Tag Archives: Early Christianity

The Struggles of Early Christianity: Augustine and Mani, Earthly and Cosmic Christ

This blog seeks to reopen the debates of Early Christianity about the principles: The Father, The Son, and the Holy Spirit. It seeks to understand what was meant by the Logos and the Paraclete. I stumbled upon a blog that was perfect for this journey. The following is quoted from Mieke Mosmuller’s philosophical reflections blog.  Augustine and Manicheism III

“In the book ‘Contra Faustum’ Augustine writes as follows and we can see clearly, what Rudolf Steiner meant:

Faustus objects to the incarnation of God on the ground that the evangelists are at variance with each other, and that incarnation is unsuitable to deity. Augustine attempts to remove the critical and theological difficulties.

1. Faustus said: Do I believe in the incarnation? For my part, this is the very thing I long tried to persuade myself of, that God was born; but the discrepancy in the genealogies of Luke and Matthew stumbled me, as I knew not which to follow. For I thought it might happen that, from not being omniscient, I might take the true for false, and the false for true. So, in despair of settling this dispute, I betook myself to Mark and John, two authorities still, and evangelists as much as the others. I approved with good reason of the beginning of Mark and John, for they have nothing of David, or Mary, or Joseph. John says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” meaning Christ. Mark says, “The gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God,” as if correcting Matthew, who calls him the Son of David. Perhaps, however, the Jesus of Matthew is a different person from the Jesus of Mark. This is my reason for not believing in the birth of Christ.

Remove this difficulty, if you can, by harmonizing the accounts, and I am ready to yield. In any case, however, it is hardly consistent to believe that God, the God of Christians, was born from the womb.

2. Augustine replied: Had you read the Gospel with care, and inquired into those places where you found opposition, instead of rashly condemning them, you would have seen that the recognition of the authority of the evangelists by so many learned men all over the world, in spite of this most obvious discrepancy, proves that there is more in it than appears at first sight. Any one can see, as well as you, that the ancestors of Christ in Matthew and Luke are different; while Joseph appears in both, at the end in Matthew and at the beginning in Luke. Joseph, it is plain, might be called the father of Christ, on account of his being in a certain sense the husband of the mother of Christ; and so his name, as the male representative, appears at the beginning or end of the genealogies. Any one can see as well as you that Joseph has one father in Matthew and another in Luke, and so with the grandfather and with all the rest up to David. Did all the able and learned men, not many Latin writers certainly, but innumerable Greek, who have examined most attentively the sacred Scriptures, overlook this manifest difference? Of course they saw it. No one can help seeing it. But with a due regard to the high authority of Scripture, they believed that there was something here which would be given to those that ask, and denied to those that snarl; would be found by those that seek, and taken away from those that criticise; would be open to those that knock, and shut against those that contradict. They asked, sought, and knocked; they received, found, and entered in.”

This quote shows the great debates within early Christianity. Those with ties to the Old Mysteries that persisted until the 4th Century, sought for the Cosmic Christ and could not accept that a divine being would, or even could, incarnate into matter. The physical world had evolved from being maya, illusion, to be the creation of a lesser-god that, through temptation, had corrupted Mankind. But the New Mysteries, established on Golgotha, declared that this God, the Christ, had indeed fully incarnated into a physical body and, by doing so, had altered the future path of Mankind and the Earth. But the forces promoting a physical Christ, could not figure out the birth of Christ. The mysteries of the Baptism and the Transfiguration were already lost. Gone too, by the time of Augustine, was the understanding of the different between Jesus and Christ. Grasping this difference made the birth stories of Matthew and Luke understandable. For the four Gospels, are not contradicting each other. The Birth of Christ is at the Baptism. Now this paper  about Leonardo’s Virgin of the Rocks will make more sense.

What Role Did the Ancient Mysteries Play for Early Christianity?

Something that most historians miss is the role that the Ancient Mysteries had in the ease of the spread of Christianity.  After the event of Whitsun, some of the disciples and those with them began missions to spread Christianity.  Where did they go? They went to the Mystery Centers throughout the world.  There the initiates could understand them and could approach a grasp of the Mystery of Golgotha.  The apostles said to the initiates of the Mystery Centers, “What your mystery foresaw, what it prepared you for, has taken place.  Your mystery is fulfilled. Christ the Sun God Mosaic St. Peters Basilica Rome fourth century

In Persia they may have said, “The Sun God, Ahura Mazdao, who has long been expected, has come.” In other places, similar wording may have been spoken.  The initiates could see the souls of the apostles and see what Whitsun had done to them.  They could understand that what their mystery had awaited, had arrived and been fulfilled.

Further, they understood that the new Mysteries could now begin.  They brought forth their pupils and they listened to and learned from the apostles.  They easily became Christians.

Each such mystery center then practiced Christianity according to their customs that were renewed by the new customs learned from the apostles.   But each such mystery center had its traditions and customs and knowledge.  They interpreted the scriptures perhaps differently than another mystery center.  So different “flavors” of Christianity came to be.

In the 3rd century, the battle between the converted mystery-stream Christians and the proto-orthodox forces intensified to the point that both sides altered the scriptures to agree with their position. Many of today’s books of the Christian Bible were altered making some passages suspect. Modern day scholars claim that they can detect such alterations or insertions by how the style of writing changes. For example, passages where Paul excludes women seem to have been added by proto-orthodox zealots.

The internal battles must have driven Constantine crazy.  So he called for the leaders to get together and unify Christianity.  Out of this the Nicene Creed was adopted but several Christian groups could not accept this creed. At one point in history, there likely were more Christians who did not ascribe to the Nicene Creed than did. These were located mostly from the middle east eastward to China. Many were part of the Nestorian church.

So, the fading Mystery Centers knew their time was coming to an end. Many centers had already closed by the time Christianity began to spread.  These centers, with their wisdom and expectations, easily grasped what the apostles brought and easily became strong advocates for Christianity and thereby easily converted the peoples of their land.

The opposition came from Roman culture where the image of a God, of a Savior, would need to be a super warrior type who would conquer – someone like but greater than Caesar.  For them, no grasping of the Mystery of Golgotha was possible.  But for those already in possession of ancient wisdom from the mystery centers, this humiliating death on a cross, this passage of a God through human death to become fully human and its later resurrection meant that a new way to the spirit for mankind was opened, death and karma was overcome, the old mysteries were fulfilled, the new ones had begun.   No longer would they need to pursue their dying path that traversed backwards the path of descent from the spirit.  Now a path of ascent was available.  A new Christian initiation began.

Reevaluating Julian the Apostate

A complex person and emperor of Rome, Julian’s biographers have described him as “a man of unusually complex character: he was ‘the military commander, the theosophist, the social reformer, and the man of letters’. He was the last non-Christian ruler of the Roman Empire, and it was his desire to bring the Empire back to its ancient Roman values in order to save it from dissolution. He purged the top-heavy state bureaucracy and attempted to revive traditional Roman religious practices at the cost of Christianity. His rejection of Christianity in favor of Neo-platonic paganism caused him to be called Julian the Apostate (Ἀποστάτης Apostates, ‘a person who has abandoned their religion, principles’)

“Julian’s personal religion was both pagan and philosophical; he viewed the traditional myths as allegories, in which the ancient gods were aspects of a philosophical divinity. The chief surviving sources are his works To King Helios and To the Mother of the Gods.

“He learned theurgy from Maximus of Ephesus, a student of Iamblichus; his system bears some resemblance to the Neoplatonism of Plotinus; Polymnia Athanassiadi has brought new attention to his relations with Mithraism, although whether he was initiated into it remains debatable; and certain aspects of his thought (such as his reorganization of paganism under High Priests, and his fundamental monotheism) may show Christian influence. Some of these potential sources have not come down to us, and all of them influenced each other, which adds to the difficulties.” For more on Julian visit here on Wikipedia.

Continuing from the historical account from Wikipedia, Julian “restored pagan temples which had been confiscated since Constantine’s time, or simply appropriated by wealthy citizens; he repealed the stipends that Constantine had awarded to Christian bishops, and removed their other privileges, including a right to be consulted on appointments and to act as private courts. He also reversed some favors that had previously been given to Christians.

“On 4 February 362, Julian promulgated an edict to guarantee freedom of religion. This edict proclaimed that all the religions were equal before the law, and that the Roman Empire had to return to its original religious eclecticism, according to which the Roman state did not impose any religion on its provinces.

“In his Tolerance Edict of 362, Julian decreed the reopening of pagan temples, the restitution of confiscated temple properties, and the return from exile of dissident Christian bishops. During Julian’s brief reign from 361-363 CE, his popularity among the people and the army indicated that he might have brought paganism back to the fore of Roman public and private life [keep this point in mind].

“In 363, not long before Julian left Antioch to launch his campaign against Persia, he ordered the Temple in Jerusalem to be rebuilt.  A personal friend of his, Ammianus Marcellinus, wrote this about the effort:

‘Julian thought to rebuild at an extravagant expense the proud Temple once at Jerusalem, and committed this task to Alypius of Antioch. Alypius set vigorously to work, and was seconded by the governor of the province; when fearful balls of fire, breaking out near the foundations, continued their attacks, till the workmen, after repeated scorchings, could approach no more: and he gave up the attempt.’

The failure to rebuild the Temple has been ascribed to the Galilee earthquake of 363, and to the Jews’ ambivalence about the project. Sabotage is a possibility, as is an accidental fire. Julian’s support of Jews caused Jews to call him ‘Julian the Hellene.’

On 26 June 363, at the indecisive Battle of Samarra, received a wound from a spear that reportedly pierced the lower lobe of his liver, the peritoneum and intestines. Although the wound was not immediately deadly, Julian would die a few days later. In 364, Libanius stated that Julian was assassinated by a Christian who was one of his own soldiers.”

Sassanian relief of the investiture of Ardashir II showing (right to left) Shapur II, Mithra, and Ahura Mazda above a defeated Julian, lying prostrate.

Rudolf Steiner states that “Julian was brought face to face with the deeper implications of the problem of evil and the relation of Christ Jesus to this problem. He hoped to find an answer through initiation into the Persian Mysteries [Mithraic and Zarathustrian] and to return to Europe with the solution. But unfortunately he fell by an assassin’s hand during the Persian campaign. It can be proved historically that this was the work of an adherent of Constantine.  … In the following years the Augustinian principle triumphed – ideas that in any way echoed Manichaeism were forbidden, i.e. the inclusion of material ideas i spiritual thinking. The West therefore was driving to an abstract mode of thinking and in the course of time this mode of thinking permeated the whole of Western Europe. … Julian therefore was engaged in a titanic struggle. He finally attempted, by reviving Manichaeism, to bring about continuity in the evolution of the pagan Mysteries. … That he was doomed to fail was a necessity of the time. And we shall not understand the reason for his failure if we belittle his great achievements, if we fail to see him as a titanic figure, fighting for a realistic understanding of the relations between man and the universe. And it is of paramount importance today to recall these great moments in the historical evolution of the West. For we are living in an age from which we shall not emerge with a healthy outlook unless we make a fresh assessment of the aims of Julian the Apostate. It was not possible in his time – herein lies his great tragedy – to reconcile the old principle of initiation with the real essence of Christianity. Today this has become possible and we must not fail to translate the possibility into reality if the world and mankind are not to suffer evolutionary decline. People must realize the need for regeneration in all spheres of life and above all the crying need to restore communication with the spiritual world.

Coptic icon showing Saint Mercurius killing Julian. 

Julian understood the greatness of the ancient mysteries and had hoped to restore them for the guidance of mankind. He could not fully grasp Christianity as already in his time much was deceived and lost.

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