The Magdalene – Part 2

We have come a long way since the days of the Inquisition and its brutality against so-called heretics but there is still reluctance to admit to the real story, to untangle Christianity from its Constantinian re-write. What is truth and what is invention? Do scholars of Christian religion even know the truth? If so, why is it being concealed to this day? Can anyone reliably untangle the real story of Jesus and what he was really teaching? Was he, as some suspect, attempting to take the Jews back to a far more ancient form of their religion – the worship of Isis and Amun Ra?

Could it really be so that the Magdalene was a priestess of Isis and that Jesus was actually her disciple and not the other way round? What possible evidence is there for such claims? Does it all come down to myth and guesswork or is there real evidence out there to give them some substance?

It is certainly true that, had Jesus been a single man without a wife and children, there would have been considerable comment and probable condemnation from the society he was preaching to, a society that placed great emphasis on the importance of marriage and procreation. There is no surviving evidence of any. (Even the out-and-out misogynist St Peter himself was married. As was his co-woman-hater, St Paul.) It is also true that Mary Magdalene was not the only woman following Jesus and his disciples during his mission to preach religious reform. The bible quite clearly states that there were women of substance supporting them (presumably from their own means).

There is no evidence whatsoever in the gospels that Mary Magdalene or any other woman in Jesus’s train of followers was a prostitute, reformed or otherwise. A woman unnamed is said to have had seven devils cast out of her by Jesus in a healing session but that passage says nothing about her being a woman involved in immorality. The terminology used merely indicates that he helped a mad woman or, at least, one who was mentally disturbed. It was not until much later that the misogynistic Pauline bishops of the early church, believing that all women were worthless, decided to blacken the name of the woman known in the gnostic writings as the Apostle to the Apostles, Mary Magdalene. There was no way they were going to allow a woman (other than the Virgin Mary, whom they had elevated to Goddess status) to be thought of as comparable to the twelve male apostles.

Reliable carbon fourteen dating of the Dead Sea Scrolls has shown conclusively (we are assured) that all the material recovered from the Qumran caves pre-dates the period during which John The Baptist and Jesus were preaching. Scholarly conclusions drawn before this scientific evidence alleged that some of the scrolls were the work of Essenes, an ultra pious Jewish sect of the day. One researcher (Barbara Thiering) claimed that Jesus was clearly not just an Essene himself but a very high-ranking member of its priesthood.

While some now claim that this proves that Jesus was not an Essene, their logic is surely flawed. Because the scrolls are older than Jesus’s teaching is not evidence that Jesus himself was not an Essene. The sect was still thriving in Qumran during his lifetime. Indeed, BT’s research shows that the story of raising Lazarus from the dead accurately describes an Essene ritual release of a lower order Essene from a period of atonement spent in a simulated tomb as a shrouded corpse.

Whether or not Jesus was an Essene is largely irrelevant. The people Jesus associated with were not people decent, (Roman) law-abiding Jews would have wanted to associate with. They were dangerous. The Iscariot of Judas fame was a member of an anti-Roman cult, known as the Dagger-men, the Sicarii. Simon Magus (not an apostle but a childhood friend), who was crucified alongside Jesus, (and also appears to have survived) was a man well versed in occult practises, the creation of illusions, the use of drugs and poisons and the like. Simon Peter was a man with a known violent temper and lack of understanding. Matthew was a tax collector for the Romans. The list goes on.

 

The Magdalene – Part 1

I RECENTLY CAUGHT up with a book that’s been languishing unread on my bookshelves for several years, while I got on with other things. It was The Templar Revelations by Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince, two well known authors in this genre. The book digs into the background behind Dan Brown’s book/film, The da Vinci Code. A large part of their discussion is based on myths surrounding Mary Magdalene that have arisen over the last 2,000 years. These allege she fled or was driven out of Judea some time after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and was shipwrecked on the coast of Gaul somewhere in the Rhone delta.

There, with her companions Mary of Bethany and a ‘black’ servant girl, alleged by some to be her daughter by Jesus, she started her ministry as a Christian apostle. The idea that Jesus was actually married to The Magdalene or was his concubine (a preferred interpretation of the evidence that he was in more than just a close friendship with her) has circulated for well over a century and probably much longer. There in the hinterland of modern Marseilles she is said to have begun to teach her own version of ‘gnostic’ Christianity that did not accept Jesus as the Son of God or any of the mysteries surrounding his death and resurrection. The Gnostics – the Cathars and other early Christian sects that flourished in Gaul, Syria and Egypt followed a Christian religious lifestyle that bore little resemblance to that taught by Rome. They believed that spiritual knowledge (gnosis) came from awareness of godliness within that could only be achieved by living a life of purity and abstention from all human excess/sin. Some claim that their teachings were influenced by the much more ancient teachings of Egypt.

Interestingly, analysis of the ‘Nag Hammadi’ (NH) codices indicate that their prayer forms and teachings originate (or in some cases are word for word exactly the same as) those found in the Egyptian Book of the Dead and surviving snippets of the teachings of Thoth/Hermes Trismegistus. There are indeed some who claim that Mary Magdalene, far from being a mere female follower of Jesus, was an Egyptian High Priestess of the Goddess Isis and that she was his teacher not vice versa.

It has long been known that other versions of the bible story exist that paint a very different picture of Jesus from his birth to his death. The Cathars and the Knights Templar certainly gave far more prominence to John The Baptist, revering him as much, if not more than Jesus, who some even claim usurped John’s position as the true Messiah or perhaps (more charitably) inherited his role when the Baptist was executed as a common criminal for insulting Herod Antipas in 27 AD. It is a fact that some of Jesus’s disciples were followers of John. Prominent in the confessions of the knights tortured by the Inquisition is the allegation that the Templars worshipped a severed head, named as Baphomet but thought by many to be that of John The Baptist. It is even pictured in some paintings of San Greal (or Sang Real) legend on a plate being delivered to Herod while Salome dances.

The NH texts include gospels according to Saint Thomas, Saint Philip and Saint Jude, with extracts from Plato thrown in for good measure. An almost complete gospel of Mary Magdalene was found in the mid-nineteenth century written in Greek. It is, however, included in fragmentary form in a Coptic translation. The Nicaean diktat from Rome in the mid-fourth century AD was that such texts should be destroyed. Any other teaching than the four gospels in the Vatican version of the bible was considered heresy. Clearly, the sects in Libya that used those texts thought too highly of their library to follow those orders and hid them away, perhaps hoping for a change of mind that never came.

Sadly, what comes out of the background reading I have done is the appalling extent to which the Roman Catholic Church re-invented itself to sit alongside the power of Rome when Emperor Constantine decided to adopt Christianity as the official religion of his Empire. The bigotry that was enforced by the church thereafter and the sheer lies that were invented had very little to do with Christianity and everything to do with building the power base of the church and enriching its leaders. This will not be news to anyone who has studied theology.

 

Finding The Family Links

IT SEEMS AS if the world is into the fascinating business of finding out where they come from. I’m forever getting advertising material for ‘Ancestry.com’ and being offered links to this that and the other website on family research. It’s become a national obsession. I love watching programmes on TV like ‘Who do you think you are?’. It’s always fascinating to watch someone become obsessed with one particular link. Not uncommonly it’s to a family black sheep that no one in the past wanted to know or even acknowledge.

Is it true that every Englishman alive can trace himself back eventually to King Edward III (or was it I ­– NO, not me)? My USA-based 1st cousin once removed has traced her mother’s family – mine – back to the 1600s and done a very thorough job of producing relevant family trees and even photographs of forbears in the mid 1800s not so very long after the art of photography was first discovered. Our family all seem to have taken to the camera like ducks to water.

It’s an obsession that is certainly not confined to this side of the pond. That most classless of societies (or so they tell us) in the States desperately seeks out links to the Pilgrim Fathers. I simply don’t know if the French and Germans or Scandinavians are as keen to link themselves to their respective aristocracies as we seem to be. Do the Aussies look for links to the original convicts? I suspect they do with great pride – and why not, since most of the transported convicts had done little to be ashamed of.

There is another BBC TV programme on at the moment immediately after the weekday Breakfast news – Heir Hunters. Now there’s a programme for dreamers. People who die intestate in the UK, whose heirs are unaware of their existence, let alone their deaths, have their estates placed in limbo as ‘bona vacantia’ or unclaimed goods.

There are now licensed companies (sometimes but not always solicitors) who specialise in hunting for the missing heirs. They, of course, take a reasonable cut of any of the estate that is then properly distributed and thus kept out of the ever hungry Treasury. The family trees these heir hunters dig up are sometimes quite extraordinary, making the shares for long lists of heirs that come out of the woodwork quite pathetically small. There was a case the other day where the deceased proved to be one of twelve siblings, all of whom had no idea of what had happened to him. Other cases have to go back to grandparents to find uncles and aunts, who often prove to have been more fecond than the deceased’s own parents.

The initial excitement caused by the unexpected heir hunters’ call seldom leads to much disappointment. Heirs seem often to be saddened by the departure of a relative they may never have known but then gladdened by learning more about the missing links to stories that they haven’t heard perhaps since childhood, if at all.

At the end of the day, we all seem to be fascinated by the heir hunters’ skill and the thrill of the chase.

An Ode to Consciousness

What makes us think we’re so different?

What makes us think we’re supreme?

Why do we feel that we rule the world?

As God’s creatures, we’re part of his dream.

**

We’re not alone in being aware

Of ourselves and of being alive.

Elephants, apes, even octopi, too,

They know ‘self’, have the will to survive.

**

Scientists, chemists, the ‘-Ology’ Kings,

Search for the secrets of life.

Try as they might, they have no success.

We’re safe from their digital strife.

**

‘Intelligence’ – that gift we know well.

That deepens and changes with time –

Part of our make-up, the sum of our traits,

A route up that mountain we climb.

**

“Cogitùr ergo sum,” the philosopher’s words,

Descarte’s – disputed by Hume.

Behind those fine words lay christian belief,

Not blind faith. No death will consume.

**

“I think, so I am.” When I don’t, am I not?

But machines just don’t think, they process

Info, facts, data – you know, all that stuff –

Bytes of binary – M-G-T back to nano- or less.

**

No one likes in these times to talk about ‘soul’.

Even ‘spirit’ ‘s anathema to most.

Consciousness dwells in the mind – don’t ask where –

Does it matter? You’re its transient host.

**

Consciousness, soul – I know what they mean.

I know I am I, me, moi, ich ­– never you.

The energy source that drives my ‘self’ on.

Life’s spark that survives – passing through.

**

‘MC2’ equals E, indestructible ‘me’.

Sparks grow to flame, then dim to a glow.

When you die that spark must migrate,

Re-kindle its fire; mine will, I know.

**

‘Reincarnation’ – the wrong word to use –

This me I’ve passed on to my young.

A new me won’t remember what I was, what I did,

Won’t recall all the flings I have flung.

**

Man-made life is way out of reach.

Machine is machine is machine.

Talk of transhumans – the Borg is so close –

“Resistance is futile!” they mean.

**

Implants, prosthetics, add this, renew that.

Evolution’s too slow for us now.

Expectation is all – satisfaction’s the word.

Today’s ‘must-have’. Go do! Don’t ask ‘How?’

***

JWT, Bean, 25 March 2015

CONSCIOUSNESS

EVERY MAN, WOMAN and child on earth is completely individual. We may share characteristics that are physical – skin, eye, hair colour, shape of features (racial, coincidence, breeding). We may share cultural, educational, and linguistic similarities and so on ad infinitum, but the odds against any single person being identical to anyone else are impossibly large. The same goes for virtually every living, breathing thing on earth, animal or vegetable. The same goes for all inorganic substances – take every snowflake that ever fell or will fall. It is reliably claimed that no two are ever the same. The same applies to every crystal form known to mankind.

Mathematicians and Physicists worldwide still seek The Theory of Everything as if life on earth depended on an answer. Reputations certainly seem to. The man most frequently identified with this search is one of the most revered academics in the world, whose name springs to everyone’s lips every time the subject is mentioned – Stephen Hawking. For many reasons, not least the superiority of his brainpower, SH is a man worthy of huge respect. Most people know him from his characteristic computer-synthesised voice issuing from the apparatus on his withered, wheelchair-bound frame. They know him as the man who, through sheer determination, has defeated a terrible wasting disease and gone on to excel far beyond the prognostications of eminent doctors, all of whom expected him to be dead long since. For his survival alone he deserves our respect; like all human beings he has his faults that have been pitilessly and frankly revealed to the world.

A mid-twentieth century philosopher Kurt Gödel postulated, basing his theory on the Liar Paradox, that no Theory of Everything (or anything) can possibly be proven – ever. It will always remain a hypothesis, since – like everything else in the universe – truth is relative. Now even Professor Hawking says that ToE doesn’t exist. His latest cooperative publication proposes five complementary theories to explain how the world works. That said for what it’s worth, even if it were provable, what benefit could it possibly bring us that scientists cannot eventually achieve following well-established (and almost exponentially advancing) technology and scientific principles?

Fantasy writers would have us believe that time travel is a desirable aim, that the ability to launch ourselves into the depths of the universe at ‘warp’ speed, many times the speed of light, is a realistically achievable aim. They – we – dream of being able to teleport ourselves from place to place but it can only ever be a dream. It has been proven beyond doubt that individual subatomic particles can indeed be transported from place to place over very small distances (centimetres, if not millimetres). Even such less than mind-blowing feats require huge amounts of electrical energy to perform. To replicate such ‘teleportation’ of any visible, single-element object, let alone a whole human being, would require impossibly large amounts of energy and a suspension of all laws of probability.

No, we have to be content in the knowledge that we aren’t and never will be gods, who perform miracles at the wave of our hands, however well we may ever come to ‘understanding’ the laws of physics and advanced quantum mechanics. Better and cleverer men than I can explain why with great clarity and authority.* We have our dreams, our adult fairy stories otherwise known as science fiction.

A recent discovery in experimental psychology has shown that it is possible to expand the brain’s power to use telepathy, a gift pooh-poohed by most conventional psychologists and psychiatrists who consider it to be a brain function deep in the backwater of parapsychology, the realm of shamans, wizards and witches, to say nothing of confidence tricksters. Having recently written a sci-fi trilogy on the subject of the discovery of the ‘reality’ of parapsychological powers, using equipment not very far removed from that used by the real-life scientists in their latest experiments, I feel somewhat vindicated, although the real research team have got a long way to go to catch up with mine.

Developing my theme, I delved in to the far reaches of parapsychology, exploring the benefits that could be achieved if psychokinesis could be added to telepathy, giving ‘adepts’ in the practice of these powers the ability to harness them for the good of others. My researchers, benefiting from the luxury of unlimited electrical energy available from nuclear fusion and the use of artificial general intelligence controlled quantum supercomputers discover how mankind can use the powers once used by ancient priesthoods to manipulate the lives of the people they controlled through their physically rich and powerful leaders.

In their exploration of these fascinating powers my fictional research team realises how easy it would be to use them for evil purposes as well as good. They go to great lengths to ensure that what they discover can never be harnessed by the underworld. However, on the way they find that even they are not totally free from the temptation to misuse their powers, especially when they find that their ability to combine telepathy and psychokinesis gives them – amongst other things – the power to transport themselves in avatar form wherever they will.

This is, of course, the long-claimed power of the shaman/witchdoctor and any other practitioner of parapsychological powers you can think of down through the ages. It is the stuff of fairytales, including sci-fi ones such as Star Trek and its many imitators, and may even be behind the recent research designed to prove that it is possible to remove matter from one place and make it rematerialise in another, using the known laws of physics.

It is probably the case that self-proclaimed shamans self-hypnotise themselves into a trance-like state and ‘fly’ in their imaginations, awakening with tales of their fantasy travels, invisible to the eyes of the peoples they visit. The usefulness of such abilities has obvious limitations.

The Star trek version of teleportation envisages physical objects, including human beings, being transported lock stock and barrel from place to place, i.e. removing them completely from A and depositing them unchanged at B, complete with all their existing faculties. By contrast, my sci-fi version of moving from place to place using only the powers of the mind has the limitation that the body stays put, while the mind travels in avatar form. The ‘host’ body, like the shaman’s, remains discoverable and therefore vulnerable. It is not a power that can be used to escape from real life disaster situations. Once ‘out-of-body’ the avatar is, however, able to escape from danger by returning to its host body, hopefully safely concealed on home territory.

Perhaps there is more scope for scientific achievement in the field of parapsychology than there is in the (to the layman) equally fantasy realms of quantum mechanics and the transience and dubious usefulness of bosons and weird and wonderful energy fields that hold the atoms and molecules of all things together – unless scientists really are searching for the alchemists’ dream of turning lead into gold (possible, even if the cost is prohibitive).