Monday, May 26, 2008
The Exegesis: We Gotta Get Out of This Place
The more I read about the ancient "pagan" world and its practices and beliefs, the more I think that the difference between Christianity and "paganism" is purely a question of politics. Even a casual reading of the actual practices of the Isis cults or Mithraism would hit familiar notes with any modern Christian. Certainly Muslims and orthodox Jews think all of Christianity is nothing but paganism in fancy dress, and they're not shy about saying so.
This isn't a question of Catholic vs. Protestant vs. Orthodox, either. The denominations are fundamentally identical beneath all the trappings. And at its core, Christianity is simply a corporatized manifestation of an impossibly ancient theology. The early church fathers knew this, and it's a good bet that most of today's church fathers do as well. The smart ones, at least.
In order to understand the practices of the corporate church, you need to look at the "Crisis of the Third Century" when Rome's imperial expansion began to backfire. You had hundreds if not thousands of different tribes and varying sects and dialects within Rome's bulging borders. A look at Lebanon in the 1980s will show you what a recipe for disaster that can be. There was a distinct move towards an all-encompassing civic religion in order to keep the peace. Aurelian (aka "Hand on Sword") hammered together a prototype of the Roman Church with his new monotheistic Solar religion, but the masses of Jews and Christians and Gnostics presented a challenge to Solar theology. And the need to create a self-policing, totalitarian form of worship was ill-suited to the symbolicist and elitist nature of Solar religion itself.
As we see in the Islamic world, Fundamentalism (in all its forms) is inherently totalitarian and authoritarian. And so a strongman like Constantine (or, more accurately, his handlers) would naturally seek out the most literalist and oppressive sect in the Empire to establish a more efficient form of imperial policing. And he found it right at home. From then on it was simply a matter of systematically crushing its rivals until a later emperor could lift the pretense of tolerance towards all religions and put in place an authoritarian state cult whose primacy was mandated by law.
It worked well in some aspects, but the perpetually anti-intellectual and inhumane nature of the so-called "orthodox" would destroy Western European culture, science, art and economic prosperity for almost a millennium, and reduce an entire continent to penury and disease. Though authoritarian conservatives are constantly claiming otherwise, it wouldn't be until the Renaissance, when the so-called "pagan" systems of thought were revived that Europe would become the economic, military and scientific powerhouse of the past five centuries or so.
We no longer are ruled by any church, per se. The division wracking Western Culture now is between bottom-drawer Fundamentalism (whether Christian or Islamic) and technocratic atheism. You'll see no real alternative presented to this dichotomy in the media, and don't think for an instant that that is not by design. There seems to be a plan to steer the plebes towards some form of snake-handling or other (my recent road trip through the heart of Pennsylvania drove that fact home) and the cognitive elite towards an inhumane scientism. It keeps people from mingling and makes for great media, to boot.
But I'm not sure this plan is working. People in both the religious and secular worlds sense something is profoundly screwed up in our present understanding of religion and spirituality. Kids are abandoning the Chuck E Cheese-type Evangelical churches they were raised in in droves, and even the Republican Party is having trouble managing the excesses of its Evangelical subsidiaries. Hating gays might work when credit is easy and gas is cheap, but now that the locus of economic power is moving eastward, it doesn't help keep the repo man away.
It's my deepest conviction that this false dichotomy shoved down our throats by the media puppets is killing our souls- and Western Cuture, to boot. And the preservation and progress of Western Culture is my ultimate concern in all of my work. Our culture is the expression of our collective soul, and the rank stupidity being pumped out by our media and our churches is eviscerating our reputation in the world, as is the political, economic and military activity that grows out of it.
As tempting as it is to blame all of this on the Illuminati or whomever, it's also self-defeating. Most of the conspiracy theory we see out there exists to absolve its adherents of responsibility. Worse, I suspect a lot of it is psyop bullshit and a lot of it is being pumped onto the net by agencies hostile to the well-being of liberal democracy. And there's no paradox greater than an Evangelical or Fundamentalist complaining about totalitarianism or authoritarianism, since they worship totalizing authority. They seem to be mainly upset that liberals are standing in the way of their blissful theocracy, and subsequently blame them for all of the world's ills. It's been going on for centuries.
There's got to be a way out of this mess. Symbol and Synchronicity and the Collective Unconscious are not ends unto themselves, they are the signposts pointing towards a new understanding of the Universe really works. Revelation is an ongoing process, but its language is symbolic, not literal.
By the same token, I don't talk about ancient astronaut theory for the hell of it, I do so because I think it might explain some basic truths about the human condition. Or it might not. But if we can't figure out where we came from, all the Synchromysticism on the planet can't help us.
Science and spirit were not antithetical to many of history's greatest minds, though certainly the dumbed-down expressions that you see of them in the media certainly are. I know a lot of people who work (or worked) in the media and they're as filled with despair as you and I. The good news is that I don't think conscious human activity is the greatest power on Earth, and I don't necessarily believe that all power structures are inherently evil, either. And most importantly, I don't think religion automatically means bowing and scraping before some invisible megalomaniac.
I don't think people who care about something other than materialism need to be at odds all the time. Maybe the Third Way has been co-opted, but there's surely a Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Way out there.
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