Was Christianity a Pagan Mystery cult? (12)

A lot of the articles I’ve provided so far have been background information, which is indispensable for first becoming aware of the possibility of the mythological Jesus, and then developing the ability to recognize him within the available evidence. I recognize that the material I’ve provided so far, while educational and fascinating, may still be dismissed as conjecture or fabrication by those who refuse to believe in the mythological Jesus Christ.

However, as we approach the end of my argument that Jesus was never a historical person, I am finally ready to divulge the core of the Christ Myth theory – the proof that shows Christianity itself was really based on previous Pagan ideologies. Not simply by pointing out the similarities between mythological traditions and budding Christianity, but by analyzing the early Christian writings which clearly describe Christianity as a “Mystery religion”, demonstrating that Paul and the early church leaders were spreading an initiation cult with different levels of meaning, and most importantly, showing that Bible records exactly how some of Paul’s followers began to accidentally think of Jesus as a historical person. In this article, I’ll focus on what are called “The Ancient Mysteries”, and demonstrate that Christianity was one.

“A mystery religion is any religion with an arcanum, or secret wisdom. In a mystery religion, an inner core of beliefs, practices, and the religion’s true nature, are revealed only to those who have been initiated into its secrets. (The ancient Greek term μυστήρια (mysteria) means “initiation”, notably in the context of the Eleusinian Mysteries.) Ancient mystery religions of the eastern Mediterranean area generally focused on mythic figures who had descended into Hades and returned or who otherwise exemplified death and rebirth, such as Bacchus, Orpheus, Osiris, and Tammuz.” http://en.wikipedia.org

The earliest mysteries may have been brought from Egypt by Greek travelers – in fact, although Western philosophy attributes its birth to the early “Naturalist Philosophers” of Greece, these same philosophers admit to have gained their wisdom in Egypt, where they had become initiates of the mysteries there. (Thales made this claim around 600 BC.)

“Thales was the first to go to Egypt and bring back to Greece this study [geometry]; he himself discovered many propositions, and disclosed the underlying principles of many others to his successors, in some cases his method being more general, in others more empirical.” Proclus

However, the Eleusinian Mysteries and Orphic rites go back at least to the 7th century BC. It is possible that early versions of the mysteries, such as those found in Egypt, used spiritual symbols and mythology to preserve geometrical and scientific knowledge, which was then passed on through initiates or the “priestly castes.” However, it is a mistake to view initiates as hard-nosed scientists alone. These philosophers were passionate mystics, who searched into the natural and physical laws in order to find the absolute essence of the universe. Pythagoras, for example, is often remembered for his “Pythagorean theory”, but Pythagoras was much more than a mathematician.

Pythagoras once said that “number is the ruler of forms and ideas and the cause of gods and demons.” After returning from his studies in Egypt, he founded a community of followers who lived together in a school, owned no possessions, followed strict rules of moral conduct and ate no meat. There were also codes of silence. Time was spent reading, playing music, and studying. He may have based this school on the early Orphic Mysteries, which some consider to be the first proper mystery school based on esoteric wisdom and initiation.

Perhaps in the beginning, only those with the dedication, perseverance and intelligence were admitted into the higher mysteries. However, when these ancient practices were assimilated into the cosmopolitan societies of Greco-Roman civilization, initiates opened schools and actively recruited members. These schools were usually centered around highly charismatic leaders, who were attributed with miraculous powers. As membership became a sign of status, some schools charged fees, and became high society clubs rather than genuine havens for wisdom.

It is estimated that in Athens alone there were over 600 mystery schools. Nearly all of the Greek philosophers were members of at least one branch. It is likely, in fact, that what we know as Greek philosophy was really just an attempt to describe the cosmology of the mysteries in academic terms. Unfortunately, much of what we know about the mysteries was preserved by condemnation or criticism from external sources. Due to the secretive nature of the mysteries, we may never know exactly what was taught at the higher levels. However, we can piece together something about these groups from the clues they left.

Initiates of Mithras, for example, could ascend up through seven levels, represented by the seven planets. After each level they would be awarded a new title as well as some external symbol of their status. An initiate at the highest level was called “Father”, and wore a red cap, a mantle, a ring, and carried a shepherd’s staff. (Like Jesus, and the Egyptian Osiris, Mithras was called the “good shepherd”.) The traditional outfit for the Catholic Pope is very similar.

Initiates of Mithras would first be baptized and born again as infants into their new life, and then made to fast and keep a special diet in order to gain control over their bodies. Once their physical drives were in check, they would perform a ritual death, often actually dressing in death rags and being buried or sealed in a tomb. The goal of Mithraism was the unification of the lower self with the Logos, for which they used the name “Perseus”, during a ritual called the Wedding Chamber. Having completed all of the levels, initiates would be branded or tattooed with a symbol of the organization and allowed to teach.

Although there are few written remains of Mithraism, we can tell a lot about how his followers viewed him by looking at the artwork left in their tomb-like temples. Mithras was often shown standing on a globe with a cross through it, wearing a lion’s head mask, to identify him with the victorious sun on the spring equinox. Sometimes he was shown with the zodiac circle surrounding him. Many statues give him wings and a snake around his legs, and show him raising a lit torch – like the symbol of the Caduceus. He was seen as the bridge between heaven and earth.

We also have the testimony of early Christian apologists, who recognized the similarities between Mithraism and Christianity and claimed that they were inspired by Satan. The following passages by Justin Martyr and Tertullian include Baptism, Communion, Confirmation (formerly known as the Chrism – anointing the forehead with oil, a magical symbol and sometimes a tattoo) and even the Resurrection. Tertullian also mentions a rite of initiation which may have been lost from the Christian tradition, which includes kneeling before a sword and being crowned.

“For the apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them; that Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, said, “This do ye in remembrance of Me, this is My body; “and that, after the same manner, having taken the cup and given thanks, He said, “This is My blood; “and gave it to them alone. Which the wicked devils have imitated in the mysteries of Mithras, commanding the same thing to be done. For, that bread and a cup of water are placed with certain incantations in the mystic rites of one who is being initiated, you either know or can learn.” Justin Martyr, First Apology 60

“The question will arise, By whom is to be interpreted the sense of the passages which make for heresies? By the devil, of course, to whom pertain those wiles which pervert the truth, and who, by the mystic rites of his idols, vies even with the essential portions of the sacraments of God. He, too, baptizes some-that is, his own believers and faithful followers; he promises the putting away of sins by a layer (of his own); and if my memory still serves me, Mithras there, (in the kingdom of Satan, ) sets his marks on the foreheads of his soldiers; celebrates also the oblation of bread, and introduces an image of a resurrection, and before a sword wreathes a crown.” Tertullian, De praescriptione haereticorum 40

“Blush, ye fellow-soldiers of his, henceforth not to be condemned even by him, but by some soldier of Mithras, who, at his initiation in the gloomy cavern, in the camp, it may well be said, of darkness, when at the sword’s point a crown is presented to him, as though in mimicry of martyrdom, and thereupon put upon his head, is admonished to resist and east it off, and, if you like, transfer it to his shoulder, saying that Mithras is his crown. And thenceforth he is never crowned; and he has that for a mark to show who he is, if anywhere he be subjected to trial in respect of his religion; and he is at once believed to be a soldier of Mithras if he throws the crown away—-if he say that in his god he has his crown. Let us take note of the devices of the devil, who is wont to ape some of God’s things with no other design than, by the faithfulness of his servants, to put us to shame, and to condemn us.” Tertullian, De corona. 15.

Already, I hope you can see that there are some similarities between Mithraism and Christianity. Modern apologists denounce these parallels by claiming that either A) they aren’t there or B) Christianity came first, so any “borrowing” was done by Mithraism. But neither of these defenses were used by the early Christian communities, who had serious difficulties explaining how and why the Mithras cult seemed to have so much in common with Christianity.

Mithras is the Persian sun-god, but his mysteries share much of the symbolism from other forms of Greek and Roman mysteries. In fact, all of these initiation cults are related, because it was usually an initiate of one who then moved into a new location and started his own version based on the local gods. In this picture of Hercules, the Greek sun god (strictly speaking, Apollo is the sun God, but Hercules absorbed a lot of sun myth symbolism), Hercules is being crowned with Laurels. He is surrounded with all of the symbols of the mysteries – a conquered dragon at his feet, a dragon head behind him, a sacred tree, the tips of a pair of wings, his consort who “kings” him, and even a globe showing the intersection of the celestial equator and the ecliptic. These are the same symbols found in the pictures of Mithras above, and – although they are very well hidden – in the story of Christ’s ministry.

Look closely at the two pictures above. In the first, a mystery god (probably Hercules or Mithras) is present with all the symbols of his ministry. At his feet is the defeated dragon. Behind him is his symbol the Lion, hanging on the tree. He’s holding a staff (to symbolize the tree or bridge), has wings, and is about to be crowned by his companion goddess – who is holding a small stature (Nike, the Greek goddess of victory) over the world; showing him as king of the world. On the globe is the T or X shape of the zodiac path intersecting the sun’s path. These are symbols that any mystery initiate would know.

On the right – is Jesus being anointed by Mary, there are no other symbols present (because the interpretation of such symbols has been lost, along with the higher mysteries) however the symbols do continue, in tradition. Jesus is the Lion King – “Christ” means anointed, or crowned. He is always associated with a lion, and called the Lion of Judea. He is the defeater of Satan, the serpent. He was born in a cave and surrounded by animals – often mistranslated as “in a manger”. He is the tree of life, the bridge between heaven and earth, and like Mithras he is the controller of the precession of equinoxes. While Mithras defeated the bull under Taurus, in the time of Jesus the spring equinox had already progressed into Aries, the lamb. Jesus receives his kingship, christ-hood or “anointing”, at the hands of his consort, Mary Magdalene.

This is not ‘similarity’. Jesus Christ was a Jewish version of the same mythological figures worshiped by the various mystery cults. His sacrificial role, and the rituals designed to save his followers, were also based on mystery religions. We know this because we have an abundance of evidence from many directions. On the one hand, we have all the similarities between Christianity and other mystery religions. On the other hand, we have Christian testimony from both the Bible and apocryphal gospels which clearly describe Christianity as a mystery religion. What we don’t know, for certain, is how and why somebody created a Jewish version of the mysteries – but it doesn’t really matter. Given the evidence, they must have. I’m going to tell you what I think happened, and then I’ll bombard you with physical evidence until you’re weak in the knees.

The Jesus Mysteries

“Jesus said to the 12 apostles: “You have been given the mystery of the Kingdom of God, but to those, the ones outside, everything is given in parables, so that seeing, they may see and not perceive, and hearing, they may hear but not understand.” Mark 4:11

Starting from around 230BC, the land of Israel fell under Roman rule. The Roman policy was to conquer, improve public facilities, collect taxes, and have people honor the emperor. While many communities lived peacefully under foreign rule, the Jews believed that Israel was given to them by God and could not be taken from them. They considered themselves a holy people, and thought that they were to stay pure by separating themselves from the world in dress, custom and diet.
When Romans began to raise temples and statues to Roman gods in Jerusalem, it presented Jews with a theological problem. They reasoned that either they had forgotten to fulfill their religious duties, and were being punished, or that God was expecting them to fight back against Rome and reclaim their homeland. There were many rebellions during this period, but every uprising against the Romans finished in heavy losses for the Jews.

Taking pieces from their scriptures which spoke of a future prophet or king and weaving them together, they formed a description of a savior figure who would liberate them from Roman rule. They pictured a powerful ruler from Israel’s royal dynasty, the line of David, who would unify the country, restore the tribes of Israel, and defeat the Romans in a final holy war. Kings were always anointed on the forehead, so they referred to this messiah as The Christ, which means “anointed one.”
At the same time, Jews who lived outside of Jerusalem sometimes became less austere with their dress and customs, assimilating into their new surroundings. Some became educated in Greek thought and language, and no doubt they came in contact with mystery religions and sun gods through public festivals and holidays. Some may have even become initiates themselves, but even if they didn’t, Greek philosophers spoke plainly about concepts like Sophia and Logos and it would have been impossible not to learn something about them.

Around 2,000 years ago, probably in Alexandria, someone began writing a Jewish version of the Greek mysteries. Maybe someone found in them some pearl of wisdom they wished to share with their people. Or perhaps they felt guilty for allowing themselves to become involved with Pagan culture and were trying to justify their actions through a Yahweh centered version of the Logos myth. (Editor’s note – I’m currently researching the cult of Sarapis, a deliberately created religion, harnessing all the best parts of many different religions, made specifically to unite the growing spiritual values of the Roman empire. If Sarapis could be created, and yet still worshipped as a God, Jesus Christ could have easily also been made as a conscious attempt to dismantle the religious barriers between Rome and its conquered Jewish tributaries.)
At any rate, the new, Jewish version of the mysteries offered Jews a way to integrate culturally while preserving their own theological heritage. These stories were written by people who had most likely never been to Israel, and like the Egyptians used locations metaphorically to describe the sun’s ascent and descent. Using a number substitution code, a common practice among the Greek mysteries and Jewish mystics, they created a name for this savior with special mathematical significance.

Jesus (Iησους) = I.E.S.O.U.S = 10+8+200+70+400+200 = 888

The principles behind this equation were well known in the first few centuries AD, and the church father Iraneaus, although he doesn’t seem to believe it himself, can clearly do the math involved.

“This is the name of Jesus; for this name, if you reckon up the numerical value of the letters, amounts to eight hundred and eighty eight. Thus, then, you have a clear statement of their opinion as to the origin of the super celestial Jesus. Wherefore, also, the alphabet of the Greeks contains eight Monads, eight Decads, and eight Hecatads, which present the number eight hundred and eighty-eight, that is, Jesus, who is formed of all the numbers; and on this account He is called Alpha and Omega, indicating his origin from all.” Iraneaus, Against the Heresies

This figure was not only a sacred number, it was also a pictograph of the nature of God. 8 turned on its side becomes the symbol of eternity. Three 8’s show the three identical persons of the eternal trinity. The numbers 888 can also be reversed, flipped, and substituted with each other without causing any change in their nature, reflecting the unchanging constancy of God.

The concept of the Logos, represented by the divine number 888, was combined with the image of the awaited messiah and became the name Jesus Christ. It was an attempt to bridge Greek salvation philosophy and Jewish religious history, and did not refer to a real or actual person. This explains the few often quoted passages in the Bible which portray Jesus as a special name, a name above all others. It is not Jesus the historical man who holds the key to salvation, but the Logos and his innate relationship with the Father and original unity.

“I am the Way; I am Truth and Life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” John 13:14
Similar to passages in the Egyptian book of the dead, the secret to immortality in the early church lay in knowing God’s true name, almost like a secret password. It was the name Iesous itself, and not just the person or function of Jesus, that held power. Like abracadabra, Iesous was a special word, that when pronounced properly could produce marvelous effects.

“But some itinerant Jewish exorcists too tried pronouncing the name of the Lord Jesus over people who were possessed by evil spirits; they used to say, ‘I adjure you by the Jesus whose spokesman is Paul.'” Acts 19:11

Although for Greeks this new mystery was just one among hundreds, to some Jews this was their first glimpse of the mystery salvation philosophy. The permanence of the soul in particular may have been an attractive idea for them, and a community grew up around these stories. These groups taught the Greek mysteries in a Jewish framework, and offered Diaspora Jews the opportunity to become initiates without feeling guilty for abandoning their own culture.

Rather than believe the Messiah to be a historical figure, they imagined that he was the Logos, who gave mankind internal salvation. Paying taxes and living under Roman law was inconsequential after having been saved by the Logos, and even death held no power over those saved. Instead of depending on external forces to liberate them, initiates believed each person could become their own messiah. Because of this, they called themselves anointed ones, or “Christians”.

The Bridal Chamber

The writings from some early Christian communities, later branded as heretical and lost for centuries, clearly fall within the mystery tradition. Many of these texts have re-emerged only this century, quickly changing the traditional understanding of the early church. Although cast out of the Roman Catholic fold, these communities considered themselves to be the true followers of Christ.
Like other mysteries, these early Christians had a baptism, a communal meal, and a bridal chamber aimed at uniting the upper and lower selves.

“The Lord did everything in a mystery, a baptism and a chrism and a eucharist and a redemption and a bridal chamber.” Gospel of Philip

The Greek word used for “mystery” in this fragment can be found frequently in the Bible under its Latin counterpart, “sacrament”. Although the church has always argued about the nature and number of sacraments, those cited by Philip are roughly the same as those still used by many churches. The chrism is an anointing of oil, marking the initiate’s forehead with the cross to make them “christs”. It continues today in the form of confirmation. Although the Apostle Paul clearly recommended celibacy over marriage, when the true meaning of the Wedding Chamber was lost, the sacrament changed from a mysterious transformation of the soul into a binding love between a mortal man and woman.
Despite claims that marriage is a sacred institution, priests of most Christians denominations aren’t even allowed to enter into it. How could the marriage between two people be both a sacrament, sanctified by God, and unacceptable for priests? The answer is that originally, the sacrament of marriage referred to the mystery of the Wedding Chamber, and the fusion between the Sophia and the Logos inside each person. The mysteries of Jesus Christ copied the Greek mysteries in every fashion, including the universal sun myth figure. Initiates would first be introduced to Jesus as a resurrecting son of God, and later guided to understand the mythical interpretation of the story. The final purpose of the Christian mysteries, identical to the mysteries of Mithras, was to use the re-joined bride and groom like a mirror, to see back to the beginning.

“There is a rebirth and an image of rebirth: It is necessary that they should be born again through the image. What is the resurrection? The image must rise again through the Image. The bridegroom and the image must enter through the Image into the Truth: this is the Restoration.” Gospel of Philip

The bridal chamber was a metaphysical union between the male Logos with the female Sophia, or the soul’s return to God. Its true meaning was kept hidden from initiates of the lower levels through stories and parables attributed to the savior. Secrecy was very important, because if initiates heard the truth before they were spiritually ready, it would be spoiled for them.

“If a marriage is open to the public, it has become prostitution, and the bride plays the harlot not only when she is impregnated by another man but even if she slips out of her bedroom and is seen. Bridegrooms and brides belong to the bridal chamber. No one shall be able to see the bridegroom with the bride unless he becomes one himself.” Gospel of Philip

At higher levels, initiates could freely interpret the philosophical implications of the stories, weaving Greek and Jewish thought together freely. Substituting Christ into the role of the Logos, they explain that his role is to repair the separation that happened in the beginning.

“If the woman would not separate from the man, she would not die with him. His separation became the beginning of death. Because of this Christ came to repair the separation which was from the beginning and unite them. But the woman is united to the husband in the bridal chamber. Indeed, those who have been united in the bridal chamber will no longer be separated. Thus Eve separated from Adam because she was never united with him in the Bridal Chamber.” Gospel of Philip

Just as the sun had a female companion, the moon, and the Logos had a female companion, Sophia, the stories about Jesus also incorporated a woman as his friend and companion.

“As for the Wisdom who is called the barren, she is the mother of the angels, and the companion of the Savior, who is also Mary Magdalene.” Gospel of Philip

Many texts describe the ecstasy encountered between Mary and Jesus, which represent the Logos and the Sophia as they are fused into one in the Wedding Chamber. It is no wonder that there are so many books written about the sexual exploits of Jesus and Mary, and even the possibility of their royal offspring. As long as Jesus is assumed to be historical, Mary must be viewed as his real, physical companion.

Like Sophia, Mary was sometimes called a whore, as were many consorts of the sun. She was the one who was lost, sullied in matter, trapped and in need of rescue. Significantly, Mary is identified in the Bible as the woman out of whom seven devils were cast. After Mary had her seven demons removed, or ascended past the seven illusionary heavens, she was able to become Christ’s partner and lover in the bridal chamber.

In an ancient manuscript called the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, Mary was not only Christ’s beloved disciple, but also the revealer of secret mysteries.

“Peter said to Mary, Sister we know that the Savior loved you more than the rest of woman. Tell us the words of the Savior which you remember which you know, but we do not, nor have we heard them. Mary answered and said, what is hidden from you I will proclaim to you.” Gospel according the Mary Magdalene

Later, when a certain branch of Christianity refused the higher mysteries, they viewed this form of Mary as a threat because of the authority it gave to women. The symbol for Sophia, the bride of Christ, changed from Mary Magdalene into The Holy Mother Church.

Christ was viewed as the head of his body, the Church, and his great sacrifice was undertaken for the sake of this body. The Church, like Sophia, was the collection of individual sparks trapped in the world. (If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll recognize that this relationship is identical to the body/tail division of Draco.) Once the meaning of the Wedding Chamber was lost, this relationship between Christ and the Church became a metaphor for human marriages rather than the relationship between the higher and lower selves.

“Husbands should love their wives, just as Christ loved the Church and sacrificed himself for her to make her holy by washing her in cleansing water with a form of words, so that when he took the Church to himself she would be glorious. . . .This is why a man leaves his mother and father and becomes attached to his wife, and the two become one flesh. This mystery has great significance, but I am applying it to Christ and the Church.” Ephesians 5:25

Jesus also shared a common heritage with Mithras as the body of the Caduceus. When Moses came down from the mountain and found his people with the golden calf, he smashed the idol and replaced it with a bronze serpent fixed it to a pole. He claimed anyone bitten by poisonous vipers could look at it and live.

While the bull was a symbol of astrological precession, the snake on the pole represented the soul’s ascent to the One. Moses was introducing a new spirituality based on personal transformation rather than celestial observation. The writer of John’s gospel links Jesus to the serpent on a pole, giving him the role of Mithras as the pathway to spiritual perfection.

“As Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him. For this is how God loved the world: he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life.” Ephesians 5:25

Jesus has fallen into matter, and in this state he appears crucified, or stuck. All of the pieces of him, his body, need to be lifted up and rejoined to the head. The pieces of him were called Sophia, the wisdom of God, and many biblical passages state clearly that Jesus crucified is Sophia. The relationship between these two is obscured by translating Sophia into “Wisdom”.

“We are preaching a crucified Christ…who is both the power of God and the wisdom (Sophia) of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:22

Prometheus, who brought fire to mankind, was chained to a rock and tortured. Krishna and Attis died at the base of a tree, pierced by arrows. Dionysus was ripped apart by his followers so that they could have life by eating his flesh, and in the Egyptian story, Osiris was butchered into little pieces. Heraclitus, developing into a mythological figure himself, was reportedly torn apart by dried dung. According to the text attributed to the apostle Philip, Jesus met the same fate on the cross.

“My God, my God, why, O Lord, have you forsaken me? It was on the cross that He said these words, for it was there that he was divided.” The Gospel of Philip

The reason that these passages seem strange to us today, is that for most of the past 2,000 years Jesus Christ has been considered a historical person. Our preconceptions about Jesus radically and fundamentally alters our reading of the stories about him. Although the early Christian communities that believed in a historical Jesus had to battle long and hard against their critics, they eventually won the war and erased all traces of their adversaries. They structured the Bible in a way that makes the historical Jesus appear obvious, and almost completely hides traces of the mythological Christ. When we re-read the Bible without the assumption that Jesus was a historical figure, we can find not only evidence that Christianity was a mystery religion, but also the most crucial of answers: If Jesus was a myth that was accidentally mistaken for a historical person, how could such a colossal mistake have been made?

The articles in this section are part of a 50,000 word treatise on the historical Jesus and Christ Myth Theory, dealing with Christian history, the mystical significance of Christian symbols, and the mistaken belief that Jesus Christ was a historical person. You can download the entire collection for free as a PDF file ebook by clicking here!