Sunday, March 05, 2006

The Faults in The Twin Pillars of Western Civilization

Having been diverted for some months from the original plan for this blog - truly a bizarre word, but there it is - I have finally had a relaxation of external pressures so that I can resume my original plan: to discuss Gnosis and Hermeticism so as to show, by a series of arguments, that the positive paths of Gnosticism and Hermeticism are but degraded variations of Esoteric Christianity and that this "Esoteric Christianity" itself is but a continuation of a tradition so ancient that it is lost in the mists of pre-modern civilization antiquity.

It is generally regarded as a given fact that Western Culture is predicated upon, and dominated by, the twin pillars of Greek rationality and "biblical" faith. Greek thought is defined as "sole reliance on the rationality of the mind" and the "Biblical Faith" is described as "emphasis on divine revelation."

However, there is a problem with this assumption and that problem is the failure to consider the equally powerful influence of Imperial Rome.

It was Imperial Rome that conquered Greece and then, subsequently imposed "Biblical Judeo-Christianity" on the West, so it behooves us to pause a moment and consider this factor in context.

One of the big mysteries of ancient times is the origins of the Greeks. It is surprising to observe that the culture of the ancient Greeks represented what must have been an astonishingly autonomous tribe. It is said that no civilization could develop in isolation, without being affected by older cultures, but Greece seems to have been relatively unaffected by the rest of the Asiatic influenced Mediterranean civilizations; isolated, culturally speaking. No one has ever satisfactorily explained this, though many theories have been proposed.

The work that is supposed to give us insight into the development of Greek culture is Homer's Iliad. Right up to the present time, it is believed that the Trojan War between the Achaeans and Trojans described in this work was waged near Hissarlik in north-west Turkey despite the fact that there is little evidence of the Asiatic influences from that region of the world on Greek Culture proper. And certainly, these influences are noted to be heavily stamped on every other culture emerging from those same regions.

The fact is, there was a so-called Dark Age that conceals the development of Greek Civilization and this age is said to have covered the period 1200 to about 750 BC. More recent scientific discoveries about the eruption of the Volcano Thera on the island of Santorini, and it's dating to around 1600 BC suggest that this Dark Age was a great deal longer than anyone formerly supposed.

Several scholarly and compelling books of recent times have made very good cases for the idea that the Greeks did NOT develop their civilization in the Mediterranean, but rather a more northerly location. These studies suggest that the climatic disruption caused by the eruption of Thera forced survivors of the Trojan War, which took place in an altogether different, northern, location, to flee South where they settled and named their towns and villages after the places they knew exactly as the refugees from Europe who fled religious persecution, or were simply looking for a more prosperous life named their towns and settlements after cities and towns in Europe.

Plato himself had doubts about the Greek origins of Homer’s work because not only do the physical descriptions in his poems not correspond to the Greek world that Plato knew, but also the Homeric philosophy is very different from the mainstream Greek philosophy of Plato's time, and which we know about today. The latter is based on the dualism of two opposing elements, thesis/ antithesis, good/ evil, life/death, body/soul - pure rationality - omitting the idea of the Third Force that was clearly present in Homer..

Since Plato’s times, many have sought to derive “synthesis” from these opposing elements, with little success and so I propose that, just as others are looking elsewhere for the location of ancient Troy, we look elsewhere for the origins of the philosophy evident in Homer which was the platform for the emergence of the later "rationality" of the Greeks.

It is clear from the Greek myths that their most ancient cultural foundations developed in direct contact with nature and the experiences of life and war. These conditions were recorded in a fully formed literary tradition that still stands as a model of depth and deft perception which gave birth to later philosophical reflections searching for generalities, essential contents, and criteria of values. The Greek heritage is fascinating due to its richness and individuality, but above all due to its almost primeval nature.

Aristotle considered Gaul to be the “teacher” of Greece and the Druids to be the “inventors of philosophy.” The Greeks also considered the Druids to be the world’s greatest scholars, and whose mathematical knowledge was the source of Pythagoras‘ information so perhaps there is more to the idea that the Greeks came from the Northern climes than we might initially suppose when inculcated in our beliefs that civilization was born in Mesopotamia.

A close and careful reading of Homer reveals that the philosophy of the ancient world included the idea that there was a third element that linked opposing elements. Between the body and the soul, there is the spirit. Between life and death there is the transformation that is possible to the individual, between father and mother there is the child who takes the characteristics of both father and mother, and between good and evil there is the SPECIFIC SITUATION that determines which is which and what ought to be done.

This is clearly an ancient Celtic idea. Let us look at a quote from Laura Knight-Jadczyk's informative work The Secret History of the World for insight:

We begin with the question: who were the Celts? We are taught almost nothing about them in school, though they seem to be considered as the ancestors of most Europeans, thus also Americans. Why is it that the religion and culture of the Mesopotamian region dominates our lives and our culture when it is, in effect, “foreign”?

Celtic vernacular literature, including myths, stories and poems, in its written form, dates mainly from the Middle Ages. It is based on oral transmission that goes far beyond the Christian Era. It is very difficult to get a clear picture of the pre-Christian Celts from the transmitted texts, not only because of the typical mixture of myth and reality, and the lapse of time, but also because the Roman empire sought to stamp it out starting with Caesar and continuing with the Roman church.

However, studying what is available closely, one gets the impression of a dynamic, somewhat undisciplined people. The Celts were proud, imaginative, artistic, lovers of freedom and adventure, eloquence, poetry, and arts. You can always discern the Celtic influence by the great artistic talents of these peoples.

The Celts were VERY suspicious of any kind of centralized “authority,” and this is, in the end, what brought about their downfall. They could not stand against the hierarchical war machine of the Roman empire. In a sense, you could almost say that this is how Hitler nearly conquered Europe, most especially France. Gauls take the principles of liberty and equality VERY seriously - right down to the common man on the street who in no way considers himself inferior to the Prime Minister.

One of the principal historians of the Roman era, Julius Caesar, tells us that the Celts were ruled by the Druids. The druids “held all knowledge.” The Druids were charged with ALL intellectual activities, and were not restricted to religion, per se, which suggests to us that “religion” and “knowledge” in a more or less scientific approach, were considered essential to one another - symbiotic.

It is later writers who began to vilify the Celts by accusing them of the usual things that people get accused of when someone wants to demonize them: human sacrifice, homosexuality, and so on. Most of that nonsense goes back to Posidonius, who has been quoted as an “authority” by every other “authority” on the Celts since. Unfortunately, when one checks Posidonius, one finds that he really didn't have a clue and was probably making stuff up to fulfill an agenda.

The lack of written texts by the Celts has been the greatest problem for historians and students of the Celts. A lot of ideas are “supposed” or ancient sources with agendas have been relied on, and some of them even propose that there was a “taboo” by the Celts on putting things into writing.

Well, I suppose that, if our civilization came to an end and all our records on magnetic media were destroyed, people might say that we didn't put anything in writing either.

There has been a lot of nonsense written about WHY the Celts didn't write things down, and the most nonsensical, considering what we do know about their culture, is that this was how the Druids “kept their power” or that they believed something silly like: “if the sacred myths were revealed, they would become profaned and thus lose their mystic virtues.”

What Caesar said was that the reason for the ban on writing was that the Druids were concerned that their pupils should not neglect the training of their memories ... by relying on written texts. ...

It is worth noting that, in the nineteenth century, it was observed that the illiterate Yugoslav bards, who were able to recite interminable poems, actually lost their ability to memorize once they had learned to rely on reading and writing.

Although the Druids prohibited certain things from being written down, it’s clear that they DID write. Celtic writings in Ogamic script have been found on many ancient stones. Caesar tells us that the Celts were using the Greek alphabet when the Romans arrived in Gaul in the first century BC.

However, the knowledge of the initiates was transmitted entirely orally...

The destruction of Celtic culture was so complete that we know very little about their religion. We do know that they celebrated their “rites” in forests and by lakes without erecting any covered temples or statues of divinities. Tacitus tells us:

They do not think it in keeping with the divine majesty to confine gods within walls, or to portray them in the likeness of any human countenance. Their holy places are woods and groves and they apply the names of deities to that hidden presence which is seen only by the eyes of reverence. [The Secret History of the World, 2nd Edition, Laura Knight-Jadczyk, 2005, Red Pill Press, Canada pp.118-120]

Returning to the Three Forces of the ancient Celtic and Homeric philosophy, Knight-Jadczyk tells us:

In other words, there are three simultaneous determinants in any situation that make it impossible to say that any list of things is “good” or “evil” intrinsically, and that the true determinant is the situation. ... the symbol of this philosophy is the triskele, representing three waves joined together.

The simultaneous existence of the third element does not mean that the notion of “good” and “evil” did not exist or was not reflected in the Celtic law. What was clear was that it was understood that nothing could be “cut and dried” in terms of law, that each situation was unique and the circumstances had to be carefully weighed.

The Greek philosophy that we know was probably the result of Asiatic influences upon the Greek refugees from the Northern climes. Greek architecture seems to be a consequence of the rich mythological imagination of these people being employed in the practical occupation of building dwellings and cities with techniques influenced, again, by the Asiatic elements of the Levant. As Imam Wilkens says:

It will now appear that there have indeed been Trojans living in north-west Turkey but that they were survivors of the famous war which had been fought in a far-off country to which their grand-children would return. Their presence in Hissarlik lasted for three generations only, from about 1180 to 1100 BC. [Iman Wilkens, Where Troy Once Stood, 2005, Gopher Publishers, Netherlands]

It is more likely that the Trojans fled to Hissarlik before 1600 BC, and the Achaeans fled South soon after with the eruption of Thera casting a chilling pall over the Bronze Age world. And so, these creative - extraordinarily deep and thoughtful people of the north - developed a civilization in the Mediterranean basin unlike anything ever seen there before. Until the Romans...

It would take us too far afield to examine just who the Romans were at this point, but it is an interesting question. In any event, the Romans seem to have been a hybridization of an indigenous population, Etruscans and Greeks. This mixture was vital and practical and the resultant social structure was one that did not see it as necessary to reflect profoundly upon the Greek thoughts it had appropriated. As Rome evolved into an empire, the imperial administrative and judicial needs imposed practical priorities. The role of philosophy was more didactic, helping to develop and refine the thinking processes that were useful for the discharge of administrative and political functions.

Certainly, the Greek reflective tendencies modified and "civilized" Roman society, but in general, only to the extent that was circumscribed by practical considerations. In any Imperial structure, the questions of human nature are troublesome factors that only complicate legal and administrative considerations, and thus they are quickly dismissed. Instead, the tendency is to develop a concept of human nature that is simple enough to serve the purposes of law. The result of this was a concept of the human being that had very little to do with actual psychological - let alone spiritual - properties. In Imperial Rome, citizens could achieve their goals and develop their personal concepts only within the framework set by legal principle and precedent. The psychological or spiritual life of peoples without citizenship was not considered a subject worthy of consideration much less study.

Thus, cognation of and reflection upon psychology, spirituality, human nature, and related concepts was barren and limited within the Roman system.

Judaism and later, Christianity, had strong ties to the ancient cultures of the Asiatic continent, including their philosophical and psychological reflections. The most attractive thing about these cultures was the "focus on the future." The Greeks had "fathered" history in the works of Hellenic historians like Herodotus and Thucycdides, but the Greeks failed to see history in terms of a future; the Greek focus was geared toward the present. The Roman peoples, deprived of the rich spiritual reflections of Greek culture, burdened by an administrative system that did little to give them hope for the future, becoming dissatisfied with the outward pomp and psychologically unfulfilling cults of the empire, began to turn more and more to ideas that suggested a "different future," one free of Imperial restrictions.

The promise of a better future was, of course, the dynamic factor rendering Christianity more attractive, but it was not the most important one. Observing and understanding the transformations faith caused in human personalities created a psychological school of thought and art on the part of the first believers. This new relationship to another person, i.e. one’s neighbor, characterized by understanding, forgiveness, and love, opened the door to a psychological cognition which, often supported by charismatic phenomena, bore abundant fruit during the first three centuries after Christ.

Here the reader might wish to avail themselves of Burton Mack's analysis of the Q Document which reveals that the early Jesus people were something quite different from Christianity as we know it today.

The remarkable thing about the people of Q is that they were not Christians. They did not think of Jesus as a messiah or the Christ. They did not take his teachings as an indictment of Judaism. They did not regard his death as a divine, tragic, or saving event. And they did not imagine that he had been raised from the dead to rule over a transformed world. Instead, they thought of him as a teacher whose teachings made it possible to live with verve in troubled times. Thus they did not gather to worship in his name, honor him as a god, or cultivate his memory through hymns, prayers, and rituals. They did not form a cult of the Christ... The people of Q were Jesus people, not Christians. [...]

Mack's discussion shows how the Jesus movement was a vigorous social experiment that was generated for reasons other than an "originating event" such as a "religious experience" or the "birth of the son of God."

The Jesus movement seems to have been a response to troubled and difficult times. Mack outlines and describes the times, and shows how the pressures of the milieu led to thinking new thoughts about traditional values and experimenting with associations that crossed ethnic and cultural boundaries. The Jesus movement was composed of novel social notions and lifestyles that denied and rejected traditional systems of honor based on power, wealth, and place in hierarchical social structures. Ancient religious codes of ritual purity, taboos against intercourse across ethnic boundaries, were rejected. People were encouraged to think of themselves as belonging to the larger, human family. Q says: "If you embrace only your brothers, what more are you doing than others?"

The Jesus people not only rejected the old order of things, they were actively at work on the questions of what ideal social order they wanted to manifest and promote. The attraction of the Jesus people to its followers was not at all based on any ideas to reform a religious tradition that had gone wrong, nor was it even thought of as a new religion in any way. It was quite simply a social movement that sought to enhance human values that grew out of an unmanageable world of confusing cultures and social histories. It was a group of like-minded individuals that created a forum for thinking about the world in new ways, coming up with new ideas that included the shocking notion that an ethnically mixed group could form its own kind of community and live by its own rules. Mack writes:

At first no one was in charge of the groups that formed around such teachings. Conversation and mutual support were enough to encourage an individual to act "naturally," as if the normal expectations of acquiescence to social conventions did not apply. As groups formed in support of like-minded individuals, however, loyalty to the Jesus movement strengthened, a social vision for human well-being was generated within the group, and social codes for the movement had to be agreed upon . Why not ask when in need and share what one had when asked, they wondered? Eventually, therefore, the Jesus movement took the form of small groups meeting together as extended families in the heady pursuit of what they called God's kingdom.

To explore human community based on fictive kinship without regard to standard taboos against association based on class, status, gender, or ethnicity would have created quite a stir, and would have been its own reward. Since there was no grand design for actualizing such a vision, different groups settled into practices that varied from one another. Judging from the many forms of community that developed within the Jesus movement, as documented in literature that begins to appear toward the end of the first century, these groups continued to share a basic set of attitudes. They all had a certain critical stance toward the way life was lived in the Greco-Roman world. They all struggled not to be determined by the emptiness of human pursuits in a world of codes they held to be superficial. [...] Despite these agreements, however, every group went its own way and drew different conclusions about what to think and do. [The Lost Gospel by Burton L. Mack]

In short, the early Jesus movement was seeking answers to the very questions that Imperial Rome found so troublesome because they got in the way of administrative simplicity. The Jesus movement was focused on developing the art of human understanding to a higher level than the older cultures and religions had done. It might also be speculated that it was an attempt to restore the ancient Greek/Celtic ideas of the Three Forces which may very well have been the original idea behind the "Trinity." The Jesus movement sought to find ways to protect human beings from the dangers of speculative thought divorced from profound psychological reality which can only be comprehended through sincere respect for another human being.

The Empire was not to be outfoxed, however. What it could not destroy, it assimilated and modified to its own purposes. By 350 AD, the decay in sensitivity to the psychological reality of human beings as well as the tendency to impose extrinsic and unreal concepts on the human psyche can be observed. The Roman Imperial system adapted the Geek heritage of philosophical thought and language to its purposes. This made it possible to develop its own "Imperialistic Christian Philosophy".

At the same time that groups carrying the original ideas of the Jesus people expanded along the well worn tracks of the Roman empire’s transportation lines, within the imperial civilization, the newly official Christian Church appropriated Roman organizational forms and adapted to existing social institutions. As a result of this, Christianity was created in the image of Roman habits of legal thinking, including its indifference to the reality of the depth and variety of the psychology of human nature.

Two heterogeneous items - Greek Philosophy and Roman law - were thus linked together so seamlessly and permanently that scholars of later centuries have lost the ability to see just how strange they are to each other. However, time and compromise have not eliminated the internal inconsistencies that resulted when Roman influence removed the primeval psychological knowledge from the Jesus movement. Christian groups developing under different cultural conditions in far flung reaches of the empire, or outside the empire altogether, created forms so variegated that maintaining unity turned out to be an historical impossibility.

We come back now to the assumption that Western Civilization is founded on the twin pillars of Greek thought and Biblical faith, and we find that it is not so simple. What is clear is that Western civilization is founded upon the Imperial Roman version of Greek thought which is defined as "sole reliance on the rationality of the mind" and the Imperial Roman version of "Biblical Faith" which is described as "emphasis on divine revelation" both of which have been subjected to a legal codification that completely obviates the ancient concept of the Third Force: the specific situation that determines good from evil.

Western civilization thus arose hampered by a serious deficiency in the very area which ought to play a role in creativity. This civilization developed formulations of law, national, civil, and canon, which were designed for fictitious and simplified beings which bore no resemblance to normal humans. These conceptions gave short shrift to the rich and varied contents of the human personality and the great psychological differences between individual members of the species Homo sapiens.

Such a civilization is insufficiently resistant to evil, which originates beyond the easily accessible areas of human consciousness and takes advantage of the great gap between formal or legal thought and psychological reality. In such a civilization - deficient in psychological cognition - the origins of evil in the minds of psychologically deviant individuals is masked from other people’s insufficiently developed consciousness. Such individuals are then able to impose their dreams of power upon both the environment and society.

In this series of essays, I hope to show exactly how this has been done through the perversion of Hermeticism which gave birth to science.

The Third Way, characterized by a blending of rational thought and faith based on that rationality, can lead to inner enlightenment or gnosis. Some parts of this way of Gnosis have been preserved in certain Gnostic teachings which I will show are the origins of Hermeticism. I will also argue that the Cathars were carriers of the same tradition and that the early Jesus people were Gnostics and that the entire teaching, or way, is directly related to the ancient Greek Philosophy of which we find traces in Homer, and that this philosophy was identical to that of the Celtic Druids and Bards. Further, I hope to argue satisfactorily that this tradition extends back into antiquity and can be called, as Gurdjieff referred to it: Esoteric Christianity, though one must understand the word "Christ" in the most original meaning.

And so, until next week, I bid you adieu.

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