Lightmind Extract 052
Broken Yogi 12.9.07
It seemed the Greeks and even Romans were searching for a genuine religion, as indicated by their fascination with mystery cults… these were not domestic, Greek or Roman, cults, but cults of Mithra, Baal, Isis, Orpheus, Dionysus, Attis, and Jesus. It seems that the Greeks and Romans could not take their own polytheistic pantheon very seriously, and so sought for a real religion, which one could say is the “omega point” of their civilization. Without it, they would have created their own Jesus, and indeed they did.
Everyone’s searching for a genuine religion. Few find one. Few Christians seem to take their religion seriously when it comes down to it. Those who do, unfortunately, don’t seem very popular with other Christians. What historical Christians seem to take seriously has little to do with Christianity also, so there’s that.
Polytheism is not meant to be taken terribly seriously. The problem with the monotheistic middle-eastern cults of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam is that they are prone to fanatical seriousness of a highly dangerous nature. More so with the latter two of course. Which is why I think the West might have been better off without them. Polytheism is more true to life in any case, and the central falsehood of monotheism lends itself to massive repression of our total desiring nature as a consequence, leading to terrible cognitive dissonance and distortion of our reasoning powers. Again, see Nietzsche. So we end up in the West with this massive tendency towards exclusive, totalitarian cults, like Christianity and Islam, that lock out huge parts of the human character and life.
Part of the problem is that the West is not East, and Christianity and Islam are not really western religions, but middle-eastern religions that mutated into pathological hybrids. Both are essentially plagues on humanity. Christianity less so, but its grip on the West has been enormously costly, and we are just getting out from under it. Even the Greeks were influenced by the east, just not so pathologically. They retained the basic polytheistic spirit of the west, a love of multiplicity and life, pleasure and happiness. I’d imagine that western religion without Judaism, Christianity, and Islam would have developed into a fairly healthy paganism, with of course the usual brutalities, but not under the table, so to speak, as Nietzschean resentement, but plain old above the board crudeness. Over time, I see that refining itself into basic notions of justice and democracy, as in the Greek model, or the Roman republic. And, as you note, these dudes were still inventing new Gods, and Jesus was in part one of those Gods, but unfortunately mixed up with a whole otherworldy anti-life eastern cult ideology that ill-suited westerners until Constantine came along and turned it into an imperial religion that was about leading the sheep to slaughter. Without that whole Jesus-Jewish mixture, they might have come up with a more suitable God, like Apollonius of Tyana mixed with Dionysus. The mystical mystery religions of Elutheus and neo-Platonism, Plotinus and his disciples, are what inspired the best of the Christian mystic traditions anyway. Dionysus the Areopagite, for example. So something like that probably would have developed a wider following and expanded into a religion not so hobbled by monotheistic fanaticism as Christianity and Islam.
Monotheism has basically been a curse. But perhaps it’s a necessary rite of evil that the world has had to go through in order to pass on through to a more lively form of mysticism as is now developing. I’m quite glad its nearly over. The Islamic jihadists and the Christian fundies are part of the same dying virus we have been slowly developing antibodies for. I think it may take another century or two for the whole of monotheism to collapse, including Islam and Judaism. But they are certainly fading ot, and science is replacing them on the material level, and polytheistic mysticism on the religious level. People can call it “new age” if they like, but it’s just “anything but monotheism” when it comes down to it.
I agree with you contra Edward Gibbons, who believes Christianity is one of the major reasons Rome fell. Anyhow, we must consider that Rome fell in the 14th century, not the 4th, if we are to count the Eastern Empire of Constantinople as Rome.
I think Christianity hastened Rome’s fall, but it was going to happen in any case. Nothing lasts forever, and they had a decent run at things. Fallen or not, it changed Rome into something else entirely, so it’s better to say that Rome fell with Constantine, and the bones just hung on for a while longer.
Without Judaism, there would have been no Islam,
The primary tenet of Islam is that Allah is the same God as Yahweh of the old Testament, and that Mohammad is his final and greatest prophet. This is why Muslims are so touchy about insisting that Jews, Christians, and Muslims all worship the same God. Just as Christians are pissed at Jews for not accepting Jesus as the fulfillment of Jewish scriptures, the Muslims are pissed at both of them for not accepting Mohammad and the Koran. They also consider Jesus a true Prophet, but not the son of God, and not the final prophet either. So Islam is built upon Judaism, just as Christianity is, and Muslims respect the Jews as “people of the Book”. Take away Judaism then, and you have no Islam. Or you just have another form of desert mysticism that doesn’t really go anywhere. Islam rode the monotheistic coattails of Judaism just like Christianity did.
Are you seriously telling me you didn’t know this?
The problem is that Romans and Greeks didn’t take their religions very seriously.
In some ways, yes, and that’s a good thing. Taking religion too seriously ends up causing major problems, as we see with Jews, Christians, and Muslims. They really think they each have the final and absolute truth, and ought to either die for it, or kill everyone else for it. Lighten up, is what they ought to do.
How can there be a more advanced ethical system than that of the Jews and Christians?
I really appreciate your sense of humor sometimes.
I doubt there would be anything like science or reason without Christianity…
Neither science nor reason were invented by Christianity, and the best examples of it in the west in ancient times were the Greeks, not the Christians, who had no use for reason other than to prove that Christianity was the one and final truth. It wasn’t until the classical culture began to reawaken in Europe that science began to develop into a real discipline, and Christianity began to shuffle off into the loony bin where it belonged.
How would European ethics improve if they adopted more Greek than Judaic concepts?
I think the most important difference would spring from polytheism, the notion that there are many possible answers to ethical questions rather than one absolute right and wrong. There would be no ten commandments of thou shalts and thou shalt nots, but a more complex and realistic notion of judgment and ethics. Of course, Judaism did begin to develop that way in the diaspora, with the mishnah and Jewish law getting very complex. But that’s really the result of outside influences, particularly Greek, seeping in.
Greek ethics were also very complex, but not given over to the monotheistic illusions of black and white right and wrong, which Christianity in particular fostered. They didn’t possess the idea of an infallible God, but a God who could make mistakes and change his mind. This makes it possible to reform tradition much easier, and to do away with old habits that have outlived their usefulness. It’s harder to create an absolutist state, or a ruler who is Divinely anointed and who thus has absolute power, as in Christianity. It’s more amenable to a tolerant outlook, since polytheism is inherently tolerant of more than one god, and is thus able to absorb ideas from the outside without feeling threatened or having to hide the influence away. In general, I think a Greek west would have been a lot more mature and sensible than Christianity made it.
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