientific historical time frame at the millennial scale, looking anthropologically at human emergence out of Africa over the last hundred thousand years. Against this time frame, interestingly the Gnostic concept of the Aeon is central, against the astronomy of precession of the equinoxes with its theory of zodiac ages. 
Precession is the main driver of a 20,000 year cycle of glaciation, forming slow planetary ‘seasons’ analogous to the cycles of light and dark over the day and year. In this cycle, known as the Milankovitch orbital climate cycle after the scientist who discovered it, the marker of where we are is the date of the perihelion, when earth is closest to the sun. Glacial maxima or ice ages, ‘cosmic winters’, occur when perihelion is in the northern winter, and glacial minima or interglacials, ‘cosmic summers’, happen when the perihelion is in the northern summer. (These periods are shorter than the 25771 precession period because the whole orbit is turning on a cycle called apsidal precession).
That is just science, proven by ice core data and Newtonian mechanics. How does it link to the Demiurge? The last glacial minimum was at the dawn of the Holocene ten thousand years ago, the 'cosmic summer' when perihelion was last in June. Earth is now passing through a ‘cosmic winter’ with the perihelion now at 5 January, but the natural glacial cycle was stopped by human activity, starting with Neolithic methane emissions from cows and agriculture and now accelerating with CO2 emissions. 
My view on how this scientific orbital climate framework links to the mythology of the Demiurge comes from the Indian myth of the Yuga, the cycle of Golden and Iron Ages, seeing the Golden Age as the interglacial 'cosmic summer' and the Iron Age as the ice age 'cosmic winter'. In India, over paleolithic history four of these cycles occurred since the migration from Africa. 
Looking at the history of the Holocene, from about 10,000 BC to 5,000 BC was a ‘cosmic summer’, then from 5000 BC to 1200 AD was a ‘cosmic fall’ or autumn, and since then we have entered a ‘cosmic winter’ which will continue for the next five thousand years before the next ‘cosmic spring’. 
Now, developing your point about duality, over the Holocene two competing myths have interacted, the myth of progress seen in improved technology, and the myth of fall from grace seen in the increased alienation of human life from nature, with the separation from the tree of life mythologised in the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Eden, with the return to the tree of life imagined after 7000 years with the New Jerusalem in Rev 22. 
My view is that the demiurge, as the ‘ruler of this world’, is the natural power driving human alienation from nature as we have moved to the cosmic winter, leaving the peaceful abundance of the early Holocene. This matches directly to Hesiod’s use of the Yuga framework to interpret history as successive declining metallic ages. Ironically, each declining metal in turn, gold, silver, bronze and iron, represents an evolutionary emergence of higher technology of armies, swords, control and kings, a fall from grace into corruption leading to the rise of patriarchal hierarchical monotheism as a security doctrine as exemplified in the Old Testament.
So, the answer to the relation between the Demiurge and God is that God rules the entire eternal cycle, while the demiurge is just the ruler of the declining part of the climate cycle that has governed recorded history. Confusing the demiurge with God on this framework would be like imagining that we lived in an endless winter with no hope of ever emerging into a new summer. Winter has its evils – cold, dark, inactive, barren – but these will pass, to be replaced by the warm, bright, active fecundity of summer. 
We need patience, and a scientific millennial emergent evolutionary theory of history and religion. On this scientific Gnostic model, Jesus Christ represents the presence of the Golden Age in the midst of the Iron Age, as avatar of the Age of Pisces, while the second coming of Jesus Christ, seen in the story of the man with the water jug on the way to the upper room, is the dawn of the Age of Aquarius.

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23 hours ago, Robert_Tulip said:

My view is that the evolution of Christianity to meet contemporary needs requires open discussion about the possibility that the Gospels are entirely fictional, as a basis for the new reformation of Christian faith to cohere with reason. 

 

We've seen christians flatly deny the astrotheology of the bible, tooth and nail. And then, after several years of hot debate, I began seeing christians trying to silently accept astrotheology but in an attempt to make their own sense of it. And by christians I mean the run of the mill fundies: 

 

 

Now obviously the guy is way, way off in terms of comprehending what the astrotheology alludes to. But it goes to show something in the way of a cultural evolution that we've seen unfold in real time. They've flatly rejected astrotheology, and then tried accepting on their own terms, in their own way. Now of course it was all wrong and the astrotheology of the bible doesn't point to any literal rapture, nor any literal prophecies to the creation of Israel or the immediate time we live in. It only roughly outlines the Great Year and particularly the four darkest ages at the bottom of the Great Year cycle....

 

So perhaps down the road, in the wake of what's happening now, some christians may be receptive to newer perspectives. After enough of these outlined fundamentalist failures keep happening. In the process many christians are now receptive to the astrotheology of the bible, in their own baby steps type of ways. And they're becoming more aware of the debate about Jesus' historical existence via social media and the internet and have to try and adapt to the changing landscape as far as that goes. 

 

But let's face it. The one thing here that really determines who'll be receptive to what, still has to do with the afterlife. 

 

The astrotheology of the ancients did include some type of conception of the human soul and it's journey through the planetary spheres, as outlined in many lectures by Manly P Hall on the astrotheology of the ancients. So while they were crafting religion around observations of the heavens, they were also supernaturalist's at the same time. What they were allegorizing isn't anything that christian's understand today, but it was afterlife oriented regardless. 

 

What you're talking about is something new altogether, Robert. 

 

You're talking about a type of liberal oriented christianity set to an appreciation of the ancient high cultures and high philosophies that were utilized in the making and evolving process of christianity from what I'm seeing. And doing so from a naturalist perspective. You're looking at a type of reformation that would make christians, for lack of a better word, "spiritual atheists." Naturalist's who retain a spiritual view about nature and cosmos and interpret scripture as myth, allegory, and metaphor. Something that blends monotheism with the pantheism's. But retains a christian label. 

 

That's something very interesting to consider. For one thing, it serves to further demolish fundamentalism. And bridges the gap between theist's and atheist's ever further. In a lot of ways I think that if christianity is to survive it will have to find ways of getting on board with logic, reason, and the higher ranges of human philosophical and spiritual oriented thinking. It's currently very low rung in those respects. Which is why so many people are leaving it. 

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I'm curious why you think it's important to retain Christianity even without Jesus. People can be and often are decent and moral without religion. Although I have no qualms with someone wanting to reshape the religion with a scholarly scalpel, it seems unnecessary to me.

 

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2 hours ago, Citsonga said:

I'm curious why you think it's important to retain Christianity even without Jesus. People can be and often are decent and moral without religion. Although I have no qualms with someone wanting to reshape the religion with a scholarly scalpel, it seems unnecessary to me.

 

 

The Internet has proven to be a game changer. Christianities secrets have been exposed & now more & more people are becoming aware of the evidence that challenges established Christian traditions. That is forcing Xianity to come up with alternative ways to be Christian. Let's face it, Xianity is a big business that rakes in billions of dollars annually. What we are beginning to see now may be the initial steps to them switching to survival mode. 

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13 hours ago, Robert_Tulip said:

It is not only employment, it extends to giving people the time of day.  Mythicists are seen as subhuman and beyond the pale, snubbed to the outer darkness to wail and gnash their teeth.  Academic rejection of dialogue with intelligent rational mythicist scholars like Brodie and Carrier is an extreme social pathology.  It is astounding that universities have not even noticed it.  What are they afraid of? 

Ehrman is a Jesus Fundamentalist and heresiologist.  His pop trash book Did Jesus Exist? betrayed all his scholarly standards in a craven search for atavistic comfort. 

 

They fear loss of funding. They do not want to piss off the people that write the checks.

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I know Ehrman banned me from posting at his blog a while back. He would not tolerate any defense of Murdock's actual work. And he'd readily ban any one speaking up for her. He was made the horses ass with the DJE book. All because he thought he'd do a wave of the hand dismissal.

 

I suppose if he's worried about funding then he'd never publicly entertain the notion that mythicism could be right. But from my interaction with Ehrman he seems to sincerely believe that Jesus did exist somewhat as described in the bible. He didn't seem to be faking it or anything like that. 

 

 

 

 

 

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11 hours ago, Citsonga said:

I'm curious why you think it's important to retain Christianity even without Jesus. People can be and often are decent and moral without religion. Although I have no qualms with someone wanting to reshape the religion with a scholarly scalpel, it seems unnecessary to me.

 

Hello Citsonga, thank you for this enquiry.  My main big reasons for wanting to retain Christianity without Jesus are both scientific and apocalyptic. I see homo sapiens on a high risk trajectory towards species extinction or collapse of civilization, as widely remarked by leading scientific analysts.  However, where I seek to add to the science is to investigate how a rational reformed Christian faith could be central to avoiding this dangerous wide road to destruction, to pick up the Gospel image.  A big part of this apocalyptic scientific message, as I see it, is that the literal Jesus story of Christendom has gripped western societies with a dangerous delusional fantasy that must be broken to snap humanity out of our sleepwalk to oblivion, but the Bible story itself contains the resources for its own transformation.

Expanding on the cosmology presented in my previous post, I interpret the fall from grace in Christian myth in terms of the actual “fall” season experienced by our planet in terms of the simple orbital dynamics of natural climate change over the 6000 or so years of recorded history.  My sense is that this “fall” trajectory of corrupt alienation from nature is deeply embedded in human culture, seen in a number of economic, political, social, religious and military myths that form the dominant values and beliefs of modern society. 

Our constructed human world has disengaged from our physical planet, like a ship adrift and cut from its moorings.  The current momentum has to be turned around.  The answer to this risk involves recognition that the economy is contained within the planetary ecology.  The extinctive trend is seen most vividly in climate change, where human separation from nature is sustained only by burning fossil fuels that would eventually boil the sea if continued on current trends. We need to reverse this destructive trajectory, and that requires a deep analysis of causes and possible solutions.  My view is the Bible can be rescued to become an ally in this process instead of a part of the problem, for example using Gnostic lines such as Rev 11:18 that the wrath of God is against those who destroy the earth, and also recognising that the Gospels are totally fictional.

I see the Gospel story of Jesus Christ as presenting an evolutionary path to human survival, and consider the Bible authors had a deep wisdom that has been concealed by the rubble of Christendom.  Excavating the archaeology of faith leads to insights such as the entire hidden role of astronomy in formulating the Jesus Myth.  The story is that the Gnostic Platonic authors of the original Christ story believed that salvation of the earth requires placing our temporal concerns under the eye of eternity, which means Jesus Christ is primarily conceptualised as the mediator between time and eternity. 

But what is eternity?  For astronomy, the key link to the eternal for our planetary structure of time is the slow visible movement of the spring point through the stars creating the ages of the zodiac, two thousand year long periods that define what the Bible calls “the world” or aeon. This accurate cosmic vision was referenced by Plato in Timaeus as the eternal same, a vision that produced the chi rho cross, which actually symbolises the movement of the celestial equator at the imagined time of Christ to open the Age of Pisces.

So the Biblical ‘end of the world’ is actually the end of the Age of Pisces and the dawn of the Age of Aquarius, a potential time of transformation rather than destruction.  The Gnostic Platonic authors of the Gospels could see, in my reading, that the world was not ready to be ruled by Jesus Christ, and therefore presented a theory of time whereby Jesus appeared first in imagination, as avatar of the Age of Pisces beginning in 21 AD, in order to prepare the way for the next age after about two thousand years. 

The idea implicit in Biblical eschatology is that by the time of the Age of Aquarius, human culture would have evolved enough that the values set out in the Gospel, specifically the Last Judgement focus on the hungry, thirsty, sick, imprisoned, naked and refugees, could become a basis for the life of the world.  This model of time and society is envisaged in the Matthew 25 injunction to treat the least of the world as though they are Jesus Christ.

As I mentioned, I have done a lot of analysis of what this whole structure of time concept could mean, in the effort to reconcile science and myth, so everything I present here aims to be entirely contestable, and I entirely welcome questions and discussion. 

In orbital terms there are several overlapping factors which combine to drive natural climate change.  Interestingly, the precession has a close resonance with the overall wave function of the solar system, calculated by the movement of the sun against the system centre of mass.  I mention this, alongside the whole framework of the orbital drivers of climate, to argue that the zodiac age concept underlying Biblical eschatology is a real scientific mechanism, not just an astrological dream.  Although the details of this natural process of orbital dynamics were not known to the ancients, their accurate visual cosmology and their very ancient mythological insights came together to provide a vision whose detailed meaning can now be investigated productively, dispassionately and objectively against modern astronomical knowledge.

So bottom line, I consider that the Biblical idea of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ has a coherent scientific meaning in terms of the Dawn of the Age of Aquarius, and that discussion of this theological framework for politics and culture is helpful to explore the ethical problems facing the world.

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7 hours ago, Joshpantera said:

I know Ehrman banned me from posting at his blog a while back. He would not tolerate any defense of Murdock's actual work. And he'd readily ban any one speaking up for her. He was made the horses ass with the DJE book. All because he thought he'd do a wave of the hand dismissal.

 

I suppose if he's worried about funding then he'd never publicly entertain the notion that mythicism could be right. But from my interaction with Ehrman he seems to sincerely believe that Jesus did exist somewhat as described in the bible. He didn't seem to be faking it or anything like that. 

That attitude from Ehrman is what I call Jesus Fundamentalism.  Like young earth creationism, Jesus Fundamentalism sees the existence of Jesus of Nazareth as a matter of religious faith, subject to emotional reaction when questioned.  I can understand his attitude, as the existence of Jesus seems the most obvious fact to believers, and becoming open to questioning of the evidence involves a sort of conversion process.  And like YEC, belief in the historical Jesus involves accepting logical fallacies, and an ability to ignore evidence and scientific method when cherished claims are involved that are central to a whole view of reality. 

However, a shift to seeing Jesus as myth can still recognise the value in Christology, in terms of the functional role of an imagined anointed saviour connecting human life to eternal truth.  The concept of eternal truth should be understood scientifically, as what is permanently the same in life, not a supernatural theory of heaven and of God as a personal entity.  The meaning of religious claims is symbolic, not literal, as allegory for natural and ethical ideas, seeing God as the stable order of the universe that enables human flourishing.

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20 hours ago, Robert_Tulip said:

In orbital terms there are several overlapping factors which combine to drive natural climate change.  Interestingly, the precession has a close resonance with the overall wave function of the solar system, calculated by the movement of the sun against the system centre of mass.  I mention this, alongside the whole framework of the orbital drivers of climate, to argue that the zodiac age concept underlying Biblical eschatology is a real scientific mechanism, not just an astrological dream.  Although the details of this natural process of orbital dynamics were not known to the ancients, their accurate visual cosmology and their very ancient mythological insights came together to provide a vision whose detailed meaning can now be investigated productively, dispassionately and objectively against modern astronomical knowledge.

 

This is something that many people are unaware of. When we were going over precession years ago and you started looking at how the earth's orbital wobble is reflected in the glaciation cycles, which, then have direct effects on the evolution of life on the planet, I realized that the ancient beliefs in spooky astrological forces on society may in fact have underlying foundations in the raw science of the solar cycles and planetary formation and evolution. Of course the ancients didn't know that, they just observed small changes and figured out that there was a larger scale cycle at play in the sky - the precession of the equinoxes and the shifting of the north star through the northern circumpolar constellations. They then mythologized a system of societal ascending and descending around the greater cycle. This old solar mystery knowledge finding it's way into the christian era and thrown in by some of the writers. What ever truths there are about the earth's natural climate drivers and the advances and set backs of society, is only in christianity because christianity was taken in large part from these older pagan societies which revered the earth. 

 

And so here you are looking at ways of getting back to the "old time religion," which was nature worship, basically. That old nature worship underlies christian foundations in many ways. And if christians were honest with themselves, they'd understand that. The biggest problem here being christians who are willing to be honest with themselves. That's a real problem. And we face that problem all the time as ex-christians. There's a large shortage of intellectual honesty going around the christian world. But I do entertain the possibility that eventually the advancement of technology and information will choke them out and force necessary changes in order to try and survive. It's either that, or technology will eventually destroy christianity altogether because the literal historical framework has too many holes and simply doesn't hold up, not to mention that Revelation will never unfold in the ways in which they think it will because they've all been reading it wrong the entire time. The number of the beast was in reference to Nero Caesar, not some future event. 

 

 

 

 

 

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14 hours ago, Joshpantera said:

 

This is something that many people are unaware of. When we were going over precession years ago and you started looking at how the earth's orbital wobble is reflected in the glaciation cycles, which, then have direct effects on the evolution of life on the planet, I realized that the ancient beliefs in spooky astrological forces on society may in fact have underlying foundations in the raw science of the solar cycles and planetary formation and evolution. Of course the ancients didn't know that, they just observed small changes and figured out that there was a larger scale cycle at play in the sky - the precession of the equinoxes and the shifting of the north star through the northern circumpolar constellations. They then mythologized a system of societal ascending and descending around the greater cycle. This old solar mystery knowledge finding it's way into the christian era and thrown in by some of the writers. What ever truths there are about the earth's natural climate drivers and the advances and set backs of society, is only in christianity because christianity was taken in large part from these older pagan societies which revered the earth. 

 

And so here you are looking at ways of getting back to the "old time religion," which was nature worship, basically. That old nature worship underlies christian foundations in many ways. And if christians were honest with themselves, they'd understand that. The biggest problem here being christians who are willing to be honest with themselves. That's a real problem. And we face that problem all the time as ex-christians. There's a large shortage of intellectual honesty going around the christian world. But I do entertain the possibility that eventually the advancement of technology and information will choke them out and force necessary changes in order to try and survive. It's either that, or technology will eventually destroy christianity altogether because the literal historical framework has too many holes and simply doesn't hold up, not to mention that Revelation will never unfold in the ways in which they think it will because they've all been reading it wrong the entire time. The number of the beast was in reference to Nero Caesar, not some future event. 

 

JP: This is something that many people are unaware of.

RT: In fact, in my research on this relation between astronomy and myth, I have found that my research on orbital drivers is entirely new, because no one as far as I am aware has had the knowledge and interest to analyse how the big creation myths may actually be embedded in the actual process of human cultural and natural evolution.  The key point to understand is that the science of astronomy actually provides a stable cyclic framework for the evolution of life on earth, with a set of orderly patterns that have been the same since Neptune put the face on the man in the moon.  That reference is my flippant way of describing the stabilisation of the solar system nearly four billion years ago when the planet Neptune migrated to its current orbit and in doing so smashed the earth and moon with rocks in the event known as the Late Heavy Bombardment, according to the mainstream Nice Model.  But this astronomical aeon, measured in billions of years, also contains geological aeons, measured in millions of years, and, which is relevant to analysing mythology, climate aeons measured in thousands of years.  The climate aeons provide the scientific framework to analyse myths such as creation, fall, flood and redemption.

JP: When we were going over precession years ago and you started looking at how the earth's orbital wobble is reflected in the glaciation cycles, which, then have direct effects on the evolution of life on the planet, I realized that the ancient beliefs in spooky astrological forces on society may in fact have underlying foundations in the raw science of the solar cycles and planetary formation and evolution.

RT: Yes, exactly.  The orbital patterns of long term natural climate change provide the enframing context for evolution, which includes genetic as well as memetic change.  The Great Year is a concept from Plato, describing the slow stable cycle of precession of the equinox, the period the seasons take to return to the same position against the stars, marked by the twelve ages of the zodiac. This cycle provides a model for what Nietzsche called the eternal return of the same.  Long considered a myth, the Great Year is actually a real process, driving the glaciation cycle of earth, as proved by the great astronomer Milutin Milankovitch.

Precession has a period of 25771 years, traditionally estimated at either 25,960 or 26,000 years, but its impact on climate is modulated by apsidal precession, the even slower rotation of earth’s orbit against the stars, so the glacial period is about 21,000 years, forming the natural Great Year.  There are also even slower cycles, with earth’s tilt changing on a 41,000 year period and the roundness of the orbit or eccentricity having various periods around 100,000 and 400,000 years, mainly due to the interaction of Earth’s orbit with the orbits of Jupiter and Venus. There have been about 200,000 Great Years over the four billion years of life on earth, as stable as the day and the year.  Copernicus defined the Great Year as the third motion of the earth, together with the day and year.

By the way, FTL tells me he has all our conversations from Free Thought Nation and hopes to put them online again soon.

JP: Of course the ancients didn't know that, they just observed small changes and figured out that there was a larger scale cycle at play in the sky - the precession of the equinoxes and the shifting of the north star through the northern circumpolar constellations.

RT: The basis of ancient use of precession may be more complex than just the derivation from observation that you describe.  For example, one of the central epics of Rome, Ovid’s Metamorphoses, opens with an account of the creation, describing the descent of man from the Golden Age, when “rectitude spontaneous in the heart prevailed, and faith. Avengers were not seen, for laws unframed were all unknown and needless. Punishment and fear of penalties existed not.”  Next came the silver age, when the peaceful abundant rule of Saturn gave way to Jupiter, and life was “not so good as gold but still surpassing yellow brass.” “The third Age followed, called The Age of Bronze, when cruel people were inclined to arms but not to impious crimes. And last of all the ruthless and hard Age of Iron prevailed, from which malignant vein great evil sprung; and modesty and faith and truth took flight, and in their stead deceits and snares and frauds and violence and wicked love of gain, succeeded.”

As I mentioned above, this myth of descent is embedded in an even older Indian myth of the Yuga, with the descent period followed by a mirroring period of ascent like the four seasons of the year, repeating eternally as night follows day.  My observation is that this old myth reflects the actual climate change that has governed human natural, and therefore cultural, evolution.  My hypothesis is that memetic cultural transmission of these millennial changes eventually crystallised as myth, for example with the flood myth coming from the 125 metre rise in sea level since the Last Glacial Maximum 20,000 years ago, and the Christ Myth as the presence of the Golden Age in the midst of the Iron Age.

Greek and Babylonian astronomers observed and recorded the shift of the stars by precession, providing a physical visual regular marker to measure this change like a clock.  For hundreds of years before the time of Christ, astronomers could predict, using only the visual observation available to them to decade level accuracy, that the spring point would move from the constellation of Aries into the constellation of Pisces, an event which actually happened in 21 AD.  My view is that this lost scientific knowledge provided the basis for the prophecy of the turning point of time at the incarnation of Christ.  Then the hope gave rise to the belief, as the story of Jesus was invented to fulfil the prophecy.

JP: They then mythologized a system of societal ascending and descending around the greater cycle.

RT: I see it in reverse, that the myth of ascent and descent came before the calculation of precession, which was quite difficult to measure due to its extreme slowness.  Precession is like the numbers on a clock face, markers of the actual process of the movement of the hands.

JP: This old solar mystery knowledge finding its way into the christian era and thrown in by some of the writers. What ever truths there are about the earth's natural climate drivers and the advances and set backs of society, is only in christianity because christianity was taken in large part from these older pagan societies which revered the earth. 

RT: The Gnostic Platonic question was how God relates to life on earth.  The myth of ascent and descent explains how climate patterns govern the structure of time, providing the eternal stable natural order of the universe.  This myth of stable eternal order became mythologised as God the Father, a Christian concept that has evolved in language from Deus Pater, Jupiter, Zeus Patera and the Vedic sky God Dyaus Pita.  Plato’s Noble Lie in The Republic uses this myth of Golden and Iron Ages explicitly, providing the impetus for Gnostic Platonists to then embed this myth secretly in their imagination of what it would be like if God came to earth, a process that led to the invention of Jesus Christ as a necessary incarnate mediator between the fourfold of earth and sky, man and God.  This all indicates that the Christ Myth is directly derived from the old natural myths of ascending and descending ages.

JP:  And so here you are looking at ways of getting back to the "old time religion," which was nature worship, basically. That old nature worship underlies christian foundations in many ways.

RT: The concept of nature includes the duality of earth and sky.  In the Greek tradition Earth was mythologised as the nurturing mother Gaia, while sky is the judging father Zeus, who became God the Father in Christianity.  The equal divine functions of nurturing and order show the balance between masculine and feminine archetypes.  However, with the rise of metal-based war in the Bronze Age, the peaceful maternal vision was subordinated by the security imperative of hierarchical patriarchal monotheism (see eg Judges 18).  Here, in this process of descent, we see the exact match between the myth of the four metal ages, the real cultural evolution of the world and the underlying climatic drivers.  We are now at the point of the natural orbital cycle where the planet is shifting, by the Yuga framework, out of the iron age and into an ascending bronze age.  The idea of a ten-thousand year ascent to the next Golden Age is partly captured in the Biblical myth of the New Jerusalem as showing the return of humanity to knowledge of the Tree of Life, a redemptive future which will enable equal balance between the male and female divine principles of order and care.

JP: And if christians were honest with themselves, they'd understand that. The biggest problem here being christians who are willing to be honest with themselves. That's a real problem. And we face that problem all the time as ex-christians. There's a large shortage of intellectual honesty going around the christian world.

RT: Perhaps as much as honesty, the problem is seen in the psychological structure of scientific revolutions as explained by TS Kuhn in his theory of paradigm shift.  For traditional Christians, their false myths underpin their moral order, and science has not provided a superior story that enables community belonging and transmission of cultural values. So Christians will stick to their myths, despite their anomalies, until a more persuasive paradigm comes along that respects what is essential to faith. My view is that the integration of science and myth in orbital memetics can enable a productive dialogue about how Christianity can enter a new reformation to reconcile faith and reason.

JP:  But I do entertain the possibility that eventually the advancement of technology and information will choke them out and force necessary changes in order to try and survive. It's either that, or technology will eventually destroy christianity altogether because the literal historical framework has too many holes and simply doesn't hold up,

RT: Again I see it with a slightly different nuance.  Technology and information by themselves do not provide a compelling story of the meaning and purpose of life. A value based narrative is needed that respects the centrality of human concern, ordering scientific facts into simple ideas about what is important.

JP: not to mention that Revelation will never unfold in the ways in which they think it will because they've all been reading it wrong the entire time.

RT: As we discussed at length, the Revelation to Saint John the Divine is a wonderful book, encoding the deep Platonic Gnostic wisdom of precession of the equinoxes.  Christ as Alpha and Omega is the point of movement of the sun from the first sign Aries to the last sign Pisces at the spring equinox, the woman with the moon at her feet is the Passover blood moon of 4 BC, the tree of life is the starry path of the sun through the zodiac, the river of life is the Milky Way galaxy, the dragon giving power seat and authority to the leopard bear lion is the observed historical precession of the North Celestial Pole, the New Jerusalem is the hermetic reconciliation of heaven and earth in knowledge of the precession, and the twelve foundation jewels of the Holy City, which by old myth symbolise the twelve signs of the zodiac in reverse from Pisces to Aries, are the clearest proof that the authors used this observational framework of natural order seen in precession to develop their whole cosmology.  These descriptions are not fantasy, but a consistent empirical contestable analysis of the real original intended meaning of the text.

JP: The number of the beast was in reference to Nero Caesar, not some future event. 

RT: I will tell you my view on this, which is mildly embarrassing but central, and was the starting point for my journey of discovery into precession.  As an undergraduate philosophy student in the early 1980s, I first became interested in the relation between astrology and science by writing a first year philosophy essay.  Then I noticed that the New Age theory of the shift from the Age of Pisces to the Age of Aquarius matched to the actual themes that astrology gives to these signs, belief for Pisces and knowledge for Aquarius, with the replacement of faith by reason in history as governing principles mirroring the astrological themes of mystical compassionate belief for Pisces and innovative humanitarian knowledge for Aquarius.  So I thought perhaps there is some scientific basis for this obscure zodiac age concept. Then I got quite terrified by the risk of nuclear war under President Reagan, whose full name is Ronald Wilson Reagan.  Then, in reading Revelation 13:11-18, the beast of the apocalypse, I noticed that the United States Dollar has six letters in each of its three names, as does President Reagan.  I do not wish to engage in speculation about actual prophecy, as I find that completely unlikely, but more as a parable.  I have had this theme as an analysis of the judgement of Christ on the world, seeing the USA as the beast of the apocalypse, as a question in my mind that provides an interesting framework to analyse politics and culture.  I had a peer reviewed journal article published on this in WSCF Student World 2007, titled The Human Number: Theological Reflections on Empire.

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8 hours ago, Robert_Tulip said:

RT: I see it in reverse, that the myth of ascent and descent came before the calculation of precession, which was quite difficult to measure due to its extreme slowness.  Precession is like the numbers on a clock face, markers of the actual process of the movement of the hands.

 

Are you keeping in mind finds like the Nabta Playa site? The stone circles appear to outline Orion's belt star positions at either side of the observable extremes on meridian. That goes way back. I know it's unorthodox to get into the ancient Egyptian's and even earlier knowing about precession, but it seems that there's enough evidence on the table to suggest it. I guess we'd have to look at far back myths of rising and falling date to verses these archaeo-astronomy sites which are very ancient. Off the top of my head I think the Yuga's are much older than the Greek myths and I think site's like Nabta Playa out date them both. 

 

8 hours ago, Robert_Tulip said:

Plato’s Noble Lie in The Republic uses this myth of Golden and Iron Ages explicitly, providing the impetus for Gnostic Platonists to then embed this myth secretly in their imagination of what it would be like if God came to earth, a process that led to the invention of Jesus Christ as a necessary incarnate mediator between the fourfold of earth and sky, man and God.  This all indicates that the Christ Myth is directly derived from the old natural myths of ascending and descending ages.

 

Now here are you referring to Doherty and Carrier's work on a Gnostic celestial Jesus concept which was later mowed down by the orthodoxy and historicized? 

 

8 hours ago, Robert_Tulip said:

RT: Perhaps as much as honesty, the problem is seen in the psychological structure of scientific revolutions as explained by TS Kuhn in his theory of paradigm shift.  For traditional Christians, their false myths underpin their moral order, and science has not provided a superior story that enables community belonging and transmission of cultural values. So Christians will stick to their myths, despite their anomalies, until a more persuasive paradigm comes along that respects what is essential to faith. My view is that the integration of science and myth in orbital memetics can enable a productive dialogue about how Christianity can enter a new reformation to reconcile faith and reason.

 

That's interesting, Robert. Because we here at ex-C face this often with struggling and deconverting christians coming here looking for help, asking questions, and looking for answers. Some of our members have gone back and forth between atheism and christianity because they feel in some way that science hasn't provided a superior story, basically. Some can't get past the social needs for church and community, even though they know deep down inside that these christian myths are not very factual and historical. There's a struggle within. 

 

In the event that a science based framework can provide what they seem to be missing, I think that many people would be able to transition to freethought easier and without feeling like they've missed something or walk around with a large hole in their lives. It's an interesting prospect. Many of us here have been thinking in terms of transition. Society transitioning in steps away from the dying theistic frameworks towards secular atheism and spiritual varieties of atheism, which, is what you're outlining here. It's christian mythos oriented version of spiritual atheism.

 

8 hours ago, Robert_Tulip said:

RT: Again I see it with a slightly different nuance.  Technology and information by themselves do not provide a compelling story of the meaning and purpose of life. A value based narrative is needed that respects the centrality of human concern, ordering scientific facts into simple ideas about what is important.

 

Yes, that's true. I do think that religious and spiritual views need to accord with science in genuine ways. 

 

 

 

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13 hours ago, Robert_Tulip said:

JP: The number of the beast was in reference to Nero Caesar, not some future event. 

RT: I will tell you my view on this, which is mildly embarrassing but central, and was the starting point for my journey of discovery into precession.  As an undergraduate philosophy student in the early 1980s, I first became interested in the relation between astrology and science by writing a first year philosophy essay.  Then I noticed that the New Age theory of the shift from the Age of Pisces to the Age of Aquarius matched to the actual themes that astrology gives to these signs, belief for Pisces and knowledge for Aquarius, with the replacement of faith by reason in history as governing principles mirroring the astrological themes of mystical compassionate belief for Pisces and innovative humanitarian knowledge for Aquarius.  So I thought perhaps there is some scientific basis for this obscure zodiac age concept. Then I got quite terrified by the risk of nuclear war under President Reagan, whose full name is Ronald Wilson Reagan.  Then, in reading Revelation 13:11-18, the beast of the apocalypse, I noticed that the United States Dollar has six letters in each of its three names, as does President Reagan.  I do not wish to engage in speculation about actual prophecy, as I find that completely unlikely, but more as a parable.  I have had this theme as an analysis of the judgement of Christ on the world, seeing the USA as the beast of the apocalypse, as a question in my mind that provides an interesting framework to analyse politics and culture.  I had a peer reviewed journal article published on this in WSCF Student World 2007, titled The Human Number: Theological Reflections on Empire.

 

I'm gonna leave this video clip which outlines the most probable interpretation: 

 

 

This academic explanation seems to be the simplest. It's glaring, actually. And I think it needs to be present in any attempt at taking a scientific and academic view of things. 

 

So when addressing the number or mark of the beast, I agree that it could be viewed as parable if presented in an intellectually honest manner. Here's John referencing the leader of a world empire of his time, and here's how that might look today given our political landscape of time and place now. John was not speaking of the politics of today, nor could he have any knowledge of the future in any detail, such as about any specific people or governments which did not exist yet and which he couldn't have known would exist. 

 

If a christian reformation took this openly honest of an approach, I'd be ok with using Revelation as a parable of sorts. But only in so much as it's made clear that John wasn't talking about some future person like a president or pope, nor the US or anything like that. 

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On 09/10/2017 at 11:15 PM, Joshpantera said:

 

We've seen christians flatly deny the astrotheology of the bible, tooth and nail. And then, after several years of hot debate, I began seeing christians trying to silently accept astrotheology but in an attempt to make their own sense of it. And by christians I mean the run of the mill fundies: 

 

 

Now obviously the guy is way, way off in terms of comprehending what the astrotheology alludes to. But it goes to show something in the way of a cultural evolution that we've seen unfold in real time. They've flatly rejected astrotheology, and then tried accepting on their own terms, in their own way. Now of course it was all wrong and the astrotheology of the bible doesn't point to any literal rapture, nor any literal prophecies to the creation of Israel or the immediate time we live in. It only roughly outlines the Great Year and particularly the four darkest ages at the bottom of the Great Year cycle....

 

So perhaps down the road, in the wake of what's happening now, some christians may be receptive to newer perspectives. After enough of these outlined fundamentalist failures keep happening. In the process many christians are now receptive to the astrotheology of the bible, in their own baby steps type of ways. And they're becoming more aware of the debate about Jesus' historical existence via social media and the internet and have to try and adapt to the changing landscape as far as that goes. 

 

But let's face it. The one thing here that really determines who'll be receptive to what, still has to do with the afterlife. 

 

The astrotheology of the ancients did include some type of conception of the human soul and it's journey through the planetary spheres, as outlined in many lectures by Manly P Hall on the astrotheology of the ancients. So while they were crafting religion around observations of the heavens, they were also supernaturalist's at the same time. What they were allegorizing isn't anything that christian's understand today, but it was afterlife oriented regardless. 

 

What you're talking about is something new altogether, Robert. 

 

You're talking about a type of liberal oriented christianity set to an appreciation of the ancient high cultures and high philosophies that were utilized in the making and evolving process of christianity from what I'm seeing. And doing so from a naturalist perspective. You're looking at a type of reformation that would make christians, for lack of a better word, "spiritual atheists." Naturalist's who retain a spiritual view about nature and cosmos and interpret scripture as myth, allegory, and metaphor. Something that blends monotheism with the pantheism's. But retains a christian label. 

 

That's something very interesting to consider. For one thing, it serves to further demolish fundamentalism. And bridges the gap between theist's and atheist's ever further. In a lot of ways I think that if christianity is to survive it will have to find ways of getting on board with logic, reason, and the higher ranges of human philosophical and spiritual oriented thinking. It's currently very low rung in those respects. Which is why so many people are leaving it. 

JP: We've seen christians flatly deny the astrotheology of the bible, tooth and nail. And then, after several years of hot debate, I began seeing christians trying to silently accept astrotheology but in an attempt to make their own sense of it. And by christians I mean the run of the mill fundies: 

RT: I don’t much engage fundamentalists on such topics. The symbolic explanation of Biblical texts is so clearly superior that I have no patience for people who insist they are literal.  All alleged miracles are actually parables.  Even so, I do admire your persistence in dripping water on such granite surfaces to erode their resistance.  Perhaps a better metaphor for the debate between mythicism and fundamentalism is global warming in Greenland and Antarctica, where the steady undermining of ice shelfs by the warming seas is causing their sudden collapse. 

Mythicism and astrotheology are sapping the foundations of fundamentalist belief, through moves toward a coherent explication of a new paradigm.  I still don’t think though that the new paradigm has been adequately presented in full, given the splits within mythicism over astrotheology and other deep philosophical questions and the need to provide a compelling scientific explanation for how Christianity evolved without Jesus.  So I think the more important audience is the scholarly community, to expand the peer reviewed discussion of astrotheology.

 

JP: Now obviously the guy [in the video] is way, way off in terms of comprehending what the astrotheology alludes to. But it goes to show something in the way of a cultural evolution that we've seen unfold in real time. They've flatly rejected astrotheology, and then tried accepting on their own terms, in their own way. Now of course it was all wrong and the astrotheology of the bible doesn't point to any literal rapture, nor any literal prophecies to the creation of Israel or the immediate time we live in. It only roughly outlines the Great Year and particularly the four darkest ages at the bottom of the Great Year cycle....

RT: To point to a tension within your comment, you note the four darkest ages at the bottom of the Great Year cycle. Other readers may not realise this is a purely scientific observation. The 7000 years of the traditional Christian theory of time from Young Earth Creationism represent the zodiac ages of Taurus, Aries, Pisces and half of Aquarius, encoded in the times, time and half a time tribulation framework. This is also the part of the Great Year when solar insolation to the Northern Hemisphere is lowest, which generally is the cause of ice ages, hence your point about the four darkest ages.

But the ancients could only see that scientific framework through a glass darkly.  The astral framework of the zodiac ages, readily imaginable to ancient astronomy, involves a metaphor based on the day/millennium code of Psalm 90 and 2 Peter that the seven days of creation map to the 7000 years of time.  That means the six days are the Ages of Taurus, Aries and Pisces, and the Sabbath Day of rest in Genesis equates to the first half of the Age of Aquarius as an imagined period of global recovery.

Now, if this Zodiac Age structure was a deliberate Gnostic Platonic cosmology that informed the construction of the Christ Myth in the Gospels and Revelation, then it means they thought about the Second Coming as the dawn of the Age of Aquarius, hence the ‘end of the age’ references throughout the Bible mean the end of the Age of Pisces.  The Olivet claim in Matt 24, that the appearance on the clouds of heaven of the Son of Man would only happen after the Gospel of the Kingdom had been preached to the whole inhabited earth, points to the idea of the Pisces/Aquarius age cusp, as imagining a future global human civilization where the whole earth is connected, something that has happened only recently.  So there is a meaningful sense in which the Christ Myth does contain prophecies about our current situation, although these are in the general terms of the global rule of Christ rather than specifics. 

The structure of the myth which could readily have been conceptualised by ancient Platonic Gnostic astronomers is that the Age of Pisces is a time of belief that primes the pump for the Age of Aquarius as a time of knowledge.

 

JP:  So perhaps down the road, in the wake of what's happening now, some christians may be receptive to newer perspectives. After enough of these outlined fundamentalist failures keep happening. In the process many christians are now receptive to the astrotheology of the bible, in their own baby steps type of ways. And they're becoming more aware of the debate about Jesus' historical existence via social media and the internet and have to try and adapt to the changing landscape as far as that goes. 

RT: It is a shame that the discussion on the existence of Jesus is mainly restricted to the internet, despite the efforts of authors such as Murdock, Carrier, Brodie, Doherty, etc.  I suspect the lack of academic interest in the Christ Myth Theory and Astrotheology is a key reason for a lack of traction in broader society through the media.  Again that is just down to the failure of anyone to present a persuasive new paradigm that demands broader discussion, although there are many tantalizing pieces of the Jesus Puzzle, to use Earl Doherty’s perceptive book title.

 

JP: But let's face it. The one thing here that really determines who'll be receptive to what, still has to do with the afterlife. The astrotheology of the ancients did include some type of conception of the human soul and its journey through the planetary spheres, as outlined in many lectures by Manly P Hall on the astrotheology of the ancients. So while they were crafting religion around observations of the heavens, they were also supernaturalists at the same time. What they were allegorizing isn't anything that christians understand today, but it was afterlife oriented regardless. 

RT: That is an interesting point.  Views on the afterlife are worth considering against Plato’s theory of the transmigration of the soul, with the link to his idea of the return of the soul to its companion star in the Milky Way.  My view is that such ideas operate mainly at the level of comforting popular fantasy.  There is an inherent supernaturalism in popular myths of heaven.  I prefer to discuss heaven as the idea of what earth could become.

 

JP:  What you're talking about is something new altogether, Robert. 

RT:  Over the years you are almost the only person I have spoken to who has engaged on the new scientific paradigm I am describing.  I call it Orbital Memetics, using astronomy as the basis to explain the evolution of mythology, especially Christianity.  Rigorous scientific analysis of the earth’s astronomical movements explains the real framework for climate, and hence the framework for evolution of both genes and memes, all of which sit within stable durable climate patterns. 

The Christian myth of fall occupies exactly the same stretch of time as the climatic season of fall, 5000 BC to 1246 AD.  The climate period of fall is defined as when the perihelion moved from the September equinox to the December solstice.  This is a simple correlation between science and myth that I have not been able to get anyone much except you to discuss.  There is a simple diagram showing the climate fall period on the Wikipedia article on Milankovitch Cycles, titled Effects of Precession on the Seasons.  That correlation provides the basis for explaining why the authors of the Christ Myth would have imagined Jesus as the presence of the Golden Age in the Midst of the Iron Age. 

 

JP:  You're talking about a type of liberal oriented christianity set to an appreciation of the ancient high cultures and high philosophies that were utilized in the making and evolving process of christianity from what I'm seeing. And doing so from a naturalist perspective. You're looking at a type of reformation that would make christians, for lack of a better word, "spiritual atheists." Naturalists who retain a spiritual view about nature and cosmos and interpret scripture as myth, allegory, and metaphor. Something that blends monotheism with the pantheisms. But retains a christian label. 

RT:  That natural philosophy is all why I call myself a Christian atheist.  Science is inherently atheistic, and provides the foundations of true systematic understanding of reality. Therefore any rejection of science is unreal and as a result unethical. Supernatural concepts are completely unscientific and mythological, but science can explain the real meaning of myth in the memetic framework of the evolution of ideas under the selective pressure of long term natural climate change driven by orbital mechanics.

I view God as a metaphor for the natural order of the cosmos, the durable stable scientific patterns that have enabled life on earth.  In this scientific model, Jesus then becomes the imagined presence of God on earth, which the ancients could readily see in terms of the precession.  The Aries/Pisces Age cusp in 21 AD was a moment of pure harmony of the spheres, when the seasons and signs perfectly matched.  That is the entire basis of the Chi Rho Cross symbol as the myth of incarnation.  Inability to see this cosmic framework, with apologies to readers who may not be familiar with these concepts, shows the depraved amnesia of Christianity.

 

JP:  That's something very interesting to consider. For one thing, it serves to further demolish fundamentalism. And bridges the gap between theists and atheists ever further. In a lot of ways I think that if christianity is to survive it will have to find ways of getting on board with logic, reason, and the higher ranges of human philosophical and spiritual oriented thinking. It's currently very low rung in those respects. Which is why so many people are leaving it. 

RT: All true.  Fundamentalism is a toxic danger, a deliberately delusional ideology that enables rejection of the modern values of evidence and logic in favour of outmoded traditional authority.  Fundamentalism uses the Bible to support unconscious social values to entrench highly unethical social structures and policies. 

But Christianity contains the germ of its own redemption in its Gnostic Platonic origins, seeing the symbols of faith as metaphors for natural processes.

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You've had some interesting diagrams from astronomy programs that outline some of these points. Are you able to post those here? How many Platonic "Great Years" have happened over the course of history and so on. Illustrations of how the wobble of the earth's axis drives the glaciation cycles, and therefore how life has evolved and adapted during the course of all of this natural climate change. 

 

The main reason I've engaged this subject is because I had found my way to Robert Buvual and others who were doing work on ancient Egypt and their attention to building monoliths to scale according to celestial reference points. That and my earlier interest as a boy in the mysteries of Stone Henge and other monolithic sites that are clearly oriented to celestial observation. Discovering the connections between celestial observation and ancient myth making made a lot of sense to me. 

 

Of interest to some others may be how something like the Christ Myth debate has spawned such a thing as your perspective about christianity without Jesus. That's sounds pretty wild, but I think it does make sense that christian's are facing a huge issue about Jesus' supposed historical existence that isn't simply going to just go away for them. At the minimum the debate itself has shown just how far out of touch the gospels really were with the supposed events. I grew up thinking that everything down to the crucifixion was well documented by contemporary sources. I just assumed there had always been well written records in Rome about it. The only thing that I thought was in question was whether or not Jesus rose from the grave. Seriously, the way teachers and preachers had spoken of this, I had no idea whatsoever the reality of the situation. I had no idea that there's literally zero contemporary source evidence for any of it. Or that the gospels were written as late as they were, perhaps even into the 2nd century which I now think has good probability. At the minimum, the late 1st century, which does them no better. 

 

What's happened is that it's become popular now to have at least some working understanding of how the academic analysis breaks down, from blind believers, to liberal theologians, to agnostic and atheistic academics and the mythicist camp. It's created a situation where the full scope of the debate is now on people's radar probably more than any other time in history. All of the voices from debate are more or less heard and at least acknowledged to where people understand that it is in debate, and not just a given. As a kid growing up in the pre-internet, pre-smart phone world, I had not a clue about any of this. Nowadays, that's not the case. Believer's face opposition around every corner, at every comment they make on social media, forums, etc. They can not speak of Jesus or christianity without having to face opposition and challenge every step of the way. That's the situation world wide. They are met with either Evemerist or Mythicist responses all the time now. Simply because people love to pwn other people. And christian's are easily pwned now more than ever because the vast majority of what they're preaching, is demonstrably wrong and where they're wrong is becoming common knowledge. 

 

It's to the point of what does it matter if any aspect of the Christ Myth ever was historical? 

 

Part of the thrust of knowledge in the modern world is understanding that the spiritual aspects have nothing to do with believing these myths as history. The spiritual parts are the parts that come from the ancient solar mysteries, Platonism, Gnosticism, etc. They have to do with metaphor, allegory, and symbolism, not believing that these myths are real history. That's what I see as the final straw that breaks the camels back in terms of orthodox christian reasoning as we go into the Aquarian age. I often look at the news these days and think to myself that it's all so very predictable, the fact that turmoils have been rising like they have. Or at least the media's sense of wanting to promote those perceptions. The whole thing. The ridiculous right wing Neo-Nazi camp verses the ridiculous and extreme fringe liberals bickering and battling back and forth. The age cusps are traditionally times of upheaval like this. It'll probably get worse before it gets better. Especially with media and others specifically 'manipulating' information to make things seem as bad as possible. 

 

Robert, in my thinking it's not just the natural climate changes which can potentially trigger social changes, but intentional manipulation by human beings into social matters which bring about the sort of things we're seeing now. With much of the worlds elite involved in fraternal oriented mystical groups and what not, I find it no coincidence that social issues have more or less modeled the old esoteric world view models, like the Platonic Great Year. There may be many contributing factors involved. What originally put me onto that scent is a line from Robert Buvual about the possibility of an academy of men in ancient times who were manipulating other men and events according to the celestial time table. That set off a light bulb. And I looked at that running through history, from one form of esoteric group to another right down to the present day. 

 

And christian origins correspond to that line of thinking, of something that may have passed down from the Egyptian solar mysteries into the beginning of the common era among these Gnostics and others who were creating the religion. They may have had that mind set of manipulating men and events according to the celestial time table. They left pretty graphic details about their knowledge of the celestial time table. And they seem to have been manipulative men who involved. The celestial time table called for a decline into darkness, so perhaps they concealed a lot of ancient knowledge into things like the bible and the orthodox literal interpretations were more or less a way of keeping the content concealed through what they believed would be a dark period ahead. They may have tossed it all in as a type of time capsule or something to that effect. 

 

That's real speculative, but it's something that I still see as a possibility. 

 

If so, then it would stem to reason that there would also come a time, according to the same esoteric celestial timetable, when leaders would recognize the end of the concealment period, so to speak. Something like seeing that the spring equinox sunrise no longer falls into the constellation of Pisces and has transitioned into the constellation of Aquarius. As you stated earlier, going from a world age theme of "to believe" to a world age theme of "to know." Perhaps translating to popular thinking shifting from "blind belief" to "knowledge." 

 

In my thinking, that could go at least two different ways, if not more. One way, would be the reformation of christianity similar to what you're speaking about. Another way, in contrast, would be the end of christianity with the end of the old age.

 

And I don't know which way it will likely go, but I could see it going in either direction. Mainly, do to how the world leaders who are behind these sort of things, manipulating social opinions, will see it going. We could look deeper yet to the corporate puppet masters behind the politicians, but I think we'll find more of the same in terms of esoterics more so than exoterics when we look there. And of course, I think they tend to see it from esoteric perspectives, seeing as how so many of them have these general ties. Most of their christian oriented public appearances are apparently front. So many have esoteric connections behind that front. One glaring example is the Bohemian Grove attendance. It's very obvious that we face an esoteric and fraternal lot, when facing world leaders in general, regardless of christian fronts to the public. And a lot of christians know that. And they fear that. 

 

What they don't know, however, are the connections to mystical and esoteric thinking that are at the very heart of their own religion, in their own bibles. But as time goes on that will go around just as much as the Christ Myth debate, sort of along with it. 

 

These world leaders do know that, hence their dual role in the esoteric in private and the exoteric in public affairs. 

 

Long story short, if something like you're ideas on christian reformation were ever to find favor with the esoteric elite, I wouldn't be surprised to see them eventually become popular and pushed. They could use something like this as part of ending the concealment period, if there's anything to my little speculation here. I'm not disagreeing with natural climate change as a driver of evolution and adaptation, and social asension and decent over the years, I'm just adding the dynamic of willful manipulation on the part of esoteric leaders which seem to have always understood the cyclic models of the past and who more or less adhere to a philosophy of structuring society below in accord with what is observed happening above, so to speak. 

 

Could this all eventually lead to christianity without the focus on the historical Jesus interpretation? 

 

Maybe....

 

 

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9 hours ago, Joshpantera said:

You've had some interesting diagrams from astronomy programs that outline some of these points. Are you able to post those here? ...

Hi Josh, thanks again for such good follow up discussion.  Although I wonder if anyone else takes any notice of such issues.  I remember Acharya agreeing with me that trying to talk to people about her book Christ In Egypt was like banging her head against a brick wall, since people bring so many assumptions to these topics.  There are alarm bells associated with astral interpretation of Biblical symbols which pose risks of making others tune out. I would be interested to know if anyone else reads this conversation and if it makes sense or not to them.  I can’t tell if I am bringing assumptions that jump too fast for readers unfamiliar with these topics, as it mystifies me why things that seem important to me do not generate any traction or debate or even questions.  Once again I will make my comments in Word using initials, as I still can’t see the syntax of this site even after looking. 

 

JP: You've had some interesting diagrams from astronomy programs that outline some of these points. Are you able to post those here? 

 

RT: I have made quite a few diagrams.  Here is a three minute youtube on precession and myth that I made just by holding my phone in front of my laptop to show the movement of the spring point over 7000 years using astronomy software, and reading a summary I wrote of the mythology framework of precession.  Sorry it is so wobbly but I did not have a better way to make it at the time.  I would make a more professional version if anyone was interested in these topics.

A good source to visualise the big picture of this orbital framework is from this Orbital Climate Chart.  The bottom line in this graph is insolation, the amount of light hitting the earth at 65° North in summer.  This line goes up and down every ten thousand years with precession, modulated by other orbital factors, causing the closely correlated shape of the temperature line, and the feedback loops into CO2, oxygen 18 and other measures which all change in synch.  The earth basically gets warmer and cooler every 20,000 years following the cycles of which northern season occurs when the earth is closest to the sun. This wave function is called the season of perihelion, and is mainly a function of precession of the equinoxes, as the main driver of glaciation.  The chart was created by analysing trapped air in ice cores from Antarctica over 400,000 years.

 

 

JP: How many Platonic "Great Years" have happened over the course of history and so on. Illustrations of how the wobble of the earth's axis drives the glaciation cycles, and therefore how life has evolved and adapted during the course of all of this natural climate change. 

 

RT: That is covered in the Orbital Climate Chart I linked above.  There are about 40 Great Years every million years.  So all of recorded history since the dawn of writing is a quarter of one Great Year.  When you think that life on earth has evolved over four billion years (chart) and these big orbital patterns have been fairly stable over that whole time, through more than 200,000 Great Years, it puts history into biological evolutionary perspective.  The astronomy of the Great Year makes the hypothesis that there could be systemic differences between the maxima and minima of this big climate cycle worth pursuing. The climatic maxima appear to equate to the Golden Ages and the minima equate to the Iron Ages in the Vedic Yuga framework that encompasses western mythology.

 

 

JP: The main reason I've engaged this subject is because I had found my way to Robert Bauval and others who were doing work on ancient Egypt and their attention to building monoliths to scale according to celestial reference points. That and my earlier interest as a boy in the mysteries of Stone Henge and other monolithic sites that are clearly oriented to celestial observation. Discovering the connections between celestial observation and ancient myth making made a lot of sense to me. 

 

RT: Bauval and Hancock have done some interesting analysis on the Egyptian First Time known as Zep Tepi, seeing it as the dawn of the Holocene in the Age of Leo, and as the Golden Age.  When Leo was at the spring equinox about ten thousand years ago, Vega was the northern pole star.  The whole process of Vega getting knocked off the pole seems to be behind the cosmic mill idea that the book Hamlet’s Mill analyses in Finnish epics.

 

 

JP: Of interest to others is how something like the Christ Myth debate has spawned such a thing as your perspective about christianity without Jesus.  

 

RT:  Well I hope it might be of interest to others, but I see no evidence of that.  The memetic evolution of the Christ Myth as a process of fictional imagination and popular social resonance provides a far more parsimonious and elegant hypothesis to explain all the available facts than any Historical Jesus claim does.  The astronomical model of precession, seeing Jesus as metaphor for the sun, can retain the pre-existent Logos cosmology and therefore can retain the essence of trinitarian theology in a purely scientific framework.  Recognising that Jesus was invented builds on the Calvinist theory of the total depravity of human existence, seeing the psychology of the belief in the literal Jesus as a primary symptom of the fall from grace into corruption.

 

 

JP: That's sounds pretty wild, but it does make sense that christians are facing a huge issue about Jesus' supposed historical existence. At the minimum the debate itself has shown just how far out of touch the gospels really were with the supposed events. I grew up thinking that everything down to the crucifixion was well documented by contemporary sources. I just assumed there had always been well written records in Rome about it. The only thing that I thought was in question was whether or not Jesus rose from the grave. Seriously, the way teachers and preachers had spoken of this, I had no idea whatsoever the reality of the situation. I had no idea that there's literally zero contemporary source evidence. Or that the gospels were written as late as they were, perhaps even into the 2nd century which I now think has good probability.  

 

RT: The phrase “Gospel Truth” shows how severely church politics has corrupted popular understanding of Christian origins.  The only 'Gospel Truth' is symbolic, not literal.  Christendom is over, and any future relevance for Christianity will require faith to engage with science.

 

 

JP:  What's happened is that it's become popular now to have at least some working understanding of how the academic analysis breaks down, from blind believers, to liberal theologians, to agnostic and atheistic academics and the mythicist camp. It's created a situation where the full scope of the debate is now on people's radar. All of the voices from debate are more or less heard. As a kid in the pre internet, pre smart phone world, I had not a clue about any of this. Nowadays, that's not the case. Believer's face opposition around every corner, at every comment they make on social media, forums, etc. They can not speak of Jesus or christianity without having to face opposition and challenge every step of the way. That's the situation world wide. They are met with either Evemerist or Mythicist responses all the time now.  

 

RT:  The evolutionary shift from belief to knowledge as the primary heuristic of truth involves a shift from reliance on imagined divine revelation to a primacy of evidence and logic.  So even Creationists attempt to justify their fantasies by evidence.  But that effort rapidly collapses under the need for logical coherence.  So the only resolution is via the recognition that myths are symbolic in their meaning, not literal.  But the core myth of Christendom, based on the Gospel romance, was that the events described actually happened.  This myth built on the same Jewish myth applied to the Exodus, that it really occurred, and is entirely untenable against evidence.

I think you are exaggerating the social problems facing Christian believers.  My perception is that rational analysis of Biblical origins still only has pariah status, as Christians only speak to each other and ignore the real world. 

 

 

JP:  It's to the point of what does it matter if any aspect of the Christ Myth ever was historical?  

 

RT: It does matter, because the hypothesis of total invention of Jesus has greater explanatory power than any historical Jesus theory.  The invention hypothesis opens the way to modelling how Gnostic Platonic mystery schools could plausibly have enabled a Jewish imagination of Jesus Christ as the ‘one for all’ per Heb 10:12, sublimating the trauma of Roman conquest of Israel onto a single imagined messiah whose blood avails for all.  The rival hypothesis, retaining any historical aspect, deflects attention from the actual historical evidence of probable Gnostic origins.  I like to think of this against the framework that Kant called transcendental imagination.

 

 

JP:  Part of the thrust of knowledge in the modern world is understanding that the spiritual aspects have nothing to do with believing these myths as history. The spiritual parts are the parts that come from the ancient solar mysteries, Platonism, Gnosticism, etc. They have to do with metaphor, allegory, and symbolism, not believing that these myths are real history. That's what I see as the final straw that breaks the camel’s back in terms of orthodox christian reasoning as we go into the Aquarian age. I often look at the news these days and think to myself that it's all so very predictable, the fact that turmoils have been rising like they have. Or at least the media's sense of wanting to promote those perceptions. The whole thing. The ridiculous right wing Neo-Nazi camp versus the ridiculous and extreme fringe liberals bickering and battling back and forth. The age cusps are traditionally times of upheaval like this, and kind of ridiculous just like this. What a coincidence that we're facing all of this now as we're going into such a time frame.  

 

RT:  This phrase “spiritual aspects” is ambiguous.  The Aquarian Age knowledge heuristic has a different take on what spiritual means from the Piscean Age belief framework.  Popular religion in the old age imagined God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit as entities, but these conceptions are entirely false.  The way I see a new age trinitarian vision is that God is the framework of natural order, Jesus is how that framework interacts with history, and the Spirit is the presence of truth in the world.  Whitehead’s process theology is helpful to ‘de-entify’ the trinity, separating spirituality from traditional Christian supernatural myth. The philosopher Martin Heidegger usefully presented this trinitarian framework of nature, reason and truth in his atheistic book An Introduction to Metaphysics.

 

JP:  Robert, in my thinking it's not just the natural climate changes which can potentially trigger social changes, but intentional manipulation by human beings into social matters which bring about the sort of things we're seeing now. With much of the worlds elite involved in fraternal oriented mystical groups and what not, I find it no coincidence that social issues have more or less modeled the old esoteric world view models, like the Platonic Great Year. There may be many contributing factors involved. What originally put me onto that scent is a line from Robert Bauval about the possibility of an academy of men in ancient times who were manipulating other men and events according to the celestial time table. That set off a light bulb. And I looked at that running through history, from one form of esoteric group to another right down to the present day.  

 

RT: That mostly makes sense to me, except that in this astrophysical framework of orbital memetics the human manipulation is entirely contained within the natural climate changes.  Comparing time to a river, seeing human intentions as the cause of historical events is like saying an eddy is caused by a rock in the stream, while seeing natural orbital climate cycles as the cause of events is like saying the eddy is caused by the overall river geology.  Both are true, but the geology operates on a bigger framework of reality that encompasses the specifics of the shape of the stream. 

Your mention of the Academy is exactly what I said earlier about Plato.  His school was called the Academy, and he said that philosophers should rule the world by inventing a Noble Lie for the masses to believe based on the myth of the Golden Age and the Iron Age.  That is all in his book The Republic which remains the most popular work of ancient philosophy.  My view is that Plato founded Gnosticism as a secret philosophical society, and that Mark’s Gospel aimed to use this Noble Lie method to establish Gnostic philosopher kings, but the real kings (the Roman Emperors) saw the Gospel Gnostics as seditious and killed them off and suppressed their ideas.  But the beautiful story the Gnostic Platonists invented of Jesus Christ was so resonant and popular that it became the dominant myth of the western world.  A big part of this popularity derived from how the Platonists used the cosmology of precession of the equinox as the framework to invent the story of Jesus Christ.

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There are actually a number of scholars that concluded, after researching the evidence, that both Jesus & Paul are only literary figures. Those theories are old going back as far as the second century. The evidence suggest it was Marcion, not the fictional character Paul, that is responsible for the creation of Christianity in its original form.

 

DM Murdock's theories are plausible because they make sense, in fact I think they make a lot more sense than a lot of the theories some scholars are floating around today.  

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10 hours ago, Geezer said:

There are actually a number of scholars that concluded, after researching the evidence, that both Jesus & Paul are only literary figures. There theories are old going back as far as the second century. The evidence suggest it was Marcion, not the fictional character Paul, that is responsible for the creation of Christianity in its original form.

 

DM Murdock's theories are plausible because they make sense, in fact I think they make a lot more sense than a lot of the theories some scholars are floating around today.  

 

And the flip side to all of this, which Robert has clued in on, is the dynamic of the Gnostic influence in Paul. At the basis of christianity. 

 

Pauline epistles (Gnostic, Marcion / Simon?) > Gospels (Gnostic oriented Mark with more historical flowering) > Orthodoxy taking over (Catholics, etc.) > Protestant Reformation > Today (Ending of the current world age, possible roots oriented Gnostic reformation?) 

 

Following the same exact time line is my speculation about manipulative astronomer priests and mystics passing down information through time. 

 

Pre-history > Ancient Sumeria, Egypt etc. (solar mysteries) > Platonism (Egyptian informed Greek solar mysteries) > Platonic Gnostics (Egyptian informed Greek solar mysteries meeting Judaism) > Pauline Epistles > Gospels > Orthodoxy taking over > Protestant Reformation / European mystery schools - secret societies > Today. 

 

I think there's been an unbroken line of metaphorical, allegorical and symbolic astronomical observation based religion making and following right on from pre history to today. And it split off into two parts - one being a literal interpretation, a concealed version to the public through the orthodoxy and protestant reformation, the other going more or less underground as the European Masons and secret societies that arose which gained political influence more or less behind the scene away from the public. And now we're looking at the possibility of the two split off groups, the exoteric and the esoteric branches of the ancient solar mysteries, possibility merging again in the future. Possibly going into the new age that we're on the heels of now. 

 

That's why I don't think this is too far fetched of a proposition Robert has come up with. This conversion that we're having, as a matter of fact, I envision as similar to the conversations that were going around during the turn of the common era and thereafter among the astronomer priests. Different schools of thought drafting different solar allegories. But all more or less understanding what the others were expressing through allegorical language they were using. Now, we're speaking about the same things but directly without the need for allegory or concealing what it is we're saying. 

 

What I'm not sold on personally, as I'm sure many ex christians are not sold on either, is retaining the christian label. That's not something I'm interested in doing myself. I'll go as atheist, pantheist, naturalist, and non-religious. But at the same time I will gladly support those who may wish to go as christian atheists. Because I see that possibility as friendly to atheism and freethought going forward. I see it as a way to help bring down the divisiveness between religions and atheism. And that's where the potential political influences may be found in it. This is something that confused people (which we see come through here a lot) could possibly get on board with when raw atheism is just too bleak for them and when they would otherwise be prone to getting sucked back into orthodox christianity. 

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I'm not going to pretend that I've researched all this, so this is largely a sort of initial reaction.

 

Firstly, I cannot say that the postulated development of Christianity is wrong.  It does, however, strike me as coming into the category of being rather presumptive.  Joining the dots and seeing  a possible pattern is not the same thing as establishing a historical fact.  And, if it is correct that the gnostics interpreted Plato into some new and interesting shapes secretly, or with sufficient economy not to leave clear surviving text, then such an establishment of those facts is probably impossible - as is the capacity to disprove this viewpoint.

 

My own thoughts are that it seems strange to me that developments of Platonic thought would fix upon a reworking of a small, exclusive cult like Judaism.  It is arguable that the classical world, at this point, was already moving towards some sort of monotheism.  Hints of that may be seen already in the viewpoints that Plato ascribes to Socrates, who may (if I remember correctly - I've not double checked) speak of "the god" in ways that are suggestive of at least some sympathy towards a monotheistic ideal, and whose focus on virtue (which I will adopt for present purposes as near enough translation of αρετή) certainly has a moral quality not easily identified within hellenic mythology.

 

Note to self at this point.  Remember to change the keyboard back to English before continuing to type in order to avoid gobbledegook...

 

Anyhow, to my mind, that montheistic and ethical ideal would likely have had wider appeal had it been linked to a cult such as Cybele or even knitted into that of Isis and Serapis.  Mithras was probably a non-starter due to its' exclusion of females.  The δωδεκάθεοι even could have been a vehicle, though the need to modify a highly ingrained ritualised religion may have made it a tall order for reform.  But pulling Plato and Judaism together does not strike me as the obvious route to take - Judaism was too much a minority interest.  Again, it is arguable that the 2nd/3rd Century Chaldean Oracles present Hekate in a role that has some reflection in the ideas of mediatorial activity, which may indicate another possible line the gnostics could have tried.  By then the rise of orthodox Christianity may have had the momentum to prevent any alternative, however.

 

My second thought, or set of thoughts, is that I see little mileage in the discussion over the mythological or real nature of "Jesus".  Nazareth may or may not have existed as a town; it may have been little more than a term applied to a region where there were a few farms hardly sufficient to describe as a village.  However, there were, I have little doubt, any number of persons in 1st century Palestine called Yeshua Ben Yusuf.  Whether any of them was a wandering religious/political activist upon whom future stories could be hung is anyone's guess.  Equally, whether those future stories had their origin in Plato and gnosticism is a matter of monumental indifference to the question of whether Christianity can be reformed so as to exclude the idea of a literal person and concentrate on the ethical structures.

 

And that, it seems to me, really is the nub of the issue here.  In order to achieve a widely accepted form of atheistic Christianity (and I will assume, for now, that is a desirable concept rather than simply "atheism" or some other terminology) the issue is not going to be one of more or less speculative arguments from a possible past, but of the value of a formulation relevant for the present and future.  The discussion is interesting enough in itself but, to many looking for some form of outlook to give their ethical compass some structure, it's liable to seem exhausting at best and impenetrable at worst.  The advantage that orthodox Christianity enjoys is simplicity - if anything, too much simplicity, as it only remains so if you don't think about it too hard.  It's the inherent pointlessness of the supernaturalist viewpoint, and the inherent worth of ethics that can be formulated on the back of Christianity, that is the issue for you, not whether Christianity arose from some ancient philosophical free-wheeling.  That will be a minority interest at most, I would have thought.

 

So, power to your elbow if you wish to try to reformulate Christianity into something non-toxic, but I'm not sure that unprovable reformulations of the distant past are the way to go.

 

Speaking for myself, as neither an atheist nor a Christian, and as someone who found no real alternative to dropping out of the Christian fold altogether, I'm unconvinced that maintaining a link to Christian terminology will be of help - I tend to share Josh's reservations on that.

 

I hope none of that came over as unnecessarily critical or negative.

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On 16/10/2017 at 3:31 AM, Ellinas said:

postulated development of Christianity

Ellinas: “I'm not going to pretend that I've researched all this, so this is largely a sort of initial reaction.”

Tulip:  Hello Ellinas, I greatly appreciate your thoughtful comments here, as what you have said provides exactly the type of intellectual engagement on the philosophy and sociology of Christian origins that I am looking for. Thank you for your close reading, and I hope you and others will forgive me if I continue my practice of responding to each specific statement.  I should explain, basically as far as I know nobody has researched the line of argument I am presenting, an evolutionary astronomical scientific explanation for the emergence of Christianity, so this material is pioneering in uncharted waters. 

Ellinas: “Firstly, I cannot say that the postulated development of Christianity is wrong.”

Tulip: That is an important comment from my point of view, given the Popperian scientific agenda of falsification.  If I have not said anything that is readily refuted by factual knowledge, then it means that the postulated development is hypothetically possible.  Of course, whether postulated claims that lack overt corroboration are falsifiable is a further question. In my view, in a jigsaw context where much data is missing, such claims should be assessed against the Bayesian methods employed by Richard Carrier in his analysis of Christian origins, to ask which of the rival ideas are more or less probable as explanations of extant facts.

Ellinas: “It does, however, strike me as coming into the category of being rather presumptive. Joining the dots and seeing a possible pattern is not the same thing as establishing a historical fact.”

Tulip: I think presumptive is too strong a criticism.  I am presenting what you have conceded appears to be a possible explanation of Christian origins.  As to whether that mere possibility is plausible, persuasive or compelling, there would need to be scholarly engagement.  Scholars might have knowledge that would refute the conjecture, again to bring Popper’s method into the frame.  The heuristic situation here is that almost the entirety of Christian studies has assumed the existence of Jesus of Nazareth, but if we subject that assumption to radical doubt, using the scientific criteria of logic and evidence, we then encounter a further gaping hole, in the challenge of explaining how such an elaborate fiction could have come into being and been broadly accepted for two millennia.  My sense is that a Platonic Gnostic mystery tradition that was aggressively suppressed under Christendom is the most likely explanation for how the Christ Myth was wrongly believed as historical fact.

Ellinas: “And, if it is correct that the gnostics interpreted Plato into some new and interesting shapes secretly, or with sufficient economy not to leave clear surviving text, then such an establishment of those facts is probably impossible - as is the capacity to disprove this viewpoint.”

Tulip: The issue here is the balance of probabilities.  Mythicist analysis has proved to my satisfaction, having read widely on the topic for many years, that Jesus of Nazareth was invented.  The absence of any historical time or place details for Jesus in Paul’s epistles is a first marker, the inherently mythological and magical character of the Christ figure is a second, and the coherence with the agenda of Plato’s Noble Lie is a third, to indicate that Judaeo-Hellenic syncretism provides the most plausible critical path for the evolution of the Christ Myth.

Ellinas: “My own thoughts are that it seems strange to me that developments of Platonic thought would fix upon a reworking of a small, exclusive cult like Judaism.”

Tulip: A constant task in discussing such matters is to see the difference between intentional planned outcomes and accidental evolutionary results.  I am not at all arguing that Platonists planned the result of the catholic belief in Jesus of Nazareth as a historical individual. That result, I would argue, completely exploded in their faces, after they tried to construct Jesus as a device to implement the republican agenda of the philosopher kings.  Rather, we should interpret the events as a gradual process of memetic evolution, looking for the selective pressures that governed the emerging results. 

After the conquests of Alexander the Great, one of the first things the Greeks did in Egypt was to invent the cult of Serapis as a modus vivendi between Zeus and Osiris. Greek anthropocentrism could not cope with the Egyptian practice of worshipping animal heads, and Serapis enabled shared worship between newly connected trading partners.  My hypothesis is that what you rightly call the “small, exclusive cult” of Judaism was a prickly customer for such syncretism.  But a range of factors meant this exclusivity became an advantage, and led to Jewish prophecy, together with Babylonian cosmology, being overlaid on the Serapis Myth to construct Jesus Christ. 

Evolution occurs by incremental causality in response to selective pressures, with cumulative adaptation building on existing precedent. That process governs all life on earth, with the memetic process of cultural evolution nested within the slow process of genetic evolution. A primary selective pressure leading to the construction of the Christ Myth under the Roman Empire, I suggest, was the popular desire among conquered races for a story that would effectively subvert Roman rule by denying its moral legitimacy. Roman power had showed by the mid second century that military defiance was not feasible.  And yet, Alexandria existed as a great melting pot, the second city of empire, home to a big Jewish diaspora as well as Greeks and Egyptians.  In this context, the messianic prophecies in books such as Isaiah and Daniel were readily combined with the existing Serapis story to serve the practical agenda of sedition, led by secretive philosopher kings, through the promulgation of Mark’s Gospel and its later variants as a historizing of Paul’s celestial Christ.   But Rome was not defeated by the mystic plot.  The empire in turn subverted the Christ Myth by making literal belief compulsory. Constantine neutered Jesus as a vehicle for imperial stability and unity in the Nicene Creed and the subsequent Christendom fantasies, in effect by using Jesus to anthropomorphise the previous stability myth of Sol Invictus. 

Ellinas: “It is arguable that the classical world, at this point, was already moving towards some sort of monotheism.”

Tulip: Yes, exactly.  The nature of the common era, bringing hitherto separate religions into communion, meant the whole empire needed a shared framework of belief to instil unity against the threats of barbarian invasion. Religion, in its memetic evolution, is primarily about military security.  Against the central criteria of evolutionary success defined by Richard Dawkins, where stable, durable and fecund genes are the victors, social views that deliver enduring military security prove more adaptive than those that don’t. Rome first tried replacing Jupiter with the invincible sun as a monotheistic symbol of stability and unity, but the pitiless nature of the sun failed to prick the popular or imperial conscience in the way the Christian passion narrative could. By converting the sun into a symbol of the stone the builder refused, Jesus Christ, the empire achieved a purportedly compassionate monotheism in a way that proved able to mobilise popular support. 

A further thought on the centrality of Israel.  Its geographical position at the crossroads of Asia, Africa and Europe provided material conditions and impetus for the prophetic monotheist vision that the Old Testament claimed as its basis for salvation.  As a small country that placed its hope for security on an ethical vision of God that would enable peace with great powers, the meme of exclusionary Yahwist patriarchy served as a useful forerunner for the abolition of paganism under Christendom. 

Ellinas: “Hints of that may be seen already in the viewpoints that Plato ascribes to Socrates, who may (if I remember correctly - I've not double checked) speak of "the god" in ways that are suggestive of at least some sympathy towards a monotheistic ideal, and whose focus on virtue (which I will adopt for present purposes as near enough translation of αρετή) certainly has a moral quality not easily identified within hellenic mythology.”

Tulip: Yes, there is a long tradition of Christian Platonism that sees Plato as a believer avant la lettre, before the letter.  The Christian Logos theology is readily seen in Platonic idealism with its core themes of the good, truth, love, beauty.  Monotheism resonates especially in Parmenides’ myth of the one, seeing space-time as an eternal stable unity, and in the sayings of Heraclitus that see Logos as the shared rationality at the source of everything.  I have seen αρετή translated as excellence, a meaning closer to individual skill than the ethical goodness associated with virtue.

Ellinas: “Anyhow, to my mind, that monotheistic and ethical ideal would likely have had wider appeal had it been linked to a cult such as Cybele or even knitted into that of Isis and Serapis.”

Tulip: Greek ethical visions were knitted into the cult of Isis and Serapis! That was a first step in the Hellenistic Age towards a universal philosophy able to speak to the common man and woman, a result achieved only when Serapis was subsequently humanised and historized in Mark’s Gospel through the addition of the wonderful cosmogony of the Hebrews.

Comparing the Anatolian Cybele ecstatic Great Mother with Jesus Christ, I wonder if the military memetic heuristic I have suggested indicates that even if Cybele or Isis were popular, they lacked the gravitas that enabled the imagined Jesus to unify the empire. 

Ellinas: “Mithras was probably a non-starter due to its' exclusion of females.”

Tulip: Elements of Mithraism appear to have survived such as the bishop’s mitre and the masonic handshake. The puritanical mindset of the early church rejected the intimate link between paganism, astrology and Mithraism. Material essential to the construction of the Christ Myth was relegated to symbolic coded status, as the church kicked away the ladder after climbing it.  Mandorlas of Christ in Majesty are clearly evolved from pagan/Mithraic astrological icons of Phanes and Aion, especially with the four living creatures representing the four corners of the visible heavens.

Ellinas: “ The δωδεκάθεοι even could have been a vehicle, though the need to modify a highly ingrained ritualised religion may have made it a tall order for reform. .”

Tulip: Again, my interest is to set this material within a realistic evolutionary theory of change to explain what actually happened in history.  It was less a matter of anyone consciously deciding on a mythological format than the fact that Christianity obtained social traction, which means that Christianity resonated with an imperial world in ways the Olympian Gods did not.  The historical questions are why and how this occurred.  I think a big part of the attraction of Christianity was its incorporation of Judaism, with its ancient claims of an Exodus liberation story, its exclusive monotheism, its ability to portray the prophetic tradition as miraculous, and the role of Jesus as an everyman universal saviour. 

Ellinas: “But pulling Plato and Judaism together does not strike me as the obvious route to take - Judaism was too much a minority interest.”

Tulip:  Again your comment places deliberate intent above memetic evolution as the primary driver of culture in history. The popular social resonance of the Old Testament as prophecy for Jesus, together with its wisdom teachings and universal creation myth, outweighed the unpopularity of Judaism. Israel is physically at the meeting point of east and west, north and south, so portrayals of it as some obscure backwater are Eurocentric.  There is a sense in which Christianity, in its original Gnostic forms, aimed at the spiritual conquest of the west by the east, for example with its links to the Buddhist origins of monasticism and Plato’s recognition of the greater depth of eastern wisdom.  It is ironic that later in colonial days Christianity became associated with the conquest of the east by the west. 

Ellinas: “Again, it is arguable that the 2nd/3rd Century Chaldean Oracles present Hekate in a role that has some reflection in the ideas of mediatorial activity, which may indicate another possible line the gnostics could have tried.”

Tulip:  Nice to bring in all these alternative comparisons.  Christianity dips its lid to Persia with the wise men and the use of Babylonian ideas in Revelation and Isaiah.  You mention here a key point in cultural evolution, the idea of the mediator.  In serving as the mediator between earth and heaven, time and eternity, man and God, flesh and spirit, the Christ Myth also enabled a social mediation between east and west. 

We can well imagine that Gnostics tried to advance all of the lines you mention, Hekate, Mithras, Cybele, Olympus, etc, like a veritable Cambrian Explosion of experimental religion.  But just as the tetrapod body form won through in the Devonian, after all the weird and wonderful forms of the Cambrian had gone by the wayside, so too Christianity fought the good fight and outran the others in the adaptive race due to its evolutionary efficiency.  My sense is that analysing this adaptive efficiency requires explaining how Christianity built upon precedent causes, and that is where the hypothesis of a forgotten Platonic Gnostic mystery group seems an elegant and parsimonious solution.

Ellinas: “By then the rise of orthodox Christianity may have had the momentum to prevent any alternative, however.”

Tulip: The most powerful myth in Christianity seems to have been that the events described in the Gospels actually happened in history.  I found it fascinating in reading some of the early church Fathers, notably Ignatius of Antioch, how violently they emphasise the teaching from the Epistles of John that Jesus was real and not fake.  As Gertrude said, methinks they protest too much.

Ellinas: “My second thought, or set of thoughts, is that I see little mileage in the discussion over the mythological or real nature of "Jesus"”

Tulip: Well as they say, YMMV.  I think there is a lot of mileage.  In fact, I think that recognising that Jesus was invented will be decisive in enabling a new Christian reformation to reconcile faith and reason, to see that the dominant culture getting suckered in to the biggest fantasy in all history was the decisive proof of the fall from grace into corruption.  As Mark said in the baptism scene, you have to be sorry before you can be forgiven.  You can only be sorry if you understand why your action was wrong, and in this case the escape from the error of Christian literalism is an essential basis to climb out of the hole of delusion towards a rational evidence based understanding of reality.

Ellinas: “Nazareth may or may not have existed as a town; it may have been little more than a term applied to a region where there were a few farms hardly sufficient to describe as a village.”

Tulip: The presence of tombs in places they should not be is a first proof that Nazareth was invented as a Potemkin Village as part of the propaganda construction of Christendom in the grand tour of the Holy Land by Empress Helena in the fourth century.  Then there is the small matter that Saint Luke mentions a synagogue and hill which simply did not exist.  If the synagogue was real then Josephus of Galilee would have mentioned Nazareth in his list of the towns of Galilee.  He did not because the town was only named after the INRI title of Jesus, not Jesus after the town, as cover for Gnostic Nazarites, with their true vine myth from Isaiah 11:1 – “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.  The Branch here is Netser, the origin of Nazareth.

Ellinas: “However, there were, I have little doubt, any number of persons in 1st century Palestine called Yeshua Ben Yusuf.”

Tulip:  So what?  The source of the Christ Myth is the historizing of the syncretised myth of the incarnation of the eternal logos.  The name Christ Jesus just means Anointed Saviour.  Since Jesus did not exist it was necessary to invent him, as Voltaire said of God.

Ellinas: “Whether any of them was a wandering religious/political activist upon whom future stories could be hung is anyone's guess.”

Tulip:  It makes little sense to see the Gospels as hanging the idea of the pre-existent king of the universe like an albatross around the neck of some random unknown itinerant.  The stories make far better sense as starting from the universal and eternal mythic vision, and then developing a Noble Lie, inventing Jesus by blending many plausible human stories as the means for a secret Platonic Gnostic society of would-be philosopher kings to try their hand at social engineering.  The gospels are myth historicised, not history mythified.

Ellinas: “Equally, whether those future stories had their origin in Plato and gnosticism is a matter of monumental indifference to the question of whether Christianity can be reformed so as to exclude the idea of a literal person and concentrate on the ethical structures. .”

Tulip:  I absolutely disagree with you on this point Ellinas.  The ability to reform Christianity depends essentially on the ability to transform the current curate’s egg of faith into a persuasive worldview.  And for that, theology needs to be able to provide a persuasive story of how it came to be that the world was hoodwinked on such comprehensive scale.  I find that a completely fascinating problem, and far from indicating an abyss of nothingness for faith to collapse into, in a despair of anxiety, the recognition that being does not take the form of a pre-existent Logos descending to earth to become an individual is actually empowering and liberating, creating some space for honesty and reflective consideration of the meaning and purpose of faith and for some humility around the psychology and sociology of religion. 

Ellinas: “And that, it seems to me, really is the nub of the issue here.  In order to achieve a widely accepted form of atheistic Christianity (and I will assume, for now, that is a desirable concept rather than simply "atheism" or some other terminology) the issue is not going to be one of more or less speculative arguments from a possible past, but of the value of a formulation relevant for the present and future.”

Tulip: If origin stories remain at the level of vague speculation, then an atheistic Christianity has no future.  I think it is important that having abandoned the literal Jesus, the church or at least theologians engage rigorously with the vexed problem of how and why people came to believe in Jesus as a historical individual. Any formulation relevant today will still have to retain a Christology, a vision of the presence of eternal values within mundane reality, and what this presence looks like in moral and political terms.  Atheistic Christianity is desirable because making Christianity relevant means engaging honestly and openly on the atheistic core values of evidence and logic, to make faith a contestable proposition rather than a mere statement of traditional belief.

Ellinas: “The discussion is interesting enough in itself but, to many looking for some form of outlook to give their ethical compass some structure, it's liable to seem exhausting at best and impenetrable at worst.”

Tulip:  I think what we are seeing for religion is a transformation of ideas about what is real.  Describing Jesus and God and the Holy Spirit as entities misses the original intended meaning, that these stories are symbolic ways of explaining reality.  Religion has long fallen into the comforting myth of reification, turning fantasy into claims of reality, with no more basis than the fact people have believed these stories for a long time and find them pleasant and useful. 

Yes, shifting from simplistic myths to coherent explanations, for example to seeing stories of God as symbolising the real order of the cosmos and world, is difficult but possible.  As I mentioned earlier, the astronomy of long term climate cycles is a good starting point.  Unfortunately, I constantly find that public ignorance on this is massive, even though it should be a central area of popular science, providing objectives foundations to explain the fundamental structure of reality for our planet.  This is a simple claim about truth, but there is broad lack of interest in what I see as the key theme of the orbital mechanics of climate patterns.  The Milankovitch cycles are as big a paradigm shift as plate tectonics, Hubble’s discovery of other galaxies, Darwinian evolution and other major scientific revelations.

Ellinas: “The advantage that orthodox Christianity enjoys is simplicity - if anything, too much simplicity, as it only remains so if you don't think about it too hard.”

Tulip:  Noah’s Ark and the Virgin Birth are stories for simpletons, but both contain great depths of complex meaning as long as we exclude the miraculous. 

Ellinas: “It's the inherent pointlessness of the supernaturalist viewpoint, and the inherent worth of ethics that can be formulated on the back of Christianity, that is the issue for you, not whether Christianity arose from some ancient philosophical free-wheeling.  That will be a minority interest at most, I would have thought.”

Tulip: My response here is grounded in my thinking about reality.  I hold to several simple axioms about reality. These include that the physical universe really exists as largely described by modern science, that reality obeys consistent coherent mathematical laws, and that human flourishing is good.  Calling these statements axioms means I consider them to be self-evidently true, and cannot imagine a coherent conversation with anyone who disputes any of them.  Unfortunately, traditional Christian theories of the miraculous reject the coherence of reality, so are outside the frame of coherent conversation.  The reason I set out this axiology is that it seems to me to be consistent with an atheist reading of the Bible, while also being consistent with the symbolic Christology that imagines Christ as cosmic mediator based in ancient observation of precession.  Saying flourishing is good enables a teleology, with the idea that human extinction would be a bad thing.  The evolutionary ethical system that I try to build upon Christianity involves the idea that natural complexity is inherently good, especially as seen in biodiversity.

Your term “free-wheeling” seems slightly insouciant as a description of Platonic philosophy, even if that is a popular image of the Socratic method.  I would rather suggest a highly serious long term agenda to implement the ideas about the rule of philosophy from Plato’s Republic, seeking to engage constructively with other cultural traditions and finding popular traction with the idea of Jesus Christ as the incarnation of the good. 

Ellinas: “So, power to your elbow if you wish to try to reformulate Christianity into something non-toxic, but I'm not sure that unprovable reformulations of the distant past are the way to go.”

Tulip: Part of the problem with the scientific worldview, and with its dominant myth that there is no meaning outside science, is an overly narrow view of empirical proof as the criterion of truth.  The historical criterion of balance of probabilities is more realistic as a method where data is fragmentary.  On your suggestion about the distant past, part of the problem in recognising the importance of astronomy in theories of reality is the recognition that 2000 years is the tiniest blip against the majestic temporal and spatial scale of Big Bang cosmology.  So if we develop a scientific understanding of God as metaphor for the orderliness of the universe, explaining cultural evolution does in fact provide a useful insight, as a helpful way to study long term trends that affect society today.

Ellinas: “Speaking for myself, as neither an atheist nor a Christian, and as someone who found no real alternative to dropping out of the Christian fold altogether, I'm unconvinced that maintaining a link to Christian terminology will be of help - I tend to share Josh's reservations on that.”

Tulip: My own take on Christianity started from the observation of the correlation between Jesus Christ as alpha and omega and the physical movement of the sun to begin the vernal year in Pisces from the time Christ allegedly lived.  This is a simple scientific observation that most people somehow find hard to grasp.  The fact that ancient Greeks and almost certainly Babylonian astronomers knew of this measure of the slow turning of the stars against the seasons well for a long time beforehand should be factored in to our assessment of how Christianity evolved.  This celestial framework of the precession of the equinoxes creates a beautiful picture of the time of Christ imagined as a harmony between earth and heaven that suggests depths of meaning in the Christian story that have been covered over by the political literalism of the church.

Ellinas: “I hope none of that came over as unnecessarily critical or negative.”

Tulip: Far from it, I found your comments constructive, sensible and well informed and warmly welcome them.  Naturally the hypothesis I am presenting is new, so deserves a good dose of doubt, but I hope to be able to find answers for any questions.

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I have limited time at the moment so just a couple of points, not fully set out:

  1. If what you say is correct, at some point there was a movement from evolution to intentional activity to create a new form of "Judaism for the masses".  Can you identify anything that shows that occurring?  At present, I get the overwhelming impression that, to be convincing, you need to try to find something a little more concrete than what appears to be a form of holistic analogical derivation which may or may not reflect actual occurrence.  Just wondering if anything in the dead sea scrolls might fit the bill - but that is pure speculation on my end as I've not looked at the question.  Really, you need written evidence of pre-Christian development of gnostic thought into something recognisably on the way to being the Christian myth - a sort of theological missing link.
  2. I tend to agree that "balance of probabilities" is useful when discussing these sort of issues, but, speaking as a lawyer (albeit one who usually deals in "beyond reasonable doubt), I also find that the more evidence that can be found the surer the foundation of the probability.  There is a danger of interpreting disparate ideas into a rationalised whole that actually never existed.  Nothing you say seems to me inconsistent with the proposition that gnostic ideas influenced a mythology that was based in some way on an actual person.  Unless you can bridge some of the logical evidential gaps, you will struggle to get this accepted even by the more liberal end of Christian thought.
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